Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why not me?

Sometimes we ask the question, "Why me?" I know that I've probably allowed this question to linger in my mind much more than I am willing to admit. Sometimes we ask the question, "Why not me?" -- mostly when we something good happen to someone else. Again, this has happened more than I would like to admit.
Lately, I've asked this question. However, it is not because I'm witnessing something good happen in the life of someone else. Some of you know that I keep up with Sara Walker. Sara was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer (metastic in her liver) at the age of 33. She has endured chemo in all of its fury, but the cancer is not responding.
Sara seems to be running out of options. There are a couple of other things the doctors can try. Some of these are still in the "trial" phase. I know we serve a God of miracles. He is just as capable today as He was at the beginning of time. However, He doesn't always choose to heal in the time and manner that the human brain views as the best option.
When I think of Sara, which is often, I can't help but wonder -- why not me...
I guess you might think I'm crazy. I guess that after my miracle I should just be dancing in the street with overwhelming joy. I am thankful, but some days, my heart is just stricken with guilt. I could have easily been in Sara's shoes. (That is another miracle -- the fact that cancer had not set up all over my body.)As I read her updates, as she factors in death, I feel as if my heart is being ripped into pieces. Sara has by no means given up. She will fight as long as she is allowed to fight. God could step in and heal her earthly body, but even Sara admits that earthly healing might not be part of His plan.
Coming to a realization that death is a possiblity after you are diagnosed with cancer, realizing that you could (very soon) leave behind an amazing husband and precious little guys, that is heart breaking. Actually having to walk down that road...another story. I know that in heaven, I wouldn't be worried about earthly things. I would not want to come back for anyone. However, in this flesh I am subject to the pain and emotional part of life. Knowing that Sara thinks of these things, well, it's like having a knife rip through my chest.
I've been told that losing a child is one of the worst emotional pains one can experience. I don't know, and honestly, I hope I never know. However, I do know that losing a parent when you are young is a truly horrific experience. I don't know how it compares to losing others in your life, but I am here to tell you that it is horribly painful. I guess that's what I hate most about this whole situation...cancer is taking away the ability of a loving mother to do all the things she wants to for her children. The fact that two precious little guys are watching their mom suffer through some horrible circumstances. Now, they are witnessing an amazing woman show them how to handle tough times with grace that can only be provided by our heavenly Father.
 I hate to think that any child or teenager would have to bid an earthly goodbye to a parent. Not that losing a parent is easy at any point, but being a typical girl, there was always that gaping hole. I had a wonderful family that attempted to fill in every gap possible. However, when picking out a wedding dress, holding your child for the first time..those are all moments that you long for YOUR mom to be there. For years, Mother's Day wreaked havoc within my heart. I completely hated the entire month of May. Hearing of others participating in activities with their mom, was plain hard sometimes. I didn't dislike people for this, I just always wished that my mom was still around to do those things. In my head, I knew she was perfectly content walking the streets of gold. Knowing this in my heart took much longer -- lots of pain during that time, also. There are still days that I long for my mom. One day, we'll sit and chat again, that is if I ever get over being in the presence of my Jesus (and I'm hoping I never get over that.)
For Sara, her husband and her boys, I pray for God's healing hand to touch her body and rid it of any cancer cells. I pray that if this is not God's plan, He will hold their hearts close and provide the love and comfort that only He can provide.
If you know a mom or dad with young children, and they are battling cancer, break out the medal of honor my friend. I've met several on this journey, each are much braver than me, and fight a battle much harder than mine. These are true warriors.
To those kiddos who've lost a parent, hang on. The sun does shine again. I'm living proof of that.

I'm thankful and honored that God saw fit to leave me here. We all know I need a whole lot more work before I spend eternity in the presence of the Almighty One. I'm blessed to have witnessed a brave mom who fought with such courage. I'm eternally grateful to have witnessed some of the bravest warriors who happen to be the youngest ones - those who battle childhood cancer. There are no words to express my feelings for the 4 guys that put up with me every day. Most importantly, my Savior who saved me and keeps loving me no matter how badly I mess up.

Please pray for sweet Sara. Also, Zach Howard and Freida Oliver. Bayleigh Phillips has more courage in her little finger than I will ever have in my entire body, pray that God will continue to provide her with good days.

Much love and thank you for reading,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I hate cancer.

