The hard year of 2020 is over. How are you doing? Are you the kind of person who chooses a word for the year? Good for you! I’m going to be different and choose a word for the previous year:
Fitting don’t you think? A few years ago there was a derecho (intense, widespread, fast moving windstorm) that came through our town. The damage it did in the short time it was here was unreal. There were things hanging from trees that don’t belong in trees (toys, lawn chairs and possibly the neighbor’s cat.) Our grill was even thrown off the deck and tossed in the yard. My ever industrious husband who can fix anything actually deemed it useless and hauled it to the dump. THAT’s how bad this windstorm was!
Last year felt a lot like that. Just hard messes and too much to deal with and no energy to want to bother with it. There were days I wanted to just take the entire year to the dump! Can I get an AMEN?!
But I had to look up the word “whirlwind” in the Bible and I found something totally interesting. It only appears twice in the NIV translation, both times in the Old Testament and both times involving prophets (Elijah and Hosea.) The part I found fascinating is that in Hosea the word whirlwind is used in chapter 8 verse 7 talking about sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. It brings to mind the idea that when we put our trust in unstable forces we will be left with nothing. The wind, especially a whirlwind, will wipe us out.
As I look back at our year, I realize we remained stable and upright (most of the time) because our faith was secure. We have built our belief on the fact that Jesus IS the rock and our foundation and nothing can move us.
I took a photo of my last radiation treatment. Twenty fingers counting the amount of treatments completed. The headpiece is for extra celebratory flair!
It’s proof that God never fails and will see us through to the end. He cares about our every need (1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”) Stand on the Foundation that doesn’t move and let’s pray that the coming year is one of less whirlwind and smoother days.
It’s a little unusual to find something good about being in pain. Most people I know try to avoid being in pain and go to great lengths to keep their bodies from experiencing pain (except for the long distance runners I know. This, I still do not understand.) Just one encounter with a Lego to the foot in the middle of the night will teach me to turn on the light, look where I step or just not use the bathroom near the playroom. Live and learn. Pain teaches us like that.
Because of breast cancer surgery last month I have some residual pain. My 2 inch incision didn’t really hurt, and the site of the lymph node biopsy was only moderately sore if I did something stupid (like opened a cabinet door into it. For example.) But the location of recurring pain is my arm. My dominant right arm. I mean, I’d give my right arm for it to not hurt anymore, but that would defeat the purpose.
In an effort to relieve this pain I was trying to stretch it, bend it and nap the pain away. Nothing was working.
Then I remembered a stretch from exercise class from years ago. It looks something like this:
I tried it and the relief was almost instant. But there was another benefit I hadn’t thought of. My posture had me in a position to pray hard, without distraction.
Face down, palms down. No temptation to open my eyes. Just prostrate in pain relief and abiding prayer.
In this position I was pain free, on the bed (the dogs are NOT allowed on the bed, no matter now nicely they ask), quiet and still. With pain out of the way I could hear God. There were many who needed prayer for their own ailments and I could lift them up from my face down position.
As I pray I’m aware of those in physical pain because of cancer and Covid. But my prayers for those in pain reach out to those who are experiencing emotional, financial and mental heartaches. There is distress from those who are walking far from the Lord and we ask that He will gently lead them back to Him. Despair, anguish and suffering come in many forms, but God cares and longs to take our pain from us. Our pain is His pain.
In Scripture Naomi had such pain emotionally she changed her name to Mara, believing God had made her life bitter after she’d had such a full, rich existence. (Ruth 1:20-21) Her anguish blinded her to God’s goodness and the resources He had provided.
Do I do the same?
In my times of pain whether it’s post-op soreness, migraine, emotional, lack of discipline because I ate something stupid late at night (why do I do that?!), or financial because of the great deals at Costco (there’s always something I need at Costco!) am I mature enough to turn to the Lord for strength and hope? Can I stretch my prayer muscles and exercise my soul to the point of lifting up others despite my own hardships?
Today, I’m in pain, but I’m stretching.
I’m praying for those who are experiencing pain in various ways.
Pain doesn’t keep us from praise!
“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exhalt his name together.” Psalm 34: 1-3 (NIV)
It’s interesting when you hear the word “cancer” it starts a chain reaction. There’s the initial shock of the diagnosis, followed by whatever other emotion you are feeling (no emotion is wrong by the way.) Then there’s usually a flurry of appointments, tests, and your neatly planned schedule for the next several months goes out the window.
