He Overwhelms My Days with Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 Ways to Keep Your House Together When Life Gets Crazy

Before I had kids, I would scrub my house down every Saturday, just because that’s what I was taught to do.  I never went to bed with a messy house. I never once left the house with dirty dishes in the sink, or the floors unswept. Even dirty laundry had its proper place, and that was never the floor.

Over the years, children changed my routine to some degree, but I was still able to manage control over the condition of my home.

However, in January of 2016, we began my husband’s journey with his health. Our lives exploded with doctor’s visits, tests, surgeries, and treatments. This, of course, was in addition to the already crazy schedule we had.

My house began to suffer. For the first time in my life, I left dirty dishes in the sink, floors unswept, and dirty laundry stayed wherever it landed. There were days when I felt so overwhelmed by my house that I determined I was going to call Molly Maid.

A few months ago, I realized I had a day with no appointments scheduled.  I began to focus on all the cleaning that needed to be caught up. I was very overwhelmed by my to-do list. While sipping my coffee (still in my pajamas), I added a few more things to my list, when my husband came out of his office.

“Pastor Jon and Jess just called. They will be in our area and want to stop by. They should be here in 15 minutes.”

My heart stopped. I began to panic.

“What???!! Look at this house! I can’t have our pastor over with it like this!”

The dishwasher was stuffed with clean dishes and the sink was piled with dirty ones. Mountains of laundry sat in my living room, waiting to be folded. I needed to vacuum badly. I wasn’t even dressed!!

Somehow, I managed to drag the laundry to my bedroom, where I promptly shut the door. I was able to vacuum, and instead of doing the dishes, I put them in hot soapy water.  I hoped my pastor and his wife wouldn’t notice I hadn’t polished in over a week or that the kitchen floor needed to be mopped. Somehow I managed to get dressed, and do my hair, too!

After that day, I realized the only person that really cared about my house being perfectly clean, was me. I began to change the way I thought about my house, and change how I kept up with it, too. Yes, I still like a clean house, and if I have a day I can devote to cleaning, I gladly clean (it’s actually good therapy)! But if I have a week of crazy schedules, and no time to devote to my weekly cleaning, then I don’t sweat it. It’s not important enough to stress about!

Five ways to keep your house together when life gets crazy:

#1 – Relax! If seeing your to-do list hanging on the fridge stresses you out, throw it away. Realize that the laundry will still be around tomorrow, and the carpet will need to be vacuumed tomorrow, too. You are doing the most important thing right now – taking care of your family! Your house is lived in, so it’s going to look like it sometimes!

#2 – “Surface” cleaning is still cleaning. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to get out a bucket and scrub brush every Saturday to keep your house clean. If all you can do is sweep the kitchen and grab a damp paper towel to wipe up spills, then that’s still cleaning!

#3 – Set small goals. If you have a super tight schedule this week, then it is not the time to dig out the bucket and scrub brush. Making beds, vacuuming carpets, and washing dishes are small goals you can focus on.

Keeping up on smaller tasks on a daily basis can make your home appear clean no matter who drops by unexpectedly. 

#4 – Let the kids help. I have older kids who are easily inspired by a little cash. If it’s been over a month since my floors have been mopped, then it’s time for me to call in reinforcements. My 13 year old son and 15 year old daughter can get my house scrubbed and sparkling in just a couple hours, and they are not only happy to have accomplished something, they are thrilled to have money to spend at the mall! Don’t feel bad when delegating large cleaning tasks to your children. Parents today who don’t teach their children to complete large tasks are doing their children a great disservice. Not only does it prepare them for a real job someday, it builds character and confidence!

#5 – Don’t put your house before your relationship with God. In years past, I would allow sleepless nights with babies, crazy early mornings with toddlers, and my cleaning routine to keep me from having daily devotions with God. Once I began to make it a priority​, I realized I didn’t handle life as well without it. I was more irritable and impatient with my husband, kids, and even house chores. When I become more irritable, I started getting clumbsy, and when I was clumbsy, it took me longer to accomplish a task. Not worth it! I need my time with God every morning!

 If you are going through an exceptionally crazy time in your life and you don’t already spend mornings with the Lord, I strongly encourage you to make this your first goal!

I am in no way an expert when it comes to cleaning the house, and I am certainly no expert when it comes to keeping calm. But over the last few months, the Lord has taught me how to change my thinking about my house cleaning. He’s taught me how to do better at little goals, and to not go crazy over the things I just don’t have time for. My house might not be scrubbed, but it is still “together”. My life might still be crazy, but I am much calmer and happier.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” – 1 Corinthians 14:40

Abundant Little Blessings

Summer is here! And despite a few minor setbacks due to my reaction to stress (anyone else allergic to stress?) and Gabe’s port failing, our family has been able to enjoy the first official week of no school. This week marks the end of phase 1 in Gabe’s treatment. Radiation and chemo begins on Monday.

Although it was hard to deal with the setbacks, I am very grateful that we experienced them.

