Thursday, November 17, 2016

1,283 Reasons to Believe



Overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed by a God who sees me, who heals me, who loves me. I am overwhelmed by family and friends who have spent four years praying for me, supporting me,  and at times carrying me. I am overwhelmed by doctors, nurses, technology, and medicine that God has used to diagnose me, treat me, heal me. I am overwhelmed by grace, mercy, and provision.

On the darkest days God has been good. His goodness on dark days is as bright as his goodness on days like today when I receive news that my scans are clear. I have learned more about God's goodness in the dark than I did in years of walking in the light. I have one thousand, two hundred and eighty-three reasons to believe! It has been that many days since I was declared NED-- No Evidence of Disease. Each new day is one more reminder of why I can believe in healing, why I can believe in second chances, why I can believe in a God who has a plan for my good.

Today is a joyful day. Not because I got a good medical report but because regardless of any report God is in control. Today is joyful not because of good news but because God uses ALL things for my good!  It is amazingly freeing to know that I can rely on that. This journey has taught me the difference between happiness and joy. I am happy I got good news today, but the real blessing is the joy I have even when bad news comes. I wouldn't trade that for anything. 

I have...
1,283 reasons to believe in hope,
1,283 reasons to believe in healing,
1,283 reasons to believe in God's power,
1,283 reasons to believe in the goodness of people,
1,283 reasons to believe in miracles,
1,283 reasons to believe in mercy,
1,283 reasons to believe in joy,
1,283 reasons to believe in kindness,
1,283 reasons to believe in tomorrow,
1,283 reasons to believe in love,
1,283 reasons to believe there is a God.

Tomorrow I will have 1,284...and then some!

Thank you, Father!




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wave on Wave


You know the last few years have been full of lessons for me. In January it will be 4 years that I have been making the journey to MD Anderson to deal with "The Nuisance". Parts of the process have become routine. In the beginning I could not have even imagined all the things that would one day become normal to me. The place, the procedures, the people, even the occasional pains are part of my tapestry. When we made our first trip in January 2013, we did many of the same things we are doing this week. Bloodwork,  CT scans, waiting, praying, waiting some more. As we wasted time on that first trip,  we slipped over to Galveston, a trip we have made many times since. My memories of that trip are crystal clear. You can read about them here. http://itzadoozie.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-day-at-beach.html?m=1. Today we returned once again. Something about being out of the city, out of the hospital, out of the hotel, helps me clear my head and find my hope. Today was no different. Each  wave reminds me of God's power and provision. The God who tells the waters where to stop is certainly big enough to handle me! Here is a little video of our day. I love the verse that he gave me as I stood by the water. I am in awe of him.






My mom always prays for my "appointments between the appointments"--chances to have divine opportunities to be ministered to or to minister to another. You can't come to Houston without being totally humbled. There are so many people in the hardest of situations yet the place truly is filled with a peace that passes understanding. God allows our lives and lessons to intermingle in the most amazing way. Today was no exception. As Rodney and I walked down the hall following my CT scans we passed a family headed in the other direction. As we passed by I heard someone say, "That was Anna Jackson." I turned to look to see who had spoken my name, but did not recognize them. As we approached one another she said, "You don't know me, I am here with my daughter for her treatments." I discovered we have a friend in common and connections through Lubbock . I am not sure how she recognized me, but I am so glad she did! To walk down the hall and hear my name was a reminder that God knew exactly where I was. He planted seeds long ago for us to be in that hall at that moment. They needed my prayers and I needed theirs. I think we each were reminded that we are not alone. God is good! Tonight I pray for Jordan and her family. Will you do the same?

Tomorrow I start getting test results. I have some bloodwork that we are having to investigate a little further. For all the things that have become routine there are always the unknowns. Life is just like that, but here is a known. The God that has provided for me all this time won't stop tomorrow. He knows where I am. He knows what I need.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers. Don't forget to add Jordan to your list. And don't forget that God sees you, too. You are loved!!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Matter of Perspective




I love taking the back roads to work in the morning. Having a chance to see wide-open spaces is good for my soul.  It seems that as my mind wanders on these treks that somehow my thoughts become organized into nice little lessons on life. Today was one of those mornings. I traveled in silence. No radio. No distractions. My thoughts drifted from prayers, to lists, to my calendar. It visited a hurting country,  a worried world and thoughts about my trip to MD Anderson next week. I glanced to the right. Outside my passenger window was a heavy, grey, dreary sky. I looked to the left. I drew a quick breath at the site of a beautiful sunrise. Warm colors burst across the horizon. I quickly grabbed my phone to snap the pictures above. The photos were taken within a second of one another, but one would never know for the contrast is amazing.

