Friday, December 28, 2012

Jesus Calling

If you’ve been around me much lately, you’ve no doubt heard me mention the devotion book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. When I was first grappling with the prospect of having cancer, I struggled in my faith immensely.  To put it mildly.  I would pray and read scripture, but I had no idea what to pray, and I just couldn’t seem to find what I needed.  I was so empty.

One day, God led me to pick up this devotion book at the store.  I had seen several people in different social media outlets quote from it throughout the year, and I had even looked at it earlier this fall at the dotmom conference. But I didn’t need it then. I needed it now.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much God has used this book to minister to me and my family during the past few months.  This is a dated devotional book that was copyrighted back in 2004 that is written as if Jesus were speaking directly to you. 

This is from the day I found out the mass in my breast was most likely cancer:
“As you look at the day before you, you see a twisted, complicated path, with branches going off in all directions.  You wonder how you can possibly find your way through that maze.  Then you remember the One who is with you always, holding you by your right hand. You recall My promise to guide you with My counsel, and you begin to relax.  As you look again at the path ahead, you notice that a peaceful fog has settled over it, obscuring your view.  You can only see a few steps ahead of you, so you turn your attention more fully to Me and begin to enjoy My Presence.
The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment.  Although I inhabit all of space and time, you can communicate with Me only here and now.  Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for you will have learned to keep your focus on Me and on the path just ahead of you.                                                                                                                  Psalm 72:23-24; 1 Corinthians 13:12”
-November 16, Sarah Young, Jesus Calling
Wow.  Exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed it.

Here’s the entry for the day we met with the doctors to decide treatment, the day I dreaded so bad:
“When you are plagued by a persistent problem – one that goes on and on – view it as a rich opportunity.  An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side. The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable.  In faith, thank Me for your problem.  Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty. Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down.  On the contrary, your thankful attitude will lift you up into heavenly places with Me.  From this perspective, your difficulty can be seen as a slight, temporary distress that is producing for you a transcendent Glory never to cease!
Isaiah 30:20-21; 2 Corinthians 4:17”
- December 18, Sarah Young, Jesus Calling
Every day, it has been so spot on, it really feels like Jesus is sitting beside me, reassuring me, strengthening me, calming me.  Growing my faith.  Again, this book was written in 2004.  Back in 2004, God knew I would sit here empty in 2012 and need to hear these words, so He gave them to this lady to write down.  For me.  THAT is how good God is.  Amazing.

I’ll give you just one more.  Today, as I watched the Today show, I was struck by how most of the “year in review” moments were of really bad things.  Yes, they included the Olympics, but the majority was all the tragedy that the nation has seen this year (I may or may not be including the election in that :)). Then I read the devotion for today:
I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present Help in trouble. Therefore, you don’t need to be afraid of anything – not even cataclysmic circumstances.  The media are increasingly devoted to fear-inducing subject matter: terrorism, serial killers, environmental catastrophes.  If you focus on such dangers and forget that I am your Refuge in all circumstances, you will become increasingly fearful.  Every day I manifest My grace in countless places and situations, but the media take no notice.  I shower not only blessings but outright miracles on your planet.
As you grow closer to Me, I open your eyes to see more and more of My Presence all around you. Things that most people hardly notice, like shifting shades of sunlight, fill you with heart-bursting Joy.  You have eyes that see and ears that hear, so proclaim My abiding Presence in the world.
Psalm 46:1-3; Psalm 89:15”
- December 28, Sarah Young, Jesus Calling 
Can I get an AMEN?? Our God is awesome!

She has also written Jesus Calling for Kids, which is the same daily devotion format, but for kids. Obviously.  We will be starting it January 1 as our family devotion each night.  I cannot wait to see how God uses it in our family!

All this to say, if you are looking for a devotional book to read through in 2013, I cannot recommend this one enough. If I could buy you all a copy, I would. Really, if I could just call you every day and read it to you (like I do Burge) to be sure that you hear it every day, I would do that. That is how much I love this book!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Moving Mountains

And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys. – Isaiah 49:11
Y’all. God is so good! All the time.

Let me start back at Monday.  I went for a whole battery of tests: bone scan, several CT scans, MRI.  It was a LONG and draining day, both physically and mentally. Probably more mental than physical.  These tests would tell us where else the cancer had spread to.

On Tuesday, we were to meet with the doctors to map out a treatment plan.  I dreaded this day. I felt like this was when it was going to become really real.  I didn’t want to hear a prognosis or survival rates or any of that.  I didn’t want to hear them tell me spots had been found anywhere else.  I just didn’t want to go.  But we went.  Burge, my dad and myself.

Well, God leveled some mountains that day. First off, the cancer has not spread! Hallelujah! One mountain down. We were almost giddy just hearing that! Then we met the “team” of doctors, and their recommendation is to treat the tumor first, then do surgery and end with radiation.  Treatment plan in place, another mountain down! But then, my chemotherapy oncologist mentioned a clinical trial that I qualified for.  Would I be interested in hearing about it? Sure! Why not? This trial uses drugs that are proven to treat my specific type of cancer, but they are not the traditional "chemo” drugs.  Without the traditional “chemo” side effects.  As in, no hair loss! We didn’t give an answer right away, but here was a mountain that I was prepared and willing to climb, and God was offering to level it for me anyway!

