Finding Rest

We spend our lives hanging our hopes and dreams of true happiness on the hat of achievement or success while its fulfillment is fleeting.  We tend to tell ourselves that ‘we’ll be really happy when’…

…we reach a certain pay grade

…we find the perfect match

…we have x number of children

…we buy a larger home

…we retire

…we travel the world

….While these are lofty and worthwhile goals and dreams, we will never be satisfied or at rest in these alone.

…or what about  – we’ll be really happy when…this storm passes or I am healthy again?

THEN, I will be happy and my soul will be at rest!

What if true rest is found in surrender?

What if the peace we seek is found in the person of Jesus Christ?  I submit to you that it is only then that the searching, the seeking, the striving … is fulfilled and complete.

All too often our focus goes askew.  We lose sight of the fact that He is the Potter and we are the clay.  Does the clay tell the Potter what to make?  No.  Never.  Sometimes our lives segue into unchartered waters and we fear we may drown.  It’s during those times, especially, that our focus must be redirected on the One who has all power in His hands.  That doesn’t always mean the storm will be averted or our path will miraculously veer around the storm.  It does, however, mean that God is there no matter the circumstances.  He is our Peace in troubled times.  No matter the situation, we can find rest.

Each of our journeys are unique.  We each run a different race, face particular battles, etc. But we are all created by the same God who made us to only find true peace and satisfaction in a personal relationship with Him.

We live in anxious times, no matter your geographic location.  We just do.  For all the academic achievements of mankind, sometimes we can be too prideful to realize our full dependence on an Almighty God.  For all our intellectual ability and strivings, we remain completely lacking in every way.  It is when we realize this, that we have begun to live.  Really live.  Life is so complex.  Happiness can seem elusive if we continue looking in all the wrong directions.  It is, however, completely attainable when we wholeheartedly surrender to God and know that no matter what we may be going through, He is there with us.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us.  In that, our future is secure and peace is attainable.

Rest today, friend, knowing that your circumstances do not somehow escape the watchful eye of an All-Knowing God.  He sees.  He knows.  He cares.  Rest.

“Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

~ Matthew 11:28

 

I Am Cancer Free!!!!!

The Cancer Center Doctor called the night before last to deliver the pathology report from my recent oophorectomy, just eight weeks since my hysterectomy.  Her phone call was a bit surreal.  She said everything came back negative for cancer!!!!!

I was laying down when she called as I’m recovering from my surgery last week but I was jumping up and down on the inside!!!  My heart could hardly believe this most excellent news!  It was much like having a 2 ton boulder removed from one’s shoulders!  I hung up and delivered the wonderful news to my husband who was laying beside me.  We hugged and cried.  Oh, how I cried tears of relief, tears of pure joy from the depths of my soul!  My life was handed back to me and I am forever grateful to God for this second chance!

Allow me to back up and give a brief background to this euphoric news!…

In January 2016 I went to the ER with abdominal pain.  Thinking it may be my appendix, I decided to get it checked out late one night.  They did a CT scan, which showed a number of issues – two of the most pressing were my gallbladder and a large, uterine fibroid.  After undergoing a Hida scan, it was confirmed my gallbladder was only functioning at 35% and would need to be removed.  That surgery was in February 2016.

After consulting with a GYN surgeon, I decided to move forward with a hysterectomy as it would resolve many other symptoms I had but was unaware of the source until now.  Surgery was scheduled for the end of June, however, I had to reschedule it due to spending nearly five months out of state tending to my sick father…  Once again, surgery was scheduled…this time for November 29, 2016.

The three hour hysterectomy went well. I had some awful reactions to pain meds, one of which required a trip via ambulance to the ER.  It was while I was laying on the ER bed one week post-op that my GYN surgeon stopped by the hospital to deliver the mind numbing news that my pathology had come back that I had a rare, aggressive cancer.  She said it all seemed to be contained within the fibroid but she was referring me to an oncologist GYN at a cancer hospital.  My husband sat beside my bed, asking many questions and cried.  Mercifully, I was on paid meds and a little insulated from the initial shock.  This was December 6, 2016.

We met with the oncologist GYN on December 20, 2016 and set yet another surgery date for February 1, 2017 to remove my ovaries (which posed an added risk of generating more cancer as it is hormone driven) and select lymph nodes for testing.  They would also do some exploratory work to make sure no other areas had been affected by this rare, aggressive cancer called leiomyosarcoma.  It represents only 1% of all uterine cancers and there is no lab test for it, which is why it is normally only discovered after the patient dies (much like ovarian cancer).  It is by the grace of God mine was found “incidentally”, but I know better.  God ordained this and He allowed my life to be extended by His great mercy.

