No Fear In Death

There is no doubt in my mind that I will one day walk on a street of gold. One day, a hand that was once nail-driven to a wooden cross will reach out to me, and lead me Home. I will see my Savior face to face, and I will enjoy eternity in Heaven with Him.

I am not afraid of what life-after-death holds for me. (If you don’t know where you will spend eternity, go here to read how you can have that assurance.)

Once upon a time, I used to worry about how I would die. I’ve never been diagnosed with a terminal illness or told I only have a short time left to live. Yet there were nights I used to lay awake long after the rest of my family would be sleeping, and I would wonder how I would die. These worries at times would leave me frozen with fear, allowing anxiety to get a grip on my mind, debilitating me. Would I die in a car accident? I began to have panic attacks while driving. Would I die of a heart attack? I began to struggle with chest pains. Would I die of a stroke? I began to wonder if I had blood clots. Would I die of cancer? I began to question every twinge of pain.

Maybe you are reading this and are thinking about how silly and ridiculous I sound. A Christian afraid of dying?! Believe me, I used to think that of myself. Shame would fill me each time I struggled with this fear. Yet, I soon learned that I was not alone. In the last year, I received emails and private messages from other Christians who also struggle with anxiety, and have had the same fear of dying.

Over the years, I have learned that God has given us all the tools we need to overcome our anxieties. These tools are found in the Word of God. Once I realized that my fear of dying was beginning to affect me in a physical and unhealthy way, I turned to the scripture. There, I found exactly what I needed to turn my fear into peace!

Why I No Longer Fear Dying

God knows how many days I have left to live on this earth. In Psalms 39, we are told that God knows when we lay down to sleep, and when we rise for the day. He knows our thoughts before we speak them. In fact, God has a book with my name on it, and He is keeping track of every little detail about me, including how much time I have left on this earth. The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever.” – Psalms 37:18

God has already declared what my end will be. When God moved upon the face of the waters in Genesis 1, He was putting thought into His creation. He was thinking about the little details He would give to each and everyone of us. If God put so much thought into His creation, wouldn’t He put some thought into how His creation would end? From the moment I was formed in my mothers womb, God had a plan for how my life would end. Not only that, His plan will bring Him glory, and it will please Him! Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” – Isaiah 46:10

God is holding my years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds in His hand. I trust God’s Word. He said that the death of His Son, Jesus Christ would be an atonement for my sins. He said that I can stand before His throne spotless, and blameless. If I can trust God to hold my eternity in His hand, why can’t I trust Him to hold my life in His hand? God has a plan for my life, but I can’t live that plan if I’m consumed with worry about my death! But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou are my God. My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.” – Psalms 31:14-15

I will not live one second longer than what God wills me to live. God is not going to allow anything to get in the way of His plan for me! What comfort to know that my death will not be some accidental mistake, or afterthought! God has set an appointment for my death, and He’s going to make sure I keep it! “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;” – Job 14:5

No matter how I will die, God will be with me. Heart attack, stroke, cancer, accident, murder – it doesn’t matter how I die, God has promised to be with me! No matter where I go, I can never outrun God’s hand. When my appointed time is up, God’s hand will be there to lead me Home, in fact, He may pick me up and hold me until we get there! “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 39:8-10

These precious promises God left in His Word are for us to take a hold of, and apply to our lives. If I trust Gods plans for me, then I don’t need to fear death. Trusting God is not about feelings or emotions, it is about action. I have to choose to trust God’s Word. I have to choose to commit Scripture to memory. I have to choose to quote these Scripture when I feel anxiety or fear. Only then can God turn my anxiety into peace!

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

“No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me.”

– Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

When Silence is Loud

Sitting on my couch, I watched the setting sun cast it’s long shadows across my living room wall. The silence in the house was so loud, it deafened me.

Yes, you read that right. I said the silence was deafening.

I come from a large, loud family. Even when we didn’t have friends over, our house was still crowded, and loud. As the middle child of five sisters, I was able to experience the joys of sharing a bedroom, bathroom, and even my clothes with a crowd!

