The Undefeated Soldier

She was down for the count, face first into the mud.  She’d fallen for the enemy’s trick yet again! She should have known better, she had been trudging through the mud for the past 28 years.  Had it really been 28 years?  She could still remember when she had first received her shiny new soldier’s fatigues.  How she wore them with such pride.  How she had been ready, willing, determined and able!
“Yes let’s go kick enemy butt!” She had said courageously puffing up her chest and ready to spring forward.

Had that really been 28 years ago?  There had been a spring in her step and determination in her eyes.  That was when she hadn’t personally known that the enemy would not fight fair.  It had not occurred to her that he and his dominions had been studying her since birth.  Knew her every weakness and temptation, she had not thought the battle would be so vicious.  But the enemy did not fight fair.

Her army fatigues were faded.  She was weary, though still she pressed on.  She had to.  She believed in what she was fighting for.  She had loved ones that (although they didn’t know it) were counting on her. She couldn’t give in, couldn’t give up.  She had to stay focused. Her steps were ordained by God.

There were times when the mud on the road got thick, so think she had compared it in her head to what it must feel like to walk in molasses.  Sometimes it pulled at her body giving her the sensation that she was sinking, like that of quick sand.

Give in, give up.” The mud seemed to say as it pulled her body down deeper into it, sometimes as high up as her thighs.  There were times when she could hear the enemy taunting her, “Who do you think you are? Do you really think He can use you??? Your sins are ever before you.  Why remember when you did this? Or when you did that? You weren’t thinking of Him then were you?” And the enemy would laugh a malicious laugh.

“GOD!” She would cry out as the battle sometimes got too heated, “Abba Father! Jesus I neeeeeeeed YOU!!!!” Then she would feel the mud drop its hold from her.

She cringed at temptations she had given in to, the times when she had followed not what her commander had instructed, but had gone by her own feelings, times when she had lost focus and gone off course.   Those were the times where she had just wanted to stop and wallow in the mud.  But she couldn’t because the cost was too high.  She had willfully enlisted, on her own accord.  And even when she was at her weakest moment – she still believed.  Deep in her heart she knew that because she had given Christ her heart.  She knew that it wasn’t her strength – but HIS.

There were times when she just wanted Him to hurry up and call them all home, but she knew that was selfish.  There were still many who needed to hear the truth.  To hear the message and be set free.  The battle would continue on until God deemed it OVER.  It was already FINISHED, but until He said it was over she would keep going.  Keep praying, keep, fighting, keep believing.

She had her weapon firmly in her hand – The Word of God.  Over the course of the 28 years a lot of it had gone from the pages of the Bible into the depth in her heart for her to call upon her promises whenever the battle got heated.  Oh how the enemy cringed when she spoke out her promises out loud.

“I will trust in the Lord with ALL my heart and I will *not* lean to my own understanding.  In ALL my ways I will acknowledge Him and He will make straight my path!” (Proverbs 3:5) (Emphasis, her own for she had personalized it…)  After all, THIS was personal…

She had gotten to the point where she (more often than not) could recognize the enemy’s tactics, as they often resorted to the same tricks over and over again.  Sometimes they worked and she would have fall into the trap to regain her footing.  She was 48 years old.  She had enlisted 28 years ago, which still left 20 years of old habits and old ways of thinking to muddle through.  Never had it been easy.  She would get mad at herself for falling for the same trick and temptation over again.  She had always been for the motto, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice – shame on me.”  Sometimes she had literally walked right into it.  How humbling it was realizing she had fallen for the same trick yet again.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” (Psalms 51:10-13).

“I’m tired Lord,” She would state when the going got particularly rough.

“Not by power, not by might, but by My Spirit, says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)

“I’m tired Father…”

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31) Would come the response.

Every step of the way her leader would speak words of encouragement.  Unbeknown to her was in the spiritual realm the angels that fought in front and behind her. She stood not alone.  To her right and back and front were others who had heard the calling and had on their own accord enlisted the same as she.   She knew the number of her days God would fulfill.  Her life’s purpose all about Him, although the battle at times got fierce, and she got weary, she would continue fighting as long as the Lord commanded her to fight.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess, 4:16-18). 

She loved Him, completely with all her heart, with all her soul with all her mind, in spite of all her faults and imperfections.  But it was never about her being “perfect.” No, there was only One who was perfect and that was Jesus.  How could she not love Him? He had given His life for her. The keys to winning the battle was to acknowledge that it was nothing but His grace, His forgiveness, His mercy, His love and His sacrifice that kept her going.  Whens he was at her weariest she would think on these words:

Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength— he will make my feet like those of a deer, equipping me to tread on my mountain heights. (Habakkuk 3:18-19)

You see, it wasn’t until the scales had been removed from her spiritual eyes that she had known what real love was, the most unselfish love of all.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have ever lasting life.” (John 3:16)

With a new burst of energy, she picked herself up out of the mud, wiped the dirt off her face and stood with her back straight and her chin up.