This would be my third major surgery in less than a year!  I was very concerned that the utter fatigue from the hysterectomy would be further compounded by another surgery, so soon.  I was just beginning to get my energy back as my next surgery was quickly approaching…

The February 1st surgery was a consequential surgery, for it would tell us the “staging” of the cancer and how best to proceed from here.

The surgery went very well and, again, lasted three hours.  I stayed overnight at the cancer hospital and was released the next day.

Fortunately for me, physically, this recovery, while painful, was not nearly as severe as the hysterectomy.  This time around in order to avoid the awful pain medicine side effects, I limped along with Toradol, and now just Advil and Tylenol.  I’ll take the pain, however, if it keeps me out of the ER.  I digress…

The oncologist GYN surgeon said to give them two weeks for pathology to come back, which is standard procedure.  So, to receive a phone call at 7:30p.m. from the Dr. the other evening, just one week post-op, was unexpected to say the least and overwhelmingly euphoric!  NO CANCER!  At this point, I’ll have a follow up appointment from the surgery in five weeks and they want to “follow me” every three months for observation.  So, I’ll go in every three months for a check up and to discuss any changes in symptoms.

If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know I have kids at home still – 19 and 17, along with an aging father.  I also have a grown son, 28, who lives nearby.  This has squarely been the hardest battle we’ve ever faced.  It was painful to consider they may be faced with losing their mother to cancer at such a young age, just as I was at age 23.  Of course, it was scary to consider having to endure chemotherapy and radiation and the prospect that they may not be enough to stave off this dreadful disease.

Throughout this entire two month journey, I delved into the Word of God, finding comfort daily for my restless soul.  I wrestled with the idea of having to walk such a painful road but trusted that the same God who has brought me through countless difficulties and heartaches, would be the same God who would mercifully see me through even this painful path.  It’s interesting…the day prior to the Dr. calling to deliver the amazing news, my prayer to God had overwhelmingly been focused on the word “Surrender”!  I told God that I completely surrendered to His will, His plan and what He was doing in my life.  If that involved chemo, then I surrendered.  If that involved Him bringing me home to Glory, then I surrendered.  If that involved dreary days of feeling half dead due to the treatments, then I surrendered.  I reached the place that no matter what, I decided that God could either be trusted or He could not.  I decided emphatically HE CAN BE TRUSTED!

I made up my mind!  So, if I say that I trust Him, then my faith needs to follow that declaration.  I surrendered all.

And then we received the phone call.  Maybe that’s what God was after all along.  Surrender.  He already had my heart long ago.  But did He have all of my faith – 100%?  I don’t know.  One thing I have wrestled with for many years is that it seems easy to believe God for other people.  I have such compassion for others and their struggles and heartaches.  But, do I firmly believe that God will do it for me?

That is where I have struggled.  I struggle no more!  God has done it!  And I am eternally grateful.  I do believe that all things are possible to those who believe!  I believe in a God who can do anything but fail!  I believe that my BEST days are still ahead.

And I believe I will go dance in the streets to declare the faithfulness and mercy of the loving God I serve! …

Just as soon as I can get out of bed!

 

The Smell of Rain

The sliding glass door, leading to the small balcony off the master bedroom, is open.  Rain has been steadily falling since early this morning and the scent is refreshing.  There is nothing like the smell of freshly fallen rain, except maybe crunching leaves in autumn up north.  But, today, it is Florida’s version of winter weather – although fairly mild, of course.

The showers not only replenish the earth but invigorate the senses.  This is not our typical rainy season that occurs during our hurricane season from June 1st through November 30th.  It has caused some dead limbs to be strewn across the lawn and our swimming pool to be pretty full.  The creek that runs behind our house has become rather full with water gushing as it makes its way over the large rocks, creating a small waterfall.  It’s always so peaceful to look at at the waterfall and listen to the water as it cascades over the rocks.

Water is so soothing, isn’t it?  I think of the ocean with its waves that ebb and flow.  Visitors flock to it and find relaxation.  I also think of a warm bath to calm the mind and body.  Waterfalls in the mountains.  People will hike miles just to catch a glimpse of the beauty of majestic waterfalls.  Perhaps the most famous of falls, Niagara Falls, is the destination of thousands of visitors each year.

God certainly knew water would bring mankind peace and nourishment against life’s stresses.

Although it’s very overcast and rainy today, I am thankful for the precipitation.  Everything has a season and today’s season is rain.

