I Want To Live

I just completed reading I HAVE CANCER I WANT TO LIVE written by my friend Darlene Gore with her daughter (also my friend and my torture minded physical therapist since my knee replacement) Meredith Gore Warf.  Most of you know I have a vested interest in this topic.  I was diagnosed with BC (hormone positive) in May 2004. Gratefully I am now cancer free and have been for over 10 ½ years.  Before reading this book, I knew a good bit of Darlene’s story but the details are telling. It is a story filled with faith and humor and practical information for the patient (i.e. the one who is drinking from the cancer firehose) as well as for the caregivers, family members in general and support system.

I also did not know until I read this how closely our journeys paralleled. She was diagnosed the day I knew I had a problem. Neither of us had anything show up on a mammogram. Both of us knew enough to know when something was just “not right”. I actually did know about the potential issues with “dense breast tissue” and had been dealing with fibrocystic disease for about ten years and both my sisters had been diagnosed with cancer (one breast, one colon) during the five years prior to my diagnosis BUT the cancer was only in our generation – again like this story. Though we took different routes, both of us had amazing medical care by folks who cared about what they were doing. And faith was our constant companion.  Until I started treatment, I had probably never been truly still for more than ten minutes at a time my entire life (and for the record, I had prayed shortly before my diagnosis for “patience” – you can be assured I have never again prayed for that!)

For the newly diagnosed patient, the scripture references alone are worth the purchase of the book. Add to that the coping skills discussed and the humor – trust me, the stuff is spot on.

For those in the support system – there are specific recommendations on what to say (or not), how to encourage the patient and the family.

For the primary caregiver – there are reminders that they need to be remembered because their burden is heavy and everyone is watching.

BookCancer happens to your family/extended family. It is not just about you. That is really hard to swallow when you are a control freak but God can use that in you as well as you travel a journey like this.  Things are never the same after the diagnosis but the new normal has for me, and I think for the Gores, provided blessings unimagined. And the opportunities to share Jesus with others in the same boat abound.

The book is available on Amazon and from other sources. Read it. You may not need it today but the odds are there will be a time you will. My best friend died at age 32 from this awful disease. She was Stage IV and God chose to heal her in Heaven. That said, Becky, I think, would agree today with the thoughts shared by Darlene and Meredith. No diagnosis and treatment is ever exactly the same. We do not control the outcome but God does intend, I believe for us to fight for the chance to live. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Isaiah 48:10 NIV – Look, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have purified you in the furnace of affliction. 

Still Choosing Joy,

Cille

“Be Ye Kind”

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NASB): Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

I have not blogged in a while. It has been an unusual summer and fall – family illness, illness and loss of a much-loved four-legged child, just the stuff of life. Looking back as I get myself ready spiritually and mentally for Carols By Candlelight, I realize that were it not for hope and grace and faith, I literally would not know where I would be (I think there is a song in that somewhere…)

Right now though, I am troubled. To present the Gospel clearly and compassionately, we have to live what we believe. Sometimes I just simply wonder about us – all of us – who claim that we are Christians and yet when we are supposed to be engaged in telling others about Jesus we do some pretty petty things that I am certain are not God honoring.  I think it is best at times like these to think back on verses we learned in Sunbeams and GA’s (that’s “Mission Friends” and “Acteens” to some of your girls not quite my age) and Sunday School. This passage is full of those life lessons.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. – In other words, if you don’t have something positive, uplifting, encouraging to say – something that builds people up rather than tears them down, it is probably best left unsaid. Period. My Mama subscribed to that theory and was known to regularly explain that to us. It is a lesson I have not forgotten.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. – I suspect at times I grieve the Holy Spirit just because I react (rather than respond) or just because I cannot have it “my way”. And I get mad. Or I make it about me. Or I am jealous because someone else got something I did not. And when I do (we do) these things, we are not setting an example. Life is not about us. Carols is not about us. Whatever is not about us.  Sharing Jesus should be our focus. We cannot do that when we focus on ourselves and what is in it for us.  I Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. If some part of the body is not in sync with the body of Christ then we are not in focus. No talent is more important. No preference is more important. No personal desire is more important. What is important is that we lift each other up and we encourage each other and work in sync to share Jesus with those around us and to encourage those in the body of Christ who have needs and who particularly need encouragement.

Finally, my friend Terry Sims’ favorite verse – Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  Back in the day, Terry painted this verse on a LOT of ceramic plates and mugs and things she made for others. And lived this verse (and still does). And so should we. Just be kind. Don’t be ugly. Don’t be passive aggressive. Don’t gossip. Be forgiving. Clear the air. Love one another. Respond as Jesus would respond. Let others see Jesus in you.

#Carols2014 is about change – the only change that matters. The one in your heart that will allow you to spend eternity with Him. I cannot share the joy I have in knowing that I am changed if others cannot see Jesus in how I treat those around me. My prayer today is that others will see Jesus in me.

Still Choosing Joy

Cille

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

I love it when I wake up with a great song on my mind. Today, at 5AM like an alarm clock, Great Is They Faithfulness played in my brain. And as God knew, from some stuff that has rattled around in my head for some time now, I needed the reminder. I love it that God knows what cycles through my worry-wartiness and to help refocus me, He plants a song.

Like most hymns (very old and very new), God’s Word was the inspiration.

Lamentations 3:22-24 (NASB):  The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

This great hymn originated as a poem. According to the Gaither website, Thomas Chisholm wrote the poem Great Is Thy Faithfulness as a testament to God’s faithfulness through his very ordinary life.  Chisholm became a Christian at age 27 and entered the ministry for a year at 36, forced to retire after a year because of poor health. His life was ordinary, working as an insurance salesman, low-income, nothing impressive. But he had a God-given ability to write poems, several which he published. This was one of those.  He wished to record the “unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God” and his grateful response to Him.

