Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The blessing...

I never know when God is going to speak to my heart or bring something back to my memory. I had a follow up appointment with my oncologist yesterday afternoon.  A strange but profound thing happened to me while I lingered endlessly in the waiting room.  

First of all, it was surreal being there again; being there post surgery, knowing that I wasn't going to be called for an infusion, I wasn't terrified of PET scan results,  I wasn't dreading the post-chemo effects of another round.  It was as if I were invisible, a mere wisp of who I was before.  I knew all that these people were going through and my heart broke for them.  I could tell the ones who were responding well to chemo from the ones who were not.  I could sense the ones who had just been diagnosed and were equipping themselves for the battle. I could see fear in their eyes and I could perceive determination in their steps.  

People respond differently to cancer.  That much is true.  From the very beginning of my own cancer journey everyone, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, everyone told me that perspective was the biggest obstacle and the biggest factor to overcoming the disease.  

Whether we battle cancer or simply battle the everyday trials life throws our way, our perspective and corresponding attitude can be the factor that makes us or breaks us.  I remind myself almost daily to have an attitude of gratitude.  I have not been given a second chance at life to waste it being a grumbler; I refuse to allow my thoughts to focus on the negative.  As I fight my way back from neuropathy, I continually tell myself that I will turn a setback into a comeback.  Emotionally I have to remind myself to look on the bright side.  Physically I have to push myself to reach my goals.  

Spiritually I have to make the choice between blessing and cursing.
Deuteronomy 30:19 says this, "See, I have set before your today life and death, blessings and curses. Now, choose life that you and your children may live."  NIV.

We are instructed to choose life, to choose the blessing over the curse.  We are instructed to choose life over death.  What does this mean exactly?  Is it merely an attitude or a perspective?  I believe so.  It may not be easy, but I do believe it can be done.  

So many people condemned me for saying that my cancer was my greatest blessing.  They didn't understand the heavenly perspective it brought to me.  They didn't understand the gifts it gave to me.  They didn't understand the grace it allowed me, the forgiveness it brought to me, the peace it afforded me.  I could have easily, easily, sat down in my chair in despair, given into the statistics and given up.  

Realistically, we didn't know where my cancer would lead us, but it didn't look good.  My PET scan showed the tumor to have spread to the second wall of my bladder, and that it had already taken 2/3 of my bladder.  It showed that it has probably spread to my lymph nodes.  If it had spread to the lymph node system, I had a 22% chance of survival...meaning it was 80% certain that I would die within the year.  I could have focused on that.  I could have focused on the fear, the pain, the despair. I could have listened to the negative opinions and the worry-warts.

But there was something greater at work within me.  I decided that if I only had 12 months, 6 months, or 3 months to live I would live it to the fullest of my ability and I would live every moment to God's glory.  I was faced with the decision to choose life or choose death.  I was faced with the decision to choose blessing or choose the curse.  I chose to see my situation as the blessing.

As I sat in the oncology waiting room yesterday I overheard a gentlemen behind me.  He said to his wife, "I hate being here.  It reminds me all I've had to go through."  I sat there an thought to myself, "Hmmm...being here reminds me of all I've come through."

I remembered hearing the last minute snippet of a minister on the radio last week.  He said, "Curses tell us where we've been.  Blessings tell us where we are going."

What is your situation today?  Will you choose a heavenly perspective?  Will you choose life over death?  Will you choose the blessing over the curse?  The curse reminds you where you have been.  The blessing prepares you for where you are going!  

Only By His Grace,


Friday, June 20, 2014

Happiness and Wrinkles...

This photo was taken approximately three weeks after I was diagnosed with cancer.  It was late November and the portrait studio was crazy busy with the Christmas rush. The waiting room was full of families with little girls in foo-foo dresses, moms fussing at little boys to get off the dirty floor so not to mess up their clothes, exasperated dads, tired grandparents and grumpy employees.   I remember it all because it seemed so surreal to me then, and it seems surreal to me now.

