Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Bouquet of Belief

I love flowers. Their imperfectly perfect petals and the pop of color they bring to a otherwise barren landscape make me smile contentedly, as I consider the Maker of this kind of extraordinary beauty.
This week I decided to sleep in flowers. ( No I promise, the pain meds have not gotten to me..:))
Since I am spending a lot of time resting in my bedroom, I replaced my old bedding with a vibrantly colorful comforter set just bursting with blooms of flowers in deep and rich saturated hues. I feel surrounded by comfort in my blanketed garden of security.

These past two weeks have been pretty difficult as I have been dealing with pain, pressure in my chest, difficulty eating and the flu like symptoms that come and go as a result of chemo and radiation.
After my hospital stay, they decided to start me on radiation to try to shrink back the tumors surrounding my esophagus. I started Oct.11 and go daily (except weekends) until Nov. 14th.
It seems as waves of discouraging info or symptoms come my way, I seek more fervently to try to find tangible lifelines of faith. Some beauty, security and comfort in the midst of a seemingly dreary landscape.

As a result, a few flowers have cropped up in the garden of my heart. Some blooms that can be put together to form a bouquet of belief.

1.Truth Rises
There is simply so much information that comes your way when encountering cancer and many other difficulties in life. Advice is given from many different and very well meaning sources. Decisions need to be made that can make it feel overwhelming to know which way to choose.
Your own thoughts begin to swirl about what is going on and the enemy definitely tries to discourage with his arsenal of lies about where God is in all of this. 

I have found that simple but powerful truths have provided the most strength, primarily that Jesus said, “I will never leave nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5

He will never walk away or abandon us. In fact He says He will be with us. ”When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...” Is 43:2 
To me that is different then Him just being an onlooker, He is actually walking the path that we are on with us, side my side, hand in hand. Carrying, counseling and guiding.

The Old Testament man of suffering, Job after losing his property, his children and experiencing terribly painful boils from head toe, said two really profound nuggets of truth that provide great perspective when encountering trials

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:20

Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Job 2:10

Difficulties will come and we may never know exactly why, but God is in control, He remains good, and He is with us.
Allow these truths to grow deep in the soil of your soul and pluck out any weeds that may try to choke them out!
Trust in the reality that the TRUTH is stronger than ANY lie and will always rise to the top of the flower bed as it stretches towards the Son.

2.Hope Anchors
Living without hope is like feeling adrift in a sea of crashing waves and crushing winds.
We must have something to hang onto lest we float about spiritually aimless.
Yesterday a hope sower gave me a long stem to add to my bouquet.

Because the symptoms can be so intense,f it is hard to not think that the cancer is growing at rapid rates to basketball size proportions. She informed me that sometimes the symptoms are a lot of what the treatment themselves are creating. 
She also reminded me to focus on what if anything might be getting better.

I paused and thought and have a list now:
I can breath
I can eat some real food ( this is HUGE!!!)
My pain is managed
I can eat as much ice cream as I want and am fact encouraged to!!

I encourage you to try this. Whatever that cloud of hopelessness looks like that is trying to darken your flower bed, think of 2- 3 things that are actually getting better in an aspect of your life. As your garden grows there will be blooms that fade, but others are just waiting to push through the soil and make their glorious appearance. Look for them.

3.Love will Save the Day

When I first met with the Radiation Oncologist to come up with a plan, because I was having such a hard time swallowing food, he suggested I have a PEG tube put in my stomach to receive nutrition through. Though definitely not thrilled with the prospect of this, I went forward with plans of having it done last Friday the 19th. As I lay in the pre-op, an interesting series of events occurred, My nurse, who was dealing with me and room full of other patients came to the foot of my bed and said ”you know this is a really painful procedure.” Never heard a nurse do that! Usually they are like “you are going o be fine.” :) She went on to tell me about a nurse there (a tough guy) who had had it and says it was really hard and that it definitely requires an overnight stay just to deal with pain. I guess that is manageable most of the time, but she went on to say that she could tell my pain was not managed and that this would be intense pain on top of intense pain. She called my doctor in and he agreed and set off on a plan to get my pain managed, saying if I did need the procedure I could do it in a couple of weeks and they could schedule it rather quickly.

