He is Kind Unto the Unthankful

Nearly two years ago, I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the emergency room.  Despite the busyness of the nursing staff around me, I felt alone, and scared.  It was after midnight, and my husband had been whisked away to have tests done.  Several hours later, I knew something was wrong, when three grim-looking doctors came into the room.  They explained that my husband did not have a concussion as previously thought, that he had actually experienced a stroke.  My heart began to pound, my hands shook, and a flood of emotions raged in my chest.

However scary that moment was, in just a few months, I would be praising God that my husband had that stroke!  For it was because of an imaging test done that night, that his thyroid cancer was discovered.

Yet, at that moment in the emergency room, I was not very thankful.

A year later, after my husband’s thyroid had been removed, and his radioactive iodine treatment was complete, I was once again, sitting in another uncomfortable chair.  This time, in a hospital room, next to my husband’s bed.  I was holding his hand., as another surgeon explained to us that my husband had stage 3 colorectal cancer.

I’m pretty sure I had a hard time expressing thankfulness at that moment.

Yet, here I am today, expressing deep thankfulness to my Heavenly Father!  Not only for the trials He allowed in our lives the last two years, but for His kindness.  Our family is a living testament to the fact that God is kind to the unthankful!  Despite the fears and the sorrows we have had in the last 2 years, God has showered us with His tender care.

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” – Luke 6:35

He showed us kindness through His comforting word.  There is something about the scripture that comes to life when you are walking in a valley.  Suddenly, verses you have read a hundred times before, have new meaning and understanding.  Comfort and hope are found in abundance throughout the scripture!  On the day that I watched my husband struggle to walk because of his chemo treatment, I felt the Comforter’s hand on my shoulder as I was reading Psalms 139.  Yes, God is kind to the unthankful!

He showed us kindness through our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The visits to hospital rooms, cards in the mail, hot meals, and thoughtful gifts to our family, all helped to ease our present suffering.  One day, I had found myself standing in the adult diaper section of the grocery store.  I was angrily swiping away tears, trying to decide what size my husband would need.  Once I got home, I had allowed myself to become filled with rage. How could radiation do this to my husband!?  Throwing open the mailbox, I angrily yanked out the package that was tucked inside.  The return address showed it had come from dear Christian friends who recently moved to Florida.  Angrily ripping it open, the first thing I pulled out was a package of Dove chocolates – my favorite! Suddenly, my tears of anger had changed into tears of thankfulness that God would be so kind to unthankful me!

He showed us kindness by providing our needs.  Because of the aggressive treatments, my husband had to cut back his work hours.  Yet, we never missed paying a bill, we never missed a meal, we never had to wear clothes with holes in them, and our vehicles continued running!  Once, toward the end of my husbands treatments, we realized we wouldn’t be able to pay the kids school bill.  I made arrangements with the principle and the business office to delay our payment.  We weren’t sure how we would be able to pay it.  We never mentioned our financial situation to anyone, not even family.  Yet, a few days later, we received a card in the mail with money in it- more than enough money to pay the school bill!  God showed us kindness by making provision for our every need!

He showed us kindness by answering prayer.  God not only answered our own personal prayers, but also the prayers of others who were praying on our behalf.  During the moments we had reason to be afraid or down, our spirits were lifted.  My husband was positive about his cancer prognosis, and I never once struggled with anxiety!  Those things alone made us know that we were being covered in prayer.  When my husband’s chemo had become particularly difficult, he had an appointment with his oncologist.  The doctor asked if my husband needed a refill on his pain medication.  When he learned my husband wasn’t taking pain medication, he was shocked.  “In all my years of being an oncologist, you are my first cancer patient that hasn’t needed pain medication!”  My husband replied, “that is because God is answering the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ!”  Yes, God is truly kind to the unthankful!

The wonderful thing about being a Christian is that God loves to shower His children exceedingly and abundantly beyond what they deserve or even ask! Here are just a couple more of the many little ways God was kind to us!

