Four years and counting!!

Yesterday marked four years from the worst day of my life. The day where I sank lower than I knew possible. They day where my life came to a screeching halt and I watched other people’s lives around me keep going. I was diagnosed with stage 3 Triple Negative breast cancer and it sucked. I woke up that night with my jaw clenched, screaming like a wild woman, and hitting my husband because I was REALLY angry and I was REALLY scared and this was NOT supposed to be happening to me. It felt like a nightmare that I couldn’t escape. Everything in my future with filled with a big question mark. I was in a battle for my life. What I didn’t realize at the time that the battle that I was facing was only 10% physical and 90% emotional/spiritual. Because cancer did not just invade my physical body, it invaded my dreams, my hopes, and my future.

Isn’t that true with most battles we face in life though? All of you reading this have faced really painful stuff. Divorce, infertility, broken friendships, death of loved ones, etc. So my battle with cancer is not any bigger that many of your battles. To be honest, the cancer did not last as long as our 10 painful years of trying to conceive a child or the years of a tumultuous marriage. It’s more noticeable and its terminal, but it was no less painful emotionally than some of my previous or your battles.

Cancer came and it went. It left an impact. I hate I had to go through it but it did NOT win. If it took me out tomorrow, it still would NOT win. Because cancer was never really the enemy. Fear was. It always was the enemy! Although I had overcome many fears in my life prior to cancer, more big fears loomed and controlled me. Cancer allowed my hidden fears to smack me in the face over and over again……..And they had plenty of time to beat me up and get attention because I couldn’t hide behind work or “busyness” for the year I faced treatments and surgery. The fears were legit. They had some really good points! “You are hideous without hair! You look like a boy without boobs! Stay home! You are going to scare young children and embarrass your family”. (Fear what others think and fear of what I look like) “What if you are one of those people who die young?” (Fear of future) “What if you die and your kids won’t have a mom?” (Fear for my kids) “What if you die a painful and long death?”(Fear of death) “What if you fight this hard and it just comes right back?” (Fear of future) “What if your husband misses boobs so much that he leaves you for someone with a nice rack?”(Fear of rejection) Cancer in my physical body sucked but the fears were debilitating. Yours are too. And they hide and they speak to you. They sound noble at times. They often so keep you safe. They are a voice of good reason at times. But more often, fear holds you back. It keeps you from pursing passions. It keeps you striving for……not sure what….. But it kept me striving for security that I already was holding, that I was sitting in, and that surrounded me.

Quick story: There was a time in our marriage that was really hard. When I was crying out to God for our marriage one night and journaling, a scripture from the bible came to my mind. Psalms 23. I had read that scripture many times in my life, but I felt like I was supposed to memorize it and say it outload when I was angry, hurt, or fearful. The hurt, pain, and fear had made me overreact and irrational for a long time. So I memorized Ps 23. (Which if you know me is miraculous! I do not have ANY song memorized, even if I’ve listen to it every day for a year, and I flunked the assignment of memorizing a paragraph from Hamlet in the ninth grade after really working on it for a week!) So anyway, I went through a season of reciting Psalms 23 every time I felt like I was starting to fall into fear and devastation. To Mark I probably seemed like I had completely lost my mind. I couldn’t just whisper it either because it seem inadequate. It felt like it needed to be proclaimed so I would run to another room and begin screaming it with tears and passion. And honestly, it wasn’t for him. I was reciting it for me. I was crying out for God’s reality to be mine. I needed the spiritual reality to be my physical reality. And that’s what it became. And roots grew deep in me that mercy and goodness were going to be with me all the days of my life whether my marriage survived our not. Roots grew deep in me that no matter what storm came my heart would survive and thrive because goodness and mercy would always be near me and within reach when I allowed God to be my Shepard. The truths applied rescued me from fear and irrational overreactions and our marriage improved!

Psalms 23
The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD
Forever.

I am telling you this story because it has EVERYTHING to do with my battle with cancer and the battles in your lives. Verse 6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. This is a piercing truth when you allow God to be your Shepard. A Shepard….not an acquaintance…..not a friend from the past. A Shepard takes care of His sheep. He leads us. He protects us. He watches over us. We have to choose to entrust our lives with Him. If the truth that GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW YOU ALL THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE sinks deep in your soul, you will be a different person. Your hardships, fears, and insecurities can be filtered through that truth. Throughout scripture it never said that the goodness and mercy and provision of God was going to be conditional on our circumstances. It is a truth that withstands all hellish circumstances in our lives. Oh! And your CUP RUNNETH OVER (verse 5)! This mercy and goodness is not just for you! There isn’t a lack…there is an abundance because your cup will runneth over and spill onto others!

