Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Tell Your Heart to Beat Again"

My sweet friend Robin shared a story with me. Robin is in the middle of Power Aid. We swap stories of encouragement as fellow warriors against The Nuisance. (Keep her in your prayers!!) This particular story was about a pastor who was allowed to be present during an open heart surgery. He watched the surgeon saw open the patient's chest, lift out the heart, and perform the necessary procedure. (All too familiar to me!) Upon completion, the surgeon placed the heart back in the patient's chest and began to massage it to prompt it to beat again. Something wasn't working. The heart did not beat. The pastor realized that he might witness the loss of a life. The surgeon tried again. No response. The team tried more extreme measures, but still there was nothing.  After more tries, the surgeon tried a different approach. He removed his mask, knelt down by the patient's ear and whispered, "Mrs. Johnson, this is your surgeon. The procedure went perfectly. Your heart has been repaired. Now tell your heart to beat again." And it did.

That story prompted Phillips, Craig and Dean to record the song, "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again." The chorus says, "Tell your heart to beat again. Close your eyes and breathe it in. Let the shadows fall away, you'll live to love another day. Yesterday's a closing door and you don't live there anymore. So say goodbye to where you've been and tell your heart to beat again."

It is as the lyrics were written just for me. I know what it feels to be that patient, both literally and figuratively. I daily have to tell my heart to beat again. Even though I am healed of The Nuisance, every twinge or pain brings back fear. Sometimes I find myself holding my breath; the panic threatening to stop my heart. But there is a choice. I can hold my breath on the proverbial operating table, forever dead in fear, or I can tell my heart to beat again. God is the Great Physician. He has performed the miraculous healing. He has removed the mask that separates us and leans down to whisper, "Anna, the healing has taken place. Your heart has been repaired. Now tell your heart to beat again." What a blessing that like the lyrics say, yesterday's a closing door and I don't live there anymore. It is done. Thank God!! Breathe in.

I bet your heart has stopped before; maybe it isn't beating now. Divorce, fear, a prodigal child, loneliness, abuse, illness, death of a loved one; something has left you holding your breath. It has left your heart deathly still. It is time to tell your heart to beat again. You will live to love another day, but you have to breathe. The gift is there. The procedure is complete, but now you have to do your part and tell your heart to beat. God can heal all that breaks our hearts. He willingly does so, but the gift is only complete if we draw a breath.

I know Christmas season isn't full of joy for everyone. You may be among those that are wondering how you will make it through the next few days. Tell you heart to beat again. There is healing. There is hope. The Great Physician has performed the procedure. Now it is up to you. Tell your heart to beat again. You will live to love another day!

Watch the video to "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again" here:

Click here to hear Randy Phillips tell the story behind the song:

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Glimmer of the Lights

What is it about sitting in the glow of Christmas lights that brings peace to my soul? Regardless of the pace at work; the hustle of activities; the stress and worries of the day; my heart beats slower, my breaths are deeper, and my mind is calmed by the glimmer of the lights. Maybe it is because the glimmer of the lights reminds me of a glimmer of hope. Hope for the future. Hope for the present. Hope built upon the source of the light.

Many will argue that the Christmas tree is a pagan symbol, and perhaps that is where the tradition began, but in my home the tree is a reminder of new life, of sacrifice, and of hope. We put it up as a reminder of the birth of Christ, who sacrificed himself upon a tree so that we, so that YOU, could have new life. The lights that we string around it... okay, let me be honest, the pre-lit branches, remind me of the light that he brought into this world by hanging upon a tree for my sin. In my mind, each light upon my tree represents one of the many promises he made regarding me. Never in my life have those lights, or promises, been more real and meaningful. I have experienced God this year in a way like no other. I have seen His faithfulness. I have felt His presence. I have heard Him sing over me at night. The lights are gentle reminders of all He has done for me and all He promises for my future. They are a reminder of hope.

This Christmas, as you sit in the light of the tree, I hope you will find peace. I hope you will be reminded of the Christ child who was born to save us. I hope the tree will remind you not only of His birth, but of his sacrifice. May the glimmer of the lights remind you of the hope we have because of His life and death, and of all the promises He makes to His children. His light is the source of my peace.

Find peace in the glimmer of the lights.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Missing Thanksgiving Memories

This Thanksgiving and holiday season have extra meaning to me. I am a very sentimental person about holidays and traditions. I hold memories as treasures in my mind and love pulling them out and fondly reflecting on them. But there is a gaping hole in my memory treasure chest. As it turns out, I have absolutely no recollection of Thanksgiving and Christmas from last year. I know I cooked, but I can't remember what we had. I know I decorated, but I don't remember doing it. I am certain I purchased gifts, but have no idea what I bought. I know full well that my calendar was filled with Hanging of the Green, parties, and church activities, but for the life of me I don't remember celebrating. It as if my body went through the motions, but my mind was elsewhere. It was a dark season in my life as I began sorting through the debris of an imploding life. The cancer bomb dropped and my mind apparently took shelter. The only thing I remember is sitting in rooms crowded with people and feeling very alone as I tried to sift through all the thoughts associated with a new diagnosis, surgery, and the great unknown.

Now if you're thinking, "Oh great, Anna. I was reading this for a little uplifting, not to get depressed." then hang in there, it's coming! You see, gratefully the story didn't end there in the rubble and for that I am so very thankful.  I learned that when I felt the most alone, I was never by myself. As I dug through that debris that was intended to destroy me, I found God in a way I had never known him before. People say that it is easy to trust God when things are good. I am telling you that it is easier to trust God when things are bad. Strange, I know, but it is true. There is something about being powerless that allows you to truly experience HIS power. For that, I give thanks for the year that knocked me to my knees.

