A Work of Arta

Over thirty-six years ago I began life as a single mom, coming back home to Washington. I wasn’t sure what God had in store for me, but He had some great plans. One began as working with the Trailblazers in Pioneer Girls with Arta. She was older than me, but she had just lost her husband, Bill, to cancer. She was also beginning life as a single mom. It was no coincidence, but a detail from the fingertips of God, that put us together to grieve and to learn. I listened to her story of life with Bill, and she listened to my good memories of life with Rich. No uncomfortable feelings that often happen with people who don’t know how to react to another’s grief.

And then, of course, there is camp. We spent the next couple decades going to Land o’ Lincoln Camp (Cherith) Cedarbook together. She taught me the ropes. We prayed together. She counseled the younger campers, Voyagers or Pathfinders. I counseled in the older groups of Shikari and Explorers. She kept going to camp till she was 70. She thought she was too old. So instead, she traveled for a month to Ecuador for several years helping in an orphanage. Too old, my foot.

Without realizing it till years later, Arta became a mentor to me. She thought up fun things to do, and my girls and I benefited from her creativity and energy. We took trips together. Kansas City. St Louis. Louisville. She wasn’t afraid of anything. Always willing to step in to fill a need. God used her to change me.

She taught me hospitality. I was too afraid to do it on my own, so we’d share the load. I’ve had the President of Calvary Bible College and his wife in my tiny home for a meal after church. I’ve hosted 6 +2 groups from church in my home – because I could depend on Arta to help and encourage me. I learned from Arta to open my house to missionaries when they visit, because it isn’t my house. It belongs to God.

When her daughter’s family moved to Ecuador as missionaries, she taught me how to let go of my children. She showed me that it was better to accept God’s will for your children rather than demand what you wanted. Although difficult to let them go, she happily said she’d go visit them. And we prayed for them consistently. Her example helped when my own girls went on short-term mission trips to Russia. And she consistently prayed with me.

And then, she moved to New Mexico to be closer to family. I know that move was hard for her as she left the home where she raised her family. The town where she grew up. The church (and church family) where she served in so many ways. But, family and grandchildren come first, and she wanted to be near them. So, we had garage sales, packed her up, and helped her move across the country. And we missed her. Thankfully, she made train trips back to see us several times a year for a couple weeks at a time.

Arta was a seamstress. She could make anything. And most of Washington depended on her to shorten, lengthen, take in, let out, alter, create wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, mend blankets, sleeping bag zippers. You name it, Arta could fix it. When people heard she was coming for a visit, they started making piles of things Arta needed to work on. When she came for a visit, while I was at work, a parade of people came to my house to drop off, pick up, try on, and visit. In between customers and friends stopping by, she’d do my laundry, vacuum the floor, cook our supper, bake some cookies, pick flowers, throw open my windows, and even weed my garden.

When I got home, we would eat supper, clean the kitchen and sit and talk. We could always find something to talk about. Often, we’d end up laughing. I loved her laugh. Especially when she’d try to keep telling the story, but was laughing too hard. Tears rolling down our cheeks. But, we also talked about books we’d read. Ministry we had completed. Our families.

There is so much more that I cannot begin to tell you the impact she had on my life and on my girls. She stepped in as Gramma when my girls lost both of their grandmothers within a six month period. She helped with graduation open houses, attended graduations, altered wedding dresses, and traveled hundred to thousands of miles to be at their weddings. She traveled to see the TwinZs in Colorado and our MinnesotaTwins. She was family.

Arta fought lung cancer with a surety in God’s faithfulness, knowing that He knew what He was doing. She endured side effects of the medicine without feeling sorry for herself. She knew God was in control, and whether she lived or whether she died, she was secure in Him. Last night, she stepped into His presence.

Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Arta was always ready to share her faith. To faithfully tell of God’s love in sending His Son to die for our sins and raising Him from the dead so that we might have eternal life in Him. She consistently prayed for friends and family to come to know this truth that she is now experiencing in heaven.

Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 10:9 – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Well done, dear friend.

 

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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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