“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,” – Ephesians 3:20

Last spring, we took a family trip to the Creation Museum.  We were going to have to leave early because my son had broken the flat screen TV in our hotel room.  We didn’t have the money to pay for it and eat the next day.  Once we arrived at the museum, we bumped into some friends.  I never mentioned the broken TV, but at the end of our conversation, the lady slipped me a handful of money and said, “God told me to give this to you.”  Our family was able to stay the entire day as originally planned and pay for the broken TV!

There was another time I was feeling particularly sorry for myself.  My husband couldn’t get away from the cancer clinic long enough to go on our yearly camping trip.  How I longed to get away from “cancer” for just one day!  However, because of his weakness from treatments, my husband couldn’t camp in a tent.  The cabins I had looked into were all booked up until September.  During the last couple weeks of summer, I received a phone call from a campground.  “We have an opening in a cabin you were asking about.  Are you still interested in a one night stay?”  Um, YES!!

So this week, our family will be joining the millions of other American families who celebrate Thanksgiving.  We will carve a turkey and watch football.  We will eat pumpkin pie.  We will play games and laugh until we cry.  We will thank God for my husbands healing from his stroke, and his remission from his cancers.  And we will be thankful for all the kindness our God has shown to us, when we were so unthankful!

 

 

 

 

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Leaving the Valley

“I’m a little nervous to leave the valley”, I told my friend. 

“Why?”

“We’ve been under God’s protective hand for the last year, I’m afraid to leave! How will we be able to get back to normal life again?

That day, I allowed a tiny seed of doubt to be planted in my heart. That tiny seed then began to grow, until it bloomed into an ugly blossom of worry.

“What if the cancer comes back?”

“What if Gabe can’t handle full-time work?”

Soon, that ugly plant of doubt and worry began to grow thorns and vines that were cutting and choking me. I had given in to my fears. 

Suddenly, I was having panic attacks. I couldn’t drive, and I had unreasonable fear each time Gabe went into the office. 
Instead of leaving the valley feeling victorious over what God had done for my husband, I was a miserable mess over a future I could not control. 

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” – Isaiah 41:10

Friends, God is good! He graciously reminded me that leaving the valley doesn’t mean I am leaving His protection. My journey will continue on, weather in a valley or on a mountain, with God holding me in His protective hand!

I confessed my fear to God. I told God I trusted Him with the future. I asked Him to help me no longer give place to fear in my life. I thanked Him for the victory He gave me over my sin of fear. 

I began to drive again. I didn’t have a panic attack when my husband went into the office. The anxiety left.

If you have been in a long valley, and find you are about to leave, don’t allow seeds of doubt, worry, or fear to enter your mind. These seeds will grow into ugly plants. They will steal away the peace and victory God gave you in the valley.

Instead, leave the valley with praise on your lips, and a song in your heart. Remember, you will never leave the Father’s hand!

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord : and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” – Psalms 37:23‭-‬24

For those who have been following my husband’s journey with cancer, he recieved fantastic news a few weeks ago! He was declared NED, and given a clear bill of health! We couldn’t be happier with this news, and are currently getting back to “normal” life. 

3 Truths To Remember When Going Through Anxiety

Watching the car steer off the road, I looked at the driver. Her eyes were closed, her mouth gaping open. She was unconscious, and she was about to hit a telephone pole!
Adrenaline rushed through my veins, and I quickly made a u-turn. By the time I managed to get back to the run-away car, two men were already assisting the woman, and a bystander was calling 911. Not sure what to do, I ran across the street to a doctor’s office, and begged for a nurse to come with me.

I don’t know what happened to that woman, but I think of her often. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get her face from my mind. 

Witnessing that car accident triggered the first panic attack I’ve had in several years. I am now back in the throes of anxiety. 

I have no expert wisdom to share about how to permanently overcome anxiety. I do, however, want to share a few truths that have helped me the last few days.

#1 – God has a purpose for your anxiety.  If you are serving the Lord and to the best of your knowledge, are right with Him, then God has allowed anxiety in your life for a purpose. God may be using anxiety as a way to draw you closer to Him. He may be trying to soften your heart, and give you a humble spirit, in order to use your weakness to glorify Him. Don’t waste time trying to figure out God’s plan, just trust Him. 

