Perception

I started 2018 being challenged with the idea of living victoriously (which I wrote about in my January blog post).  Counting the “too numerous” wonders that He has done has been my focus for these last 135 days.

However…

The month of March felt like April Fool’s Day.
Every.
Single.
Day.

In March, I found myself, rather abruptly, in an untenable job situation.  Never have I worked where I was unable to give adequate notice before resigning, but this situation required an immediate resignation.  And, within three days, from a completely different source, I was faced with accusations of performing a ‘breach of security’ and ‘violating the trust’ of (some) people.  Needless to say, the whole concept of living victoriously was put to the test.

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When you face the perceptions of people, you become the ‘whipping boy’ of their expectations.  When those perceptions come from those you’ve trusted, whether they be family, close friends, or even mere acquaintances, your character and your good name are forever impacted.  The challenge of dealing with people’s perceptions has been an ongoing struggle for my family and myself for some time.  The last ten years have been especially challenging for Football Fan and even though I have not shared specifics through my blog posts, there are some private battles that I have endured while dealing with cancer and all things cancer related.

No matter how many times I have tried to convey the impact that this illness has had on my whole person, there are some people who cannot and/ or will not comprehend that chemo brain is a real thing.  My ability to recall is challenged on a regular basis and it is enhanced by fatigue, stress, and unfamiliarity.  What this means is that when someone demands that I recall actions from many months ago (or even just yesterday), it’s going to take time.  If I can’t recall according to others perceptions/ expectations, patience is the protocol instead of varying forms of abuse.

Another impact of this illness is extreme fatigue.  In these last few months, I have been able to recognize and begin the healing process from this illness.  Approximately three and half years since my body, mind, and soul began the journey of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stress from three types of chemotherapy, six surgeries, forty radiation treatments, several weeks of physical therapy, multiple medications, surgically-induced menopause, and the removal of the societal standard of what constitutes a female, I am just now beginning the healing process!  My ability to function in normal society has been challenged severely.  What this means is that what I make time for is of no consequence to anybody.  I do what I can, when I can, because I am not guaranteed the stamina or mental clarity to do it later.   Whether I did it right or wrong, I took care of my blessed little family first and foremost.  After that, came what my family and I prioritized as necessary and important.  Just because we ranked those needs differently from others expectations does not imply anything other than we were (and are) doing the best that we could (and can) right then (and now), in that (and this) moment.  If I can’t perform according to others perceptions/ expectations, understanding is the protocol instead of varying forms of abuse.

As I heal from all things cancer, this includes the impact of other people’s perception/ expectations of ‘me and my shadow’ (because I am trying to insert a bit of humor into a weighty subject).   I will give you a very private tidbit about myself: I have never thought highly of myself, and this was before cancer!  This means that this illness has magnified this one aspect of ‘me’ by infinity (and beyond – again with the humor).  So when I am faced with other people’s perception/ expectations of ‘me and my shadow’ (see previous note), things will usually hit ‘my threshold’ of being a blubbering mess faster than the norm.

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Football Fan reminds me often of the passage found in Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

The concept that ‘perception is reality; therefore, reality is truth’ dominates our society, our family, and our minds, but we must guard against this mentality.

~ Just because we think it, doesn’t make it true. ~

Our Creator commands us, challenges us, and warns us through His perfect words to be mindful of what is in our hearts because it will always be reflected through our words, our actions, and our attitudes.

Live victoriously, remembering His truths. 

They are the foundation for His “too numerous” to count wonders that He has done.

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Amazing Grace

As I started 2018, I was challenged with the idea of living victoriously (which I wrote about in my last blog post).  Counting the “too numerous” wonders that He has done has been my focus for these last 53 days.

Today, I want to talk about His amazing grace.

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When I was pregnant with our second child in 2005-2006, I spent about 28 to 30 of the 40 weeks being sick, being monitored, being watched because it was a difficult pregnancy.  A few days before my due date, it was discovered that the birth canal contained a varicosity (another term for varicose vein).  The doctor’s main concern was that a natural delivery would rupture the varicosity and that it would be medically necessary to stop the bleeding from that rupture.