Eventually, I moved out of my noisy house and into a noisy, college dormitory. There, I shared a room with 4 other girls. Our house had eleven people living in it. Talk about crazy!

After living my entire life with crazy, loud females, you would think I’d get my own place just so I could enjoy some silence. Instead, I met a really handsome guy and decided to get married. I went from sharing a noisy dormitory to living in an apartment with my husband. I worked a part time job until giving birth to our first child.

I have spent the last 16 years raising 4 children. When it was time for my youngest child to go to school full-time, and for me to enjoy silent days at home, I found myself taking care of my sick husband.

Finally the day arrived. My husband was going back to work full-time after being home nearly two years. In my excitement, I made a list of fun house projects, stacked several books in a neat pile by my chair (pictured above), and filled my calendar with empty days.

Except, instead of leisurely resting in the sweet joys of silence, I became a tight ball of nervous energy. I had never truly been alone for more than an hour or two, and I wasn’t used to the silence. I soon learned that I was not a person who loved complete silence. I would much rather try to have a conversation with my husband over the craziness of our 4 loud children, than to be in an empty, quiet house alone. There is a lesson in the Bible for every phase of our lives, and I soon learned the benefits silence.

We need silent moments in our lives to remind us that God is still God. We get so busy in our day-to-day crazy, that we allow the noise and confusion of the world to creep into our hearts. We become weighted down over news of future wars, corrupt politics, and raging teenagers with guns. Yet, when we take time to shut the world out a few minutes everyday, and read the Word of God, we can find comfort in the truth that God is still God! Those worries are not for us to figure out. Just be still and see what the Lord can do! Someday, He is going to come and make everything that’s wrong in this world, right!

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

We need quiet moments in our lives so we can see God’s miracles. Four months ago, my husband was in the final phase of his cancer treatments (read Gabe’s cancer story here). During that time, my life was crazy. I pretty much felt like a single mom as my husband was often too sick to partake in normal “daddy duties”. During those crazy days, I was too busy to see the miracles God was performing. It wasn’t until it was all over, and I found myself sitting in a quiet empty house, that the reality of our situation really hit me. My husband had survived cancer – twice! And although we struggled more financially than we ever had, we somehow not only survived, but thrived!

“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord .” – Lamentations 3:26

We need quiet moments in our lives so God can give us confidence for our future. In Isaiah chapter 30, God warns Israel to not seek help from the Egyptians. He warns them that if they do, it will be to their own detriment. God advised Israel that their safety relied not in running for their lives, but in staying in the quietness of where they were.

Sometimes, we need to rest in the quietness of where we are. The shadows of our future can easily alarm us, causing us to fear tomorrow. We become tempted to follow the worlds solutions, rather than following God’s Word. Don’t give in to that temptation. Instead, wait quietly in the silence of where God has you now. Listen to His voice, and follow His Word. In doing this, we can have confidence in our tomorrows!

“For thus saith the Lord God , the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.” – Isaiah 30:15

They say that silence is golden. I have yet to experience the physical riches of silence! I have learned, however, that there are many spiritual benefits to having a quiet moment.

When Your Kids Are Along For The Ride

When my husband found out he had colon cancer, he wasn’t sitting in a doctors office. There was no box of tissues nearby for him to grab. His wife wasn’t sitting next to him to take hold of his hand. No comforting words or hand on the shoulder from a doctor. He recieved the results coldly, over the phone by someone who had grown used to passing on bad test results.

I found out the news in a more gentle way. In the privacy of our bedroom, with my husband’s arms around me. My husband’s shirt to dry my tears. My husband’s gentle words to calm my fears.

Our teenagers, however, learned of Daddy’s cancer in an unusual way. My son was listening outside our bedroom door. He, of course, ran down the stairs to share what he had heard with his older sister.

The two of them, not understanding everything, but knowing it was making mom cry, began to finish making dinner and keeping their little brothers quiet.

Many people have asked me over the months how my kids are coping. The first time I was asked this question, I had to take pause. I was so wrapped up in my own feelings, I hadn’t taken the time to see how my kids were really doing. I began to pay close attention.

