Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A few long days...

It's been a few long days since I've posted last.  I have had much pain in my upper thigh, lower calf, across my foot and in my toes.  All of this is stemming from my L5 S1 joints in my back.  I'm not sure what exactly happened in surgery, or thereafter, but I have been in serious pain now for five weeks.

It is nerve pain, and I've never felt anything like it.

Yesterday was very much a testing of my will.  I cried more than I have any other day since I've been home from the surgery.  I don't have any pain or side effects from the bladder reconstruction surgery at all.  All of my pain is from the nerve pain.

My PT is working on me, but I think I'm just looking at good old fashioned time to heal this. In the meantime, I wait.  

What occurred to me yesterday, when the pain was so bad, was that I could go through cancer, chemotherapy, surgery and all the uncertainty that accompanied it.  I could look at it and say, "If this is God's will for me, I will go through it with as much grace as possible."

But somehow, in this trial, I've lost sight of that... I am consumed with the pain, the exercises, the therapy, the ice packs, the pain meds, the sleeping positions... Somehow I allowed my focus to get shifted from the one who can heal this pain, to the pain itself.

I don't want that to be the case.  In fact, a couple of times today, I found myself praying that I would again see this as part of His path for me.

I believe that if he has allowed me to go through this, then there must be something good for me in it.  I am willing to go through the pain if it is for my good and for His glory.  I don't want it to be in vain.

So I wait.  I wait for my nerves to heal and start sending the right signals again.  I wait for a time when I can say, "Praise God, he took my pain away."

In the meantime, I wait on a God that has proven himself faithful again and again.  He's never failed me before, he won't start now!

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The work of God displayed...

"There is nothing, no circumstance, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has come past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose."  ~Alan Redpath~

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?'  'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' Jesus said, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.' " John 9:1-3 NIV

For many months I have said that this path set before me, although terrible and horrific, has been my greatest blessing.  Many people don't understand that.  It's okay.  It's not something one can understand until one has experienced it personally.

I have also said from the beginning that if God in his sovereignty saw fit for me to walk this path...  The quote from Alan Redpath, says that nothing can touch us unless it goes past God and past Christ first.  When the devil wanted to afflict Job, he had to get permission from God first.  I believe that when we are faced with struggles and adversity, it has to have clearance from God first.  But once it has been given the okay, you can be certain that it comes with a great purpose.

Jesus said of the man born blind that his affliction had a divine purpose.  That purpose was none other than "so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

I sometimes think how I was reluctant to allow the work of God to be displayed in my life.  I had gone into a very solitary place.  I didn't want people to know me, to touch me, to interact with me.  I had so much hurt inside of me that I didn't trust anyone with anything.  I didn't believe that people were true. I believed that they would pretend to love you and then talk terribly about you as soon as they had the chance.  I believe all people were like this because this was my experience.

But my cancer flipped a switch inside of me.  It allowed me to see people again, to let them touch my life, to let them help me, to let them love on me and my family.  It allowed me to begin to trust people again.

For me, I believe this cancer journey was allowed in order to bring about a great purpose in my life.  I believe that it was allowed in order for the work of God to be displayed in me.

I will never look on this cancer as a curse, but always as a blessing. My life has forever been changed for the better because of this disease.  God allowed this terrible thing to come to me because he knew it would bring a greater healing, a greater miracle, a greater blessing.  It may be strange, but I am forever thankful for a God who sees past the temporary and momentary to the greater purpose.  

I am thankful that he found me worthy enough to allow me to go through all of this.  I am thankful he saw something worth saving in me - something that said, "this girl needs a rescue and it can only come through adversity."

I am thankful for a God who allows me to suffer for a little while so that he can turn my sorrow into dancing and my ashes into beauty!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

One month ago...

One month ago today I had surgery.  It's hard to believe it's been a month - and some times it's hard to believe it's only been a month.

I'm having no complications from the bladder removal, reconstruction, catheterizing, or irrigating.  I'm climbing stairs, doing small loads of laundry, and driving.  

Of course, there is the small irritation of the pain in my left leg, but even that is being reconciled with the help of a dear, dear friend.  

