Dancing in the rain

In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song; this Cornerstone, this solid Ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.


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Five minute Friday: Notice

I teamed up this week with the Five Minute Friday Crowd: http://katemotaung.com/2014/11/20/five-minute-friday-notice/ The rules are follow the word prompt and write from your heart for 5 min, no edits, just straight from the heart.

Do I notice Him? Do I notice Him in the sunrise? Do I notice him in the breath of life? Do I notice him in my cancer? I was quick to notice him in my healing. I sang his praises on high… look what my Daddy did for me! But now, do I notice him now? As that question gives me pause to think, I look back and notice all the times I may have missed him. I notice him there, keeping the nausea at bay. I notice him bringing fits of giggles where there should have been tears. I notice him gather a community of support for me. I notice him in the warmth of a cat curled up on my lap. I notice him in my son standing strong. I notice him in the depths of myself, refusing to give up. I notice him ever so near, noticing me. He notices my pain, he notices my loneliness, he notices my disease and he pulls me into the embrace of his arms and he tells me he notices my strength and he notices my effort and he notices my triumph. What does he fail to notice? All that I feel I get wrong. That he doesn’t notice.


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Hope, where art thou?

It’s been a rough week. I’m coming off one of my more difficult chemo weeks. On the one hand, the nausea was the least it has ever been, but I was worn…physically and emotionally. Usually I turn the tide on Friday, but instead I found myself having to sit and rest in the middle of getting dressed. Every little action was exhausting. I could not believe how my legs burned and shook by the time I got to the top of the stairs. The uncertainty of my situation was taking its toll too. I’m having some stomach/abdominal issues but the oncologist insists on waiting on my scan until 3 full rounds are complete.

Intermixed in my struggle were little nudges from God. I could feel him pushing something to the edge of my consciousness. First, was the reminder of his timing in my situation over the last year. Not a single appointment or procedure has come too soon or too late. Then came numerous scripture references with a building theme, the culmination of which came at 11pm Sunday evening post by a friend:

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”

So much of my struggle lies at the root of those two verses. When I first began this journey my faith and hope were impervious. I had read the stats and knew that nary a pathologist would think there was much chance my cancer had not already spread. Yet, I waltzed around telling everyone how I would be calling with my good news. These days, fear and uncertainty are on the verge of getting the best of me. What’s different? That’s what God has been trying to show me all week.

Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us to put on the armor of God…the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).

The belt of truth (his promises) reminds me of the weighted vests some kids wear to help keep them calm and grounded. The shield of faith deflects the harsh pelts of cancer. It is when I take up the sword of his world that I find that peace that goes beyond understanding, however, lately some of it falls on an acrimonious heart. “For I know the plans I have for you…” seems to continuously scroll through my fb newsfeed. My response? “Yeah, sometimes death is his plan.” … how’s that for your encouraging post for the day? But as I read through the Ephesians passage I see something I haven’t seen before, something I have been neglecting: “The helmet of salvation.” With salvation death has lost its sting. How easily we cling to this world, forgetting that death is not the end, but the eternal beginning. The helmet of salvation is the victor’s crown.

My hope has been migrating to this world rather than God. As I have settled back into putting on his armor the past few days, I feel a weight being lifted. No, everything is not all better, but I’m not caught up in the entangling web of negativity that threatens my very wellbeing. I see glimpses of peace that goes beyond understanding. Smiles and lightheartedness come a little easier, and tears flow less freely.

That is one thing both science and Christianity agree on, our attitude and outlook have a tremendous impact on our health. So I am taking back my hope from this world and putting it back where it belongs. Back in the one who wears the victor’s crown.

After writing this, Matt Maher’s song, Lord I Need You, came on and  it is amazing how well it fit, especially:

Teach my song to rise to You When temptation comes my way And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

Every day, every hour…my one defense, Lord, I need you.

(The post below goes with this one….it is something I wrote last year after my recovery and is a good reminder of his faithfulness….)


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He Was There

I actually wrote the following about a year ago, but I found myself needing the reminder this past week….

Months, perhaps even a year ago, cancer invaded my body, and He was there, drawing the line that said, you may only go this far.

As the unsuspecting surgeon prepared for surgery, He was there, “Not yet.”

As the news of cancer set in and I was somewhat unsettled, He was there with words of reassurance and deliverance, declaring me His miracle girl.

When I was disobedient and read the horrible news of my recently named cancer online, He was there offering me forgiveness and more reassurance, “Whose words are you going to believe, mine or those of the internet?”

When I had to tell my friend my horrible news, He was there, selecting just the right timing for her.

As I sat in the oncologist office and reality began to set in, He was there, assuring me that He was not only with my doctor, but IN my doctor. He had not left me in just anyone’s hands, but kept me firmly grasped in His own.

When the time came to sit down with my baby boy and speak words that no mother should have to speak to her child, He was there, giving me strength, courage, and control that goes beyond all understanding.