In the disaster zone, I discovered new truths about the human condition. I learned the true depths of my family's love for me. I watched my parents desperately wish to trade places with me. (Something that I wouldn't have allowed, even if possible.)  They stood so strong for me in the face of fear. That made me stronger. For that I am thankful. I found my sisters rushing to my defense just like we always bonded together when we faced struggles as kids. They stood in the gap for me. For that I am thankful. My nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins and in-laws rallied around me; prayed for me; shaved their heads for me (not my aunts, wink, wink); gave me gifts as physical reminders that they were with me all the way. For that I am thankful. And then there was my sweet husband. Early in our relationship, Rodney lost his father and then his mother to cancer. I remember a short time later that one of our dogs had to be put to sleep because of cancer and Rod stood in the yard brokenhearted; sad that even his dogs got cancer. I begged God at that moment that I would never have to put him through more of that, but God works in mysterious ways. I know this year was so hard on him, but we learned cancer can have a different ending, and for that I am thankful. It was clearly proven that I could count on him and that he meant it when he said in sickness and health. In the debris, I found my marriage to be strong. For that I am so thankful. My boys had to walk a path every parent dreads, but along the way they learned some lessons. They learned that God answers prayers. For that I am thankful. They learned lessons about perseverance, kindness of others, joy in sadness, and the power of faith. For that I am thankful. In the refuse, I found the blessing of friends and community. As you prayed for us, fed us, gave to us is so many ways, we were blessed beyond all measure. The kindness and generosity of people was absolutely overwhelming and humbling. For that I am thankful.

As I write all this, I am choking back tears, but they are not the tears of memories lost, they are tears about the memories made. You see, the past year was not the destruction of a life, but the remodeling of a new one. It is a life built up by an amazing God, a wonderful family, and the blessing of friends and strangers who are willing to help a girl along. It has been a hard row to hoe, but I was blessed in every moment of it. And for that I am thankful!

I pray that you are reflecting on all that you have to be thankful for today. Don't overlook the blessings that are hidden in the refuse of hardship. They are there to be found in your life, just as they have been in mine. Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, said, "Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity...There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). I bear witness to the power of that exchange.

I never thought that I would be thankful for the nuisance, but it was a backhanded blessing! For that I am thankful. For God I am thankful. For you, I am thankful! Now I better get to cooking. I have some celebrating to do!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Secrets of the Snow

I love snow days! The treadmill of life comes to a screeching halt as we find ourselves surrounded by snow and icicles. We release control in sweet surrender and snuggle in for the day. We don't have to feel guilty for our luxurious laziness since it is shared by all around us. What a gift! As I sit enjoying the silence of the snow, I am reminded of these things:

Small, but United
Isn't it amazing that something as small as a snowflake can change the course of our day? Of course it isn't just one snowflake, but the compilation of many. There is power in the accumulation! Each snowflake, individual in its own design, joins with others equally unique to change the landscape of the land. I love that. It reminds me that little things make a difference. It reminds me that there is power in unity.

In the Details
And let's talk about the individual design for a minute. How incredible is it that of all the flakes in my yard, no two are alike? Talk about attention to detail. I read that although possible, it is very unlikely for any two randomly selected snowflakes to appear exactly alike due to the many changes in temperature and humidity the crystal experiences during its fall to earth. Aren't we much like that? We are all made up of the same material, and yet turn out so differently based on our life experiences. I love it that we are so diverse. I love it that God pays attention to details!

Did you know that snowflakes aren't white? They are actually clear ice particles that reflect the full spectrum of color, therefore appearing white. It is the reflection that makes the appearance of pure white snow. That reminds me of a verse from Isaiah. "Come now, let us settle the matter," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." The reflection of Christ's sacrifice for my life,and my acceptance of that gift, changes the appearance of my sins in God's eyes. He no longer sees me as I am, but only the pure white reflection of his son. Thank you, Jesus!

Be Still
The snow has made me be still. Not of my choice, but certainly to my benefit. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10.  "He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes." Psalm 147:16. The snow today is from God and He can speak to you through it if you listen. While you are snuggled up today, listen for the sound of snowflakes. In their silence, God is speaking!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Impossible: Your stories

I love to start a lazy Saturday morning with a mug of Pumpkin Spice coffee and my computer. Quietly catching up on the news of the world and my Facebook friends usually gets my day off to a relaxing start, but today I found so much sadness. There were typhoons, murders, loss of loved ones, missing children, financial troubles, and all sorts of mayhem. I found myself thinking how sad the world has become and thinking how impossible it seems to overcome all the obstacles that exist. It made me remember a post I put on my Facebook page a few months ago. I posted this picture of ants and asked people to tell me about a struggle they had faced that had seemed to big to overcome. The responses were nothing short of inspirational--true stories of Overcomers.
Are you facing the impossible? Struggling beneath a burden that you don't think you are strong enough to bear? So were my friends. As you read their stories, watch for the commonalities. Their struggles were different, but their victories have a common thread. I am touched by their tales of triumph. They bring me hope! Read each one and be encouraged!

"What is something big that you never thought you could do, but then discovered you could?" Here are their unedited replies:

·         Be a parent to a difficult child!

·         Be away from my hubby for so long while I was in a different state helping with grandbabies.

·         Graduate high school.

·         Get my Masters degree in Education.