I am learning tricks to get me through the day, sitting when I need to sit, standing when I need to stand and praying for mercy every step of the way.

I have said it over again and again, and continue to declare it today. This cancer journey has been a blessing to me.  I heard a story this morning that went something like this:  "There was a film crew filming a movie in the desert.  Suddenly a sand storm came up with fury.  The director began to pray that the storm would cease and stop so they could continue with their work.  But the storm did not stop.  He prayed again and again that God would calm the storm.  But He did not.  The next morning, the film maker went outside to see the damage the sand storm had caused.  What he saw was a field of land mines the storm had uncovered.  The land mines were directly in their path.  God didn't give him what he wanted because he was giving him what he needed."

So many times during this journey I have prayed for things that I never saw.  Later, I would find that what I prayed for was what I wanted, but God had other plans to give me what I needed.  

This journey has taught me to trust him in a way I never dreamed I could.  This journey has taught me to submit to his authority and forsake my own will, in a way I never dreamed imaginable.  This journey has brought healing to areas of my life I thought were shattered beyond repair.

So, like the film maker, although I have prayed prayers that seemingly went unanswered, God was faithful to provide what I needed instead of what I wanted.  Like the psalmist, I too can say without question, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."  Ps 119:71

I have learned to trust him.
I have learned to lean into him.
I have learned to believe his word.
I have learned that He is faithful.
I have learned that He is my healer.
I have learned that He is my shield and protector.
I have learned that He really will never leave me or forsake me.

I have learned about his holiness, and I stand in awe that one so great would care for one like me.  For that I am thankful.  I am thankful for the affliction that caused me to grow in a grace I didn't know or understand.  I am thankful for the affliction that grew my character and bestowed on me the gift of patience and faith.  I am thankful that He did not calm my storm in the ways I asked him to, because he knew I needed to weather the storm.  God is faithful to provide us with what He sees we need, even when he has to do it by giving us what we do not want.

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sweet Memories...

Apostle Paul said, "I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3 NIV

April 6, 2014, Harold Thomas Mattingly went home to be with the Lord.  He was my husband's grandfather.  This week, on May 16, 2014, Alta Wonda Hutcherson Mattingly went home to be with the Lord, and to be reunited with Harold forever in glory.  

They married when Wanda was 16 years old and Harold was 18 years old.  They lived many, many years together.  I have no doubt that these 40 days were the longest they had ever spent apart.

At the funeral service for Harold I heard stories of his love and outreach to others.  How he took new sons-in-law under his wing, taught them tricks of the trade, showed them the love of Christ, and generally loved them with the love he himself had been shown by a gracious Heavenly Father.

Yesterday at the memorial service for Wanda, I listened to story after story of how Mammaw loved her children and her grandchildren; always encouraging them, always praying for them, always supporting them.  I listened to granddaughters tell how she passed down family recipes for Thanksgiving dressing balls and grasshopper pie.  I heard how she invited friends to church for revival.  I heard how she collected occupied Japan ceramics with her daughter, called the youngest every night to say good night, and sent notes of encouragement when another was going through hard financial times.  I watched as her oldest son, her caregiver this past while, said goodbye to a mother who was his caregiver for so many years.

What I heard mostly, though, was the story of a legacy.  A legacy that neither Harold nor Wanda could have ever fathomed they were leaving.  Their legacy is a story of loving others, and depending on Christ.

I myself lost my grandparents at an early age.  I don't really remember them other than vague photo-like snapshots in my mind.  I wish I had more memories, but God has been gracious to me, here, too.  

What I do remember, though, is that at the young age of 18 years old, Wanda and Harold welcomed me into their home for family holidays, allowed me to help in the kitchen, allowed me to join in the family traditions...because they were embracing me as one of their own.  Where others were telling us we were too young to get married, that we would never make it, that we were fools... Wanda and Harold both embraced us and loved us and supported us.  In fact, our first dining room table and four chairs were hand-me-downs from them.  They  knew we could make it against all odds because they themselves had made it against all odds.

