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Fighting the Big “C”

4 Dec

I visited a friend’s home today to drop something by while she was at her oncologist’s.  While standing at her door, talking to her son, I used the phrase “fighting with all she’s got” about his mother.  I also said how 2008 was the year I “fought cancer with all I’ve got” via surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

I then thought about those of us who believe in God’s sovereignty.  Why do we use phrases like “fighting with all we’ve got”???  Why not just stay still and let a sovereign God take care of things one way or the other?  Either we live or we die, right?  He’s got this in hand so why do we need to fight at all, let alone “with all we’ve got”???

The answer, my friend, within the multifaceted mysteries of the universe which we will never unravel in this life, is that God, in His sovereignty, chooses to use man to further His will.  Not always, but much of the time.  He uses man as His instrument much more than He visibly uses the angels in our world.  He makes it apparent in His Word that He expects to use us, that that is His intended method to reach out to a lost world.  He then does just that.

So, if a sovereign God planned for me to go out visiting the lost and to win one of them to Him on Saturday morning, I had better get with His program, eh?

Likewise, if a sovereign God planned that in 2008 I would get cancer and fight it with everything I’ve got, then it was good that I followed His plan and fought.  Yes, He is sovereign.  Yes, He planned to save my life.  But He wanted me to be part of the process.  I didn’t disobey Him by fighting hard and not “resting in Him.”  And my friend isn’t disappointing Him either.  

He intends for her to fight like a warrior princess right now!  

You go, girl!!! 

      

 

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Do We Build our Own Dragons Sometimes? Part II (for KDL)

16 Oct

I had a favorite high school teacher who once wrote to me (when I was in college), “Man, Mary, you are even more of a worrier than I am . . .”  I think she and I were covering the 24-hour day by taking shifts worrying about things that could happen!!!

Thing is that, even at 55, after a lifetime of growth and sanctification as a Christian, I can still be a worrier.  And that is even with 55 years in my rearview mirror to remind me of how good God is.

I am a worrier in spite of the fact that the luxury of worrying about potential disasters is very much a first world problem.  The rest of the world is too busy dealing with current disasters to have the time to worry about upcoming disasters that could occur!

I am a worrier in spite of the fact that I have never lost a home to any cause, natural or otherwise.  This is despite living along the East Coast and weathering several hurricanes.

I am a worrier in spite of the fact that I have only been in two traffic accidents, from which I walked away.  My husband has been in two, same deal.

I am a worrier although I have lived much of my life in urban areas and have never been in a mugging or a robbery.  No one I know has been murdered.

I am a worrier although my identity has never been stolen and any viruses we got on our computer network were eradicated with a minimum of cost.

I am a worrier despite the fact that I have only been unemployed for four months of my adult life, right after I retired from the Navy.

I am a worrier despite the fact that I have been in excellent health most of my life and in fact have never even broken a bone.

There is some evidence that the tendency to worry is genetic.  I believe that.  I have had friends go through most of the above circumstances.  Most of those friends have far less of a tendency to worry than I do, even after going through a disaster.

There is a slight correlation between being a worrier and being able to head off disaster by adequately preparing for it.  But, for a worrier, the worry doesn’t stop once the preparations have been made.  We keep a hurricane survival kit in our home every year because that is prudent in our area of the country.  But, once the kit is built, I should cease worrying about hurricanes because there is nothing more I can do to mitigate their effects.  That doesn’t always happen.  I have spent more than one hurricane season worrying about all of the effects a hurricane could have on us!

See where I am going with this?  I build my own dragons sometimes.  And, yes, that is a first world problem to have.  And, yes, it probably does have a genetic component.  And, yes, I probably have staved off a couple of disasters by thinking in advance how I would handle them,  But the rest of life is so beyond our control, and so only in God’s hands, that it is foolish for me to think my worrying has anything to do with outcomes.

When I worry, I make myself a mini-god.  I assign far more control to myself than I could ever realistically possess.  That is where worry crosses over into being sin.  It puts me in God’s place, in so many ways.

And, in the end, the things we worry about are never the actual crises we face.  It is far better to conserve our energy for an actual crisis.  In my life, there have been two:  my breast cancer (which was totally unexpected–I never worried about that) and our son’s autism (also a bolt out of the blue).    

So . . . to recap, I have built and fought many dragons all life long, but the ones that were actual dragons took me completely by surprise.  And, even in my surprise, God gave me the strength to deal with my very real crises from day to day.  

He is a good God like that! 

 

  

 

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

1 Oct

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

And October is the month that many of us celebrate surviving breast cancer. I am now officially a five and a half year survivor, having been diagnosed in early April of 2008.

So many fears back then! So many victories now!

