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)

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What Cancer Taught Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Cancer Taught Us

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

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

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

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

Meditation Monday – Joyful Trials

Have you ever noticed someone going through a difficult time in their life, yet they still managed to have a smile on their face?  Before you credit their own strength, consider their source of power.  God has promised “fullness of joy” for any who dwell in His presence.  No matter how difficult your life may be, walking in the presence of God gives genuine peace (Phil. 4:7), and that is something to smile about!

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” – Psalms 16:11

 

My Story with Anxiety

Hello, my name is Carrie.  I’m a mother of 4 crazy kids between the ages of 7 and 15.  I’m also married to a wonderful man who has battled a stroke, thyroid cancer, and now stage 3 colorectal cancer, in just the last two years. The last couple years have been very stressful to be sure.  God has been with me each step of each day.  The times I want to fall apart and throw a huge temper tantrum, God’s overwhelming peace floods over me.

I never would have been able to get through these difficult times without God’s precious promise of peace.  And I never would have claimed God’s promise of peace without the journey through anxiety He brought me through several years ago.  I want to share my story with you, because I want you to know that I understand what you may be going through.

One beautiful spring morning I woke up feeling as though I had the stomach flu.  Adrenaline rushes knocked me off my feet. My heart was palpitating, and I thought I was going to vomit.  I felt better in bed, so I went back to bed.  My husband stayed home to help with our kids getting to school and to take care of our toddler boys. For several days I struggled.  I would get up each day, try to eat, then wind up back in bed.  Finally, after five days of this, I went to the doctor, thinking maybe it was my gallbladder or something.

“It sounds like you might have anxiety.”

“No, I’m a stay-at-home mom.  I don’t have that much stress in my life.  Besides, I’m a Christian.  I don’t believe in anxiety.”

“Even stay-at-home moms can have stress in their lives.  Even if you don’t believe in anxiety, I really believe this is what you have.”

Later that day, my husband took the kids to the park.  I came along, even though I felt as though I was in a fog.  I felt like I wasn’t even really there.  Watching my kids play, I called my sister and sobbed on the phone.  My sisters are my rock.  Not only do they listen well, but I often glean from their wisdom. I was surprised when she confided something to me that I had never known.  She too, had struggled with anxiety.

The next day, I got out of bed.  I got dressed.  I did my hair. I dry-heaved.  I took my kids to school. I cried.  I had panic attacks.  I cried some more.  I prayed and begged God to take this feeling of anxiety away.

Over the next year, I literally fought a battle with anxiety. I was stubborn.  I wouldn’t take medication.  Instead, I went to a local herbal and vitamin store and talked to the owner who guided me to many supplements and vitamins.   I started exercising, and changed the way I was eating.  I began drinking healthy green smoothies and eliminated caffeine.  I had to take care of myself physically, so I could take care of my family. I realized, though, that healing from anxiety was not all physical.

Taking care of myself mentally was not something I even realized I was doing at the time.  I had a friend who knew what I was going through, who remained in contact with me through it all.  She didn’t judge me, she only encouraged me and gave helpful advice.  She told me I was strong enough to get through this, and reminded me of God’s promises of peace. Looking back, I could not have gotten through that time in my life without my friend. 

I also began to realize I had to stop focusing on what I was feeling and the only way I knew to do that was to focus on other people.  I began to write cards for sick church members, bake bread for neighbors.  I made it a goal to do at least one thing for someone else every day.

The most important and effective change I made in my life during this time was to strengthen my relationship with the Lord.  Being a second-generation Christian, I grew up memorizing the scripture and hearing it preached and taught from the pulpit.  All those precious promises spread throughout the Word of God were only words to me.  I had never had reason to claim these promises.  Promises of unconditional love, bountiful peace, and endless joy.

Most mornings I woke very early, and very suddenly, with my heart pounding a million miles a minute.  Reading my Bible was the only thing that could calm my heart, and it took on a different meaning in my life.  I LIVED to read my Bible, and the peace that would flood through me as I read.  In the beginning, I only read through Psalms.  I read them over and over.  I kept a notebook with my Bible and wrote out the verses that I felt God was giving me.

I would also take very early walks. This was my prayer time with God.  Before the sun was up, I would begin my walk around my neighborhood, talking to Him.  Usually crying and begging Him to heal me, or at least help me get through the day.

Physically, I was dealing with some serious symptoms of anxiety.  Heart palpitations, shaky legs, dry mouth, headaches, severe nausea.  I had lost 40 lbs in just a few months. I had separation anxiety issues.  I would cry and throw myself into my husbands arms when he would come home from work. (My poor husband!!)

One day, I reached a pivotal moment.  It had been 9 months, and I was still struggling.  I was on my morning walk, and had ended my walk by going to my back porch.  Our back yard is beautiful.  The city made a sanctuary out of a piece of land behind our house that has a large pond on it.  I can see it very clearly from my back porch, along with lots of tall grasses and beautiful trees.  As the sun came up, it’s rays filtering through the tree branches, tears streamed down my face.

“Lord, if You want me to have anxiety the rest of my life, I accept it.  Please just be with me to help me bear it.  You are Good, You are God, and You are Holy and Just.  I praise Your Name.  Thank You for giving me this anxiety.”

After that day, I slowly began to get better. Then, one morning I woke up and realized it had been a few days since I had felt the anxiety. Soon the days turned into months. 

I would like to say that my anxiety has never returned, but the truth is, there are still days it rears its ugly head head in my life. It’s different now, though.  Now I know that it’s going to be OK.  That God is on my side.  That there is HOPE.  I have PEACE.  JOY is always within reach.

I have a new life verse.

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

It is special to me because I learned through experience that God can and will “keep our minds” if we seek Him and trust Him.

The picture below was taken two summers ago when our family went camping at Lake Huron.  I am in no way a photographer, but this sunset was so gorgeous and so beautiful.  It is just an example to me of the great things God has done in my life, and how He has blessed my journey through anxiety.

The purpose of this blog is to help encourage other Christians who struggle with anxiety.  God can bring you through to the other side, and you too can have peace.

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