Yep. I hate cancer. In fact, if there was an "I hate cancer" club, I would sooooo be the president. Eleven months ago, we heard those words that nobody wants to hear. Stephen was very awake when he heard those words. However, I was in a drug-induced fog. I remember trying to bring myself into an alert mode, but failing miserably for several hours. God has truly performed many miracles in the past months. With those miracles, have come some very hard lessons.
Frequently, my children are forced to listen to two of my favorite songs. Songs that probably wouldn't be on my iPod if we had not traveled along the cancer road. Martina McBride singing "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" and Rascal Flatts singing "I Won't Let Go" are my go-to songs when I'm thinking about my cancer friends.
Now, disclaimer here, there was a lot of good that came from this experience. God can bring good out of anything.
One of the blessings of my journey was that God helped me focus on the positive moments of each day. There were many times that I didn't realize exactly how sick I really was. Over the past couple of months, I've spent a lot of time reflecting. Reflecting has reminded me of God's faithfulness and blessings. It also reminds me of how ugly cancer is.
Cancer is just that. Ugly. There's nothing pretty or pleasant about it. Here are just a few of the things I learned.
One of the lessons I've learned as a cancer patient/survivor, is that from the second they utter that dreaded phrase, "You have cancer," there is no going back. You are no longer the same. A series of events unfolds that will change you forever. Some change is good. Some change is bad. Some change is just...change, neither good or bad. People pray for cancer patients. Family and friends show support and express encouragement. However, I feel different and sometimes struggle to see where I "fit." My thinking is different and often doesn't match up with anyone around me. I struggle to find someone who understands and often am moved to tears when I read a caring bridge entry or e-mail authored by a fellow cancer warrior. The tears don't come necessarily because of grief or sadness, but from a sense of relief. It is comforting that somebody else is out there having the same thoughts and feelings I've had. At least if I'm crazy, then I have company.
Guilt. There is guilt that comes from surviving. Oh, I am so grateful to have each day as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt...but some very dark moments come. Those moments flood my soul with guilt as I think of the others who fought so much more bravely than me, yet cancer stole their life. Those precious young husbands with young children who lost their courageous wife. I know God has a plan. His plan is perfect. My belief in that does not stop the attacks from satan. This is just one attack that he knows will get to me. The children that I came to know and love along this journey. Watching as they fight and the very life slips from their earthly body...I guess that's been one of the hardest things. I'm a grown up. I expect to battle sickness and tragedy. Kids just shouldn't. Again, I know His plan is perfect. This is just what happens in my head. It's a roller coaster of emotions that I didn't experience in my pre-cancer life.
Missing those cancer friendships. I don't miss chemo. I don't miss radiation. I do miss being around those people who know what it's like. I miss the nurses and other medical staff who cared for me. The only thing I can figure it's close to is when a soldier returns from combat and has no one around who can understand what he went through. I'm sure my journey is nowhere close to combat, but it is comforting to be near those who know what it's like. The other patients, the nurses - they just.....know. 
I have a need for constant reassurance. I almost want to see the doctor each week and have bloodwork done, just to hear that I'm still clear. Although the odds look pretty good for me, they are still just that - odds. Nothing is for sure when it comes to cancer. No guarantees. I mean, good grief, colon cancer at the age of 34, with no family history, no genetic markers?!?! That doesn't happen often. I'm already in the 1% of cancer patients. I don't sit and worry about it all the time, but the possibility does hang out in the back of my mind.

Even though I am glad the chemo and radiation treatments are behind me, I still miss those individuals who were on the battlefield with me. The nurses, doctors, and other patients provided encouragement, support, and many times the entertainment I needed to make it through.

October is breast cancer awareness month. It's highly likely that you know and love someone who has been touched by this. Please continue to remember a special lady who is beginning her radiation treatments in a few days. If you know a survivor, wear pink for her!
I must include my prayer requests.
Sara Walker received a report from her CT scan. The chemo did not even hold the cancer stable this time. They will be trying a new treatment that is not chemo, but will hopefully stop the cancer growth. Please pray for Sara, her husband and two boys. They are such a precious family with a mighty God.

Zach Howard has had some rough days. Please continue to remember him along with his precious family  (mom, dad and sweet Kelsie.)
Please pray the Spradley and Steltenpohl families will experience the healing and comfort that only our sweet Jesus can provide.

Thank you for reading.
Much love,

Monday, September 5, 2011

I can only imagine...

As I sit and contemplate the meaning of next Sunday, I am speechless. Yes, I know. For me to be speechless is a significant event. Almost 10 years ago, our country was attacked. An attack launched by a bunch of cowards. I'll never forget that day. This week, somehow, I will attempt to convey a message to my 5th graders. A message that celebrates the heroic efforts that began on that day.
Even though there was some good, some positive that rose from the smoke and debris that day, it still feels as if a knife is tearing through my heart when I think of all the hurt caused from such a vicious act.
At times like this, I wish that I could escape to my heavenly home and sit at the feet of my Jesus. Just to be able to see things as He sees them. To live in His presence, abide where there is no night. I long for that day that each tear will be wiped away and sorrow will not be allowed to enter His kingdom.
I wonder if my granddaddy is up there trading some stories from his war days, some that he probably never shared with any of us due to the pain it would have brought to his heart recalling such wretched events. Maybe, just maybe he's been able to wrap his arms (now healthy and perfect, no longer feeble) around some public servant that responded to the call on 9/11 and give them a, "Good job, son. You made us all proud."