Some complain when the weather prevents them from participating in outdoor activities or dulls their mood.  Instead, why not take advantage of a rainy day to do something indoors that you’ve been putting off?  I like to turn on the lights and play some cheerful music on days like these.  It sends a signal to the mind that we still have cause to be happy, despite the weather.

So, today I will enjoy the fresh scent of the rain.  Tomorrow it will be gone.  The sun will be out along with a few clouds, but the rain will be over.

Ah, to breath in this invigorating fragrance is a beautiful blessing!  You see, there is beauty in the rain.  Yes, unpleasantness too.  Like when you step into a deep puddle.  Isn’t that life?  You take the good and the bad, mix it all together and it is a beautiful gift.

The Immutability of God

Now what does that exactly mean?  Immutable means: Fixed, set, established, doesn’t change, constant, static, enduring, permanent.  I absolutely love this!

God’s unchanging nature has always been one of the most precious qualities to me.  He will not change.  He cannot change.  He isn’t loving today and hateful tomorrow.  He doesn’t forgive me today and hold a grudge against me tomorrow.  He isn’t kind today and evil tomorrow.  He cannot change.  It isn’t in His divine nature, friend.  Isn’t that comforting to know?

Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”

Verse 17 goes on to say, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.”

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Psalm 107:8-9 says, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  For He satisfied the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

That’s the character of the God I serve.  He is good.  He is merciful.  He is just.

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

 ~ I John 4:7-8

He is loving.  These Scriptures demonstrate and reveal to us the unchanging character of God.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever.”  ~ Hebrews 13:8

He will not change.  He cannot change.

He has loved us with an everlasting love.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

When my circumstances change, my God does not.  When my seasons change, God remains constant.  When my bank account changes or my relationships change, God is steadfast, unmovable in His love and grace for my life.

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”  ~ Psalm 18:1-2

I challenge you today, friend, to dig into the Word of God and see God’s character for yourself.  “O, taste and see, that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8). Do not neglect the Scriptures because the task seems tedious.  Our lives can become so hectic and fast paced that we lose sight of the true source of our strength.  Get into the habit of daily reading the Word of God and not merely checking off a reading list.  God is more interested in your spiritual growth than how many chapters you’re rushing through each day.  Read His love story to us and watch your spirit soar and your walk with Christ grow in ways you never knew were possible!

Blessings, my friend!  May we continually grow in His grace.  And may you be reminded of God’s constant character and steadfast love.

Joy in the Storm

A friend recently asked how I was managing with some challenges and all I could muster was that I was relying on God’s strength.  I said, “All I have is God … and He is more than enough.”  I also said that sometimes you simply keep placing one foot in front of the other.

Of course, my daily devotions spent in the Word of God and prayer are what sustain this weary heart on the difficult days.  Despite the storm clouds that surround, “My anchor holds within the vale.”  I have a deep, wellspring of joy on the inside that is not conditional on my circumstances but is a true gift from God.

It is possible to have peace and joy regardless of the dark clouds that rage.  This world is not our final destination.  During times of struggle, I especially love to listen to praise and worship music.  When we worship God, we are inviting His presence into our lives and into our situation.  I firmly believe that.  And, how I need Him.

John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Life continually has its valleys and mountain tops.  We cannot prevent either from happening but we can control our responses to each.  We can determine in our hearts that no matter what happens, we will dig deep in His Word for wisdom, instruction and comfort.  No matter what, we will pray and praise God for Who He is, not just for what He does for us.

When we focus on our blessings more than our problems, there is a shift in our attitude and perspective.  Whatever we face, God is bigger.

What if we recall the countless times in the past that God has delivered us and answered prayer?  What if we praised Him in advance for all that He has planned in our lives?

What if, even through the storm, others could witness God’s strength and power demonstrated in our lives?

Joy is possible in the darkest of nights.

Peace is available too.

Faith is the seed that makes these a reality in our hearts.

…Instead of searching for the nearest exit during your storm, why not praise God for what He will teach you through the challenging circumstances?  Why not ask Him to shine through your darkness to be a blessing to others around you that they may glorify God?

What if you are going through a trial and it’s not even about you but to help somebody else?

When we are able to change our perspective, we are able to change our reality.

Trust God.  Pray.  Praise.  Watch Him work in your life in amazing ways.

Rinse.  Repeat.

Never Give Up!

Winston Churchill gave a famous speech where he uttered:

“Never, never, never give up!”

He also said, “If you’re going through hell – keep going!”

I want to urge you today that if you seem to be facing insurmountable odds and life is just too difficult to go on … Keep placing one foot in front of the other!  Baby steps.

One step leads to another and before you know it, you are in a new season of life.  Life is ever changing and things won’t always remain the same.