#2 – Don’t trust your feelings. Rest in the knowledge that God cares about you, sees your pain, hears your cries and LOVES you! Don’t trust your feelings when you are going through anxiety, because your feelings are all over the place and unreliable. Instead, rely on the truth of the Word of God! 

#3 – Distract your mind. When in the midst of a panic attack, our minds tend to get stuck on unhealthy thought patterns. Here are some ideas I have found useful in the last few days. Spend some time with a friend. Clean your house. Listen to an audio book. Sing some songs. Go to church. Take a walk. Bake some bread. Spend time with your kids. Watch a funny movie. Write out encouraging scripture. Pray – and pray lot! 

You can have peace while going through anxiety. Peace that God has a purpose for your suffering, and peace that He cares and is really listening to your cry! These truths won’t cure anxiety, but they have personally helped me, and I pray they help you, as well. 

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” – Isaiah 26:3

What Cancer Taught Us

It is early morning, and as I write this, my house is gloriously quiet.  My older children are still sleeping, but I hear whispers from my younger boys room.  Gabe is still sound asleep, the effects of chemo having drained his body.  Sipping my steaming mug of coffee, words are beginning to form in my heart, and the urgency to write becomes too strong for me to avoid any longer.

This past Wednesday was Gabe’s last chemo treatment.  We walked into the cancer clinic with high spirits and big smiles.  We are praying that a scan he had Monday will declare my husband NED (no evidence detected), and then this chapter in our lives can be over.  The story won’t be over, however.

Once cancer has touched your life so closely, it never completely leaves your life.

There will always be tests and blood work.  The knowledge that a recurrence could happen at any time will always linger in the back of our minds.

However, we won’t be consumed by our story, because we will be too busy living it.

Before the chemo was able to get it’s gripping arms around my husbands body, we celebrated by going out for lunch.  As we ate, we talked of all God had done for us in the last chapter of our lives.  What did we learn?  How would our lives be different? What advice would we give others?

This morning, I realized I HAD to share just a few things we learned in the last two years.  I hope that maybe it can help someone else going through a difficult time in their life.

What Cancer Taught Us

1 – The most important thing we learned from cancer is that “there is no pit that is so deep, that God is not deeper still”.  I  had grown up hearing that phrase quoted from the pulpit of my church, but I never really understood the meaning until I found myself in a pit.  Those first weeks after my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer were the most emotional I had ever experienced in my life.  Those were days I would come home from taking my kids to school and just cry.  Not just a few tears, but gut-wrenching cries, where I was on my knees, sobbing, begging God to heal my husband.  Where the fear that I would become a single mother was so real, I was in full-blown panic mode.  I remember during those days, watching my husband sit on the couch, immune to the chaos and noise of our children around him.  Watching him stare off into space, I wasn’t sure if he was thinking, or in shock, but I would see tears slipping down his cheeks.  Those days were hard.  Those days, we were most certainly in a deep, dark pit.  Yet, just when we thought we couldn’t get any deeper, God would reveal Himself to us in some small way.  Whether it was comforting scripture that would come to mind, or a text from a dear friend, God was certainly there in the pit with us.  Cards, gifts, phone calls, hugs, and hundreds of christian brothers and sisters in Christ, some we didn’t even know, offering to pray for us, were all gifts from our loving God.  Gifts that brought us such comfort, that gave us such strength, we eventually found we were no longer in that pit.  How wonderful our God is!

2 – We also learned that you should never waste time questioning God.  It’s hard to see what purpose could come from difficult trials in our lives, but be assured, God has a plan!  And while you are stuck on trying to understand why God would allow this trial into your life, you are wasting precious time that God wants to use to bless you, and bring you closer to Him!  He loves you so deeply, and doesn’t want you to go through your trial alone.  He wants to bring you close to Himself, to hide you under His wings, to comfort you.  God can’t do those things if you are too busy wondering what His thoughts and plans are.  You have to just let go, and trust Him completely. Once you let go, you will be flooded with peace that you won’t be able to explain!

