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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Moving Right Along

Our latest big news is that my husband has taken a job in Conroe. For all of you not familiar with the Lonestar state, it is about an hour from where we currently live. He is in charge of recruiting and productivity in a real estate office there.

This is a good move because it gives us a stable income instead of the ups and downs that come with sales. And we need some stability right now. Conroe is a plus because his parents live there, it’s closer to Houston and well, it is on a lake and we really like the water.

So, on top of our already emotional week last week with the hearing and all, Andrew started a new job commuting an hour or so both ways. Just one week and we knew. I hardly see him, the kids are lonely for their daddy and we are both exhausted from it all. All it took was one week. Actually just three days and the big move an hour down the road is imminent.

Some of you know we’ve been trying to sell our house since the end of October. Honestly, we've had no idea where we're going. We've had ideas, dreams and shaky plans but other than that, nuthin'. As real estate agents, you’d think we could have some success selling, but the house is still on the market. Because God had a different plan from all of our past plans.

Sometime I’ll tell you about the day eighteen months ago when God told me we were moving. And, I’ll tell you about when I took trips to Tampa, Corpus and Gulf Breeze, Florida all with intentions to move there. I’m not kidding. The last twelve months have been filled with trips of interviews, scouting and house hunting. They’ve been fun but for one reason or another, things just didn’t work out like we'd hoped.

Conroe seems to be working out and as soon as our house sells, we will go.

I’ve been down there looking at houses the last few days and I’m a little overwhelmed. Although this isn’t how I’ve dreamed it would go, it seems to be going. All the months of standing still are giving way to this free fall. Quickly. I feel so grown up and mature. We’ve made the lists a hundred times. Stay/Go and Pros/Cons. All doors are opening and at least one question mark on this rough, dark road is straightening into an exclamation point.

My friend Mary has been a huge part of praying us through this dark and curvy road. She encourages me daily. Today she sent a quote from Pam Moore’s book, Safer Than a Known Way. Maybe it’s a book we should all check out…Pam says, “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied: Go out into the darkness and put thine hand into the hand of God. That shall be to thee better than light and safer than a known way."

We are definitely walking an unfamiliar path. Often times we feel as if we’re guessing the answer to some big and important decisions.

When we were praying about taking the job, God gave me a vision. I saw my husband at bat. The crowd was cheering, the announcer was saying here was his big chance to hit a homer. The pitch came fast and it hit him. He advanced to base. And the announcer said, “It’s not how he wanted to get on but he still has the potential to score.”

That’s how we feel. We are exciting to be in this game. The people we’ve met in Conroe are amazing. The job is challenging. Being close to family is a welcome blessing.

But we haven’t found the perfect house yet and ours hasn’t sold and we are sad to leave the only home we’ve ever known together. All of those things keep running together in my mind. Around and around in circles they run never slowing and never stopping. A downhill rush of good and hard and even the not so good.

But one thing is sure, he’s guiding us on this path, He’s promised to never leave us and he knows where we’ll plant our feet and lay our heads tomorrow.

I’ve prayed this verse and claimed this promise each day since Mary texted it in October.

“…He (God) determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” Acts 17:26

Going unexactly where while stepping exactly firm,

HIS


Hunter Isaiah Smith is HIS. Our firstborn son was presented to God as a gift before he was born. We determined his initials would be HIS before we determined his name. He would just belong to God and be ours to borrow.

Today, I pray we've done well with what God has entrusted us with. Hunter is seven today. He loves life, baseball, people and most of all his friends. He is so sweet. I mean sweet as in he always is so considerate of others. Always. He's a comforter.

Hunter by name is a warrior. He is my warrior who never.stops.singing. My warrior worshiper, I call him. Like David. The boy sings in the shower, at the dinner table and in bed at night. He is always making a joyful noise! I love that about him. Even on the eighteen hour car trip to Orlando, I tried to constantly remind myself that the singing was good. I hope I can always hear his melody when I close my eyes. I pray he never stops singing a joyful song to our Lord.

He has had to put on his brave big boy shoes these last few months and mature in ways I never imagined. He's grown in ways I would give anything to protect him from but God made my warrior boy to walk this road with me too.

I cherish his prayers for God to heal me each day and I know with every note he sings, God is releasing life. I know with every song that comes from his lips, angels are warring. Hunter, I pray you never lose your song and you never forget whose you are. You are HIS!

"...applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence." Psalm 100:1-2

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 31

In honor of March 31, tomorrow, I am re-posting one of my favorite posts. This post is a favorite because here our boy-wonder looks just like his daddy as a kid. Seriously. I should find a picture and post it...Should being the operative word.

Tomorrow is Hunter boy's birthday and I wonder how seven got here so fast. How can that be? It was just yesterday I was celebrating a boy baby and it seems tomorrow I'll be celebrating a boy man.

You know what that means, I must get my rest so I can put my party shoes on tomorrow!

