God’s Story ~ God is Still Faithful: A Young Mom’s Experience of Rare Cancer

Henley family 2011

 

“I’ll be a little disappointed if this lump isn’t cancer,” I told my husband after returning home from Bible study in October 2010. In that evening’s lesson on Isaiah 12, our teacher exhorted us to glorify God in front of a watching world by trusting him in the midst of suffering. As I scribbled notes furiously, I couldn’t help thinking of the biopsy I had scheduled for later in the week. My faithful Father was preparing me for the outcome by showing me His purpose in suffering: That His name would be glorified by my dependence on Him and continued praise of His character.

Less than a week later, I received a diagnosis of angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer with a five-year survival rate of 30%. I was a busy mom of three young kids—my boys were 6 and 4, and my baby girl was 18 months old. I had expected to grow old with my husband and see my kids grow into adulthood. And suddenly, I was fighting to see my 35th birthday.

But my story isn’t simply the story of cancer. My story is the story of God’s faithfulness, in the past, present and future.

 

God was faithful.

In the nine months following my diagnosis, I received seven rounds of high-dose chemotherapy. Five of these rounds took place 600 miles from my home, at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, as part of a clinical trial. I received five weeks of radiation treatments followed by surgery, all at MD Anderson. I spent 14 weeks away from my family, and I missed New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and all three of my kids’ birthdays that year.

It broke my heart to be away from my young family, especially since I didn’t know how much time I had left with them. And the logistical challenges were a nightmare. Every time I was tempted to despair, God proved Himself faithful again.

He provided a wonderful nanny who left a secure job to love and serve our family. He provided a Christian couple in Houston—the in-laws of a friend-of-a-friend—who not only let me live in their home for months but treated me like I was their daughter. Six friends took time from their jobs and families, each spending a week caring for me at MD Anderson. On the days when sadness and fear overwhelmed me, the Lord comforted me in the midst of my pain.

Meanwhile, an army of friends, family members, and acquaintances kept all the plates spinning back home. They fed my family, drove my kids to school and piano lessons, decorated my home for Christmas, donated money and frequent flier miles, and never stopped praying for us.

None of it was easy. And yet, God showed us over and over again that He was walking with us and providing for us every step of the way.

What trials has the Father walked through with you? How did you see His hand providing for and sustaining you?

 

God is faithful.

As a cancer survivor, God has called me to minister to other women with cancer. I now intentionally befriend women with a life-threatening illness, and sometimes it brings heartbreak. I have visited friends in hospice care and watched too many children walk into their parents’ funerals. My prayer list of cancer fighters, survivors, and grieving families is growing longer every month.

By nature, I am a fixer, a problem-solver, a here’s-a-book-let’s-solve-this kind of friend. As God leads me into situations I can’t fix, I’m learning to depend on Him and trust my friend’s futures and families to His faithful hands.

Often the sadness caused by cancer is more than I can bear. When my emotional well runs dry, I have nowhere else to turn but His sustaining grace. As 1 Thessalonians 5:24 promises, “He who calls you is faithful.”

The Lord who calls us to challenging assignments is faithful to provide what we need to complete them. {Tweet this!}

What hard tasks has God called you to do? How are you being stretched by the assignments He gives? How can you see His faithfulness on display in these challenges?

 

God will be faithful.

My experience of cancer didn’t end in September 2011 when my oncologist said I was cancer-free. Frequent checkups, the need to be vigilant about suspicious symptoms, and the scars that result all serve as constant reminders of my changed health status. No matter how hard I try to move on, the cloud of fear lingers overhead: “What if it comes back?”

The mind of a cancer survivor is a battlefield. Some days, I don’t think about cancer at all. And other days, a weird ache or pain can send me into a complete panic. It is a daily fight to trust the Lord when I don’t know His plans for me. I’ve spent many late nights praying over my sleeping children and begging God to let me hold their babies someday. And I’ve spent more late nights pleading with Him to give me the faith to trust Him if He says no.