So let me celebrate my four year cancer anniversary and spill over on to you. Battles are going to keep coming. They suck. I am sorry…and they will keep coming as long as you are on this side of heaven. Use these ugly/beautiful opportunities to face fears and grow deeper roots. Feel them and then proclaim the spiritual truths over your life until they become your physical reality.Cancer not only was defeated in my life, it was punched, ninja kicked, climbed up on, and stomped to the ground. And so will the “cancers” in your life when you fight the fears that hide in them. You’re not alone. You have a Shepard. “SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY WILL FOLLOW YOU ALL THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE.” Your cup will “runneth over”!

Full Plate

Cancer forced me take things off my plate. Best thing that ever happened to me. It freed me to let go and dream again. Because I am determined to not be someone known for playing life safe. And because me being brave and getting out of my box has ripple effects on the world.

This letter is to YOU and ME:

There’s too much is on your plate. There’s no space for you to move forward into what you are passionate about. Your restless mind is cluttered with the “what if’s” and the overwhelming feeling of “where do I start?’. Fear binds you and so you keep making a deeper rut in the same old dirt path. Life gets dull and it gets boring. You were not made to trudge along in this boring rut! You were not made to be mediocre. You do no one a favor by playing it “small”! It’s not worth the gamble to assume you will start living after you store up enough treasures, raised your kids, or retired. TIME is the only resource you can NEVER get back. There is an awesome creativity in you. It is best friends with your deep desire for adventure that you were created for. Feeding your inner creativity as well as your desire for adventure will LIGHT YOU ON FIRE and get you out of that boring rut. You get so caught up in being an “adult” and “responsible” that you squash a part of yourself. You do it to “fit in”….. You do it to “play it safe”……. It seems a “little easier” than the alternative. But you have to be BRAVE!!….Brave NOW!! Take something off your plate in order to have space in your mind and your life to pursue the ever-nagging UNKNOWN. You can only silence the nag for so long until it stops nagging and your prime time has passed to act on it. Now be forewarned that when you let go, it requires you to let go of a part of your identity……the identity in something that lies to you and makes your life feel safe and more predictable……But it’s a lie because your life is NOT safe and it is NEVER predictable. It is a timeline that could and will come to an end at any time. So let something go! Step out! Get in touch with something real….something that fulfills……Something that requires faith. Something that requires jumping. Feed your soul and revive your lost passions! There is only one YOU! And by the way, your jump isn’t just for you. It has ripple effects.

 

NOW

Cancer taught me that I can’t assume I have more time. I plan to live a lot longer, but I don’t want to get too comfortable and take for granted what I do have. I am constantly reminded that time… my “NOW” is precious. I don’t want to waste my “NOW”. It’s what it have in this moment and the next “NOW” is not guaranteed. I can no longer afford to assume I have more time to do my part to repair a broken relationship nor do I want to assume that you will be around when I do. I don’t want to assume I have more time to spend and PLAY with my kids. I don’t want to assume I have more time to pursue a long time dream or an “itch” I have to do something risky or outlandish. I don’t want assume have time to cut off set boundaries on a toxic relationship that is draining me. The “NOW” drives me. Because when it comes down to it, time is a precious gift. It has to be acknowledged and used intentionally. And in my life, it has been squandered and wasted on unnecessary, (often times life sucking) stuff. Cancer showed me how priceless my “NOW” is. It’s drastically changed the way I live and I LOVE what it has produced in my life. So I turn to you and I ask………If you died tomorrow, because you may……or you may not…… what would you have regrets about? You can’t change your past at this time, but you can change what you do with your “NOW”. My encouragement is to re-ignite dreams you have postponed or disregarded or that have been squashed by someone else. Spend some NOW time on journaling to find them and then take a step in that direction. Forgive quickly so that you don’t waste time and energy on being bitter. Spend your NOW time to LET GO and stop letting an offense or others’ mistakes steal so many of your NOWS. Move past the past however you possibly can, so it will no longer rob your of your precious NOWS. Facing your pain and disappointment are great ways to use your NOW because numbing or “stuffing” kidnap your NOWS. Your revelation of the NOW will turn your fear from an surmountable mountain into an ant hill. Value your NOW whether it looks pretty or not because it is what you have (and the next NOW is not guaranteed). You control what you do with it. Make your NOW a friend. Value it. Nurture it. Protect it. The good thing is that you have NOW to stop barely dipping your toes in life and instead, JUMPING in. So go for it…NOW!!!! There’s NOWS to be had.