For it was through the difficult moments that God decided to show Himself to me in abundant little ways.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think….” – Ephesians 3:20a

From gifts handed to us at church on Sunday, packages sent in the mail stuffed with gift cards on Tuesday, texts and email messages from friends near and far all week long, and the extraordinary kindness of neighbors, God was pretty busy this week.  Not to mention bumping into friends at parks, and hour-long phone conversations with family and friends offering hope and prayers. All of these little blessings added up to be one extraordinary message from God. He was thinking of us.

We kicked off the summer last night with the family getting ice cream after church. Since Gabe is not having any of the side effects of his chemo right now, he thought it would be a good idea to get a taste of ice cream before the chemo starts again. (I don’t know why he’s making this face, but he did it on all five pictures we took!)

Don’t underestimate God’s thoughts of you. When life gets stressful, He’s thinking of you, and He really wants you to know it!

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” – Psalms 139:17‭-‬18

3 Things Cancer Has Taught Me

Before you read this post, I have two disclaimers that I need to get out of the way. First of all, this is not about what my husband, the​ patient, has learned. This post is about what I, the caregiver, has learned. Secondly, we are only 1/3 of the way through our journey. I am certain I have a lot more to learn!

My husband did not volunteer to have cancer, and I did not volunteer to become a caregiver. Yet here we both are on this journey together. Along the way I have learned a few things that I thought I would share with you.

#1 – Everyone’s cancer story is different. I don’t need to do a Google search on every possible outcome for stage 3 colon cancer. If I do, I’m going to read hundreds of different stories, and for some reason, only the worst case scenarios are found on Google searches.

The acquaintance at church, the stranger in the grocery store, or your well-meaning second cousin whom you’ve never met, all have a story to share.

But those stories are not your story. This is your journey, not theirs. Don’t allow well-meaning voices to tell you how you are supposed to be feeling, or what tests or blood work you should ask for. That’s between you and your doctor. If you choose to get an opinion from someone else, that’s perfectly fine. It is also perfectly fine to let the story of your great Aunt Martha’s best friend’s husband’s terrible battle with cancer, roll right over your head!

#2 – Everyone means well when expressing their concern. In other words, some people are going to say stupid stuff, and rather than get offended, realize they only care about you and are doing the best they can to comfort and relate with you.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear you have colon cancer. My dad died of that years ago. It was a terrible death!

Honestly, my husband and I often find ourselves in stitches over some of the “well-meaning” things we have heard!

 I have chosen however, to accept each comment that is sent my way, regardless of how it is presented, as a blessing.

Because at least people care enough to try and comfort us, and for that, I am truly humbled. Besides, I know I used to be one of the well-meaning Great Aunt Martha’s!

#3 – Looking for Comfort outside of God is always a bad idea. When I start feeling afraid, or sorrowful of the circumstances I am in, I tend to have some of the following thoughts:

I just need some of that Double Fudge Brownie dessert to take away my blues!

Or,

Just keep calm and call my sister! 

And,

I just need a break! One day of Netflix is all I need, and I’ll be back to my old self tomorrow!

Not true! While none of those things are wrong, if I had just gone to the right Source for comfort in the first place, I could have saved myself at least 5lbs!

 Besides, after I was done with each of those things, I still felt empty inside.

They only brought me temporary comfort. It’s not until I get on my knees and bring my fears before my Father that I find true peace.

“And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

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Have you learned something from your own journey through cancer? If you have, please leave a comment, I sure would like to read it! 

Pits of Despair

Opening my front door, I paused, surveying the mess before me. Sighing, I walked pass the massive pile of coats and shoes, a sure sign we were running late for school this morning. Dropping my keys on the kitchen counter, I pushed aside dirty bowls and mugs, searching for my half finished coffee. After I rinsed out the old coffee, I began to brew another cup. Eyeing the open box of Cheerios on the table, I decided, why not? Carrying my coffee and the cereal box to the couch, I kicked off my shoes. Unzipping my jean skirt, I let it fall to the floor, shaking my pajama pants lose. Wrapping myself up in a soft, fuzzy blanket, I sat down on the couch and turned on Netflix. I strategically kept my eyes from veering to the corner of my living room, where a tall stack of laundry baskets awaited my attention.

I stayed on that couch for 5 hours, and nearly got through an entire season of The Andy Griffith Show.

 I ignored my phone. I ignored my house. I ignored my husbands cancer. For an entire 5 hours, I was living in a small town called Mayberry, laughing at the antics of Barney and Andy.

At 2:00, I finally got off the couch. I spent the next 45 minutes quickly picking up my house, throwing dishes in the dishwasher, and washing the grease out of my hair. I got dressed, and found pizza coupons from yesterday’s mail. Tonight was going to be a pizza night. My kids would love me.

Arriving at the school at exactly 3:05, guilt began to fill my entire being. What a hypocrite I am. What a loser. An entire day wasted! And what a liar, because when the kids and I finally walked through the door, the house looked clean, like I had actually done something that day. Worse yet, I offered my kids a dollar for each basket of laundry they folded. By the time my husband came home from work, he wouldn’t have the slightest clue that I had visited Mayberry that day.

Looking back, I am able to say with confidence, I had fallen into a pit. Or as Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables would say, I was in “the depths of despair”.