In my case from the time of diagnosis until surgery was 2 months. There was plenty of time to pray for healing, think about cancer, wonder about the “what ifs” and worry. Some days were filled with a cycle of prayer, thinking, wondering and worry which led to restless nights. I found that my best distraction was to clean. And clean I did! My family commented that the house hasn’t been this clean in a very, very long time. Possibly ever.
Behind toilets, underneath appliances, the tops of fans and the tallest bookshelves got plenty of attention. I even cleaned things I planned to throw away. This is probably a serious issue. But, when you have cancer people tend to let you do what you want, realizing you’ll be back to your old self someday. Hopefully.
You’ve entered into a season of waiting? You will wait for an appointment, wait for the medical staff to come into the room, hold still while a procedure is performed, wait for test results to come back, and bide your time until your surgery day comes around. Cancer is not for the impatient patient! But it teaches us to slow down and wait. To be still, pause and trust the details we can’t see.
Waiting is Biblical. Psalm 40:1 declares, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit. Out of the mud at mire.” By becoming still and giving up control to God we can rest in the knowing He will do more than we can ask or imagine. I have quite an active imagination and can dream up some intense scenarios regarding my health.
Through this season of waiting I found I had times of deep, unwavering peace. Other times I knew I was one step away from snapping someone’s head off if they asked me the wrong question (all questions were, unfortunately, the wrong question.)
Even in the waiting I knew God wasn’t ignoring me, sleeping or silent. There were sweet moments when I clearly saw His hand reminding me of His presence in powerful ways.
On one of my biopsy days I was wound tight from anxiety (I despise getting breast biopsies.) That morning I was texting a friend about some of her prayer concerns and shared Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord will rejoice over you with singing…” that had been on my heart that morning. Later in the biopsy room the nurse allowed me to select some music to comfort me and keep my mind off the procedure.
Suddenly I heard, “What A Beautiful Name” from Hillsong Worship being sung. But it was coming from over my left shoulder where the nurse was standing. She was singing over me.
Sweet reader, that is all God. You can’t make this up or force it to happen. He made sure there was someone there on that day, in my deep fear, at the height of an anxious moment to sing over me. He even woke me up with that verse on my heart and mind to solidify His love and plan for the day that He had everything under complete control. Truly, what a Beautiful Name to be sung over me.
If you are waiting and anxious today I hope you know how absolutely humanly hard it is to be patient. Try and rest in the knowledge that God knows and sees and is rejoicing over you with His song because He loves you.
If you need a really good place to cry, might I suggest the shower. Not MY shower, because that would be more awkward than therapeutic, but your own shower. Especially when your soul feels so overwhelmed, hurt and exhausted you just can’t even imagine how you will handle your emotions. So you sob to the soap and it helps.
When you’re a type A, extrovert and get cancer during a pandemic and your doctor husband is temporarily unemployed, it can be a lot to handle. You’re the doer, giver, meal maker, cleaner, but feel your reserves slowly give out with each trip to the doctor, each biopsy (total of 3 now) each variety of cancer (being an overachiever, I have 2), and just the waiting for that surgery date to happen so we can get on with this!
So you hop in the shower and cry. You let out all the pain and disappointment, the fear and frustration and honestly the anger (there’s a lot of that!) You don’t worry about anyone seeing your tears and you definitely don’t worry about your mascara running. It’s a good time. I mean, not a GOOD time, but a healing time.
You wash away the hurt of knowing the people who could choose to help you just won’t. Or can’t. Or something. You watch the disappointment of waiting for a text or a card from people you thought would reach out wash down the drain. And you heal a little. You know you aren’t on their radar and it stings. A lot. You blubber about, “They couldn’t just drop a card in the mail?!? It’s a pandemic, but the U.S. Postal system still works!”
You weep about your wounds and quite frankly feel a little sorry for yourself. You start down the path of counting up all the people who haven’t done for you, disappointed you and let you down in your time of need. You almost slip down the drain yourself.
Then God reminds you of something. He quietly says something, but you are still able to hear Him over the pounding water and your tears. He says, “Look at what you DO have.”
Oh. Oh my.
Let’s take a look at THAT extensive list.
Cancer showed up during a pandemic and my husband not having a job. Yes.