I remember the day I scheduled the appointment.  I didn't care what day we got, or what time slot we filled.  I didn't care what we wore for the photos.  I didn't care that Austin needed a hair cut or that my hair hadn't been colored in more than eight weeks.  It didn't matter to me that the sleeves of Austin's shirt was nearly two inches too short, or that I couldn't tie my scarf to suit me.  All of these things would have sent me into mommy mayhem any other time.

Somehow, this time, none of it mattered.  I thought I was going to die, and this was going to be the last family photo we had taken.  I thought I had celebrated my last Thanksgiving and was coming upon my last Christmas.  I thought I was about to celebrate my son's last birthday, his 9th, and wondered if he would remember me or if I would fade into the blurred recesses of his mind.  I thought I would see my daughter turn 13, but not be here to help guide her through the trials of the teenage years.  I thought I was leaving my best friend to the fate of being a single dad, and I realized there was still so much I needed to tell him.  I realized I could tell them one thousand times a day how much I loved them and it would never be enough.

As I sat in that waiting room watching moms fuss over curls that wouldn't bounce and dresses that wouldn't fluff and shiny black shoes that scuff, I realized how much time I'd wasted in my own life worrying over the unimportant things.  As I watched moms herd children to the point of tears, which is unproductive while waiting for photos, I realized that a smile in a wrinkled dress, or a shirt that fits too small, or hair that isn't quite in place is far more important than the pasted on grins we force in perfect attire. 
Because we can have happy, or we can have the appearance of happy.  And a muddy, wrinkled true happiness is so much better than the perfect pristine appearance of happiness that hides a broken spirit.

These past few months have taught me so much about the things that are truly important.  My house isn't nearly as clean as it used to be.  My floors aren't mopped every week, my bathrooms aren't as clean as I like, my windows are cloudy and my sink is often full of dishes.  Instead my time is spent playing board games or sitting beside the pool with my kids.  We don't stick to a strict 6:00 dinner time any more because sometimes it's better to be spontaneous and fire up the grill than to rush through a scheduled family time.

I've also let go of the idea that I needed to please others and to earn their approval.  There are people in our lives that we will never be good enough for, that we will never be holy enough for, that we will never be _________ enough for.  Just when you fit into the mold they've designed for you, they change the mold.  Instead of worrying about those things, I've learned to be happy and blessed in the life God has given to me.  I've learned that I cannot make other people happy...some people are just unhappy...and only God can help them find true joy.  I cannot allow their unhappiness and need for control to steel my joy.

I've learned that my God is faithful and his grace truly is sufficient for me.  I have let go of legalistic viewpoints I've carried with me my whole life.  I am learning to let go of judgement and to let go of control.  God is in control of my life and whatever He sees fit to bring my way will be for my good and for His glory.

I have learned to let go of fear.  So many things used to frighten me; I feared losing my husband, I feared the choices my children would make, I feared judgment from others, I feared not being good enough.  I guess when you face death square in the face - and win - you lose all of that.

What I gained, however, was the knowledge of important things.  Five extra minutes with a cup of coffee, staying up late beside the fire pit having s'mores with my children, watching re-runs of old TV shows with my husband, laughing at myself and knowing deep down inside it's all going to be alright.

Last week I bought a ton of fire works for the kids - more than I usually buy.  If you're my neighbor, I apologize.  My son asked me why I was buying so much.  I told him, "Because I feel like celebrating this year."  You see, I didn't think I would be here to see July.  This year I celebrate Independence Day.  Not only for our country, but for myself.  I am free from the things that don't really matter, and I am learning to live, happy and healthy.  Even if my shirt is wrinkled and my hair is a mess!

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thankful in all things...

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always:
Wow!  This one is difficult sometimes, isn't it?  Finding joy in difficult circumstances is not easy...when our eyes are focused on our circumstance.  We can all look at the piles of dirty laundry, the car that needs repaired, the job search that isn't producing results, the medication that isn't working, the child that simply will not behave, the spouse that has lost interest... Everyone has something in their life, or multiple somethings, that threaten to steal our joy.  But when our hope and joy is found in Christ, we can fix our eyes on Him, and find rest and hope, peace and joy in His love and salvation.