No, they weren't perfect.  They squabbled and tiffed.  They made their children mad and their children made them mad.  But all in all, love prevailed.  In the end, God again was faithful, taking two imperfect people home to glory; two imperfect people who rested in the righteousness of Christ as their only hope.

Wanda and Harold Mattingly.  Together Forever in Glory.  We love you Mammaw and Pappaw.

Only By His Grace,


Friday, May 16, 2014

When all you can do is stand...

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, and against powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the dvid day, and having done everything, to stand firm." Eph 6:12, 13

I need to remind myself of this scripture right now.  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood..."  Right now, I feel like my struggle is absolutely against flesh and blood.  

Can I be extremely honest?  I am tired!  I am tired of not sleeping.  I am tired of the constant pain.  I am tired of the never-ending doctor appointments, and I am tired of the new routine.

Ok.  Enough whining.  I cannot say that in all of this that I believe this to be a spiritual struggle.  I don't believe I've been cursed.  I don't believe I've been forsaken.  I don't believe I've been abandoned.  I simply believe I'm tired.

So, although this really a battle against flesh and blood in the literal sense, if I do not guard my heart, it could very easily become a spiritual battle of the heart and mind.

Matthew Henry said, "Spiritual strength and courage are needed for our spiritual warfare and suffering."  Spiritual strength and courage are needed for spiritual warfare, but also for suffering.  Interesting. If we look at suffering on a physical level why would we need spiritual strength and courage to get through it?  Because the enemy would love to see us discouraged.  He would love to see us feel abandoned.  He would love to see us lose hope.  Because if we lose hope, then we've lost sight of the God of hope.

I have been in an enormous amount of pain in my hip and leg since my surgery.  Last night I slept in intervals, just as I have every night since I've been home.  I slept from 10:00 - 11:30, from 12:15 - 1:30, from 2:00 to 3:15, from 4:00 - 4:30, 5:00 - 5:45 at which time I gave up and got up for my shower.  My body and my mind are exhausted.  Every little thing is bringing me to tears, and I know that it's just fatigue.  

Yesterday they removed my permanent catheter.  This means I start cathing myself through my stoma.  Only, it's not easy-peasy the first couple of times.  In fact, there have been a couple of times I just couldn't get the catheter in.  It's frustrating...and scary.  And compound that with the stress of sleep deprivation and you end up with a hysterical Billie on your hands.

My one defense in it all has been prayer.  Every time I get overwhelmed in the night over loss of sleep, or pain in my leg I pray.  Every time I can't get my catheter inserted, I stop, take a deep breath and pray.  

This battle may be a physical one, but that doesn't mean I can't fight it on a spiritual level.    "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

Sometimes when we reach the end of our rope, our wit's end, the last straw, all we can do is stand.  I believe God still has a plan for me in all of this.  And I believe that even in my hip pain, whether it is nerve related, or SI joint, or L5 S1... I believe he will work all of this out for my good.

In the meantime, having done all I can do to stand...I will stand!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The story already written...

Some times we think our life is made up of moments of happenstance.  We go about thinking whatever this day holds just comes along as it may or on a whim.  We struggle through trials and adversities, we battle in the flesh and war in the spirit.  We go to bed at night with all manner of instances replaying in our minds, fighting to steal our peace and suffocate our hope.

This week has been a tough week.  I've reached my wit's end with the pain in my leg.  I've cried a few times at the sight of my belly - a nine inch scar and two catheters emerging from two holes in my torso.  I have grown weary of the two catheter leg bags I wear every day.  I know these things are temporary, but they are still cumbersome and tiring.

And then comes peace... remember that song?  "When peace like a river attendeth my way.  When sorrow like sea billows roll.  Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul." 

Admittedly there have been moments when sorrow like sea billows have rolled.  But even greater has been peace like a mighty rushing river attending my way.  I am not grieved by this journey.  I am not sorrowful over this, my lot in life.  I do not feel loss because of my surgery.  I am only weary of the temporary.

But there is great peace knowing that my story has already been written.  Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in his book before one of them came to be."  All the days ordained for me...all of them...yesterday, today, tomorrow, five years ago, twelve years from now...they are already written.  My birth, my life, my marriage, my cancer...it was already written and my days were already ordained before I ever knew what my days held.  