The designated induced-delivery date was decided by my obstetrician, who had the bedside manners of a 2 by 4.  As I looked up to his approximate 6’7′ and 275 lb. frame and said, “But that’s my birthday…”  He gazed down at me with his ‘board’ bedside look and said, “Do you have a problem with that?

And so, on February 22, 2006, Football Fan and I arrived at the hospital at 6 am.  His mom was with us and his dad was volunteered to remain with Ukie Girl until a more appropriate time (and, I believe, a doughnut was involved too).  I was a bit of a fascination for some of the nurses because of the medicine prescribed to stop the inevitable bleeding of the soon-to-be-ruptured varicosity.  The discussion of an epidural was pondered by one nurse and she decided that since Ukie Girl came into this world without one that I would be fine without it.  (Uh, Mrs. Hindsight speaking here: “Don’t do it.  Just enjoy the benefits of an epidural when the word pitocin is involved.  Enjoy it, I say, enjoy it!“)

By 8 am, the nurses had introduced pitocin into my naive veins and the fun began!  I can’t remember if the midwife broke my water the first time or if it broke naturally, but the second time I experienced another break of water was a bit of a surprise to us all!  After that, I kind of lost all sense of being a humble, meek creature and became a pitiful, crazed woman who was clinging to the bed rail.  The midwife was telling me to practice my breathing techniques and I had no idea what she meant by the word ‘breathe’.  Football Fan was trying to console me and I vaguely remember whimpering, crying, screaming (what do words really mean?) “Don’t touch me.”  And then I needed to go, you know, like be excused to go to the bathroom, but nooooo, the midwife was like, its time to push and I remember thinking, No, I just need to go…

And she was here.  Princess I-Don’t-Care-For-Pink-Anymore had entered the world about 4 hours or so after I had been introduced to the not-so-friendly medicine, pitocin.  I was e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d. but the fun wasn’t over yet.

Ugh.
Double ugh.
Triple ugh.

Much later, in the privacy of my hospital room, the midwife began to describe a pregnancy that had been sustained by His amazing grace.  You see, my new little one’s cord had torn away from the placenta during birth.  That would explain why the fun wasn’t over yet: I remember very distinctly attempting to  crawl towards the head of the bed while the midwife was trying to manually remove the placenta from my uterus wall after I had given birth.  She HAD to ensure that everything was as it should be.  I felt like I HAD to get away from the pain…  As the midwife described all this to me, she also began to draw a picture of a normal vein/ cord system as a reference to my little one’s abnormal vein/ cord system.  She described how thin and spiderweb-like it had been, how fragile it had been, how amazed she was that it had survived throughout the entire pregnancy in its condition.

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Princess I-Don’t-Care-For-Pink-Anymore is one of His wonders in my life.  Every time I look at her, I am reminded of His amazing grace in my life.  Maybe sometime in another post, I’ll share with you how this particular wonder of His amazing Grace has taught my blessed little family some very important lessons.

Just an FYI: that destine-to-rupture varicosity amazingly never ruptured.
What a ‘wonder’!

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Many, O Lord my God,
are the wonders which You have done,
and Your thoughts toward us;
there is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
they would be too numerous to count.

– Psalms 40:5

Victoriously

As I sit here in my bedroom, typing, Ukie Girl, pronouced Eww-k-ee (formally known as Camo Kid) is watching a movie, Princess I-Don’t-Care-For-Pink-Anymore is on the couch watching a movie, and Football Fan is downstairs watching television too.  We have been fighting one form of sickness or another since at least December 15.  Ukie Girl and I are on the tail end of the yuckies; Football Fan and PIDCFP (see unabbreviated name above) have the energy of dehydrated noodles.  Fighting fevers for at least 48 hours seems to do that to big people and little people…

I hear the wind howling outside and I’m pretty sure the garage is colder than the freezer that is in said garage.  The dogs are stir-crazy for want of playing outside and yet when they go outside to do their thing, they end up doing a doggy style tippy-toe ballet.  Tutus for pittie pups?