These past months it was not always easy to look past my cancer, the effects of the chemo, the fear of surgery, or the nerve pain that followed.  However, I have also found that in my hardest moments, I can remain joyful when I remove my eyes from pain or fear or discouragement and place them again on my savior.  

Pray continually:
Prayer has been the avenue through the pain, fear and discouragement to continuous joy.  I often think of the Apostle Paul, imprisoned, in chains, bound and forgotten.  His circumstances certainly dictated an allowable sadness, but instead he focused his eyes on Christ prayed continually.

There have been nights when my leg pain was so great I would lay on my sofa and literally pray that God would allow me to die.  That, friends, is the ugly truth.  However, those prayers only fed my discouragement, they fed my fear, they fed my pain.  

The nights I would lay on my sofa, in pain, and pray for peace, and rest and for others I knew in the same situation...those were the nights I found peace and found rest.  Whatever your circumstance, pray continually...

Give thanks in all circumstances:
This directive is not easy for most.  It's difficult to shake the dust off and actually be thankful when the doctor says, "you have cancer."  It's difficult to be thankful when you're unemployed and can not find a job.  It's difficult to be thankful when relationships are broken and torn.  It's difficult to be thankful when month after month ends simply won't meet. 

Again, we can not always be thankful for our circumstance, but we can be thankful in our circumstances.  God is good.  He is sovereign and He has proven to me time and again this year that He Is Faithful!  Give thanks for his faithfulness.

For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus:
I always read this portion as a continuation of the former three directives.  Be joyful, pray continually, give thanks, for this is God's will for you... I always read it as if God's will was to be joyful, for us to pray continually and to continually give thanks.  I believe that is true.  I believe God desires us to have a joyful heart. I believe he desires us to pray continually and be in conversation with him, and I believe he desires us to give thanks in our circumstances. 

However, what if we look at it from a different perspective?  Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  What if, instead, of referencing the behaviors spoken about, this last portion actually applies to our circumstances?  What if the writer is saying, "Whatever you're going through, give thanks, pray continually and be joyful in your situation because this [circumstance] is God's sovereign will for you in Christ Jesus."

God does not allow us to go through difficult times without a purpose.  He does not allow trials to come to us without a reason.  He does not allow trouble to touch us, unless He has a divine plan of rescue already set in place.

When we rethink this passage, and look at our situation from a heavenly perspective, knowing that God is sovereign in all our life circumstances, knowing that even this is God's will for me, for right now... it makes it easier to follow the directives to be joyful, to pray continually and to give thanks.

Many people asked me how I could face cancer with such joy.  I knew that God was sovereign over every area of my life.  I also knew that whatever happened was for my good and for His glory.  Yes, at times the fear was great.  At times the pain was hard, but looking past it to His sovereignty and trusting in him got me through every single day.

Whatever you're going through today, consider that even in the trials, even in the fierce battles, this is God's sovereign will for you.  He is trying to refine you.  He is trying to train your hands for battle.  He is trying to strengthen you.  When you look at life through a heavenly perspective, knowing you will come out the other side stronger, more hopeful, more whole... it is easy to give thanks in all things...

Only By His Grace,


Sunday, June 15, 2014

In honor of a great dad...

Today is Father's Day.  The post I am writing is in honor of my husband.  He has always been a blessing to me, exceeding all my expectations and becoming more than I ever hoped to dream.

However, watching him as a father to our two children blesses me most of all.  I have seen a man who is selfless, self-sacrificing, giving, caring, loving, firm and a man who is an example in every aspect of his life.

He is a hard worker; our children know the security of provision.
He is loving; our children know they are cherished.
He is kind; our children do not fear harsh words or too firm a hand.
He is expectant; our children know the importance of boundaries and of meeting a goal.

Our family is blessed to have such a godly man to lead us and love us.