“Okay satan – so you got me on that round.  You won that fight, you tripped me up in a moment of weakness and temptation –  but let me remind you of this – You *may* have won that round with me but YOU have already been defeated in the war.  Jesus DEFEATED YOU by His shed blood and the work He accomplished on the cross.  So laugh at the way you just tripped me up – but look at me?  STILL I RISE.  And I will go forward in His name and I will fight with every bit of strength I have within me.  And when I sin, I will confess my sin and ask for His strength so I will be stronger the next time around.  Because my strength is not my own – it is HIS.  I shall plead His shed blood down upon me and He will wash me clean! Because I belong to HIM. And every time I fall – I will rise UP again because my Savior lives! And just so that you know for me, to LIVE is Christ, to die is to gain because I know that the number of my days HE will fulfill and I also know that it is in Jesus’ name I pray! AMEN”

… Did you hear that?  It’s the sound of the enemy and his cohorts shrieking.  The fiery darts that they tried to throw her way have reversed in direction mid-air and they have become the target.  God is on His throne and in control… The thing is, He always has been, since the beginning of time. More Words for Your Journey

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The Battlefield

 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Waking up she sat forward, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes; with a yawn she stretched her arms over her head and then ran a hand threw her wayward sleep tossled curls and turned her eyes towards the stunning view outside as a new day began to gloriously dawn…
The field was perfect for battle, both sides positioned at opposite ends, ready to die for their cause – they stood upon the territory for which they battled, lines drawn. Just waiting for the signal to charge…
“Which side will you choose today?” The raspy voice spat out. “Make up your mind!” He tapped a toe in impatient exasperation waiting for the response.

The beautiful view quickly turned grey as the worries began to infiltrate her mind, like a rain cloud coming in to overshadow the sun.
She frowned. The worries were ugly black creatures known to wait until the wee hours of morning to harass and wake one up from their sleep, while whispering taunts in one’s ear.

“How are you going to resolve this problem or this one…. or this one… or this one…”

They were notorious for stealing a person’s peace and filling them with fear and worry. The more of an ear you give them, the louder and more aggressive they became. Their biggest trick, to taunt and repeat the same thing over and over again…

“You have to take care of A,B,C – but you can’t… Because all you have is this… How are you going to do it? You can’t.. There will be ramifications… You are in trouble…”

Louder and louder they became because they are “faith drowners.” If she listened to the worries, the voice of her faith would become a whisper, and eventually it would blow out like a fire that becomes nothing more than an ember and she knew that if she were not careful and let them multiply and over throw her thoughts, they could totally blow the fire of her faith, leaving a residue of smoke.

“NO!” She shouted covering her head with her hands. “Go AWAY in Jesus’ name!” She slammed her hand down on the covers of her bed.

One side of the army cringed and shrank back a step. The other side took up the step lost by the other side. Ready to move forward.

The worries scattered like roaches running from a turned on light.

She threw the covers off her legs and touched a toe down on the ground. It was time to get up. The armies waited in expectation – waiting to charge forward at the command.

She was opening her mouth, she knew what she had to do to eradicate the thoughts… Both sides stood poised like runners waiting for a gun to give off a shot to start a race.

“This is the day the Lord has made… I will rejoice and be glad in it!” She said it with confidence and determination and with authority. Both feet on the floor, hands on her hips.

The side that had lost a step, grimaced again and stepped further back. The side that had gained a step’s armor began to glow with a light. They moved forward raising their swords high and confidently positioning their gigantic shields in front of their chests. They moved foward in unison, line by line as the other side shrank back, also in unison another step with fear on their faces.

“Father God I give YOU this day. I thank you for it! I come before you and I give YOU all my worries! I place them each at the foot of your cross! I may not be able to do anything about them but I have a Father who can! Greater is He that is in me than he that is within the world!” (1 John 4:4)

Clank came the sound of sword against sword as the two sides began to battle. The radiating side growing more and more radiant with each prayer and scripture she quoted as she continued to pray.

“No!” Rasped the voice of the captain from the other side. “Stop her from praying!” He sent troops over to a side of the field which was not infiltrated by the other army.

“What are you talking about?” They taunted her back, sneering. “You are sinful and willfull and disobedient. God is not going to help you. Look at you, you keep struggling with the same issues over and over again like a dog chasing her tail. And it will be that way all your life! You will never have enough to do anything else but struggle, no matter what you do. You call your life victorious? Ha!” They shot off their fiery arrows into the sky trying to gain back the territory they had lost.

“NO!” She shouted. The battle was on full forced now. Army against army a full fledged battle. Metal clashing against metal.

“It is true, my righteousness is as filthy rags!” (Isaiah 64:6) “And I could never defeat you on my own accord. But I don’t come before you in my own righteousness. But in the righteousness of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Who made a way for me when there was no way! I am fully clothed in the righteousness He has provided for me by the power of His shed blood! He came so that I could have life and have it more abundantly! (John 10:10), and I know that it is not by power, not by might but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6) that I am able to do ALL things. He is my provider, He is my rock – He is my Lord! And I choose to believe His promises to me this day! Because I know that He is the same, yesterday, today as He will be tomorrow! (Hebrews 13:8). My confidence and faith is not in myself – but in HIM!”

Screams of pain came from the losing side as the radiating army’s swords met their mark, causing many members of the other side to fall and as they fell they to disappear in clouds of dark black smoke. As quickly as they fell the line behind them would take up position and rise to the front as the battle roared on.