My fifteen year old daughter has a very laid back personality. Her way of handling daddy’s cancer has been to not think about it. Instead, she has focused on helping me out at home. Many times I have been at the cancer center with my husband and come home to a spotless house and happy little boys. My daughter’s main goal through this valley we are in, has been to make everyone as comfortable as possible. When asked what the hardest part of this journey has been for her, she will say being home all summer. She misses the family outings, having friends over, and our trips out of state.

My thirteen year old son has an A-type personality. He is the most determined person I know! He thinks very deeply, and has a lot of emotion to go along with his thoughts. His way of coping with dad’s cancer is to plan. I have had several conversations with him about the “what ifs” of our family’s future. When my husband and I come home from a long day at the hospital, we usually find that he has organized something. He will have mapped out evening plans for the entire family, and will take it upon himself to make everyone stick to his plan. When asked what has been the most difficult part of this journey, he will say seeing his dad so sick, and not having family outings this summer.

My youngest boys have, for the most part, been unphased by Dad’s cancer. As long as we have family movie nights, games of Battleship and UNO, pizza, and popsicles for the back porch, they are perfectly content. There have been a few moments of needing to ask questions about Daddy’s sickness, but when asked, the only difficulty they could think of is not getting to sleep in a tent this summer!

If you are in a hard place in your life, and have kids along for the ride, here are some truths my husband and I have learned.

1. All kids react to stress differently. Every human being has different personalities, and this includes kids. Some will hold their thoughts and fears inside, others will talk to anyone who will listen. Then there are the kids who don’t seem to notice what’s going on, and are content in their own little world. Study your children and learn how they are coping. Open doors for conversation every now and then, and make sure your kids know they can talk to you at any time.

2. Kids take their cue from their parents. If a parent is afraid or angry about their circumstances, chances are their children will be, too. Little eyes are watching how you deal with stress every day, and will copy what they see. If you are able be joyful despite your circumstances, your kids will be, too. Parents need to be careful on how they talk about things in front of their kids. This doesn’t mean you should hide the truth from your kids. They know something is going on, even if you try to hide it. Be honest with them, but be positive. Always remind your child that God is on your side!

3. Kids can get bitter, too. We learned early on, that our kids NEEDED a life outside the house. When there is a sick family member at home, it is often, that home becomes a dreary and depressing place. We make it a point to do something special with them at least once a week. This can be accomplished by trips to the library, local parks, ice cream shop, and even the YMCA. Our family also has wonderful friends, and my kids have been invited to go along with other families for outings.

4. They want to feel useful. My older son took charge of all outside chores since my husband had his stroke over a year ago. This has been a difficult task as we have a very steep hill in our yard. His determination, however, has helped him persevere in his tasks, and he is now getting attention from our neighbors, and job offers! My younger son’s are always “writing books” for their dad, or giving him “massages”. If your child is a “doer”, give him something that will make him feel that he is contributing to the family.

Lastly, here are some tips on helping your kids through difficult family trials.

1. Have a routine. Our family schedule has for the most part, been pure craziness. I have found, however, that my kids need some routine. I can’t always be there when they wake up, and there have been days I wasn’t there at bedtime. When I am home however, I make it a matter of importance to have our evenings together. I will read a couple of chapters from a book before prayers each night to my little ones. The older ones feel privileged to watch an episode of Start Treck with us before bed. Every child needs some order in their day, even during the hardest valley.

2. Pray with them often. Kids need to hear their parents talk to God. They need to hear the emotions and fears that are daily laid at the feet of Jesus. They need to feel God’s presence in their family and home.

3. Use scripture. My younger son has always struggled with fear, for as long as I can remember. He doesn’t like to be alone in any room of our house, and he is easily frightened by many things. My husband’s poor health the last two years seems to have slightly intensifed his fears. After many talks, and times of prayer with him, I recently discovered that scripture gives him the most comfort. He has a favorite verse we memorized together, and he recently asked if we could hang it up in his room.