Football Fan and I celebrated 22 years of marriage on December 16th, Christmas has come and gone and we didn’t get around to sending out Christmas cards.  New Years came and went and the sparkling grape juice is still in the fridge chilling.  And here we are on the 6th of January 2018…  It looks like a promising year so far!  (Yes, there is a smidgen of sarcasm in that last sentence.)

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This time 3 years ago, I was going through chemo and had lost most of my hair.  I was allowed the privilege to bear the burden of ‘all things cancer’ not knowing what that meant.  Even today, I am still learning what it means to carry that burden.

I still say that it’s 10% physical and 90% mental. 

I still battle the incompleteness that my deformed body presents to me.  I still battle the broken expectations of the future.  I still battle the side-effects that neuropathy, chemo brain, fatigue, and surgically-induced menopause so generously endowed me.

As I have been working through all of the above and even so much more, I want to share my focus right now.  In Psalms 40, David write this:

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.

 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.

I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, Lord, You know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.

You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
For evils beyond number have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; they are more numerous than the hairs of my head, and my heart has failed me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; make haste, O Lord, to help me.
Let those be ashamed and humiliated together who seek my life to destroy it; let those be turned back and dishonored who delight in my hurt. let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, aha!”
Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation say continually, “The Lord be magnified!”
Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.”

It is the noted bold passages that I am focusing my attentions on right now.
The wonders that He has done…  They are too numerous to count. 

Can you even imagine?!  

Some time ago, a godly couple whom Football Fan and I admire greatly encouraged me to live victoriously because of the work God was doing in my life.  I stared at her, stunned.  Victorious?  How does a person do that?  I had never lived a ‘victorious’ life.
I had lived a life of surviving, attempting to thrive.  
That’s what I do…

I adapt; I survive.
And I dream of thriving…

I survived not knowing my biological father.  I survived being sexually abused by my step-father.  I survived postpartum depression.  I survived a miscarriage.  I survived being ‘a pastor’s wife’.  I survived cancer.   I survived the heartache of broken relationships because I was trying to survive these things.  Through every step of surviving, He was there with me.  I was growing in my relationship with my God, my Creator; I was thriving.   Wasn’t that victorious living? 

Nope.

Victorious living is “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You.  If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count…  Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.  I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”

Did you read that?  “I delight to do your will, O my God;”  And that my smiley (or non-smiley) friends is my focus right now.

What burden has He allowed you the privilege of bearing right now?

Will you join me in declaring and speaking the many wonders that He has done for us? 

Enter Title Here

I’m heading over to church for our weekly Wednesday night prayer meeting in about 20 minutes.

That’s what I do now: the next thing on the list.

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I am currently working as a lunch aide for a local charter school.  Previously (from September 2016 to April 2017) I was working 20 hours a week as an aide for a local state representative which became more than I could handle mentally and physically.  Now I get about 10 to 12 hours a week helping the lunch server wherever help is needed.  It’s just enough for me to manage mentally and physically and it also allows me to continue earning SSA credits in order to meet the credit qualification necessary to file for disability.  Twenty credits down, with 3 more to earn in 2018…

I tried to manage my pain medication with the recommended incorporation of ibuprofen in August/ September and ended up aggravating my previously radiated innards.  That was F.U.N.!  (Please note the sarcasm.)  The issue was resolved after about a week and a half of very bland food.

I have been dealing with new back pain and chronic headache/ lower head-neck pressure for the last couple of months.  If I don’t manage it proactively, it has the potential to feel like someone stuck a screwdriver into my eye-socket and ear.  I have completed a brain MRI that shows no metastatic lesions and the continued presence of mild Chiari malformation.  Tomorrow I will enjoy the radioactive qualities of a bone scan.  They say to let the technician know if you’re claustrophobic.  Great.  (Please note the sarcasm, again.)  The brain MRI was tons of fun…  (And again.) I need a cookie or two or twenty for being such a good girl.  Oatmeal raisin, please! (No sarcasm here.  Just cookies, please!)