Use less words

This week while doing some housework a random statement continued to play over in my mind.  I do not remember hearing it before, so it must have come from something spoken in my past or maybe just a random word from God.  Either way, I have been chewing on this statement all week. The statement is:  When you face me at the end of your life, you will realize in an instance that you were less important than you thought and more important than you could have ever have imagined.

When staring at the issues on this side of heaven, it looks dark.  It looks hopeless.  It looks scary.  People are mean.  They can’t be trusted.  Hate is growing and is evident daily (especially as we follow the news and facebook.) Hopelessness and fear runs rapid.  It is overwhelming and disheartening.  In the light of the growing darkness we can feel small and insignificant.  It is easy to turn inward and “take care of yourself”.  It is easy to disengage and put walls us between ourselves and others.   It is easy to formulate strong opinions and (of course) stand on them like it is truth.  It is easy to self-preserve and begin to only invest in yourself or those who think like you.

My cry to you, as well as myself, is to stop staring at the issues and fix your eyes on something that is worthy of your attention and affection.  World problems, this nation’s problems, and your problems are never going to get fixed by stewing over them and replaying them over and over in your head.  They are never going to get fixed by putting up another wall in response to a wall someone else put up. They are ever going to get fixed by responding to hate, all while spewing hate.

Jesus always unified.  He always loved.  He didn’t self-preserve.  He gave Himself up until the grave.  He didn’t have to convince people of who He was.  He knew who he was and was secure in it, whether people believed Him or not. He never responded to hate with hate, but He responded to hate with love. One of my favorite things about Jesus was that He used less words.  That is an example of the kind of life and the kind of love that changes the word.  His eyes were never fixed on the problems.  He saw the pain and darkness, fixed His eyes on the Father, and naturally began to flow in love.  The action of love is powerful.  It literally changes the world, one person at a time.  You want to change your situation?  Do you want to change the direction our country is going? Do you want to decrease darkness and hate in our country?  Well, use less words.  Love.

Don’t speak it.  Don’t pretend to love.  Love.  If you lack it, ask God for it. He has a storehouse of love that He will give you that will break your heart and give you purpose and resolve all at the same time.  Don’t ask for it if you really don’t want it.  But if you want a change, ask for it.  He will gladly give you a piece of His heart.

So going back to the statement that has resonated with me all week.  When you face me at the end of your life, you will realize in an instance that you were less important than you thought and more important than you could have ever have imagined. When we face God in the fullness of His presence, we are going to bow.  We are going to realize just how big He is and how good He is.  The created will face the Creator.  No longer will the created feel important or worthy.  All opinions we have had, or wealth we have gained, or status we have achieved will not have any value. We will be put in our place.  And at the same time we will know how much He loves us and that kind of BIG LOVE gives us revelation of how important we must be to Him.  That kind of LOVE is the kind of love that if we knew it and lived it out on earth, it would have made our lives better, our kids’ lives better, our neighborhoods better, and our city better, our country better……OUR WORLD BETTER!  Don’t miss out on the opportunity you have NOW to taste a little bit of heaven on earth. Because it is HERE….now.   Ask God for a revelation of these things.  The world needs you to grasp it.  Your family needs you to grasp it.  The homeless man you pass on the street needs you to grasp it.  Your struggling neighbor needs you to grasp it.  I need you to grasp it.  And for God’s sake…..use less words.

 

Collisions

Today I am 40.  I’m thrilled to be able to say that! I am also thrilled to say good bye to my 30’s.  I’m thankful…. and honestly, I feel honored.  I know there are many who have gone before me who would have loved to have seen 40 and didn’t.  I do not take it lightly that each year is a gift.  I look forward to aging and I will not dread my birthdays because it means I am alive to see another year.  I also do not want to slow down time with my children because I want to be there to see them get old too.  I remember asking the Lord two years ago to let me be there for my oldest daughter’s first day of kindergarten and now she’s in first grade!  I am thankful that He gives us more than we ask! Now I am asking for more.  I want to be old and get wrinkles and do things old people do. I want to be there for my husband if he one day needs a push in a wheel chair.  I want to see my grandchildren.  I want to experience old people problems and remember I asked to be there to have them.  I have promised the Lord that I will not complain or take for granted getting older because I can NOT hate what comes along with what I am asking Him for.  I am asking Him for many, many more years, but most of all I am asking Him that He helps me be FULLY ALIVE for the remaining years and days  that I am blessed with.

