A Year Ago

A year ago today, I had no idea that our family was about to embark on a journey that would forever change our lives. I had no idea that just a few short days into 2017, my husband would be diagnosed with colon cancer. I never would have guessed that it would be a year filled with private tears, and worry.

A year ago today, I had no idea how good our God is! I had no idea how far the reach of His comforting arms extended! Never did I expect the honor of witnessing the miracles He performed, just for us! A year ago today, I had no idea how much God really cared for and loved me. I had never experienced such great, unexplainable peace in the midst of great chaos!

A year ago today, I didn’t understand that in order to shine brightly for God, you have to be surrounded by darkness.

I didn’t know that God could use you for His glory during the hardest of your trials and struggles. I didn’t understand that when we are in our weakest state, that is when our God is strongest! Never would I have guessed that walking with the Saviour in 2017 would be the sweetest walk I would ever experience!

Today, I am facing the future of 2018. Sometimes, I look ahead in trepidation, wondering what surprises are lurking in its dark corners. Yet, the fear doesn’t last very long because all I have to do is think back to a year ago and remember how God saw us through the most difficult journey of our lives. 2018 will hold it’s trials, and who knows, maybe they will be more difficult than what we have already faced! I know that I can trust God, however, to be right there with me, from the start of the journey, all the way to the very end!

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

Thank you, dear readers, for joining me in my discoveries of God’s goodness and mercy in 2017! I hope and pray you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! And whatever is in store for your 2018, I pray you claim the promise of God’s peace!

“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.” – John 14:27

(Photograph taken by Kasey Photography)

Meditation Monday – Leaving and Reaching

Have you just come out of a long trial?  Maybe someone in your family was sick, or you experienced the death of a loved one. Your head might still be spinning from the emotions of your trial.  Now that it is over, you are wondering, “how in the world do I get back to a normal life”?  

The Bible tells us to “forget the things which are behind.”  All the pain, fear, and worry of your trial needs to be left behind .  You might be thinking, “but that trial was SO HARD, I don’t know how I could possibly forget it!”  God has given each of us the ability to make the pain of our trials a distant memory.  Once we get on our knees and surrender the pain of our past to the Lord, He will give us the strength to press on towards the prize!

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13 & 14

 

What Makes a Good Friend

This article is lovingly dedicated to my friends. Thank you for being there for me, especially these last couple of years! You have listened to my fears, hugged me as I cried, prayed for me, and been there for me at a moment’s notice. You have taught me by your examples how to be a friend, and you have loved me, despite me.  I love you guys!!

Pacing the busy church foyer, my 13-year-old self tried to muster up courage. 
Realizing I just needed to take the plunge, I walked towards the girl.  She had perfect blonde hair that flowed past her shoulders.  Her dress was a beautiful flower pattern, with puffs and ruffles in all the right places.  Looking into her questioning, blue eyes, I nearly lost my resolve. 

“Um…I just wanted to know….what do I have to do to be your guy’s friend.  I mean….do I need to change the way I dress or do my hair?  I just really want to be your friend!”

Smiling at me, the girl gently placed her hand on my arm.

“You don’t need to change.  Just give it some more time.  It will get better, I promise!”

Little did I know then, that 26 years later, that very girl would be one of my dearest and closest friends!

I am in no way an expert on friendship, but I am very blessed by the many friends God has given me.  Some friends go way back and others are newer, but they all are very dear to my heart. 

Making friends is not something that has ever been easy for me.  Approaching people I don’t know will make me break out in cold a sweat.  I say stupid things, and most of the time, come across as very awkward!  My husband tells me that I start to laugh in a high pitched voice, and even talk faster than normal, when I am talking to someone I don’t know. For me, making new friendships has required a lot of work, and, as my dear friend said to me so many years ago, patience.

Maybe you are in a church or a community where you find it difficult to make friends. Before you blame the church members, or even your neighbors, make sure you are following Biblical principles when trying to develop new friendships.

You mean, the Bible says something about making friends?