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I do the next thing.  I get up.  I walk my dogs.  I start the girls on their school for the day.  I go to work. I come home and get the ‘house stuff’ done.  I rest for the rest of the day.  I forget to return your phone calls.  I forget to reply to text.  I take medicine to force me into a comatose state in order not to feel the discomfort of my spine and head.  And in all of this, I continue to learn the lessons of humility.

I spend many moments of each day humming bits and pieces of the hymns that my GREAT I AM brings to my heart.  I am reminded moment by moment to give thanks for His loving-kindness (“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” – Lam. 3:22-23).  I learn not to lean on my own understanding or the understanding of anyone else because He is the only one who knows me, inside and out.

Here are my latest ‘bits and pieces’ of hymns from His heart to my heart to your heart:

Day by Day
– Carolina Sandell Berg
Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He Will Hold Me Fast
– Ada R. Habershon
He will hold me fast,
  He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
    He will hold me fast.

It Is Well
– Horatio Spafford
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
  When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
  ‘It is well, it is well with my soul!’

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Do the next thing that you can do no matter what others may say.
Do the next thing for Him because you can.
Do the next thing with all the bits and pieces that only He can give to your heart.

Do the next thing.

Out Of Touch With Reality

Yes, I am.

I am out of touch with reality.
With your reality, that is…
My reality is on a tremendous learning curve right now.
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Christmas of 2016 was interesting because when you’ve been told 5 1/2 months earlier that you have a cancer that will never go away, a cancer that will end your life, you tend to look at things differently.

Things like, will I have the opportunity to celebrate another Christmas with my blessed little family?

Life goes on for you and everyone else, but your version of ‘life goes on‘ looks a lot different than someone else’s ‘life goes on‘.

I am learning how to suffer graciously.  I am learning how to answer comments and inquiries graciously.  I am learning how to act graciously in environments that have no idea what cancer and its treatments do to a person on an internal level.  And I am learning, at this moment, to be honest, with you, regardless of how much I love all things smiley… or how much I am out of touch with your reality.

Being out of touch with ‘reality‘ is the hard part though because I’m barely treading water in my own reality right now…

Work.
School.
Football Fan and the G’s.
(That’s what I call my girls, Camo Kid and Princess Pink, as a unit!).

This is what my energy level and physical capabilities can manage right now.  Friends?  Family?  Most days, they seem like just a memory.  There’s a handful that make the effort to inquire no matter if I get back to them or not.  The rest, well, I’m learning not to dwell on what I cannot accomplish.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care.  I just… can’t.

And that is exactly where I’m suppose to be…

I can’t.

It’s a very lonely place to be.  I can’t be who you want me to be.  I’m empty.  My blessed little family doesn’t even get the best part of me anymore; they just get the tired wife and mom.  Even now, I am avoiding going to bed…  Most nights of sleep have to be accompanied with sleep medicine in order to combat the pain and/or the insomnia.  Since November, I have been having hand/wrist/arm issues in addition to all my other cancer-related issues.  It could be anything and it could be nothing.  I just know that at nights, when I lie down, it’s not conducive to good sleep and that, with the ever present spinal issues, makes for long nights and slow mornings.  And long nights of non-regenerative sleep make for even longer days… and several ‘longer days’ make for ‘I really can’t’.

Have I been honest enough?

Here, let me be just a little bit more honest then:
Can’t is okay.  
In fact, it’s perfect.

I think I might’ve just put the oxy in the moron
Nothing better than a perfect can’t!
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It’s when you’ve reach can’t that you are ready to learn… and if what you believe determines what you choose, then folks, that’s where the process of learning to empty yourself of you and fill yourself with Him begins.

Welcome to my reality!

It is the perfect place to be…

FOMO

I’m currently living in Cliche Land.

It really does feel like such a drag and it doesn’t help that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I do think by now we’re all “aware” of breast cancer but do you know how much of that “awareness” money goes to actual research in comparison to the personal bank accounts of those who promote “awareness”?  The percentage is a single digit number.

Okay, okay, I’ll get off my hobbyhorse painted soap box…

It’s been a little over 3 months since I learned that I have terminal cancer.  In that time, I have had radiation, healed from radiation, had surgery, healed from surgery, started homeschool, gone back to work part-time, and played the wait-and-see game with medications and the healing process.  It has been extremely hard to see the forest for the trees because I’m pretty sure that somebody switched out those trees for varying sizes of the proverbial 2 x 4 from the lumber yard and took me out to the woodshed and tanned my hide which is currently stretched from my head to my tippy-toes.