In the short time leading up to my surgery, He was there, working fast and feverishly to build my confidence and faith, moving me from not just hoping, but believing.

The night before my surgery, when satan came to attack, He was there, helping me say, “No longer! You have no dominion here, GET OUT!”

As I lay in the hospital, fresh from surgery and overcome by all the emotion of the last month, He was there, with His big beautiful angel standing guard over my bed.

As I lay at home, more nauseous than I ever thought imaginable, He was there, bringing sleep that simply should not have been possible, and all the while snapping video and pics of my baby boy in his first ever marching band parade.

The day before getting results, He was there, using my mouth to prophesy His forthcoming miracle to all who would listen.

The day of results, He was there, keeping His promise and shining the sun just as bright as can be for His “sunshine” to show me how the heavens were rejoicing. Not only this, but also a special study started just for me so that He can keep an extra close eye on me, declaring not only that He WAS there, but will continue to be there.

Through it all, He was there, showing His faithfulness provision through His words and through many friends who loved and cared for me through prayers, cards, flowers, food, rides, shots, and loving words.


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Cha cha chia…

I have been rather amused by my chia like hair style…especially fresh out of the shower. Just cracks me up. Then, God began to speak something very intimate into my heart about the symbolism of my chia hair. It started out with the wonder of its rebelliousness…how it continued to shoot up in spite of the chemo. Then God began to unpack that. It wasn’t just rebelliousness, but strength. Strength rising up out of me. Strength in the face of adversity. Strength that was symbolic of being an overcomer. And it was all representative of something he had planted in my spirit when he created me.

I endured a lot of rejection in my childhood, but God didn’t allow me to give up. Honestly, I could have easily grown up to be a drug addict or in jail. But looking back, I see the fight and hope he planted deep inside. Others may not have believed in me, but somehow I had this suspicion that they were wrong. I believed there was something better on the horizon.

While others spoke things that tore down or simply withheld, my Jesus whispered, “no child could ever dance the way you do.” He tells me he is proud of me. He sees in me something that I don’t think any human has.

It reminds me of when you walk down the sidewalk and see a flower growing up out of a crack. How does that happen in the face of such adversity? For me, it is my Jesus. It is a special gift he has given me. With his great love and mercy, I have spent a lifetime defying the odds. My battle with cancer is no different. As I question, “could a garden come up from this ground?” he responds with strong, rebellious hair defying the odds and fighting its way to the surface.

Psalm 18:32 says that It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure, and experience tells me this is so.

For entertainment purposes I have included a pic of my chia hair. I was trying to get a pic for a friend and couldn’t really get it to show up so I decided to use my lamp to add some lighting… I fell into a fit of giggles to discover I was a chia angel!!

halo


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Where does my help come from?

It was a difficult week emotionally. I saw a beautiful, young girl and a loving father both lose their battles to cancer. I sobbed and sobbed, asking God over and over how He can let that happen, how He can sit by and watch. I only see but a glimpse of the suffering, He sees it all. I don’t understand. I would like to say that He imparted me with great understanding that makes it all better, but I don’t think that is possible. Even in all His omniscience, I don’t think it’s all better with Him either. But my cries did not go unanswered. Over the last week He has carried on the same theme with the things that have crossed my path. First and foremost, the beginning of Psalm 121 kept playing in my mind: Where does my help come from? I finally looked up the whole verse:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—  where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—  he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel  will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,     nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—  he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

My help comes from the maker of the heaven and earth! He who holds the earth’s waters in the palm of His hand and set the stars in the sky… that’s who comes to my aid! And even more? He doesn’t sleep on the job. He does know, and He is right there by my side.  When I read verse 3 that says He will not let your foot slip, I picture a parent standing protectively behind their child as they climb at the park…with one hand hovering over their back and the other near their foot.

Then verses 6-8 come crashing in. He didn’t keep that sweet girl or loving father from all harm. Still, the idea of Him being the source of my help would not leave me. I wrestled with it a few days, and then I opened Facebook, and there it was…

“There are times when people need solid Christian answers. But there are also times to just weep together with no answers at all.” – Lysa TerKeurst

And so I wept again. No questions. No seeking. I just sat in my big comfy chair (my Jesus chair) and wept. As I began to settle, I was reminded of a line in Natalie Grant’s song “Held” that says, “And to know that the promise was when everything fell we’d be held.” Yes, that’s right, the fall. The fall ushered in sin, evil, destruction, death. I went back to psalm 121 and began to rethink those last few verses. Was the promise not that we would be shielded from all that, but that we would be held? My mind went back to the parent standing guard over their climbing child and thought of all the times the child falls anyhow… and how the parent then holds them. I looked back through the first several verses, soaking in the love and protectiveness of my Abba Father, and there I saw something that I had missed in the countless times I have read this Psalm… “the Lord is your shade.” There is something about the word shade…how it denotes relief. Indeed, the sun, like trouble, never fails to rise…and sometimes it scorches…but we can find shade.

