Sunday, June 22, 2014

Slough of Despond

"Fear sets against God's promises when it ought simply direct the soul from the threatenings to the promises to make the promises shine." George Barrell Cheever

I've been rereading The Pilgrim's Progress and found this poignant footnote in chapter two. It reminded me that God's promises always outshine the darkness that pain brings. Agonizing feelings and anxious thoughts sometimes persist like a dog with a bone and that's when I have to choose again and again and again to put my trust in God's promises. Job 23:10 reminds me that perseverance has great rewards. Hebrews 2:14-18 reminds me that Jesus feels our pain and he gets firsthand what we're going through. John 3:16 reminds me of God's great love for us and the promise of eternal life we have through Jesus. Romans 8:15 reminds me of how personal and accessible God is. No elaborate prayers needed. Just a simple cry to "Abba, Father!" 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I Get Down and I Get Up Again

This morning when reading Colossians 3 I was reminded about how we are called to live as Christians.  Paul lists over a dozen ways. The list includes gentleness, patience, forgiving and accepting others. Yesterday I had moments of just the opposite…impatient, harsh, and feeling justified in holding onto my rights over being wronged. I really desire to please God in every moment but I fail more than not.

I vividly remember when Rebekah was learning how to walk. She wobbled as she stood on her chubby little legs, would take half a step and then fall. I would help her stand back up to try again. A process that was repeated many many times before she was able to take firm steps without falling. I would clap for Rebekah to keep trying and felt great joy, pride and pleasure in watching her learn how to walk. This week my counselor reminded me that that is how God see’s us in our walk with Him. We all have days when we stumble and fall. God isn’t watching us with disappointment or disapproval. When we fall we are met with God’s outstretched hand ready to help us stand back up. He claps and cheers for us as we become stronger and He is pleased with our efforts to walk in ways that honor Him.

When we remember this, we don’t feel guilt or shame when we mess up. We confess and take God’s hand and look into Jesus’ face and see Him clapping and cheering for us as we grow stronger. Today may our steps be lighter as we embrace the freedom we have in God’s help and love for us. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Holding Hands

Young friends holding hands with arms swinging. A newly in love couple who can’t separate their hands. An older couple who still hold each other’s age spotted hands. A parent holding the hand of their child to guide and protect them. Whether fingers laced together or hands firmly cupped in each other’s palms, hand holding is intimate and comforting. Isaiah 41:13 is a beautiful reminder that we have a personal God who in every circumstance hold’s our hand. “For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you; Do not fear, I will help you.” As I read this verse I close my eyes and think about different situations where I feel alone and I picture Jesus’ hand in mine saying, “Cindy, do not fear, I will help you.” When in my brokenness I mess up, again, I picture Jesus taking both of my hands and saying, “Cindy, do not fear, I will help you.” I inhale this promise and find rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Unfailing Love

It feels like we're in a holding pattern right now as we wait to find out if the chemo and radiation are shrinking Eddie's tumor and killing the cancer in his body. My faith can sometimes be like a yo-yo. The yo-yo is up and I remember that we are being firmly held in God's hand. But then doubt or fear seeps in and I feel like I'm twirling down on a thin piece of string. God doesn't let go. My perspective changes and life does seem to spiral down when I focus on my circumstances instead of God's promises and character. While we are in this holding pattern I push deeper into God's grace. Grace sustains us and when I choose to relax in God's grace I don't look for peace in test results.

Easter brings more of an awareness of the grace God gives to us through Jesus' death on the cross. This isn't just a Bible story. Through Jesus' death we not only gain access to heaven but we are given new life every day! There are days that I am unloving and impatient. I am flawed and I sin every day. We all sin in some way every day. Romans 5:20 tell us, "where sin multiplies, grace multiplies even more." That seems backwards to me and makes grace amazing. No matter what we do God's love for us never changes. Never changes! When someone is unkind to me or cuts me off in traffic, my "like" for them changes much less love. I don't want Jesus' death on the cross and God's grace to ever become so familiar to me that I am not awed by it. When they become familiar, I become self-reliant. And down goes the yo-yo.

We continue to feel your prayers. They are keeping us strong!