4. Focus on making memories more than having fun. The biggest lesson I have learned with my kids, is that even fun can be forgotten. They are not going to remember every movie, every ice cream cone, or even every trip to the park. This realization has changed my planning to some extent. Now, every outing is all of us together. No one has opportunity to be home alone- there are plenty of other times for that. Also, to my entire families dismay, I take a LOT more pictures.

There is no perfect answer or laid-out plan on helping your kids walk through a valley with you. As a parent, the best thing that you can do for your kids is to be right with God. Your kids will see the comfort and the peace that God gives you in the valley, and you will be able to show them the way to God even in the midst of trials.

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)

When Your World is Changing

We have been listening to Christmas music since late October.  While I haven’t tired of the music itself, I have noticed the excitement that first accompanied those joyful melodies, has begun to wane.  A spirit of reflection has replaced the excitement, bringing many happy memories to mind.  These memories however, eventually lead me back to reality.  Life is changing all around me, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Families growing and spreading out, are natural reasons for shifting traditions and dynamics.  Declining health, battling cancer, financial struggles, troubled marriages, and the death of loved ones, are also causes for change.

So, how do you cope when your world is changing?  Here’s what I have personally learned:

Trust God with Change –  When we feel that our lives are beyond our control, we tend to become fearful and anxious.  Our comfort zones are shaken, and we feel insecure. Don’t forget that God has a plan, and is allowing change in your life for a reason.  Although change may be difficult, you can trust Him to use it for good in your life. Stop fighting change, and trust God!

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Rejoice in Change – Rejoicing through difficulty reveals hope and peace in the believer. Someday, God will wipe away all our tears.  Someday, we will all gather around a table, furnished with the best food we can imagine, and dine with The Father.  Someday, there will be no more pain, sorrow, or death!  This hope we have for our future can give us peace for the change we must endure today!  If you are not sure where your hope lies, please check out this page titled, There is Hope!

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”  – Romans 15:13 

Give during Change –  Giving when it is hardest to do so, results in the biggest kind of blessings! When we are busy serving others, we don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the sorrows of change. Give your time to your family and friends.  Show kindness and thoughtfulness to your neighbors and co-workers.  Continue on in your service to the ministries at church. Extending generosity when you are in the midst of your own struggles, can help change someone else’s life – for good!

“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” – 2 Corinthians 8:2

God NEVER Changes – When my life begins to feel unstable because of the changes going on around me, I find peace in this one thought: my God NEVER changes!  Different trials has brought me either further away or closer to God, but HE has never changed His postion.  His voice still sounds the same, His Word still reads the same, and His comfort still feels the same.  My God, who is also my Friend that never fails, will always be there for me!  I don’t ever have to doubt if He will answer when I call.  He will be the same God to me when I am ninety-five, that He was to me when I was 25!

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”. – Hebrews 13:8

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” – James 1:17

“For I am the LORD, I change not…” – Malachi 3:6

If you are struggling with change in this busy holiday season, don’t be downhearted.  Trust God with your change, and allow Him to work for your own good!  Once you do, you will find it easy to rejoice, even when your heart is sad.  Rejoicing makes for a generous spirit, and giving when it’s hardest is a gift that can change lives! And don’t forget – God never has, and never will change!

 

 

 

 

How to Help Someone With Cancer

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My husband and I at the Toledo Cancer Center for his chemotherapy. A friend had generously given us a gift card to Chili’s that we used for lunch.

Ringing the doorbell, I nervously clutched my casserole dish closer. The door opened, and a woman with dark hair smiled at me.

“Come in, sweetie”, she said.

Following her through the family room, I noticed a hospital bed set up in the corner. There was other medical equipment near the bed. I quickly looked away.

“Just set it down right here on the counter”, the woman said. I began unpacking the meal I had brought.

“I made a chicken pot pie, I hope you haven’t had it this week.”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful! Thank you so much, I just haven’t had time to cook.”

“Are you doing OK?”

Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. She slightly lifted her chin, and I could see determination pushing away her emotion.

“I’m doing fine. It’s been hard, but God is good.”

“We are praying for your husband, and for you”, I replied. “Let us know if we can do anything at all. We live pretty close to you.”