In my weakness, He is faithful to pour out His grace. He meets me in my fear and gently reminds me that His faithfulness endures forever. He demonstrated the extent of His love by sending His Son to die for my sin and make my future with Him secure.

I can look at my past and know His faithfulness is real. I can look at my present and know His faithfulness is true. And I can look at the cross and know His faithfulness exceeds my finite understanding. So I can face an uncertain future, knowing I belong to a faithful Father who loves me.

What about your future frightens you? How can the truth of God’s faithfulness in your past, your present, and your salvation encourage you?

 

Marissa HenleyMarissa Henley is a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and latte addict who blogs at www.marissahenley.com. Her book, Loving Your Friend Through Cancer: Words and Actions that Communicate Compassion, is available on Amazon. You can connect with Marissa via Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter.

When God Surprised Me With His Mercy, Part 2

 

 

Timid Raccoon

Image Credit: Morguefile.com

Continuing my story from last month of how I found love after a failed marriage and vowing never to marry again…

From my perspective, I had chosen so poorly in my first marriage that I did not trust my judgment of character. Fortunately, I have a group of support people, whose judgment I do trust. My mom, who is one of them, happened to come to visit during that Fall. So Sunday morning, after early services, I spotted Danny in the church atrium by the front doors. I drug mom over to meet him and introduced her to Danny.

That afternoon Mom and I were discussing Danny. She would ask me a question about him and I would say, “I don’t know, but I can email him and ask.” This continued through the afternoon, “Well, what about this?” I would email and ask. Danny would answer back. “What about that?” I would email. Danny would answer back. And so it went. That is really how I started emailing him regularly. It occurred to me as we emailed back and forth that had I simply trusted him with my phone number, we would probably have had one conversation a couple times a week and been done with it. As it was, we tended to shoot text-type emails back and forth anytime both of us were off work/school – he was in school at the time we met.

Danny: “How was work today?”

Me: “Grueling. What about school?”

Danny: “Ah. It was okay.”

Me: “What genre of books are your favorites?”

Danny: “Religious and self-help.”

Me: “May I ask you another question?”

Danny: “You can ask me anything you want.”

Me: “But will you answer truthfully?”

Danny: “Yes. I feel like an ancient city with no walls.”

Me: “How old was your son Michael when he died?”

Danny: “He was three days from turning 18.”

Me: “I am so sorry. : ( “How did he die?”

Danny: “He was murdered.”

Me: “I’m so sorry.”

Danny: “The instrumental song on the CD I gave you is played by Michael. It is a song he wrote.”

Me: “I will listen to it again now that I know.”

And so it went. I would ask a question, he would answer. Every now and then, he would ask a question. I was very mistrustful. Honestly, how did I know he wasn’t an ax murderer? So I Googled him. I discovered he really did have a child who died – I found his name listed in an old Compassionate Friends post. Also, he really did have his flight instructor’s license. A family member ran a background check on him for me – he passed. I looked to see if he was on the Sexual Offender list – he wasn’t. But there was one more test.

I had a dear friend who had her master’s degree in Psyche nursing, and my daughter is a Licensed Professional Counselor. If they could not spot a personality disorder, who could? In late January, my daughter came to town. I invited my dear friend, her husband, and Danny to supper. Danny says that he knew it was a dog and pony show. He came anyway. He was engaging, held up his end of the conversation, and talked knowledgeably on many subjects. In short, he passed. No personality disorders identified.

It would have been a whole heap easier had he not passed, but that’s a story for next month…

Hugs and blessings,

Cindy

Learning How to Wait

This post first appeared on OverACup 4 years ago. Surprisingly, its lesson is one I recently remembered and am trying to reapply to where I am now. I’m no longer in a period of waiting, but I still want to practice keeping my hands open and holding the blessings God’s given me during this season loosely. I never again want to return to a place where I hold my blessings so tightly that when He asks for them, I refuse. I hope this post and its lesson on waiting bless you like it did me 4 years ago and today.

