Some things cancer taught me…

April is a big month for me. On April 26, 2012 I celebrated a HUGE victory. That is the day, at 2:15 pm, I was told, “You are cancer free!” After being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer in November 2010, I began surgeries and treatments that ended in April 2012.  

As this anniversary date approached, I had many things running through my head; random memories of the cancer center and that “one of a kind, not found anywhere else” smell; the taste of the peppermint candies I sucked on to keep the horrible taste of saline and chemo out of my mouth; the blanket I brought to keep warm during treatments and comfy pink slipper socks. I can still hear the sound of radiation equipment being dialed into place. It was such a lonely feeling being alone in the radiation room, as the technicians went behind layers of safety walls, and I lay there exposed, cold and numb, willing the machine noises to stop; hoping I wouldn’t burn.

Good memories also pop into my mind of my faithful husband going with me to my treatments while the meds flowed in; or when a friend kept me company during a long treatment. The distraction of good company meant so much to me, even though I knew it was hard for them and uncomfortable. There are the memories of my little 2nd grade boy telling me to hop on his bed, as he tucked me in with blankets and got out his books to read to me. Blessed. Loved. Precious. I treasured up in my heart when my 6th grade girl would tell me about her day and the ups and downs of middle school; feeling so blessed that she shared with me; praying so hard that I would have years and years ahead of me to just listen to her talk to me.

Through all of this, I learned I am physically strong, as my body fought with everything it had to beat this invader named breast cancer. It endured extreme treatments, nausea, steroids, exhaustion and hair loss, but never stopped fighting. God gave me the strength to make it one more day, through one more test, one more treatment. He did it. He is absolutely faithful. His eyes never left me and His tears mixed with my own as I would cry out of fear, rage and frustration; when I wondered if I was going to die.

I see my body through a different filter now. I am proud of my scars. They shout out that a battle was waged and won. I want to be strong and healthy, so I do what I love – hiking, biking, swimming and all things outdoors.  I want to enjoy every single second of life I am given. If my son asks me to go get ice cream, I will. It’s a memory we are making and it makes me happy that he wants to share it with me. So I will eat ice cream and I will not worry over whether or not I will look ok in a swim suit because of it. I am alive and that is enough. Our days are numbered and I want to take advantage of each one with those I fiercely love.

I am mentally and spiritually stronger, as well. Despite days of deep sadness, fear of the unknown, rage and brain fog, I told myself I would get through this; that cancer would not win and that God would not give me more than I could handle. I knew God would be with me through every test, every treatment, every bit of good and bad news. I held on to that and He proved Himself faithful and merciful and compassionate. Yes, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Yes, it put my body, mind and soul to the ultimate test, but I am an overcomer and I am victorious in Christ Jesus.

During other trials that have come along since this cancer diagnosis, I have looked back on all that Jesus brought me through.  It gives me strength and courage to face the trials that I know are coming. Life is hard, unpredictable and unfair, but I have found that if you look closely, you will find nuggets of joy and hidden treasures of beauty in everything. It is there just waiting to be discovered, but you have to look for it, change your filter from a victim mentality and choose life; choose to find peace, hope and sweetness in whatever is swirling around you. I promise you it is there. I remind myself daily, sometimes minute by minute, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is only by His strength, love and healing that I am here to live another day and breathe another breath. It is His breath in my lungs and as long as I live, I will give Jesus the praise, honor and thanks due Him. He saved my life and changed my perspective. I am thankful. I have another day to live and my prayer is that I leave everyone better than I found them. Peace and love, readers.

It really is ok to rest…

Mark 6:31 (NIV) Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

When I read this verse this morning, it jumped off the page and invited a deeper look; more than just a cursory glance. On the surface, it seems like a benign verse; one that can be read at face value and left at that. However, after giving this verse some thought, I beg to differ!

Jesus and the disciples had little, if any leisure time during His time of ministry; teaching and healing the people. The crowds never seemed to let up. People were so anxious to be near Jesus, to listen to His revolutionary teaching that set them free, released them from bondage, fear and legalism. They heard that He had the power to physically and spiritually heal them, so they came in droves with their ill and hurting friends and family, with those suffering from demonic harassment and chains, for a chance to see Him, touch Him, be healed by Him.

Jesus and his disciples rarely had  “opportunity for private meditation and prayer, nor of spiritual converse together; nor even so much as to eat a meal’s meat for the refreshment of nature.” (1)

Being fully God and fully man, Jesus knew and felt the physical and mental exhaustion of always being “on” and the deep fatigue of being surrounded by the hurting, needy and lost.  He also knew his disciples needed respite from ministering along side Him. So Jesus retired from His work. He was diligent to remove Himself and the disciples for periods of rest, refreshment and spiritual and physical re-filling, so that they could then return encouraged and strengthened for the next task set before them. He gave Himself and the disciples permission to stop and take a breather; to eat, to get themselves away from noise, hurry and the urgency of humanity knocking at the door of their hearts.