Knowing that my life has already been choreographed gives me great peace.  I know that whatever this day holds, whether it's recovery or pain, whether it's insomnia or deep slumber, I know that this day has already been written for me.  I can rest in knowing that all the days, even this day, are ordained for me...and I can be at peace.  I can say without hesitation, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say it is well, it is well, with my soul!

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, May 10, 2014

The ugly truth and a perfect promise...

The ugly truth:
The ugly truth is that I'm not always strong.  The ugly truth is that sometimes I reach the end of my rope.  The ugly truth is that sometimes the pain is too much for me to bear.  The ugly truth is that I grow frustrated when I cannot escape the unceasing ache of nerve damage and the ugly truth is that I cry real tears.

That has been the ugly truth of the past twenty-four hours.  I would like to blame all of this on sleep-deprivation.  It has been three weeks since I've slept an entire night.  I would like to blame this on my own oversight.  Although my pain medication says take 1-2 tablets every four hours as needed for pain, I've only been taking 1/2 of one tablet every four hours as needed for pain.  And although I'd like to blame all of this on something...anything...there really is nothing to blame.  It is simply just the way things are right now.

The ugly truth is that I am in pain.  It radiates from the nerve damage in my hip.  Therefore my hip aches, my leg aches, my calf aches and my ankle aches.  My foot is still numb and my toes still feel an electric shock with the slightest touch.  I don't have good balance because I can't feel my toes against the floor.  Because I don't have good balance my ankle hurts from overcompensation.  My calf muscle is tight and my hamstring is tighter.  

Lying down is painful, sitting up is painful, walking is an atrocious sight, and standing for any length of time is excruciating.  I want to sleep to escape the nagging pain, but I cannot sleep because of the constant ache.

Yesterday, I was at my wit's end with all of it.  Finally, I just broke down and cried.  

That, is the ugly truth.

A perfect promise:
The writer of Lamentations said this, "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me."  Lamentations 3:19-20.  I can relate to this right now.  I have come so far, and the Lord has overcome so much for me - that to have this little thing be the thing that takes me down is so very frustrating.  Like the writer of Lamentations, I remember my affliction and my soul is downcast within me.

However, he goes on to say, "Yet this I will call to mind and therefore I have hope.  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' "

When I awoke this morning, I could hear the gentle sound of the steady rain, the chirping of the birds and the low rumble of a distant thunder.  Even in the physical pain, I am not consumed.  I am thankful that his mercies are new every morning.  The pain I had yesterday is gone.  The strength God is giving me to handle it today is new and fresh.  I may still end up in tears from time to time.  I may walk around in a drug-induced state from the pain meds.  But even that cannot negate the power of God's mercy.

Because of the Lord's great love, the ugly truth of this pain will not consume me because his compassions never fail.  He is my portion and I will wait for him!

Only By His Grace,


Friday, May 9, 2014

Patience in affliction...

I've often been asked how I can be so calm during this journey.  Some have even said they are amazed.  I haven't felt amazing; not at all.  

From the very beginning to this current state of recovery, I continually remind myself of God's sovereignty and his divine purpose in this task.   From the start I said, "If God in his sovereignty has allowed me to walk this path, I will walk it with as much grace as I possibly can."  My only hope has been that others will see the hope I have in Christ and that He will be glorified through it all.

I couldn't see God being glorified in this journey if I was always at unrest.  I couldn't see him being glorified if I was constantly in a state of worry.  I couldn't see him being glorified if I was always striving and struggling for my own will.  No.  The only way I could see him being glorified was if I submitted myself to his will, and then held on for dear life.

I think A. W. Tozer said it very well when he said, "When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety."  I must admit, when I focused my thoughts on this pathway leading me to be more Christlike, this pain having a divine purpose, this uncertainty leading me to trust him more...that is how I've found a place of ultimate peace.  To know that He is in control -- and to surrender that control to him -- that is the perfect peace.