I have many things to share with you, but am too t.i.r.e.d. to do so right now. I have so much to share, I wonder if I'll ever share all of it...hmmmmm. Yes, things are moving right along. Literally, moving.

Sing to God a brand-new song. He's made a world of wonders! He set things right. He remembered to love us, a bonus To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love. Shout your praises to God, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band! From Psalm 98 The Message

In motherly joy,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dark Roads

I will lead Lisa and her family by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

This is the email I received from my sweet friend Renee the other day. It struck something in me.

Deeply.

As we navigate the murky waters of a cancer diagnosis and treatment that even expert doctors and specialists don’t know a whole bunch about, we feel like we are wandering down a dark road. It can be really scary at times.

Saturday morning as Andrew and I laid in bed talking, I read him this verse as I wept. Then he prayed over me and I wept some more.

I have felt this tremendous release since Friday afternoon.

I have released emotions. I can’t stop crying.

I have felt released from the insurance battle against Scott and White. I am now free to seek the treatment necessary to save my life.

I have felt a release in God’s direction. Decisions we have been agonizing over for the past year suddenly became clearer this weekend.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that this feeling of being released is scary. I truly feel free of the Scott and White mess and although it’s a good feeling, it’s scary to know treatment, which I’ve been told most likely will be chemotherapy and then radiation, is looming. Yes, I’m ready to fight. Yes, I’m scared of what the toxic drugs will do to my body. Yes, I’m more scared of what the cancer will do if left untreated.

After a good heart-to-heart with God this morning, I feel like being scared is different from being fearful. I’m scared of what’s ahead, but I am ready to face it. Head on! I am not experiencing the paralyzing fear that holds us prisoner to the past. I will do what I need to do. Boldly. Fearlessly. Not alone.

I know God is by my side and when I need him to protect me, he’ll fall behind me. When I need him to lead me he’ll walk ahead. When I need him to comfort me, he’ll fall in step with me and slide his arm around me.

As the tears slid down my face Saturday morning, Andrew and I marveled at God’s leading and protecting. We clearly can look back and see his hand in the whole Scott and White battle. And that is comforting.

Even when we felt like we were stumbling around in the dark, he was there. Leading. Guiding. Protecting.

We left Friday’s hearing feeling God’s hand in getting me to MD Anderson for treatment was surely all over the events leading to now.

Had things gone a different way, I’m not sure I would have had my surgery in a high volume center which is what we all now know is one of the top two factors in determining long term survival for sarcoma patients. I am so incredibly grateful that God brought Son Light to a very dark road.

“But I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way, who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall into the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them—sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute." Isaiah 42:16 The Message

Walking in the light,

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Verdict's In

Most of you have heard by now that we lost our appeal with Scott and White Health Plan on Friday. Last week was so emotionally depleting that Saturday’s Fed Ex letter explaining that the “unbiased” panel (made up of three people affiliated with Scott and White Health Plan) had sided with Scott and White’s original decision to provide out-of-network coverage for the surgery and pre-op work at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Surprise. Surprise.

If you are wondering why out-of-network benefits don’t help me, click here.

We were not surprised and God certainly was not surprised. Our week was a roller coaster anyway and ending it with this appeals process being totally over was a welcome relief but my emotions and body cratered. I am exhausted, having pain and just feeling cruddy in general. **sigh** I was really feeling energetic and great until Friday afternoon but I suppose, this too shall pass.

Let me set the kangaroo court stage for you.

We drive to the Scott and White office. We wait in their waiting room until we are ushered by them into their conference room where seven people invited by Scott and White all eagerly wait to look us over and hear our story. The “unbiased” three person panel who would act as the jury was composed of a Scott and White customer service employee who get a paycheck from Scott and White, a surgeon who works at and receives a paycheck from Scott and White and a health plan enrollee who receives a paycheck from one of Scott and White’s largest corporate members.

Are you getting the picture?

I wish I could tell you everything about the hearing. You would all sit with your mouths hanging open in disbelief. We went into the hearing with a strong factual case, according to our attorney. We came out with what our attorney says is a strong case which he has offered to litigate for us. We are contemplating prayerfully our next step. So, I cannot share with you the bizarre turn of events that transpired. But what I can tell you is that we all, my husband, brother-in-law and myself, saw God’s hand in getting me to MD Anderson.

Many of you are also wondering how I will get the treatment I need to live. Many of you have sent some invaluable information. Actually, the advocates at MD Anderson have been our most effective resource in receiving the means to treatment. After our first call to MD Anderson, Tamara told us exactly what we needed from Scott and White. After only a couple of days it became apparent that we were going to be unable to obtain the proper requirements from Scott and White to receive any diagnostics or treatment at MDACC. We were understandably heartbroken, scared and already floundering from a devastating rare cancer diagnosis. Scott and White was completely unhelpful in offering us alternatives for treatment as I was referred repeatedly to general surgeons but no surgical oncologists who specialize in sarcoma. (There aren’t any in the Brazos Valley.)

