Friday, April 18, 2014

Today is Opposite Day



"Today is Opposite Day." Do you remember that game as a child? Once we began playing opposite day everything meant exactly the opposite of what was stated. "I hate ice cream." "I wish I could take a nap." "I don't want to play anymore." "I wish my mom would make me clean my room." Does that jog your memory?

In the last year I have played a lot of Opposite Day. I have stood amazed as bad news came to mean something good. I have been shocked as things that were meant to harm healed and things that were meant to heal harmed. I have been astounded as things that should have caused fear brought peace and things that were intended to bring death brought life. How does one explain how something that should bring despair brings hope? There is no other explanation; it must be Opposite Day.

Today is Opposite Day. We call it Good Friday, yet it wasn't a good day at all! Today is the reminder of  the day that Jesus Christ was crucified and died a terrible death. How can that be good? Regardless of who you believe Jesus Christ to be, he was a man of flesh and blood who suffered intense abuse, ridicule and ultimately death. You don't have to believe in his resurrection to agree that there is nothing good about a death like that. It is the ugliest of human nature exposed on a cross for all to see. How can that possibly be good? While you do not have to believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection to agree that a death like that is terrible, you do have to believe to understand how Christian's can call today Good Friday. We can declare it good because the story didn't end on Friday. Three days later, Jesus rose again. For you. For me. What was intended to harm healed; what should have brought death brought life; that which should have brought despair brought hope.

You see, God is the originator of Opposite Day. The bible is filled with Opposite Day examples.

 “Blessed are those who are spiritually needy.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Blessed are those who are sad.
    They will be comforted.
Blessed are those who are free of pride.
    They will be given the earth.
Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right.
    They will be filled.
Blessed are those who show mercy.
    They will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are pure.
    They will see God.
Blessed are those who make peace.
    They will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
11 “Blessed are you when people make fun of you and hurt you because of me. You are also blessed when they tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. 12 Be joyful and glad. Your reward in heaven is great." Matthew 5:3-12.
 
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16.
 
"You planned to harm me. But God planned it for good. He planned to do what is now being done. He wanted to save many lives." Genesis 50:20

And my favorite, "It is finished." John 19:30.  It is my favorite, because when he says it is finished it really meant life was just beginning for us!

On and on there are examples of God's love for a good game of Opposite Day and I am so grateful for it! Throughout the last year and a half of trials, I have been blessed to see that He still plays! Over and over He has taken bad and turned it to good in my life. Over and over I have seen how he uses all things for our good. Today I celebrate Good Friday and I am grateful for Opposite Day. You see today is Good because God is Good! My life is Good because God is Good. Today is Opposite Day!


Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Can't Wait Syndrome



I think most of you know by now that we got great news when we went to MD Anderson last week. Scans revealed that there are no new growths, the spot on my diaphragm hasn't grown, and the spot on the left side of my chest appeared smaller! What amazing news. I cannot begin to tell you how our hearts danced when we heard that report! God is so good! We go back in July to go through the process all over again. It looks like life will be lived in chapters of waiting, so the question stands, how do we live in the periods of waiting?

I've been thinking about that and realize that we are all really playing a waiting game. We can't wait until we get out of high school, then we can't wait to get out of college. We can't wait until we get a new job and we can't wait until we get married. We can't wait to have children and we can't wait until they get out of diapers. And on and on we live, waiting for the next big life change and slowly (or sometimes way too fast) life slips through our fingers, while we "can't wait". I have to tell you my perspective on "can't wait" has been sharply twisted into "oh yes I can" this past year. I have learned to keep my eyes on today and not stay frantically focused on the things that I "can't wait" for! (My daddy would tell you that that is a pretty big lesson for this little impatient girl!)