 This past week was my three year breast cancer diagnosis anniversary.  Being cancer free for three years seemed farfetched to the medical community who walked me through all my surgeries and treatments.  All week I have been processing the past three years and honestly, I have been secretly a mess inside.  If you could look inside me and see my mess you would see thankfulness and frustrations.  Disappointments and joy. Sadness and hope.  Anger and resolve. Bravery and intense fears. There is often a collision going on inside of me in which I cannot communicate effectively. I don’t want to “feed” the negative parts of my cancer journey or my daily life, so you will typically see me with a genuine smile.

For a short minute I want to tell you some of the negative parts of my journey because I have to be REAL.  I hate that I don’t have breasts.  My scars are much worse than the pictures of mastectomies look like on the internet.  I hate shopping now days because they don’t make clothes for a person with absolutely no boobs.  I hate that every time I do, I end up doing the ugly cry for an hour in the dressing room and embarrassed to come out. I hate when people compare their small boobs to my no boobs.  I hate that I have gaping hole on the left side and a flap of skin on the right side that they saved in case they would ever need it for future surgeries. I hate the pain I still have in my chest wall.   I hate that my kids will have to learn what breast look like from other women and that my husband will miss out on breasts.  I hate messing with health insurance.  I have been doing it for three years now.  I can’t take a break from it and I can’t disregard it.  I have to have it but I hate dealing with it.  I hate that I still have medical debt.  I hate that I will be dealing with health insurance for the rest of my life because of my diagnosis.  I hate that I started clenching my jaw the night of my diagnosis and I have not been able to stop since then.  I hate that nightly I wake up anxious that cancer will come back.  I hate that I lost 5 friends under the age of 45 to cancer last year.  I hate that I will meet and befriend many who have cancer who will die of it. Whoa!  Now I am sorry if that was depressing.  I am glad I got that off my chest.  That’s real life.  That’s part of my mess. 

Now the other side of my mess is the part that keeps me sane…well kinda (it depends on your opinion of me).    But it keeps me moving forward with a smile on my face. In every battle there is an opportunity to grow and become a better version of yourself.  It doesn’t matter what the hardship or heartbreak is, there is beauty hidden in it.  You cannot be passive.  It does not come to you.  It has to be sought after, ascertained, grabbed hold of, and fought for.  It is what makes us beautifully human. We will be victimized at some point but we don’t have to stay victims.  And pain is absolutely inevitable because it is just part of our human experience. It gives us an opportunity to be great….an opportunity to be a better version of ourselves.    That being said, Cancer gave me back my life.  The past three years have been some of my best years.  Here are some take aways.

1.     Fear has lost its grip

Something about almost dying and facing a terminal disease made me realize that I do not have TIME to live fearful.  I have to live BRAVE and be FEARLESS.  Living brave and FEARLESSLY is not living in the absence of fear, it is learning how to co-exist with the fear.  Fear is alive and well and I respect it. It is going to be traveling with me on my journey of life, however it is NO longer going to be driving and directing my path.  Fear will be limited to do two things: to help me not do something really stupid and to help me determine if I am living fully.  Every day I try to recognize my fears and do something that I am afraid of.  It may be something as simple as talking to a stranger or as big as taking a financial or career leap.  Fear of what people think has long been gone but fear of the future and fear of making mistakes is constantly being battled. Recognizing your fear and speaking to it is a powerful way to overcome it.  I cannot tell you how many times a day I have to verbally speak to fear.  “Fear, I hear you but you have to shut your mouth because God is calling me in a different direction”.  Fear is meant to submit to you.  Let’s all stop letting fear drive our lives.  Fear will lose its grip!

2.     Death has lost its sting

Compared the eternity I have in heaven, whether I live 40 years or 80, it is not important in the big scheme of things.  What’s important is how we live.  Life is short and can be snuffed out in a moment.  I don’t want to waste my moments on frivolous concerns.  I want to concern my time and energy with things that count.  People count.  Moments count.  I have spent more time being ALIVE in the past 3 years than I have my whole life.  I realized that living FULLY is not always realized in the moment and that it cannot be forced.  Death will happen.  It is really the only thing guaranteed in life. We do not have control over the timing of our inevitable death, but sure do have control of how we are going to spend the time between now and then.  I will live fully with no regrets.  I invite you to do the same.  The seeds we drop now will continue to grow long beyond our death.  So sow good seeds and know that the grave does not have power over the growth of what you have planted.  Death will lose its sting!