Sometimes it’s easy for our emotions to get the best of us and we can readily succumb to the devil’s lies that we should simply throw in the towel.  Life is just too hard.

Life is hard sometimes and its load can seem overwhelming, but you and I are here for a purpose.  God created each one of us and has placed unique gifts and talents inside each of us.

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

~ II Corinthians 12:9-11

I pray that if you find the pain of your life unbearable today, my friend, that Jesus would hold you close and reveal His love to you as only He can.  You are loved by an Almighty God, who knows everything about you and still chooses to love.  That’s love, friend.  He loves with an unfailing, never ending kind of love.  I pray that God’s peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding, would so envelope your soul that you will find rest and comfort like you’ve never known.  Lastly, I pray for God’s grace to be with you during this trying time, that God will provide for your every need and that you will have renewed hope in Christ.

This world is not our home.  We are pilgrims passing through until that day when God calls us home.  Until then, this world needs you.  This world needs to see God’s love demonstrated through your life.

May we all be strengthened in His might and His power to be a blessing to a lost and dying world.

Never give up, my friend.

Greater things are in store for you!  Your miracle and breakthrough could be just around the corner.  Don’t quit now!  Keep walking this faith walk.  God will give you the strength.  Trust Him today.

Fear

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once gave the famous refrain in his first inaugural address:

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

That’s pretty true, isn’t it?  Some of us come by worrying and fear more naturally than others but I think the reality is, we’re all susceptible to feelings of fear at some time or another in our lives.  Now, our “fight or flight” reactions may spark fear but are intended to preserve our lives.  I’m talking about living in a constant, vicious cycle of fear.

I discussed in yesterday’s post the fact that you’re never alone and the fact that it has got to be one of the devil’s most overused tools on us, as Christians.  Well, fear has to be a close second.  It is a real bondage to be so wrapped in fear that you cannot face the future with optimism and hope.

When I was in my early twenties, I worked at an independent living apartment complex for senior citizens.  I was an administrative assistant and one of my daily jobs was to take Mrs. Augustine her mail as she was too afraid to leave her apartment for fear the mafia would come for her.  She was a sweet lady but clearly had some problems.

As outlandish as this may sound, we all have things we do or don’t do out of fear.  Now, some of those things are good.  For instance, we don’t walk in the middle of the street because we could be struck by an oncoming car.  That is a valid fear and one we should heed.  We do not submit our income taxes late for fear of being fined.  We do not place our hand on a hot stove for fear of being burned.  All very good things.

However, there are also things we do or don’t do out of an unhealthy fear.

We don’t attend church or a certain Bible study out of fear of being judged.  We don’t have a gym membership for fear of being ridiculed.  We don’t leave the house without make-up because we fear being inadequate.  We don’t volunteer for a project because we fear our talents are insufficient.

You get the idea.  These are negative fears that can impact us if repeated long enough.

This is one of my 2017 goals:

“Face life unafraid!”

Not afraid of what someone else thinks.  Not afraid of failure.  Not afraid of insufficiencies.   Not afraid of being imperfect.  Not afraid of what “might” happen.  Not afraid of someone else’s approval or response.  Not afraid of being misunderstood.  NOT AFRAID!

What if we all lived like this?

What if we took the shackles off and simply lived life the best we could?  … without all the mental clutter, all the “what if’s”, all the insecurities?

The reality is that no one is perfect.  No one.  So, your failures will not surprise anyone.   They are common place, my friend.  My goal this year is to live life to the best of my ability and rest knowing that, that is good enough.  My goal is also to face my fears, wherever I may find them, head on.  I have found that when I actually get around to doing a task on my “to do” list that I’ve been dreading, I often wonder why it took me so long.  We have to muster up our courage and run toward our fears, instead of running from them.  If our backs are facing the fear, then we are on the wrong side.

Sometimes we fear the unknown.  That is a valid fear.  After all, none of us know the future.  However, we must come to the place that, although we may not know the future, we know WHO holds the future.  And that is God.

It is said that there are 365 Bible verses on the topic of fear – one for each day.  I think that is so neat.  God knew we would need constant reminders of His presence and His grace in our lives.  He knows how weak we are.

Can I challenge you today to face your fears?  The days of sweeping them under the rug are gone.  Deal with the dust bunnies in your life and move on so there can be closure.  Don’t allow fear or anything else to keep you from forward progress in your life.  Forward momentum is what productive, happy lives are made of.  The moment we begin to get “stuck” is the moment we succumb to traps of the enemy and snares that bind us.  Determine today that with God’s help, you will move forward with His strength and face your fears.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” ~ Isaiah 41:10