Please pray for my precious Zach Howard and his family as they battle each day. Also, Rebecca Richmond, Bayleigh Phillips, and the family of Lindsay Steltenpohl as they continue to heal. We serve a mighty God who sees things we can't imagine. He has a plan and it is perfect. He will execute His perfect plan in HIS perfect time.

What I'm thankful for today:
-being married to the most patient man on the planet
-God giving me the chance to be the mother of three precious boys
-living in a country that is home to so many heroes that put their life on the line each day, both here and overseas in combat zones
-the opportunity to work with my 5th grade kiddos
-the rain
-watching 3 little boys sleep in their beds, one more day when they are all healthy

Much love from a witness of one of  God's great miracles,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day

It seems that most of the news you hear about dads is negative. So, with that in mind, I thought I would share about the dads in my life.

My childhood...pretty good I'd have to say. My dad did all of those things a good dad should do. I always knew that he loved me. He played in the yard with us, took time to listen, plus so many other things. The difference is that my dad had to take on many extra responsibilities. See, my mom was sick most of the time my sister and I were growing up. I remember lots of hospital visits, extended stays at hospitals, visits to a specialist in Atlanta and so on. When many men would have hit the road, my dad stuck around. He showed me what it means when you pledge that for better or worse, in sickness and in health. I do believe one of the most important lessons he taught me through his actions was how a man should treat his wife and children. Now, this was never a major lecture that he sat down and gave me. No. This was one of those things I learned as I watched him through the years. I wish that every young girl could witness a loving and devoted father like I did. I wish that each young girl could learn from her daddy that she is valuable and has worth, that she is adored. In my 12 years as a teacher, I have seen young girls that long for their father to show them these things. They long to know that Daddy loves them no matter what. My dad put his life on hold to see that my sister and I were taken care of. He cleaned, ironed clothes, many things that lots of dads don't have to do. I don't know that I'll ever be able to express my gratitude. Through the past 7 months, he has been there every time we needed him. No matter what time of day it is, he's there to drive me to treatment, watch the boys, go to the ER for various reasons. Once again, he has put his life on hold to make sure my needs are met. Dad, I love you and thank God for everything you've meant to me.

Uncle Junior. What can you say? The man can fix anything. More importantly, he's always treated me just like I was his. My cousins are more like siblings to me than actual cousins. When my mom was sick, my uncle and aunt let us stay at their house twice a week. This surely provided them with extra stress and burdens I'm sure. They never let anyone know that though. Uncle Junior always reminded me that "the law's out" when I started driving. He always makes sure there is enough air in each tire, oil changes are up to date, and reminds you NEVER to have less than 1/2 tank of gas. If I'm ever traveling, I know I can count on him to monitor the weather channel and update me on any information that might affect me. He taught me the value of hard work, and he is the true picture of servant spirit.

My granddaddy is one of the most interesting people I know. Many of my favorite memories from my childhood involve him. Granddaddy would always have Coke. Coca-Cola classic in the glass bottles. How many of you remember those? After he had worked in the yard or the garden, he would sit on the back porch and drink a coke along with my cousins, my sister and me.
As a kid, I was anxious when summer came. I was READY for watermelons. Not only to eat them...but to sell them. Granddaddy would go to my great uncle's place and load his yellow truck with watermelons. He'd park the truck in the driveway, and then we'd put up a sign reading Watermelons for Sale. After what seemed like an eternity, (it was probably only 30-45 minutes) we would begin begging to lower the price thinking that it would increase our sales. I still remember the box we used to store the money. He reminded us to keep it close and always watch it when people were around.
No matter what, I always knew that he loved me. Several years ago, he had a picture that was taken when he was in the service. He gave it to me and informed me, "Nobody wants that old thing. I'm just gonna' throw it away." I tod him that any of us would love to have it, I was just the lucky one to be there that day. Whenever Veteran's Day comes around, I always think about him. Whenever I see an American flag, I think about what he did to preserve the freedoms outlined in our Constitution. I'm proud of him and glad he is MY granddaddy.