Life is like that. It is all a matter of perspective.  I snapped these two pictures from the same seat of the same car on the same road on the same day in the same circumstances, but my preview of the day looked very different depending on my choice of focus. Our perspective matters. We have the opportunity each and every day, hour, minute, second to CHOOSE how we view the world. We can focus on the clouds, on the haze, on the darkness. We can allow that to be our reality. We can live a dreary little life. Or maybe we look the other way. Maybe we seek the light, the brilliance, the warmth. Maybe we CHOOSE to see the good. Both exist, we choose which one we embrace.

I can't imagine a lesson being more timely. We are in a strange place politically, socially and spiritually right now. We don't agree. We are having a hard time understanding one another. What doesn't make sense is being labeled with dark words. Our national mood is heavy. Our future appears dreary. We have to make a decision. How will we view one another? How we will view our nation? How will we view our future? Will we continue to see the darkness or will we shift our focus and look for the light in one another? Will we choose to see our variations as parts of a beautiful future on the horizon? Will we see our shades of differences with hope and appreciation?

In my personal life I am headed back for some appointments that can be a little (a lot) unnerving. I can focus on dread, on fear, on worry, but why, oh why, would I want that? Why would I choose to see that when I can see promise, grace, hope and mercy?

Perspective becomes reality my sweet friends. Our journey through this life is a matter of perspective and our perspective matters! You must choose. I must choose. Do we look to the east or look to the west? Do we seek the grey or turn our face to the warmth of a new day? I won't live in the darkness. I don't have to. I won't wallow in worry and fear and hate. You and I can disagree and still have peace among us. As I travel down this road of life I have made my choice. I choose beauty. I choose warmth. I choose a new day. How about you? Do you need sunglasses or an umbrella for your journey?




But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Three Little Steps

The season is here! No, not the season of pumpkins, fallen leaves, and football. It is the season of debates, campaigns, and political party lines. More than any election in my lifetime there is a great, often uncivil, division regarding presidential candidates. Even many of those who know who they will vote for agree that the candidates do not possess the values and qualities that align with their own. I have certainly struggled in making my selections. As I pondered my options this week, and even IF I would vote, three little words came to my mind. With a little study I came to realize that I have some pretty specific directions to guide my decisions, just three little steps. Maybe this advice will help you in your election decisions as well!



PRAY for wisdom to select the right candidate: James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  I have no idea what the future holds for our country, but I have a father who does. It only makes sense to seek his wisdom and follow where he leads me. I am not voting for a single person. I am voting for the decisions that single person will make in the future. I can't even see what all those decisions are, but God can. My duty is to pray and obey. He can take it from there.

VOTE: Deuteronomy 1:13 "Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.” (Okay, I may be feeling the wise and respected is a stretch this year but that is where Pray and Know come in.) Remember above when I said I was wondering IF I would vote. In this election more than any I have known, many people have struggled with voting because they feel as though neither candidate has the qualities, ethics, values, and behaviors that they believe our leader should possess. I agree. As I studied I found multiple times in the bible where God commands his people to choose leaders. And you know what? ALL of those leaders were very fallible people. They made mistakes. They were flawed, but God can used flawed people to accomplish his will. We are in a place where we have to choose as well. IF we pray for wisdom and IF we truly believe the next step, God can handle the rest.

KNOW that God is in control: Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And Jeremiah 29:11-12 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. " God has a plan. He has a purpose. My life is living proof that God can use BAD circumstances to bring AMAZING gifts to us when we are obedient to his commands.  God has done great things through some MESSED UP PEOPLE in the past. Paul was a murderer. Peter could have a quick temper. Moses had a speech problem. Abraham sometimes took matters into his own hands. David had a little issue with lust. God did some mighty things through them. Guess he can use Trump or Hillary.

God, please bless America.❤️

I voted! Have you?


Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Problem and Solution

My heart continues to ache over the recent events of our nation. My mind continues to seek understanding. As I have listened to the news, read my social feeds, and talked with others, I see a common theme. We are all looking for answers, explanations, justification. Some say it is a brutality issue, some say it is crime. Some say it is racial, some say it is general hate. Some blame our president, some blame the NRA. Some blame the media, some blame the police. As I reflected on each of these explanations this morning my mind began to see a pattern. The cards started to fall into place. I ran to my computer to try to catch the glimmer before it slipped away. 