Romans 12:12 tells us to "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."  I must say that every glimmer of hope, every good report, every shrunken cancer cell, every mild reaction brought joy.  When I felt as if the task was too great for me, this pathway was too long, too dark, to frightening, knowing that His purpose was being fulfilled gave me great patience in my affliction.  I am thankful for those who have been, and continue to be faithful in prayer.  I know it is what gets me through every rough patch.

Psalm 57:1-2 says, "I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.  I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me."  I know that even now, in this state of long recovery, when things aren't moving as quickly as I'd like, I know that He is fulfilling his purpose for me...and that resolves a great deal of anxiety!

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Long days and longer nights...

I'm not good at waiting.  I have no medium speed; I'm an all or nothing kind of girl.  I'm either laid up in bed flat on my back, or going full steam ahead.  I'm not great with the 25%, the 50% or even the 75%.  I want it all - and I usually want it right now!

Therefore recovery isn't easy for me.  I don't like sitting in my recliner.  I don't like taking the stairs one-at-a-time.  I don't like sleeping with my leg elevated.  I don't like not driving, not cleaning house, not doing laundry.  I don't.  All this resting wears me out :)

I've seen such great improvement this week.  Monday I went all day with no pain meds - only ibuprofen.  Tuesday and Wednesday I had so little pain in my hip that I felt that I was on the upswing.

Then, last night... Oh.... last night.  Pain!  Excruciating pain.  I wished I were back in the hospital where I could push my morphine button and make it all just go away.  None of my pain meds worked; not the tylenol, not the ibuprofen, not the hydrocodone.  There was no sleep and no rest.  Only pain.

And I remembered Psalm 63:6-8. "On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."  When I cannot find peace or rest, I turn my heart to the God of peace who promises rest.  The pain was still nearly unbearable, but my heart and mind were comforted.

Psalm 77: 1-2 says, "I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me.  When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted."  I did a lot of crying out to God in my distress last night, that's certain.

This morning, the thought occurred to me that this pain is actually a good sign.  My leg has been numb for nearly three weeks now, with very little feeling.  Maybe this pain in my leg muscles is a sign that the nerve is starting to heal, therefore feeling is returning to my leg.
I think the pain I'm having is muscle spasms because I've been limping along for so long, those muscles are just simply overworked.  I have some exercises I can do to work those loose.
Yesterday my foot started spontaneously jerking...and I think that could mean that the nerve may be firing again :)

So today, although I am tired and a bit worn out, I am thankful for the pain I felt last night because I believe it is a sign of good things to come.

I will put my trust in my heavenly father because I know he has my best interest at heart and just like he always has, he will use this for my good.  I will remember today that He is with me, in my pain, in my rest, in the day and in the night.  "My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Standing in high places...

I am thankful that God is Sovereign over all things.  I can rest in his unfailing love and trust in his mercy.  I don't have to strive to be in control over things in which I have no control.  

His promises to me are true.  When He tells me to trust in Him, I will trust.  When he tells me to rest in his grace, I will rest.  When he tells me to stand firm against the enemy, I will stand.  

I often wonder how this is possible for me.  I am not brave.  I am not strong.  I am not powerful.  I only trust him to do what he promises to do.

My cancer journey hasn't always been easy.  In fact, other than a great and overwhelming peace, I can't say it was ever easy.  But there was always a great and overwhelming peace.  

I trusted in my savior to bring this together for my good, because he promised it.  I trusted my savior to use this to build my character, because he promised it.  I trusted him to heal me, because he promised it.  In that, I didn't have to worry about praying according to an exact formula.  I didn't have to fight a battle that wasn't mine to fight.  I didn't have to wage war against something on my own I could not win.  I simply had to trust him.   

There were days I wanted to give up and give in.  But somehow inside I knew that if I didn't allow God to take me to these depths I would never know the trust he wanted me to know, I would never know the growth he wanted me to know, I would never know the peace he wanted me to know.  I couldn't grow to the potential he wanted me to, if I fought him for my own will.  I had no other choice but to submit to Him and His will in this for me.

Habakkuk 3:17 - 18 says, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior."  There were days when I felt the weight of my diagnosis, when I felt like everything inside me was desolate and empty.  Even then, there was peace.  Even then I knew that my sovereign Lord had a plan and was working it out to completion and for my good.  Even when I had to face the idea of death, I knew he had my best interest at heart and he was going to use this for my benefit and for his glory.