 

Open Hands- Waiting

Unsplash.com by Milada Vigerova

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul and forget not all his benefits…” ~Psalms 103:1-2 (You may also want to read Psalms 103 and 104.)

Usually, I’m writing from a place of fullness and the overflow of my writing, time, and specifically time with God. This week, to be perfectly honest, I just feel empty. But I am committed to keeping to a posting schedule, so here I am.

Right now much of my emptiness can be chalked up to being in a place of waiting. Right now I’m living in limbo. Though waiting to buy a house is not as stressful as selling one per se, it is every bit as frustrating. You think you found the perfect house and someone else’s contract is accepted. Or wait, there it is, and boom! it’s gone before you can even see it. Or you just can’t find exactly what you’re looking for.

It makes me recall other times I’ve had to wait and how exhausting they can be. Waiting for school to be over, waiting for babies to come, waiting to get pregnant with babies, waiting to find a job, these and other times of waiting just wear me down!

Why is that? Why is waiting so physically exhausting? For me, often times it is because there are repercussions for being in the waiting place. Right now on top of being two, Ethan is making it abundantly clear he is not happy living in an apartment and wants to go home. He just doesn’t understand why we don’t go back to our old house or buy one of the handful of new houses I’ve drug him through in the last few weeks.

It’s also due in part to the work going on inside us while we wait. “The testing of your faith producing patience” is not a painless process. Just like any type of growth, it often hurts and requires us to push the boundaries of what we are comfortable with. It requires us to trust when we cannot see.

This situation reminds me of the Israelites at Mt. Sinai in Exodus thirty-two. They often get a bad rap and looked down on for making the golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain. God has just brought them through so much and shown up in many big ways, and yet they lose faith, become afraid, and look for something tangible to hang on to. But don’t you and I do the same?

Don’t we find it hard to trust when we’re peering into the darkness? When God hasn’t yet revealed the path ahead? Don’t we become afraid and find ourselves ringing our hands and panicking because deep down we’re not sure he’s going to show up this time? We wonder, “he brought me this far, but maybe, this time, he will leave me hanging? Maybe this will be the time he doesn’t show up?”

Or maybe you have had great faith in the past. You just knew God was going to come through. And he didn’t. The last song was sung, the curtain closed, the audience left, and he didn’t show. Oh, later you may have seen how he did show up in a very different way, even a much better way, but the pain of perceived betrayal still hurts.

And so we wait. Hoping and praying that this will be the time God comes through. That this will be the time he comes with all the fanfare and others will see in a big way that we can give him the glory. Yet, like the Israelites we to want to reach out for something a little bit closer to home, a little realer and tangible.

So while I wait, while I’m exhausted and worn out from being in the waiting place. During this time, I’ll practice keeping my hands open. Open so that I can release any physical, tangible things that I’m putting my trust in instead of God, so I can worship him and be open to receive his best for me in whatever form it comes, especially if it’s in a way I don’t expect.

 

Casting Crowns – ‘Just Be Held’ from casting-crowns on GodTube.

God’s Story: When He Says “Go!”

World Race desert

 

I never wanted to go on the World Race. The 11-countries in 11-month mission trip sounded like fun… to watch from a distance.

You know, hear the stories, read the blogs, see the pictures.

I wasn’t interested in actually doing it.

There was no part of me that wanted to live in a tent in the middle of nowhere. No part of me that wanted to ride in a truck bed with 20 of my closest friends. No part of me that wanted to live on a $3/day food budget.

But there was also no part of me that wanted to say no to God and miss out on the adventure He had for me.

So I made a deal: I’d consider doing the World Race if there was ever a primarily Spanish route that started in January.

That had never happened before. They didn’t have focused routes at the time. All the routes hit at least three continents spending a majority of the time in Asia and Africa.

Until January 2014.

The first-ever all-Spanish route only hit two: South and Central America.So I applied.

Because when you make a bargain with God, you’ve got to follow through.

To say it changed my life would be an understatement.