“I dress myself in the helmet of Salvation!” She stated boldly, using a hand motion as if to dress and put an invisible yet powerful helmut upon her head. “I put on the breast plate of righteousness! Around my waist I put the belt of truth! I shod my feet with the preparation of the gospel, pick up my shield of faith and my sword of the spirit!” (taken from Ephesians 6:14) Although in the earthly realm these garments could not be seen, in the spiritual realm her armor dressed her body as fine as any soldier ever had. Glowing with the same intense glow of the radiating army that was currently defeating the other side. The fiery darts being aimed at her bounced off the shield that she had raised real high. “Lord, I choose YOU today in whatever I do and wherever I go! I give this day to YOU. I ask that You would be glorified this day. If there be any evil within me I pray that you would remove it. I ask that you transform and renew my mind and I thank you for the victory over every area of my life that needs Your touch. Forgive me for my sins, wash me with the precious blood of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Be glorified this day in Jesus name I pray! AMEN”

The radiating army shimmered with a glorious bright light, growing brighter with each word she prayed and crashed down upon the losing side with a holy fierceness. As members of the opposite side fell in defeat, they screamed in pain and disappeared in puffs of black smoke.

“She has chosen! Be gone! You are defeated with the blood of Jesus!” Shouted the radiating captain to the opposing captain as he pierced his chest with the sword of truth.

“Ahhhhhhh!!!” Screamed the defeated Captain in excruciating pain, clutching his chest with a black claw., spittle forming at his mouth, “You may have won this day! But we will return! of that you can be sure!” And he disappeared in a puff of black smoke along with each member of his line and the line behind him, and the line behind them, until none remained.

The battlefield was clear. The radiating army stood upon its ground. A joyous shout of victory went out. The captain raised his hands to simmer them down. “We may have won this battle, but the war is far from over. Take cover and be prepared, for the enemy will surely return and try to regain what ground they have lost. We need to take cover, wait and be prepared for they will return.”

One sneaky little enemy unseen by the radiating, rejoicing army peaked out from his hidden spot a short distance away. Clutching the inner part of the girl’s ear with a claw and whispering into it, “they may have won on the battlefield of your mind today, but tomorrow is another day and rest assured we’ll be baaaaacccck…”

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No Matter What, God’s Got You!

“I will fulfill the number of your days.” (Exodus 23:26)

 This past Monday was my 4th year “cancerversary” (or so we survivors call it).  It was my 4th Year annual appointment from having been diagnosed with early stage, triple negative breast cancer.  I have been cancer-free for 4 years, but no matter how much time passes  these yearly mammogram appointments fill me with anxiety, fear and trepidation.  This time I was definitely concerned because I had been having painful sensations at the lumpectomy site; sensations I had not felt before and of course ol’ slewfoot taunted me with all kinds of horrible thoughts on what it could be…  Some cancer survivors like to refer to themselves in “remission” personally I have never liked (or used) that word.

I Googled the term “remission” and a Dr. Z’s medical report, Published May 17, 2006 written by Ed Zimney, MD (whoever that is…) popped up. He defines remission as such:

“Complete remission means that there are no symptoms and no signs that can be identified to indicate the presence of cancer. However, even when a person is in remission, there may be microscopic collections of cancer cells that cannot be identified by current techniques. This means that even if a person is in remission, they may, at some future time, experience a recurrence of their cancer.”

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but for me, I find the term “remission” to be insulting, offensive and inaccurate.  You see – I am *not* in remission, I am HEALED.  God has healed me.  To call it anything else is to belittle what He can do and what He has done and I refuse to belittle God and identify my cancer-free self as one who is in “remission.”  Now it is a personal thing, and many survivors fine with that term, I find it insulting and am quick to correct someone who describes me as such.  God has healed me, He has given me a second chance at life and for that I am truly grateful. I found myself thinking of the scene in scripture when Jesus calls Peter out to walk towards Him upon the water.   Matthew 14:22-33:

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.   After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.”

“Come,” He said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”He said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.   Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I didn’t want to focus on the taunts the enemy was whispering in my ear, because I knew just as Peter had – I would begin to sink.  So, with my mother by my side, my back straight, my chin firmly set I went to my appointment at the Dana-Farber holding on to my promises.

“I will fulfill the number of your days.” (Exodus 23:26)

“I have made you the head and not the tail.” (Deuteronomy 28:13)

“Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. Your builders hurry; Your destroyers and devastators Will depart from you.…” (Isaiah 49:16)

This is why God tells us to hide His word in our hearts so that we can find strength in His promises. Unlike people, God does not make promises He doesn’t keep, we can trust that if it is written in His Word – He meant it.  He is not a God that He would lie. He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith – He knows the beginning of the story of “us” as well as the ending, so who better to trust???!

The memories of my cancer experience always hits me a new when I walk into the doors of Dana-Farber.  The confusion, the shock, the fear of the unknown, the uncertainty of what’s to come all come flooding back.  I guess it is a natural “knee jerk” reaction.  Once again, I went through my check in, my blood work and next – the dreaded mammogram (dun dun…) this huge machine that would give the radiologist the knowledge of what was going on beyond the surface… 

This is where most of us Pinks are found sitting in the waiting room, bitting our fingernails, holding our breathes, only to release them when the results (prior to leaving the Imaging Department) are handed to us.  It is the waiting that is the hardest part, the not knowing.  This time around when I was told that everything was normal, I burst into tears. Tears of relief and gratitude.  According to my oncologist, nerve endings can come back to life anywhere from 10 to 20 years from a lumpectomy post surgery.