John, we love you and honor you today.  Happy Father's Day!

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, June 14, 2014

A sling and a stone...

When David heard the taunting of Goliath, he went to Saul and said, "Let no one lose heart, your servant will go and fight him."  Saul then replied, "You cannot go, you are a young man and he has been a warrior since his youth."  David then recounted all the battles with wild animals, lions, bears, etc, while tending his father's sheep.  He declared, "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine."

Saul then gave his permission for David to fight.  But then he did something spectacular.  King Saul gave David his own tunic, and suited him up with his battle armor.  David walked around and tried it out, but quickly found that he was not used to the apparel and took it off.

Instead, he went out without armor, armed with only a sling and five small stones.   (1 Samuel 17, paraphrased)

Seven months ago I heard the worst words of my life.  "You have cancer."  No one could have prepared me for those words.  There were days I felt as if I were facing a giant who had been a warrior for many, many years...a warrior that had an undefeated record.

Like David, many people came along beside me and offered me their armor: do this, don't eat that.  Drink this, don't use that.  Pray this, don't say that.  Each person had well-meaning advice.  But like David, I tried them on, and realized, I was not comfortable in their armor.  I had to fight this giant in my own attire, and with my own weapons.

For me, my only armor was trust in a sovereign God.  My weapon was total submission to Him and His perfect will.  It wasn't always easy to pray the words, "Not my will but thine be done."  Often times I would say the words and my heart would skip a beat...what if His will is to take me?  What if He doesn't heal me?  What if?  What if?  What if?

But when you're facing a giant that is so much bigger than anything you've ever faced, a giant that took the lives of thousands, millions, a giant that was bold and brazen and taunted you with statistics and numbers and hopeless facts, sometimes all you can do is simply trust - even in the face of the hopeless.

I faced my Goliath.  Each time I went in for chemotherapy I faced my giant.  Each time I lost a handful of hair, I faced my giant.  Each time I took anti-nausea meds, I faced my giant. Each time I had blood work, or a body scan, or a minor test, I faced my giant.  Each time he taunted me with his strength.

Just like David, the Lord who rescued me countless times, in countless battles, in numerous heartaches, went out with me...and He delivered me!

Sometimes I wonder if David ever walked a dusty path and saw a cluster of small stones. I wonder if he felt that old familiar catch of breath reminding him of his battle with Goliath.

Whenever I have to go back in for blood work, or see my physicians for follow up appointments, or go to Physical Therapy three times a week, I am reminded of the battle between me and my giant.  

I am thankful for each person who came along beside me offering me their tunic and their armor.  Some battles we just have to fight in our own clothing.  Some battles we have to fight barebones -- simply so all we have to depend on is the grace of God and His faithfulness.  Some battles can only be won impossibly so that only God can get the glory!

I will continue to fight this battle for the rest of my life... I will continue blood work and body scans every six months for the next five years.  Each time I will be reminded of my own Goliath... and every time I will be remember his defeat!

I am thankful for a God who goes into battle with me and fights each one for me!  Bringing me from victory to victory.  I have said from the start that I want God to get the glory for this, no matter what the outcome.  I am thankful that He is victorious!

Only By His Grace,


Friday, June 13, 2014

Answered prayers...

"Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear." Isaiah 65:24 ESV

Here it is 2:45 in the morning.  I'm away every morning at 2:45 because of the way my new body works.  There are certain things that must be attended to and I certainly don't mind, given that it allows me more time and longer life with my precious family.

This morning is different.  This morning I was compelled to come and write to you about the answered prayers from our faithful Father.  

Usually, after I awake, I realize my foot or my leg or my hip are hurting.  My foot is terribly numb and toes are tingly.  My hip is sometimes screaming with pain.  I roll over, take more pain medication and try my best to go back to sleep.  Or, I move to the sofa, lie on the heating pad or ice pack until the pain subsides and I can fall asleep again.