How I wish I could go back to that moment in time, and taken the opportunity to show just a little more compassion.  Maybe I could have given that dear lady a genuine hug, or said a prayer with her.  But the truth was, I didn’t know how to act, or what to say.  I felt awkward and incapable.  I was terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing.

In the last year, I have learned that no one can really know what to say to someone who is suffering from cancer.  This knowledge can only be obtained by experience.  By sharing what I have personally learned in the last year, I hope to help others who may be feeling intimidated at the idea of helping someone with cancer.

HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WITH CANCER

Let them know you care.  In this day and age, it is extremely easy to express your care and concern to someone who has cancer.  Texting, instant messaging, and sending cards in the mail are just a few ideas of easy communication.  If the person you are reaching out to is a good friend, consider a phone call, or even a short visit.  It doesn’t take any profound words of wisdom to tell someone you care.  Keep your text message short, but sweet.  A simple “we are praying for you” can go a long way.

Give them time to process their diagnosis.  If someone has just found out they have cancer, more than likely, they don’t know very many details.  There will need to be more tests, and possibly even surgery, before they find out what stage their cancer is, and what treatment will be required.  They may be trying to process the fact that they even have cancer, while also struggling with all the unknown possibilities. So while you are expressing your care and concern, be careful to not bombard the cancer patient with too many questions. But don’t leave them alone! They need to be surround by their family, friends, and church during this scary time.  However, do be sensitive to what you say and ask the first few weeks after diagnosis.  Now is not the time to share stories of “great-aunt Martha, who died a terrible death from colon cancer”!

Be informed. Once the cancer patient has a treatment plan, things start moving pretty quickly.  One way to show you care is to stay informed of what kind of treatment is needed, how often, and how aggressive it will be.  Learn when surgeries will be, and make sure someone will be there to sit with the spouse.  Send flowers, cards, or bring up a gift basket after surgery is over.  Ask if they have any needs, so if others happen to ask what they can do to help, you will have an idea of what to suggest.

Help them with the small stuff.  I can’t tell you what a blessing it was for my husband and I to hear the many offers to help watch our kids.  We had friends and family help pick up kids from school during treatments and appointments.  Friends kept our kids overnight during surgeries. A friend brought over a hot meal during the first few weeks my husband was diagnosed.  We were still walking around in a daze, and I wasn’t really making dinner, and her thoughtfulness went a long way into comforting our hearts. The small stuff can become very overwhelming when you are going through cancer.  My husband became so weak and ill during his treatments, that he could no longer accomplish small tasks around the house.  Thankfully, my son was old enough to start mowing the lawn, and our friendly neighbor offered to help with a few projects around the house that couldn’t wait.  If you want to help someone who is going through cancer, these are all wonderful ideas that you could do to be a blessing.

Giving gifts is always a great idea. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, it may become impossible for a patient to work full time, if at all. Thankfully, my husband was able to get part-time disability, however, it was only a certain percentage of his salary. Gradually, it became a little hard for us financially. While we never truly struggled to the point we couldn’t buy groceries, there were a few times we saw God provide specific needs when people would slip us a rolled up $100 bill, or we received a card with cash in it through the mail. God always provided our needs while my husband had cancer! We received restaurant gift cards that helped us out on the truly difficult days during my husbands treatments. We never would have been able to get carry-out as often as we did without the generosity of our brothers and sisters in Christ! If the Lord puts it on your heart to give, even if it feels impulsive, obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. Maybe God is trying to use you to help fullfill a need in the life of someone else!

Don’t forget about them. Once the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis wears away, it is easy to forget about the difficulties your friend with cancer is still facing. Life goes on, and the crazy, busy, hustle-and-bustle of every-day life can distract us from remembering to reach out to those still in need. There was a day when my husband had to go in for his chemotherapy, and I wasn’t able to be there for with him because of an event I was hosting.  My brother-in-law drove over two hours to come and sit with my husband for those 4 hours!  It was such a blessing to know that while life was going on for everyone around him, someone was still thinking of my husband.  During his cancer treatments, my husband received many cards expressing love and prayers.  Often the card would arrive on a day where an encouraging word was desperately needed.  God has a way of sending you what you need, exactly when you need it!  Knowing that others are thinking and praying for you is just as needful at the end of a cancer journey than it is at the beginning.