I cannot tell you what I would have felt if the report had been otherwise, I can only draw upon my previous experience of receiving a phone call saying, “you have cancer…”  But I can tell you this – I believe that God would have given me the strength to face whatever I needed to face as He has done throughout the course of my life and my walk with Him, things may come as a surprise to us – but they are never a surprise to Him.

I have come to realize more and more that each day – EACH day is a gift, a blank sheet of life for us to write upon, one that we will never get back again.  Somewhere along the line we humans began to take each day for granted, to treat each new day as if it were “owed” to us.  The truth is – it’s not.  We were originally created to live forever – before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden bringing sin and death into the world.  But most people never feel like “they’ve had enough life.”  Have you ever noticed that “old” is something that is 15 years older than what you are?

Life is a precious gift.  What are you writing upon the pages of your life? How do you wake up in the morning?  Do you rejoice?  No one knows what the future holds – but instead of worrying about whatever will be, why don’t we just rejoice and praise God for what He has given us today?  When you wake up tomorrow visualize the day as a blank sheet of paper.  What will you write upon it?  What memories will you make?  How will you view things? What difference might you make in the life of someone else?  Write well dear reader!  You won’t get these moments back… See? Another has just passed… Make every moment count because make no mistake about it – each one is a precious gift from God.

 

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The Pathway Continued (Part III)

 
A gentle reminder – some of life’s most precious moments happen when you least expect it…

As previously referred to in another wrote (see post from March 2013 entitled “The Pathway)  – I was traveling down a beautiful  road, one that I thought I was destined to travel upon  all the days of my life only to have been chased off the road but the fattest, ugliest, sexless looking of trolls.  It was a private way and the disgusting troll had reminded me that the road belonged to her, pulled out her ownership papers, barked at me to be on my way off her property. Heartbroken – I had no other choice but to change route and cross over upon another path.  Looking behind me at my beloved road one last time, I realized that the road was subservient to its troll and would always be.  The pure natural and vibrant beauty of the road would remain unrecognized, unappreciated and neglected – its location taken for granted –all the days of its existence,  which was a shame for its beauty was such that had I been able to remain upon it, I would have danced and frolicked and appreciated its natural beauty all the days of my life.

My head downcast, and being such, I did not see the different kind of beauty in the new path I’d taken. Different from whence I had come. Golden sunshine peaked down in between tree leaves; birds sang joyfully, honeysuckle pungent and thick filled the pathway with a natural wild sense of beauty.  Yet, I missed it all for my gaze had gone to my feet – not in front of me, and my shoulders were slumped in defeat, I cared not where I roamed.  Like a leave flitting about in the wind, I went mindlessly forward, all that had been vibrant and full of color now in my present state of mind, had become black and grey. I couldn’t venture on the road I longed for, so I no longer cared, the beauty had dissipated in the world around me.

Walking with downcast eyes and a heavy heart I did not see the tall oak of a man until I bumped right into what apparently was a set of trunk sized knees, it  startled me (so lost was I in my own thoughts of sorrow).  Like a startled deer poised for flight I froze in the headlights of this unexpected intruder. (Although truth be known, I suppose I was the intruder, since I was the stranger upon the path).

“Whoa…,” Said a strong steady voice.  He stretched out a solid arm with large hands to keep me from toppling over.

I lifted my head up. This man was so tall I had to lean back and stretch my neck waaaaaaay up to see. Hazel eyes in a heart shaped face looked down at me with amusement.  A red beard handsomely mapped his lower rectangular jaw. He looked like a combination of a woodcutter and a leprechaun gone giant, but there was a gentleness that exuded about him that looking upon him, made me feel unafraid.

“Why are you so downcast?” He questioned, raising a large pointer finger to lift up my chin so we could be eye to eye.  “You should be looking ahead of you, not down.”

“I suppose I should,” I responded with a sigh, “yet I care not where I go.  I am journeying wherever it is my feet choose to lead me…”

“Such a lovely face should not be wearing such a solemn look.” He stated.  “Come, no doubt you are hungry and I am pleased to share my lunch with you along with some words of encouragement to make it all the more palpable.”

He led me along the pathway to a small flowing stream.  This gentle giant of a man sat cross legged on the ground and encouraged me to do the same.  Sighing, I obliged. He opened a lunchbox, which I had not noticed was beside him; broke off a piece of bread and a chunk of cheese and handed it to me.  I was about to decline except for the dead giveaway sound of rumble from my stomach, so I decided to partake of his generosity.

“Tell me your story,” He said encouragingly, leaning forward to listen attentively. His face so close to mine I could count freckles that danced upon his nose.  His red well groomed beard gave him an almost regal look, and the kindness in his eyes encouraged me to share my tale… About the unexpected beauty I had fallen upon, the temptation to proceed, which I gave into, the joy and love and completion I felt walking along what I had thought was my own little beautiful road… How I got chastised and commanded off by the horrible troll and found myself alone, discouraged and at a loss as to where to go. When I was finished, I rubbed my hands together to free them from the crumbs and looked up into the face of this gentle giant to see his reaction to my tale.  How astonished was I when I saw eyes filled with tears and compassion.

He was quiet for a moment, this giant of a man. When I gazed up at him I saw a range of emotions cross his face and it seemed as though he was trying to gather his thoughts.  Why should one feel so strongly for the journey of a stranger?