But not this morning!  This morning as I woke up for my regular scheduled break, I simply went back to bed.  No pain in my hip.  No pain in my thigh.  No pain in my calf.  No pain in my foot.  

Yesterday I realized my foot was "jumping."  It was frustrating at first because this caused my toes to tingle.  But then I realized it was the nerve in my foot waking up.  Last night my toes felt less numb and less tingly.  This is a huge blessing!

Why am I awake at nearly 3:00 to write all of this? Because these, my friends, are answered prayers!  For nearly eight weeks I've dealt with pain...pain beyond anything I could describe to you.  I've not walked well because I cannot feel my foot.  My balance has been off.  I have filled prescription after prescription after prescription of pain medication.  I have dealt with unsavory side effects from that medication.

Even this past week I prayed, "Lord I need you to touch my body!  I need a reprieve.  I cannot take this any longer.  I'm not strong enough."  So recent was this prayer that I can barely believe.  

Isaiah 65:24 says, "Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear."  I believe these effects are answered prayers.  

I am not discounting the work my friend is putting in with PT.  I am not discounting the effort the exercises are taking.  But all of this together amounts to answered prayers.

I cannot simply go back to bed and snuggle in without giving praise to God for touching my body.  I am blessed this morning.  I am blessed that I can go back to bed and just fall asleep.  No extra pain meds, no heating pad, no ice pack.  Just my pillow and a thankful heart!

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I don't think I've ever been a big truster.  I've never really trusted other people with my heart.  I tend to let people get just so close, and then no closer.  There are only a handful of people in my life that I can say are really, truly close to me.  Only a handful of people  in my life that I think really, truly know me.  Unfortunately, I fear that maybe I transferred that to trusting the Lord as well. 

The journey I've been on these past few months has taken me to a deeper place of trust with the Lord.  There are always certain things I trusted him for; salvation, provision, protection.  Those were the easy ones for me.  But when faced with a life-threatening disease one has to stop and ask the hard question, "Do I really trust God...even in this?"

For me, the first week or so of my diagnosis was filled with this question.  I came to the conclusion that, well, either I trusted God...or I didn't.  He wasn't trustworthy in a few things... He was trustworthy in all things.    

Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not to your own understanding..."  Just as there are certain things we come to know and understand as we grow into adults, there are spiritual matters we come to understand as we grow into mature christians.  But this scripture blew all of that out of the water for me when faced with cancer.

If I was going to survive this terrible ordeal, I had to throw everything I knew out the window...every thing I thought I knew about faith, everything I thought I knew about prayer, everything I thought I knew about hope... and I had to simply trust in the Lord and not in my own understanding.

See, sometimes, all God wants from us is to trust him.  That is why when faced with such a huge obstacle, I was able to lay it all on the line and say, "Whatever God decides to do with me is fine with me...because I found a place where I fully, completely, honestly, sincerely and completely trusted him.  All need to control the circumstance left me, all need to dictate the situation to God left me, all need to say what would and would not happen left me.  When God is in control...there is absolute and total peace - no matter what the outcome.

These past seven weeks post surgery have been a little different for me, though.  I don't know if it's sleep deprivation or the constant pain, but I've not gotten to that place of peace very many times.  Most of the time I can say, "Yes, whatever the Lord has planned for me in this is fine with me."  But unlike when I was faced with death, I don't see a happier ending in the hereafter.  In this situation, if God doesn't choose to heal my pain, I'm simply left with more pain...and that isn't a peaceful thought.

However, there is a place inside of me that has grown in trust over countless situations over the years of my life.  When I wrecked my knee eleven years ago, running was the only thing I had to hold on to for my sanity...when I couldn't run, I though my world was coming to an end.  But that's how I met my friend, Erin, who has blessed me with countless years of friendship. 

Growing up with bladder and kidney dysfunction was always a hinderance to my life...but it ultimately lead to my cancer diagnosis...and saved my life.