Monday, March 10, 2014

My American Idol

Update on Eddie - Eddie has had minimal side effects from the chemo. He has an unpleasant rash on his face that is moving to his chest and is feeling tired which he's not used to. It's hard to know if the fatigue is a result of his body fighting off the cancer or the chemo. Probably both. Eddie started antibiotics to help with the rash and we are hopeful it will clear up soon. He continues to be upbeat, read, and closely follow the stock market. :) We are hopeful that this chemo will effectively treat Eddie's cancer and we are enormously thankful for your prayers for healing and for minimal side effects from the chemo!

Having Eddie home from the hospital, the curtailment of doctor appointments, and our house not imploding helped last week feel somewhat "normal". I was able to put in a full week at work and we resumed some of our routine activities. Since Eddie's diagnosis several weeks ago we've been working to get our finances in a position where I can support myself on one income. We are praying and hoping for the best and planning for the worst. While doing some research early Sunday morning Eddie read that only 15% of people with his type of cancer live for more than one year. Although the oncologist told us something similar when Eddie was initially diagnosed, hearing it again hit me like a tsunami and it felt like I was jolted back into the reality of our situation. Staying composed at church during the worship part of service was difficult and I lost my appetite for food after having regained it last week. Over the last several weeks I have become acutely aware of how inadequate my idol of self-reliance is. And of my sinful actions when any of my idols are threatened. This morning while reading Hebrews 4:15-16, I was reminded that Jesus can intimately sympathize with my weaknesses, emotions, and fears because He himself has experienced all of them and more. This doesn't minimize the pain I feel but it does bring me incredible comfort and strength to know that God Himself has experienced the anger, frustration, confusion, and sadness I feel in this present circumstance. And my idols being ripped away is a gift because I am given the blessing of joy as I trust God in spite of what I feel not only in this mammoth trial but also in the midst of those daily situations and annoyances that make me want to say words Jesus wouldn't. Ahem.

Psalm 16: 5, "Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future."

Asking Why?

"Trust in God, not explanations from God, is the pathway through suffering." Ray Ortlund I've been reminded of this truth often these past few weeks through the life of Job. This is a painful time for us that is truly filled with joy because although we don't understand why all this is happening the why isn't our focus. Our focus is on who God is and we know that He is hurting right along with us. And we find amazing hope in the promises found in Revelation 21. One day God will make all things right and there will be no more pain, loss, or tears! My heart just swells with gratitude to my loving Heavenly Father!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Heaviness

Update on Eddie – Today Eddie had his first bone infusion and of course made some new friends! He saw fellow cancer fighters having intravenous chemotherapy and feels grateful he has the option of the chemo pill, tarceva, right now. Thankfully our insurance company approved the treatment which Eddie will start taking tonight. Thank you for praying with us for the approval! Eddie is understandably nervous about possible side effects from chemo. Between being in the hospital and recovering at home, Eddie’s been cooped up for weeks on top of being slowed down by the chronic back pain he’s had for months. He is restless and tired of convalescing. Following the stock market, reading, and watching Netflix occupies some of his time. We are praying fervently that Eddie has no side effects from the chemo and that he will be restored to full strength and mobility very soon!

Depression and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship for the better part of my life and I usually recognize when it starts flirting with me. DNA, my thoughts, how I filter experiences, and fluctuating hormones seem to be the biggest contributing factors for me. What has helped me manage my depression is medication, counseling, and being careful about what I eat. Depression and helps are unique to each person who suffers with it and I am grateful for what has helped me because for so many who seek help depression continues to be a prison of hopelessness that seems impossible to escape. With all that’s unfolded in our lives over just 3 ½ weeks it’s not surprising that I’m feeling a bit melancholy. The past few days I’ve felt a heaviness like a weight in my chest that makes routine activities labored. Tuesday afternoon I searched through the Bible for scriptures that would lift my malaise. Nothing really moved or grabbed me. And I felt discouraged. Later that same day I was reminded that reading the Bible isn’t primarily a vehicle to help me feel better about myself or my circumstances. While the promises in God’s word do offer me great hope and encouragement, my focus when reading Scripture needs to be Christ-centered instead of “what’s in it for me”. When I read the Bible from a self-centered position I miss getting to know Jesus more deeply and seeing God’s greatness in the midst of all of life’s circumstances.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Truth That Settles My Soul

Tonight I am particularly comforted by Exodus 15:13, You will lead the people you have redeemed with your faithful love, You will guide them to your holy dwelling with your strength. I am thankful that God leads me as He walks the path before me and that I can rest in His strength instead of my own.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wicked Thoughts

Update on Eddie…Today was an almost pain free day for Eddie! He is clear minded and continues to make remarkable progress each day. The chemo he’ll be starting is newly FDA approved and costs thousands of dollars and we are waiting on our insurance company to sign off on the prescription. If you have a moment we would appreciate your prayers for the process to be expedited. We are all eager for Eddie’s cancer to start being treated and we are praying that he will have minimal to no side effects from the chemo.