3- Lastly, My husband and I learned that you just can’t go through something as difficult as cancer without God.  Don’t wait until you are facing a trial in your life to build a relationship with God.  Read your Bible and speak to God in prayer every day.  Go to church.  Fellowship as much as you can with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Don’t allow your trial to keep you from doing the things God wants you to do.  Just don’t!  I have seen people, suffering from life’s hard blows, remove themselves from God and His people, because they were too overwhelmed by their circumstances.  Instead of making life easier for themselves, they only made their circumstances harder to bear.  God never intended us to go through hard times alone.  He wants to envelope us in His love and grace.  He wants to reveal Himself to us in such personal ways, we could never again doubt His love and care for us.  Yet how can God do that if we are backing away from Him?  Don’t leave God in a trial, and don’t wait until your are in the middle of one to build a relationship with Him.  Draw close to Him now.  Remain faithful to God now.  Allow Him to bless you in your trials.

So here we are, at the end of this long journey.  Yet, now that we are at the end, it seems as though maybe it wasn’t that long after all.  The valley was hard, but the fellowship with God along the way was very sweet!

Overcoming Anxiety Series #3 – What Does God Think About Anxiety?

What if I were to tell you that Jesus may have had anxiety?  In Hebrews 4:15, we are told that Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  Not everyone suffers from true anxiety, but I believe I could argue that Jesus experienced anxiety at least once.

Picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He knew He was about to be betrayed by a close friend. He knew He was going to be given an unfair trial, beaten mercilessly, and cruelly put to death.

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 22:44

There is a rare condition called Hematidrosis, in which a person will sweat blood.  It is not known what actually causes this condition, but it has been known to happen under extreme cases of fear or stress.

In the first article on Overcoming Anxiety, I explained the possible causes of anxiety.  For some, anxiety can come from a spiritual need, or lack of spiritual strength.  For others, anxiety can be borne from a physical illness. Lastly, anxiety can be brought on by mental illness or stress.

While I don’t believe Jesus was afraid, I truly believe He was under great stress.  I have wondered if this was the moment He began to carry the weight of sin for the entire world!  How did Jesus respond to anxiety?  He prayed, and He continued on with His task.

So what does God think about anxiety?

God wants you to come to come to Him with your anxiety. Philippians 4:6 – “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Psalm 55:22 – “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

God wants you to trust Him.   Psalm 56:3 – “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  Proverbs 3:5&6 – “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.”

God wants you to love Him perfectly.  1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteh out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

God wants to give you strength. Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

God doesn’t want you to be afraid. Joshua 1:9 – “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

God wants to take care of your needs.  Philippians 4:19 – “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

God wants to give you peace.  John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

God wants to give you rest.  Psalm 4:8 – “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”  Matthew 11:28 – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

God wants to give you power over your anxiety.2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

God wants you to think on lovely things.  Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

God wants you to praise Him despite your anxiety.  Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”  Psalms 56:4 – “In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

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I sincerely pray that this series has been a help to some Christian struggling with anxiety. In the future I plan to add to this series, “Overcoming Anxiety“, so stay tuned! 

Meditation Monday – PEACE

What is the one thing in your life that you would give ANYTHING to find peace regarding? Millions of people all around this world are searching for some kind of peace. Some will pay any amount of money to gain it. They will take any kind of drug, do any kind of dangerous action in order to gain the comfort of peace. However, it is never a lasting peace. As soon as the money is paid, the drug worn off, or the action complete, the unsettled feeling returns again.

The Bible says we can have PERFECT peace! Not only is this peace free, it is lasting, and it is available for anyone! Focus on trusting God with your everyday (and extraordinary) circumstances, and you will find peace that is so perfect, you won’t be able to explain it!

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” -Isaiah 26:3

The Unseen Hand

In January of 2015, my husband began rubbing his chest.

My heart won’t stop racing!”

“Was it a stressful day at work,” I asked?

We had been talking for the last couple of months about how something had to give with Gabe’s job.  Not only was he driving an hour to work, he was working 10 to 12 hour days before driving another hour home.  It was starting to wear on him, and our entire family was effected by the high demands of his career.

A few days later, Gabe started to have chest pain.  It was enough to make him question if he was having a heart attack.  It was time to go to the hospital.

In the emergency room, Gabe’s heart rate was crazy.  One minute it was 70 and the next it was over one hundred!

“Atrial tachycardia“, the doctor had said.  “We will keep you until the medication begins to regulate your heart.”