·         Getting a divorce and starting over by getting my Masters degree at the same time.

·         Many years ago, riding to the top of the Skylon Tower in a glass-enclosed exterior elevator so that my family could eat at the revolving restaurant looking over Niagra Falls.

·         Learning no matter what my childhood was or my chronic health issues are, I have a lot to offer and give and I am worth loving!

·         I went back to school after age 40, made straight As, and then ended up becoming a principal. All were totally God things!

·         Be blessed with the return of my voice after living almost a year without no more than a whisper. This blessing prompted my return to Wayland to complete my degree and I am now one six weeks into my eighteenth year of teaching second grade. Sure am thankful for God’s plans for me!

·         I didn’t think I could handle all of the business, family, and other issues that fell in my lap after my mom died, and it turned out that I really couldn’t handle all of those things- BUT GOD held my hand and handled all of it in such an amazing way!

·         Leading the Children’s Ministry at our church.

·         I buried my youngest child.

·         Walk again.

·         Find joy after a devastating year of burying my sister, a divorce and depression, with 2 babies to take care of and working full time. Jesus was, and still is my rock!

·         Being a single parent. I regret some decisions I made, but we both survived. God is good.

·         Raising a child with special needs. She and her sister are the joy of my life. I learn from her every day.

·         Learning to feel hope again after Jacob (son) died, knowing that God never left me and He did have great plans for me. He waited for me to stand up again and blessed me with two more children that I am thankful every day for.

·         I never thought I could live 11 months alone without my husband. I have learned to fix things in the house. I mow, weed eat, and edge the yard. I work my three jobs and take care of it all. When Michael passed away, I really did not think I could go on without him.

·         Having hope and faith to continue fertility treatment even after many losses and voices telling me to stop. And accepting I have no control. And somehow I was blessed with a miraculous gift that I do not deserve, nor do I take for granted.

·         Surviving the loss of my best friend and husband and the fear of living alone thanks to many colleagues, friends, family, and God’s love and faithfulness.

·         Staring a life on my own after a divorce of a 20 year marriage and learning to love and honor myself along the way. And best of all…falling in love all over again with Jesus.

·         Never thought I would be a very good mom. But I have two amazing adult children. I love them both so very much.

·         Single motherhood, and cancer top my list, but many times its is little things that my worry causes to feel like big things…every time He’s here…EVERY TIME! So blessed!

·         There is a list of bigger-than-me things God has enabled me through. Each one felt impossible. Each time HIS mercy proved greater than my fear. They’re part of my God-history…faith encouraging faith! I am so grateful!

·         I didn’t think I could carry on after my son Brynn was killed. But I knew my God was bigger than my problem. Ants carry things so much larger than their size and weight. But they don’t let that fact stop them because God created them to be achievers that overcome obstacles. Every day we are faced with some obstacle to overcome, whether it be small or large. Habits, conflicts, strife or death of our loved ones---God created us to be achievers as well. We just have to focus on Him and take his hand and walk on water (the impossible) with him.

·         This is not something I had to overcome, but I know God prepared me for. I had always been an exerciser, but never had done weight training. I kept being more and more convicted that I needed to be weight training. I hated the thought of it, but did it anyway and really liked it. After a while, I was asked to take on a ministry at our church of home repairs for those who couldn’t afford it. I would have to be on a roof for two days. I never got sore. I know I could never have done it if God hadn’t prepared me before hand for something I never imagined I would be doing.

·         Having a child in high school and not knowing what road to take for my future. Now I have a son in college who amazes me! I myself am going to get my masters! I have taken us down many paths, but God’s love never fails! I am blessed!
Let’s just say God has carried me more than I have walked! I have many blessings that have grown from those hard times, like watching my daughter go through chemo.

·         Being a single working mom with no family her and being able to raise my boys alone. God is with us every second, He protects us and blesses us beyond what I ever dreamed, but there are moments I feel like that ant.

·         WOW…I would have to say two divorces and starting over twice. Having threats on my life from the first divorce. Being a single mom with a daughter and having a virus that attacked my muscles then a stroke a month later that put me on food stamps with a 7th grader. That left me with a left sided weakness to deal with. With God’s help I kept pushing and went back to work. I was able to get a college degree. God is good!

Did you see it? Over and over the one thing that got them through was not their own strength, but God's. I am a personal testimony to that as well! The world is filled with impossibilities. We are faced with challenges that are way too big, but we don't have to do it alone. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Phillipians 4:14. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37 We can overcome because God gives us strength. Are you facing "The Impossible"?  The word alone reveals its lie. When you are faced with "The Impossible" read it this way, " I'm Possible". God can see you through!

 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your path straight."
 Proverbs 3:5-6

Special thanks to: Kit Buckner, Connie Durhan, Jana Dulaney, Kenny Border, Anita Young, Cheryl McNight, Vicki Talafuse, Cindy Andrews, Sarah Masten, Mary Katherine Fairbanks, Renee Alley, Veronica Harris, Karen Caballero, Terri Nichols, Dana Davis, Cheri Ray, Leigh Corbin, Amanda Freeman, Edwina Townsend, Kristy Harrist, Becky Black, Brenda Lathan, Jane Furlow, D'Ann McGuire, Darla Stidham, Stacey Rogers, Linda Crisp
Thank you for sharing your victories!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Life Interrupted

Wednesday was a crazy day. My calendar was booked from beginning to end with no room for mistake, but mistakes happened! A presentation that a group of us had spent hours working on mysteriously disappeared from existence. Life Interrupted. In a day where there was no time, we scrambled to recreate that which was lost. Later in the day I was setting up a room divider. As I secured it in place, the tool whipped around and hit me right on the collarbone. The nurse feared it was fractured. Off to the doctor for me. Life Interrupted. My plans for the day evaporated as quickly as a mist. Do you have days like that?