Bekah and I have wanted to see the musical Wicked for years and today we finally did! Before Dorothy landed in Oz, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the Good Witch, had an unexpected friendship and Wicked tells their story. The play is rich with witty one liners and full of meaning. A must see if you have the opportunity. I won’t give any spoilers but wanted to share some insights that I think we can all relate to. From a young age Elphaba, the Wicked Witch, searched for meaning and approval from her father and ultimately the great Wizard of Oz. For a time she found meaning from those who recognized her sorcery talent. Glinda was self-absorbed and spent a great deal of time managing her image. They both had deep insecurities and searched for significance in different ways.

I think about my own insecurities and the ways I try to find significance from people and managing my image and how those practices actually compound the insecurity I feel. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” When I started seeking to know the character of God and trusting who He is I started to fall in love with Him as I discovered how much He loves me. And how much He loves every person on this planet! Seeking God is a process that takes time and I still struggle with finding my significance in illusive ways but I have a peace and confidence like never before because my foundation is set in knowing that my true worth is found through Jesus Christ.  And that’s what God offers every person whether we already have faith in Him or question who He is. If you are unsure about God, Explore God is a great resource that shows real people who have had doubts and questions most likely similar to yours. Whether or not you know Christ you can find peace, hope, and significance in this life as you seek and grow in Him. Eddie and I would not have peace or joy during this trying time without our firm trust in God’s goodness that comes as we continue to seek Him.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

So Soon?

On my way home from work today, Bekah called me and said that Eddie’s foot was abnormally swollen. I took a look at it and knew it warranted a trip to the ER. After an ultrasound the doctor ruled out blood clots and said Eddie’s foot has “random swelling”. It was a fun way to spend our Friday night. J

Our family has been in a storm these past three weeks and while we were at the hospital I thought, “Satan is not dealing with our family but with God Almighty. And in this circumstance we will just proclaim God’s goodness even louder than we have been!” 

I’ve struggled with anxiety most of my life. A few years ago a counselor encouraged me to immediately start praying when anxiety rises up in me. For the people I might be anxious about being around, the circumstances I am facing, and to continue to claim God’s promises even if the anxiety doesn't calm. In doing this I take something that Satan wants to use to make me ineffective and turn it upside down on its head and it becomes an opportunity to grow my faith. It’s not an easy process and the anxiety doesn’t quickly disappear but I am making the choice to trust God instead of my own thinking and emotions. And that’s what we are doing in this storm. We are choosing to claim God’s promise that He loves us relentlessly and we will keep our eyes steadfastly on Him which calms our fear and anxiety.

Ginger Rage

Today was a much more peaceful day for our little family! We moved at a slow pace and rested which gave us all renewed energy. Earlier today a physical therapist who will be working with Eddie came by and gave him an “A+” on all of his movements. Eddie was wearing his Explore God t-shirt which prompted a conversation about our faith and we were encouraged when the physical therapist said that he will be praying for Eddie as well.  In yesterday’s post I mentioned I had a meltdown and during that meltdown I well, purposely opened a door with great force and put a hole in our bedroom wall. #notmyproudestmoment I’ve been walking past the hole all day and sadly reminded of my actions. With Paul I can say that, “I am the chief of sinners”. But the unconditional grace of God helps me to see the truth about myself and the gospel frees me from dwelling on my wrong actions. In reading Jesus + Nothing = Everything I was reminded that sometimes the hard work of sanctification is choosing to rest in Christ’s finished work for me and not my own efforts to try and “be better”. Yesterday a friend messaged me Psalm 31:7 and I’ve been thinking about the verse a lot today. I decided to write it out and put it over the hole in the wall and now instead of being reminded of my actions I am reminded of Jesus’ unfailing love for me and what he did on the cross for every one of us in replacing our sin with His suffering. And I don’t have to try and be better because I live under a banner that reads, “It is finished” which brings me indescribable peace, joy, and hope!