After two days, the medications were not helping.  They sent him home with a scheduled procedure for the next week.  He would be having a heart ablation, a seemingly simple procedure where they pricked a tiny hole between the heart chambers and burned away excess tissue surrounding the heart.

The procedure, though uncomfortable, was a complete success!  We went through the rest of 2015 with no other health struggles or emergency room trips.  Until, exactly a year later, in January of 2016.

I’m taking you to the ER”, I insisted as I drove my family home from church.

“Just let me go home to bed”, Gabe argued.

“You have had a headache, dizziness, nausea and now vomiting for the last week!  You couldn’t even sit in your chair tonight, and I have stopped twice on the way home now, so you could throw up!”

After finding a babysitter and getting my kids off to bed, I practically dragged my husband to the car.  It didn’t take long to get him registered in the hospitals emergency room. After several hours of tests, two doctors came into the tiny room.

“Unfortunately, the test results show that you had a stroke in your cerebellum.  We need to keep you here to run more tests.”

My husband and I looked at each other in shock.  He was only 45, after all.  We were not expecting this kind of news until we were at least in our 70’s!

The next day we learned that the stroke was more than likely the result of a blood clot that was thrown from the tiny pin-prick hole between his heart chambers.  While they couldn’t prove it, it was the only theory that made sense.

As my husband was being released with strict instructions for “no work, no stress, no noise”, we were visited by an endocrinologist.

“Before you leave, you need to know that the MRA revealed a large mass on your thyroid.  In a couple of months, after you have had some healing time from your stroke, you need to see a surgeon.”

We were so focused on healing from the stroke, that we found we weren’t too worried about the mass on Gabe’s thyroid.  A few months later, a biopsy revealed cancer.

“It’s actually a blessing you had the stoke.  Since you were not having any symptoms, we would have more than likely caught this cancer when it was much worse”, the endocrinologist explained.

In July of 2016, Gabe had surgery to remove his thyroid.  Cancer was found in three places.  By September, he was finished with his  radioactive iodine treatments.  Gabe was back to healing from his stroke, and his surgery.

By Thanksgiving Gabe was starting to feel pretty good.  He had begun to return to the office a few days a week, and we were making some exciting plans for 2017.  Only, Gabe had began to notice a lot of blood in the toilet.  Realizing it could possibly be from the blood thinners he now had to take, he felt God was urging him to mention it to his doctor.

In January of 2017, Gabe received a phone call from the gastroenterology.

“The biopsy from your colonoscopy came in today.  I’m sorry, but you have colon cancer.”

For the next two weeks, my husband and I struggled with our emotions.  One minute we felt peace and complete trust in God and the next minute, fear and despair would overwhelm us.  Hadn’t we been through enough?  A heart procedure,  stroke, thyroid cancer, and now colon cancer?

After two weeks of grieving, the fog began to lift from our emotions, and we began to think more clearly about our situation.

“Gabe, do you realize you wouldn’t have had the stroke if you hadn’t had the heart ablation?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“And you wouldn’t have learned about the thyroid cancer if you hadn’t had the stroke.”

The worry wrinkle on my husbands face began to smooth away, as he began to understand my meaning.

“If I hadn’t been on the blood thinners, they never would have discovered the colon cancer.”

We sat together in awesome wonder.

We really could trust God!  He really DID know what He was doing! It was pointless to question Him!  Not only had God allowed all of this struggle into our lives the last two years, but His hand was there the whole time, leading us.  Excitement began to replace our wonder, and thankfulness.

Yes, thankfulness.  For the stroke, the thyroid cancer, and even this colon cancer. For all the time off work my husband had to take, the millions of doctors appointments and the growing pile of medical bills.  For the stress of juggling crazy schedules, and the fearful thoughts of “what if”.  We have witnessed God’s perfect timing, His perfect thoughts, and His perfect ways.  We have received blessings from His hand through the giving hands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are thankful for all of it, because while it was difficult (I would be lying if I said it wasn’t), we have been able to experience God’s unseen hand in our life.

There is an unseen hand to me
That leads through ways I can not see
While going through this world of woe
This hand still leads me as I go.”

– Bill Gaither