In an effort to acquire information and resources to get to MDACC, we turned to Tamara our patient advocate at MDACC. She gave us a list of state agencies who could help us out of our predicament. She recommended we call our state representatives and local congressmen. Fred Brown our state rep was ultimately responsible for getting my surgery rescheduled after Scott and White nixed it. Chet Edwards’ office told me they don’t help people in my position.

We called the Texas State Insurance Board immediately. They are a state legal agency who mediates disputes between insurance companies and their patients. We will file yet another formal complaint with them against Scott and White.

We called The Texas Insurance Risk Pool. This is a state agency set up to insure people with uninsurable diseases who are not covered because their insurance company denies them, their benefits aren’t good enough or they have no insurance at the time of diagnosis and need extra help besides Medicare.

I was accepted into the pool shortly after my surgery but have to wait until my Scott and White policy has been terminated before my benefits will start. Unfortunately with Scott and White that is the end of the current month in which you cancel. I found out the first week in March that I needed to cancel. Thus, the thirty-day wait began.

So, in answer to your question, I am purchasing an insurance policy through the state to receive coverage as a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. This is how MDACC suggested I obtain coverage and we are hoping and praying it will all work out really well. I will spend the next few days learning a new plan and working out all the kinks. Say a prayer it goes smoothly.

As for the rest of our family, God has so graciously provided a way for all of them to get out of the clutches of the Scott and White Health Plan also. Because heaven forbid I would ever have to go through this with one of them. I just couldn’t. I’m so sorry to lose our awesome Dr. Wagner and team but so relieved to know we will have great care at facilities adequately equipped to handle rare conditions should the need arise.

Now, I’m not na├»ve. I know that I will still have an insurance battle, it will probably be a different one and many of you have battled Blue Cross and Blue Shield on other matters. But, MDACC says this is the best way for now and God has opened all the doors. Our state rep, Fred Brown assures us that because this is an insurance plan funded by state dollars that he will lots of sway over my care. We won’t hesitate to let him know how he can help and we won’t hesitate to thank him at the polls in our local runoff April 13.

That is a ton of information but I wanted to be specific in case it can help anyone. And, just typing about it has left me t.i.r.e.d. I will post more this week about other turns of events from last week. It’s sure to be exciting…

From a song of my youth...one of God's promises, "The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." Palm 32:8

Walking the best path,

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jury's Out

Tonight finds me emotionally exhausted, depleted, spent, drained and really relieved.

We will wait for a written notification by mail to be sent within three business days. It's a good thing I am a professional at waiting by now. (That's a total joke. Even though I've had plenty of practice lately, I was still disappointed we wouldn't wait for their response in the lobby or be notified as soon as they'd reached their decision.)

I know God has heard our prayers and I've been vindicated in the heavenlies. We continue to pray Scott and White would see that.

I spent some time in the Psalms this morning and that's the word that caught my attention. The dictionary defines vindicate as "To clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof or to provide justification or support for."

That was my prayer. That I would be cleared from doubt of making the decision to pursue treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center with proof and that we would provide justification or support for Scott and White to find favor in our argument. I feel we've done that and wait on their response and ruling.

Clear my name (vindicate me), God; I've kept an honest shop.
I've thrown in my lot with you, God, and
I'm not budging. Psalm 26:1

Please get up—wake up! Tend to my case (vindicate me).
My God, my Lord—my life is on the line.
Do what you think is right, God, my God,
but don't make me pay...Psalm 35:24

Clear my name (Vindicate me), God; stick up for me (and plead my case)...Psalm 43:1

All verses from The Message (NIV words in parenthesis).

Resting in His sure path tonight,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Right Thing

Remember to pray tomorrow as our hearing with Scott and White is here at noon. We feel that this is one last chance for them to do the right thing and see how rare and life threatening this cancer really is and that the studies show the best long term prognosis for patients treated in high volume centers like MD Anderson.

Our prayer is for justice to be served.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

We also feel strongly, with lots of support, that we have done the right thing by choosing to continue fighting for the treatment that studies show will give me the best chance at life. As much as we hate confrontation, this is our right thing. Pray the words we speak would not only be truthful but seasoned with grace and light.

Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:6

This is just a reminder to keep praying as we prepare the facts over here. I will update you tomorrow afternoon with the results.

Thankful for you all,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quickly

This is just a quick update to fill you in on a few prayer requests and reports we have.

1. Our Scott and White hearing is Friday at noon. Pray justice would be served, the jury panel would see me as a person fighting to save my life and not a number. Pray Scott and White will take advantage of this final opportunity to do the right thing.

2. I am being scheduled for a rib series to run some scans and tests on my bones and specifically my ribs to see what is causing the pain.

3. Pray I get MDACC's read on my PET scan soon.

4. Praise that I "met" someone who is a patient of Dr. R at MDACC and he treated their cancer very aggressively thus saving their life. This person had a soft tissue sarcoma in their heart that had spread to lungs and liver. I'm feeling extremely positive about seeing him now.