We are caught in a cycle. As a nation we have experienced success. With that success came an independence. We began to think that WE were the reason for our success and became less dependent on God to meet our needs. As we made that shift our values shifted as well. As a result of our "self-sufficiency", we stopped seeking God and teaching the values that truly led to our success. Respect for others and for authority became a thing of the past. People who do not respect one another become very selfish. You have something I want? I'll just take it. I don't like what you said? I'll harm you. You look/love different than me? I will hate you. Selfishness and crime enter the picture. When one puts their own desires above the needs and desires of others, fear and hate are reintroduced into the picture, but I think at this point the order changes. Disrespect led to hate and fear, but I believe selfishness and crime lead to fear and hate. Fear is a powerful emotion. It makes us react in extreme manners for self-preservation. Our brains are actually wired that way. When safety is threatened the blood flow of our brain changes and we begin to think from the very primal parts of our brain - fight, flight or freeze. Our responses are not what they would normally be. Fear is powerful. That fear in the good, and hate in the bad, leads police and others in authority to react with forceful corrective actions. Without the crime there would be no need to react at all, but the crime warrants a response. The perfect storm of disrespect, crime, fear, hate, and a required response lead to actions that at times (and this is actually more rare than our media would have us believe although still an issue to address) are extreme. This forceful corrective response leads back to fear and hate and in turn retaliation. The more this cycle repeats, the further we move from God; the further we spiral into the problem.

But there is a solution.


If as a people group, not people groups-- not black, white, brown, heterosexual, homosexual, but as Americans we begin to move back toward God and the values associated with good then we will see a change in the way we raise our children. We will return to teaching that ALL people deserve respect and that it is essential to our survival. When people respect one another the level of love and understanding increases exponentially; our communities become supportive and caring. Crime is not necessary because we HELP one another meet our needs. The help we give one another breeds more love and understanding and requires LESS corrective action. Less corrective action means MORE love and understanding. Each repetition of this cycle brings us one step closer to the foundation upon which we were built. One nation. Under God.

We have got to decide if we are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Which cycle will we follow and promote? We cannot continue to meet our personal needs with no regard for how it impacts those around us. It is true that we need leaders who will guide our nation in this direction, but it is even more true that our leaders do not matter if we ourselves will not take responsibility for bringing about change. 

Where do you stand? Are you the problem, or the solution?

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Hate is Just Too Heavy




My hands flew to cover my mouth and I held my breath in shock. I felt immobilized as I watched the video and listened to the sound of gunshots echoing off the buildings in downtown Dallas, Texas. How? Why? What next?  My mind was flooded with unanswered questions. Questions that I have asked over and over as of late. 

I am weary of watching people die. I am tired of reading hate on social media. I am heartbroken by the lack of compassion in our country. I am saddened that to disagree with someone has somehow become equivalent to hate.  The hate is just too heavy. While we were busy watching and fearing the terrorists from a land far away the true enemy crept in among us. This enemy whispers to us that we should fear what we don't understand, we should hate what is not like us, we should repay evil for evil. We have blamed the politicians, we have blamed the media, we have blamed each other.  We seek to point fingers at one another for surely we ourselves are not to blame for the state of our nation. We aren't just watching people physically die on the television screen, we are watching them die all around us. The deaths may not all be physical, but they are real all the same. We are witnessing the spiritual death of our nation, the emotional death of our families and friends, the profound loss of that which made us great. 

There is a very simple answer to why we are in this state. Mark 12:30-31 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." We have forgotten our most important tasks. Love God. Love each other. That's it. That is all it takes. Were each of us to put down our pointing fingers, shift our focus from hate to love, we would see a DRASTIC change in our land. It isn't magic. It wouldn't make things perfect. We would still see the world through different eyes, but if we loved God and loved each other we would seek resolution not retaliation, understanding not condemnation, peace not war, joy and not sorrow. We would look for chances to help one another along and we would discover help for ourselves along the way. We would find that we can persevere through a great deal when we can depend on one another. We would not have to fear threats and attacks from afar because we would be a strong and mighty army. One nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE...

This is truth: we can not, we will not, survive if something does not change and that thing is US. I am calling on each of us to love. I am begging you to refrain from hate. I am not asking you to be blind--ignoring our problems is not the solution, but I am asking you to love each other as you seek resolution to the trials we face. 

Christians, RISE UP!! We are failing. We are losing. God is not failing us, we are failing him. We have go to step up and LOVE HIM AND LOVE OTHERS.

Non-Christians-- know there is hope and a God who loves you. I am SOOO sorry if sometimes the behavior of his children keeps you from seeing that he is a good father who loves you very much. We have done a terrible job of caring for you and sharing with you his love. I am so very sorry.

We have no time to waste. We can make a difference. We have very clear marching orders. 
Love, not hate
Hope, not fear
Resolution, not retaliation
It begins with me.
It begins with you.