3.     I found my voice

I have my found my voice!  It was hidden deep inside as I just went through the motions of doing what I was “supposed” to do.  Each step I have taken toward living from out underneath fear I find MYSELF more.  I have a strong voice, and so do you.  It is unique in each of us and the world around us needs it.  There is no one in the world like me and there is no one in in the world like you.  I am constantly amazed of how creative God is to be able to make so many variations of humans in our appearance, personality, passions, and talents.  We each have something to offer and it is found when we know our identity.  I have found my identity in who God says I am in scripture, as well as who He says I am when He speaks to me.  He did not make any of us to be walked over or overlooked by the world.  We all were meant to shine in different ways.  Your voice can penetrate and create change.  Your voice is unique to you.  Find your voice and use it!

4.     I have found my purpose

My purpose is to change the world.  I knew that in my head before cancer but it has been transferred to my heart.  I have a limited time on earth to improve my life as well as well as lives of others.  This in turn will create more change.   Are you frustrated with politics and issues of this nation and others? Me too.  Let’s just stop there because we cannot put hope in our government or any other human entity to fix our problems.  They were never meant to because WE were meant to be world changers!   God gave us the ability to make a change.  To create a movement.  To change the atmosphere.  Until the people of God become like the people of God and act like the people of God, then we will sit there and keep waiting for someone else to fix the brokenness.  Despite our brokenness and humanness, God gave us the power to make changes.  The more we are willing to change ourselves and link up with other people on the same path, the more momentum is created to make changes.  I have passions and talents that I need to complete purposes that God gave me.  The purposes are not burdens or heavy, but exciting because I was made for this time.  So were you! You were also gifted and called to make changes.  It will not look like anyone else’s.  So spend time looking deep inside and asking God to give you vision.  You will be on the ever changing path to finding your purpose!

So I would say that Cancer lost its sting and that no matter what the outcome, it doesn’t have the final word.  Here are some positives that collide with the negative in my inner mess.  I love that I can sleep on my stomach comfortably without boobs.  I love that my children will know that identity as a female is not in their looks but in their inner beauty.  I love that I do not have to wear an underwire bra ever again.  I love that my husband and I are closer than we have ever been and that he is a “butt man”.   I love that I have learned to trust God for finances in a major way.  I love that I do not have to figure out all the insurance issues because God will lead me and take care of me.  I love that I have gotten the opportunity to trust God in my heart and not just in my head.  I love that I know how to identify with hurting people.  I love that I can identify with sick people.  I love that I have so many friends who have had cancer, they have been an encouragement and comfort to me.  I love that everything broken in my life is being put together and will be stronger.  I love that when I am awaken by fear that God meets me and speaks to me in my terror.  I love that cancer is gone.  I love that I have today.  I love that I am 40.  I love that there is a heaven.  I love that God put new friends in my life.  I love that He uses all the “hard” to make me more alive.  I love….. I love…… I love…..  I could go on and on. 

The collisions in our lives are okay.  They are hard and beautiful at the same time.  Your collisions look different than mine but they are the same.  It is us…..humans finding hope, joy and peace in the brokenness of this world.  It is us trying to make sense of our pain and disappointments, as well as other’s pain and disappointments.  It is us learning how to be okay with being fully human and yet taking hold to our calling to be AWESOME. 

Muscle Memories

Last week I have been pleasantly surprised that I remembered how to take a string and make a Jacob’s ladder.  I did this all the time as a kid.  I kept string in my pocket and my sisters and I would have races to see who could make a Jacob’s ladder the fastest.  Until last week, I have not attempted to do this in about 30 years.  It took a few times fumbling my fingers around as I racked my brain to try to show my 6 year old how to do it.  I had to pull out one of my recent garage sale finds, which was a book about making string figures.  I looked up the first finger move to make a Jacob’s ladder and WA-LA! My hands jumped right into action and I quickly could do the next 15 steps without looking at the book or thinking about it.  I could do it just as fast as when I was a kid!  I could do it with my eyes closed!  I realized that my muscles had memories.  My hands moved exactly as they did 30 years ago.  My daughter thought I was amazing and was determined to learn this new skill.  As I tried to teach her, she became frustrated because it was a lot harder than it looked.  It is going to take practice.  It is going to take diligence.  It is going to take time. She will learn it if she chooses to work at it and eventually her muscles will have memory. 

