The End of Summer and a New Beginning

This week marks the end of summer for our family. Monday beings the craziness of school, sports, and music lessons. While I’m sad to see lazy summer days go, I’m looking forward to getting back to a routine.

This summer was more laid back than usual for our family. Because Gabe needed to be close to the cancer center, and because the treatments were making him feel sick, any overnight trips were difficult to plan.

We did manage to get away for one night at Port Crescent State Park in Michigan! Their cabin that sleeps six had an opening at the last minute, and since Gabe had just finished his radiation treatments, we decided to go. It was wonderful! We had our own private beach right outside the cabin. I’m so thankful we were able to go!

Our beach scene from the front door of our cabin at Port Crescent State Park.

I also was able to make it to Lexington, Kentucky for a quick weekend to meet my brand new, great-niece! Kennedy Diane Calhoun is so precious, and I can’t wait to see her again soon!

Welcome to the world, Kennedy Diane!

Finally, I was able to take the kids to the Toledo Zoo. If you have never been there, you should go. The Toledo Zoo has been voted one of the top ten zoos in the United States. It had been a few years since we were there last , so it was fun to get to spend that time with the kids.

Six more weeks and Gabe’s treatments will be over! Gabe will get a final scan to confirm the cancer is gone, and then declared NED (no evidence detected). After five years of being NED, he will officially be in remission! 

As I look forward to life returning to normal for our family, I also feel a little timid in leaving this valley behind. You see, God has been here with us. 

We’ve seen Him work miracles. He has provided every single need, and blessed us above what we ever imagined He would! The close fellowship I have had with Him, and the peace that I have experienced while walking through this valley with Him, has been life-changing. I’m thankful for how He led me through the most difficult time of my life! 

For me, this is not just the end of another summer. It is a beginning of a new normal. I don’t know what our new normal will look like. I do know I don’t need to worry. If I can trust God to get us through a difficult year-and-a-half, I can most definitely trust Him with normal!

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” – Psalms 34:19

Why I Stopped Questioning God


Looking at the brilliant rays of sun, splashing it’s morning colors across the sky, I swiped away the tears streaming down my face.

“God, why are you still allowing me to suffer with this anxiety!? What possible good could come from this kind of mental anguish?”

The sun sprayed it’s light across my face, warming my cheeks where tears still glistened. As I leaned against the railing of my back porch, I closed my eyes, allowing the early morning light to dry my tears.

A chorus I had learned as a teenager at Bible camp came to mind. A peace I didn’t have a moment before filled my heart. Suddenly, my tears of grief turned into tears of joy, for I knew the words were true, and they brought me comfort. I began to sing the simple words with a shaky voice.

“My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, all I have to do is follow. Strength for today is mine all the way and all I need for tomorrow.”

I’d like to say I walked away from that moment 4 years ago with an answer from God. But no, I did not recieve an answer. 

In fact, over the years I have only had more situations come up in my life that I could question God about. Yet, since that day on my back porch, I no longer question God.

WHY I STOPPED QUESTIONING GOD

1. If I can trust God with my eternity, I can trust Him with my life.  Seriously though, I can’t get to Heaven on my own! That’s the biggest reason I became a Christian, my inability to save myself. If I am trusting God with my ETERNITY, shouldn’t I be able to trust Him with my life?

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6

2. God can see the whole picture. God doesn’t think the way I do. As a human, I am only able to focus on the immediate and how it effects me now. God is able to see how it will effect me now, tomorrow, and a year from now.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord .  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8‭-‬9

3. I can glorify God through my hardships. Instead of looking for relief in my trials, I needed to focus on rejoicing in my trials. Sharing with others the blessings God has given me and continuing in my service to Him through a trial are just a few ways I can glorify Him!

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” – 1 Peter 1:7

4. God works everything for my good. Looking back to 4 years ago, I know the anxiety I suffered was God’s way of preparing me for the trial I face today, with my husband’s health. I can say with confidence, the anxiety God has allowed in my life is for my own good! 

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

5. God promised peace and comfort. “There is never a trial too big that God is not already there.” I’m not sure where I heard this, but I found it to be true. If I am in the deepest valley, God is there. I can never be seperated from Him!

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” – Psalms 30:5b

Asking God “why?” doesn’t make your trial shorter or easier to understand. The sooner you accept your trial, and trust God, the more quickly you can find peace!

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” – 

2 Corinthians 4:17


He Overwhelms My Days with Good

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Peeking down through the old, grated ceiling vent, I could see my dad sitting in his recliner. He was watching the eleven o’clock news, his cigarette sending puffs of smoke into the air. He yelled to my mother, who responded in turn with a heated tone. Realizing that a fight was brewing, I got up from the floor and tip-toed back to my bed. 