I couldn't talk about the dads in my life without mentioning Stephen. I very much don't deserve him. I've always known that, but the past 7 months have made me even more grateful than ever to be married to him. While some kids have to crouch in a corner not knowing what Daddy might do when he comes home, my boys watch the clock ALL day to count the minutes until their daddy arrives home. They each have a "post" so that they can see his truck coming and then track him through the neighborhood until he walks in the door. James Dobson says this is a good thing. I think it is too. When Stephen walks in the door, the boys are fighting for his attention. Each one wants to be the first to tell him the events of their day. If only I could get them that excited about household chores. He was an amazing dad before November 11, 2010. Since then, he shot way past amazing to a status that is indescribable. Not only has he continued the duties of a dad, but he has picked up most of the things I usually took care of. No matter how exhausted he is, he completes household chores such as laundry, packing lunches, cleaning dishes, etc. I'm not sure how much sleep he's had since November, but I can promise you it's not much. There is nothing better than to hear him encouraging Andrew as he's learning scripture, reading Aaron the story of Jonah, or teaching John Curtis how to pray. As far as I'm concerned, my boys have the best daddy that 3 little boys could have.

So, there you go. To the dads in my life, I love you. Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

'Tis the Night Before Relay

Alright, if you aren't familiar with Hebrews 12:1-2, then you need to read it.

My relay team is centered around the theme of endurance, which we was inspired by these verses.

My personality:
high maintenance

So, to say that I'm pumped about relay is not a surprise to many. I get excited about a lot. A pair of bright pink heels that match my dress, peanut butter cookies, college basketball, comfy pillows... So what? Tracey's excited about something else. Big deal. Yep. It is a BIG DEAL. Not just big, but H - U - G - E!
Tomorrow, as the sun rises on those soccer fields, activity will be pretty much along the level of ...none. As the sun rises in the sky, so will the level of activity. A few tents dot the landscape this evening, but tomorrow the army will march in and establish their territory. Tents will be staked. Banners and signs displayed. This is our way of marking our territory in the battle against cancer. You will notice signs for the various teams. We have raised money, collected donations, washed cars, worked concession name it. It's been done, all in the name of Relay for Life. Hundreds will gather for a time of fellowship and fun. A time to celebrate those victorious in the battle against cancer. A time to remember those who fought an amazing fight, those who fought until they inhaled that last breath on this planet. A time to fight back and let cancer know we are ready for a world with more birthdays.
I wonder what it will feel like to be at my campsite surrounded by those who love me and support me every moment of every day with their selfless contributions to my life. I wonder what it will be like as I walk that survivor's lap with a group of people who are probably much braver and stronger than I'll ever be. I wonder how heavy my heart will be as I tie an orange ribbon around Cassie's torch. A mix of emotions flood my soul as I ponder my walk through the garden of luminaria. I know what I think it will feel like, but I also know the actual event will overwhelm my spirit.
Here it is. 'Tis the night before relay. Already, my heart races at thoughts of the survivor's lap, then pain rips through my heart as I think of those that I wish were still here to walk with me. Truth is, where are they now. Well Cassie is walking around something much better than a survivor's lap...streets of gold, getting to chat with people like Paul, Esther, Moses, and Abraham. Elizabeth Russ, I just can't help but imagine a conversation between her Ruth, and Naomi. So, as my heavy heart misses these precious ones, I know they are experiencing the ultimate victory. Life with our precious Savior.
Well, I'm ready for my lap. Reminding myself that each step is not in vain. Each step that is taken is a resounding "We're not finished yet." Cancer, get ready. You may have broken our hearts. You may made life difficult for a season. But, you haven't seen the last of us. We are ready to run this race, fight this battle.
As you approach the actual relay site, there's nothing particularly special about the site. The special part is what's happening there. A spirit of determination. Perseverance. Hope. As the sun sets, the night grows dark and long...know this - the sun will rise again. What a sweet feeling as those first few beams hit your face after the long dark night. A sense of joy, perhaps? Just when you think you are too tired. When the night seems too dark, you can't see the end. Know this...JOY will come in the morning. You are not just relaying. You are enduring, persevering...showing your loved one that you are aware of the rough road a cancer patient faces. You are showing the caregivers that you are behind them and support them as they sacrifice so many things to care for that precious one they love. As a survivor, your presence there, speaks volumes. Each step you take shows me that you are IN the battle with me. I must say, I have the best set of warriors by my side! Wouldn't choose any different if I could! I love you, thank God for you, and am THE most blessed individual on the planet.