As I thought about this verse, I felt Jesus whispering to me and my worn out heart to “come with Him” by myself “to a quiet place and get some rest.” My days may not be filled with healing the sick and enemy-harassed in my world,  or with traveling roads that are literally dusty and parch the mouth, or teaching on hillsides in the hot sun, but He knows what my days are filled up with: relationships that are chaotic,  full of misunderstandings and unmet expectations; disappointment; dreams long held in my heart, that seem so far from being realized; illnesses and injuries that I cannot control or fix; past regrets that try daily to haunt my peace; friends and family going through heart wrenching trials that physically hurt me as I see the struggle; daily annoyances and offenses that threaten to become bigger than they need to be; and the list goes on. Life on planet Earth and the human condition!

I absolutely love that Jesus gets this! He understands the physical and mental exhaustion of taking care of everyone else around me. The things I take on that are not really mine to take, that I struggle and wrestle with until I have nothing left. He loves me enough to give me permission to get away, rest, get some refreshments for my mind, spirit and body and then, with the full armor of God strapped on me, get back in there and move forward, into all the goodness, abundance, joy and excitement He has planned out; filled up and able to minister to those He places in my path for such a time as this.

Is He calling you to go off with Him for a spell; to rest, refresh and soothe your mind, spirit and body? It really is ok to rest…

(1) John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

 

Mountain Path

Meandering off into the distance, the mountain path looks inviting.

Relaxed and lazy; where does it lead? Who has walked here before?

How many stories this lonely path must hold; what are its mysteries?

Warm sun complements the cool mountain breeze; perfect weather to explore!

Curiosity piqued; I set out with rocks and leaves crunching underfoot.

The silence is alive with nature doing its thing.

Birds call out with their beautifully intricate songs; joyful and bright, full of energy.

Wildflowers dip and nod in the breeze; dancing to their own tune along the low, gentle hills.

Vibrant colors are splashed about in hues of blue, yellow, deep red-orange; a divine paintbrush at work.

Busy insects hover and flit; carrying out the business of nature.

Mountain silence is full of life, purpose and order; energizing, yet calming.

Walking along, I hear forest creatures rustling in bushes; peeking and darting to and fro.

Small animals busy, yet wary; alert, yet free in their mountain homes.

I wonder how many eyes are watching my progress along the path.

The air smells of warm earth and the faint perfume of wildflowers and sunshine.

Ascending at an easy pace, the flat land dotted with trees; the forest grows thicker.

A subtle change of light with deepening shades of green; a peaceful energy.

Dappled sunlight filters through tree tops; birds soar from branch to branch still calling.

The path feels springy underfoot with a bed of needles and leaves covering the hard dirt.

Cooler air carries scents of pine and a not unpleasant older smell; moldy, ancient, circle of life.

Patches of wildflowers stubbornly crowd into pockets of sun that reach the forest floor.

Shots of bright beauty in the more subdued light; tenacious and bold!

In the distance, a loud crash through the underbrush; a deer, squirrels, a dead branch fallen?

Deeper in the woods, wind in the tree tops sounds like the susurrating sigh of the sea; branches waving and swaying; stirring the calm air in a dance as old as time.

Walking deeper in, the trees are very close; sunlight is tightly filtered and shadows play over the towering trunks as the path soldiers on.

Remote peace settles over the path, interrupted only by chattering squirrels and the noisy jay, demanding attention.

The air is quite cool. It smells crisp and deep, so clean and pure. Deep breaths to capture that scent memory forever.

Sun is dipping lower; a little farther, then time to turn back. Shadows deepen; day is ending.  The scents, sights, sounds are etched into memory. Captured.

Never making it to the very end of this mountain path, the mystery of it calls out to me. Keep going! Solve the mystery…

Maybe it was never meant to be fully known.

Revealing Truths in Exodus

I’m reading through the Bible in a year. I’ve done it before and each time have found fascinating nuggets of truth, revelation and delight that I never noticed in my previous readings. I am in Exodus now. I know this part like the back of my hand, or so I thought. Today, the Lord opened my eyes to some beautiful, yet hard hitting truths about myself, about Him and maybe about you, too.

