Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Forest in a Wasteland

Lately I have looked at the world around me and been overwhelmed by the erosion of the society around me. Hate, fear, anger, frustration, sadness, negativity and evil seem to whittle away at our country and world. Today I saw a video that touched my heart and spoke to my soul. The video is of a man named Jadev Payeng. He is from an island in India called Manjuli. This island has been impacted by flooding that has eroded much of the area and left a vast emptiness in its path. Man has cut down trees and brought destruction causing the erosion to be even worse. Man seems to have a way of doing that. Jadev Payeng saw the destruction and determined to make a difference. In 1979 he began to plant one tree a day in the middle of this desert like environment. Day after day, tree after tree, Jadev has grown a forest that is now larger than central park. Jadev's story reminds me of many lessons.

Good deeds produce fruit.
When Jadev began planting trees he shares that the work was very difficult, but over time the trees began to produce their own seeds making the process much easier. Can you imagine the overwhelming impossibility that must have confronted Jadev in the beginning as he walked to a barren area and planted seedlings? He planted one, and stood up to see the vast emptiness around him. He returned for a whole year and yet when he looked around the impact must have seemed minuscule. The thought of giving up had to have crossed his mind many times and yet over and over he returned. One small seedling at a time he began to make a difference. The seeds he planted began to bear fruit and multiply.  A single seedling became a "dense forest in a barren wasteland".

You and I may be feel paralyzed by the barrenness around us. It may seem overwhelmingly impossible to change the chaotic world we live in, but if each day we will persistently plant one good seed then over time we begin to see those seeds produce their own fruit. If I plant my seeds in the vicinity of your seeds then the work progresses even more quickly. In the beginning the change may barely seem noticeable. Giving up will be tempting, but if we persist our good deeds WILL produce fruit. A treeline of good deeds will begin to form and even transform the community around us. More seeds will be planted, we will slow the erosion of the society around us, and the forest we create will begin to cast shadow on the desert around us.  That shadow has the ability to bring a coolness to an otherwise hot "climate". Change begins.

Good deeds bring life.
As Jadev's forest continued to grow, birds and animals that had left the area began to return. Elephants, birds, tigers and deer now inhabit the trees and roam the area. Planting the trees brought back life.

Sometimes it seems as though the negativity that surrounds us is driving away the good. People retreat to their cellphones, computers, and social media. They post things online that they would never say face-to-face. We talk more and hear less. We seek to be understood and stop seeking to understand. Families break up, friendships are destroyed, erosion continues and the desert grows, but it doesn't have to be that way.  If, like Jadev, we plant seeds of goodness in the world around us we begin to notice that life returns. Families gather at the dinner table, friends reconnect, people begin to listen. The phones and texts stop and conversations begin. Life returns. I want to see our children thrive. I want to see families rebuilt. I want to see people begin to turn towards one another and stop turning on each other. We can influence that. We must influence that.

Good deeds will be attacked.
As Jadev's forest grew and the animals returned so did a new threat. Man. Man poaches the animals. Man cuts down the trees. Man can destroy a forest much faster than one can be planted. Jadev has to be watchful and care for what has been planted. He needs others to help in that process.

There are those in our world, as sad as it is, who actively attack what is good and right. Their words kill as effectively as a poacher. They are destructive and consider the good of themselves over the good of the whole.  The refuse to put down their weapons. You and I, the planters, have to protect what is planted. We must guard the precious life around us. We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, protect those who are defenseless and not be hampered when the task seems daunting. Good deeds will be attacked. DO THEM ANYWAY!!! There will always be opposition, but the benefits outweigh the cost of doing good.

I can't help but wonder if Jadev knew in 1979 that he was planting a forest. I have a feeling he thought he was just planting a tree. You and I have no idea the impact that will be made when we plant a seed. We can save a metaphorical environmental, change a society's climate, and bring life to a barren world. Let's plant a tree!

The Forest Man

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fountains of Blessing

Yesterday Rodney and I were passing time after appointments at MD Anderson. If you have followed my story with The Nuisance (aka Thymoma) then you know I cannot stand to hole up in the hotel on these days. I need air!  We decided to explore a part of Hermann Park (one of my favorite places) that we had not seen before. As we entered the McGovern Centennial Gardens we saw the beautiful fountain above. This fountain is unique. It was created on a mound with a spiraling walkway winding to the top of it. The walkway leads you past levels of the fountain which have their final resting place in a pool at the bottom. Each level of the fountain becomes a little more narrow than the last until finally you reach the top of the fountain. When you arrive at the top it is amazing to see what initiates this massive fountain.

That's it. Just a tiny little overflow of water, similar to something you might create in your own backyard. It was a surprise to see that a beautiful fountain came from something so small. It made me think about how small things truly can have a big impact. Sometimes we may underestimate the impact something small can make. We don't realize the value of a small gesture, a kind word, a brief encounter, or a single voice. A small thing makes a difference. You make a difference. I make a difference. It also reminded me of the calm days when life is easy and days are good. It just sort of flows and we may even take it for granted. We just bubble along in the fountain of life.

While this little portion of the fountain was pretty, what truly makes this feature dynamic are the larger portions of the fountain below.