When all of this first began, waiting an for the next doctor appointment, a week for lab results, two weeks for biopsies was brutal. I would cry and ache over the waiting, honestly feeling as though the waiting was killing me. Waiting rooms made me bounce my leg anxiously and wiggle in my chair, constantly looking at my watch and wishing they'd go ahead and call me back. I had to have answers. I couldn't wait. Then one day I looked down and realized that I had stopped wearing a watch. I didn't even notice it happen, but somewhere along the way I relaxed into the waiting. The meaning of time changed and it was no longer something I strained against, but something that I eased into with a recognition that it just is as it is so I might as well stop trying to push it. I learned that rushing it was making me lose it and time is way to precious to lose. I  learned that the moment is what matters and how we use them, but that lesson only came when I shifted my focus from my problems to my deliverer.  So now I wait on one thing, "We wait in hope for the Lord. He helps us. He is like a shield that keeps us safe. Our hearts are full of joy because of him. We trust in him, because he is holy. Lord, may your faithful love rest on us. We put our hope in you." Psalm 33:20-22 (NIRV). When we stop saying, "I can't wait until...." and start saying, "I am just waiting in hope for the LORD" we can trust he will help us. We can live lives of joy. We get to have his faithful love. How much better is that?!?

What are you missing because you can't wait? What is happening around you right this minute that you aren't noticing because you are anxiously awaiting something in the future? What anxiety are you experiencing because you are problem solving something that hasn't happened yet? I Can't Wait Syndrome may be robbing you of the joy and faithful love of today. It may be time to take off your watch.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Deep End



When I was a kid I took swimming lessons. I learned to float, hold my breath, kick my legs. I learned  to stroke through the water with my arms, and tread water. After weeks of "training" the day came to put all the practice into action. I had to jump off the diving board, but I wasn't afraid. My swimming teacher swam out to the deep end and stretched out his arms. I held my breath and ran and jumped. I survived! I was not afraid. Why? Some of you know my swimming teacher. His name is Rocky Blair. For those of you who don't know him, he is a TALL man. To me as a kid, I thought he was a giant! You know why I wasn't afraid? Because I was sure that Rocky was touching the bottom of that 10 foot pool.

I couldn't help but think of that story last night because once again I am in the deep end. I am here at MD Anderson facing round two of The Nuisance (aka Cancer). I sure didn't plan to be doing this again so soon, but the experience this time is different. Last year as I sat in this very chair in the waiting room, I was trembling with fear. Tears were threatening to flood my cheeks and I felt totally lost. It was as though I was a child who had not been taught to swim, thrown into the deep water. I was flailing, kicking, crying for help. I couldn't find my bearings. I thought at moments I would drown. But my lifeguard was quick to rescue me. He surrounded me with his love and comfort. He saw me safely to shore. As he held me on his arms I was able to find my bearings. I was able to float. I survived.

Lessons learned in the pool of The Nuisance last year have made this time easier somehow. This time I have my bearings. I know how to tread water. I know how to float when I am tired. I know I am going to go under sometimes, but I also know I am going to come back up and will be able to grab a breath. Above all else, I know that I have a strong and mighty lifeguard who is in the water with me. He stands ready to rescue me when I am going under. Although Rocky was just a giant in my mind's eye, my LIFE-guard, my God, is a giant in reality. I have no need he cannot meet. There is no water too deep, no current too strong, for him to reach me. He says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."  Isaiah 43:2. I am safe and secure--- and blessed. Oh, how I am blessed!!

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Your cards, calls, texts, and prayers are our air. Any moment now, the nurse will step out and call my name. It will be my turn to jump off the diving board. My LIFEguard stands ready to catch me. Think I'll do a cannonball to make the biggest splash I can!!

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."Romans 8:38-39

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Life is a Symphony







Last night I had the pleasure of going to the symphony with my sweet friend Kelley. As we took our seats, the orchestra began to warm up in a noisy, chaotic fashion. Each performer tuned their individual instrument unconcerned about any other sound around them. They were highly focused on the sound coming from their own efforts. Soon everyone was in place and warmed up, the noise settled, and the conductor entered the stage. He raised his arms, the players lifted their instruments, and the most beautiful sounds began to pour out. As the music washed over us, we were swept away by the twists and turns of the musical stories. Some moments were light and celebratory, other segments were dark and ominous. I found myself feeling the emotion of the songs and began to realize that life is a symphony.

Like a symphony, our lives are filled with many players. There are moments when the players are tuned in and focused on their own lives, out of harmony with those around them, warming up for their performance. Moments like that tend to bring chaos into our lives. But then there are moments when we are in perfect synchronization with others; when we are not tuned in only to ourselves, but are loving, caring for, and working with those around us. In those times, our lives make beautiful music. Things function better and we are able to be more productive in our living. I love how 1 Peter 3:8-10 says it, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech." The symphony called life would be so much more beautiful if we would each play our part according to those guidelines.