Beginning in Exodus 13:3, Moses tells the Israelites to remember this day that they left Egypt forever; the place of their cruel and unbearable slavery. Moses reminds them that this is the day the Lord brought them out of their bondage with His mighty hand. His. Not their mighty hands and strength in numbers, but His. There is no place for self-reliance and self-congratulation here. The Lord heard their cries, their groaning and weeping and He rescued them because He is all mighty, a Warrior and because He loved them and He chose them as His own. Their bondage and the cruelty inflicted upon them by their earthly masters reached the heart of Almighty God and He responded with amazing power, might and compassion for the Israelites. He answered their cries.

In Exodus 13:17, God does not lead His people toward the Promised Land by the easy, straightforward route taking them through Philistine territory, because He knew them. He knew they would be terrified, turn around and head back to Egypt, because it was familiar there. Despite the horrible oppression they suffered, they knew what to do there. This applies to us, too. He knows our fears and weaknesses. Sometimes, when He seems to leads us in odd, circuitous routes to get to our Promised Land, have we ever stopped to think that because He knows us so well and loves us so much that He leads us around a mountain that might just be too big and cause too much pain? That we are not ready for yet? That touched me and explains some paths that I’ve had to take that seemed to make no sense.  I love how He speaks through His Word. It never returns void.

Verses 21 and 22 say “The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.”  What a lovely reminder that we are never alone. He is our constant companion. He knows where we are going. That feels peaceful to me. Safe.

The people panicked when they saw the Egyptians had followed them. They cried. They were terrified. They had already forgotten the way the Lord had brought them out of Egypt. They forgot that He guided them and lead them with pillars of cloud and fire. I love how Moses tells them in Exodus 14:13, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” This verse means a lot to me, because there was a time when a trial, a wound, seemed too deep and too hard to overcome. It was blindsiding and overwhelming. I remember asking God to show me something, to please tell me what to do. I found this verse immediately. I did what it said. I stood still and I watched Him rescue me from something that I didn’t understand. He fought for me, because He loves me. What are you facing that seems impossible? Do you trust God to fight for you? Can you wrap your mind about what that really means? God, the Almighty, the Prince of Peace, Creator, the King of ALL Kings wants to fight for you! He is telling you to just stay calm and watch Him. The Lord is our rear guard. He goes before us and leads us, but in times of battle, He is behind us, just like Exodus 14:19-20 shows us. “Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptians and Israelite camps.” He leads us out of harm’s way, and then moves behind us to hem us in and guard us from what He just delivered us from. Protection. Safety.

The first half of Exodus 15 is a beautiful song of praise, acknowledgement and love to the Lord for His protection, guidance and compassion; recognizing that He is an unmatched and mighty Warrior who stops at nothing to defend and redeem His chosen ones. I am His chosen one. You are His chosen one. Do we dance, sing and worship out loud when He delivers and rescues us, sharing with others when our prayers and cries are heard? Are we like Miriam and the women of Israel who danced and sang this song to Him; “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.” (v. 20, 21). This hit home. Am I raw and open and lavish with my praise and honor to Him for all He has done and is doing in my life? Do I give Him praise and thank Him for all the “horses and riders” in my life that He has hurled into the sea and battles He has won for me? Do you? Will you?

There is one last part from this first half of Exodus that causes me to examine myself. Exodus 16:4 “The Lord said to Moses, Look, I’m going to rain down food from Heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.” I read this over a few times and it blessed my heart. I believe He still does this for us today. God rains down food from Heaven, for us, every day. He gives enough for each day. Just enough. It might come in the form of physical provisions; such as food, shelter, water and clothing. It might come in the form of health and relationships. Maybe He gives me enough skill, ability and talent to get through whatever the day will bring me, because He already knows what that will be. He knows what I’m going to need and provides just enough. That spoke to me in a big way. Am I grateful, daily for what He is doing? Do I actively look to see what He is providing and how I need to use it? Do I spend time with Him saying thank you? Do I remember what He has done and what He has provided with a grateful heart or am I selfish and greedy like a giant gobbling mouth, demanding more, more, more and complaining relentlessly that what my Father has rained down from Heaven, for me, is not good enough? What do you do with the daily, loving provision your Father has given you? Food for thought….

Hurt and Healer

I have been feeling a bit nostalgic lately. I’m dealing with some health issues that are coming to a head soon with some tests and procedures in the works. Maybe that is triggering memories of my cancer days with surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and biotherapy, when I really didn’t know what the outcome was going to be and if I would be healed.

Music has always had a tremendous impact on me. When nothing else can reach that deep place or describe my feelings, music has always done that for me. It is a gift that I am so grateful for and that I hold very dear to my heart. To me it is God’s mouthpiece to my soul.

During the most intense times of my cancer treatments there were many songs that spoke to those places in my heart that were weary, afraid and overwhelmed; songs that spoke peace, hope and safety to my soul.