I remember lying awake the night before my surgery (a lumpectomy, so not even as painful or extensive a surgery as those many of my friends have endured) and thinking that I would never feel happy, or whole, or painfree again. Yet I still slept pretty well that night because I still knew God had hold of my situation.

And how marvelously He has brought it all back around.

He allowed me to survive. He didn’t have to do that. He would have still been a good God if He didn’t choose for me to have that ending.

He allowed me to get a good Navy contractor job the following year, after I retired from the Navy reserves.

He allowed for me to not only lose the forty pounds I gained during and after chemotherapy, but He allowed me to lose 70 more so that my health is actually much better now than it was in the years right before I got cancer.

He allowed me to start this blog, a true labour of love and a lifetime dream. I could never have imagined when I dreamt of being a writer as a child that someday I could put my thoughts out, worldwide, with a few clicks of a keyboard!

He allowed us to find Shepherds College, a wonderful special needs school, where our beloved son is now getting his education in horticulture.

And He allowed Noel and me to rediscover why we married each other almost 25 years ago.

Our trip back from Wisconsin was a dream! We spent three nights more in Racine after we left our son on his campus nearby, visiting Chicago by train during the day. We then drove to Philadelphia and spent three days there.

See our Liberty Bell shot, with me in (almost) breast cancer pink?

I thank God for giving me a godly, loving husband who shares my interest in art and history. The last three cities we have explored (Milwaukee last year, now Chicago and Philly), we have started with the art museum and worked our way outward. It is how we used to explore Europe, back in the day!

Oh, we have such fun!

Thank You, Lord, for letting me be a survivor! Lord, You are so good!

Congratulations to all survivors everywhere, especially Marci, Kathy, Barbie, Jodi and Jody, and Brenda (both of you)!

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The Grace to Lose Almost 120 Pounds!

4 Sep

The Grace to Lose Almost 120 Pounds!

Two years ago at this time, I was caught! Trying to wriggle free from a life-dominating condition based in my own sin nature. Failing with every attempt.

I was around 100 pounds overweight.

When I had retired from the Navy in 2009, the Navy’s standard for my height was 179 pounds max. I had crept up to 210.

The Navy’s standard practice at the time was to measure the neck, waist, and hips of anyone who failed the weigh-in. That worked for me for a while. It did not work for me on my last physical readiness exam in early 2009. But since I was retiring in June, I didn’t worry too much . . .

In fact, since I had just finished a year of breast cancer treatments in 2008, including steroids during chemotherapy, my weight at retirement was 230 pounds. As a retiree, I didn’t have to worry about any further weigh-ins. But I did have to worry about something more important . . . my health after cancer.

I got a good civilian contractor job and I went along enjoying my renewed health after cancer for the next two and a half years. Unfortunately, I also spent the rest of 2009 and the next two years gaining more weight. I finished 2011 between 250 and 260 pounds, although my gynecologist has a documented weigh-in at 263, the heaviest I ever was.

If you had asked me, I would have told you that I was trying to lose weight. I tried several fad diets. I paid attention to what went through my mouth. I worked out sporadically. And, most importantly, I cried out to the Lord every morning to help me lose weight, to help me change.

Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where grace involves a partnership between God and man. If it had been possible to pray off those 100 pounds, I would have done it. I pleaded with God day to day. But I remained stuck.

Finally, I just knew what I had to do. I had lost weight with Weight Watchers before. Not 100 pounds, but a goodly amount. I would go back to Weight Watchers on New Year’s Day 2012 with the idea that I would lose at least 50 pounds and keep it off. I was aware that that meant I had to agree with Weight Watchers that my weight loss was not a diet, but a lifestyle change. For the rest of my life.

The rest is history. I lost 20 pounds in January of 2012, starting the diet with a rather extreme interpretation of how I would eat (I needed that. I truly believe if I had lost less than 20 pounds the first month, I would have quit). Every subsequent month, I lost ten pounds, till I saw my fifty pound loss hit at the end of April. I kept going.

By the end of 2012, I had lost 100 pounds, which had been my secret desire all along, even before I got started. I hadn’t even dared admit that to myself, let alone anyone else.

I became a Weight Watchers lifetime member at 169.

This year, I have fine-tuned things a bit and have settled in at between 145 and 150 as a pretty good permanent weight.

So, all told, almost 120 pounds from my highest weight.

I was stuck and the Lord provided me the grace to get free.

I say that because people become stuck in all sorts of life-dominating conditions. Alcoholism, drug addiction, unmedicated mental illness. They sometimes feel hopeless, as I felt with my weight. They may cry out to God every day, as I did.

God has the power to break these conditions, to set us free from life-dominating sin. We can’t just wish ourselves free. And we can’t do it without Him. His Word has the words of life, but without His Holy Spirit to apply them to us personally, we are sunk (all of us, even those without obvious life-dominating conditions).

I thank God He loves us enough to give us the grace to break free. To walk with Him. In love.