As I sat in the doctors office waiting for my x-rays to be read, I thought of the phrase "Life Interrupted". I started to grumble in my mind about life being interrupted and then it was if someone hit me in the forehead (think V-8 commercial) with a new thought. The thought was this: The troubles that come along don't interrupt life, they are life. John 16:33 says, " I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." See, it is biblical. We will have troubles, they are part of life, not an exception to it.  Life is filled with ups and downs. It isn't just the good times that make up who we are, it is the annoying times as well. We aren't living only when life is smooth, but also when life is frustrating. I began to realize a few things about myself and about interruptions.

On Planning
I tend to think that because I can plan my calendar, I can plan my life. My first lesson was a reminder that none of us are truly in control of our lives. (You'd think I would know this by now!) We may try to plan our destiny, but sometimes there is a greater agenda. Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." I may not always understand His purpose, but I don't have to fear it or fight it because, "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." Jeremiah 29:11. On the calendar of life, I really must switch to pencil; for my plans are tentative upon a grander design.

On Power
I also recognized that (brace yourself, this will surprise some of you---not!) I am a bit of a control freak. I like to think that I am strong, independent, and in control. When things go beyond my control, I am not a happy camper. I get frustrated and anxious. That frustration leads to worry. "What about the meeting I am missing?"; "What about the cost?"; "How will I squeeze everything in now?"; "What about...?" Matthew 6:25-27  says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"  The main difference between me and a bird is that I think I am in control. In all reality, we are not so different (no bird-brain jokes here, please). Like God provides for the birds, he will provide for me. That provision comes even in, and sometimes through, life's interruptions. The power I have is a fa├žade. Worrying will add no time to my life or my day!

On Perception
 My final lesson was on perception. When something else comes along that wasn't in my plan, I perceive it as an interruption. I grumble about the unexpected throwing me off my path. I have a feeling that if I ever get to a point that I can perceive the "interruptions" as part of the plan that I won't struggle as much against them. If I can begin to somehow leave room for the unexpected in my mind, and trust that God will handle those things as they arise, I will not be as insulted when they occur. Rather than perceiving troubles as interruptions, I want to change my perceptions and view them as opportunities. Opportunities for growth, opportunities for God, opportunities for grace.

How about you? Have you experienced Life Interrupted? Does planning, power, and perception throw you off as well? How do you deal with it? Any other control freaks out there?  Pulitzer Prize winning author, Carl Sanburg, said, "Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me." Sometimes blessings come to life through the unexpected and unplanned-- You know, the interruptions!

  "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
James 5:14

 I would love to hear the lessons you have learned on the topic. Leave your thoughts in the comments on my blog or on my Facebook.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fall...Even the Leaves Are Losing Their Grip!

Woo wee! I don't know what it is about October, but it is always the month when I seem to run out of steam. I love fall, but always seem to hit a wall this time of year. What can I say? Even the leaves are losing their grip! I guess the excitement and energy of starting a new school year begins to give way to routine and exhaustion. Whatever it is, it wears me OUT! You, too? I was thinking today that I need a little perseverance. One of my favorite bible verses is, "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:30-31. Because I've been feeling a little faint, I decided to study a little on perseverance.

Webster defines perseverance as "the quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult." That requires some endurance. "Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that He has promised." Hebrews 10:36. Receiving all He has promised--well now that sounds like a pretty good deal because Matthew 24:13 says, "But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Can't get a better promise than that. I am all for being saved. So how do we endure through hardships? How do we keep going when the going gets tough? This is what I am learning:

Keep Your Focus
Hebrews 11:27 says, "It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king's anger. He kept right on going BECAUSE HE KEPT HIS EYES ON THE ONE WHO IS INVISIBLE."  Moses had a lot of great reasons to give up and not begin, much less complete, his  journey. Anger of Pharaoh, perceived limitations in his abilities, and a rebellious people could easily cause someone to give up, but Moses didn't. He kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. (That's God, y'all.) I love the way that is phrased. We find more on that thought in 2 Corinthians 4:18, "So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." Troubles, trials, fatigue...those things we see now will soon fade so hang on!

Don't Do It Alone
"Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him." 1 Chronicles 16:11.  When we seek and find God, we get to tap into his supernatural strength. I love this verse: "Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation." Psalm 91:14-16. God is just waiting to deliver us, protect us, support us, rescue us, and satisfy us. That is good stuff! We don't have to do it all alone!

Let Go
"Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7. Sometimes hanging on requires letting go. I am not so good at that, but I am trying to get better. Worries and fears add up. They are like a burden upon our backs. Maybe part of our exhaustion comes from carrying around things that God is willing to bear for us. When we are worn and weary, we have to let go and let God.

Someday I want to hear God say, "I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things." Revelation 2:19. I hope that each October I get a little better at finding my strength in God. Are you feeling a little tired and worn down? Running a little short on hope because you are exhausted"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13.

Hang in there! The leaves may be falling, but that doesn't mean we have to!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Don't Be Afraid, Just Believe

When I first started running I wondered how long and far did  you have to run before you could say you were a runner. I decided, "Shoot, if I make it to the end of the block, I am a runner." So I made it to the end of the block, soon a mile, then two, then three, then four...It seemed so hard in the beginning, but the more I did it, the more natural it became. I was afraid I couldn't do it at first. I had never even liked running, but each day I put on my shoes and went. Before long I even dreamed about running. A runner I was.