All those proverbial 2×4’s have names and they are tattooed across my forehead (and my heart) as well as my stretched out hide.  Their names are Football Fan, Camo Kid, Princess Pink, hopes, dreams, wants, desires, and they are all encased in the fabric of FOMO.

Do you know what FOMO is?

It ranks right up there with YOLO (You Only Live Once) and LOL (Laugh Out Loud) and TTYL (TalkTo You Later).

FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out:

On anniversaries…

On birthdays…

On graduations…

On weddings…

On grandchildren…

On the moments of first…

On the sound of laughter…

On the warmth of hugs…

On the beauty of love…

On growing old with the loves of my life, my blessed little family… 

What do you do when all that you’ve ever hoped and dreamed for, when all that you’ve ever wanted and desired is seemingly reduced to nothingness in a matter of moments?

You re-examine what you know, what you believe, what you are, who you are.
You determine what matters most.  

Remember when I mentioned in a previous post about “the just shall live by faith“?  What you believe in… is your faith. Don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t believe in anything.  They’re lying to you and they’re lying to themselves because every person believes in something and that is where their faith rest, that is where their strength and guidance comes from to do each and every day.

Remember “Belief determines choice.”? 

My faith feels like it’s been sacked by the biggest and ugliest linebacker whose name is FOMO.  I am continuing to learn that faith is so much more than the ability to move mountains. Faith is the mystery of Christ in the small things.  Everybody wants to be somebody.  We want to leave our mark on the world, create a legacy that last a lifetime, be bigger than themselves, but it is the mustard seed that we are asked to examine.  It is the ‘jot and tittle‘ (Mt 5:18) that we are reminded has never changed.  It is the sparrow that has fallen and each hair on our head that He knows…

And so, as He has been teaching me about true faith, He has been using these phrases “Your will cannot lead me where your grace cannot keep me” and “Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.”

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Lord, as I seek your guidance for the day,
I find my thoughts unyielding: confusion clouds my way,
But, then when I bow to you, the challenges you guide me through,
Your promises are ever new: I claim them for today.

Each new day’s design is guided by your hand,
And graciously revealed as I seek your Master plan.
Keep my footsteps faithful when from you I go.
Return me to the joy that your blessings can bestow.

Your will cannot lead me where your grace cannot keep me.
Your hand will protect me: I rest in your care.
Your eyes will watch over me: Your love will forgive me.
And when I am faltering, I still will find you there.

Your eyes will watch over me,
Your love will forgive me,
And when I am faltering,
Lord, I will find you there.

~ Grace by Carolyn Hamlin ~

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There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev’ry step we take.
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us,
As we try to understand each move He makes.
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him.

Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

There are days when clouds surround us, and the rain begins to fall,
The cold and lonely winds won’t cease to blow.
And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel;
We are tempted to believe God does not know.
When the storms arise, don’t forget we live by faith and not by sight.

Bow the knee;
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.
Bow the knee;
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.
And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,
In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

~ Bow The Knee by Chris Machen & Mike Harland ~

The Mentality of Reality

I’m aware that I’m here, but where is HERE exactly? 

Because right now, it is as dark as dark can be and it is consuming me with a panic that I have never known before…

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Ever been inside one of those tourist coal mines?  You know the one: where they take you in about a mile and a half or so and then turn off ALL the lights. And then, all the little kids panic (and a few adults too) clinging to whomever with a fervency that surpasses Charlton Heston’s famous quote, “So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!’

Currently, that’s what my reality contains: infrequent panic attacks that start with a place as dark as the coal miner’s tunnel. I’m there and I know my eyes are open, but it is so dark, so black, that I can’t even see my hand in front of my face. And that is when the fear begins to consume me…

Where am I?  
The first time this happened, the tears were rolling down the sides of my face as I tried to take myself through the mental steps of reality.

Have I died?