As I sit here thinking about His faithfulness in my life, I realize that my buddy Buster is sleeping on the floor by my chair. Buster is our rescued shepherd/chow mix.  He was found by my brother-in-law over 8 years ago injured, hungry, and afraid in a field behind Bob’s office on Highway 51. Buster is a big dog with a big bark and big teeth. He HATES the UPS guy and is not too fond of the guys that do our yard either. BUT he loves us. He seems to know that he is in a good place because of us. And if I get up (as I often do) during the night and wander around because I can’t sleep (a known McHenry trait), he comes with me, waits until I settle again somewhere and then either goes to sleep at my feet or goes back to (one of) his beds.  (Just noticed he is now gone).  And Buster knows that when the weather is bad (his greatest fear is thunder) or I set off the smoke alarm (he HATES that), that we will comfort him. Buster TRUSTS us and acknowledges our love and care for him by shepherding us (no pun intended – he also will “herd”you at times if he senses you are out of line!)  Look up “faithful dog” and you will find that Buster as the example.

God is so much more. “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” He is true to His promises. Though I fail Him, often, He never fails me. He disciplines me. He comforts me. He loves me. He forgives me. He provides without question: “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”

So as I face whatever life may bring, I am again reminded “Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Buster
Buster

 

Her Name is JoJo

Her name is JoJo.  She is my hero.  Though born with lagniappe, “a little something extra” – Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome, she has never known the meaning of the words “can’t do”. She never will. While unexpected, Down syndrome is not a disease. And it not a disabler.

JoJo is my almost birthday buddy (some 52 years apart) and owns a large part of my heart. Actually she shares that with her brother, Phillip, who, in my unbiased opinion, is one of the finest big brothers I have ever known. His story is one for another day.

When JoJo arrived on the scene on June 22, 2007, Steve and I knew her family through (surprise) the Music Ministry at FBC Jackson.  We were speaking friends with Allison and Andy, nothing more. “Involved” and “engaged” really under state their involvement in life – full-time professionals, time invested in Boy Scouts, Sanctuary Choir, orchestra, Worship Band, doing arranging, occasionally playing hand bells. Busy. You name it – they do nothing with half a heart. They give it everything, and that is ever more true when it comes to their kids. And, in what their kids do for others.

JoJo’s arrival created some new opportunities. Some things, especially early on were on JoJo’s timetable. The good news in that for me was that God apparently had Steve and me in the plan. From the first time I held her maybe a week after she was born, I was smitten. JoJo did not need me, but I sure needed her.

Things started with us keeping JoJo (and soon after Phillip with her – he liked the idea of hanging out here on Sunday nights) so Allison and Andy could go to church and get out a little since the nursery was not yet an option. Were we ever entertained! Phillip helped. Steve’s Mom loved to sit and hold her . Even Lucy, our Boston Terrier (who now JoJo keeps at arm’s length because Lucy plays too hard) would protect her. It was amazing. It was fun. It was love – pure and simple.

JoEllen taught me many things.  We read (I know “Goodnight Moon” by heart), watch movies (also know all the lines to “Toy Story 2”) and play Barbie’s. We count and sing our ABC’s and play electronic games (she is MUCH better at that than me – and she plays the same games Phillip does and with as much gusto). We swim and swing and hang out. Some days, I take her to school and even have kept her at times when she was not able to go. She is tough – manages her space, understands boundaries, and likes, with me anyway, to negotiate. She certainly gives me more choices of things she likes to eat – unlike her brother who is pretty tied to pepperoni pizza and Dr. Pepper – JoJo eats veggies and chicken and hot dogs and pretty much whatever we are having. And she taught me, again, about unconditional love. She truly was part of my emotional healing after my breast cancer experience.  I shall be forever thankful that God allowed her and her family into our lives.

She will be starting a new school this fall. It will be an adventure. There will be adjustments. But she will make friends and she will be successful. And she will continue to give from her heart. Jesus called all the little children to come to Him. God honors her and her gifts to us for now and in the future. She will be my hero and a hero to others for her entire life.

Matthew 18:10 NIV

See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

 

Silence of Saturday

Holy Saturday

Throughout the day I have thought often of what it must have been like on that Silent Saturday. The final week of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion had been more than full. The stress experienced by His followers during His arrest, trial, scourging, and death is unimaginable and frankly, did not come close to what Our Lord experienced. And yet, Jesus knew, that after than silent Saturday, He would rise from the dead. But His followers, those who loved Him and were in His inner circle, did not understand it. Oh, they had been taught that, but like us, they thought and reasoned as man thinks and reasons and hear as men hear. Oh to hear with God’s ears.

I am often frustrated at the arguments of Biblical (and not so Biblical) scholars concerning things like how long was Jesus really in the tomb? How did the calendar work then versus now? All of that. The point is Jesus died. His followers, though most hid or denied Him during the worst hours of His earth life, were hurting. Grieving. Lost. Separated. They did not understand the stillness was the waiting for His Resurrection.

On that morning of the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found it  empty, she was past consolation. Bad enough Jesus had died a criminal death and now, in her mind, His body had been taken away.

Look at John 20:11-16. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

In her sorrow she just did not see. She was overwhelmed by the silence and stillness of Saturday added to the horror of the days before. And then He called her name.

Jesus called her name. Jesus calls our name. Our response to Him matters. Jesus paid it all – everything we owe. But we have to respond to Him when He calls our name.

Sunday is coming. Listen. Jesus is calling.