It would also be expected.

You can’t spend 11 months living out of a backpack in lesser-developed countries and expect to go home unchanged.

Here’s the reality of it: God showed up.

He showed up in my heart, allowing me to see things through His eyes, feel His presence, and taste His goodness.

He showed up in bus station attendants allowing us to make an IOU when we tried to pay in the wrong currency.

He showed up in a market with fresh vegetables when the only other food we could find was over-fried chicken.

He showed up in the form of sporadic luxuries like a washing machine and an internet connection.

He showed up in the form of a taxi when we thought we were stranded in the middle of a Peruvian desert, hours from civilization.

Our host had arranged an escort for us to their church plant in a remote desert village of southern Peru. The guide picked us up from our church home (another church plant in a small town), walked with us to the first taxi stop, arranged cab fare, and rode shotgun to the second stop.This time, she had to barter a bit more to get a reasonable price but if some of us laid down in the trunk, all five of us Americans, our escort, and the taxi driver could all make it to the town.

Getting to the site was relatively easy.

Painting the church was slightly more difficult given the lack of a ladder to reach the ceiling.

No worries, if you put the roller on the end of a broomstick and stand on the pew up against the wall, you can reach pretty high. Then you jump to get the rest but make sure you land on the ground because the wooden pew can’t handle your body weight coming back down.

This was the only Christian church in the desert community—our host would not have planted a church there if there were already one.

Needless to say, the locals were very curious as to why some Americans were in their town.

And the Americans were struggling to find snacks or safe water to purchase from the little shop next door. We settled on ice cream—pre-packaged and refreshing in the dry desert heat. During our ice cream break is when we discovered the problem: our escort asked us how we were getting back. We’d (falsely) assumed she would be escorting us back.

Nope.

We were stuck.

Super stuck.

We did the only thing we knew to do: finish the painting job to the best of our ability and begin walking back towards the next town hoping to find a taxi, a good Samaritan, or a cell phone signal. Based on how long it had taken us to drive, we figured it’d be at a several-hour walk to go the whole way back to the taxi stop but, at least, an hour until we ran into anything helpful on our journey.

Luckily we had plenty of daylight left and strong legs. We laughed at ourselves for how we stuck we managed to get.

We laughed at ourselves for how we stuck we managed to get. There was nothing else we could do.

So we walked.

We walked past bamboo shelters alongside the road. Every few hundred feet stood another one—generally four walls with or without a door in the frame. Homes.

And we walked.

Reapplying sunscreen.

And we walked.

Barely twenty minutes later a taxi came down the road into this remote village.

His car was full.

And headed the wrong way.

So we just smiled politely and kept walking—clinging to hope and enjoying the journey. Sure enough, a few minutes later the same taxi returned our direction empty.

We were rescued.

Once again God provided. Once again He had proven Himself faithful.

He said “Go.”

And so we did.

We went to the only church in a remote village in Peru.

We went to one of the highest cities in the world.

We went to the slums and the suburbs, the beach and the bush.

We went where He asked, where He invited, where He led.

And He brought us back—not as we were but as He wanted us to be.

It wasn’t the earthquakes we endured or the sleeping on the floor or the bleaching our food that made is different.

It was the faithful Father.

We came back different because He is faithful, trustworthy, and caring.

I am different because He is good.

Katie AxlesonGod calls Katie Axelson His daughter and lets her earn a living as a writer, editor, and speaker. She wrote about her World Race experience in a book called Jesus Shoes: Following His Footsteps Through the Latin American Mission Field. You can connect with Katie and find her book at KatieAxelson.com

 

 

 

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When God Surprised Me With His Mercy

Love heart

 

I have written about the abuse I suffered through in the past, but I thought I would, in this month of Valentine’s Day, tell you about God’s mercy to me since that time ended.