As you look closer at these sections it becomes evident that what creates their beauty is the water coming in contact with an obstacle. Without the obstacles the water would smoothly guide over the surface. while calming it would not create the same effect. Life is like that. Sometimes the obstacles we encounter are the very things that ultimately bring about beauty and add dimension. 

It may seem sometimes that the rough patches outnumber the easy calm days, but in reality that is an illusion. The fountain has the same amount of water flowing through all the sections. The surface area is what changes creating a different effect. It is an illusion. Life's obstacles can easily overshadow the calm flow of life, we have to remember it is only a segment of a greater picture. When you combine the small fountain (us and daily life) with the obstacles (life's hiccups) it ultimately leads to a pool at the base (a full life). It is wonderful to have those moments of still calmness and we should never EVER take those for granted. We should also strive to see the value of obstacles when they come. They can be totally irritating, frustrating, scary, and often overwhelming. They may seem unfair, undeserved, and undesirable. But here is the thing, if we (I) can learn to see beyond the obstacle to the pool then we (I) can learn to appreciate the beauty of the obstacle and life, in spite of obstacles, can be full.

It all comes together to make something beautiful!   
Life is a fountain of blessings!!

MD Anderson update:
We leave with more questions than answers today. The doctor ordered some additional tests that were not on our original plan so we will leave town not knowing much more than we did when we came. They will review the results and then get back with us. What we know is that it is just another little obstacle in our fountain. We are going to go with the flow!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

She Said Thank You

Today I am at MD Anderson. Oh, that I would always be as in-tune to the lessons going on around me as I am on these days. Unfortunately life gets busy, I become distracted, and I unknowingly miss opportunities to grow. I continue to work on that! I want to get to a place in my life that the ground doesn't have to be shaking in order for me to be aware and listen! I have a ways to go. In the meantime I cherish the things I am reminded of on my journey. I wanted to share today's lesson with you. Maybe you have been too busy and distracted to listen and be aware today also. How about I share my lesson with you so your ground doesn't have to get shaky in order to grow?

Today was test day. That always starts with a bloodwork followed by scans. Today I had nuclear scans followed by a CT scan. These scans require various stages of prep. I was led back to a preparation room and a technician was called back to get me ready. She began by locating a vein in my arm and guiding a needle to place an IV (not an easy task on my little veins). As she placed the needle she said, "Thank you". She flushed the line with saline and asked me if it felt okay. I said it did and again she said, "Thank you". The process continued as she placed tape, drew blood, injected various fluids. Throughout the process she frequently said thank you. Initially I thought she was saying thank you to me, but after a few moments I realized her thanks was not directed towards me at all. She uttered it every time that things worked as they should. It was almost as natural to her as breathing air. It made me think of a typical day in my life. Do I say thanks enough? When it works as it should, am I grateful? When the milk doesn't spill, the car starts, the printer works, the bills get paid, do I recognize the blessing? Shamefully the answer is often no.  I want my thanks to be as natural as breathing. In and out. In and out. In and out. On my worst day there is so much to be thankful for. We all do. I have decided to work on that. When people think of their time with me I hope they can say, "She said thank you!"

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever." Psalm 107:1

Today I say thank you for your prayers. I say thank you for people who love on my boys in our absence. I say thank you for a beautiful walk in the park after a day of appointments. I say thank you for insurance, doctors, and an employer who supports my health. I say thank you for my husband. I say thank you for all the bad things that could have happened and didn't and for all the good things that did. I say thank you to God, for he is good!

Monday, January 2, 2017


"Landmark- an event, discovery or change marking an important stage or turning point in something." 

Life is full of landmarks, those moments that forever change our perspectives of God, ourselves, and the world around us. January 2 is a monumental landmark for me. It was on this day in 2013 that an event (surgery) led to a discovery (stage 4 Thymoma) that marked an important stage (surgeries, chemo, healing) and a turning point in something (my life). Today I have been thinking about the changes The Nuisance (Thymoma) brought in my life. I have been thinking about the things I feared on this day four years ago and the lessons I have learned since. These are some of the greatest lessons:

God is faithful and trustworthy.
Pain is a relative thing.
Peace that passes understanding is an amazing reality.
Scars are beautiful.
Baldness isn't the worse thing that can happen to you.
Angels are everywhere.
Family, friends and even strangers are gifts of the journey.
The battle for your mind and spirit is much more serious than the battle for your body.
You find a new normal.
Prayer truly does change things.

The stories to support these statements would take a lifetime to tell. Many are captured in my blog, many more are deep in my heart. (Maybe in the days to come I will circle back to this post when I am not typing in my phone!) They are reminders of victory,of  healing, of landmarks. Another definition of a landmark is something that "enables someone to establish their location".  Interestingly enough I am heading back to MD Anderson today for some tests. I have some blood levels that are elevated. I don't know yet exactly what that means, but I do know my location.I am firmly in the hand of God. I have a landmark and God is as faithful and trustworthy on January 3, 2017 as he was four years ago.

Thank you for being a part of my story. I am grateful for your prayers, your love and your encouragement!

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. 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.