Much love,

Friday, April 29, 2011

Encouraging Friday

Well, I was down for the count today...chemo side effects. However, my heart has never been so encouraged as it was today. Good gracious, Alabamians have gone far beyond the call of duty to help their neighbors. I am proud to say that I think we some of the best government officials in the country. As I watch not only Walt Maddox, but other officials, they are handling each situation and circumstance with care and compassion. How God has blessed our state!
As I listened to the radio, each station seemed overwhelmed with requests. Now, these weren't requests from people seeking help...these were requests from people desiring to help others. Churches, schools, groups, individuals - all seeking to meet so many of the needs. I know many in this country look down upon Southerners, many scratching their heads as to why one would want to live here. Well, this is why. God is using His people to meet the needs of others. I am just so excited to see what He will do in upcoming weeks and months.
Now, I do have to give credit where credit is due. Many of you know that I disagree with most of what our current President stands for. However, watching footage of him in Alabama, I was so grateful to see the compassion in the eyes of President Obama and the First Lady. What's even more exciting is that they got to witness true southern hospitality as citizens helped each other begin the arduous task of rebuilding lives after this disaster.
I do have to say, not only am I proud to be a Southerner, but I am proud to be from Alabama.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Intelligence insulted

I don't know quite how to express what all is inside of me. To begin with, I am a very blessed woman. Not only did my family make it through the storms without even a scratch, we have no material loss.
As the storm neared our county, I began to choose some of the few pictures and other personal items that I wanted to keep with us in our "safe place." The number of these items was fewer than 10. One was the painting Susan Meyer completed at the request of my husband. This was my Christmas gift from him just 4 months ago. The painting contains Habakkuk 3:18-19 and is contained in a frame built by my father. This item -- worth more in my eyes than any Monet or Picasso piece on the planet. A couple of family pictures and pottery containing the boys' handprints. I had watched the storm as it traveled through Mississippi and Tuscaloosa. I knew that this was something beyond what I could ever imagine. We lost power and in the basement, I attempted to entertain 3 energetic boys with a game of Yahtzee. Stephen monitored the weather more closely than I have ever seen him. He is not one to panic and usually pays no attention to the weather. This is proven by the numerous times he has traveled during the day from one store to another oblivious to the tornado warnings that project major storms along his expected route. Knowing he was on the watch, I drifted off to sleep, thinking about how grateful I was for our basement and the safety it provided for my 3 precious little ones.
Then, I awoke on Thursday morning. As I began to attempt to grasp what had happened, I chose to listen to a press conference including our governor. Might I say, he did a magnificent job handling some of the most insensitive questions posed by some of the press. After a lengthy explanation by some official, I'm guessing they must be affiliated with EMA, all who were listening SHOULD have been aware of the devestation that is covering our state. The particular official did a magnificent job, with great care and sensitivity to let people know what had happened over the previous 24 hours. Then the time came for questions via phone from members of the press. My blood pressure probably increased to stroke level upon hearing these questions. One individual was from the Washington Post, and I hope I never meet him. He implied that maybe the loss of life was due to the ignorance of citizens or the inadequacy of the officials, meterologists, telvision stations, etc. Sir, might I say...just as you would not blame a hurricane on citizens along a coastal region, just as you would not blame an earthquake on the residents along a major fault line, you must be careful here. The loss of life and property is not for lack of intelligence or preparedness. I think James Spann said it well yesterday as he watched the tornado approach Tuscaloosa. He commented that all you can do is "pray for those people." One of the best and most intelligent men in weather forecasting admitted that there was nothing that could be done. Yes, you can go to your safe place. Yes, you can practice all you know about severe weather preparedness. However, when it comes to something of this magnitude, there is not a whole lot humans can do. If I could speak with this individual I would like for him to experience a little of our Southern culture. In some regions of the world, children by the age of 5 can explain to you what would need to be done in the event of an earthquake. In the deep south, our children by the age of 5 can probably tell you exactly how to prepare in the event of a severe storm or tornado threat. My friends from outside the southeast, it is not that we did not know nor did we ignore the warnings. Ignorance is not the reason for this. This was a natural disaster. Only the Creator of this universe could have stopped this. Please have a little more sensitivity. People are frantically searching for loved ones. Some are sifting through the splintered remains to salvage what little they can. You see, Mr. Reporter, as you sleep comfortably in your bed tonight, I sleep comfortably at my dad's house. You see I have no water right now. However, there are others who are experiencing grief and devestation unlike your or I have never experienced. So, to answer your question. No. We didn't ignore things, we were not unprepared, we are not dumb and stupid as you might like to think. We ARE heartbroken, devestated, but Alabamians will rally together to help our neighbors in need.