Monday, July 4, 2016

The Destination



This week my son Spencer and five others join students from around Texas to travel to Munich with iGOglobal. He has been heavy on my heart and in my prayers to say the least. I was creating a collage of the kids as a reminder to pray for them. The quote on the collage has been turning over in my head all morning. "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." I have been praying for a year about his trip to a destination, but what I really pray for is a new way of seeing things. I pray he comes back with an entirely new view of his role in the world around him. I have also been thinking about our country though--it is the 4th of July after all. My prayer for Spencer is also my prayer for our country-- that we would have a new way of seeing things.

If you believe everything you read on social media and in the news then you would assume that we live in a country where political party lines, hate, and terror rule. While all of these things exist, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that daily--no, EVERY MOMENT, beautiful people do beautiful things in a beautiful land. Compared to the rest of the world the very least of us live better than the majority of the world around us. We experience freedoms that most of the world will never know. As a woman I rarely experience fear to walk down the street. I have the freedom to worship my God openly and publicly. I have the freedom to disagree with you respectfully. I can dream and live those dreams out loud. I have access to medical care, food, shelter and clothing. I travel freely state to state and enjoy the beauty of a blessed nation. Our problem is not the challenging issues we face as a country, our problem is that we have lost sight of the blessings we possess. Blessings that were purchased at a high price. Blessings that we have begun to take for granted. Until we develop a new way of seeing things then perhaps our destination truly is what our newsfeed suggests.

On this 4th of July I pray for my son as he travels to a new place. I pray that his experiences there will create a burden in his heart for the people of our world and that he will have a new recognition of the blessings of his home. I also pray for our country. I pray that on this Independence Day we will begin to have a new way of seeing things. I pray that we will post more things about the blessings of our country; that the ever growing chasm created by beliefs and differences of opinion will begin to be filled with the recognition of just how fortunate we are and how much we have in common. I pray that we would return to the beliefs that united us rather than looking for issues to argue over. I pray for us all to have a new way of seeing things.

Happy 4th of July! And be safe my sweet Spencer! Travel the world and remember your destination is not a place, but a new way of seeing things!



Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Safety of the Nest




This weekend I went out on my front porch to take down the wreath that has hung on my door throughout the fall and winter. As I reached to remove it from its resting place, I noticed something that seemed a little out of place. 





 Tucked neatly in the folds of the wreath, a bird had built a cozy little home. I was delighted to see the carefully placed grass, feathers, and twigs of a tiny little nest. I quickly grabbed a stool for a closer inspection. As I did I was tickled to discover yet another surprise. Nestled inside were two perfectly formed speckled eggs. 





A little bird picked the wreath as the perfect location to start a new family. (I suppose the decoration will stay for another season!) I was excited to think of the prospects of watching these tiny eggs become clumsy little birds. I can't wait to see them hatch and watch those big mouths open to receive food from their mama. I can't wait to watch as they stretch their wings and learn to fly.

This morning I went to peek in on my little family. Another surprise! Little mama has been busily adding to her brood! The two little eggs have been joined by another. 



I cannot wait to watch this little family grow! I snapped more pictures and smiled at my luck! Moments later I sat down to look at the images on my phone and realized I had a notification from my Timehop app (This fun little app brings up pictures and posts that you have shared on this day over the past years.) I was momentarily distracted and opened the app to see what images from my past might pop up today. Six years ago on this very day I posted this quote, "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad." ~C.S. Lewis

I am always amazed at God's planning. I think he must be trying to get my attention!

I began thinking about that quote and the little eggs on my  porch. They are sweet little eggs. They seem perfect in every way, but God's plan is not that they stay little eggs. The babies inside will have their days of sitting peacefully in the nest protected from the world by a thin protective shell, but then the moment will come when they either break out and begin the next adventure or they stay inside and go bad. They were never intended to only be eggs. They were meant for so much more.

The same is true for us. Sometimes we want just the comfort of the nest. We don't want to get outside of our protective shell and be exposed to the threats of the world. Becoming a "bird" seems like really hard work and we'd rather just stay safe, but we can't learn to fly until we take a risk. We weren't meant to stay in the safety of our shell. We were meant to learn to fly, but worries and anxieties keep us from taking that next step. What if I fail? What if I get hurt? What if I look foolish? What if it isn't safe? God knew we would have those questions. Here is what he says, "Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?" Matthew 6:26

You and I can't be all we were intended to be in the nest. It may not seem safe to get out of  our shells. We may have fears and worries, but God is very clear. The one who provides for the birds will also provide for us.

"So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31

I don't know what lies ahead, but I am going to be watching! I don't want to be just an ordinary, decent egg. I want to fly! Come with me!!


