Friday, July 18, 2014

What was it like?

Do you ever just sit and ponder what something must have been like?  There are so many amazing events in history that I've wondered about before.  What was it like, for instance, to actually hear Abraham Lincoln speak?  What was it like to hear Martin Luther King, Jr give his "I have a dream" speech?  What was it like to be the first man on the moon?  

And then, I wonder, what was it like to encounter Jesus?  What was it like to stand in his presence, to hear his voice, to feel his touch, to know that to be in his shadow was more powerful than anything you've ever known?  What was that like?

This week I saw my doctor and he commented on the size difference in my legs.  Clearly, my right leg is stronger, my left leg is weaker.  I have regained so much, and yet there is still so far to go.  He measured the circumference of my quads: my right quad measures at 16 inches, my left quad, well 12.5 inches.  My calves are the same circumference, which tells me that I am regaining muscle.  

This morning, though, as I caught a glimpse of my legs in the mirror I wondered, "What was it like to be the man with the withered hand?"  What was it like to have Jesus just heal that...instantly?

Mark chapter 3 tells us this:  "(1)Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. (3)And he said to the man with the withered hand, "Come here."  (5)..."Stretch out your hand."  He stretched it out, and his hand was restored."

As much as I know in my heart that every day I continue on this road to healing there is a purpose in the length of the journey, as much as I know that I am being healed day by day, as much as I know this is serving to bring him glory, as much as I know these things, still I wonder what it must have been like?  What was it like to have a withered hand and to have it restored immediately?  

My leg is far from withered, but I have had a couple of people mention my limp.  It is barely noticeable to me, now, but still other people see it.  I wonder, what it would be like to stretch out my leg and just simply have it fully restored, immediately.

Even though a miraculous, instantaneous, perfect healing sounds beyond magnificent to me right now, I know that everything my God does has a purpose.  The purpose in healing the man's hand was to show the Pharisee's their hardened hearts.  The purpose in letting Jacob walk away with a limp was to serve as a reminder that he had, in fact, wrestled with God.  The purpose of not removing the thorn from Paul's side was to keep him from becoming conceited.  

Whether we are relieved of our temporary sufferings or whether we are allowed to continue in them for a period of time, we must trust that there is a purpose.  As much as I would love to just be healed and whole again, I know that there is a greater plan for this course in my life.  I cannot see what is at the end of this journey, I can only walk the path I am given today and trust that God will be glorified in the things I say and do, thin and feel, hope for and desire.  Knowing full well that "all things work together for good for them that love the lord..." Even this...

Only By His Grace,


Monday, July 14, 2014

Strong, firm and steadfast...

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  1 Peter 5:10

Sometimes I have a minor set back in my thinking.  Does this ever happen to you?  One minute you're traveling along minding your own business, doing well, feeling fine the next minute you're completely bombarded with feelings of hopelessness and fatigue?

I don't know if this is the normal course with nerve damage, but one day I'm doing well and the next day I'm hurting so badly I feel as if I've not made any progress at all.  I know this doesn't only relate to physical pain, but also to emotional stress, hormonal imbalances, daily trials and even to those I lovingly refer to as 'button pushers.'  Some days we can deal with it and keep going and other days....well, it's hard!

As I continue to heal from the surgery I often become frustrated that I could have gone through so much: chemotherapy, complete reconstructive surgery, physical therapy, and still have so far to go.  I had 'planned' on a six week recovery.  Next week will be three months.  I'm still recovering.  I'm not happy about this.  I had my plan.  I had ideas of what I wanted to do and accomplish over the summer.  I had things on my to do list.

But then I stop and I look again at 1 Peter 5:10.  ""And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  Three things stand out to me in this promise.