“If hope is born of suffering, if this is only the beginning, can we not wait one hour watching for our Savior” (Natalie Grant)

(I would like to post the lyrics, but this is already a long post so here’s a link to Grant’s song…it speaks candidly about, and ministers to, suffering.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-hJ87ApWtw)


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Rocking the boat

Every time I seem to get perilously close to that edge, God shines his presence that much more just to pull my back. Several months ago I had the opportunity to buy tickets for Casting Crowns. The group rate was amazing, but I was worried I might not feel well enough to go. I decided that it probably wouldn’t be that hard to get rid of the ticket if I couldn’t go. The concert was a week and a half after treatment, but that didn’t mean much as I was pretty much down the whole two weeks after my first treatment. Then, it happened… the sun broke through the clouds. No, not the day of, but two days prior to the concert! It was my first good day in 3 weeks, and with the advance, it was enough to build me up for the actual day! What a blessing, and what timing!

The concert was nothing short of amazing…and so were our seats! We had gotten them on groupon, so who knew….who knew that they would practically be FRONT ROW! Ahmazing!!! What was more amazing was how God ministered to my heart, reminding me of his provision and goodness, showing me two important things. One, since chemo started, I have been trying to do this on my own strength rather than his. I can see that. That’s a hard concept to explain…sometimes even harder to live. It’s not something tangible, more of a state of surrender. It should be something we welcome as it means an end to our striving, but it goes against the grain of who we are. From birth, we are raised to be independently minded…self-reliant… and now, now we are to surrender all our efforts to a God whom we cannot see or touch. Ahhh, but when we are able to navigate this paradox, there is great relief! I wish I could lay out a lesson plan…a sure-fire way… but I can’t. Seems my own success rate rarely surpasses 500. I can, however, tell you that it often involves replacing thoughts such as “I can’t” and “this is too hard” with “please help.” And there, in that moment, an intangible God provides a tangible presence. Not that He always fixes, sometimes He just holds.

The other insight He gave me had to do with Peter. I once wrote in a paper how Peter is my kindred spirit. Two peas in a pod we are… two big mouths with even bigger hearts and the best of intentions. And, oh, how we love our Jesus. My favorite scene is when Peter sees Jesus standing on the shore after the resurrection. So overwhelmed and excited, he couldn’t wait on the boat and instead jumped into the water, clumsily making his way to Jesus. How many times, in such glee and excitement have I clumsily made my way to Jesus?! Not recently, recently I have taken to sitting quietly in the boat. Then the bigger realization of another correlation with Sir Peter. Suddenly I saw him standing on the water…and then sink into the waves. Like Peter, when I was first diagnosed I confidently walked on water with my Jesus, but then I took my eyes off of him and fixed them clearly on the news of a recurrent type of cancer. But my confidence lies not in cancer or what it can or cannot do, but what God says He can do…and he said I was His miracle girl! Right on cue, the band began to play Voice of Truth….

Oh what I would do to have

The kind of faith it takes

To climb out of this boat I’m in

Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is

And He’s holding out His hand…..

But the voice of truth tells me a different story The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!” The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory” Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

crowns2 crowns


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Friends help the medicine go down

While I knew it was fairly certain to happen, I had hoped, but still, there I sat on the edge of the tub sobbing. Cleaning up the endless strands of hair seemed futile. The tears weren’t so much for me as they were for my son. He is so visual and I knew this would be a blow for him; trigger his concern. The hair loss would officially make it real for the both of us. I was right, and as I sat on the bed telling him, my heart broke for him as his broke for me. “It could be worse,” doesn’t offer much consolation in those moments. Nonetheless, it could be worse.

The next day a ray of hope and sunshine arrived in the form of two friends. They whisked me off to Walmart for a new head wardrobe and, of course, big hoop earrings J. Then back to the house to refine our novice head-shaving skills. I’m happy to report, no blood loss. By the end, I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt… I felt pretty… and confident. One of the most treasured part of the day? That they brought my Jesus with them. I cannot explain the calm that washed over me as my friend stood with her hand on my shoulder. It wasn’t her hand that she stretched out to hold mine, it was Jesus’. Then, we concluded with a time of communion. I will not debate the theology or properness of communion. It wasn’t about the ritual, it was about the relationship. I needed my Jesus, to know and reflect on his restorative presence.

Exodus 17:11-12 tells us that the battle was being won while Moses held his arms high… more significantly, when Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur held his hands up for him. My arms were tired Thursday as I sat looking down at the seaweed of hair drifting in the tub water, I am thankful for the friends who came along and held them steady. The image of Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses has been one that God has reminded me of frequently. Most often, it is when I think about all the prayer warriors out there lifting me up. My struggle runs deep right now, and, honestly, there are times when even prayer is difficult. I don’t know what to say…what to ask…what to cry, so it is a comfort to know that others are crying out for me. I also feel great strength when I think of the chorus of prayers being lifted… a wonderful mix of a beautiful medley and a persistent knock that will not be turned away.  

before nerd dino cape after-us scarf