5. Pray that the April 12 appointment gets moved up to the first part of April.

6. Pray for our family that we would spread the fame and honor of Our Lord wherever we go and to all we meet.

And how blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,
our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.
One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God
than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn't scrimp with his traveling companions.
It's smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
Psalm 84:5 & 9-12 The Message

Spreading his glory,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Qualified


Last year was a monumental year for me. Not only did I experience all the rekindling that comes with twenty-year reunions; but I also met some of the most wonderful friends I’ve ever had the opportunity to connect with through Proverbs 31 Ministries. The Lord has used these ladies to ignite the kindling in my soul into a burning flame.

I first heard about She Speaks a few years ago. At that time, God dropped a deposit of wistful dreaming and fragile hoping into my rapidly beating heart. Connection to ladies with similar hopes and dreams has set a firm belief in my heart that this conference may, indeed, be just for me. Hoping and dreaming with ladies who share my passion has not only been fun and encouraging; it has been life changing. I have loved having friends whose hearts also beat fast at the prospect of a conference dedicated to better equipping ladies to share personal stories of God’s redemption and grace and it has changed how I see things.

This week Lysa TerKeurst is hosting a scholarship contest where she will give away three Cecil Murphey scholarships for the conference. She Speaks offers a variety of training classes. Both experienced and novice writers, speakers and ministry leaders can benefit at She Speaks. Here is a summary of descriptions from Lysa's blog.

Speakers with all levels of experience will learn to develop a clear message, keep an audience engaged and deliver inspiration and motivation to an audience and increase number of booked speaking engagements.

Writers will learn how to go from blog to book, discover a unique writing voice, know what publishers want, publish magazine articles, write engaging stories and learn the basic mechanics of effective writing.

Women’s Ministry Leaders will learn how to build a team, cast a vision, distinguish God’s vision, celebrate milestones and keep team members inspired.

Last year was the first time I seriously even considered going to She Speaks. Although I have been familiar with the She Speaks conference for several years, I have never felt “qualified” to attend. I have always seen myself as unworthy to be among those “chosen” to have a fruitful ministry. I’ve really never even been sure anyone would ever be interested in what I have to say. My story is ordinary. It’s simply that of an average girl who loves an amazing God through many twists and turns of a life filled with the everyday. I realize just having a fast heartbeat or being friends with others who have growing ministries doesn’t give me credibility. You see, I’m not a published author or a highly sought after speaker. All I have is this crazy desire to share my completely ordinary story of God’s extraordinary love with others.

Yet, when I take this burning desire to the Lord, he reminds me that his economy is different. He qualifies those he sends and he sends all who are willing to go.

“Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

And he said, “Yes, go…” Isaiah 6:8-9 NLT


Lord, here I am. Send me.

Update: Medical and Otherwise

First let me just say, it’s 12:39 and I am still in my pajamas, which my oh-so-sweet four-year-old keeps drawing to my attention. He keeps asking me why since I am not sick anymore am I not dressed and ready to run outside. **sigh** I’m tired, baby, I tell him, Mommy worked hard yesterday.

Yes, I am without a doubt, most definitely sore from my great gym return of yesterday. I will eventually dress and drag myself outside for a token run around the block with little scooter boy though. I have to. I am officially back in training for the Run for Compassion 5K in three weeks. Now, don’t y’all worry your sweet little heads. I will slow up if I have any bad pain. I am familiar with bad pain. Right now I have mostly good pain. You know, the pain that burns your thigh muscles so you can hardly sit to take care of business. That’s good pain.

This morning I spoke with Lynn in Dr. H’s office. Last week was spring break around here and Dr. H and Lynn were both out of the office. I enjoyed having the respite from phone calls and cancer questions.

However, after an entire week of searching for a new normal, I am so ready to know the answers to a great many questions! Mainly, what is the next step toward total healing? I know many of you think chemo and/or radiation may only be a small possibility due to the wait. This long and drawn out period of waiting is due to my insurance situation. It really stinks! We are constantly working on getting the coverage I need so that the rest of my treatment can go at a steady rate without any hitches.

Our final appeal to Scott and White Health Plan to cover more (or all) of the surgery I already had is this Friday at noon. We are praying they take advantage of this final opportunity to do the right thing. Won’t you pray with us? If you feel led to let them know one more time how they still have time to do the right thing and pay for my life saving surgery from February 26 at MD Anderson Cancer Center you can get their contact information here. We are praying and hoping they admit that by having my surgery at MDACC, my breast was saved and my body was spared from having any more (reconstructive) surgeries.

Andrew and I feel led to go forward with the hearing at this point because a) it would be really nice to not have to make the huge monthly payments to MDACC for the next year, b) Scott and White members really need to know what they’re up against if they are ever diagnosed with a rare disease (especially one as defined by the Rare Diseases Act) and c) Scott and White Health Plan just needs to do the right thing.