I learned that I tend to try to tough out the pain and those around me are not completely aware at how bad it is, as I just kinda go inward.
I told the nurse thank you and she said ”I’ve been a nurse for 25 years and I know how to read people.”

I see this as a total Divine intervention.
I believe my Father’s hand was all over that incident and He stepped in knowing I could not handle it. It is so comforting to know that His hand is on the thermostat of our lives, not allowing things to get too hot for us to bear in the furnace of affliction.

“For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
 As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:11-14

A Father’s love is strong and secure, maybe not often not dealt with sappy emotion, but stable and protective. I love how He loves His children.

Truth, Hope and Love Divine. A beautiful bouquet I’d say. And the best thing? These flowers will never fade.

Current song in my head these days! Enjoy...:)
Rise by Shawn McDonald

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's Your Pain Level?

A routine part of the cancer experience is having the nurses at the doctor’s office ask you what your pain level is when you go for an appointment.
For the last year I have been able to usually say zero. On occasion I have had my spikes, but for the most part it has been manageable.

Until last Friday when the pain in my chest became so crushing I simply could not handle it. After a visit to the ER they admitted me to try to find out exactly what was happening and manage the pain. I was consistently choosing 9 and the very unhappy face on the pain charts and Robert asked what it would take to get to a 10.  
Hmm.. good question.

After many tests, the results showed that the tumors around my esophagus and behind my heart have increased even in just a week and they are squeezing that area terribly.
Monday I will start radiation in conjunction with the chemo to try to shrink these hot spots down.

As for the current pain, I have some pain management meds that work pretty good,
but it’s usually never really gone. 

Pain is a symptom that something is not right. It can be short lived or long term, but in any case, it’s sudden shooting signals are a warning sign.

Pain is also a symptom of being human. It begins at that very first shock of light and temperature change we experience at birth and continues to show up as these temporary bodies we live in get bumped, bruised or besieged.
Traveling through the plains of time, our experiences can leave the raw nerve endings of our emotions shocked and wounded as well. Not to mention the strain living in a fallen world takes on our souls and minds.

Some become numb to the pain over time, others approach it like a badge of honor while still others begin to slowly disappear behind it
In my observation, everyone tries to escape it. Some last longer than others before their search for relief takes center stage; but pain is misplaced, it is a foreign enemy we simply cannot coexist with forever.

I find it so inviting that God is referred to as the God of all Comfort.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort...” 2 Cor. 1;3

Jesus experienced all the same sorts of difficulties we have when He was His physical body, so that He can relate to each of us in whatever situation we are going through. And certainly He knows how to aid and comfort those who share this frail frame.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

That’s probably why I find that people who seek to comfort others remind me the most of Jesus. Those who use their time and resources, gifts and personality and anything else they can find to help soften the jagged edges of pain.

My nurse (Floyd) in the hospital was like this  Very kind and gentle, even his wording tone, and movements were comforting. He has definitely found his niche.

I am surrounded by so many sweeties in my family that all comfort me on so many levels. A kind word, a store run, a quick trip to the fridge.... again, a warm blanket, a gift, a smile, a long talk, a passionate prayer a heartfelt praise. A long sit in silence, another store run, more ice, driving around to countless appt’s and errands, a phone call, carrying my belongings, looking after a water bottle, making me laugh, holding me up, another store run, fixing the pillows, txting I love you and so on (after another store run..:)

Sometimes our Lord is a mighty Deliverer, but sometimes He is a tender Comforter and we learn different aspects of His personality through both experiences.

If it were not for pain, we wouldn’t know the God of all comfort and the blessings of His army of comforting messengers.