I’m breathing…
That means there’s air!

My heart is clenched…
That means I’m still alive!

What do I last remember…
Ah-Ha!  That means there’s a definite location!
(GPS tracker may be an option for next time???)

GASP!
What in the world just happened?!

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It’s been almost 9 weeks (60 days to be exact) since my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis and I’m still confronting my new reality, day by day, moment by moment. Every day, I remind myself that “the just shall LIVE by faith” and every day I am reminded that His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness has taken me to the evening.

It’s in the middle of the day and in the dead of night (uh, no pun intend) that I have to remind myself… not to be afraid.

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My faith, my God, has been ministering His promises to my overwhelmed heart, soul, mind, and body through music. And I find that just a tad bit humorous since I have no musical abilities, except for the fact that I know how to turn on the radio and push play on the CD player…  

It was with a particular phrase that He began to whisper His healing balm to my heart over and over again: “when you walk through the fire, you’ll not be consumed. You are Mine, you are precious in My sight.” I’m terrible with names and lyrics to songs and so I went to Football Fan and asked him to help me locate the music and words for this tune that had become my anchor for my sanity and my reality.

Here, for your encouragement:

Be not afraid for I have redeemed you.
Be not afraid, I have called you by name.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
When you pass through the floods, they will not sweep o’er you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be consumed.
You are Mine, you are precious in My sight.

My love for you is everlasting,
My love for you shall have no end.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
When you pass through the floods, they will not sweep o’er you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be consumed.
You are Mine, you are precious in My sight.

~ Be Not Afraid by Craig Courtney ~

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I don’t know what particular coal miner’s tunnel you’re stuck in.  I don’t even know who turned out the lights on you…  I don’t know where your HERE is, BUT there is one thing I do know: He knows it ALL and He says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Can you imagine being still in the midst of panic and fear?
FIGHT OR FLIGHT, BABY!
FIGHT OR FLIGHT!

That is our natural inclination…

And yet, He says, “Be still…

Don’t let the mentality of your reality consume you!  Be still and know that you are His and are so completely and absolutely precious in His sight.  His love for you is everlasting. That means it has no end, no matter how long or how dark the tunnel…

Keep smiling!

Whelmed, Over and Over Again

It has been 29 days since we learned that my previously achieved NED status (No Evidence of Disease) has been permanently revoked.  In these last 29 days, there have been more moments of tears, more phone calls, more visits, more conversations than we are able to process or comprehend.

We are overwhelmed, more like discombobulated really, hence the ‘Whelmed, Over and Over Again’ blog title… and yet, there’s a phrase that continues to float throughout my thoughts and my heart.

“I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.”

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Let me start with Day 1: We walked into the doctor’s office on July 5th for a follow-up appointment to a MRI on my spine that I had received on July 1st. That scan was a follow-up to a CT scan on my spine that I had received on June 22nd. As I had previously noted a while back in a different blog post, I have been dealing with some spine issues. I became aware of the discomfort back in December and the issue was addressed to the plastic surgeon at an appointment shortly thereafter. Because I was walking around as a half chest-endowed woman, it was figured that my lopsidedness was the culprit. After my second mastectomy in March, I could tell an immediate difference in most of my spinal issues, but I needed to give my body time to heal from the surgery.  As time passed, the remaining spinal issue never resolved itself and at my 6 month post-cancer check-up on June 20th, I addressed the spinal issue to my oncologist.  You have read the progression of those events…

As the doctor spoke with us, Football Fan was in a state of shock and I sat there with tears pooling in my eyes as I stared at the doctor.  Although I can’t remember his exact words, this is what I do remember: incurable; 5 years. The rest of the day is a blurry mess with the exception of the desire not to go home and talk with Camo Kid and Princess Pink and the need to go to the eye glass repair shop because a pair of glasses flew across the room at the speed of light when the undesired talk occurred.

In the last 29 days, 15 of those days have been spent in consultations, radiation prep, and radiation. I have shared the news with family, friends, and possibly, even a few strangers. I have cried. I have prayed. I have comforted. I have been comforted. I have researched and read more information about fighting incurable cancer than I can mentally processed.

