Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sacrifice

My family went to the Fair yesterday. It was the first year the boys were big enough to go on the rides. They had SO MUCH FUN! I wasn't strong enough to join them. I missed seeing their delighted expressions over each ride, animal and activity. And their memory of family day at the fair is lacking a mom.
It is these daily experiences that make my heart ache. Almost everyday there is something that I have to sacrifice. It gives me a new understanding of the christian expression, "dying to self." I realize how selfish I am. I'm painfully aware of how much time I spend enjoying the day-to-day pleasures of this world, instead of being committed to the purposes of God, instead of loving people with the passion that Jesus does.

One person keeps coming to mind.

John the Baptist
He lived in the desert.
He wore clothes made of camel's hair and a leather belt.
He ate locusts and honey.
John didn't enjoy the pleasures of his day. No wife or kids are mentioned. Certainly not a nice house or an afternoon playing golf with friends. And after his brief ministry that paved the way for Jesus, he was thrown in jail. He was eventually executed and his head was offered on a platter to Herod's daughter.
But John's preaching drew multitudes.
"Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins." ~Matt 3:5-6

John's unique dress was foreshadowed by another great prophet. In 2 Kings, Elijah is described as also wearing a camel's hair garment and a leather belt. I can't help but ask why these prophets dressed the way they did? The study notes in my Bible articulate what was already in my heart:
"Elijah's course garments demonstrated the UNVARNISHED TOUGHNESS of his GODLY CHARACTER. His way of dress was an ethical statement - a stark contrast to the self-indulgent luxury enjoyed by the evil kings of his time."

These two men lived a life devoted to God and marked by self-sacrifice. They didn't indulge in the typical lifestyle of their culture. It was because God had called them to do something EXTRAORDINARY. But the road to doing the extraordinary is paved in sacrifice.

Does my obedience and self-sacrifice stand out as unusual?
Is my godly character (evidenced by my thoughts, actions, attitudes, words, decisions, the way I spend my time and resources) a stark contrast to the self-indulgence of our culture?

God has been asking me to give some things up. Things that no one would fault me if I didn't. In fact, some may even think it's crazy radical. But maybe God is calling me to live a life that is extraordinary.
I want my convictions to be echoed in my decisions.
I want my principles demonstrated through my actions.
Even if it means I have to do something radical.

Am I really willing to give it all?
To dress only in camel's hair,
To live in the desert,
To eat locusts and honey,
If that's what God asked me to do?

I am.
And I say it with a deep breath and a big gulp.
Because I know at times it will be hard and at times it will be painful.
And people might think I'm weird.
But it will be worth it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reaction

I had another reaction to the chemo yesterday. They still think it is an "infusion" reaction rather than an allergic reaction, and that I have a sensitivity to the base of the medicine. Only one of these treatments remain (in three weeks), and the oncologist and pharmacist are still deciding on the best way to prevent another reaction. This drug is the best for my kind of cancer, so they are doing everything they can to make sure I can still use it.

I also suspect that the difficulty I've had breathing and the pain in my chest are a lingering reaction to this drug. It feels very similar to the reaction I had at the hospital, just not nearly as intense.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here we go again...

Tomorrow is another long, difficult treatment. I'm a bit nervous. They will be giving me the same meds that caused the reaction three weeks ago. Also, the side-effects were much worse than the first time I received that drug. Please pray that I won't have a reaction this time, and that I won't be so sick after. It usually hits me Sunday, mid-morning and lasts a few days.

I had an echo (heart ultrasound) last week. My heart is still strong! The tightening in my chest and difficulty breathing has subsided. The cause is unknown.

Thank you friends. Your prayers and encouragement mean more than you know...

Victory

The Bible...
To some it's just a story, a myth, a history book.
I've seen it induce strong emotion, even in those who have never read it.
Fear, guilt, even anger.
And great misunderstanding.
But to me - it is the bread of life. My sustenance.
It gives me courage.
It feeds my weary soul.
It strengthens my bones.
It gives me power to overcome - even the most difficult obstacles.
For it is God's word to me.
It is where God reveals his wonderful character, his great love, his amazing compassion.
In its pages I find hope. I find the answers to my problems.
It works.
I choose to believe what the Bible says
not my feelings
not my discouragement
not my fears
not even my pain.
There I find victory, and freedom.
And the discouragement from this past week lifts.
My frustrations cease.
My broken heart is healed.
The fog clears.