 He was quiet and I was uncertain whether I should stand and leave or sit and stay.  And then he spoke…

“In life you will encounter many various roads and pathways… I have found that the best ones are those that travel wide enough for two and go “both ways.”  Even those that are not easy on your feet teach you endurance and perseverance; and though you may not realize at it the time, strengthen you for the journey ahead.  The most important thing is not the beauty in the surroundings around you or the context of the road itself – but how you travelled it… Life is a journey down many roads.  Think on this – what did you learn from this last road you took?”

I listened to his words and thought long and hard before I answered.  “I learned of love and friendship. I learned that life is much better when shared.  I learned that there are many more meanings to “unequally yoked” than what I had been originally taught.”

“So you see,” said he. “Although you no longer journey down that road (and not at your own choosing) you have gathered a lot of insightful treasures along the way.  Hence, the roads that you travel end up coming together and forming a map called, “YOU.”  Think now, what else did you learn?”

I tapped a forefinger to my lower lip as I recalled my journey through the road that I loved.  “I learned more about myself.  Humbleness, compassion, mercy… I learned forgiveness and most importantly of all that each person’s journey is their own and not to be judged by the observer.”

“Well then,” he exclaimed, “It seems to me that was a road worth traveling no matter its end… You are a better, wiser person for it. Or so it would seem to me.” He rose from his sitting position and once again loomed high above me. He reached down to extend a hand to me to help me up.  I could not help but notice how small my hand was in his immense larger one.

“Who ARE you?” I couldn’t help but ask, curiosity taking over and then blushed with embarrassment at my straightforwardness, for surely it was not my business.

He grinned at me – such a boyish grin for a gentle giant and responded, “Just a traveler like yourself.” He gathered up the remainder of his lunch box, closed it shut and tucked it under his arm.

Looking around at my unfamiliar, yet beautiful surroundings – seeing the newness of the path for the first time, shyly I asked, “would you journey with me a while?”

He looked at my shy expression and laughed a deep laugh, his hazel eyes filled with amusement.  “It seems as if we already are – for you stand upon the same path as I.”

“Very well, “I said my own laughter ringing with that of his. “Lead the way…”  And, although he took up most of the pathway with his size and his girth – He did.


The moral of the story is to always try and find the beauty in whatever path life leads you. Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” The choice is ours, it may not be the pathway you imagined you would journey on – maybe it’s not the one you wanted or perhaps the choice has been taken out of your hands, not yours to make… It just might be better than anything you would have chosen for yourself…

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Psalms 3:5)

 

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The Call

The Call One Never Forgets…

How is it we take so much for granted – until we don’t?

Did you see it? The day the world changed?  I saw it! I never believed in “dimensions in time” before that day.  But I remember it so clearly… It happened with just one call.

What is one suppose to do when they get that call.  There is nothing in my repertoire that prepared me for how I should act.  What is the proper etiquette?

I had stepped off the pages of my familiar life into a vortex.  

Can you still see me?  

I am moving in slow motion… Feeling invisible while you go on with your every day life – unscathed.

How can YOU go on like that? Like nothing has changed?  Going about your usual duties… Thinking of your plans, your tasks, your work. How DARE you! Stop! Right NOW!  You are moving so fast – while I am moving in sloooooow motion…

“Helloooooo!!! Can you see me????”  A strong desire to wave my hand in front of your face.  I’m quite sure I’ve become invisible.  WHY do I FEEL like I am NO LONGER a part of the HUMAN RACE???

I feel ALONE. So ALONE.

You can’t SHARE this with me.  It’s not something you can SHARE because it is happening to ME.

I can’t even FATHOM WHAT it is that has happened.  

My mind is outside of my body…. Incredulous.  Unaccepting.  Astonished….

I want to shake you!  I want to cry out to you – “Help me! Help me!!! Please wake me up from this horrible, horrible dream!!! This CAN’T BE!” But you don’t see the changes.  Maybe you don’t even see me? Because you walk right by caught up in your thoughts, in your agenda, in your plans… I HAD plans TOO!

As hard as I try to go about my normal daily duties – I can’t.  I keep thinking, “We are not the same anymore…”  You can’t understand. You can’t experience this from the same place as I.  Its as if there is a chasm between us.  I once was where you are – but you have never been where I am.

Where am I?” 

Even if you wanted to – you can’t.

“What happened? What is going on? How did this happen? Why did this happen? Did this even happen?”

I want to scream! I want to shout! I want to cry!  But I can’t because I’m on the outside looking in…

This is NOT happening.  Not to ME.  I’m YOUNG. I’m not old yet! This can’t happen – not to ME. No! No! No!!!!!

Who is that lying on that hospital bed with the backless hospital gown on, going through all those tests? Staring up at the drop down ceiling in the basement of the Radiology department of some hospital.

What did you say?

“Blah Blahh Blahhh… Cancer. Blah blah blahhh surgery… Blah blah blahhh chemo…”

Why can’t I understand your words?  Why do you sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher?  I see your lips moving – but I can’t understand your words?

I turn my head and look at my mother… My safety net. The woman who birthed me.  She reaches out and touches my hand… I feel it…. I FEEL IT!   My eyes beseech her for understanding.  For clarity.  For understanding.  She leans over and kisses my forehead.

She see’s me! I’m not invisible.  I’m still here!!! 