But, so did:
~our church family with meals, cards, prayer, texts (one lady texts me EVERYDAY! She’s adorable!), more food, more prayer, just “I love you and am here for you and am praying for you!” texts (one in the middle of the night)
~stuff left on our porch (some of it I don’t even know where it came from, but it’s beautiful and delicious!)
~ my parents-drove over here from the other side of the county-at night- with my favorite ice cream (peppermint bark!)
~books (also my parents), my sister (who has a brain tumor and 3 children-not related to the tumor, I guess ☺️) her family brought Thai food (which I canNOT make!) And a devotional book about healing. So very helpful and thoughtful!
~ Mark’s patients (I didn’t even know they knew where we lived!) brought food!
~ A beautiful “Faith over Fear” t-shirt from my sister-in-law. This will be my cancer treatment outfit!
~ My other sister brought Indian food (also something I canNOT replicate in the kitchen.)
~ A Jewish prayer shawl from my sweet friend from Encouragement Cafè
~ Books, cards, and chocolate covered strawberries from my Encouragement Cafè ladies.
ANYWAY…the love, support, outreach and care I received far outweighed what I wasn’t receiving. I was focusing on what I wasn’t getting, who wasn’t supporting me and the hurt and pain that was causing. That diminished the precious people who were loving and benevolent towards our family.
It reminded me of 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, “For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn-conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, Who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” (NIV)
There will be hard, possibly serious hard times in life. Like me, you may look only at the, “Well, so-and-so isn’t helping me in my time of need even though I helped them…” This is true. Yes. It’s unfair. It’s wrong. It hurts and if so-and-so is a Christian they should be better.
But YOU, pointing at myself here 😣, let them go, shake the dust off your feet and focus on the ones who have stepped up to help. There are many who love you and you might need to stop and make a list like I did. Or get in the shower. There is at least one Titus in your life. God will send someone He will use to comfort, help and alleviate your disappointment.
After a good soaking cry, get out, dry your tears and count your many, many blessings. It’s God’s way of saying He loves you and is showering you with His love.
The medical office is now in our basement. Charlie the skeleton is settling in nicely and the kids are using him to scare the stuffing out of each other.
Now that Mark is around all the time, the dynamic at home has taken on a different feeling. He used to get up everyday, go to work for hours and help people. It meant something for him to figure out a physical ailment, prescribe the correct treatment and see how God worked to bring people healing and wholeness. When he worked at the primary care clinic he had Wednesdays off. Now, everyday is Wednesday.
He’s home all the time.
For some women that might strike fear; having their husband around all day, everyday.
Not me. I can handle it. We really enjoy each other! And really the timing couldn’t be better because just when Mark had his last day of work I needed to be shuttled back and forth to doctors appointments.
This reminds me God knows exactly what He’s doing. Always. Down to the day, hour and minute because we were absolutely aware of the fact had Mark been working 40 hours a week at a job that was not flexible with him being able to take time off, my cancer diagnosis would have been even more stressful.
Yes, we have a medical office in our basement. There are books with graphic pictures and a box of very strange sharp things that I don’t even want to know about. But this stepping out of the corporate medicine world and into the basement is a step of faith. Cancer is requiring a similar step.
Maybe there is some “stepping” going on in your life. A job change, a health crisis, an upheaval with family. We are surprised by so many details about life and God is not surprised by anything. I hope you see Him sweetly, gently guiding you today as you step through your day and trust Him.
I also hope you don’t walk out of the bathroom and find a skeleton perched on your bookcase. There is much to be thankful for!
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea…The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Psalm 46:1-2;7
Have you ever not asked for something? There are things that happen in life we don’t see coming, we don’t ask for and we definitely don’t want, but they come our way anyway. Heartache. Sickness. Financial troubles. Relationship woes. Car trouble (sometimes you need one and don’t have it. Then you get one and it still gives you issues!) Natural disasters. Aches. Pains. You name it, life is going to throw something at you at some point. The question is, will you stay upright?
Our life has been pretty good. Definitely not perfect and far from ideal, but my husband and I have been enjoying life lately. The kids are past diapers and naps (Not me. I mean, I just need the naps. Not the diapers.) Moving right along, we were at a good place where things were finally feeling settled. It only took 20ish years. Mark was feeling like medical practice was going well, our 4 kids were busy and happy, the dogs were housebroken (that’s a big one!), and the backyard had finally, finally become a decent place to hang out. Time to sit back and rela….