When I first found out about The Nuisance (the "C" word that shall not be named, for those new to my world) I wondered, "How long until I am considered a survivor?" I decided the rules of running applied. Each minute I live, I am a survivor. I quickly got online and ordered a bracelet deeming it so. I had it stamped with the word survivor and the scripture reference Mark 5:36 which says,  "Don't be afraid, just believe." 

You know, my days are no more numbered than they were before I started this process. None of us are promised tomorrow. We just make the assumption it will be there.  I wonder, how many times do we think, I will start running tomorrow. I will start spending time with people I love tomorrow. I won't work as long tomorrow. I will start being healthier tomorrow.  And how many things do we never start because we don't really think we can do them? We are afraid...and we don't believe.

 What title have you not claimed yet? "Don't be afraid, just believe." The moment you start living  like a great parent, you are a great parent. The minute you act like a loving spouse, you are a loving spouse. As soon as you start paying off debt, you are a financial success. When you put on your tennies and start moving, you are an athlete. You are not called to do things perfectly. Just start doing them.  Each day it will become more natural and you will get better and better at it. Just make it to the end of the block. " Don't be afraid, just believe."

We are all survivors. Somedays it feels more true than others. Since we are surviving, how will we choose to live?

After my surgery, my dreams where I was running stopped. I honestly hadn't even noticed it until this week, when suddenly I awoke and realized that in my dream I was running again. Further and faster than ever before. I am a runner and I am a survivor. What will you be?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Google or God

What is the best way to get to my hotel? Google it. How do you solve this math problem? Google it. Problems with the vacuum? Google it. Best rates on insurance? Google it. Unexpected results on blood work? Google it. 

It seems that for every question, I find myself running to Google for solutions. You, too? We seek relationship advice, parenting suggestions, and answers to life's puzzling questions via the internet. We are in search of quick answers, simple solutions, sound advice that will help us overcome all our problems. I got to wondering the other day if I spend more time consulting Google than God. Who do I talk to more? Have you ever been like that? Or maybe you are not guilty of using the internet. Maybe you turn more to friends and family when problems come along. Not that it is all bad to seek council, but I would pose the same question to you --do you spend more time consulting people (your form of Google) than God? Is it possible that the awesome tools that we have at our fingertips have subtly become a substitute for seeking God for advice?

I have to confess I love searching for recipes, ideas, and cute stuff on Pinterest. I can get lost looking at websites for new ideas and research on new learning. I am a huge fan of all things technology! But I have to wonder if searching for answers to life's little problems has trained me to search for solutions to the big stuff, too? Have I let the search engines become my way of seeking solutions to the exclusion of seeking God for advice?

Through the last year of dealing with a rare cancer, I have found myself scouring the internet for information. Even my doctors don't have answers to many of my questions because there is just not much depth of information available. None of my local doctors have seen a case like me. I have felt a burden (and there has been a legitimate need) to discover answers for the things they cannot tell me. In doing so, I have sat before my computer with my heart racing  and hands trembling in fear over some of the things I have read. I have felt hopeless and powerless when I see man's statistics and survival rates. I have been sapped of my strength as I have searched for earthly answers to my questions. And then it hit me. Never once have I read the Bible and felt that way. Never once has God's word made my heart pound in fear. Never once have I read it and felt more hopeless and powerless. Never once have I been sapped of my strength when I seek His answers in prayer. In fact, I have the opposite reaction. God's word brings comfort and power. In it I find hope and strength. What I seek from Google, only God can give.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." All the search engines in the world can not find answers to unsearchable things. Only God can do that. Man's answers to heavenly questions are equivalent to Wikipedia as a source for a research paper-- not to be considered trustworthy unless verified, by God.

So I have some work to do. When I am seeking answers to the big life questions I have to choose between Google or God. I choose God. (But I must confess, I am still relying on Wolfram Alpha and YouTube to help me with my boy's 7th grade math!!!).

 "For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go." 
 Psalm 2:6,9
In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
Psalm 86:7
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What Is Your Sword of Damocles?

Do you ever feel like you have some fear or burden constantly hanging over your head? Maybe it steals your sleep, or serves as a constant nagging companion in your mind. We all seem to struggle with something. As I sat in my surgeon, Dr. Vaporciyan aka Rock Star's, office at MD Anderson last week, I received the great news that I was still clear of the nuisance (aka cancer)! As fabulous as that news was, my mind immediately thought, "Well, what about next time?" How sad is that?! I slid from celebrating and clapping my hands, to fretting about my next appointment. My doctor must have seen it in my eyes because he asked me a question that I want to ask you now. "Have you heard of the sword of Damocles?"

Damocles served in the court of Dionysius. Dionysius was a tyrant who lived a very extravagant life. By all appearances, he had it all. Luxury, feasts, fame and flatterers.  Damocles was one of these flatterers. To Damocles, the life of Dionysius was to be envied. He had no worries, no troubles, just the life of luxury. Damocles so frequently commented on how lucky Dionysius was, that Dionysius grew weary of hearing him say it. To give Damocles a little perspective of his "luck", he invited Damocles to experience life in his shoes. Damocles quickly accepted the offer.