She translates the Oncologist words.  It’s not the words I understand and accept, it’s her reassuring firm motherly tone that soothes me.  It’s the way she is holding my hand.  It’s the strength in her voice.  The same familiar strength I’ve heard throughout many moments in my life.  Like when I was a child and woke up from a bad dream, and she comforted me as only a mother can do.  
Her voice becomes my lullaby. Rhythmic. Soothing. Like the comfort an unborn baby gets from the pulsating familiar sound of a mother’s heartbeat.

“One step at a time.  Come on. We can do this. FIGHT. You are not alone.  See? Here is my hand. FIGHT.  I am NOT going to let you give up! FIGHT. Moment by moment – see? We’ve already made it to the next.  Look – there’s another one. FIGHT.”

I do it because she says to.  She’s my mother.  She knows.  The vortex is getting smaller now. I can step from the hole back onto the groove of humanity.  Because she tells me to.
FIGHT.

I’m concentrating on the word with ALL I have. FIGHT.  Don’t GIVE in. Don’t GIVE up. Don’t let go. Don’t think too hard. FIGHT.

 I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror.  Who is she?  She kinda looks like me.

FIGHT.

My senses are gone… All except for the sense of smell… Will I EVER get that smell of chemotherapy out of my nose??? It sickens me… Taste is exaggerated, I never want to see another Jolly Rancher for as long as I live….

FIGHT.

How did the moments turn into minutes? Into hours? Into days? Into months?  Chemo is over now – switching it up to radiation…  How can something you don’t FEEL cause SUCH burns?  Will it EVER stop?

F I G H T.

Radiation is over. So are the doctor appointments. So is the treatment.  It has been a success… 

What do I do now?

LIVE.

I turn and scratch my peach fuzz head…

Live?  How?  I don’t remember how?

JUST LIVE.

And so I do..  Tentatively, like a baby learning how to walk.  Unsure of whether or not I’ll lose my balance and fall… I can see those who stood by me throughout this whole ordeal – the TRUE ones.  Ready to catch me should I begin to fall.

LIVE,” they say encouragingly…  LIVE.

And so I will… Each moment, each minute, each day.  Not as before.  Never as before.  I’ve lost the know-how to BE as before.  I am changed…

Changed – but very much ALIVE.

More Words for Your Journey

 

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The Tsunami Called Breast Cancer – Dedicated to my Pink Sisters & Every Survivor

Art Work Created By My Very Talented Pink Sister, Ria Goudswaard

What a relief it would be to let my feelings pour out upon this page like a flood bursting from a dam. But I am experiencing an emotional drought. As if I’m having a rigor mortis of my emotions. My eyes sting, there are no tears. Perhaps I am shell shocked? A prisoner inside my own head… 

I am walking along the shore of my life. All you know about me is what you see now. The ravages of a tsunami called breast cancer stormed into my life. 
No warning
No forecast. 
The storm clouds came in so quickly I had no time to plan or to gather my thoughts. 
No time to think.
The waves were over my head leaving me no time to do anything other than swim with the tide. Every moment I fought for my life. It left me unrecognizable to my own self. 

Who IS this woman? I do not recognize her? Where am I? Who am I? What happened???

 Like a person caught in the middle of a bad dream, I couldn’t wake up no matter how hard I tried. Talk about a crash course in learning? What was once only the pretty pink magnetic ribbons you see while in the checkout line of a grocery store became a crash course of Breast Cancer 101. I learned MORE than I ever wanted to know about my body. I was asked to make options and make choices as if I was shopping online and choosing between one item or another.

 “Would you prefer a mastectomy or a lumpectomy? Although you are a great candidate for a lumpectomy the choice is yours….” 

Like a bad dream where the girl is trying to run away from the murderer the only thing I could think of at that time was:

“JUST GET IT OUT. CUT IT OUT. GET IT OUT!!! I DON’T CARE HOW – JUST DO IT!” 

 

So hard to believe that one lump the size of a nickel, one painless little lump right where you would place your hand to say The Pledge of Allegiance, was capable of sucking the life out of me. Like a tick or a leach. Capable of whipping into a strong storm that would become a tsunami that would affect every area of my life and that of my family leaving no stone unturned. How strange is it that cleaning up the aftermath of the tsunami hurts more than the tsunami itself? 

Walking along the shore, two years have passed. The Tsunami is gone now. So is life as I knew it.

 Is this shore my life? 

Yep… I recognize that broken piece of china. It was 19 years old. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it now, but that use to be a china cup called “marriage.” I won’t lie to you, it had a chip in it before the storm occurred. I think I accidently chipped it. But it was still drinkable… It was my fault, the chipping. But the storm, well the cup couldn’t tolerate the gales of wind. The tidal wave shattered it into that unrecognizable piece of china you see right there. Throw it down now – before you cut your finger on that jagged piece. It’s no good to anyone. It’s just a memory of what once was.

Gazing around the shore of my life – I see familiar fragments of things that once were. Running my fingers through my shortcurls I lick lips that are dry. Trying to figure out which way of the shore I should walk.

 I would walk back the way I came, but I don’t know how. I would walk ahead – but I’m uncertain of where that would take me. I’ve lost my direction. I am in an unfamiliar place. I go and sit on the edge of a levy, feeling very much alone.

 “Helllooooooooooo!!!” I yell. The sound echos, “Anyone there????” 

Way off in the distance I can see a figure walking in my direction. A tiny little blurry figure. I walk towards the figure, nibbling on the bottom corner of my lip. Walking past strewn items of my life like seaweed and kelp gathered on the sandy shore.

