What Lies Beneath

The most common question asked of me lately is, “How are you feeling?” With major surgery just around the corner, friends are concerned and praying for me. Of course, the most obvious question is to ask how I am.

And that is also the strangest part of this journey. I feel fine. A year ago I felt fine but a routine mammogram discovered a small tumor. Breast cancer. I went from feeling fine to surgery and radiation. There were days I didn’t feel fine as the doctors worked to eradicate the cancer from my body. To keep the cancer away I’ve been sentenced to taking a pill for five years which does not make me feel fine. Not at all. I’m working through those issues slowly.

In the process of all of the above, they found a tumor in the lung. No symptoms. I feel fine. (except for the above stated issues) My breathing is fine. No pain from the lungs. No shortness of breath. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Except that I have cancer in my lung.

And in a week I won’t be feeling fine, but, Lord willing, the cancer will be gone.

Isn’t this a picture of our spiritual lives as well? We think that we are fine. We are feeling great. But without regular examinations we may be missing sin that is growing within us. Perhaps an attitude of pride. Or a grudge against our neighbor. A twinge of envy taking root. An impure thought. A selfish motive. A twisting of biblical truth or acceptance of unscriptural beliefs.

Just like medical doctors know that we need to have regular checkups to keep our bodies healthy, Paul gave us the same admonition in II Corinthians 13:5 for our spiritual lives.

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

You may think you are fine. But when was the last time you asked God to examine your heart, mind, and actions? When have you prayed like David in Psalm 139:23-24:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!”

I urge each of you to not only make sure you get annual physical examinations to stay physically healthy, but to also examine your heart. Go to the Great Physician and ask Him to show you where you need to change. Where you need to allow Him to cut out the sin deep inside you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if I feel fine, I am fine. Sin is like cancer with the potential to invade and spread to other areas of your life. It doesn’t remain dormant. Find it.

There is a cure.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

Dealing with sin is never easy. It can be painful. It can be exhausting. But it will always be worth the struggle.

How are you feeling?

*I encourage you to read II Corinthians 13 and Psalm 139 for greater insight into the verses cited above.

 

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The Journey Goes On -a health update

Almost a year ago I began the journey/struggle/race/battle with cancer. It moved along rather quickly and smoothly (although sometimes painfully) and I looked toward the goal of life returning to normal.

That was my plan.

In August as preparation for my radiation treatment, a CT scan was done. In October after the radiation was finished the radiologist told me that they had seen a spot on my lung that concerned them. And so, in December I had another CT scan. In early January I had a bronchoscopy. In late January a needle biopsy. In February I had a diagnosis: lung cancer.

My oncologist began the appointment with, “Forget everything you’ve ever heard or thought you knew about lung cancer.” This is a different kind of lung cancer—slow growing, non aggressive, not related to the breast cancer, and treatable. And so, on March 27th the surgeon will remove most, if not all, of the  lower lobe of my left lung, taking the cancer with it.

I asked the doctor what to say to people about my breast cancer. He said “it is gone. We are treating now to prevent any return. But it is gone. Don’t think about it.”

Eventually, I may be able to say the same about the lung cancer. The prognosis is good for both.

This was no surprise to my Heavenly Father and I’ve felt His peace through all of the unknowns, the tests, and the appointments. I was surprised, but not devastated. He is in control and I can relax in Him.

Thank Him that my lungs are in excellent condition which will help with the recovery. Thank Him that it was found early, that it is not the aggressive kind, that it is not from the breast cancer, and that He has given the doctors knowledge and skill to help me heal. Thank Him for His protection and provision.

Please continue to pray for me to yield to His peace, that I will stay healthy before and after surgery, that the analysis of the lung tissue removed will be good news, and that I will heal quickly in order to help with RHMA Conference, Pre-camp Training, and TACT classes.

Your prayers and love are precious to me. How thankful I am for each of you in my life! Rejoice with me because I see God working in my life. Pray for opportunities to serve Him—and to let go of “life returning to normal.”

Lord, I am willing to receive what you give

To lack what you withhold

To relinquish what you take

To suffer what you inflict

To be what you require.

~ From an ancient hymn 

“We must have that spirit if we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and receive the grace He has promised to give.”

~Jerry Bridges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Counting Days

May 12th I had my annual mammogram. Eight days later I had the diagnosis of breast cancer.

And life changed.

It became filled with phone calls, doctor appointments, forms, people, tests, waiting, and exhaustion.

5 days to wait for a trip to Minnesota and a hug from Kate, then –

9 days to wait for Karrie, Hank, and Jack (and later, Rob) to come for a visit, then –

5 days to wait to meet the surgeon, then –

13 days to wait for preregistration at the hospital, then –

5 days to wait for Kate to arrive, then –

1 day to wait for surgery, then –

somewhere in here things got a little foggy

8 days for the follow up with the surgeon and to learn the results, then –

Lymph nodes clear of breast cancer, one node needs further testing; Surgery was successful in getting clear margins (i.e. all of the lump)

7 days to follow up with the surgeon to learn next steps and final on the one lymph node, then –

Lymph node clear. It was ‘nothing.’