This song goes out to all you “angels” of mercy doing what you do in countless situations. Be encouraged. Your kindness makes it bearable. We feel ya. 
Muah!!! xoxoxo

Angel by Your Side Francesca Battistelli

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” Hebrews 6:10

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Time Management

I admit I don’t I have a good sense of time. I frequently think I can make a 20 minute trip in ten minutes. Go to the grocery store, the car wash and swing by my fave “brands for less” shop all before before meeting home for dinner ( which is in about 30 minutes! oops? Nah, plenty of time right? Just one more sales rack......)

God has a sense of humor and ways of strengthening our weaknesses. I am married to the guy who is always on time, but would prefer to be 10 minutes early. I am serious, I can count on one hand the times in 30 years of marriage that I have waited for him. If he is going to be late for some unforeseen situation, say a 10 pile car up ( that he somehow couldn’t find a way to navigate around and still be on time), or any other emergency, he always calls and apologizes, estimates his arrival time and sure enough, there he is walking through the door ...right on time. 

Through the years I have gotten better at getting ready-er on time and he has learned to be less stressed about it.
Now, he just  good-naturedly shouts out when we need to leave, ( “5 more minutes baby”) instead of telling me all the very good, philosophically true and important reasons we need to go........right now!

While I still despise alarm clocks and written schedules and would much rather go to bed when I feel like it, my grown up responsible self squeezes it’s will into these necessary restraints. In order to function in this world and not make enemies, they are simply a must.
Ahh but one day,, eternity,,,:) No hurry. No worry.

Anyhow, I digress. Until then, we have been given the gift of time. Yes it’s a gift. We each have 24 hours a day given to us to choose to do as we will. If we want to be effective for God’s kingdom, we will wisely seek the Holy Spirit’s direction in how to govern our days. Jesus said this concerning those “born of the Spirit”.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

The wind flows, it moves along as it blown by the breath of God. If we desire to be led by Him, we must remain open to having our sails filled with the wind of HIs Spirit so He can move us along. Allowing The Spirit to orchestrate our steps and not trying to fit him into our preprogrammed phone schedules or text alerts.

Time can seem like and enemy as we try to cram all we want and need to do into those allotted hours. Then,  and on the opposite side of the pendulum swing, there are those times when the clock seems to tick by so slowly, it sounds as if is mocking our existence. Tick, tick, tick.

Focusing on goals helps us organize our time, but having this ONE all important goal adds meaning to our lives and structures our souls, no matter the hour. What is it? Walking with Jesus. Just acknowledging Him throughout our days, by talking to Him, seeking Him, listening to Him. No day is unproductive if we have managed to do that.

Our experience with time falls into the categories of what has happened, what is happening and what will happen, These “time blocks” can produce anxiety if not viewed correctly.
Let’s see what the Creator of time has to say about setting our minds as well as our clock to manage these areas.

 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:12-14

To reach our goal ..we must forget the past mistakes or regrets that have tripped us up on our race, lest we become consumed with guilt.
Psalm 103:12 gives us great assurance of what God does with our confessed, repented from sin....

“As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

In his model prayer, Jesus gives us a valuable principle for dealing with everyday needs and concerns.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

Daily dependance and reliance on the Lord for His daily provision helps us enjoy the day without stressing about tomorrow.

And for all the “what ifs” in life these words of Jesus, settle our anxious hearts,
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:31-34

I find that when I try to live moment by moment and not project into the future what may happen or not, I am far more settled, relaxed and focused, free to enjoy the moments given me. Now is all we all really have.

So let’s chill out peeps! Take a deep breath. Look at the folks that are with you. Enjoy them. Take every concern from big to small as it comes your way to the Lord in prayer and trust Him.

Take the next 4 and a half minutes you’ve been given and give yourself the gift of this song!

Trust Me by Crystal Lewis

* Day 1 Chemo down! So far so good. I will meet with the medical staff next Monday to assess what my chemo routine will be after they do lab work and all. I so appreciate the prayers. They are indeed lifting me up! Love you all!