Much of our responses to life and hard situations take intentional practice. As a society we feel entitled. We feel deserving. We want quick fixes. We want to feel happy. We want to be comfortable. We want to feel secure. We want to be respected. When those WANTS and NEEDS are not met it is easy to grumble, complain, and point fingers. It is easy to harshly judge ourselves and others. We can become discouraged and hopeless. We want to control so that we can “fix”. I know these things well because, well……. I am human. These things are all part of the human condition…my human condition.  The good thing is, that I have an “out”. YOU also have an “out”. Being thankful is an opportunity given to us by God in EVERY SITUATION. It is a muscle that has to be consciously worked. Thankfulness will not only will break the power of any situation “off” of you, but it will give you freedom and new perspective. Thankfulness is not FELT until it is first practiced. It doesn’t grow by chance. It grows by intention and it takes practice.  It grows by choosing in every moment to be thankful, no matter how uncomfortable or painful the situation is. Whatever you stare at long enough will grow. If we find the good, and practice being thankful, the THANKFULNESS muscle will grow. If we stare at the pain or the problem, the “discontent/self-pity/blame other people” muscle will grow. So the muscle you choose to work out is up to you!  I guarantee that the muscle of THANKFULNESS will bring you more joy and contentment than you can imagine. It’s not fleeting nor based on circumstances. The more you work it out, the more memory that muscle will have. It will take time. It will take intention. It will take practice.  Take the opportunities NOW to practice with the small weights in your life. When heavy weight trials come…..because they will….your muscle memory will kick in and THANKFULNESS will be your response. Joy, Peace, and Purpose always follow Thankfulness. Building that muscle is worth the time, intention, and practice.  Now, go build that muscle!  

Sticker on your Back

WHAT THIS YOUNG DYING PERSON WANTS TO TELL EVERYONE ELSE:
1. GO LIVE!
Stop fearing the “what if’s”. Follow your heart. Ask yourself, “What would you do if I had no fear?” and then go do it!
2.GO LOVE!
Do something of worth. Love the unlovable. Produce change in this world by making it more beautiful. Don’t disregard the ones who do not see beauty in themselves or in their life. Let God speak His love into the depths of your soul so much that it fills you up and pours over onto the next person.
3.FORGIVE!
You don’t have time to walk in unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is the poison you drink and wait for the other person to die. Forgiveness sets one free. Be set free today and forgive. Who cares who was “right” or “wrong”. Stop drinking the poison.
4.DON’T WASTE TIME!
Don’t waste time talking negative about someone. Use your words to speak LIFE and HOPE.
Don’t waste time trying to please the next person. We too often spin our wheels trying to please people who we don’t even know or that we can never please.
Get off the computer, phone, and t.v. and take in the moments all around us. We miss people and we miss moments while we are staring at a screen.
Stop doing things out of obligation and start choosing what to do with your time. We “water” our life down and we spread ourselves too thin and we miss living out our passions and callings.
It is never too late. If you are alive to read this, you can make changes. God never lets things go to waste from our past and can restore all things.

Now after that short rant in outline form, you are probably wondering if I have cancer again. No, I do NOT! But I am dying……. I know that……. I am glad I know that. It is a beautiful gift given to me by cancer. I would not go back, if given the option, to live again like I was not dying. I often wonder what the world would look like if every person walked around with a sticker on their back that showed the date of their expiration. How would we live? How would we spend our time? I can pretty much guarantee we would stop striving to gain earthly “stuff” and stop being afraid of what others think. We would make our words count more. We would have intimate, encouraging conversations and leave shallow talk and empty words behind us. See, even though I HAD cancer and that (medically speaking) my prognosis isn’t good…… I am no closer to death than you. I have a several really sick friends with stage 4 metastatic cancer and they may not be closer to death than you or me. I am not telling you this for you to live in FEAR. I am telling you this because I want your life on earth to COUNT. Your life can be snuffed out in an instant. I had a diagnosis to get this revelation, but alot of you will not have that same wake-up call. When we realize death is really “just around the corner” we live with a different perspective. We “go” for things we normally wouldn’t. We spend money on people who need it, because we know we can’t take it with us. We forgive quickly and lay down useless disputes. We stop stressing the state of our country or family and start speaking LIFE into the people that we come in contact with.
I think one reason Jesus lived with so much fervor and abandonment was not only did He know WHOSE son He was, but He knew He HAD AN EXPIRATION DATE. He didn’t have time to put things off or to “do it someday”. He took advantage of the moments He had. He broke social and religious boundaries because He had a higher purpose and was driven by love. He changed the course of history with his short life. The same power that lived in Him is meant for us. We can do the same things Jesus did when we do not let our culture or fear dictate our lives and we spend time getting to know God as our Father. If you do not have a higher purpose or are not driven by love, it’s ok because it’s not too late. If you are alive to read this, there’s hope to change. Ask God. He is big enough to open your eyes to experience it. Just do NOT keep living your life by default because you have a sticker on your back!