1 day to see the oncologist, then –

In between these two appointments, add in a week serving at Land o’ Lincoln Camp Cedarbrook Girls’ Week, which starts this Sunday. The following are yet to come.

12 days to see the radiologist, then –

4 days to hear the results of another test which determines treatment, then –

10 days to meet and talk with my primary care physician. –

Add those all up, throw in a recall on the car, working (in between doctor appointments), book club, and all kinds of other normal things – and you see that life goes on. But it can be exhausting.

Through all of these things I have been overwhelmed by people. The medical profession has wonderful people who care about every person they see. Sometimes their eyes show sorrow – when they have to tell you the news. Sometimes, they show relief and a glimmer of happiness when the news is good or when they see you are doing OK.

My friends, church, and family have been encouraging, hug-giving, prayer-supporting, gift-giving, card-sending blessings from God. I’ve always loved getting a note in the mail. Not a week goes by that I haven’t received  notes and cards with words of encouragement. I cannot express how much these impact my life. My attitude. My comfort. My faith.

There are days I call ‘fragile faith’ days. It’s when doubts begin to creep in and I wonder why this had to happen. It’s when my imagination runs away with me and I think of all the bad things that could happen. Or the terrifying words the doctor might say to me. Or when I miss family. Or when the things to do list is overwhelming. It’s days I need to sit and meditate on Who God Is. And turn it all over to Him. And relax. And worship.

I’m running a marathon within the race of life. I’m not sure how far I’ve gone or how far I still need to go. But, I know that God has been constantly with me. He is faithful. And while I’m counting the days, I want to make my days count . . . for Him.

Psalm 90:12-17

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

 

 

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May This Journey Bring A Blessing

Way back, years ago, when I was in high school, I wrote a term paper on The Seven Warning Signs of Cancer. There was not much research available back then, before the age of the Internet, and it was hard to find at the library, but cancer was just beginning to become a part of every day conversations. This was two years before First Lady Betty Ford announced her own battle with breast cancer, bringing it out of the shadows. Although the American Cancer Society had begun in 1913, public awareness was just beginning. Cancer was beginning to touch my life.

Soon after high school I watched as my cousin battled Hodgkin’s Disease (now called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma); as a close friend’s brother battled the same disease – both in their early 20s. Over the years I have watched so many family and friends fight this disease with confidence and faith in God. I’ve watched them suffer through the treatment, lose their hair, lose their energy, lose weight, but remain steadfast in coming to church – emboldening their faith. I’ve watched them use their battles, and their victories, to encourage others and to glorify God.

Research has made such a difference in the treatment of cancer over the last 40 years. Cancer now means treatment, not a death sentence. I’ve watched this change occur during my lifetime. However, it only treats the disease. It doesn’t prevent it. Maybe soon it will.

Based on 2010-2012 data, approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with some type of cancer in their lifetime (http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/all.html ). The estimated number of new cases for 2016 is 1,685,210.

Cancer has become an epidemic. And I don’t like it. A dear friend is fighting lung cancer and doing it with a beautifully positive faith in God’s purpose. Another cousin is fighting breast cancer – only two more treatments – certain of God’s goodness.And now, it’s my turn.

In May I went for my annual mammogram and opted for the newer technology of 3D. The skilled doctor who read the mammogram saw something unusual and requested further testing. After an ultrasound came a biopsy. After the biopsy came the diagnosis: breast cancer.

What care God has taken to prepare me for this new passage: the history of watching others and hearing their testimonies to God’s faithfulness, of seeing their strength in Him. Even books read and discussed in book club helped prepare me for this diagnosis. In God’s mercy He provided caring and skillful doctors, nurses, and technicians to catch this early. In His grace He has surrounded me with wonderful, caring and praying friends.

God is good. All the time.

This song is my prayer today:

Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labour through the storm.
You have called me to this passage,
and I’ll follow, though I’m worn.

May this journey bring a blessing,
May I rise on wings of faith;
And at the end of my heart’s testing,
With Your likeness let me wake.

Jesus guide me through the tempest;
Keep my spirit staid and sure.
When the midnight meets the morning,
Let me love You even more.

Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go –
And at the end of this long passage,
Let me leave them at Your throne.

(Lyrics written by Margaret Becker)

 

 

 

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Preparing for the Easter Season

Earlier this month I had the joy of visiting family in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Six days of delight. Six days of mountaintops. I came home ready to jump back into work, get some spring cleaning accomplished, and prepare for the season of Easter.

Instead I got the flu. It’s been ten days and I am finally starting to feel like I just may survive. Ten days of despair. Ten days of the valley of the shadow of death.

I had been planning to play the piano for the Maundy Thursday service last evening in my church, but felt so tired after my first day back at work I wasn’t sure I could do it. I managed to make it to the service but was told to just sit back and relax. Mark played the guitar and because I can’t sing without coughing, I just closed my eyes and settled into the beautiful words of the hymns sung by the faithful voices of my brothers and sisters. I listened to God’s Word almost like a starving person. I soaked up the joy of just being with my church family.