Y’all. All three of us left that appointment so encouraged! I can’t even describe it.  Or explain it.  The peace that passes all understanding. Yes, I still have cancer.  It’s still very serious, and we still have a long, hard road.  But it was almost as if God had given us just a little glimpse of His plan.  All we could handle right now. And it is SO GOOD!

So I went yesterday and had a port placed where I will receive my treatments.  I also signed the consent forms for the clinical trial. We knew that to be part of the trial, I would have to have another biopsy before we could start, and as much as I dreaded it, I was prepared for it. The research coordinator had scheduled the biopsy for the next available date, which was January 9.  A little disappointing, but at this point, I realize that God can work things out so much better than my finite mind can, so I accepted it.  We started praying that God would open another appointment sooner.

And God was prepared to knock another mountain down on our behalf.  The coordinator called yesterday afternoon and said that they could do the biopsy Monday morning.  On Christmas Eve! I could also have the required EKG that day, and my first treatment is scheduled for December 31!  Over a week ahead of the original schedule!  God is SO GOOD!

I know there has been a lot of discussion lately about God’s role in the bad things that happen in this world.  I’m not going to get into a debate about that here, because I don’t have all the answers and I don’t claim to.  I can only speak to my own experience.  And that is that GOD IS GOOD.  ALL THE TIME. Yes, bad things happen.  We live in a fallen world, full of sin.  Bad stuff happens.  To everyone. We can thank Adam and Eve and our own sinful nature for that.  But there is nothing that happens that can’t be used to bring glory to God.  I know this because I have seen it.  I am living it.  God is faithful when everyone else has turned their back.  He is everywhere, all the time.  There is nothing that we can go through, no problem that we can face that He is not the answer to.  Period.  The end. 
You are good, and what You do is good; teach me Your decrees. – Psalm 119:68

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stunned

There are situations that we find ourselves in throughout life that totally throw our lives in a tailspin.  Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, sometimes both.  But most of the time, we don’t see what’s headed our way.

Stunned.

The LORD replied, “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days- You would not believe it if you were told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

I have breast cancer.

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. 

-Philippians 1:6

Stunned.

Even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me. – Psalm 139:10

No other word can adequately describe how that sentence makes me feel. Still, after dwelling on it for several weeks.  I wish I could say that I saw it coming.  That I was prepared for the diagnosis.  But truthfully, while I knew it could be cancer, I never really thought it would be cancer. And yet, here I am, a 35 year old mom of 3 with breast cancer.

Stunned.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Of course, God is not stunned by this news. No, not only did He see it coming, He, in His infinite wisdom, orchestrated it. There is nothing that is without a purpose. I may not can see it clearly, but that’s not important. I only have to embrace it, embrace Him and pray that I don’t let my fear and anxiety squander this opportunity.

Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. – Psalm 100:3-5

Do I have fear and anxiety? Most definitely.  It consumes me some days.  I have moments when I ask, “Why me? Why now?”. I even have uttered those words that every parent hates to hear, “But it’s not fair!”.  And I’m quickly hit with the fact that no, it’s not fair that I have cancer.  I deserve so much worse. So, so much worse. My righteousness is nothing but filthy rags.  Every day of my 35 years has been a gift straight out of the grace of God that I didn’t deserve. How can I complain about this?

Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will bring me up. – Psalm 71:20

Before you think I have arrived spiritually and have this all figured out, let me be the first to tell you otherwise.  I spend a good portion of my waking hours fighting my flesh.  Playing the “what if” game.  Swimming in a sea of self-pity and doubt, rather than standing on the promises of God. But those moments when I really just let it go and immerse myself in the presence of a loving Father give me strength to fight the battle with myself. That and the overwhelming amount of prayers that are said on my behalf every day. 

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

I am so weak.  But in my weakness, I know that He is strong. I’m trying to learn to let Him be strong for me.  All the time. Because I certainly can’t do this on my own.  And He doesn’t expect me too.  He doesn’t want me to.  There are so many lessons to be learned through this.  I pray that I’m receptive to them and grow closer to Him everyday.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:18

There have been so many times in the past several weeks that God has sent encouragement my way. Through His word, His people, His Spirit. Through mundane, everyday things. God is so good. So, so good. He provides just what I need, just when I need it. In such a real way, I could reach out and touch it.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. – James 1:2-3

I seriously doubt this diagnosis will be the worst news we hear through all this.  I fully expect it to get worse before it gets better.  I have thought since the beginning that God was going to pull all the “safety nets” out from under us. So that there is nothing for us to cling to but Him. So that there’s no way I can “plan” my way out of it. So He can get all the glory that should be all His anyway.

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down, He won’t leave you. – Deuteronomy 31:6-8

I don’t know how often I’ll update this. I don’t want to document every little whine that I have, but I want this to be a journal of these life-changing circumstances. And I certainly don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have this little space here, just waiting for the words to be written. If you pray, I would definitely appreciate it if you would pray for me, my family, and the medical staff we will be dealing with in the coming months.  If you don’t pray, my prayer for you is that you come to know My Savior, who gives me hope when I can’t find any, strength when I am at my weakest, and peace that is beyond all understanding.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. – Psalm 27:13-14