It is another woman. She looks at me. I look at her. “What the hell just happened?” I ask her. (A very strange question to ask a stranger.) But I recognize something within this woman.

 “I don’t know,” she replies. “ I was hoping you would know.” 

We find ourselves continuing our walk, how odd that I’ve never known this woman before – yet we are sisters. She reaches out to give my hand a sisterly squeeze that says, “You are not alone.” I squeeze her’s back. We don’t know where we are going, or why we are here. But we keep walking. 

Soon we can see another figure in the distance. She joins us. Another of our sisters… and another and another and another… Until we are holding the hands of many women, an unfortunate continuing line which grows and grows and continues to grow. A sorority none of us asked to pledge. A pink rover line. Although we wince at every new hand held – joining our line, there is comfort in numbers. Not one of us understands the “why” of it. But there is an assurance and a comfort that comes in just “being” together.
We cry together. 
We laugh together. 
We are quiet together. 
We mourn together – not only the lives of those who have had to let go of our fingers (but never our hearts) and moved on to the heavenly shores of eternity – but we mourn for our own lives. The lives we once knew. 

Oh don’t mistake any one of US as weak. The waves of the tsunami have beaten us down but we’ve arisen stronger. Our senses for life more keen, our appreciation for today – strong. It is as though we’ve arisen from the storm with a vibrancy. Shouldn’t it be an oxymoron that we can be both vulnerable and strong? 

Yet I move forward, still picking up the pieces of a shattered old life, appreciative of the ability to map out a new one. Trying to figure out who this new woman is? This one called – “me.” Alone – yet not alone…

 

Looking at the horizon, not certain what the future holds in store. Feeling the responsibility of even being “given” a future, learning to “live in the moment” thankful for a God who, while I only have seen in part – He has seen in full. He has seen the “fullness” of “Me.” There is a comfort in that. It must be where the “peace that passes all understanding” abides, completely and totally in Him.        

 More Words for Your Journey 

  

 

 

 

 

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What Exactly IS Good Enough?

 The doctors all tell me I should cry. But I am like a faucet that you turn on and the water doesn’t come out.  All you hear is the “squeek” of the metal as you try to turn the water on…. They tell me that with all I have gone through in the last year… Breast cancer, chemotherapy, emergency room visits, a marriage that has fallen a part, fighting for my life, loneliness…. That I should cry. But I can’t.  I just CAN’T.  Why is that?  I’ve wondered that a lot lately – but I think the truth is that if I start crying – I don’t know that I’ll ever stop.

I thought that chemotherapy was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through. But what has actually been worse – is the devastation I see of my life from all that has happened over the last year.  You see – when you go through chemotherapy – they give you premedication that makes you sleepy. That keeps you from feeling overly nauseous.  But after treatment – the pain of all that has occurred is raw. Its numbing, its mind blowing.  And all of a sudden you don’t have physicians, oncologists, nurses, radiologists all around you.  You’re no longer a “specimen on a petri dish.”  You’re standing there by yourself and for the first time YOU FEEL THE PAIN. The emotional pain is worse then the actual physical pain itself.  The awareness of the people who have shown not to be your family or your friend because a lot of people don’t know how to “deal” with what you went through. And there you are picking up the pieces of your life.  Wondering how you go on from there.  You’re not the same person you were before cancer and you certainly don’t know the fullness of the person you’ve become… You only know that your bs meter has no “pre screening” that you look at people who complain about tiny little nonsensical things and you want to say – “REALLY???” “Really???!!!”  And all the things that you had before put on the back burner of your life – have come front and center because you realize you JUST CAN’T GO BACK.  You can’t.  And its not a question any more – its just you know you can only go forward – only you don’t KNOW what forward is.  And your life feels overwhelmed with fires that you are trying to stamp out with your bare feet. And the tiredness is worse then the tiredness that came with chemo – because its no longer a physical tiredness – but an emotional one….
You feel like God isn’t there. Maybe because of things you’ve done. Maybe because what you’ve experienced in your life isn’t all “cut, dry and clean” like many of your brothers and sisters in Christ like to act like it SHOULD be.  Why is it that some brethern take such “pleasure” in the fact that you’re struggling? Does it give them a sense of powerfulness? Why are there so many of us Christians HURTING in the church? And afraid to talk about it because fear of judgement FROM OUR OWN body of Christ?  And so we quietly stew in our own pain, not certain how to get close to God again.  Forgetting that “He knows our thoughts before we even think them.” Forgetting even that during the time when WE FELT GOOD and WORTHY that we never really were???! Not one of us have ever been WORTHY. It is only through the blood of Jesus that ANY of us are able to come up to the cross.  I was reminded of that tonight.  That there is NO good enough.  That is only through the blood of Jesus that I can boldly go before His throne.  And so on top of everything I pray – “Father – forgive me. Forgive me for way back when things felt good and felt right before You that somewhere in my head I must have felt as though I was “good enough” but I am a work in progress. It is only by Your strength, Your grace, Your mercy that I can stand before YOU at all.  Maybe its the realization of that that will draw me closer to You.  For I can do nothing in and of myself.  It HAS to be You. It always has been YOU.  Forgive me for not seeing that until now.  I can NEVER be GOOD enough. But I don’t have to be. Because YOU ARE.  Thank you Father.  In Jesus name I pray.
Amen.
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The Way Back Home…