There is a place inside of my heart that knows that even in this pain, be in nerve pain or myofascial muscle pain or whatever...God has a purpose in this part of the journey as well.  If God has a purpose in this plan, then it must be designed for my good.  Because all things work together for good for those who love the lord... right?  Right!

In this, as in the cancer portion of my journey, I must trust in the Lord with all of my heart and lean not to my own understanding.  I must acknowledge him in all my ways knowing that in the end he will have directed my path!

Only By His Grace,


Monday, June 9, 2014

Always amazed and truly blessed...

Friendship: (n) the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends. 

I have sweet friends.  I am truly blessed by them.  It seems like whenever I need a word of encouragement, someone, or many someones will step up and speak life to me.  It happens randomly most of the time; through text messaging, email, PM on FaceBook, etc.  It happens with friends I see every day and friends I haven't seen in years.  And I have grown to realize recently that even though miles and years separate friends, there is always a bond that remains true... I am blessed.

I would like to tell you about two of my friends today.  Someone told me yesterday, "Billie you don't just have friends,  you have angels."  I know :)  I just can't figure out why!

First, my friend Erin.  She is a Physical Therapist.  In fact, that is how we met.  Eleven years ago I went to see a doctor because of terrible shooting, stabbing, knee-dropping pain in my right knee.  MRI didn't show anything wrong, Ex-ray didn't show anything, CT scan didn't show anything.  But at random times I would take a step and my knee would literally shoot pain so severe I would nearly drop and my knee would buckle.  I was referred to physical therapy.

I was skeptical.  I thought it was hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo.  But, insurance paid, and I was desperate. After the second visit, Erin asked me where I lived.  I told her.  She said that she also lived on that street and we found that we lived 8 houses apart.  She had a sweet six-month old baby boy and needed a sitter.  I was a stay-at-home mom and we formed an alliance :)  I watched her dear one until I had my son a couple of years later.

Our friendship has stayed true.  It has a bond set much deeper than physical therapy.  She is a spiritual woman who loves God and serves him diligently in every aspect of her life.  Erin is a blessing to everyone around her, including her husband and four children.

Fast forward to now:  When I woke up from my cancer surgery with severe leg pain, I was explaining it all to Erin when she came to visit me in the hospital.  Immediately I could see her wheels turning.  Since then, she's been treating me every week, multiple times a week, and I am growing stronger, my pain is growing weaker, and I feel there is actually hope for recovery.

Because of her expertise, I have been able to ask her extremely personal questions that I don't think I could have ever asked another soul on the planet.  She always answers me with kindness, she encourages me with hope and instills a great sense that everything will be ok.

Erin gives herself to our friendship.  She is on extended maternity leave to stay home with her kiddos this summer.  Because of that, she has been treating me in her home.  She takes her personal time to fix what is wrong with me.  I cannot ever repay her kindness to me.  Without her, I would still be in pain with every step.  I would still be unable to get up or down without assistance.  I would have given up by now.

She has exhibited true friendship to me many times in my life and I am thankful!

Next is my sweet friend Ashley.  Ashley is a hair stylist.  Ashley and I met a couple of years ago when our kiddos ran cross country together.  I had recently had surgery and to be honest, my hair had gotten far far out of control.  I was desperate for a trim, and she was willing to help me out.  Ashley's salon was literally right around the corner from my house - about a two minute drive - and right past the Starbucks!

Ashley is the kind of friend that will be honest with you - even if it's not what you want to hear.  I mean that in the very best way.  She is the kind of friend that listens to your heart, hugs you with the warmest, most comforting hugs imaginable, and is honest and true. 

Ashley and I share things in common that I don't think we could talk about with many people.  We understand the things that others do not understand.  It is a bond that is based on trust and listening and praying for one another.

This past week my daughter went to Florida with her grandparents. Miss K has funny hair.  Whenever it gets wet, it sticks together like glue and tangles just because you're trying to comb it.  I have hair stylists say, "In x years of doing hair I've never seen anything like it."  So this week in Florida, Miss K went to the beach.  The salt water and ocean breezes tangled her hair into knots.  Because she couldn't possibly comb them out, she put her hair up in a bun.  Multiply that by five days and when she got home it was one massive mat of dreadlocks.  Miss K's hair was nearly to the middle of her back; very long, very blonde, very beautiful.