Now, I have that out of the way. Questions are swirling around in my head. There are so many thoughts jumping around that I feel as if my brain will just explode at any time.
Why me? Why is my family safe? Why did I not suffer material loss? The only answer I can find is that God did not see fit for my family to walk through that trial at this time. I do know that my heart is breaking for those, most of whom I've never met, that have suffered great tragedy and heartache in the past 48 hours. I pray that God will pour out His mercy and send His people - including me- to where they are needed.
Entire cities have been leveled. Watching footage of the destruction amazes me. The news crew just equated what happened yesterday to having 2 hurricanes ravage our state in a short amount of time. Don't know about you, but that just makes my bones shiver just a bit. I saw several posts on facebook that encouraged people to just be safe and not worry. Yes, God does tell us not to fear, but I couldn't help but feel a knot in the pit of my stomach as I watched the tornado move through Tuscaloosa and on toward Birmingham. It just grieved my heart to know that some people were in that path, in the safest place they could find, but it would still not be enough. When dealing with an F-5 tornado, 1 mile wide tracking 200+ miles....there's not much we as humans can do. Yes, I tried not to worry, but I think God does burden our hearts for certain things. I think some people might have hit a panic state that was not healthy, but I do believe that many were burdened for those that would be left to pick up pieces and travel along a road that could be rough and lonely to reach emotional healing after this.
What can I take from this?
I teach Science and that makes me take a special interest in natural disasters. Over the past 10 years, I pay extra attention to disasters around the world. From flooding in Nashville, to earthquakes in Haiti, I never fail to get totally and completely wrapped up in these situations. God has a reason for everything. I don't know His reason for the Haiti earthquake, the flooding in Nashville, Hurricane Katrina, or the tornadic activity in Alabama. I do know this...He was God before all of these things and He is still on His throne throughout these events.
I've heard people say that maybe Haitians deserved the earthquake. The argument behind that for some people is due to the amount of witchcraft and other practices directly opposed to God's word. I'm not quite sure if this is the truth. I may never know. I do know one thing. God does love the people of Haiti. He has a plan and has never lost control of this situation.
After Hurricane Katrina, many people were blamed for the disastrous results and the loss of life. Again, I don't know God's purpose with this. Tragic, heartbreaking, devestating. Yet, He was in control the entire time and still is in control.
April 27, birthday. Yet, I won't remember it as a birthday. I will remember it as a time that our state was hit with one of the worst tornado outbreaks in history. What is the reason? Yet, one more time I'm without an answer. Who is in control? I have an answer for that. God. The same God who was in control the day before, on April 26th, is still in control on April 28th as citizens sift through to salvage belongings and begin healing. We will not always know God's purpose, but we can always know that He will restore His people. I can't help but think that His heart must ache for the church to rise and show His love. I have seen that today. People searching for places to help. Strangers arriving in communities just because they want to donate their time or resources.
I was listening to Travis Cottrell singing "My Inheritance" this evening.
I will shout, I will sing, Jesus You're my everything.
I am rich, I am blessed...
In Psalm, the Father tells us, "be still and know that I am God."  Still is not easy for me. I'm waiting. I know He has something for me to do over the next few days. I know that if I jump ahead of Him, I'll mess it up. If I wait for His leadership, I will be allowed to bless someone else. I'll be able to show His love.
I am rich, I am blessed....not because I retained my material posessions, but because I am a daughter of the King. Not force of nature can ever take that from me.
The most encouraging thing I heard today occurred while I was listening to our local radio station that is an affiliate of Moody broadcasting 90.7, WGRW Grace radio. At 7:30, I heard Jon Holder express his thoughts on the events and hear his heart that seemed to pour out a message of grace and hope straight from the Father. Then, later in the afternoon, I had the opportunity to listen to an individual from Moody broadcasting outside of the south. He was speaking with a gentleman from Alabama affiliated with MBN stations here in our state. The concern from the Christian community was so sincere. You could hear the sincerity in their voice. Repeatedly asking, "How can we pray specifically for those involved in this tragedy?" Begging to know how they could help. I couldn't help but reflect back on the individual from the Washington Post. The secular media compared to this precious man of God. Insults and attempts to blame individuals from one media source. Prayer, concern, and compassion from another media source. Once again, I am thanking God for His children who are in tune with His heart as they minister to others. May I remember this attitude and where my heart needs to be.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