In my young, seven-year-old mind, I remember life before Jesus as a life filled with uncertainty. My parents were fighting a lot. I had a school friend whose parents had recently divorced, and I feared that would become my story.

One day, someone knocked on our front door and told my mom about Jesus. I remember she cried, then bowed her head to pray. A few weeks later, those same people came back and told my dad about Jesus. He cried, and bowed his head and prayed, too. Our family would never be the same!

Shortly after getting saved, my parents were invited to Hope Baptist Church. My dad never heard anyone speak with authority as he had that morning. When Pastor Sowell lifted his King James Bible into the air and declared, “don’t take my word for it”, my dad knew we were in the right place.

No longer were my days filled with fear over my parents fighting. Our family’s days now revolved around the changes we were making for God.

We went to a Christian book store and bought King James Bibles. We packed away our imodest clothing and worldly music.  My dad even gave up smoking and drinking. I didn’t hear swearing in the house anymore, and yes, my parents were filled with such zeal in their new-found faith, they no longer fought as they used to.

My family threw themselves into ministry wherever there was an opportunity. If the church doors were open, we were there. I remember cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming between pews. I worked in the nursery and helped wash dishes during Bible Conference. Once, I even did the worst job ever- scraping gum from the bottom of the pews! We sang in nursing homes, and even helped out in a ministry that focused on inner-city kids. As I got older, I had the opportunity to be involved in our tiny orchestra, and girls ensemble.

Life was good, and we were too busy to think about it! We were growing in the Lord as a family, and it was an amazing journey! Soon, I was in the singles group at church, where I met my husband. It wasn’t long before we were married and started our own family, beginning our own journey with the Lord. We have continued to throw ourselves into ministry, trying to raise our own children to have a deep love and desire for the Lord.

Life hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our bumps along the way, just like any other normal family. We’ve had heart-breaks and sicknesses, frustrations and fears. Yet, each step of our bumpy journey, we have seen our days overwhelmed by Gods goodness!

We have watched other families, who don’t know Jesus, struggle with a diagnosis they’ve just recieved. They find themselves desperate, crying out for some kind of hope. They post on social media of their depression and despair, searching for answers that will help them cope with their grief.

And then, there’s my husband and I, sitting in treatment rooms, surgery waiting rooms, and appointment rooms, smiling, and sometimes laughing! How? Why? Even if our worst fears come to pass, there is joy at the end of our journey, and God’s grace for along the way. Because, He has overwhelmed our days with good!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” – Psalms 34:8

“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:19‭-‬21

 

The Shepherd’s Voice

Tugging my mother’s sleeve, I whispered, “what are those people doing?” I pointed to the many weeping adults who were flooding the isle, making their way to the alter.

“They heard God’s voice. He wants them to come and talk with Him”.

I pondered that a few minutes. How did they hear God’s voice? Did they actually hear Him talk?

I listened as the evangelist played the piano with soothing confidence, his deep voice booming through the auditorium. My tummy felt funny. My heart was racing. The palms of my hands were sweaty. I could hear sobbing, as people continued to flood the alter. The preacher paced the platform, waving his hanky every now and then, shouting, “glory!”

Tugging my mom’s sleeve again, I asked, “how do you know when God is talking to you?”

My Mom smiled at me. “It’s different for everyone. Some people feel it in their hearts. Some people get nervous. You will know if He’s talking to you.”

At eight years of age, I realized that God was speaking to me, urging me to come talk to Him. I shakily left the pew and joined the dozens of others at the alter.


“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” – John 10:27

Listening to the Shepherd’s voice that day is something I will never forget. It is also something I will never regret. I have told this story to each of my kids, and they each have asked me the same question:

“What does the Shepherd tell you?”

There are times when He speaks conviction to me, and points out my pride or lack of self-control. It is hard for me to obey His voice sometimes, like when He tells me to witness to someone, or take a stand when I’m the only Christian around. When I confess my sin to Him, God is right there, extending forgiveness.

On the day’s I feel like I can’t keep going, that this path He has asked me to walk is too hard, He encourages me and offers reassurance. I feel my strength begin to come back, and I’m able to keep going.

Sometimes, I have to ask God the same question over and over again. He has always been patient with me, and proves His love for me over and over again!

When life gets tough, and I don’t know how things will turn out and I become fearful, the Shepherd whispers words of comfort and peace. He knows exactly what to say to me, to chase away my fears and replace them with hope. 