Like a symphony, life is filled with both the light, happy moments and the dark, threatening ones. They weave together to tell the story of our lives. It takes both types of music for the orchestra to create the musical experience. It takes both types for us to learn lessons about who we are, who others are, and who our conductor is. John 16:33 says, "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." That statement was a warning that dismal days will come, but they will be followed by the celebratory times because God has overcome the problems of the world. Psalm 30:5 tells us, "Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Are you stuck in the measures of life that are filled with dark and heavy tones? Stay focused on the conductor and tuned in with the people around you; don't put down your instrument. The beautiful sounds of a light melody still lie ahead.

Like a symphony, our performance is improved when it is under the leadership of a great conductor. While each player on the stage was there because of their significant talent, the combined music was only beautiful because they submitted themselves to the guidance of a conductor who had insight into when to crescendo and when to diminuendo, when to play allegro and adagio. Had any player on the stage decided, "Well, forget the conductor, I am going to play MY song." and proceeded to bust out some Rolling Stones, the experience would have been destroyed. How many times do we ruin our symphony because we want to do it our way and not follow the guidance of our conductor?  The orchestra had to trust the conductor and follow his understanding of the music in order to produce a beautiful masterpiece. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Psalm 3:5-6. Would you like your symphony to be beautiful? Keep your eyes on the conductor and trust him over your own understanding. He will use your instrument to make beautiful music.

Play on beautiful musician!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Discouraged?

 
 
 



Discouragement- the act of making something less likely to happen or making people less likely to do something; a feeling of having lost hope or confidence; something that discourages someone. Sound familiar? Discouragement is one of those common experiences that we have all faced at some time or another. It is no small threat. It has potential to make good things less likely to happen in our lives, to rob us of hope. Because it can be such a powerful force, it is so important that we recognize it and are prepared to deal with it.
 
There is a verse that I have always loved in Joshua 1:9. It says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." I have memorized that verse. I have sung that verse. But my focus on the verse has always been on fear and terror. I have used it to bolster my courage and confidence a thousand times over. Only recently did I notice the second part of the command. Did you see it? Do not be discouraged. God himself knew that discouragement could defeat an army. He knew that if people lost their hope, that they would be immobilized and great things would be far less likely to happen in their lives. He knew it was such a powerful foe that he commanded us not to give into it.  Discouragement leads us to giving up. It is a burden that directs all our vision onto our troubles, and distracts us from the hope ahead. I have had moments in my own life where discouragement has literally taken my breath away. You too?
 
So what are we to do? I think to come up with a solution, you first have to recognize the problem. It seems to me that there are four conditions that set us up for discouragement: 1) When we are tired, 2) When we are worried,  3)When we are scared, and 4)When something seems impossible. To keep those conditions from making us vulnerable, here are some things to help us fight off discouragement.
 
When We Are Tired:
" Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  No one is immune to fatigue, especially when we are carrying heavy burdens, but when we trust in God he will give us strength and allow us to keep moving forward. He encourages us to give our load to him, to allow us to continue on. Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Psalm 55:22. If we aren't careful weariness can drive us to discouragement, and discouragement can stop us in our tracks; but hope allows us to continue to walk through trial. If you are tired, do not be discouraged, but allow him to carry your burden and give you rest. Don't forget the hope you have in him!
 
When We Are Worried:
Worry is such a great source of discouragement. I think Satan must just love to see us sit and rock our selves in our rocking chairs of worry. We put out so much effort and get absolutely nowhere! “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-26. So we aren't to worry about life, but seriously Anna, that can be a little hard to do. How do we keep from worrying? Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  Let me ask you this. When you are worried about something do you spend more time talking to yourself and friends about it or God? If you are finding yourself discouraged because of worry, talk to God. I promise you he is able to bring a peace that you have never experienced if you do!


When We Are Scared:
This one is a whopper. Fear can lead to discouragement faster than a match can lead to fire! So be ready! "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10. Fear is a lie that Satan tells us to make us think that we have been abandoned; that God cannot do what He says He can do. When you are threatened with those thoughts, remember the truth. God is with you. He will strengthen and help you. Do not let fear lead you to discouragement. In the movie Point Break Patrick Swayze has a line that says, "Fear causes hesitation and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true." There is a lot of truth in that. All Satan needs is that moment of hesitation to discourage us. Don't let fear cause hesitation in your faith!