First, "after you have suffered a little while..."  When I went back to the infusion center last week I was overwhelmed at the emotions that came flooding back.  I was also keenly aware of the blessing I've been given.  After an 8 month journey, I am cancer free.  Cancer free!  My prognosis was anywhere from 50% survival at best to 22% survival at worst.  To say that I am cancer free is, as my doctor so tearfully put it, "nothing short of a miracle."  As I sat down last week for port maintenance I saw and recognized faces that I first saw eight months ago.  Those people are still going through the battle; they are still in the trenches.  I have suffered, make no mistake.  But God has been gracious to allow it to be for "a little while."

The second thing that stands out to me is "will himself restore you."  There are many examples in scripture where God sent an angel or a messenger or a plague or a storm...but in this particular instance, after we have suffered a little while, God himself will restore.  There must be a special place in his heart of those who suffer.  He could easily send a ministering angel, or a spirit of comfort.  He could easily speak restoration into being.  But in the instance of suffering, God himself will restore.  

The third thing that is so precious to me is that he will "make you strong, firm and steadfast."  I must admit, I long to be strong and firm again.  Of course that's speaking physically.  To think that last October I was posting to Facebook about the nine milers I was I can barely walk up the stairs or stroll through the mall.  I desire to be strong and firm again.  I want to run those nine-milers again.  However, spiritually speaking, the suffering, pain, fear and threat of death has given me the opportunity to be strong, firm and steadfast.  I am stronger now than I was before.  I am firmer in what I believe now than I was before.  I am more steadfast than I was before.  For these things I am thankful.  

It occurs to me that no matter what suffering we are personally going through the promise is the same: "After you have suffered a little while, [God] will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  As we sway through the ups and downs of normal life hearing this promise and waiting for the outcome is difficult.  But His promises are true, God is always faithful and He is always on time!  We simply have to wait through the "little while" in order to experience the heavenly restoration.

Only By His Grace,


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Words are powerful...

Words are powerful creatures.  Last week I was chatting with the sweet lady at our orthodontist's office.  We were talking about life perspectives.  Mine has certainly changed, and continues to change as the days grow on and we move one day farther into our journey.

I mentioned that MOPS has adopted the motto "Be You Bravely" for this year.  I said that I have the "Be You" part pretty well, but the "bravely" part....well, not necessarily.  Here is what she said, "You never wavered."  I needed to hear that.  She didn't know it, I didn't know it, but I desperately needed to hear it.

During my cancer journey, I agree, my faith never wavered.  I was willing to go wherever God would lead me, even through the valley of the shadow of death.  I now know what it means to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.  There were moments when I was sad to think about leaving my children.  I was devastated to think of my husband as a widower at 42 years old.  One evening we were setting up a movie night and as I made my way to the family room I saw my husband and kids sitting there...and I thought, "This is what the pictures of their life will look like without me..."  Those moments still make me cry.  But I never feared death.  

But what Sharon said to me was, "You never wavered."  Past tense. It one tiny mili-second she spoke life into me.  She used the past-tense when talking about my journey.  In one tiny moment the world seemed to stop spinning and I was finally able to breathe again.  Really, truly, deeply breathe!  I honestly thought, "'s over..."

I still have things I'm dealing with on a daily basis.  There is still pain in my leg, numbness in my foot, my hair is still short and shaggy.  But the cancer part of my journey is over.  When I look in the mirror I see visible scars from this journey, war wounds from a long and tiring battle.  But I've come out the other side and my journey is now changing.

I'm no longer a cancer patient.  I'm a cancer survivor.  I do not look to the future with uncertainty.  I look to the future with hope and a purpose.  For how-ever long God chooses to leave me here on this earth, I want  desperately desire to make the most of every moment.  I want my laughter to ring out, I want my tears to flow freely. I want my children to know that I'm their biggest fan and my husband to know that I've still got his back.

More than anything I want to let others know that whatever they are facing there is a purpose and a plan...they can get through it and come out the other side with a new perspective.  

I never expected to walk into the orthodontist's office last week and leave breathing a sigh of relief...and great revelation.  Thank you, Sharon!  You had no idea what your words meant to me, but they changed my perspective, again.