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angles nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, not height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jeremiah 17:13 “Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will he not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will he cease from yielding fruit.”

Blessed not Burnt

Hello! Long time, no blog. It has not been because I have had a lack to say. I have so much that I have been trying to organize it (control it) instead of just letting God well it up and spill onto my paper (blog). So here’s some spillage.
I hope that this New Year has been a good one for you so far. If not, take heart. A lot of times we do not realize we are having a good year until we look at it in our rear view mirror. We can see more clearly the further away we get from our present situation. I’m not much of a history buff but I do know that we never know the impact, whether good or bad, that a president of a country has had until years and years after their presidency is over. When you are in the situation it is difficult to see the big picture. The further you get from this year, the better you will be able to see what it has produced in you….whether good or bad. There are still opportunities to create beauty even if this year has not felt beautiful!
Lately have been reflecting on parts of my life that have not been smooth ….Hard times…. Painful times…..fearful times. We have all had them. They are the ups and downs we ALL experience on this side of heaven. Hardships do not discriminate. We bring them on ourselves, they are random and come out of nowhere, and they are inflicted on us by others. The rich and famous, the privileged, and the most “godly” people in the world are not exempt from the pain of the human experience.
How we respond to these inevitable hardships will define us. The present sufferings are not by-chance afflictions but OPPORTUNITIES……..Opportunities to either grow bitter and angry or more forgiving and loving. Opportunities to grow more judgmental and isolate ourselves or become more accepting and fearless in our relationships. Opportunities to self-sabotage or grow in a deeper awareness of our true identity. Opportunities to emotionally shut down or become more alive. Opportunities feed our addictions or break free from them. Opportunities to pile on some more emotional baggage to get rid of some. Let’s choose to personally grow and to take hold of truths that may be NEW to us but are NOT new to God. They are chances to love ourselves, love others, and to love God bigger and better. In Genesis Jacob wrestled with God and received the new name of Israel, which means “wrestles WITH God.
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis‬ ‭32:28‬ ‭‬‬‬
God loves when we wrestle WITH Him in our struggles and not AGAINST Him. When we wrestle AGAINST Him, we run from Him or blame Him. That literally cuts off our lifeline. When we are determined to get His blessing and receive a “new” name, we will be blessed EVERY TIME! We have to choose to know that it will be worth it no matter how bad it hurts and how vulnerable we feel. Not letting go of Him means that we choose to trust Him. I often picture my self like a child sitting on my daddy’s foot and my arms and legs wrapped tightly around his leg. Call out to Him! BELIEVE what He says in the scriptures about HIS character and YOUR value. These TRUTHS do not change when hardship comes. Hardships do not intimidate God and they shouldn’t intimidate us. They do not have the ability to knock God off the throne and they can’t steal our sonship. Let the hardship push you toward more revelation and more freedom. Hang on to God and get blessed, not burnt. Let’s look in the rear view mirror and smile.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬‬

Tornados

I’m sitting here in the oncologist office right now for my 4 month appointment. On the phone this morning my sister reminded me that yesterday was my 2 year anniversary of being diagnosed. I can’t believe how much has changed since then. I have changed so much….. my family has changed so much……everything about our life looks different. I hate that I had cancer and that my life now is about fighting cancer but I love that I have been given the chance to look death in the face and say, “NOT YET!” There’s something about realizing how really fragile life is that makes me just want to live everyday with purpose, simplicity, and intentionality with whatever time I have left. This is my favorite part of cancer…….LIVING while dying! No matter if it’s cancer that takes me from this earth or old age or …whatever…. I’m going to LIVE until I die……NOT just merely survive…..LIVE. All of us are one day closer to death than we were yesterday. The 24 hours from yesterday are gone. The time we waste on Facebook, watching tv, complaining, worrying, comparing ourselves to others, and beating ourselves up for a mistake we made yesterday are like empty calories. They take up space where something of value is supposed to be. Let’s be intentional with our time and use our time to love others, love ourselves and pursue the passions God has placed in our hearts.