*This is a post that I wrote June 29,2010 four days after I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. God does not cause illness, unfortunately it is part of the curse that our world fell under when Adam & Eve chose not to listen to God’s instructions and age from tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as depicted in the book of Genesis 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Sunday, June 21st I held a moving sale with my family. Hardly did I know that day would be the end of a chapter in my life as I’ve known it for the last 43 years.  I came in the house, got ready to take a shower – and noticed a lump the size of a nickel on my left breast. It was just “there.” I ran down to show my husband and we called my mom.  My mom suggested that I be cautious and I make an appointment with my doctor for the next day – I did. Oh how quickly this whirl wind of events took place. Seeing my doctor she sent me for a mammogram (only the second one I’ve ever had) and an ultrasound. There it was – I needed to come in for something called a “core biopsy.” I came in the next day had the procedure.  Now I know no one is fond of needles – but especially needles put in places that they “normally” would NOT go.  However I went visualizing the Lord holding my hand.  The song “Jesus Take the Wheel” going through my head. They told me it would be a 3-5 day wait for the results.  THREE TO FIVE DAYS.  It felt like eternity.  I started thinking of my life for over the past two years… And I realized that no matter what – I needed to begin my trek “back home” to the Lord. No matter what the results.

I thought about Shepherds – how when one sheep is missing they leave their “whole” flock to look for it. I’ve been “missing” for the past two years. Away from the safety, the warmth, the peace the comfort of the Lord. Like a rebellious teenager saying “no Lord! I don’t wanna!!!” I’d gone my own way, looking for – I don’t know what.  And knowing the whole time that I was “looking for I-don’t-know-what.” The ironic thing about it – is I realized during the whole time I waited for the results – that all I need my Father supplies.  And you know – He gives so much better so much more ample, so much more generously than I can provide for myself.  Does that make sense? These past two years – I’ve done things I’m not proud of and probably will only reveal to my inner circle of prayer partners – and you know – I think it is important for each of us to be as transparent with our walks as we can.  Because the fact is – so many other brothers and sisters in Christ are going thru similar situations.  This blog is NOT a confessional blog.  You see – the only one I really need to confess ANYTHING to – is the Father.  And the most ironic thing about it – is HE KNOWS EVERYTHING ANYHOW.  He knows!  You can’t hide ANYTHING from Him. So why do we even try? Like Adam and Eve in the Garden – having eaten the apple – God knew it. He knew what they had done – but still – they tried to hide from Him.  We haven’t changed all that much. (LOL) we are STILL trying to hide from Him.  But here’s the thing – here is what I’ve learned – if you know the story of the Prodigal son.  You know that he realized how MUCH he needed his father.  He got to the lowest point in his life he could go and realized – He needed… He WANTED to return home.  And when he did – his Father was there – looking down the pathway – waiting, hoping for him to come home.  The Bible tells us his arms were open WIDE. WIDE WIDE WIDE.

I ran into my Father’s arms on June 24th. My doctor called me at work and told me – the results were positive. I have breast cancer.  My world has changed.  My life has changed – but you know what hasn’t changed? My GOD.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  I gave my life to Him at the age of 21. That was 23 years ago. I have run back into my Father’s awaiting arms – and you know what I’ve found? PEACE. I found security, I found comfort. I found love.  What was it I had been looking for before? I don’t even KNOW.  I only know – that my arms are wrapped around Him TIGHTLY. TIGHTLY TIGHTLY TIGHTLY.  How would you be if your child was ill? If your child was hurting? You would wrap your arms around them and hold them close to you.  Kiss their head.  The Bible tells us “If we being evil give such good gifts to our children – how much MORE will your Heavenly Father give to you?”

I won’t lie to you – I’ve been bewildered.  I’ve been scared. I’ve been shocked. A week ago – I was FINE. Well no – I wasn’t.  But you know what? Ironically I am now.  I’m FINE.  Okay, so I have a Goliath in my life – its called breast cancer.  But you know what? This morning as I read my Word and I prayed.  I thought of David.  I thought of how his knees must have been shaking as he stood infront of this giant.  I thought of how the other soldiers must have been watching on – mocking him.  This shepherd boy. Waiting for him to get pummeled by this Giant of a man. Can you imagine their surprise when the Giant fell? Can you imagine Goliath’s shock what his last thought might have been before he fell? David stood before him with one weapon – his faith.  His trust.  His love for the Lord.  He knew He was real.  He knew the battle wasn’t his. He knew the LORD would win.

This stupid little nickel size tumor came as a huge shock to me.  But you know – it didn’t to my Father. I and many of my Survivor sisters – who btw I’m just beginning to meet – are having/had a “Goliath experience.” But the fight is NOT ours.  And our weapon – is our Faith. I don’t know why my Father is allowing me to go through this – but this I know.  He is in control.  My eyes are on my Father.  My weapon – my faith. I’m standing before the Giant – and I know that as David did – I will win this battle. And my Father will be victorious and I will use this experience to extend the right hand of fellowship to the woman behind me (as women are doing now to me). 

Everyone in their lives goes through a Prodigal experience at some point. Its what you choose to do with what you learn that makes the difference. There is mercy and grace and love in my Father’s arms. In YOUR Father’s arms.  He is no respector of persons.  He has no favorites. He loves all of us – just exactly the same. In the midst of the battle – there is PEACE.

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