Habakkuk 3:19 says, "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feel like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."
Throughout every moment, the Lord was and continues to be my strength.  These days of recovery are difficult at times.  Because of nerve damage, I certainly feel as if my feet may at times fail, but I know that he will enable me to continue on, until I have reached the place he has in store for me.

There is a song I love - it has encouraged me on many days - especially in these days of recovery when there has been a real threat of my feet failing.  It is recorded by Hillsongs.  The song is Oceans (Where feet may fail.)  It is a long song; nine minutes.  But I trust it will bless you.  

The bridge says, "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my savior."  

Skip the ads if possible... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBJJJkiRukY

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Waiting on the Lord...

Yesterday I wrote about accepting your limp when it means you've been blessed.   I wrote that in relation to my abdominal scars, knowing that I will always have a large vertical scar and several little holes in my belly.  Not that it matters, at 42 years old, no one wants to see this in a bikini anyway.  

However, for me, my limp is not only metaphorical, but actual as well.  There were several lymph nodes in my pelvic cavity that had to be removed.  They were attached to a nerve - it is one in the sciatic nerve family.  The surgeons had to sever that nerve to remove the lymph nodes.

Because of this, my left leg is numb as if it were asleep, my toes have no feeling and I have little muscle strength in my hip.  Where they reattached the nerve endings to one another they had to put in multiple stitches - as in lots and lots of stitches. 

 My hip joint is very painful, to sit, to walk, to stand... it all just hurts.  It's funny to see me walk down the sidewalk, too.  I remind myself of Igor dragging my leg along saying, "Yes, my liege..." - well, maybe not that bad.

My doctors say the numbness will last about 10 - 12 weeks and the nerve will regenerate.  Eventually the stitches in my hip area will heal and dissolve and the pain will subside.  I will stop limping along and will eventually take to power walking and eventually jogging again.

Isaiah 40:31 promises that "Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.  They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint."

I am taking this promise as my own over the next few weeks.  It has been a life source for me these past months as I've waited to get through the chemo treatments and surgery.  I have grasped onto the promise that I will renew my strength.  

Now, in a very real and tangible way, I wait again to renew my physical strength.  I will continue to wait upon the Lord until the day when I can run and not grow weary, and better still, walk and not faint.  

He has never failed me before, He will not fail me now.  I only need to continue to rest in His unfailing love and wait.  My hope is still in him, in recovery as much as in sickness.

Only By His Grace,


Monday, May 5, 2014

Thinking of Jacob...

I think we all have times when we wrestle with God.  We like to say we're wrestling with ourselves, or we're wrestling with our emotions, but really, I think we're wrestling with God - with what we know to be right and true, with our unwillingness to do a certain thing or not do a certain thing...or maybe we just refuse to submit to His will because it doesn't look like our own.

Jacob was on his way out to meet his brother Esau, and he was afraid his brother would try to kill him.  He sent his groups and flocks ahead of him, and stayed alone for the night.  

"That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maid-servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him til daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, "Let me go for it is daybreak."  But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." ... "So Jacob called the place Peniel saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."  The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip."  Genesis 32: 22-26, 30-31.

These past few months I have often wrestled with God, and with my own submission to Him - especially in the unknown.  I have prayed for healing and for comfort.  I've prayed for peace and for deliverance.  I've prayed for grace and begged for mercy.  But I also knew that above all my response as a follower of Christ was to pray, "nevertheless, not my will but thine be done."  I do not attempt to think I know God's ways because His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and his ways are higher than my ways.  I do not attempt to think I can know His perfect will -- all I can do is make my requests known to Him, and then submit myself to His plan, even though I may not understand or agree.  

It is a difficult thing to pray, "nevertheless, not my will but thine be done."  What if His will was to take me from this world?  Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."  What if His will was to allow my cancer to remain so that he could teach my heart to trust in Him?  We cannot fully know His will in every situation - because we do not see the bigger picture, the final outcome and the lessons it will teach us.