And here we are

So. Here we are. Less than 48 hours until surgery. I'm sitting at the hospital with one of my precious boys and my precious husband. IV hooked up to a 4 year old is not the idea I had for this week. This is just one of those times that I'm learning my ways are not His ways and His ways are MUCH, MUCH higher than my ways. It's a good thing I wasn't in charge of creating the universe. I'm a bundle of nerves just trying to take care of my kiddos and undergo surgery. Imagine what a mess I would have made if He had put me in charge of everything.
For those of you who are wondering what is going on inside my head, well here it is.
Here I am. Weary, weak, worn and a bundle of nerves. It seems that if the devil can attack me, he has tried every way possible. I feel as if the very life is draining out of me. Exhaustion has not only taken over my physical being, but my emotional and mental state as well. Guilt weighs on my heart with every decision I make. If I stay with my sick little one, I feel as though I'm ignoring my other boys. If I go home with my other boys, then I'm whimping out on being a mom and enduring the sleepless nights beside the hospital bed. Not everything is in order for my boys to be in someone else's care. I don't have clothes packed for them. I've not bought groceries and snacks. My first-born that aims to please everyone has no lunchables for next week. Ugghh!
My insides feel as if they are shaking and my nerves are raw. Each tick of the clock seems to last an eternity. This experience is never going to end.
Oh, wait. A glimmer of hope....Blue eyes now seem to have a faint trace of the sparkle that faded 72 hours ago. That sweet voice seems to have a little more strength. There is hope. This just might get better. But, then again, reality. Harsh corridors, an IV pump that seems to scream when each 3 hour session nears an end. My heart races, nerves are rattled, panic has pierced my heart like a two-edged sword. Fear and anxiety rip through my soul.
Well, there it is. I'm wavering. I stepped out of the boat with a huge faith. The storms and wind around me seemed frail in comparison to the Savior in front of me. Walking on the water...then, WHAM! Waves with remarkable force slam into me. Winds howl, mocking me. Mocking my faith. The sinking begins. I can't regain focus. Life as I know it has caved in around me. Soon, I'll be buried beneath the sea. Another victim whose faith couldn't weather the storm.
That's where I am tonight. However, I only have one viable option. Falling on my face, before the THRONE OF GRACE. Only my Father can carry me through. Only He can save my soul from giving territory away to the adversary.
Psalm 27
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear
The LORD is my strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid.
2. When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
The stumbled and fell.
3 Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war mayrise against me
In this I will be confident.
4 One thing I have desired of the LORD;
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of mylife,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.
5 For in the time of trouble
He shall hid me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

I still am having one of those moments. I actually think that the "moment" has been lasting for three days and could potentially go on for two more very long days.
I claim this scripture. I trust that He will hide me in my time of trouble.
Fear is bondage. Fear is torment. Fear is from the adversary.
None of these are from the Father. He is joy, hope, peace, faith. He is calm in the storm. He is faithful.

Verse 9 of this Psalm my prayer. I hold fast to this.
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been m help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me;
O God of my salvation.

Yes!! O God of MY salvation. Do not leave me. Do not forsake me. Do not hide Your face from me. My strength. My Redeemer. Hold me in the palm of Your righteous hand. I cry out to you O God! I need Your peace, Your strength, Your grace to flood over my soul.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I always get excited when my pastor preaches from the book of Psalms. Actually, I just get excited anytime he preaches not matter what it's on. Sunday, he preached about traveling through valleys. Psalm 84 was the text. In a conversation with him earlier during the week, he had mentioned this passage. I spent a good time thinking about it and how I should use it. So, Sunday, I was beside myself during his message.
Usually, one does not experience a sense of excitement when a pastor is talking about the valleys in life. However, I knew this was just what I needed. After all, I guess you could say that I'm in a valley right now. Cancer is not the most enjoyable of experiences, so in my book that constitutes it as qualifying for "valley" status. There's not a place on facebook for you to note your status as "on a mountaintop" or "deep in the valley"...because if there was, I think many of you would check the valley box just like me.
When someone asks me what my job is, providing an answer is not a problem at all. Wife, mom, maid, cook, chauffer, teacher, etc. I'm adding one thing to my list of professions....a well digger. You get that?? I've never physically dug a well, but I've been busy the past week trying to dig one in the sense that the author spoke of in Psalm 84.
Throughout this journey so far, I've been looking, listening, and praying to find out how God can use this. What can I leave behind that will help or encourage someone when they walk through this same valley? In Psalm 84, the author digs a well and God fills it with water. Now, won't that be nice for the person that follows behind him? That individual in a dark valley, maybe their soul is filled with grief, sorrow, or despair, stumbles upon this well filled with the refreshing blessings from our sovereign God. Not bitterness. Not anger. Not a cold heart. Just the opposite, a well of water that holds healing for the soul, peace for the heart, and strength for the weary body. So, I continue to dig my well, knowing that God will fill it with something refreshing for others. I'm trusting His hand will guide me down the path that is in His will. Praying that He will bless me with an opportunity to help others facing difficulty. So, the days might be long, maybe even dark. Occasionally, even in the valley, the sun does break through the clouds. No matter how long and dark, I'll keep digging. Digging that well, until God tells me it's time to move on. Maybe He'll take me to another place that's good for well digging. Maybe it will be a mountaintop. Only He knows. I do know that He will take me through this valley...this trouble will pass. I don't know what you are facing. It may be a spiritual battle that feels as it is ripping your heart into pieces. Yours may be a financial hardship, grief, sorrow, despair, the list could go on forever. I do know that our Savior is there with you. He has grace and comfort that no other can provide. He comforts us so that we may help comfort others. He leads us through the valley, we dig a well that helps nourish some dry, thristy soul in the dark night of their trial. He chooses to work through us. He could do it all by Himself, but what a blessing we would miss.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort;
who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so alos our comfort is abundant through Christ.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Letting go