Dionysius had a grand feast prepared. Damocles donned fine garments and reclined at the table enjoying the fine festivities. No doubt he felt he had found the good life. The meal was fantastic. The service delightful. Life could not be better. As he leaned back in his fine chair, something above his head captured his eye. It was a sword, hanging from the ceiling by the hair of a horse. The looming danger suddenly overshadowed the food, clothes and finery. He sat upright  in his chair and looked to Dionysius for an explanation. Dionysius quickly explained that this was what the life of a ruler was like. Damocles expediently excused himself from the table, leaving behind that which he thought he had truly desired.

There are many conclusions one could draw from that story, but the lesson for me was that I have a choice to make each day. I can focus on the feast or focus on the sword. If I focus on the feast, then I choose to pull up to the table of blessing and partake of the festival of life. But if I am not careful, my eyes may shift above my head to the sword. Although I may still be present at the feast, I cannot enjoy it, because I am in constant fear of the sword dropping. It is a conscious decision. Focus on the feast? Focus on the sword?

What is your sword of Damocles? Is it your health? Your finances? Your relationship? Your kids? Is it your list of regrets or failures? Your future? Whatever it is, it is keeping you from the feast! It is robbing you of your blessings! Life can't be spent worrying about what if the sword falls! Matthew says it this way: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-27

I have a sword over my head. You have one, too. But I have a feast to attend! Wanna go with me? I will save you a seat!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Angel Named Ida

Do you believe in angels? Not the little cherubs with the round tummies, chubby cheeks and little wings. I am talking about the ones who wear normal clothes, have average faces, and appear in the regular places. They may not be heavenly beings (or maybe they are), but they bring messages all the same!

Yesterday Rodney and I were at MD Anderson Cancer Center for my three month follow up. I will have these appointments for the rest of my life to make sure that the nuisance isn't trying to sneak back up on me. Thymoma can do that. As much as I try to maintain my focus, I have to admit that the thought of these appointments shakes me up a little.

We had completed blood work and a CT scan and were on our way to my final appointment to get news that would either elate or try to crush me. I ducked into the bathroom to get my game face on and there she was, emptying the trash. She had short tight curls, dark skin, and a blue cleaning uniform. With rubber gloves, she busied herself cleaning the restroom. Not exactly how you expect to find an angel. As I stepped out of the stall I was prompted to thank her for the work she was doing, but before I could speak, she spoke to me. As I stood washing my hands, she asked if I was a Christian. I told her that I had been saved since I was six and that honestly I didn't know how I would have gotten through the past year without God. She asked how my faith has been affected by all I have been through. I told her that I had learned amazing lessons about God in the darkness. I shared with her that I was on my way up to get reports to see if my scans were still clean. She stopped wiping the counter, looked at me and said, "They will be, for by His stripes you are healed."

Now a little background knowledge for you, in case those words are not familiar. That phrase is mentioned twice in the bible. You can find it in Isaiah 53:5 and again in 1 Peter 2:24. I have read it and heard it a million times in my life, I have even claimed it during my battle, but I had never noticed what she told me next. She said to me, "In 1 Peter the verse says, "by his stripes YOU are healed" in Isaiah it says, "by his stripes WE are healed". Isaiah was a prophesy of things to come. 1 Peter 2:24 is for you, for by his stripes YOU are healed. You will be okay, for by his stripes you are healed." About that time some other women entered the restroom. She returned to wiping the counter; I returned to washing my hands. As I dried my hands I asked her name. It was Ida. I told her how happy I was to have met her.  She smiled and wished me a blessed day. Somehow I knew it already was.

I walked out of the restroom, my heart lifted. Her words were reminders of the wonders God has done in my life, the healing he has brought to my body and soul. Moments later, I sat in the doctors office. He smiled as he told me my scans were stable and all looked good. Ida's words played in my my mind, "For by his stripes you are healed." I am grateful for healing. I am grateful for answered prayers. I am grateful for earthly and heavenly angels that show up in unexpected places to bring encouragement. God is good---ALL THE TIME!! (and He is not above showing up in a bathroom to remind you!)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Boxing Gloves

I have such a great story to tell you. It is a tale that has been in the works for months, but only recently did it have an ending. It is yet another example of how God works!

On May 8th, I flew to Houston to prepare for my second surgery on The Nuisance (aka cancer). I was traveling alone while my husband remained behind to be with his students as they took their state mandated test. (I love his dedication to his kids!! He makes me proud!) I really thought the day would be no big deal. I would fly down, have a few tests run, and pick him up at the airport later that night. No problem! Only there was a problem. While I sat in the airport preparing to board, I felt my chin begin to quiver. Being alone gave my mind time to ponder the days ahead. A little fear crept in. The "what-ifs" took over. I choked back tears. As I climbed aboard the plane, my vision was blurred by the tears that filled my eyes. I sat in my seat and opened my Facebook. Maybe distraction would help me get myself back together, or at least help me hide my emotion.

Many people had posted words of encouragement. There were so many mentions of prayer. The comments were just what I needed to hear.  One in particular painted a picture that captured my mind. Gayla Bursiaga and I have shared paths from college to our careers. We both attended Wayland and now work for Lubbock ISD. On that day she posted the following words. They will forever be in my mind. Gayla wrote, "I had someone tell me once when I was going through a very difficult time that all the angels in heaven and hell were watching to see how God dealt with the situation and what MY reaction would be...I have gone back to that time and time again, and for some reason I thought about it today when I read your post. I must tell you that YOUR reaction to the journey you are on is an inspiring lesson to many, but especially me. I KNOW that God has ALREADY dealt with this journey! I, along with everyone else AND those Angels...can't wait to see God show OFF! I am praying for your continued journey...and praising for the victories he has given you already!" 