When my doctors told me what all my surgery would entail, and how long my recovery would be, I knew I would be in it for the long haul.  My surgery was two weeks ago today.  I have a nine inch incision in my belly, I had 27 staples.  I had three catheters, an epidural, an NG tube, blood pressure cuff, oxygen sensor, and a JP drain.  I had an IV tube and a morphine pump. It literally took me 8-10 minutes to get out of bed to walk, and about 8-10 minutes to get back into bed when it was done.  

Now that I'm home, I have lost many of my tubes and wires, I still have the incision, but the staples have been removed.  I still have two catheters that will remain for at least three more weeks.

All of these things are alright with me.  I realize my body has forever been changed.  But only for the better.  I may have lost my bladder, but in a very strange way, this is a great blessing to me.

August 2012 I got a bladder infection that I could not shake.  Three weeks and five antibiotics later, I finally got relief.  January 2013 it happened again.  What we found was that out of seven antibiotics I can take to fight these UTIs, I had grown resistant to five of them.  That's a pretty big deal.  Now that my bladder has been removed, I don't have to fight that anymore.  I was telling my husband this weekend that these past two weeks have been the only two in the past couple of years when I didn't have some pain or symptom of a UTI.  That's relief, people!

As many times as I prayed for God to heal me I believe that He answered my prayers.  Oh, I may have an altered body, and I may have lost an organ or two, but overall I believe this IS my healing.  Not only is my cancer gone, but also, I won't be haunted by constant bladder infections.

Like Jacob, I believe I wrestled with the will of God... and although I may have walked away with a scar as my limp, I believe I have been blessed.  If I have to live with an altered body, I am blessed to do so because it means that God heard my prayer and answered in His timing, in His way, for my good.

Are you praying for something specific in your life?  Ask yourself the hard questions:  Am I willing to submit to His will even if it doesn't look like mine?  Am I willing to walk away with a limp if it means I have been blessed?  Can I trust Him enough to lay down my own desires and pray, 'not my will but thine be done?"

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Attaining perspective.

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."  Philippians 3:10-11

As many times as I've read or heard this verse over the course of my life, I've never fully grasped what it means.  I understand how Apostle Paul could write these words, after all, look at all his sufferings for the cause of Christ.  But I couldn't understand how to apply it to my own heart...until now.

Recently, I was lying awake in the night waiting for my pain meds to kick in, and became overwhelmed by the realization of how God has saved my life.  I'm not talking metaphorically; He, in his great grace actually saved my life.  It is overwhelming to know that six months ago I had a bladder eaten up with cancer.  I had lymph nodes that were questionable.  I didn't know whether my life expectancy was 6 months, a year, or maybe two years.  I have spent the past six months praying for a miracle, and I have received one.  

It is overwhelming to me that my life has been spared.  And although many have commented on my bravery and faith, the truth is, there were moments when it was altogether frightening.  And, much to my shame, when the doctors told me they got all the cancer, that it hadn't spread, that I was clear, my heart still couldn't believe it.  It really showed me that no matter how much I said "I believe" when God actually did what I "believed" he would do, I was still surprised; revealing my doubt.

But what struck me so much in the night is that, as in awe as I am that He would save my life from this terrible disease called cancer, It can barely phase me that he has done a greater work by saving my soul from the terrible disease of sin.  I am overwhelmed that he would save my life, that is no more than a wisp or vapor, but I would no longer be overwhelmed that he has saved my soul, which is eternal.  And again, my heart was turned to repentantance.  I never want to take for granted the greater work done for me.

Now, after all of this, I think I can relate to what Paul was saying.  I understand what it means to "want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection..."  In a small way, I feel as if I have been given a taste of that power of resurrection through my healing.  Through cancer, I feel as if I've been allowed to "share in his sufferings."  There were certainly moments I thought I might "become like him in his death" by reaching him in my own.  Even if He had taken me, or decides at some point to take me still, I know that even then, I will "attain to the resurrection of the dead."  Not only has He saved my life on this earth, but he has saved my soul from eternal death.  I am forever in his debt and forever grateful.

Only By His Grace,