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When my spirit grew faint within me...

"When my spirit grown faint within me, it is you who watch over my way." Psalm 142:3

Today was the first day I've been to the chemotherapy infusion center since mid-March. I've seen my oncologist a few times since my surgery, but not yet to the infusion center.

When you have a medi-port, it is necessary to have it flushed with saline every 6 weeks to keep it functional. Today was my first saline-flush. As I sat in the waiting room I casually browsed the web on my iPad. When the pager went off for me to move to the infusion center, I simply got up and went.

The nurse greeted me at the door as she always did, took my weight, my blood pressure, my temp and chatted with me about my hair cut. All of this was normal. Then we turned the corner to the infusion chairs and as I sat down, my heart sank. I looked across the hallway at the beds...the beds I spent those long seven-hour long infusions lying in. And my heart began to pound so loudly I was certain everyone in the room could hear it.

I fought back tears and a flood of emotions. I remembered with brilliant clarity the first day I toured this room; the day I came in for my chemotherapy education. I remembered the metallic taste I would leave with after the long days of Cisplatin and Gemzar. I remembered the absolute fatigue and the absolute nausea. I remembered the fear of the unknown.  
It was all I could do to hold back the tears and keep myself from running from this place.

But the sweetest thing happened. I also remembered how the Lord sustained me through it all. I remembered His grace was sufficient. I remembered the peace that passed all understanding. I remembered how gracious He has been to spare my life.

Psalm 142:3 says, "When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way." Many were the days when my spirit and my body grew faint within me, but with every step the Lord watched over my way. He strengthened me when I was weak. He encouraged me when I was hopeless. He granted peace in my chaos.

Today, He was gracious enough to allow me to remember - and to allow me, once again, to be thankful for all He has done.

I never want to grow forgetful of where He has brought me from. If He has to continue to bring back the pain and remind me of the fear to keep me grateful, I will gladly remember.

My God is truly faithful, lest I never forget his never-ending grace.

Only By His Grace,


Love must cost us something...

"Love to be real, it must cost.
It must empty us of self."
~Mother Teresa~

Writing this blog has cost me something.  It has cost me my privacy, my pride, my "I can handle anything alone" attitude...It forced me to face my challenge head on and empty myself of my self.

It has been a source of encouragement to some and an outlet for me to share my struggles, my fears and my faith through it all.  In every post I have poured out my heart sharing my pain, my recovery, my lack of strength and my utter will to give God glory through each milestone.

Yesterday another milestone was reached.  If you've followed along for very long you know that after my surgery I suffered severe leg pain from neuropathy.  I have found myself crying through the night for God to let me die because the pain was so great.  I have had good days when I pushed myself and so-so days when I just muddled through.  My sweet friend has been walking me through physical therapy and yesterday was my last official session.  

I still have muscle soreness in my calf, but on a pain scale of 1 - 10, it's now about a 1.  My toes are still slightly numb, but considering where I was 10 weeks ago, on my pain scale of 1 - 10, I've come down from a 12 to less than a 1.  

All of this means healing is taking place in my body.  It means that God is proving himself faithful once again.  It means that even the slightest set back is on His radar and He cares for us.

I don't know what the days ahead look like for my blog.  I desire to keep writing and for you to continue to be encouraged.  In order for 'love to be real it must cost.  It must empty us of self."  As I look ahead I want to continue to allow my journey to empty me of self so that I can continue to give God glory.  I want my love to be real and I know that it must cost something.  

I am a pretty private person.  I don't open my heart easily or share my secret fears lightly.  But I want to continue to do that, still, because maybe somehow, someway, this might bless you in return.

One thing I know:  God is faithful and his love endures forever.  I will continue to share that with you.  Every step, every milestone, every winding turn this journey takes, I will share His goodness and His grace trusting in His sovereignty.  

Only By His Grace,