After my divorce, I began praying for the gift of singleness. I had enough living from crisis to crisis, living with frequent rage attacks, living with an unstable income. After all, I was a nurse; I had the opportunity to make my own living, staying in the same town as long as I chose, paying my bills on time, having more than sixty dollars per week for groceries, doctor/dentist appointments, and household items. For the first time in my adult life, there was peace in my house. After the divorce (I got the house), I regularly walked through my house asking God to please fill every nook and cranny with his Spirit, every inch of the property, casting out the bad. There had been so many fights and arguments, chipping away at the spirits of the victims in the house for so many years, I just wanted it all cleaned out.

This worked for about five years. Then I began participating in a class at church based on the book, The Search for Significance, by Robert McGee. After one of the classes, a tall gentleman about my age came up to me and attempted to strike up a conversation. I have to admit I was rather dismissive (his words). After all, I was praying for the gift of singleness, working full-time and going to school full time. I had assignments with deadlines to complete when I returned home.

I didn’t see him for several more months. Then as I was sitting in the church auditorium one Sunday morning, waiting for a friend of mine to show up and services to begin, the same gentleman came over, sat on the edge of a seat in the row behind me and struck up a conversation. To be honest, I had not thought of him again since the initial encounter, but this second encounter gave me pause for thought. As each of us was waiting for a friend, he moved on when services began.

Again, several months passed. Then one Sunday morning as I was coming through the atrium (our foyer) of the church building after Sunday morning services, I spoke as I was passing by this gentleman. He struck up a conversation. I don’t remember what my ex had done that day, but I was so angry, I probably would have told the Walmart checker all about it. To his credit, this gentleman listened attentively and then said, “Would you like to continue this conversation over breakfast?” I paused. I reasoned to myself that I needed to stop by the grocery store, and if I ate breakfast first, then I wouldn’t buy everything in the store, and as I had to take the time to eat anyway, I said yes. Driving to the restaurant I was racking my brain trying to come up with his name. No luck. He rescued me as we sat down at the table in the restaurant saying, “Danny. My name is Danny.”

I don’t remember what we talked about at that meal, but I do remember that as we were parting afterward, he asked if we could do it again. I made it clear to him that I was not interested in romance, but friendship would be okay and he stated that he was okay with that.

I would not give him my phone number. My ex had called so many times a day needling me that I did not trust that I would not go through that again. I had told a previous would-be suitor that if I ever became romantically interested in another man, the poor guy would have to pay for the sins of the first and that wouldn’t be fair. I wasn’t even interested in Danny romantically, and it had already started.

We did exchange email addresses, however. The first email didn’t go so well. He emailed me on a Sunday evening. I gave him a short reply telling him that I was signing off (I stayed exhausted, honestly, I was going to bed). He thought he offended me and made the mistake of asking if he could call me, to which I replied, “NO!” and signed off. The next morning, I found an email from him asking what he had done to offend me. This irritated me and I shot him an email back telling him that, believe it or not, it was not all about him. That I had simply been exhausted the night before and was heading to sleep.

I just realized this story is going to take a while to tell, so I will leave you with this first part. But I will add that when folks tell me that I am lucky to have found Danny, I tell them that God found him, because, honestly, I wasn’t even looking.

Love you! Talk with you more next time!

Hugs and blessings,

Cindy

What We Miss When We Judge

old house judging

 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matt. 7:1-2

Don’t judge me.

We have been in a month process of turning a farm house into an office building. This “we” consists of so many people I could not begin to list them all. One of the processes has been the cleaning of the kitchen. Each week someone takes a turn scrubbing, spraying and scraping away the grime from the oven and cabinets. Each week, more progress is made. If you look at the kitchen right now it would be easy to see all the grime still caked in cracks and crevices, all the stains on the floors, all the paint that is still chipped. But, what you won’t see is the progress.

Through this process we have completely changed the colors and textures of the inside from the ceilings to the floor, we have removed stuff and scrubbed, we have painted and laid floors. If you walk into the farm house right now you could point out fifty things that still have yet to be done. But, you won’t see the late nights and hard work that has gone into getting it to where it is today. You only see a snapshot.