Then, there are days when I don’t need encouragement or chastisement. I don’t need comfort or peace. The Shepherd just fellowships with me! He reveals Himself to me through the beauty of a sunset or in a rainbow after a storm. When I watch birds flittering about, moving from tree to tree, I marvel at His Creation. It is in these moments I hear my Shepherd’s voice whisper His love to me, and I feel His hand on my shoulder. Worship wells inside of me, and I have to sing praises to my Father or I will burst!

If you have never heard The Shepherd’s voice, I strongly urge you to carefully listen for it. If you ask him to speak to you, and you take the time to stop and listen, He WILL reveal Himself to you, and you will never be the same!

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10

Getting Through the Crazy

I should have seen the warning signs. The increased headaches, sleepless nights, and loss of appetite were all classic signs. But for some reason I ignored the signs and continued on, without thought, with my crazy life. 

It wasn’t until I was sitting in my van yesterday, trying to breathe through severe heart palpitations, that I realized ignoring those signs was a bad choice. That realization came too late, however. 

The palpitations turned into a panic attack, and I just sat there in my van, breathing deeply, fighting the urge to get out and run. Adrenaline rushed through my body, making me feel weak and shaky. 

Oh brother, who has time for this? 

To say that I was feeling overwhelmed this week would be an understatement. I have woken up everyday feeling as though a truck ran over me during the night. Monday I began wondering if it was Friday yet. I even looked at my calendar for the following two months and begin to cry.
Being as this is something I am working through still today, I thought I would open myself up completely to you, dear readers. I can’t give advice on how to ignore stress, or reveal three new steps to avoiding panic attacks. If I had the wisdom to do so, there wouldn’t be a need for me to share these very personal details of my life with you. 

I do know one thing, however. I know where to go when my body betrays me and I am in the midst of fighting anxiety. I know where I can run to find peace again. I don’t need to stop and analyze why I had a panic attack yesterday. I don’t even need to try and change this crazy life of mine. I just need to slow down enough to remember God is there, waiting for me to turn to Him.

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path.” – Psalms 142:3a

Even in the midst of a panic attack, I can feel peace, because God knows the path I’m on, and He knows what is ahead. 

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.   Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:30‭-‬31

I know in the midst of a panic attack, God knows exactly what is going on in my body, and He cares. 

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalms 139:7‭-‬10

In the midst of a panic attack, I know that God is with me. No matter how awful it feels, or how alone I may feel, God is there. 

“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” – Psalm 91:4

I know that I can always run to God. There is always peace to be found, no matter what circumstance we are in. I may not be able to change my circumstances that are causing the stress and anxiety. I can, however, find peace in just knowing I’m not alone. God promised to be my shield in my crazy life. 

So, although I felt pretty terrible yesterday for a few moments, these verses brought comfort to my very being. I was able to breathe normally again, and walk into my kids school. I even smiled, and chatted with teachers, hugged my boys, and laughed with other moms. This morning, I am thanking the Lord for the panic attack I had yesterday. It put my mind where it needed to be, in order to get through the crazy! 

Perfect Love

When I first met Gabe, one of the first things I noticed about him were his broad, strong shoulders. Back in those days (that I fondly call our “thin and trim years”), my husband loved to go to the gym. Even now, when he grabs me to pull me into his arms for a hug, I find myself surprised by his strength. And of course we have the old-fashioned husband-and-wife relationship where I hand him the brand new jar of pickles to open and let him carry heavy boxes for me!

Just like any couple who has been married over a year, my love for my husband has grown and changed.  I’ve seen things about his character that have made me love him even more deeply.

I know. This is getting too mushy.

I guess my point is, that this cancer journey has made me see a strength in Gabe that I have grown to admire more than his muscles.

How can someone who has stage 3 cancer be so positive? How does he have such peace about his future? How is he able to focus only on today? How is it that fear seems to not even be a part of my husband’s vocabulary?

I, on the other hand, feel as though I am desperately fighting fear on a daily basis. I am the one that lays awake at night, fear causing my stomach to churn.  I am the one who is grumpy at everyone the next day because I didn’t sleep the night before.

Fear. It makes me obsessive. It paralyzes me.  It controls me. It lies to me. It makes me crazy. It effects every other area of my life.

Why is it that fear can hurt your body and make you sick? Why is it that fear can keep you awake at night? How can it keep you a prisoner in your own home, or in your own mind? Fear can torment you!

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

Jesus did the most perfect thing on Calvary. He was the perfect Lamb, sacrificed for our sins. He showed perfect love.