It still feels like cancer is a shadow that constantly is follows me but thankfully it is not a shadow that I sit under. For me, cancer was a fire that burned away some things in my life that need to go such as pride, control, taking things for granted, self sufficiency, self sabotage, insecurities, and stress. My journey with cancer has helped me find more love, joy, patience, purpose and faith that I could have ever imagined. Cancer kind of helped me find my way. Crazy how God can use all sorts of trials to do that. The further I get from my diagnosis, the more clearly I can see the big beautiful picture that’s made up of pain, disappointment, fear, love, hope, faith, peace, passion, and friendship.

This past year has been trying to learn how to live out my new life. I explain cancer to people like this: cancer is like a tornado. It comes unexpectedly and it doesn’t discriminate. When your going through the treatments it like you are in a whirlwind and you just go with it. When it stops turning, you look at your house, your stuff, and the life you once knew and it’s all different. The oven is in a space where the living room used to be and your toaster is gone. All I want to do is cook some toast and feel normal but cooking toast will never look and feel the same as it did in the house that’s now gone. This year I have struggled to move past cancer. I feel and think different than I did before. I have a different set of values. The landscape of my body has changed. My inner circle of friends look different than it did before cancer. These are all good things and I am grateful (except for the not having boobs part) but honestly sometimes I just want to eat toast in my old house …..and….find my other shoe. That pretty much summarizes my year. We are still putting back the pieces together and finding our new normal. Occasionally I try to fix it but it leaves me disappointed and exhausted, so I have to stop, regroup, and chill out. I have to let God finish this story. He’s a much better author of my life.

Our marriage is good. Kids are good. My health is good. Just finished seeing my oncologist and she said the two year mark of being cancer free is a huge thing for a person that had the type of aggressive cancer and treatment outcome that I had and that it is “truly miraculous!” I don’t have to see her for 6 months and I’m very happy about that. Now…..until I leave this earth, my desire is to live intentionally, love well, forgive fast, and smile because I’m Gods favorite. Do the same…because you are God’s favorite too and I guarantee you won’t regret spending time and energy living intentionally and getting rid of things in your life that are “empty calories”.

Don’t get burnt

Morning News did a 12 page layout on breast cancer for breast cancer awareness week. 1 in 8 women will face breast cancer in their lifetime. My friends from my Less than 40 breast cancer support group (Pink not Grey) and I were able to tell parts of our stories. Here is the link. The amazing thing about facing cancer is the gift that is offered. Some take it and are blessed beyond what they can imagine and some choose to stay angry and they get burnt by it. My friends you see in the news article chose to have a beautiful perspective on life and LIVING. I am thankful to have had so many people in my life point me to the One who could make something beautiful out of my hardships. It prepared me for the fight of my life. Let me assure you, I felt the heat of cancer. Cancer sucked. It still sucks. But I have not been burnt by cancer! I tell you this because I know that life happens. Its full of brokenness, pain, and disappointments. Each time you feel the pain of….well….life, feel it deeply. Look at the pain and acknowledge it and then run to God because you will find Him. He wants to be all up in your mess! When you feel the pain of your situation and then fix your eyes on Him, something beautiful happens. You will feel more alive that you ever have because living above your circumstance and finding hope and peace in a storm is AWESOME. God is using the situation you are in to prepare you for your future victories as well as your future storms. It is our nature to not want to feel the pain. Stop trying to figure out how to NOT be in your storm and choose to allow it to transform you. Do you have bitterness and forgiveness in your heart from past offenses? You have been burnt by the fire. Thankfully, that can change and it’s never too late. When I was in the peak of fighting cancer, I asked God to not let the pain and disappointments be the end of my story. As I prayed that one night to God I saw a picture of me putting cancer in a headlock and squeezing it until I got every good thing out of it. If we are going to wrestle something….AND WE ARE… lets hold on until we see beauty. Don’t run from the pain. Put it in a headlock and expect to be blessed! You will grow so much! Beauty will not only be seen in the end but beauty will be part of your journey.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.