When Something Seems Impossible:
The grand finale for discouragement is when we are faced with something that seems impossible. Laws of nature or common sense may tell us that there is just no resolution for the problem we face. That is often where we throw in the towel and succumb to discouragement. There is one verse to cling to when you find yourself in the realm of the impossible. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Mark 10:27.  Don't underestimate the power of the God who loves you. What you are facing may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible!

Look back at our definition of discouragement: "the act of making something less likely to happen". What are you hoping to see happen in your life right now? Healing? Restoration of relationships? New opportunities? Joy? Getting out of debt? Losing weight? Quitting a habit? DISCOURAGEMENT IS MAKING THAT LESS LIKELY TO HAPPEN! If discouragement can make it less likely to happen, encouragement can have the opposite effect. So be encouraged. Everyone gets tired, but God can renew your strength. Tell God what you need and thank him for providing for you. He will give you peace that will blow your mind. Don't be afraid! He will give you strength and hold you up! Never underestimate the power of God. What you're facing may seem impossible, but with God all things are possible! 









 
 
 
 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Broken Springs


I woke up this morning to see the most BEAUTIFUL sunrise ever! (I should mention that it was on a friend's Facebook page; it is Saturday after all.) By the time I filled my coffee mug and sat down to type, warm sun was streaming through the windows and I could feel the earliest tingle of spring. (Sorry to my snowbound friends in other places who are digging out of feet of snow. Come on down, there's lots of room here!) I felt a little giddy when I got to thinking about the season changing. At times when it is cold and dreary, it seems like maybe Spring is broken. Do you ever feel like that in real life? Like maybe Spring is broken and you will be trapped in a cold, dreary season where the moments of light seem short and the darkness drags on forever? Take heart! The proverbial spring is around the corner!

Life can be a really hard thing. You or people you love may be up to their ears in a snowy, icy season, I know, I have a cabin there, too. It may not seem fair. We don't understand why we have hardships when we look around and see others happily skipping around plucking flowers in their own spring lives. We may not understand the current season we are trapped in, but we can know this for sure. Seasons do not last.

I looked up the definition of season. Webster says, "of SEASON 1a :  a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature <in a season of religious awakening." What is your current time characterized by? Are you is a season of hardship, or of joy? Of struggle, or of peace? Are you enjoying a season of pleasure, or pain?  Whatever your season, we know as humans our circumstances are temporary. We will all face all types of seasons; from that there is no escape. But one thing I loved about this definition was the example it used in the definition. Did you catch it? "<in a season of religious awakening." I think that is where the lesson lies. You see we may not be able to control the circumstances of life that drive our "seasons", but we can choose to have awakening in any season. What I have learned (and continue to have to relearn because it is a lesson that can easily be forgotten), is that I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose what I focus on in that circumstance. If I get caught up focusing on the frost on the window, I cannot see outside to notice that the snow is melting and the sun is shining.

If you are in a season of winter, I want to encourage you. Don't let your focus be on your problem, as hard as that may seem. Look beyond the frost on the window pane to see your family, your friends, your provisions, your blessings. Look to God. When your focus is on Him, you can find warmth and awakening even in the harshest winter. I love 2 Corinthians 4:18 which says, "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." I can promise you this; the struggles we face today will not last forever, but they can keep us from living with joy if we become focused on them. On the contrary, if we focus on God and keep our eyes fixed on him, we are focused on the one thing that is unchanging and able to bring joy in all seasons!

One day you are going to wake up and be able to say, "Look! The winter is past. The rains are over and gone.  Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig trees are producing their early fruit. The flowers on the vines are giving off their sweet smell." Song of Solomon 2:11-12. Your struggle with your current season will be over and you will discover Spring again. Hold on my sweet friend. Do not be discouraged. Spring is not broken, it is just around the corner!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Funhouse Fibs

 

Do you remember the old carnival funhouses? You know, back in the day before they sort of creeped you out? Moving floors, shaking walls, distorting mirrors, mazes of glass, made us giggle as we fumbled our way through the features. As we reached the end, our sides hurt from the laughter brought forth as we overcame the obstacles.