Letting go. Sometimes, this is an enormous task. Sometimes, letting go is painful. As I think of the things I've had to "let go" during life, I relive some sorrow, grief, pain, and regret. Often, our lives take a turn down a path, and we must let go of relationships, jobs, or even a social status. Sometimes, we have to let go of people we love due to various circumstances. Other times, we let go of certain habits or lifestyles that are not in our best interest. When I look at myself, the hardest thing to release in any circumstance is control. When I was diagnosed just 2 months ago, I immediately proclaimed that my God is great, mighty, and faithful. I began the battle with cancer. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. Three weeks into treatment, I met with my oncologists. He told me that we were "cruising right along." Bouncing out of the cancer center, I repeated those words - why they had a musical ring to them. "Cruising right along..." Sounds good doesn't it. We were right on track. Less than 12 hours later, things came to a screeching halt. I had a rough night, resulting in a late night call to Doc. The next day, treatments were postponed and I spent the week receiving fluids all day, each day in his office. I was pretty dehydrated and my blood pressure decided to hang out between 70/30 and 60/30. Doc didn't like this and was determined to get it higher. Low blood pressure is not unusual for me, but oncologists aren't very accepting of these numbers when it comes to sending their patients home. After this week, I figured that SURELY I would resume treatments the next. Not so fast. Friday night found us at the ER with a fever and infection. Sunday brought complete chaos. Stephen was sick. Two of the boys had the flu, one was recovering from croup/bronchitis/asthma stuff. I again had complications and was sent to the ER. This time, I was offered a 3 day, 2 night stay on the 7th floor of Gadsden Regional Medical Center. Yippee. Christmas was coming. My entire family was sick. My treatments were off schedule. I am in the hospital. What had happened? I was doing so well. I was fighting the cancer, and when I got tired  -- I let God take over. Yes, I was trying to fight, then letting God handle it when I got tired. He was my backup. That my friends is a problem. God doesn't play backup. He doesn't sit the bench until I'm played out. HE is the one who was capable of fighting this battle. I could do nothing. The two week hiatus provided me with lots of thinking time. God revealed to me that I had not let go of the control in this battle. I was still trying to play Commander in Chief of the cancer battle. He quietly reminded me of Gideon, Joseph, Esther, Jacob, Mary, and countless others from His Word. So many times He had proven Himself capable of fighting the battle. In the hospital bed, by myself, I handed over the control. I truly began to fall at His feet in complete surrender. Since then, He has not been my backup. He's the one and only. I'm His servant, doing what He calls me to do on a daily basis. It was then that I also began to honestly live on a day to day basis. Remembering that I cannot borrow from yesterday, it has already passed. Tomorrow is not promised to me. I only have today.
Things changed. I can't explain it all, I just haven't found the words. I knew He was capable all the time, I just had not let go of the control. Turns out, He was in control all of the time. My stubborn spirit had to learn not to attempt overthrowing Him. He is the Great Physician. Why in the world would I not let him have complete control from the beginning? Why would I try to handle more than one day at a time? Even He took creation one day at a time.
Each day, He has provided me with a new, refreshing peace that washes over my soul. Difficult moments have come, but none can take His peace away.
Each day, He has been in control of my treatments. Chemo and radiation are no good to me if He does not guide each drop of chemo and each radiation beam.
Each day, He has poured mercy and grace to cover my every need.
Each day, He has placed many of His faithful children in my path with encouraging words, meals, gifts of love that bless my heart.
Each day, He has held me in the palm of His hand.
Each day, the adversary has attempted to steal these things. For he always attempts steal and destroy what our Father is doing. With my Savior's help, I will strive to fight back against satan and his attacks. For, our God is faithful. He is victorious. He is the king of Kings. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess His name.
I have found myself complaining from time to time. Fact: I don't like pain, discomfort, or inconvenience. Well, this entire experience has been painful, full of discomfort, and just downright inconvenient. As I was listening to something - I can't remember what - Philippians 2:14-16 became a topic of discussion. It really hit home, reminding me that no matter what, my attitude should be full of praise and thankfulness toward God.

Philippians 2
v 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
v 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
v 15 that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,
v 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

I don't know about you, but it humbles me to know that God choose to work in me. Pain, discomfort, inconvenience -- I guess it's worth it if God can use me. What an honor to be part of His plan.