The radiologists at MDACC have yet to read my PET scan because they read in-house scans before they look at scans from other institutions and I would think being the nation’s top cancer center that they would have lots of in-house scans to read! And so, we wait knowing my team at MDACC is putting a little pressure on radiology to look at my scan. J

I am also continuing to have increasing pain in a couple of my lower ribs. This started as a small vague pain about a week after my diagnosis. It now hurts all.the.time and can be relieved with Advil but always remains tender to the touch. I am waiting to see if Dr. H thinks I need a bone scan for this and if so, I will have the scan before the appointment on April 12. As for that appointment, I have been added to a cancellation list so that I can be seen earlier if a spot opens. Pray for some cancellations, y’all.

I’ll be waiting for one but in the meantime, I think I’ll enjoy the gloriousness of spring.

“God, my God, how great you are! Beautifully, gloriously robed, Dressed up in sunshine! What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations…Send out your Spirit and they spring to life…Oh, let me sing to God all my life long…Oh, let my song please him!” From Psalm 104 The Message

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Blessing Clarification

Wow! You guys flooded my inbox with tons of comments, questions and sympathy from this morning’s post. I have to hand it you glad chatters…You are truly some of the classiest people I know. Thank you for sharing your feelings with me today. You have blessed me!

I’m going to ramble for a couple of minutes if you’ll indulge me on this topic of our sins causing our diseases or our problems. Please hear me out and please understand this is not theological debate. I’m much too tired to debate anything. This is just my soapbox and I’ll even share it with you if you’re nice about it. (smile)

The well-meaning folks who made comments about my heart in the wake of cancer really do mean well, I think. Let me just give you some background on my thoughts on this subject because I started contemplating this idea long before I was diagnosed with cancer.

Years ago, I was in a social setting talking with some other Christian moms when one friend said that she thought that cancer was caused by bitterness in people’s hearts. That was it. A comment made in the course of a discussion many years ago that set my mind to pondering this idea. Who did I know who had cancer? Did I think they were openly, flagrantly mean people? Was this even God’s character to punish people like this or to give this bad and even, deadly gift?

Stop right there. God giving a bad gift? Ummm…no, that’s against his character.

“If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven [perfect as He is] give good things to those who keep on asking Him!” Matthew 7:11

I do not think my cancer is “from God.” I do think my cancer is God-approved. I do not feel that it is a punishment or that I’ve done something to deserve it. I honestly feel quite the opposite. I feel more blessed than I did before I had cancer most of the time. I feel more exquisitely loved and cherished by God right now more than ever. I cannot explain why. It’s just the truth.

I do not believe that washing in holy water or having a certain person lay hands on me will release God’s healing. I have done some of these types of things that others, who love me lots, have asked me to do because I love these people, respect them and want them to have hope that God hears their prayers. I believe that God can use these types of things. I believe that if God asks me to do something, it could release healing in my life. Why? This is biblical and I will obey God even when it doesn’t make sense to me.

“Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!” John 9:6-7

I don't know if this man understood what he was doing and I'm not sure he thought it would heal his eyes but I bet he thought Jesus could heal his eyes so maybe he'd try to trust him a bit.

Now, knowing my background on how we can bring cancer on ourselves is important because you should know that I blame myself for everything. I apologize profusely to everyone around me all the time and I think that anytime something goes wrong that it is all my fault and that I deserve it in some way. I am prone to take full blame for mistakes that those around me make. You know, like totally blaming myself for my children's bad decisions and stuff like that. I never really felt that about cancer, that I brought it on myself some way. So when that was suggested, imagine my stress.

A natural doctor that knows nothing about me or my character was the first to suggest this idea to me. I felt really exposed and victimized. I had come to the doctor to see if he could help me and he told me to help myself by forgiving others. (Sigh) I spend time searching my heart on a regular basis and asking God to reveal any hidden motives or grudges I might have and the thought that I hadn’t done this thoroughly was a little overwhelming to me. The thought that someone might look at me and determine that I was withholding from God threatened to take me over the edge emotionally. That is not my intention. Ever. I would never knowingly withhold from the Lord! I decided to search my heart and leave it at God’s feet.

Then when I shared this with my mother, she said maybe it was true. That hurt but maybe it was. She was sharing out of her own experiences with physical release and healing. She said every time God has touched her physically, he has revealed something deep from which she needed to repent. I began to earnestly pray again. I concluded that it was her life and her pattern. I left a comma at the end of the sentence inviting God to finish the prayer.

Other counselor-type friends and loved ones who care deeply have asked. I haven’t found offense here but I have carried frustration over it. Because let’s face it, we are humans. We want solutions. If we need a better organized home, to lose fifteen pounds or a cure to our own cancer, we want to fix it. Ourselves. And right now!

I am no different. I do take criticism personally, maybe a little too personally. I set a high standard for myself and I expect to live up to it. I am my own worst critic. I just am. That’s why this was a hard issue for me not because of what others said just because of how I personalized it. And if I could do something, anything to get rid of this cancer, don’t you think I would?!?