My heart was sick because after four hours of trying everything known to man, I had only been able to untangle about two inches of hair.  I honestly thought we were going to have to cut it up to her chin.  She had nine inches of tangled, matted dreadlocks. 

That's where sweet Ashley came in.  She texted me on Sunday morning and asked if we'd had any help.  I explained that we hadn't and that I thought our only hope was a drastic hair cut.  Her reply to me was simple, "Meet me at the salon at 10:00."  Ashley opened her salon on a Sunday - and drove into Louisville to help my daughter.  She spent about two hours working on Miss K's hair.  She sprayed and detangled, combed and pulled and combed again.  For two hours she did this - not just on her day off - but on her SUNDAY day off.

When we finished at the salon, Miss K had lost about 5 - 6 inches of length, but Ashley had saved about 9 inches.  Miss K's hair is still long past her shoulders, is healthy, shiny and beautiful.  

What Ashley did wasn't just salvage my daughter's hair, she saved my 13 year old's heart from breaking.  It's hard being 13.  It's even harder when you're hair is a matted knot.  Ashley saved her from that heartbreak.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am not sure why I have the friends in my life that I have.  I certainly do no deserve them.  I am eternally grateful!

However, all of this friendship has taught me a couple of things.  
First, that I have a lot to learn about being a friend.  I want to be the kind of friend that gives with abandon, who supports unconditionally and is willing to do whatever, whenever my friend needs me.

When I have said that my cancer was my greatest trial, and yet my greatest blessing, this is partially what I mean.  I have learned so many life lessons through this journey; lessons I would have otherwise not learned.  God has been faithful to show me true love, true friendship, true giving, true rest and true faithfulness through it all.

Today I am totally amazed at my sweet angel friends.  I am truly blessed!  I love you both Miss Erin and Miss Ashley!  I can't imagine my life without you - or the lessons you have taught me about friendship!  Thank you for making me a better friend!

Only By His Grace,


Friday, June 6, 2014


"Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

This passage means so much to me right now.  I am weary.  I cannot think of another time in my life when I was as sleep-deprived.  I am averaging about 3 - 4 hours of sleep each night.  

I'm finding that little things are growing into aggregations and irritations.  Things like the sound of the dryer's buzz.  Or the sound of my son's whistling.  It's making me crazy, people!  And I didn't have that far to go to begin with :)

One thing I know for sure is that God's promises are true.  Although I am weary and tired to the point of exhaustion, I know that my soul can find rest.    Psalm 62:1 says, "My soul finds rest in God alone..."

Even in the fatigue and the sleepless nights, night after night after night,  even in the pain and frustration, I know that my soul can find it's rest and be at peace.

My physical body can regain rest during the day with a nap or two, but I cannot function when my soul is at a place of unrest.  

Today I am thankful for the promise that I can come to him when I am  weary and burdened, and he will give me rest.

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

...and I am helped...

"Praise be to the Lord for he has heard my cry for mercy.  The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped." Psalm 28:7

So often I have found myself literally just crying out for mercy.  The pain in my leg can be so severe at times that nothing helps it, and often times I feel as if my toes are being cut off.  I'm not exaggerating, I'm not being melodramatic.  It has been very difficult these past weeks.

I must say, that although I still have a constant arthritic ache that never really goes away in my hip and leg, and although I still feel as if my toes are being removed, I feel I am getting better.  

The good days are lasting longer than they used to.  The bad days are growing fewer and farther between.  I think back to when I first came home from the hospital.  I couldn't get up or down alone.  I couldn't get into or out of bed by myself.  I could barely walk to the kitchen and back.

Now, I'm able to do all sorts of things.  I get in and out of bed, I sleep from side to side, I can maneuver stairs in a normal fashion, although slowly.  I get in and out of the shower and/or bathtub without help.  This week I've even been able to get down on the floor because I can get back up again.