The hospital corporation floated a new contract to my husband and it started him thinking about why he got into medicine in the first place. Suddenly the stringent regulations, corporate squeezing and productivity requirements were glaring. We were pushed to our knees in prayer knowing this was not what God wanted when He asked Mark to serve in the area of medicine.
So, with some trepidation he started looking for a job. It was me who found the perfect employment opportunity for him. A mobile medical unit that serves the underserved population in the city was looking to hire a bilingual doctor. I knew just the man! With some counsel from friends and our pastors, lots of prayer and some Zoom interviews it was clear this was the job for my doctor husband. Mission. Service. Medicine. His dream job. And an answer to the prayer of stepping out in faith and serving.
But, what so often happens when we step out to serve, we get assaulted. Like Scripture says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) Our obedience was noticed and there was definite attention happening because we had decided to move toward ministry.
Around this same time I had a doctors appointment and received a call afterwards. “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma” is what they said, but I was pretty sure they meant to call someone else. The odd part is I have complete peace and hope about this. OK…I did get out of bed one night and go sit on the deck and sob. Loudly. But, I really have sweet assurance that God is faithful.
Cancer doesn’t make Him less faithful.
Unemployment doesn’t make Him less faithful.
Nothing makes God less faithful.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword….For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 NIV)
Will you walk faithfully with us in prayer as we step into a mobile medical ministry job and figure out a cancer journey? It might be an exciting trip and we don’t want to go alone.
In May, a mama bird chose our front door (specifically the wreath) for her nest. One day the wreath went up and the next it had a nest in it. She didn’t waste any time!
Soon I noticed mama bird sat on that nest a lot. When I peeked in I saw 5 eggs. I’m not entirely sure where the phrase “busy little bee” comes from when apparently birds seem to be doing a lot of work!
It was the summer before our second son was preparing to depart for college so I was already feeling nostalgic for his boy hood days. For his graduation party we had unearthered photos of his soccer tournaments, homeschool papers and public school art projects. There were more photos than usual of him around so I was reminiscing about when he was little enough to snuggle with me and read and how he was a sweet kid, but also a stinker. Stories came surging at me raising boy, after boy, after boy (then a girl), and how I spent years exhausted and probably way too grumpy and hoping my children remembered that I was doing it out of love for mothering.
Did I smile and laugh enough?
Are the lines on my face from late night laughing on the deck with our family of 6 or from worry because of high fevers and a son who liked to lick the cart at Costco? And suck on his shoe. After being in a public bathroom.
This mama bird on our front door quickly dropped 5 eggs in the nest and tended them well. She gave us the evil-bird eye every time we’d open the door (“Ahem! It IS our house!) to let the dogs out (Whom she despised!)
I knew how she felt. With 20 years of mothering behind me I had given away dirty looks more than once. The librarian who shushed my child who was barely speaking, the drivers who recklessly cut me off in traffic when I had my babies in the car and the thoughtless comments from people who mentioned how I could parent better. All this falls on my mama bird and mama bear heart in a heavy, protective way. And I made sure to use caution when opening our front door so as not to disturb the nesting family.
One day I looked in and 5 pink, smooth bodies had become fluff with beady eyes and beaks. Overnight they had gone from creepy to cute. I feel a little badly saying it, but newly hatched birds are just not that adorable.
In record time they grew and chirped and tapped on the door with their becks. It was almost time to learn to fly.
In bird years they were at the adolescent stage and I burst out laughing when this little guy greeted me one day. He reminded me so much of our son. Peaking out at the world and taking it all in.
Looking a little awkward in the hair style department.
And all the while a mama stands close by hoping for a good outcome, watching out for predators and worrying a bit about her fledgling.
So many Scripture verses came to mind that brought me comfort and hope as we launched another one from our nest. God’s Word that reminded me of His hope, protection and plans for our children. I clung to God’s Word like that baby bird held onto the side of the nest.
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings..” Psalm 17:8
Before we knew it, the birds were grown and they were perched on the edge of the nest. It was time to fly. My heart almost couldn’t take the reality of the analogy that was taking place before my eyes. It was time to let go and watch another one fly.
The interesting part was that once the birds were all gone I noticed that the nest looked a lot like our house. Here’s the photo:
When our children were younger they would blow through the house like a whirlwind and leave horrid messes. Toys, books, shoes, diapers, and snacks would be strewn all over and I’d be amazed that I’d have this mess to tend to. My human heart went out to the mama bird. But, then I realized that she flew away once the babies did. She just left!