What I am choosing to believe right now is something that my husband and I feel God has shown us. We believe that he is using and will continue to use my cancer to bring him glory. Why? Because he’s done it before.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.“ John 9:1-3

And, did y’all even get how sweet God was to bring Jeremiah 17 in full circle in my life these last two weeks? That was the little pink blessing I was talking about...the Jeremiah 17 charm that will remind me how God loves me enough to care.

Little Pink Blessings: Part 4

(To visit other gals' safari adventures, click on the photo and to read parts 1-3 of Little Pink Blessings, click on the title of this post.)

This Daniel post is special. You see, we had two weeks to Safari through Daniel chapter 9. I have been toying with chapter 9 this whole time but it wasn’t until late last night that I really got the chance to dig deep. And boy, oh boy, was I in for a treat!

A verse that has especially ministered to me on this cancer journey is Jeremiah 17:14, “O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed. If you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone.” NLT

I had good friend give me a James Avery charm with this verse on it to add to my believe bracelet so I could be reminded of this promise everyday. You see, God showed me early on that my healing is a deeply personal thing. He showed me that it is ultimately between him and me. This verse reminds me of that and I love this visual reminder of it.

Upon hearing of my cancer diagnosis, there were a few well-meaning people who suggested that my cancer might be connected to some unforgiveness or bitterness issue in my heart. You see, some research has linked cancer to an increase in the stress hormone in our bodies for an extended period of high stress in the two years prior to being diagnosed with cancer. These insinuations actually infuriated me. I absolutely did not need the guilt of causing my own cancer on my shoulders on top of everything else! But, I would calmly tell them I’d consider it before the Lord and, I did. I have learned that pride can be my biggest hindrance to knowing God more intimately. And so I sought him on this.

I begged the Lord to show me if there was anything in my heart, anyone I needed to forgive, any thing to bring me closer to Him. I will do it to walk closer with the Lord. I will do it to heal my body.

After hours of prayer and self-examination, I got nothing.

You see, this diagnosis of cancer has had me baffled. About this time last year, I decided I needed to get serious about my body. I want to hit 40 healthy. I began to restrict my diet in a good way. I exchanged my existence on coffee, Diet Coke and Advil for that of fresh foods, organic when possible, no caffeine and a drastic reduction of sweets. I began to really train physically instead of just going through the motions of exercise. I started training for a marathon just to prove I could do it. In the process, I lost the excess 30 pounds I had been hanging onto since baby #4 arrived three years earlier. I was feeling better than I had in the last ten years and I was excited about it. I was not expecting cancer. I felt very healthy but my body was saying otherwise.

Nine months prior to my cancer diagnosis, I was soaring spiritually but crashing physically. I was tired all the time. I was burdened with the responsibilities in my life that were overwhelming me. I was learning that to those given much, much would be required and I was desperately asking the Lord to help my weak body submit to his strong Spirit.

I was trying to give much well but felt I was failing. All the hours in the day, literally, were not enough to drive children, do homework, fix nutritious meals, keep the house running smoothly, have a good workout regimen, spend time individually with all the folks in my home, volunteer, teach Bible study, write and soak in God’s word, grocery shop, do laundry, work for my husband and you get the idea. So, in exasperation, I decided that I would trim my schedule back to the very bare minimums. I had already given up activities that took away from productivity in my life like TV, long workouts and even household duties that weren’t as necessary. I gave up even more sleep at this point. I was totally maxed.

Let me clarify, any and all stress I was feeling was put on myself by myself. I spent a lot of time looking at the way others interpreted God’s commands and felt frustrated when my life didn’t “measure up.” In an effort to become more godly and more disciplined, I tried even harder thus harming my physical body which is why, upon doctor’s orders, I decided to change my lifestyle last year. In addition to the dietary and exercise changes, I gave up most volunteering and even serving at church to better serve at home while still finding time to care of my body. Maybe the damage was already done. I don’t know.

As I read Daniel’s story of repentance, I immediately thought of some verses in Jeremiah 17, verses that were the main text of the retreat I went to two weeks ago. I loved these verses but didn’t see the connection to healing until now. Last night I saw how I, like Daniel’s peers need repentance. I had been depending on myself way too much.

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone…But blessed is…the woman who sticks with God…I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be…God, pick up the pieces. Put me back together again. You are my praise.” Jeremiah 17:5,7,10 & 14 The Message

As I read God’s word, I gave myself permission to forgive me. I finally can admit that I can’t be the perfect wife/ mom/ homemaker/ daughter/ friend/ writer/ speaker/ realtor/ fill-in-the-blank type person.

My life may not look like hers or yours of theirs but it looks like mine and it is His. And He has confirmed that with his great love.

I, (Lisa), was meditating on the Scriptures…I turned to Master God, asking for an answer—praying earnestly…I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God…While pouring out my heart, baring my sins…praying my life out before my God…(the Holy Spirit) approached me….and said…”You are much loved!” Daniel 9:2-3, 20 & 23 Lisa's version

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cancer Bows

Bless the LORD, O my soul And all that is within me, bless his holy name…who heals all your diseases. Psalm 102:1 & 3

This started off my day today. It’s where my heart was when I walked into the house of the Lord this morning and tears started sliding down my cheeks because we were singing these words.