And yes, I did call the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
It’s not an option: I don’t qualify.

Reality still has not set in.  I still wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what is going on with my body. I still sit at the dinner table or on the couch doing everyday ordinary things until I look into the faces of my blessed little family and realize that there will be a day that I am not doing those everyday ordinary things with them, that I will not hear their laugh or see their smile. And that is a devastating thought because we all know how much I love smiley faces!

Everything has changed.
Tears come at the strangest times… Heartbreaking conversations with my blessed little family about the future are happening NOW instead of LATER.

Nothing has changed.
I knew before all of this that I would die one day.  Even now, I still don’t know the when… The oncologist informed us that he has taken patients to the 5 year mark, but he hasn’t been able to take anyone to the 10 year mark… yet.  He gently tried to remind us that new medical developments are happening all the time.  Please know that I do not have an expiration date stamped on my foot. I am not giving up, cancer is cancer and has been around for a long time, but how I proceed from these moments is determined by what I believe because what I believe determines what I choose.

“… the just shall live by faith …” (Hebrews 10:38)

This is what I believe. And yet, the words mean so much more now because of 1 word: live.  My faith is found in Christ and so I choose to LIVE, by that faith, each day, each moment that He allows me whether it may be one day, one year, five years, or 50 years.

Remember that phrase I mentioned earlier?

“I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.”

Enjoy the rest of what I am learning in being whelmed, over and over again by:

Overwhelmed by His mercy, amazed by His grace;
I am cleansed from all sin, every sign every trace.
Jesus left Heaven’s portals Himself to abase;
I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.

I will rest in His keeping each night and each day,
For I know that He’s leading each step of the way.
Tho’ the valleys of sadness at times I must face,
Still He comforts all heartaches with His all sufficient grace.

O what love God bestows upon all who believe:
He will free you from guilt when His Son you receive,
He has promised to keep you, prepare you a place,
If you’ll take of His mercy and His all sufficient grace.

God’s everlasting mercy, oh what tender relief,
When burdened with sorrow and laden with grief;
When I think that on Calvary Christ died in my place
I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and His all sufficient grace.

~ His All-Sufficient Grace by H.A. Taylor~

 

 

Why

There is no answer to the ‘Why?’ of my cancer journey.  

Well, there is, but it would not satisfy the centuries’ old question of ‘Why did this happen to me?’ and it definitely would not satisfy your expectations of your own ‘Why did this happen to me?’.

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There are 3 lessons that I have learned though and each lesson is dependent on the previous lesson:

Draw near to God.
You cannot get through any trial or tribulation by yourself.  You have to find hope somewhere.  Many look to the wisdom and courage of others’ struggles.  Many look to themselves.  But ultimately, each and every one of us will fail simply because there is no perfect foundation on this earth that is unmovable, unshakable, enduring, and strong enough to withstand any and all things.  The hope that you want to find is what will become your anchor.  It will become what you believe in.  It will become your faith.  Without that faith, you will not survive and if your faith is founded on that which is imperfect, then how will it survive?

How will you survive?

My faith must be anchored in the only thing that is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and unchangeable and that anchor MUST be my Creator.  As I endured some of the darkest days of my life, I had to draw closer, nearer to the One who understood perfectly, the One who is perfect, the One who created me.  There were moments in the wee hours of the night, as I wept silently, pleading for comfort, for assurance, for strength, that He gathered me in His mercy and grace and loved me with His perfect, everlasting love.  And as I continued to draw closer to Him, He taught me the next lesson:

He is my ALL.
This is the hardest lesson to learn for I am continuing to learn it.  Football Fan was my 24/7 caregiver.  Next to him, Camo Kid and Princess Pink were my 24/7 caregivers.  You cannot imagine what that means until you have been someone’s 24/7 caregiver.  I have had people pray for me, provide meals for me, and a multitude of other beneficial and meaningful ways of ministering to me during my journey, but ultimately, it was my blessed little family who were there at the highest and lowest points of my illness.  Nobody else was there 24/7.  We have been blessed to be ministered to by complete strangers and we have been devastated to lose the relationships of those we counted very dear to us during this journey.