As I read the post, I pictured myself in a boxing ring. At the moment, I was on the ground, feeling beaten and bloody. I could imagine hell on one side and heaven on the other. Hell was booing, taunting me to stay down. Heaven was cheering and calling for me to stand and fight. Both responses were motivating! The competitor in me heard the jeers and thought (quite literally) "Oh, Hell NO!". I heard the angels cheering. I pictured myself getting to my knees, staggering to my feet, taking a deep breath, and starting to throw back punches. My chin stopped quivering. My tears dried up. My mind pondered victory, not loss. It was just what I needed! I could feel my strength building. I felt my whole posture change. I felt like Rocky at the top of the stairs, jumping from foot to foot with my fists in the air.

Because the image was so powerful to me, I became obsessed with finding charms of boxing gloves. I wanted a set for me and a set for my friend Gayla. I wanted each of us to have a reminder of that powerful image. A reminder that God gives us strength to fight on. I found them. That very day I ordered the charms. They were at my home before I was.

Throughout the summer those charms set on my kitchen counter. Although I had been so obsessed to get them ordered, I kept forgetting to mail them. All summer long they sat. A couple of weeks ago I messaged Gayla to get her address, but even then I didn't get them in the mail. I felt horrible for procrastinating. Finally, on Monday the 12th, I got them in the mail. On August 15th I received a message from Gayla. I asked if I could share our story. It is quite amazing!!

On the day that Gayla received the boxing gloves it turns out that she was on her way to have a mammogram. Only three people knew. As she put it, "something just wasn't right". Gayla's family is familiar with breast cancer and fear was her companion that day. The timing of those gloves arriving was no coincidence. In Gayla's words, "It was God's reminder to me, that as undeserving as I am, that whatever comes...all of heaven and hell are watching that boxing ring!" The image that had given me strength to fight on, now strengthened her.

As I read her message, tears again blurred my vision. This time they were tears of awe. God used Gayla to give me strength five months ago. He then formulated a plan to return the favor to her. My procrastination was God's perfect timing. He knew the exact moment those charms would mean the most! He sees every detail of our lives. No tear or fear goes unnoticed. He uses people, images, even little silver charms, to show his children he loves them. Some think God is distant and uncaring. Some think he doesn't see our individual pain. Gayla and I stand together, hand in hand, to tell you that isn't true. God is in the details. He is looking for ways to get your attention and show you he cares. He wants you to get up and keep on fighting. He and his angels are cheering you on!

Oh, and Gayla's mammogram? It was normal!!! God is good! ALL THE TIME!!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lies of Spies

Do you hear voices? Not the kinds that make you doubt your sanity. I am talking about the ones that make you doubt your future. Maybe they say to you that your relationship is beyond repair. Perhaps they say that your health will never be restored. They may tell you that you will always be alone, or that you will never reach your goal. The voices say you are not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, wealthy enough...Do you have those voices?

I have been reading about the Israelites this week. They had been promised a land that would be a perfect home. A land that would be blessed for them.  As they approached this new land, they sent some spies ahead to gather more information. Were the people there strong or weak? Few or many? Was the land good or bad?  12 spies went.  They returned with news that the land truly was a good land, flowing with milk and honey. BUT... There is it. The voices begin to cast doubt. Ten of the spies were afraid. The people there are too strong! There are giants! The land will devour us! We are small as grasshoppers to them! We should not go. The lies of spies.

I wonder how many times we are right on the edge of what God wishes to bless us with, when we suddenly begin to listen to the voices of men, rather than God. We believe the lies of spies. Sometimes the spy that lies is our own inner voice of doubt. Sometimes it is the voice of fear. It might the voice of a well-meaning family member or friend. It might come from someone who is jealous of a new opportunity. The lies can come from an enemy, or a stranger. The lies of spies tell us we can't, we shouldn't, it is not possible. Believing the lies can rob us of our blessing.

Two of the twelve spies saw a different possibility. Although they saw the same giants and obstacles, they also remembered that God was with them. He had shown them miracles before and would do so again. God promised safe delivery if the Israelites would only believe. They refused to believe the voices of doubt and fear. They refused to believe the lies of spies. 

Sadly, the Israelites didn't have the same faith. As a result, they rebelled. They doubted. Their doubt led them back to the wilderness. Only Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who did not doubt God, were allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Do you listen to the lies of spies? Are they telling you that things will never get better? Do they tell you that you are not good enough? That God has forgotten you? Do they lie to you about who you are? Do the voices tell you that you will never reach the Promised Land so you might as well stay in proverbial Egypt?

Do not listen to the lies of spies.  God is big enough to lead you through the land of giant obstacles. He is strong enough to keep you from drowning in the Red Sea of life. He is compassionate enough to heal you in the desert of loneliness. He is merciful enough to feed you in the wilderness of fear.  The God who leads you through the desert is the God who will see you safely to the land He has promised you. Do not listen to the lies. Grab your bedroll and keep on moving. The Promised Land lies ahead! You don't want to miss this!

Do not listen to the lies of spies!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

What Would You Do...?

My friend Kelli posted a question on her Facebook a few weeks ago. She asked, "What would you do if you knew you only had a few months to live?" When that question used to cross my mind, Tim McGraw's song would start like a recording in my head.  "I'd go skydiving. I'd go Rocky Mountain climbing. I'd go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.." (Feel free to sing along, folks.) The lyrics would make think of all the BIG things I would want to do if  I didn't  have much time. Having brushed a little closer with the reality of limited time than I would have chosen, I have discovered an unexpected truth. It isn't the exotic trips or adrenalin-filled adventures that line my to-do list. It is paying more attention to the normal things. Turns out the LITTLE things are the BIG things! Who knew?!?