My anthem has become Healer by Kari Jobe. I believe you're my healer...You heal all my diseases… That’s a phrase that will stop and make you think. Especially if you have cancer.

I have never had the need to be healed of a “disease.” When I had a cold, sore throat or even a slightly more serious malady I would’ve asked for “healing,” maybe. But, I wouldn't have considered any of these a “disease.” No, not really, I've never had one before now. I've never really needed healing before now. Not me.

Before two months ago, I would have considered the disease I needed healing from to be the state of my heart. Yes, my heart is diseased. It is slimy and sinful and wretched and very, very sick without the Lord. But, my body was another story. It was fine. Or at least I thought. I listened to my body. I changed things when I thought I was getting too unhealthy. I just recently lost 30 pounds, make healthier eating choices and I was training for a marathon. I honestly had never been healthier. Or so I thought.

Today I ask God to heal all my diseases, to heal my body from cancer every day. Multiple times a day, I remind God of who he is, Healer of all my diseases.

And I wake up praising him with all that is within me and I go to bed praising him with all that is within me.

And, I am reminded that if all that is within me is praising God then even cancer is forced to bow to his holiness. And cancer bowing to the name of the Lord makes me happy.

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and mercies. He fills my life with good things…The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love…Let all that I am praise the Lord.” Psalm 103:1-4, 8 & 22 NLT

PS Along the lines of yesterday, Psalm 103:17-18 says, “But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!”

Keep the faith,

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Next Generation

Thursday someone asked me how they could pray for my children. That, my friends, is a loaded question. If you’re like me, you have a few million prayer requests for each child at any given time.

I mean, just the current moment holds hundreds, if not thousands, of concerns. Right? I want my children to excel at school, socially, as friends, in sports and I want them to learn to listen and obey my voice, make good decisions and not to succumb to peer pressure. I want them to know their passions, learn to worship God in everyday life and share his love with a dying world. I want them to always do their best, be compassionate and love others and love Jesus with their whole hearts. I want them to learn to be leaders, exceed their potential and achieve the goals they set for themselves. Get it?

I simply want the best for my children.

Then we have the whole “children of a cancer survivor” thing. I want them to know how they feel and learn to deal with their feelings in a healthy way. I wan them to understand that in spite of their mother having cancer that God is good and loving and just. I want them to take this and use it to help other children whose parents have cancer. I want them to learn how to release all the pain and stress associated with this appropriately. I want them to learn that God answers prayer and I want them to learn to praise him in the storms of life.

This is all current stuff. The future brings an endless list of requests. I want them to love and serve God all of their days. I want them to have godly spouses and marriages where they love, serve and submit to one another as well as to Christ. I want them to be blessed with healthy children and long lives. I want them to get all the education they need to pursue their passion in life. I want them to be free to answer the callings placed on their lives.

And the list goes on and on and on.

I could be overcome with all the worryings of raising children if I let myself. After Julia was born and all these hopes and dreams I had for her life started consuming my thoughts turning my brain into a pile of worry and ickiness, I had to ask God how to take the very good and godly desires for her to know and love and serve him and present them to him in an honorable way. He began showing me how to pray for my children (and I’ll share some of those ways with you another time.) He showed me I had to keep my heart focused on him at all times so the meditations of my heart could pour out all the things my mouth couldn’t. And, he showed me what’s most important.

I know if I had to boil it down to just one request, it would be that my children have hearts full of love and passion for Jesus and live their lives that way. Period.

The most important thing is they are filled with the desire to run to him. In all things, if they go with God, they are promised success. God’s word doesn’t lie.

Imagine my delight when the Psalm I read yesterday morning camped right here around this truth. My prayer yesterday was this:

“Hear my prayer, Lord…My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass. But you, Lord, sit enthroned for ever; your reknown endures through all generations…Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord…In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. So I said, Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations…you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their decendants will be established before you.” From Psalm 102 (TNIV)

Last night as the wonderful photographer, Charly Stagg, snapped some beautiful pictures of our family, that was my prayer. That God’s fame and reknown would be known through all generations of my family and that his love would weave all the generations of us together in a beautiful story.

I can’t wait to share more with you about this. More ways I pray for my children, more pictures from last night, more about fun and charming Charly and how God used her to touch my heart and more of God's promises! What are some more truths you pray for your future generations?

“Your servants’ children will have a good place to live and their children will be at home with you.” Psalm 102:28 The Message

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Big Moment

I’ve been waiting for an instant. The one big moment I can know I’m healed of cancer. Maybe I’ll have a moment. Maybe I’ll have a series of moments I’m not sure how God will choose to sustain my life.