Rachael’s Last Adventure

13 Aug

The story of the last days of our 20 year old niece Rachael, written by her husband Shaun. They nearly made their one year anniversary, but she passed away July 14. They had married, in London, the day of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies last year, however, they were in a part of London where the traffic was not affected by the Olympics events that day! Praise God!

Rachael's Travels

Hi everybody, it’s Shaun here. I wish I didn’t have to write these words but I think it’s important to write a final chapter to the story of the finest, most beautiful person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Sadly Rachael passed away on the morning of the 14th July 2013. I just want to say straight away that, though this is tragic news, Rachael’s passing couldn’t have been better- even if it was premature. She was laughing, singing and joking until her final hours where she just went to sleep for the final time. During this time she was surrounded by her most precious people and it was very peaceful.

I would like for us all to celebrate what we have learned from Rachael and the words she shared with the world here.

The number one thing I learned from Rachael was to ‘live well’- this is…

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I Am the Velveteen Rabbit!

29 Jun

A friend used the phrase this week “I am the Velveteen Rabbit.”  She used it in response to a person who needed a comforting shoulder to cry on.  We know, from the children’s story of that name, that the Velveteen Rabbit was probably the most comforting children’s toy ever!

I like that phrase–“I am the Velveteen Rabbit.”  I like it for lots of reasons, including the one my friend intended.

I especially like it because it describes what has hopefully happened to someone who has reached my age, 55, and has seen her share of highs and lows.  If she is a believer in Jesus Christ, she has, by then, found Him to be faithful in both the highs and the lows.  She has learned that both good times and bad times don’t last forever.  And she has mostly learned that she is not so much holding on to Jesus Christ as He is holding on to her!!!

Her scars are sometimes visible, like the scars left where my chemotherapy port was when I had breast cancer five years ago.  Those scars, and the invisible ones, were earned by going through hard times and emerging victorious at the other end of the tunnel.  But, most of all, those scars show others that I have become real over the years, like the Velveteen Rabbit whose velveteen fur was eventually rubbed off, only to be replaced by the real live rabbit fur of a real live rabbit!

For the Velveteen Rabbit is real.  In becoming real, we Velveteen Rabbits learn to value other people who can be real, too.  Those who sanctimoniously posture themselves as “holier than thou” are people we pity.  They are too afraid to be real.  Afraid to show others that they too have walked through some dark places, and sometimes are still there.  

The Velveteen Rabbits among us don’t rejoice in those dark places (no one does!), but they don’t hide them from others either.  

They realize that God is growing us to holiness, not through keeping our lives free of trials, darkness, and times of asking “Why, Lord, why?” but rather through His utter faithfulness at all times, in every trial.  

They realize we can be weak, because He is strong . . .  

Playing for Keeps (A Breast Cancer Meditation)

17 Jun

 

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We have had an epidemic of breast cancer at our church these past five years.  

At least it seems so.  

In reality, one out of eight women gets breast cancer in her lifetime.  Usually at a more advanced age, though.  Of the five women who have gotten it, three were in their forties, including me.

Three were also in church leadership, including the pastor’s wife and the wife of the college dean.  Two of us were just very active volunteers (the other one has since moved to another city).  

For privacy purposes, I am conglomerating the data like that.  I can tell my story, as it brushes up against theirs, but their stories are theirs to tell (or not).

The latest American Cancer Society statistics show that the risk of death from breast cancer is now one in 36.  Of course, outcome has much to do with how early the cancer is caught.  I may have had the most advanced stage of all five of us, as I was stage IIB.  I had one positive lymph node, which set off an alarm and indicated I would probably want chemotherapy, just in case.  I chose chemotherapy.  Five years later, I have never been healthier!

I was also the only one who was able to just have a lumpectomy, but every case of cancer is different.  With the others, they were worried about cancer spreading in the breasts; with me, the worry was that it would spread to other parts of my body.

So, what do we learn from a potentially deadly disease like breast cancer?

We learn to live each day as though it could be our last (because it could–no one, however healthy, has the next day guaranteed).  

We learn gentleness with other people.  We learn that some things just aren’t worth turning into a fight.  We learn that not every issue is priority one, so we pick and choose what we go after.

If we are Christians, we learn that Christ is everything and more.  To live is to face life with His strength.  To die is to face eternal life with His strength.  It isn’t just that we will live forever, but that we will live forever with Him.  He has bought and paid for that on our behalf.  

We learn to play for keeps in life.  There is a lot of petty stuff out there, not worthy of our time.  We can choose to avoid that.

We can protect those we love.  We can realize our special bond with fellow breast cancer survivors and honor it.  We can pray for everyone.  We can keep a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts.

We can choose to do all that and more, in the strength of our Saviour, no matter what happens.

God bless ya’ll.

 

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