Sometimes life feels like you are in a funhouse minus the fun. The floor is shaking and the walls are moving, but it brings forth feelings of fear, anxiety, and dread; giggles are hard to find as you struggle to keep your balance. The mirrors around you begin to reflect distorted images, and you begin to lose sight of who you are. The mazes of glass begin to make you feel as if there is no end to the un-fun you are dealing with. You begin to feel as though you can't find your way out. I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I am in the UnFun House, but here are some lessons I am learning.

Lesson One: Sometimes it feels like the floor is falling out from under you; your very foundation seems shaken. In times like this you have to do two things. 1) Grab hold of something secure, and 2) Keep moving. Let's explore those ideas a little more. When selecting what you will grab hold of, you have to be very careful. If you grab onto something unstable and movable, it will be of no benefit to you. Joshua 34:8 says, "But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now." He never moves; he never changes. When you grab onto him you have a foundation to stand upon and that foundation will hold strong even though the "house" may shake. "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27. Hold tight to God, and though the floors shake, the house will stand! My second piece of advice is KEEP MOVING! The only way out of your UnFun House is forward. You can't go back in time and sitting in pity will get you no where so grab the rail (God) and get moving! You may still feel fear, you may still feel sorrow, the walls and floors may still be shaking, but you are getting closer and closer to the end of the trial! Don't stop now!

Lesson Two: The UnFun House has mirrors that reflect back images of you and your situation.  As you look around you right now, you may be judging yourself and your situation by the reflections you see in the life's mirrors. Situations seem out of balance; you appear broken and disfigured. Your scars appear exaggerated, and you may feel like no one could ever love a mess like you. Those are LIES! Remember this, those mirrors that are distorting your reflection are liars. When you are in the UnFun House, you have to see your situation and yourself as God sees you, not as the mirrors portray you. God sees the impossible as possible. He sees the broken as beautiful. You are His child and he loves you. He knows how He is going to use this rough time to do something beautiful in you and for you. Do not stand around admiring the problem in the reflection of warped mirrors. Keep your eyes on your reflection in Him and once again, KEEP MOVING!

Lesson Three: Some rooms in the UnFun House are made of glass walls. As you try to find your way out, you bump into invisible barriers that seem to hold you captive, but there is a way out. I have two pieces of advice: 1) Let God guide you and 2) you guessed it, KEEP MOVING!  The bible says,"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." I don't know about you, but I do not understand my current situation, but I can rest secure that God does. I don't know how to get out of this maze, but God does. If we are wise, we will trust him and follow. Both steps are necessary. If I trust Him, but don't follow, I am stuck. If I am moving, but not trusting Him to guide me, I am going to face plant into an invisible barrier. We have a guide that can get us out of this maze of trials. All we have to do is follow.

Lesson Four: At some point in the UnFun House you begin to feel like you are never going to find the exit, but I promise you it is up ahead. There is a season to everything. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,  a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,  a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. You and I may be in a season of struggle, but everything that starts also has to end. Don't lose hope.  KEEP MOVING!

This morning I read this verse: "I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure," Psalms 16:8-9. I immediately had this image of this UnFun House and  how the struggle can make me feel like I am at the mercy of my surroundings, but that isn't true. If my focus shifts to the floor, the mirrors, and the walls of my struggle, I will be shaken, but if I keep my eyes on the Lord, I am secure! I choose to keep my eyes on the Lord. With Him beside me I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN so I am glad and I will sing. My body is secure!!! I am going to be like Olivia Newton John in the movie Grease and put on my high heels and stomp right through this stinking UnFun House (Minus the cigarette, leather pants, and big hair!) and sing to my God, "You're the One That I Want!"   (Okay, if that last reference went right over your head you're going to just have to go watch the movie. Perhaps I dated myself with that one!)
 