And yet, even with the 24/7 care and compassion of my blessed little family, they could not be my ALL.  My Creator urged me to draw closer to Him so that He could show me that no matter what, I am never alone, that I would never be alone.  In those darkest days, as I became a recluse because of my illness, as I watched and heard of the activities of my family, my friends, of strangers and as I longed to be part of the world, He never left me.  He became my ALL: my confidant, my confessor, my comfort, my joy, my peace, my God.  My relationship with Him changed from Him being The God of All Things to being My God of Everything.  His grace became sufficient so that I could bear the tremendous loss of so much because His grace IS sufficient.  And as I learned that He is and must always be my ALL, He taught me the final lesson:

Point you to Him.
What is it that you are seeking?  What is it that you are hoping for?  Don’t look to the wisdom and courage of others.  Don’t look to yourselves.  Look to Him.  It doesn’t even matter if you believe in Him or not.  It doesn’t matter if you understand Him or not.  Just look to Him…

You see, He loves you.

He has loved you forever.  

We all want to be loved.  We are all looking for love.  And He is waiting, patiently for you to look to Him: to understand what true love is and what true love feels like.  You turn your face to the Sun on a bright beautiful day and you feel the warmth of its rays.  Turn your face to the God who created you and feel the perfect love that can only come from Him.  You can only want to draw closer to that perfect love and it is only then that you will begin to understand that He is your ALL…

And then you will point others to Him.

And they will want to draw closer to Him…

And learn that He is their ALL.

And tell others…

Why.

 

An -ist Will -ize About -ism(s)

Belief determines choice…

and we all know that “choice” is the battle-ground for EVERYTHING these days.

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Everyone believes that they have the right to choose, but not everyone believes that you have the right to choose.  And that subject of rights and where they come from is a discussion for another day…

Back to the word “belief/believe:”

In school, my youngest, Princess Pink has been learning about the ancient civilizations of the world.  Right now we are finishing up a very basic overview of Egyptian history.  One of the points our text covered was that the Egyptians believed in polytheism, which is the belief in more than one god.

They had a god for everything including frogs!

Can you imagine living “Belief determines choice” back then?  What happens when all your gods don’t agree with each other?  In all honesty, we’re living in a world today where what people believe is in complete contradiction with what they believe and they refuse to acknowledge it.

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Let’s start with the simple definition of the word god, according to Merriam-Webster:
1) God: the perfect and all-powerful spirit or being that is worshipped especially by Christians, Jews, and Muslims as the one who created and rules the universe.
2) a spirit or being that has great power, strength, knowledge, etc., and that can affect nature and the lives of people: one of various spirits or beings worshipped in some religions.
3) a person and especially a man who is greatly loved or admired.

And now the simple definition of the word belief, according to Merriam-Webster:
1) a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true
2) a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable
3) a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone

Here we have the simple definition of the word choice, according to Merriam-Webster:
1) the act of choosing: the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities
2) the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities: the opportunity or power to make a decision
3) a range of things that can be chosen

And lastly, the simple definition of the word tenet, according to Merriam-Webster:
1) a belief or idea that is very important to a group

Fairly open-ended, huh?

And so you begin the process of choosing… based on what you believe from the moment you come into this world until the moment you leave this world.

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Here are a couple of links to give you a bit of a head start on what people believe:
The Ism Book by Peter Saint-Andre
The Phrontistery website by Stephen Chrisomalis

An -ism is “a belief, attitude, style, etc., that is referred to by a word that ends in the suffix -ism.”  An -ist is “a person who does a specified action or activity.”  And to -ize is “to cause to become or become like something specified.

An -ist will -ize about -ism.

Because I am constantly saying “What you believe determines what you choose” on this blog, especially in light of my journey through cancer, I am going to share some of my personal beliefs in part as an effort to diverge from all that consumes me right now which is Transitioning Through Transition, but also because what I believe is important to me.  Take it as you so desire…  I welcome conversation and enjoy observing and participating in the process of mental gymnastics!

What’s your -ism?

Why?

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

~1 Peter 3:15~