Loud and Undignified

This was such a tough day for our family. As we were on our way to Eddie’s oncologist appointment our front door knob broke off and the door became useless, we found out that Eddie has stage 4 cancer, and when we got home our upstairs toilet overflowed and started leaking into our downstairs office. I broke down and it was not pretty. I was able to reach two friends and I have no idea how they understood a word I was saying through my sobbing. Within 10 minutes another friend was in my driveway crying with me and just hugging me and then about six men from our church appeared and started taking care of everything. And it’s all fixed!! I cannot express our gratitude for these amazing people and how they met us in an hour of such deep need and sorrow.

Eddie has adenocarcinoma stage 4 metastatic lung cancer which they will start treating with tarceva. He will also be given weekly infusions to help strengthen his bones. Eddie is heartbroken mostly at the thought of what Bekah and me are going through and for what he might miss out on in our lives. What he is feeling is part of the process of receiving such life altering news and he has a strong trust in God’s sovereignty which brings him peace even in his present sadness.

I have pillows under my eyes from weeping and my prayers are not quiet and dignified. God is faithful and He can handle my lamenting and I feel His all encompassing arms around me with a steady and unflinching love and He is holding me and our family tight. The reality for all of us is that life on earth is like the blink of an eye and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Right now my husband is with me and I can love him, care for him, and continue to live life with him today. And God IS BIGGER than any cancer and our family is choosing to put our trust in God's healing power and that good will come from this!

Looking For The Good In The Bad

He’s home!! Eddie is all settled in and soon after his homecoming from the hospital he enjoyed some chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk.  He is moving slow but is getting around remarkably well for someone who had major surgery one week ago. When he was in the hospital I asked Eddie what meal he was most looking forward to eating when he came home and he said bbq. That same night our friend and bbq master Robert Garrett of Fullhouse BBQ Just one bite, and you'll go all in!! messaged me asking if he could bring us some of his awesome bbq! Um, yes please!! I love how God blesses us in big and small ways and yesterday I was reminded of the importance of looking for the good in all people and all situations. I’d like to think I’m an optimistic person but when life throws me curve balls I tend to become overwhelmed and filter out the good and really, it’s a heart issue for me. When I believe and trust in God’s sovereignty and that He really will work all things together for good, I more easily see the positive in people and situations and my heart becomes focused on Jesus instead of me and my circumstances. And God’s promises give me amazing peace and joy no matter what is thrown my way.

During The Loneliness

Eddie didn’t get to come home from the hospital today. This morning Eddie’s physical therapist and doctor determined that for his safety it would be best for him to have a medical bed at home so we are waiting for the bed to be delivered. Eddie’s coming off the heavier meds and is more lucid and tonight he was telling me about some opportunities he’s had to pray with some of the hospital staff! We know God has a purpose in keeping him there but boy do I miss him! Today was his sixth full day in the hospital. I’m used to telling Eddie e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. about my day through text, phone calls, and evening conversations. He is my rock and I miss him being so accessible to talk with. I have wonderful friends and a sister who I can vent anything to but I’m sure you understand that it’s not the same as sharing with your spouse. Eddie not being as available or coherent this week has really pushed me harder into leaning on Jesus during all the highs and lows of my day and has reminded me that no person can give me the wise counsel and comfort that I have in Jesus Christ. And Jesus is always accessible and is my true rock! 

Coexisting Emotions

I can’t remember a time when I’ve had such strong opposing emotions simultaneously…sadness and hope, great concern and peace. I’ve been having a hard time articulating that this week and this morning I read 2 Corinthians 6:10 - "as grieving yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing yet possessing everything". I’m so thankful for the comfort, peace, and hope God’s word gives us and that God always knows just what to say when I can’t find the words. Today we spoke to the oncologist and he confirmed that the tumor on Eddie’s lung is cancer. The brain MRI showed that the cancer has not spread to Eddie’s brain (Praise God!) and the pet scan results show that the cancer has not spread beyond his lung and back.  Physically Eddie is tired…he is constantly fighting off pain. He continues to remain in great spirits which continues to be a testimony to his faith. Overall we have great peace as we are just starting to walk this very very tough road. I was reminded earlier today that the Bible doesn’t promise us a life without pain or suffering but it does promise us the freedom to not be enslaved by pain and suffering while we rest in the assurance that full deliverance from all pain and suffering is coming when Christ returns.