This song, The Hurt and the Healer, by Mercy Me is one of those that I clung to tenaciously and listened to over and over again, multiple times a day sometimes; declaring to myself that even in the midst of my deepest fear, pain and hurt, Jesus is there; the Healer colliding with my hurting body and heart, whispering to my soul that one day this will all be understood and made clear. I know that one day I will hear Jesus say, “It’s over now.” That brought me such hope! I know that whatever I face and whatever scars I’m left with, He will use for good and His glory; to bring hope to someone who has run out of steam and needs to know it will be ok. If this is you today, soak in these words and promises from a God that sees all, hears all and watches your every move, cherishing you and catching every single tear, bringing you healing in unexpected and beautiful ways. His arms are open wide.

The Hurt & the Healer”

Why? The question that is never far away

The healing doesn’t come from the explained; Jesus please don’t let this go in vain

You’re all I have, All that remains

So here I am, what’s left of me, where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive

Even though a part of me has died; You take my heart and breathe it back to life

I fall into Your arms open wide, when the hurt and the healer collide

Breathe

Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do;  pain so deep that I can hardly move

Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You

Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am, what’s left of me, where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive

Even though a part of me has died; You take my heart and breathe it back to life

I fall into your arms open wide, when the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity, is overcome by Majesty

When grace is ushered in for good and all our scars are understood

When mercy takes its rightful place and all these questions fade away

When out of weakness we must bow, and hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive

Even though a part of me has died; You take this heart and breathe it back to life

I fall into your arms open wide, when The hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear, wake my heart and take my tears

Find Your glory even here, when the hurt and the healer collide.

-Mercy Me

You can find the video to this song on youtube.

 

Death of a Stronghold

I want out of here.  I am so cold.  It’s getting darker. Where did the light go?  The air feels heavy and oppressive.  It’s getting harder to breathe.  I can hardly see anything around me.  I reach out my hands to grasp the door.  My fingers brush across the handle, but it doesn’t budge.  I realize that I’ve been sealed in.  Heavy, awkward looking blocks are stacked in front of the door; seemingly tossed in random piles, but effectively blocking my escape. “Who did this?” I wonder.  I turn around and around surveying this place I’ve built for myself. Funny, I don’t remember it looking so bare, empty and void of life; like a grave.  There is nothing of me in this place.  What happened here?  I try to remember the last time I really saw it as it used to be when I first built it; strong, safe, impenetrable, as it was supposed to be; guarding my secrets.  It was a long time ago.  I allow my eyes to wander around the room and then I see them.  The boxes…a flicker of recognition snatches at my thoughts and the old feelings of terror and pain stir and begin to move toward the surface.  I see memories shimmering inside their tightly bound boxes where I banished them all that time ago.  “No, no,” I cry, “I can’t!”  “I can’t see you!”  Not yet…not yet…

My heart is pounding far too hard.  “I can’t…please don’t make me.” I am frozen, staring at the memories bumping up against the lids of the boxes, straining against the ropes I used to tightly bind them away out of sight.  They have been safely tucked away in this tower of heavy blocks I constructed for them. I worked so hard.

I can’t look at them. I am too afraid.  Then, in the silence, almost imperceptibly, I feel a stirring in the air.  It is like the faintest breeze, buoyant; like a soft feather dancing lightly against my bare skin.  I catch the scent of something wonderful! It smells new, clean and light.  Pure.  I know this scent, but can’t yet place it; it’s been so long since I’ve breathed it in.  In contrast, the stench of death, decay and emptiness in this place is overwhelming, yet cloying and familiar.  My imprisoned soul is drawn to the new, the clean, the light and I search for its origin.  Compelled by something supernatural, completely unexplainable, I find myself moving toward the boxes. I am right there, closer to them than I have been in ages.  Despite the desperate sinuous fear that is crowding me on all sides, I sense a shift in the air. It is lighter and I don’t feel crushed by the weight of it. I smell the beautiful scent again and it gives me courage.  There is a palpable change in the atmosphere now. I feel the gentle, sweet brush of feathers all around me and know I am safe. I slowly let myself be drawn in again. The stench of death and decay is very faint now, replaced by the scent of Heaven coming from the wings and feathers in which I find myself enfolded.  Your voice is huge, powerful and deep, yet gentle, quiet and sure.  “It is time.  Look at them now, child; open your boxes.”  “Only if You promise to stay. I cannot face them alone,” I whisper.  Strength flows into me that I know cannot be of me. I am all too familiar with the sense of my own failed strength.  Your voice reverberates through the very core of my being saying, “I alone am your refuge; your place of safety; I am your God and you will trust Me. I will shield you with My wings; I will shelter you with My feathers.  My faithful promises are your armor and protection.” Yes, Father, yes.