This is the same with people around us. We see a snapshot of who they are in this moment. We see ways their behaviors are imperfect, the rough edges still in need of filing. But, what you don’t see is their past. {Tweet That!}

You don’t see where they have come from and ways that they are still healing. We may look at someone and judge them for being too something or not enough of something else. But, do we really see them. Unless we get to know someone we aren’t aware of who they are becoming through their own personal growth process.

I don’t want to be judged on a lapse of judgement when my 13 year old self comes to the surface. I don’t want to be judged on what people see of me now. In fact. Don’t judge me at all. Accept me as an imperfect person, and I will do the same for you. Remember, what we have today is a snapshot of our life. Don’t judge by the moment. Keep your eyes open to what the transformation (for you and others) holds in store.

 

Finding Balance in Motherhood

This post on finding balance and living in the tension of motherhood appeared several years ago on OverACup and then was republished on TheMOBSociety. It is as true now as it was then. I really need it’s message this week. I hope it helps you, too.

Balance

 

I’m a black and white person. I don’t really like middles or in betweens. Either it is, or it isn’t.

But I’m learning, slowly, that’s not the way things are. Yes, there are some things that are black and white, but much of life is lived in a tension between the two.

I don’t do tension well.

I’ve fought it for years. After becoming a parent, I always heard about perfecting the “balance” between parenting and everything else, and up until recently, I bought into the lie. I had thought there was some magical recipe for achieving balance. A perfect schedule, a certain number of hours spent playing, an answer to the problem of balance.

I’ve realized this past week there is no answer.

Balance in its very essence is a tension. A tension between the many extremes pulling at you, all wanting their way. If there were no tension, there would be no need for balance. {Tweet that!}

Think of it as someone trying to stand on a ball. As they are trying to balance, they shift one way then another. For a moment, they may be able to stand perfectly still, but usually, they are being pulled toward one extreme or the other. To lean completely to one extreme is to lose their balance and fall, but in moving between the extremes, never giving totally into one for long, a kind of balance is achieved.

In this case, balance is an ebb and flow between the tensions. Right now I balance between the tensions of work, chores, and family. My tendency is to be tenacious in one thing until it is completed, but writing, teaching, chores, and family are all ongoing processes. They are never really finished or completed, and all fall apart without regular attention.

So how do I find balance? This week I realized, I don’t. Some weeks like last week will lean more toward the family side. The boys and I played outside enjoying the few remaining days of warmth. On Friday, they helped me clean the house, and I only accomplished one chore on my long list that day, but they were willing and happy to help.

This week is leaning more toward chores and work. I had to finally address the floors that had begun to support colonies of who knows what. Then since my Composition I class just ended, I let the boys watch a movie while I furiously graded papers close by. On Friday, I did get my long list done, but a rainy afternoon allowed for playing games and watching movies together.

Realizing that there is no perfect answer, no perfect balance, has brought a peace, but not the one I had hoped for. I had hoped God would grant me the formula for getting it all just right, to be able to live without the tension. Instead, He’s teaching me to walk with Him daily in the tension. {Tweet That!}

Asking Him each morning, each moment, what this day needs, and trusting Him to lead me through it.

This. Is. Hard. I won’t tell you that I love it when my floors become worlds of their own while I’m off playing outside. But I do love playing with my two boys, being the one to see them smile, look them in the eyes, and laugh with them. I don’t love it when I need to sit my boys in front of the TV for a few moments of peace to finish grading, but I do love the opportunities my job provides for our family.

It’s all a balance. A constant movement between the tensions pulling at me. The answer I’m discovering isn’t in the amount of hours given to each task or relationship that day. Instead, it’s found in weaving them all together, allowing them each to pull harder on some days than others, and trusting God to lead.

 

When the Progress Seems Too Slow

hope and dispair

 

I tend to be an ambitious, overachieving, optimist, biting off more than I can chew and believing it can be accomplished in an irrational amount of time. As such, I tend to become frustrated or disheartened, when it becomes obvious that on any given project I am not going to be able to accomplish half of what I had intended in the amount of time allotted.