Yes.  In fact, there are several examples of friendships in the Bible.  David and Jonathan, Moses and Arron, Paul and Barnabas, and Jesus and His disciples are just a few friendships we can read about in the Bible.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FRIEND

A Common Bond in Jesus Christ – While a Christian should be friendly to the unsaved world, he shouldn’t be best friends with them.  The Bible reminds us in James 4:4 – “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”  Don’t forget, that you can’t serve the world and Jesus. An unsaved individual is going to live like the world and is going to do worldly things.  Luke 16:13 – “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  

Be the First to Reach Out – To have friends, the Bible teaches that you have to take action.  You have to be the one that reaches out first.  If you are standing in the corner by yourself, hoping to be flocked by a group of new friends, you are going to be sadly disappointed!  It doesn’t mean the church is unfriendly, it means the church is busy serving.  Maybe they are as afraid of you as you are of them.  Put a smile on your face, get out of your corner, and reach out to others!  Get involved in the church, and be patient.  It takes time to make friends!  Proverbs 18:24 – “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Forgive – Weather you are offended because someone isn’t friendly enough, or your closest and dearest friend has just stabbed you in the back (yes, I know that was extreme), you need to forgive.  Ephesians 4:32b – “…forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”  True friendship won’t seek revenge or hold a grudge.  Proverbs 24:29 – “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.”

Be Generous – The best way to make a new friend is to be generous.  Inviting someone over to your home for a delicious meal is a wonderful first step in getting to know someone!  Meeting for coffee and dessert is another excellent way to form a friendship.  If you doubt this, just look to Jesus’ example.  He invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner!  Luke 19:5 – “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”  If you have a friend in need, and you feel the Holy Spirit moving you to help, you better obey!  Not only does true friendship give when there is a need, but you will be rewarded for your generosity!  Proverbs 3:28 – “Do not say unto thy neighbor, go, and come again, and to morrow I will give when thou hast it by thee.”

Watch Your Tongue – That old saying, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” applies right here.  Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” The worst thing a group of friends can do when they get together is gossip about other people.  In fact, if you have friends that sit around and gossip about your pastor’s wife, MAKE NEW FRIENDS.  Seriously, do I need to remind you about Miriam?  Numbers 12:1 – “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married”.  Miriam got her tongue wagging out there in that wilderness against Moses’ wife, and God called her out for it! “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them…and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow…And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days.”  If you have tried to make friends and have found yourself still sitting in the corner alone, you need to examine your tongue.  What are you talking about when you are around other people?  Are your words pleasant?  Do they edify others in the Lord?  Proverbs 15:2 – “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.”  Just because you have knowledge about someone else, doesn’t mean you should pour it all out for everyone to hear.  A true friend will speak pleasant words about everyone! Proverbs 16:28 – “A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.”

Be Faithful – If you want to know who your friends are, look to see who is still standing after a storm.  Trials and difficult situations can often “weed out” friends.  Don’t desert your friend in their time of greatest need.  If you don’t understand what they are going through, you can still be there for them by telling them you are praying for them and that you love them!  Bring them a meal, send them a card, send them a text, or meet them for coffee!  Lend your ear, and if you are asked to share your opinion, do so with meekness.  Proverbs 17:17b – “A friend loveth at all times”.  Proverbs 27:10 – “Thine own friend, and they fathers’ friend, forsake not.”

Have Some Character – A true friend will bring out the best in you. When you leave their conversation, you will be strengthened in your own Christian walk.  Romans 14:19 – “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Be Truthful – Truthfulness is a hard quality to find in a friend.  Often, one will tell a “little white lie” in order to avoid hurting a friend.  But the Bible tells us a good friend will tell the truth, even if it hurts.  Proverbs 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”  A true friend will gently share the truth, weather it is desirable to hear or not. It does not always have to be painful, however.  If done in the right spirit, it can be a blessing!  Proverbs 27:9 – “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by heart council.”  

If you are desiring to have more friends, or have found yourself in a place that seems unfriendly, be sure you are applying Biblical principles to your efforts.  At the end of the day, remember, you have a Friend Who will never leave you!  Just look to how Jesus treated His friends.  He fed them, laughed with them, healed them, taught them, ate with them, and He even washed their feet!  How does Jesus treat you?  Jesus is our best example of what makes a good friend!

John 15:15 – “Jesus said, I have called you friends.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Meditation Monday – Those Crazy Moments

It’s usually not until I’ve dropped my kids off at school, and I’m driving home in silence, that I realize my crazy morning had gotten the best of me. Tense muscles and a strong desire for a second cup of coffee are a sure sign that I was overwhelmed by my crazy morning! 

Let’s face it, we’ve all had moments that have overwhelmed us! Whether it’s a crazy schedule or a stressful situation, if you find yourself overwhelmed, try meditating on this: God was already in that crazy moment! 