But I do know he will. Even if he chooses to take me to eternity with him before I turn 93, don’t misunderstand. He will still be sustaining my life this way. Forever. You see, all God’s promises are yes and amen. He is good.

I’ve been thinking about the miracles of Jesus. He didn’t only heal bodies; he healed hearts. I want a whole body. But today finds me thankful I have a whole heart.

My good friend, Suzy, wrote this: Your Love is the Real Miracle

I looked and in front of me I saw a bush on fire that was not being consumed. This must have been an amazing miracle for Moses to witness, I thought. “No, this was not a miracle,” I heard from somewhere deep inside.

I looked again and in front of me I saw a wall of water splitting in two, creating a pathway of dry ground for a nation of people to pass safely through to the other side. What an incredible miracle that was, I thought.

“No, this was not a miracle either,” I heard again.

Once more I looked and in front of me I saw a woman standing before others boldly proclaiming the gospel of hope. I recognized that woman and knew her failings; I knew her weaknesses and all of her mistakes. This must truly be a miracle I insisted to myself. That God would use someone like her to speak hope to others.

“No, this is not even a miracle,” was the response that came back to me.

Then I saw a man standing in front of that bush that refused to be consumed. He was broken, weary and afraid. Still he said yes to God. Yes, to the difficult path promised to him.

“That was the miracle,” I heard whispered in my heart.

I saw the One who governs the universe without a moment’s hesitation look upon a collection of stiff-necked people who had a history of rejecting Him, but that long ago had made a promise to never leave or forsake them.

“That was the miracle.” I heard again.

Finally, I saw that woman whose past failures and mistakes should have disqualified her from ever being an effective witness to one so perfect as Jesus. I saw that woman as a little girl, crying alone in her room wanting just for someone to say that her life mattered. I saw her grown, as she is today telling you this story; lying broken before the healer of our deepest wounds, crying out for that One to redeem her life for His glory…as unworthy as she knew she was.

And this time, I whispered what I now understood. “That was the miracle.”

Not that a bush refused to be consumed. Not that a body of water split in two. Not that a woman like her…like me, could speak messages of hope to multitudes.

But that the love of God is so deep and so wide and so vast that broken and afraid, sinful and rebellious people become the receiving end of that eternal love. And their lives are changed forever. And the world is changed forever because they believed in the One who gave them that love.

That is truly a miracle.

I love how she expresses our desire to see God’s hand move while still keeping his heart in proper perspective.

Be inspired today! And if you’ve never let God heal your heart, ask him today. Ask me how; I’d love to pray with you.

Singing While I Wait

Set your sights on the realities of heaven…Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth Your real life is hidden with Christ in God…and sing…songs to God with thankful hearts.

Colossians 3:1-3 & 16 (NLT)

These verses from my reading today reminded me where I need to be looking. At Jesus.

I’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity. In reality it’s only been two months since my biopsy results came back confirming cancer. Before that I only waited for about three weeks to see if the lump I found a month prior was malignant. All of those things make a whopping grand total of just under four months. Four months. That’s all. Not too long in light of eternity.

So why does the temporal take up so much more of my brain space than the eternal? In this case maybe because this temporal struggle could result in the beginning of my eternity!

More likely is the fact that I can see what I can see. I spend lots of time “shuffling along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of me,” as Colossians 3:2 says. I focus on the here and now even though I am intimately acquainted with not only God’s promises, but God himself. I lose sight of my real life even though I genuinely believe God told me I’d be okay.

Now I have interpreted that to mean that I’ll live through cancer. Certainly I will live full of suffering for awhile but also full of living!

Now I know also that God’s words says we only know in part. So I know I could have misinterpreted this word concerning my health. I’ve been wanting to hear the second half of God’s sentence. You’ll be okay…now.

I’ve been wanting a point where I could be instantaneously and miraculously healed. I want for doctors to stand in amazement and proclaim a medical miracle. I want to be completely eradicated of cancer and to never worry about it again. Ever. I want an ending to all of this. Desperately.

I thought it might come with each mammogram and ultrasound. It didn’t. I thought it might come with surgery. It didn’t. I thought it would surely come with a formal diagnosis. It didn’t.

So where does that leave me? It leaves me living day by day holding fast to God. It leaves me living a reminder that each day is a gift. It leaves me living a reminder that we are all desperately dependant on a big and very good God.

Just because I have been placed in a difficult situation doesn’t mean that God’s word doesn’t apply. Actually, it means the exact opposite. It means God’s word applies more than ever. I know this because Colossians 3:10 says my Creator handpicked this for me. “Every item of your new way of life (even the fruits of cancer) is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it.”

And about that thankfulness, I’m trying to find…Colossians 3:15-16 says, “Let the peace of Christ keep you…and cultivate thankfulness.” I can do this by letting God’s word have run of my house and praising him.

And that’s a promise!

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it…Pursue…Christ…that’s where the action is…Give (the Word of Christ) plenty of room in your lives…and sing, sing your hearts out to God!” Colossians 3:1-2 &16 (The Message)