Thus, my home office.  It (along with the rest of the house) has been sorely neglected these last six years while I have been in school. My basic theory was to keep the kitchen and bathroom clean enough, do laundry when necessary, and clean a little better and vacuum if someone was coming over (company clean!). So I thought I could clean out my office (see a few of the included pics) in a few hours. In case you are wondering, I am on my 3rd weekend of office cleaning and have made progress, but not really scratched the surface. Alas, six years of neglect are not repaired quickly.

moms office 1 moms office 2 moms office 3

 

I have heard that in taking care of paper work, you can file it or pile it. I chose to pile it. The four stacked boxes in the above picture are the remainder of my neglected filing system; I had already sorted through at least three boxes before this picture was taken.

I had been wondering over the last several weeks why I stay exhausted. I mean, October, November and December at work were extraordinarily busy, add to that the holidays, a family wedding, teaching an online course, and caring for a dear family pet in end-stage IBS, but I would think I would be recovering by now.

Then last evening I began shredding the papers in the newly designated shred pile. Slogging through ten years (okay, maybe I was optimistic when I said six years) of paper work made it clear to me why I am exhausted. Reliving in fast forward much that happened in the last ten years is exhausting work: the abuse, the divorce, school, children’s massive dental work, three children’s weddings, a family member’s life-threatening illnesses, an apartment complex coming after me for delinquent funds because they could not find the person who rented the apartment next who had not paid their bills, an ex who wouldn’t let go, a dear friend’s illness and death, and my own marriage. I didn’t have time to process any of this while I was in school. I was working full-time at a demanding nursing job and going to school full-time. There was always over time and the next assignment to complete.

 

moms office 4

 

So here last evening I began the hard work of processing through all of the above and more. It may take me a while. My office may need to wait a little longer. I may seek out my counselor if it seems necessary, or maybe this is the time to look into the Step Study of Celebrate Recovery that I learned about while in school but could-not-possibly-add-one-more-thing-to-my-schedule. I don’t know.

Then this verse comes to mind:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”” Isa. 30: 15

So I try not to get frustrated when I don’t make the progress I think I should be making on cleaning out my office. I try to remember that “in quietness and trust” is my strength. So, so counter-intuitive. I also try to remember that “all joy and peace” is connected to trusting in God, as Paul says in Romans 15:13:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I am not to the point of “all joy and peace” yet, but I am making progress. But you must excuse me; I must go. I need to get back to processing…

Happy New Year {belatedly}: How To Do Hard Things

Happy New Year!

What are your New Year’s resolutions? What about goals? I figure since everyone always asks I will too. As we look back on 2015 and figure what we want to be different in 2016, I wanted to list some of the realizations that I have had over the past year.