I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, Psalms 16:8-9

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Storms

Like the storms in West Texas, the storms of life are strong when they come, but they pass; they are unpredictable, but they are certain; they can be destructive, but they bring new life; they are dark in the moment, but they are followed by a rainbow.
Anna Jackson


The summer of 1987 I was working in an inner-city mission in Houston, Texas. Oh, the lessons I learned that summer as we worked with gangs, poverty, and the hard-ships of inner-city life. It was one of the best times of my life! On the wall in one of our centers was a poster like the one on this blog. I can't even begin to count the number of times in my life that the words have run through my mind. While it has ministered to me countless times, I have to say that in the past week it has been a great reality. So many times this week I have looked at the storm around me and wondered how in the world can I feel so calm? I know it isn't coming from me. It is something much larger at work. I began to ask myself this question, "What have you learned from the storm this week?" Here are some of my answers:

1) God loves me with an indescribable, unbelievably passionate, totally personal, all sufficient love---and He does you, too. Over and over this week he has been whispering directly in my ear his words of affection. It is as though the songs on the radio have been a playlist straight from him. The morning and evening sky have been precious gifts to remind me He loves me and is a beautiful creator who cares deeply about His creations.  His answer to prayers great and small have been overwhelming. He has connected me with people at just the right moments to impact my life (and hopefully theirs) in the most significant ways. He doesn't just care about the masses. He cares about the individuals.  I am his daughter and he adores me.

2) God has prepared in advance all we would need to survive this storm. During this last year so many of you have been so faithful to pray and encourage us. I honestly don't think we would have survived this long without you. I had the neatest experience in the last week or so as I discovered that one of my great prayer partners is actually family. A dear man, David Ritter (who is a survivor himself) has sent me bible verses every morning during the past year. His daughter is a friend. Their family has prayed consistently for us. His wife messaged me this week to as if I was related to Mastens in Plainview. As we talked we discovered that her grandfather and mine were half brothers. They have prayed for me for so long and now we discover that we were connected generations ago. I have heard it said that God goes before us and stands behind. I know that he has gone before me to clear my path and build supports for the rough times. He walks the path with me daily and is behind me all the way!

3) Storms can be beautiful. Have you ever gone out on your backporch just to sit and watch a storm? (If you live in West Texas I KNOW you have!)  My son Spencer and I love to go sit on the backporch under blankets and watch the lightning streak across the sky. Our hearts pound a little harder when we hear the claps of thunder. The rain falling refreshes our senses. The time we spend together as we weather the storm draws us closer together.  Which leads me to my next precious lesson.

3) God uses us to lift up and encourage one another. Just as Spencer and I draw closer as we weather storms together, so do you and I as we weather the proverbial storms of life together. You bring peace and encouragement to me.  Your prayers, cards, "AS IF" nods, and messages have meant more than you will ever know. I am so blessed by you! Never for a moment underestimate the influence you have in the lives of others. Your prayers are the air we breathe!

4) Final lesson- Like the storms in West Texas, the storms of life are strong when they come, but they pass; they are unpredictable, but they are certain; they can be destructive, but they bring new life; they are dark in the moment, but they are followed by a rainbow. I am in the midst of a storm, but I am choosing faith over fear. As the thunder rolls, I am reminding myself they will pass. As the wind seems to be trying to destroy pieces of my life, I am focusing on the new life I am given each day. When the darkness seems to roll in, I remember the sun is ALWAYS present, even when it is out of view. This too shall pass.

I grow frustrated once again with myself as I recognize how much more in tune I am to God and his lessons in bad times. I want to be so close to him that it doesn't take storms for me to cling to his presence. Are you the same way? I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God whispered in each of our ears this week. He orchestrated moments to reveal himself to all of us. He was waiting to meet us on the "back porch", but maybe since there wasn't a storm you didn't have time to sit down with him. My prayer is that we all grow better at clinging to God on the clear days so that we know what to do in the storms. I pray that we will know the SON so well from the bright days, that we know He is still there on the dark ones!

Thank you again for joining me in my storm. I know you don't have to, but I am so glad you do!

For God's Glory!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Each One Reach One

I am so excited that I just had to share! Most of you know that thymoma is a rare cancer. As far as we know I am the only case in the Lubbock area. MD Anderson only sees about 25 cases per year. There is very little research available and no support to speak of. Last week I received a newsletter from MD Anderson. On the back there was an advertisement about Anderson Network's One-on-One Support. It matches patients with similiar cancers to one another to provide support. I have chosen to live as loudly as I can with this cancer so that people see there is always hope. When I saw that advertisement I thought to myself, "I should do that." I set is aside and intended to get back to it.