“I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:  Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.” – Psalms 88:4‭ & 6

Here is what I learned about being in a pit.

#1 – It happens, and it’s OK. When we go through trying times in our lives, it is common to find ourselves having a “blue” day.  It has been scientifically proven that stress effects our bodies physically and mentally. Taking a day off from the stress of life can help rejuvenate our souls, giving us the strength to continue the journey we are facing. Don’t feel guilty for needing a day off from stress.

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

#2 – It’s easier to get into a pit than it is to get out. It’s not like we went looking for a dark hole in the ground and said, “hey, that looks fun”, and jumped in it. Yes, there are circumstances where we actually digged the pit we fell into.  Sometimes, however, we are just walking along, not paying attention, and we fall in. Getting out is going to require some work. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are struggling to get out of a pit.

“I waited patiently for the Lord ; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” – Psalms 40:1

#3 – You can’t get out of a pit by yourself. Sometimes all it takes is meeting a friend for coffee or going to church and talking to your sisters and brothers in Christ. Strike up a conversation with someone you know will make you laugh! Maybe your pit is a little deeper and you need to consider counseling from your pastor.  If you have found yourself in a pit, you are going to need someone to throw you down a rope or a ladder. Don’t be too prideful to ask for help!

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…” – Hebrews 10:25a

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine..” –  Proverbs 17:22a

#4 – God promised He would bring you out of your pit. He has offered His Holy Word to anyone who will accept it, and it is full of amazing truths and promises of comfort and love. Reading through Psalms is a good way to soothe and encourage yourself in the Lord. Singing songs of Praise is also good way to begin your climb out of the pit. Praising God when we find it hard to do not only lifts your spirit, it pleases God, and glorifies Him! Don’t neglect God’s offer to pull you out of your pit!

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” – Psalms 40:2

Dear reader, if you find yourself in a pit, don’t get discouraged. You won’t be there for ever! By the end of the week, the blue cloud that had been hanging around me finally lifted. I was able to get up and take better care of my crazy family. I was able to actually shower and dress for my day, shop for groceries, clean my house, and even take my husband to his doctor appointment. Oh, and I made a delicious dinner that night!

Stand Still

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord ,” – Exodus 14:13a

Sometimes I view my life as a swirling tornado. The wind is blowing everything around, sucking it up into it’s dark cloud. I am standing in the middle of it, my feet firmly planted to the ground, holding on to as much as I can, trying to keep everything from being swept away.

Lately I have felt a bit overwhelmed by our schedule. Nuerologist, cardiologist, PCP, oncologist, endocrinologist, chiropractor, orthodandist, dermatologist, dentist, chemotherapy, radiation – just to name a few things that have taken up my time in recent weeks. Let’s not forget laundry, house cleaning, library trips, grocery store trips, post office trips, trips to the school office, forgotten-lunch-runs, piano lessons, basketball, soccer, volleyball, school programs, baby showers, bridal showers, sports tryouts, field trips – please, someone stop me!

Those are the physical things that can tend to be overwhelming. Now let’s talk about the emotional stuff.

There is the fear that seems to rear it’s ugly head into my thoughts every so often. Fear that my husbands cancer will spread to stage 4, or show up in five years to surprise us again.

Another emotional drainer is the battle with being content. Remembering we are where God put us right now, and that He will continue to take care of us, is something I need to do daily.

I have two teenagers at home. That is also another emotional strain. They at times will bring me along for a drama-filled roller coaster ride! My two grade-school boys are still trying to understand “why can’t we go camping” and “why can’t daddy play basketball with us”?

I don’t believe any of these “objects” that I mentioned that are swirling around in my stormy life are much different from anyone elses.

Maybe your storm isn’t illness. Maybe it’s a struggling marriage or a wayward child. You may be struggling financially or have a big life-changing decision to make.

Sometimes when it all starts getting crazy, I find that I’m trying to hold on to as much as I can, hoping it doesn’t fly away into the storm. It is in some of those moments, when I feel that things are slipping from my grasp, that I  can’t help but ask, “is God really in my storm?” 

Yes, He’s here. In fact, He’s on top of the storm. He is in the whirlwind, directing it’s path.

“…the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” – Nahum 1:3

I have learned the hard way, that I can’t hold on to everything. I have to let some things get swept away into the storming clouds. I can’t keep my house as clean as I used to or have my perfect laundry schedule and get my husband to all his appointments. I mean, I could, and then I would go crazy! Sometimes, I have to tell my kids “sorry, but I just can’t take you to that thing you want to do”.  I mean, I could, but then I might go crazy!

Sometimes I just need to stand still in that storm, my feet planted firmly into the ground, and watch everything I am trying to hold onto, be swept away into those swirling clouds.

Standing still in a storm is not easy to do. Yet, if we make ourselves do it, and listen to God’s voice, we can see God riding the storm.

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

And then – when we have finally stopped trying to hold our lives together on our own, and we are standing there watching the storm destroy everything – only then, does God move in and bring peace.

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” – Mark 4:39

Perfect Love

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

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

I know. This is getting too mushy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is not being tormented by his cancer.

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

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