Pray for them as they get back to normal life. When you have cancer, hearing the word “remission”, is definitely something to celebrate! Yet, depending on the aggressiveness and length of treatment, it may take a while for a cancer patient to gain their strength again. There may also be some struggle in becoming independent, after needing the help of others for a long period of time. And lastly, a person who has gone through cancer tends to change how they view life. Their dreams and goals for their future have changed, and this may cause a little uncertainty when getting back to “normal life” again. Don’t stop praying for someone who has had cancer.

If you are still uncertain of what to say or do around someone with cancer, you can always pray. My husband and I KNOW we could never have gone through the last year without the prayers of others. What an encouragement it was to hear that so many people were praying for my husband! Not only was it encouraging, but is was comforting. The next time you hear a family member, friend, or church member was diagnosed with cancer, don’t let the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from helping those in need.  God is not going to overlook any effort you put forth in love in ministering to His saints!

Hebrews 6:10 – “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

 

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. 

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

 

 

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

Our Special Summer

Swaying with the swings smooth motion, I welcome the gentle breeze on my warm face. The setting sun spreads it’s glorious color across the sky, putting on a show of God’s amazing handiwork. My mind drifts to last summer and our family trip to Michigan’s thumb area.

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July, 2016 View of Lake Huron from our tent door.

How I longed to be on the beach at Port Crescent, chasing the waves with my bare feet. The sunsets at Port Crescent were amazing every night. The nightly bonfires represented family closeness and spiritual bonding. Sleeping in a tent meant scary stories and midnight bathroom trips. Coffee tasted best when slowly made over an open flame. I could hear my kids laughter as I invisioned them playing in the sand, and feel my husband’s embrace as we sat and watched the sunset together.

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July 2016, Port Crescent State Park, after a storm.

 

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July, 2016 Sunset over Lake Huron after a storm.

But no, we will not be visiting our favorite place this year. This summer has had fewer library trips and park visits. No lazy days spent picnicking at a local beach, or even day trips to the zoo. There will be no days set aside for America’s most loved roller coaster park, no out-of-state visits to see family, and no, there will be no camping.

This summer has been one of struggle in watching my husband suffer through radiation. It has been a summer of loneliness (your friends can’t walk each mile of your valley with you). It has been a summer of crazy schedules, a messy house, and many carry-out dinners and family movie nights.

As I sway in the cooling breeze, watching the last rays of sunlight dip below the horizon, I realize I no longer want to think back to last summer, or of this summers disappointments.

Instead, I begin to think of our church family’s generosity that has allowed us to get carry-out from restaurants we never would consider with four kids. The Clear Play DVD player a friend gave us has allowed family movie nights to include all the Avenger movies. Friends have helped pick up our kids from practices when we have schedule conflicts, and neighbors and family have come over to fix our falling-apart yard.

Lazy days at home have included slip-n-slide fun, gardening, trampoline wars, front-yard ninja battles, and Star Wars recipe cooking. Let’s not forget homemade popsicles, ice cream, smores, and popcorn balls. Reading aloud of adventures found in books written decades ago, have helped take us some place else, where we can explore caves or ride a rocket to Mars, right from our very own living room. Everyone has had a chance to improve in their guitar and ukulele playing skills. And endless rounds of Battleship and Zingo have kept all our competitive spirits alive.

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Playing a game of Battleship with my son, Bryce.

This summer has not been one we would have purposely planned, and it has for sure been filled with emotional struggle. However, it has also been a summer of opportunity as we grow closer as a family, and of continual thankfulness. Thankfulness that Gabe is alive, that there is hope for healing, and of God’s grace through this all.

As the stars (and mosquitos) begin to come out, lightening bugs begin to flicker above the grass. Bullfrogs begin their territorial calls while crickets start to chirp in unison, creating a chorus of nightly music. My heart joins in with their melody, praising God for giving our family this special summer.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Summer of 2015, watching the sunset with Gabe, before his stroke and before thyroid and colon cancer.