P.S.
I can't let it go without saying that six years ago God planted this quote in my mind. Weeks ago he had that little mama bird start building a nest. A few days ago that little mama started laying eggs. Today a silly little app brought the quote full circle at just the right moment. All these things were perfectly aligned to teach me a lesson today. God is all around carefully orchestrating ways to communicate with us. All we have to do is see. Some say seeing is believing. I think what my sister posted yesterday on facebook is the real truth ---believing is seeing!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Snapshots



Don't get caught up in the early 90's hair-do, but this picture has such a great life lesson in it. 

What do you see when you look at this image? You probably notice the tears. You can't hear the sobs, but I promise you they were there. This photo was taken in a moment that knocked the breath out of me. I was overcome with emotion in a way I had never experienced before. My family stood nearby. They, too were caught off-guard by the unexpected emotional wave as it swept through the room.  While this snapshot reveals a highly emotional moment, it is not the complete picture. You see the camera is limited in that it can only capture what it is focused on. It is unable to display all of the other details that may be going on just outside the screenshot. Should the camera be pointed in a different direction or panned out a little, suddenly things become much clearer; there is more context to interpret. This image might lead one to believe that this moment in my life was destructive and a time I would not wish to relive. But let me show you more.







This day was the birthday of my first nephew and boy did he take my breath away! Though there were tears, they were tears that brought great joy!

In church a few weeks ago we were discussing how life is a series of snapshots and how sometimes our view is limited to only those things we are focused on. I couldn't help but think of this photograph and how it was such a great visual for that lesson. You see sometimes in life there are tearful moments. There are things we do not understand; pain that it seems cannot possibly be used for good. It is so easy to get caught up in just the details we can see, but God sees a much broader picture than the snapshot we hold. While our lens tends to zoom in on the close-up and personal tears, God's lens pans out and sees how those tears are part of a much larger picture. We tend to be focused on the immediate, God sees the eternal. We see the heartache, God sees new life.

You may be in a season of tears. Maybe your breath has been taken away. Be reminded that this is just part of your picture. It is a snapshot that is part of a much larger image, a still-shot taken out of context. Sometimes the tears are a part of new life! This is not the end of your story, it is a beginning!
Say cheese!


 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Beautifully Broken



Recently a friend of mine posted a picture that has just fascinated me. It was a photo of Japanese pottery in a style called Kintsugi. Legend has it that in the 15th century a Japanese shogun broke his favorite bowl. Instead of discarding it, he had the bowl repaired. A Japanese craftsman created a solution of gold and filled in the cracks, transforming the brokenness into something beautiful. Rather than hiding the damage and trying to make it appear as if it had never happened, the craftsman masterfully transformed the broken vessel into a work of art. Transformed through suffering.



I LOVE the imagery of that story for I too am a broken vessel. So are you. My cracks have been caused by many things. The Nuisance (aka cancer) left me feeling quite broken at times. Even now when I am blessed by good health, the scars and shadows wake me up to remind me how easily life can be shattered. Not a day goes by that I am not confronted by that brokenness.

Some of my cracks are self-inflicted. They are a result of foolish choices and a strong streak of stubbornness. Silly girl. I have made some really stupid mistakes in my life. I am definitely a broken vessel, but like kintsugi pottery, a wonderful craftsman has filled the scars of my life with gold. Each mark on my body and on my soul is constantly being mended with the gold of healing, forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Some would have chosen to throw me away, but God sees an opportunity to turn my brokenness into a masterpiece.

 I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 4:7-9 which says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." That sounds very kintsugi to me. Life may leave us feeling very broken; we are, after all, merely jars of clay. While we may feel pressure, confusion, despair, and brokenness, God will not allow us to be tossed out as worthless and beyond repair. No, he lovingly picks up our shattered lives and fills each blemish with the gold of restoration. There is a trick though. We have to let go and let him.Have you ever tried to fix a broken base or figurine? I have, and boy did I make a mess of it. The smeared glue was uglier than the crack itself. I think I have done that in my life as well. I try to mend things on my own, but I just make things worse. In order for the Japanese potter to repair the Shogun's bowl, the Shogun had to let go. In order for God to repair our damaged lives we must do the same.

You are broken, too, aren't you? Your brokenness may be different. Perhaps your brokenness is a relationship, depression, a great loss, or a huge regret.  The truth is at the end of the day we are all a little bit cracked! I want to encourage you to change your view on your life. God wants to turn your brokenness into beauty. He wants to turn your scars and regrets into evidence of his power to transform. He wants to transform your suffering into a work of art.

I don't know about you, but if I have to be broken, I wish to be beautifully broken.