My thirsty soul was refreshed.

This morning as I watched what is going on in the world, as I thought of the rejection of Christ, as I read what the world says of the only One who can save them, I was reminded of the criminals who died with Jesus.

The one just like the world:

Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”

And the one just like me:

Luke 23:40-43 “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

I am overwhelmed by what Jesus did for me. I weep because it was my sin that held Him there. I weep because He loves me. But He has turned my tears into joy, my sorrow into rejoicing, my death into life.

This, this is the God I love.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 

 

 

 

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Life And Wondering Why

Sometimes I wonder why people always leave.

Why did Rich leave? Was I not pretty enough? Thin enough? Kind enough? Or was it him?

Why did Dad get Alzheimer’s? Why did his mind leave so long before his hugs?

Why couldn’t the doctors figure out what was making Mom sick? Why did she have to die so soon?

Why did my girls have to attend college hours away? Why didn’t they ever move back home?

(Apparently, this is my fault. I raised them to be independent thinkers and doers. To have the courage to do things even though they may be frightening. To never be afraid to get their own catsup.)

Why, then, did they have to follow their dreams and move farther West? Or follow their love and move farther North?

Why does the family next door, the brother on whom I’ve leaned for twenty years – why is he leaving now? Why is family scattered over the U.S. and why is he going the furthest from me?

Who will I call when the water is leaking? Who will I ask for advice about buying a car? (I hope I don’t have to do that for a long, long time.) My house is falling apart and who will help me? Who can I run to for a hug when sadness envelopes me?

I don’t have the answers to these questions.

But, I do know that collectively, they have given me a deeper understanding of the precious promise given in Hebrews 13:5:

I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.

So, I will be content with what I have.

 

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Memories of Music

I’ve been playing the piano for most of my life. Way before I could reach the pedals, my fingers loved to press the keys, bringing music to my imaginative stories. Butterflies, clouds, and birds fluttered through my mind when I played the high keys while trolls, monsters, and thunderstorms serenaded from the low keys. Years later lessons began and I learned the theory, techniques, and passion of music. (I must admit that at times, the passion was more about not practicing than the music itself. I’m very thankful that my mom required me to practice.)

The impact of music is powerful. When my dad had succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease to the point he no longer knew his family, he still remembered music. Even after he could no longer speak, he loved music. One day a local church held a service for the residents where he lived and we sat with dad. As we sang The Old Rugged Cross, Mom saw tears running down Dad’s cheeks. He remembered the power of the cross through the power of music.

I find it amazing how music can bring memories swiftly to my mind. Mom was always singing the old tunes and if I hear even a familiar phrase, my mind transports me back to the joy of listening to mom sing.

Snowflake, Stumbling, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Down By the O-H-I-O, Wake Up, Little Suzie, The Church In the Wildwood, Home Sweet Home, Playmate – songs that have since been pretty much forgotten – I find myself singing them throughout the day.

On Sundays my church family sings together – Christmas carols to ‘the old’ hymns to newer hymns and praise songs – praising God with our voices. These too bring memories of services and people from years ago.

Of the many songs we sang yesterday, these two, I Know Whom I Have Believed and In The Garden, reminded me of two special people. The first song was a favorite of Rosemary who is now with her Savior. Rosemary played the organ for many years in our church and it became a habit for her family to sit on the left side of the church, second row back. Even when she gave up playing the organ, they sat in that row. Even when the organ was moved to the right side (and the piano to the left), Rosemary remained. As a result, I got to know her, as my family and I took up residence behind the piano, third row back.

In one of our conversations, Rosemary shared that this was one of her favorite songs – it reminded her that God will continue to work in her life, that He will “keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” No matter what may happen, what may come, she knew her future was secure in the work of Jesus in her life.

The second song, In the Garden, I’ve often played as an offertory. It’s a lovely song to play and I remember my mom singing it as well. But yesterday, it reminded me of Jo. Several years ago, Jo came to me after the service and thanked me for playing In the Garden. She explained that that song was playing the day she walked down the aisle and gave her life to Jesus. When she realized she was a sinner and needed a Savior. I could tell that the song, for her, had opened the floodgates of memories from that day long ago. It had encouraged her and given her renewed hope. Now, I never play that song without thinking of her, praying for her as she continues to love and serve her family through some tough times.

Music. A blessing from the Creator. A gift we too often take for granted. Music is not an invention of man. The morning stars sang together as God laid the foundations of the earth. (Job 38:7) The mountains, heavens, and earth will rejoice with singing one day (Isaiah 49:13) and God Himself will rejoice over us with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Lift your voice in praise today. To the Creator. To the Savior. To the Almighty God. Sing the old hymns. Remember the blessings. Sing new songs – for He continues to do marvelous things. And wait for the day when we will forever praise Him with joy and music.

“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” Revelation 5:9

 

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