  1. Life is Hard. It is easy to survive, that takes merely not dying. But to truly LIVE, takes work. My life wants to be out of control. The house is dirty unless someone cleans it, bills are unpaid unless someone pays them, and I am unhealthy unless I make a choice to do something differently. To live a life consciously following God is hard. In Matthew 7:14 it says “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”. We have to search and work to find the way we want to live.
  2. Relationships are Hard. I am not very good with relationships. I tend to let friendships go to the wayside. It is a struggle to keep up with others in the midst of my busy life. Many times I can let my living get in the way of relationships. I can’t go out to dinner because I have to work, I can’t take the time for a friend because I have to… fill in the blank. Relationships are also necessary. We are meant to be in a “pack.” We are meant to be in relationship with others. This is how we learn and grow.
  3. Raising good kids is Hard. I know, it is the one without kids saying this, but hear me out. I see parents daily in my practice who struggle to rear healthy, balanced children. On a plane ride from Newark to Austin last year, there was a father and his two young daughters sitting behind me. He had conversations with them throughout the flight. He had healthy snacks prepared for them as well as a variety of creative games and activities ready to go. While listening to interactions between the young girls, I could tell the level of conversation that happens in the home. The older sister showed interest in what the younger sister was doing and best of all, no kicking the back of the seats! I have great appreciation for parents who parent their children! But I know doing so is hard.
  4. Growing and Learning is Hard. If I had all the time in the world, I would get nothing done. I would like to say that I would read all the books in my library, sit around and think and change the world, but the reality is that my mind would wander, and I would end up twiddling away time on frivolous activities. Just as a tree has different seasons where at times it is putting energy into its roots, other times into leaves, and at other times into fruit, there are different seasons in our lives for growth. I want to see the fruit part NOW. I don’t want to wait for the roots and branches and leaves to grow.  We need to be able to look back on our lives and see the ways we are continuing to grow, as well as to take an honest look at our lives and see where we might be missing nutrients for continued growth (pretty sure daily binge watching of Downton Abby is not going to grow our minds!).
  5. Dreaming is Easy. Reaching goals is Hard. The most recent Jackpot was up to 1.5 Billion Dollars. It is easy to think about what we would do if we won that much money, but working day to day and saving day to day is hard. Identifying what we want in life and then making the daily decisions to reach it takes concentrated effort and self-discipline.
  6. Taking baby steps is Easy. Though all these things can be hard, the first step is to figure out where you are and where you want to be. Don’t look at the end and feel discouraged, instead just take the next step. Sometimes it’s as simple as a phone call or clearing a spot on your calendar. Manageable baby steps are how big mountains are climbed one day at a time.

As you move into 2016, I want you to take a look at what you are going to do today to change your trajectory for the future. Happy New Year, and we look forward to another Year with you and your family.

Amber

 

How to Walk in Trust

woman in forest

 

Something occurred to me just recently. I was driving in my old truck (going on 200,000 miles) late in the evening (read, after dark) by myself on a trip which would take about an hour. Halfway there, the truck started running rough and the check engine light started flashing and then stayed on. My knee jerk reaction was fear, bordering on terror. Thoughts like: “Will the truck keep working?” “Will I be sitting by the side of the road by myself?” “I mean, I have AAA and a cell phone, but in the meantime, I will be sitting by myself in the dark.” You don’t have to look at much news to realize the possibilities.

Then it occurred to me. I could continue down this well-worn mental trail I was on, or I could choose to trust God. Great thought, and I felt better for about half a second, then my thoughts were leaping back onto the anxiety trail.

That’s when I had a second realization. My anxiety reaction has been a habit for a very long time. I will not to be able to change it with a sudden realization. As with any new habit building, I will need to keep bringing my mind, along with my emotions, back to trust in God (breathe in, breathe out), trust in God (slooooow dooowwnn, heartrate), trust in God (circulation, return to hands and feet), trust in God (Come back, thoughts! Are you listening to me?!).

Satan does not give up territory without a fight. The verse, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NIV) has taken on new meaning. There have been times in my life, when I have been trying to change a thought pattern where the picture has come to mind of Satan’s henchman being something like a shadow person clinging to me. I struggle and struggle and finally get him peeled away as far as arm’s length, but then my strength gives out and I have to let go and this shadow being grabs me once again. It is exhausting work!

For years I thought resisting the devil meant just saying no. I mean, that is extraordinarily hard at times in and of itself. But there are times when resisting is exhausting work done over and over and over again on the same problem or sin.

So what I have decided to do is when I realize I am reacting with fear/anxiety to a situation, I will pray for help and then practice trusting God all the way down into my emotions, again, and again, and again. I will not be shocked or disheartened when I fail one more time, because new habits and skills take time and practice. I will be patient and kind with myself as I practice, mentally encouraging and cheering myself on.

What are some things you have identified in your own life that need changing? Pick just one of them, look to God for help, pray, and determine to practice – over and over and over. Let’s not give up! Let’s determine to be patient and kind to ourselves when we fail. We can do this! It will get easier and then one day looking back, it will be hard to believe that the old habit was so hard to change.