Today I was up to my neck in projects and emails when suddenly I had an urgency to stop what I was doing and call. I picked up the phone and dialed the number.  I reached an operator by the name of Vetra. I told her I was interested in the program because I recognized how beneficial it would be to have someone to talk to with your disease. As I explained that I have a rare cancer called thymoma, she cut me off mid-sentence and asked me to repeat that. I said, "I have thymoma." She replied, "I can't believe you just said that. I said that word just 10 minutes ago! I was telling my co-worker that we need to do more reach out for people with thoracic disease like lung cancer, but that we can't forget the lesser known cancers like thymoma." She went on to say, "My co-worker didn't know what thymoma even was. I can't believe you just called."

By this point I was covered with goosebumps and choking on happy tears. I replied, "That just amazes me! I have tried to find others with thymoma and search for information, but there is just nothing there. I have blogged during my experience so that if there was anyone out there searching, they could find someone to connect to." Again she interrupted. "You blog? On your own? Oh my goodness, we are always looking for bloggers to share their stories! Do you mind if I get your contact information so that our communications department can reach you?" With a giggle in my throat I shared my phone number. 

As we talked about how our phone call had made each our days she said, "It is so funny that you called right when you did. I was supposed to be in another meeting, but just a few minutes ago they asked if they could bump it back 30 minutes. This was just meant to be!"  How amazing is it that I called and spoke to her. The other agent had no awareness of thymoma. If Vetra's
schedule hadn't been cleared and my prompting hadn't been so urgent, this blessed moment of connection would have been missed. You can't tell me that God isn't in the details!

There was another part of the phone call that thrilled my soul that you should know about as well. Vetra told me that I would be the 3rd volunteer they have with Thymoma. The other two are women as well and they each have Stave IV thymoma just like me. The best part though? They are longtime survivors. One was diagnosed in 1996 and the other in 2005. So in my effort to share a little hope, I received a little hope. The phone call came full circle.

I stand amazed!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

As If...

                                         
Each morning we awaken with choices.  I think of them as the great "AS IFs". We can live as if we have to go to work, or we can live as if we get to go to work. We live as if we have to cook dinner, or as if we get to cook dinner. We choose to live as if we have to exercise, or live as if we get to exercise. We choose to live as if we have to serve our spouse, or if we get to; if we have to do things for our children, or we get to. You get the picture? Each day is a series of choices about how we choose to live our lives. The choices we make determine the quality of our life experiences. We are not at the mercy of fate, predestination, or our circumstances. In all things we have choice in how we will ultimately react.

This week I received news that I hoped to never hear again. It seems that The Nuisance is back on the prowl. There are two spots that appear to be growing; one on my diaghram and another on my chest wall. We are uncertain what that means right now. There are questions about the rate of growth, if there are other spots that may be hiding, and even the slimmest possibility that it is just the way they appear on the CT scan. At this point there is little to do, but wait and see. I am to return to MD Anderson in March for another round of tests to see what the little boogers are up to and then we will begin to formulate a game plan. For now we wait and see...and pray. So now I am faced with one of life's biggest AS IFs. How will I live for the next two months? Shall I be afraid? Hold my breath? Worry about the possibilities? Dread the future? HECK NO!!!! I WILL LIVE MY LIFE AS IF I AM HEALED!!!! I WILL LIVE MY LIFE AS IF I AM FREE FROM FEAR!!!! I refuse to bow before the altar of despair and defeat. I will bow before my God in thanks for each day and live my life AS IF there is nothing to fear!!!

I can choose to live AS IF because I have been promised these (and many other) things:

Psalm 27:1-3
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me
    to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

Exodus 14:14
The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Joshua 1:9 NIV
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

You see, I am free! My price has been paid. My strength is not my own, but comes from my Lord, Jesus Christ. He willingly fights on my behalf and tells me to be strong and courageous. He is with me. I will live my life AS IF I have nothing to fear and when I stumble I will get back up and do it again. I am not victim of circumstance or disease. I am a child of God! So take THAT Nuisance and prepare to be destroyed!!!

So how about you? How would you complete this sentence: "I am living my life AS IF..."? Are you going through the motions? Tortured by dread and fear? Living AS IF you are beaten, bored, burdened, broken? You have a choice, my sweet friend! You do not control your circumstance, but they don't control you either!  Choose to live AS IF you are blessed, because we are.  You have one who is willing to fight for you, you need only be still!!

Pray me on. God has shown us remarkable things. He is not done!