Reading the accounts of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, I used to believe Jesus was afraid to die. However, I recently realized that if His love was perfect, He couldn’t have been afraid, and we know Jesus is perfect.

“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” – Luke 22:43‭-‬44 

“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” – Matthew 26:39

Jesus was very sorrowful, and in a great deal of distress. It doesn’t mention fear, however. How was Jesus not fearful?!

…nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Perfect love is the key! Jesus had perfect love. Perfect love casts out fear. Even in His distress and sorrow, Jesus had perfect love for His Father. He trusted His Father, and submitted to His will. Jesus was able to get up off the ground in that garden, and walk towards impending doom. Without fear.

I believe my husband has figured out perfect love. He has figured out that it’s worth it to surrender to the Father’s will. He sleeps pretty well at night. He’s not bogged down by worry of how he’s going to react to the next treatment or if his cancer will one day spread to other organs.

He is not being tormented by his cancer.

I need to daily practice perfect love and trusting the Father’s will, knowing that only then, can I find peace and rest.

“O Love, that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

Don’t Worry…

Years ago, when I was a sophomore in highschool, my youth group was planning a missions trip to Europe. The night before I was to board the plane, my family decided to watch a movie together. Someone thought it would be awesome to watch “Alive”, a movie about how a plane crash survivor took extreme measures to stay alive. Needles to say, I was more than a little worried getting on that plane the next day. As it was my first time flying, I think the more appropriate word would be “terrified”!

In case you are wondering if it’s normal for me to worry, the answer would be a resounding YES!  For example, when the tornado sirens go off, even if the sun is shining, I’m going to head to the basement. Not only will I go to the basement, but I will take the weather radio and my phone, so I can be sure I know EXACTLY where that tornado is, and what street it’s heading towards. I will want to know how long the warning is to last, and what damage the tornado made before getting to my house!

So when we found out my husband had colon cancer, of course, being the worrier I am, I began to do in-depth research. I read every website there is to read, every brochure from every doctor’s office we went to. I went to the library and checked out books on cancer, cancer diets, and juicing for cancer. Not only did I want to know exactly what we were up against, I wanted to know exactly what would be expected of me as my husband’s caregiver. I found a private support group for colon cancer patients and their caregivers on Facebook. I organized the growing stack of office visit summaries and test results into a large binder, along with lists of  my husbands medications and doctors.

Along with all that organization and research, I began to notice a headache that wouldn’t go away. I often felt nauseous, and when anyone would touch me on my shoulders, my muscles were so tight that I would cry out in pain. I also began to notice being short tempered with my kids.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom

This quote is actually pinned up on my board above my kitchen sink. You would think I would have learned this lesson by now, being as it has been hanging there for a few years. However, I’m finding that some of life’s lessons can only be learned by going through valleys.
Worrying about my husband’s colon cancer has not changed the course of treatment he is recieving. It has not made me feel better about the fact he has cancer. It has not drawn us closer together, or endeared my children to me more. It has not helped me clean my house faster, keep up with the laundry, treck all over town for the numerous doctor’s appointments, or minister in my church any better.

Worry hasn’t given me one thing (well, besides a headache).

Worrying has, however, taken away the gift of peace God had given me. It stole away some of the hope I had for this turning out all good in the end. It took away some of the joy I once felt over the many gifts God has given us. It zapped me of energy I needed to clean and cook and run errands for my family.

 

 

 

“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” – Matthew 6:27

Gabe’s second infusion didn’t go so great. His muscles in his legs began cramping before the treatment was even completed. It was painful for him to walk, and he could only manage to limp around for several days. The muscles in his hands cramped so much he could barely hold on to the rails when going up and down stairs.

As I was trying to process all these changes that happened so quickly in my husband’s body, I felt my stomach begin to clench with worry.

Would he be able to finish treatments? What would his prognosis be if he couldn’t manage treatments?

After a few days of watching my husband limp around the house, flexing his fingers to stretch out muscle cramps, and rub his jaw because of the pain of chewing his food, I had became a huge knot of stress.

A friend who has been through this with her husband texted me to see how I was doing.

I asked her: “How did you manage the stress when your husband was so sick?”

Her reply: “I didn’t think about it. I just did what needed doing. Don’t think about the stuff you can’t change. Refuse.”

As I am writing this blog post today, I’m feeling like a hypocrite. I have experience with living with worry, but not with conqouring it. However, I’m going to refuse to think about what I can’t change. To refuse to carry burdens that the Lord has offered to take. To remember how good God is to me, and that He can be glorified by this walk in the valley.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7


PS: Gabe is feeling much better. Most of the side effects wore off after a week.