Tim croons that we should live like we were dying. Pretty good advice actually. What would I do if I only had a few days, months, years, to live?
Praise God--all day, every day.
See more sunsets (Sunrises are just so stinking early! I have a friend who posts a picture of a sunrise each day on Facebook. I live vicariously through her! Those extra minutes of sleep bring me happiness!)
Treat my family with the sort of pleasantness I use in public. (Yikes! Sometimes I am nicer in the hall at work than I am in my own home!)
Tell people how I feel about them (if it is nice, of course).
Find good in bad situations.
Chill out about things I can't control.
Do  random acts of kindness more often.
Take lots of pictures with people I love.
Encourage people who are struggling.
Tell my boys how much I love them and how proud they make me every day. (And hug them even if they squirm!)
Treat my husband like I did when we were dating.
Slow down.
Listen to really good music.
Reminisce and tell stories of "the good ole days" (which may have been this morning).
Say thank you for all life's blessings.
Fix what I can fix and let go of the rest.
Play some practical jokes.
Sit on my porch and be quiet.
Ask forgiveness.
Be present.
Live each day with passion.

Not an all inclusive list, but plenty to get me started! How about you? What would you do? I wonder if you will discover that the little stuff is the big stuff.  Whatever is on your list, get after it! No one is promised tomorrow, but if you are reading this, you have today! Better get a move on!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny, Yellow, Polka dot Bikini....

It was an Itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow, polka dot bikini, that she wore for the first time today...
Ok, no it really wasn't,  but it WAS the first time I put on a bathing suit since I started my battle with the Nuisance. The scars down the front of my chest and across my back were clearly visible. I stepped in front of the mirror, and was caught a little off guard when I raised my eyes to my reflected face and saw I was smiling.  I suddenly realized that those scars, which at one time symbolized fear and cancer, now  represented power and grace. 
There are so many layers of miracle there. I remember way back to December when I found out I would have to have my chest cracked (still hate that term). I didn't know what type of nuisance I had at that point. Somehow my mind settled on the scar as something it could effectively worry about. I dreaded the rope-like scar that would mark me for life.  Those of you that have read my blog awhile know that God was at work in that fear to show me that he was in the details. He gave me a special Hand-stitched gift to prove it. My scar, because of a gift, looks more like a scratch. (See Hand Stitched with Love for the full story). The scar I feared so much turned out to be a chance for him to give me a gift.
The scar across my back brought me the miracle of being able to say my name is NED (no evidence of disease).  I love that it was the second surgery and that it is on my back. It reminds me this season is behind me and that this battle has been won.
Throughout this fight the song lyrics "I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, the God of angel armies, is always by my side" has been an anthem in my mind. Psalm 139:5 says, "You hem me in behind and before,and you lay your hand upon me." My scars (in front and behind) tell me I am literally hemmed in by a God who will not allow me to experience anything he can't help me handle!
I think this is the first time since about eighth grade that I have smiled at my reflection in a bathing suit. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Each scar reminds me of the victory, not the trial. (Now I have to admit I haven't figured out a spiritual explanation for cellulite, but I am looking for it...) I am amazed how God can change bad for good, fear for confidence, and dread for hope. The God who changed water into wine is still in the business of changing things. Don't believe it? Let's go layout by the pool and I will tell you all about it! Suit up!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Recently my son had the opportunity to help create a large mosaic honoring our hometown as part of a class art project. (Awesome activity, Mrs Mosely). The piece is proudly displayed on the wall of our county library. A few evenings ago my parents, husband and I went to examine the masterpiece. It is created with images that reflect the history of our community. Beautiful.

My husband was getting an up close look at the handiwork. As he stood only a foot away, he struggled to make out one of the images. He questioned what it might be, to which my mother responded, "Step back a little and take another look." He did so. As he did, the familiar object began to take shape. My chemistry teacher of a husband, could now clearly recognize the beaker on display. (Actually, it is an Erlenmeyer flask, but you get the idea.)

I thought how relevant that experience is to life. So often from our close up perspective, we are unable to make sense of what we see in our lives.  We struggle to understand situations. We wrestle to make sense of problems. We search for solutions to trials we cannot comprehend.  It is only when we are able to step back, that we can clearly see the full picture and gain some insight. Sometimes stepping back takes time. Sometimes it requires distancing ourselves. Sometimes it takes someone saying, "Step back a little and take another look."

I don't know how many times in my life I have had to step back from an issue to really understand it. Stepping back isn't always easy. Sometimes it means giving up our illusion of control. That can be tough, but it is necessary. This all makes me think of a verse in 1 Corinthians 13:12,  "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Some of life's mosaics may not become clear this side of heaven. From our perspectives we may only catch glimpses of the bigger picture. It may not be clear how our circumstances are interwoven to create a beautiful design, but they are.

When you find yourself staring at your life and not comprehending what you see, think of the mosaic. Take a step back and look from a different perspective. Sometimes that is all it takes to get some clarity.  When it doesn't become clear, don't give up hope. Each event in your life is like a tile in a mosaic, going together to create a beautiful design. Some tiles have to be cracked and broken to create the image. It may not make sense from up close, and it may hurt a little (or a lot), but someday when you step back, you will get the picture!