Through all of it - the worst of it especially - the Lord has been my strength.  I have been so weak in my own self that had it not been for God's grace and help, I don't know what I would have done or been like.  

I know that many have been the days and nights when my pain was so great that all I could do was cry out for mercy.  And I know that although my pain was not removed from me completely, his grace sustained me and his love strengthened me.  I have been enabled to handle these trials because of His great love for me.  

There is so much to learn from our trials.  Sometimes we focus so much of our attention of the pain or the circumstance or the situation that we lose sight of how great our God is.  He know he's there, we call out to him, we pray and hope...but still our focus remains on the trial.  When we focus on the trial or the circumstance, sometimes we don't really see God as we should.  The trial seems so large, that God seems so small.  Our situation seems so hopeless that we fail to see Him as the God of hope.  Our pain grows so great, that we fail to remember that He is our healer.

My heart has been so convicted lately of my focus.  I cannot let my heart be consumed by the situation.  I must always fix my eyes on Christ.  Sometimes that is a choice.  It's not always natural.  It's not always easy.  But when we keep our eyes focused on the God of our hope, nothing, absolutely nothing seems hopeless.

I know that in my situation He has been merciful to me.  "He has heard my cry for mercy.  The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped."

Only By His Grace,


Monday, June 2, 2014

Reasons and lessons...

I must need a little more refining... 

1 Peter 1:7 says, "These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold - though your faith is more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." NLT

I guess I always thought that once I finished chemotherapy, I would be refined enough.  Or when I had my surgery, I would be refined enough.  Or when I recovered from it all, I would be refined enough.  

But now, I am in the throws of a whole new battle.  I've never experienced nerve pain before, and to think that today marks 6 weeks is almost incomprehensible to me.  There are times when the pain is so great that I can do nothing but lie down, apply heat or ice and pray for mercy.

Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said this, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raised the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, by your prayers..."  2 Corinthinas 1:8-11 NIV

I can relate to what Paul is saying, even though my circumstance is so much different.  During my cancer, chemo and even the early days of recovery after surgery, in my heart I often felt the sentence of death.  Even in the peace and with all the faith I could muster, there were moments when, honestly, I just didn't know.  Prognosis was uncertain, but statistics showed 22% - 50% recovery rate.  I wavered between trusting God for full healing and wondering if I even had one more year left with my husband and sweet kiddos.

Now that I am cancer free and I am recovering well from surgery, I do not feel the weight of the thought of death.  However, my thoughts have been consumed as of late with the nerve compression or damage or whatever it is... I have been ultimately consumed with my pain.

Last night I couldn't sleep from the pain.  I was reading what Paul wrote.  "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God..."  The one thing my cancer taught me above everything else, it was to rely on God.  It was easy for me to rely on God.

Now that I'm facing a different battle, one of neuropathy, I find that I am relying more on my pain medicines, my doctors, my physical therapist, my stretches, my ice pack and my beloved heating pad.  

Why is this?  My God has not changed.  He is still faithful.  He is still able to heal me of this latest challenge, just as he was able to heal me of my cancer.  

The truth is, God wants us to rely fully on him.  I fear I have failed to do this.  Paul said, "...He has delivered us from such a delay peril and he will deliver us.  On him we set our hope that he will continue to deliver us..."

This is where I choose to stand today.  When my pain becomes more than I can bear, when my thoughts wander toward fear, and the enemy tempts me to despair, I will remember the one who has delivered me already from a deadly peril, and he will also deliver me from this pain and neuropathy.

What I am ultimately grateful for is that I have a Heavenly Father who sees in me the worth to continue to refine me.  I am thankful that he sees the good in this trial.  I am grateful that he is willing to allow me to go through this pain, this refining by fire, because he knows that when I come out the other side, my faith will be made stronger.

I am willing to go through whatever he has in store for me, as long as I know it is for my good, and for His glory!

Only By His Grace,