What a great idea! Wait! I can’t just leave when the house gets messy, but I liked the option being on the table at least.
It’s been a few months since we dropped off our son at college and the transition is still happening. Some nights I’ll set the table for 4 and I’ll feel tremendously sad. Other times I’ll get accustomed to the 4 of us being at home, then the college boys will come home and I’ll have to reconfigure meal amounts, how much milk we need, and where all the cars need to be parked.
It’s not easy, all this mothering. The planning, prep work and nesting. And all your hard work tears a part of your heart a little when they fly off and make their own nests. The process is hard and good and so, so lovely and it makes us who we are as mothers and as people.
What a gift it is to mother and to watch my nest and to know through it all the Father holds it in His hands.
If you stopped by today because you read the devotion “The Perfect Father” on Encouragement Cafè, then Thank you! I hope you enjoy these websites and find encouragement, hope and maybe a little humor for your day. Please stop by again!
Did you stop by today because you read my You’re Not Good devotion on Encouragement Cafè or Crosswalk? Thank you! Please know you are always welcome to leave a comment and I hope you have a blessed day!
If you stopped by today because of the “So What!” devotion on Encouragement Cafè, then thank you! What a gift to share in the reading of God’s Word together. If you missed the devotion (which I wrote and I still missed seeing it online!), here is a replay. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Blessings to you as you work for Him today.
“When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord what about him?’ “ John 21:21 NIV
It was none of my business. I really should have just stopped thinking about them and gone about my day, but I kept letting it bother me. “Lord, why are they getting away with it?! They are not living for You, or acting like Christians, but everyone thinks they are so godly!”
My simmering began to boil. This was not good. As it often is with emotions (especially strong ones), I let things get carried away and before I knew it I was on a full-fledged mental rampage. My thoughts were far from holy and had me thinking of myself as quite self-righteous compared to “those people.”
How did this happen?!
Why was I so angry and caught up in something that didn’t even concern me!?
I needed a soothing answer for my soul and a calm Word from God.
He showed it to me in John 21:21-22, and I laughed because The Lord knows I’m not good with numbers so He gave me an easy Scripture to remember. Thank you God!
Here Peter must have been feeling something similar to the way I was feeling that day (and have felt since, quite honestly!). Jesus tells Peter exactly what He wants him to do (feed and care for His people), but Peter had a different idea.
Typically human, with a touch of a short attention span, Peter sees John and asks, (picture Peter pointing and maybe even wagging his finger in John’s direction) “What about him?” The Son of God had just spoken a detailed job description to Peter (oh how wonderful that would be!) and all Peter says is, “What about him?” It was spoken in a nosey way too.In the spirit of, “John is your favorite. We all know it. I’m super jealous and I’m pretty sure John’s not as perfect as You think so what do You have for him to do, Jesus?”
The answer Jesus gave Peter is the same answer He spoke to my hot heart and seething spirit that day. In essence;
Jesus said to Peter, and He also says to me and to you in those moments, “…what is that to you? You must follow me.” He has so much for us to do! Jobs, hand picked for you and me, but we get focused and fixed on, “But she’s doing this…” or “But what are You going to do about so-and so…?”
There will be believers who will not walk in Truth, speak grace and mercy or practice the love and peace of Jesus. That’s not mine to own or manage. My spirit, my heart and my walk with The Lord is plenty for me to handle (plus I have a husband, 4 kids, 2 dogs, a dirty house, tons of laundry, a soccer game somewhere and dinner to prepare!) and I definitely do not always, “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV)
Fixing our eyes on Him, and not how others are living, is the only answer.
There will be times when the unfairness will be too much to take and it will seem like sin is going unpunished and you just need to right the wrongs of the world. Stop and pray before you act!
Sitting in the presence of our loving, calming God is the best thing to do when emotions are high and stress is out of control. Ask Him to take your desire to “fix it” and replace it with abundant faith. He will hear your heart and, in time, answer your need.
Heavenly Father, Help me when I get jealous and nosey because of what others are doing. I forget to fix my eyes on You and I quickly get sidetracked and forget Your loving plan for me. Thank You that You love me and care enough to have a plan, purpose and hope for me. I’m so deeply grateful that You don’t compare my heart to others and what they are doing. Please help me to stop doing that, but keep my heart focused on You. May our walk today be steady and strong with You. Amen!