You place the frayed, weathered ropes that bind up my boxes of memories into my right hand.  I still have Your strength flowing through me, so I pull the ropes with all my might.  As the ropes slither to the ground, my memories, carefully hidden and preserved, gently dance and hover above the box tops, bidding me to look at them and release them.  Peace that I cannot understand washes over me and I go to the boxes, Your hand warm upon my head; feathers brushing my cheeks.  I inhale You and deeply breathe in Life.  I lift up my head and welcome the memories, and they come.  I look at each one as they come before me. I weep and cry out as I acknowledge them all; the violence, terror, pain and fear; the cruel words and hateful actions and slowly nod my head.  I feel You hold me tight and whisper to my spirit.  I am startled and struck silent as I feel the sweet warmth of Your tears spill onto my face as You weep for me.  You turn my face upwards and I watch my memories, my pain, my loss ascending to Heaven, where You will take them and re-shape them to be used for Your glory.  “Is it done, Father?” I say.  “What about these walls of heavy blocks you constructed to protect your pain?” “Is it not time to tear that down, too, Daughter?”  “Do you really want to be free?”  You take my hands and turn them over. They are calloused and rough, from all those exhausting years of building my stronghold.  I watch in awe, as Your breath, Your right hand, begins to smooth away the hardness, the deep grooves and scales, revealing new skin underneath, that glows with life, energy and health. New life is here, in this place that was seeped in death and emptiness.  In the next moment, my attention is caught by a sound, unlike anything I have ever heard before.  It starts as a deep, low rushing, and then begins to spiral upwards, like a roar, like a violent storm and I fear I can’t stand up under the enormity of it.  It is too much for me to bear and I close my eyes, barely breathing.  As quickly as it came, it is gone.  There is peace; blessed silence, as I rest safely in the shadow of Your wings.  The roar is replaced by the most beautiful song I have ever heard, being sung above me, all around me.  I cannot understand the words being spoken; it is too lofty for me, but something deep in my spirit awakens and responds. I am utterly captivated.  I feel so light, so new, so clean!  As I raise my arms in praise and abandon to my Father, I see that I am free! The walls I built are no more, the boxes are gone, the air is clean, and the Light is back.  Gingerly, I begin walking where once the walls of my self imposed prison stood tall. I notice only a slight indentation, like a scar, left there; an indication of where the pit of my captivity had once been.  Today is the day I traded my stronghold for a strong tower.  As I soak in the song You sing over me, Your voice becomes imprinted on my heart, “I am the Lord Your God, I am with you, I am mighty to save.  I will take great delight in you, I will quiet you with My love, I will rejoice over you with singing.”

Healing

Good morning friends! This morning I’m posting scriptures and prayers for healing. There are quite a few of you in my world that are hurting, ill, scared, waiting for results and fighting hard or watching a loved one do the same.  I am praying God’s Word over each of you today. My desire is that these will bring you hope, encouragement, peace, calm hearts and spirits and that you are able to just relax and lean into Jesus. Jehovah Shalom is your peace. Be well, in Jesus’ name!

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

I pray that by Your stripes, my friends will be healed; by Your wounds, they will be made whole again. May Your peace that passes all understanding rest upon my friends this day.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion; who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-3

Thank you for being the God who adores us, delights in us and heals all our diseases. Please heal my friends, renew their strength, restore their health, bring a smile to their faces today and fulfill the desires of their hearts.

“The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed…” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.” Matthew 8:8, 13

Just say the word, Lord, and healing and restoration will come to my friends, in Jesus’ name. I intercede on their behalf and ask for renewed health, wisdom, strength and faith. I believe You answer prayers according to Your perfect will. May Your will be done in the lives of my dear friends. May they see You at work in their lives and know how much they are loved.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14

Father, I pray that You have compassion on my friends and their loved ones today. Please completely and totally heal them.

“You do not have, because you do not ask God.” James 4:2

Abba, in Your Word You say that we do not because we do not ask, so right now, I am asking and interceding for my friends and loved ones. I ask that You will heal them totally and completely and restore their health and vitality, their energy and joy, their faith and hope in You. I pray that even right now, the diseases, wounds, hurt, pain and sickness will leave their bodies and that You will replace those things the Devil meant for harm with good, true, holy, pure and lovely things. You are our Father and You know what we need before we even ask it of You. Thank you for what You are going to do in the lives of these beautiful people that are in my life. All blessing, honor and glory to You, in the name of Jesus, amen.