"This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness." ~Lamentations 3:21-23

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you..." ~Psalm 42:5-6

"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed." ~2 Corinthians 4:8

"You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light." ~Psalm 18:28

"O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand..." ~Psalm 139:1-18

Monday, August 9, 2010

Remember

I'm discouraged. I can't seem to shake it. My view of the finish line has grown faint. I look around and see that I have lost my way.
I've lost my kids. I take care of them, but I no longer parent them. Their little hearts are slipping away. I called for my oldest today. He said, "Mom, are you gonna yell at us?"
Have I been yelling? I lack the strength.
But I have been harsh. And as I put myself in their shoes, it becomes clear that most of what they hear from me is correction. I don't play with them anymore. I only occasionally read to them. I'm not consistent. I've lost control.
As a wife, I'm no better. There is no order in my home. My champion husband comes home each night, after a long day at work, to even more work. He has to discipline the kids, help get dinner ready, play with the kids, bathe the kids, put them to bed, clean the house, put away laundry, and take care of his sick, tired wife. He lovingly expects nothing in return.
I'm overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and failure. And I am helpless to change.
These feelings are familiar to me. I had them not too long ago. The feelings are the same, the circumstances are different. And it is good to remember, because that situation seemed hopeless too.
It was my marriage. Twelve years of bad habits. Twelve years of damage. Twelve years of injuring one another. It seemed irreparable. We tried everything. Every book. Every marriage conference. Each attempt increasing hopelessness. I cried out to God, repeatedly, for years, "Help me! I can't do this!"
And in God's perfect timing, it all changed. In just one moment. God changed our hearts. God repaired years of damage. God healed and restored. Miraculously. In a moment.
That was five months ago. Before cancer.
Have I already forgotten?
Am I like the Israelites of the Old Testament who continually forgot the miraculous deliverance of their God and turned away to idols?
The trial of a difficult marriage didn't teach me how to be the perfect wife. I'm still far from that. What I learned is that my God is faithful. I can trust Him, even when I can't see the finish line. He can deliver me. He can work out all the details of my life, despite my weaknesses and failures.
I'm reminded of my own lack of faith during that trial and I refuse to go back there. Nothing is Impossible with God!

Sweet Prayers of Faith

During dinner, the boys asked if they could pray for me. They climbed out of their chairs, came over to me and laid their little hands on me.

Victor (age 3) prayed with conviction and sincerity, "Please heal mommy's body...mumble, mumble, mumble." (He often mumbles when he prays and I can't quite make out what he says.)

Kedrick (age 5) prayed, "Dear Jesus, please heal mommy. Make the bumps get smaller so she doesn't have to be sick for a long time. Dear Jesus, make mommy happy so she can give me hugs. Amen."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Endurance

It's been almost five weeks since my first chemo treatment. Just five weeks.
This is supposed to take a year. And I haven't even gotten to the hard part yet.
I'm tired. Already.
I'm tired of depending on others to do those things I can usually do myself.
I'm tired of doctor's appointments and health concerns.
I'm tired of discomfort, pain, fatigue.
I'm tired of staying home,
sitting on the couch,
watching others take care of my kids.
Most of all, I'm tired of relationships being one-sided. Where I receive, and have nothing to give.
I'm discouraged. And I pray that God would send someone to encourage me.

Yet there comes a time in life where one must learn to encourage oneself.
To not give in to the thoughts and feelings of discouragement, disappointment, doubt, weariness.
For me, that time is now.

"...David strengthened himself in the LORD his God." ~1 Samuel 30:6

I must be like David! I must wait on the Lord. Patiently. Cheerfully.
I choose to be strengthened by His word, to believe what He promises me.
About trials, about hardship, about suffering, and about glory.

"My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken." ~Psalm 62:1-2

I lift up my tired eyes. I lift up my tired hands. I turn my gaze to my Creator.
I turn my thoughts away from myself, from my circumstances, from the things that pull me down.
I think on those things which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.
And I am strengthened! I'm encouraged! Already!

"Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint." ~Isaiah 40:28-31