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

Not only can God see what is ahead on our path, He is there ahead of us, waiting to lead us through. When we are able to humble ourselves to God, and follow Him through the crazy moments, there is always rest on the other side! 

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If you’ve enjoyed this short devotional, consider following my blog! You will be notified every Monday morning when a new “Monday Meditation” will be posted! 

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

What a Cancer Patient Won’t Tell You (but his wife will)


I have debated writing this post for a few months now. It is not my intent to whine, complain, or cause discouragement! God has been SO GOOD to us while on this journey! However, many have asked me how Gabe is “really” doing? So I thought I’d share with you, what he probably won’t tell you himself.
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Often I’ve listened to my husband talk to someone inquiring after his health. He will lightly smooth his struggles over with a butter knife, making it seem as though everything was as sweet as jam. It takes every ounce of self control within me to not enter those conversations mouth first, revealing what he’s REALLY going through!

“Gabe, why do you glaze over everything? Why aren’t you sharing what you are really going through?”

“Care, if I’m not positive when I talk to people, I won’t think positive when I’m alone.”

So here I am, sharing to a world of readers (all 30 of you) what a cancer patient (at least mine) won’t tell you. 

1. They feel sick more than they feel normal. Despite being on two different anti-nausea medications, my husband feels sick a lot. Thankfully, he’s been able to eat, and the steroids have made him even gain a few pounds. He is not thrilled by that, but doctor’s reassure him this is fantastic!

2. They. Are. Tired. All. The. Time. I’m not even kidding. Gabe sleeps about 9-10 hours a night, plus an hour nap every day, sometimes 2 naps! If he does any kind of physical labor, it literally takes hours of energy away from his body. Every day feels like he just ran a marathon.

3. Chemo really, really, really stinks. Think tingling and numbness in your hands, fingers, and toes. Freezing cold sensation when eating or drinking room temperature foods. Muscle pain and weakness when walking or chewing food. Think having to know what your blood counts are every week, having people stick you with needles nearly every day! 

4. Radiation really IS as difficult as they say. Burned skin, mucusy discharge, and bleeding are just a few side effects. Because my husband recieved radiation in a delicate area, he has even more difficulties I can’t mention on a public blog. The symptoms last for weeks after the last treatment.

5. They worry about the future. No matter how good their prognosis is, IT’S STILL CANCER. That means there is still fear of cancer spreading, or recurance of cancer, or serious illness from cancer treatments. They wonder if they will be able to return to work as they once did, and how they will pay the mounting medical bills. 

6. They miss what their life used to be. They miss the freedom to go away for a few days vacation instead of being “chained” to the cancer center. They miss feeling good, playing with their kids, food tasting good, working full time, sleeping soundly…there are so many more things my husband and I miss, we couldn’t possibly list them all!

7. They feel lonely. When friends and family first find out you have cancer, you will feel overwhelmed by their support and love! In time, however, some will get used to the idea you have cancer. For them, life is still going on as normally as can be, and you feel a little left behind. Many times loneliness is there, despite continued love and support, merrily because friends can’t go to your appointments with you, feel your pain, or hook up to your IV’s with you. Loneliness, to some extent, is unavoidable for a cancer patient.

8. It’s hard for their families. A spouse is going to worry more about the future than the cancer patient will worry. The added stress of caring for a loved one who is suffering through treatments along with average daily stresses can easily overwhelm. The fear of losing their loved one is never far from their thoughts. Older kids may struggle with extra responsibilities and having to back out of social activities in order to help their parents. 

9. Preventative treatments don’t feel any less painful or any less scary than treatments given in desperation. Many times I’ve heard, “but aren’t his treatments preventative?” Well, yes, but he’s going to feel the chemo and radiation just as if it were not a preventative measure. 

10. Lastly, a cancer patient won’t tell you that his entire outlook on life has changed. Things that were important yesterday, are no longer on the “to-do” list today. A cancer patient sees more clearly what is truly important in life. 

There are several other truths my husband will GLADLY tell anyone who wants to listen. God has been good to us through this cancer trial! He has provided every single need. We have been overwhelmed by friends and family who love and support us. We all have enjoyed Gabe being home more. Gabe is loving his guitar more every day. And lastly, this jourey is nearly over!

Really, I think Gabe believes that everything has been truly wonderful. He chooses to look at the positives and the blessings, and to cast the negatives behind him. This healthy perspective has been because of God’s Grace. The next time I hear him smoothing over how he’s really doing, I’m going to just keep my mouth closed.