His prayer–Her fancy cap and it’s one year later. Today.

His prayer–Her fancy cap and it’s one year later. Today.

He stood at the end of my bed and said, ‘I ask my patients if they would like for me to say a prayer before surgery, so would you want me to pray?’ And I answered yes, most definitely.  I knew he was going to ask.  The nurse had told me earlier that morning what a good Christian man my surgeon was and what a great doctor I had.

He prayed a humble prayer and gave thanks for many things I had taken for granted.  Thanks for the hospital. Thanks for the opportunities to serve and trust in the everyday trials.  And so much more. Amen.

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He told my daughter he would be back to talk to her once the surgery was over. And he walked out of the room–this gentle man of faith.

My heart began to beat a little stronger knowing it was almost time.  I can’t say I wasn’t nervous–never having surgery–my first time of being sedated–put to sleep.  But there was also this calm and the worry seem to fade.

A petite woman entered my room–in scrubs and of course her plastic surgical cap.  She had one for me and I said, are you going to make me wear a fancy cap like yours and her smile brightened even more and said, ‘oh yes.  This one is the latest in designer fashion.’ And they got me ready to roll me into surgery.  I remember telling my daughter not to worry as a tear rolled down her cheek.

One year ago today.

And months later began the 30 consecutive days of the burning treatments of radiation.

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I watched as this lady walked out on the sand–the beach almost bare as the skies grew more dim at the close of the day.  She stood in this one area for the longest of moments.  Then she looked out over the ocean as in deep thought.   And I thought to myself, what is her story?  She seemed so sad.  Why was she so lost in her thoughts?  Alone. And I felt somewhat like an intruder from a distance.

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The next evening watching the sun fall I see a small group of people walk over the dunes, a family all dressed up in flowing whites and jeans. At first I assumed it was a beach photo shoot and then as I keep watching a bride appears escorted by her son to a bearded man that awaits with smiles that can be seen for miles.  I run back into our house and tell my family–there’s a wedding on the beach!  And here we are all silent on the deck watching as they pray.  As they hold hands.  We watch as they draw each other close in love. And the bearded groom he raises his clenched hand to heaven and gives thanks once again and my family, we all clap in joy.

I knew it! I said to my son.  That’s the same woman who was out on the beach last night.  Alone in her thoughts.  I knew she had a story.  And maybe it wasn’t as I had thought–of sadness but more of the shedding of pain from days long ago for the allowing of joy to come.

It’s still hard for me to say out loud, I am a breast cancer survivor.  But we are all survivors in many ways–all fighting our own battles–some stories seen, lived out loud and some not. But the goodness of God’s mercy and having those surround you–loving you–lifting you in prayer–that is not merely surviving. It is so much more. It is His grace.

And gratitude comes most abundantly in the wearing of scars.  And joy does come in the morning.

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23, KJV

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalms 30:5, KJV

 

 

 

 

 

Journaling: giving Thanks, giving Praise–it’s all Worship

Journaling: giving Thanks, giving Praise–it’s all Worship

I was humbled to speak and be among the most beautiful, most inspirational women last weekend at the Faith, Hope, Butterflies: Seeing God’s Beauty in Change Christian Women’s Conference in North Wilkesboro.  I am still in awe of the stories and the beautiful worship music shared and the blessings God rained down on us.

I spoke about journaling, giving thanks, and worship. Glory to God alone.

It had been less than 48 hours to the moment that I had shouted at the nurses and doctors to stop–it was too late.  Too late.  My loud didn’t come from a heart of anger but from the deepest of darks.  You see my Daddy was lying on a cold steel table there in the hospital and the electric shocks the doctors and nurses were pounding into his heart were not going to bring him back to us.  Jesus was there and my Daddy was with Him.

And God tells us….In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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There was so much I wanted to say about my Daddy at his memorial service.  But I was struggling to find the words–my thoughts.  And I went into his bedroom on that Sabbath morning, the day of his service and picked up one of his journals and began to read it.  My family didn’t even know my Daddy had been writing down his thoughts–we only found the journals the day after his passing.  His journals weren’t the fancy ones–they were the 5-for-a-dollar notebooks.  That was my Daddy.

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Daddy’s penned words didn’t talk about himself or his life–they glorified God–through thanks, through scripture, through song lyrics, through quotes.  And on that Sunday out of his yellow notebook I shared Daddy’s testimony from his own words.  His writings expressed Jesus’ love, a love that is calling to us to our last day and the question, are we ready.

In his journal he wrote, “Some call it heaven.  I call it home.” And the words I shouted, ‘it’s too late’ on that snowy morning in the hospital–it was never up to the doctors and nurses to save him.  Only Jesus can offer salvation and Daddy accepted this grace gift and prepared for his eternal home years before March 7, 2014.

In everything give thanks.

Research shows anyone who practices gratitude on a daily basis benefits greatly both physically and mentally.  It’s so much more.  It’s worship.  It’s prayer.  It’s talking to my Heavenly Father.  It’s what I believe we are supposed to do.  It’s recognizing all of His good gifts.  In all things.  In sorrow and in joy.

As I was preparing for today I spent a little time reading some of my past journals entries….

November 16, 2011, “Dear God what a wonderful, wonderful night–thank you for answered prayers.  Thank you for saving JB.  Please God help us to guide and help him.  And then I wrote the text message JB had sent me on the opposite page so I wouldn’t forget.

January 20, 2018, I set a timer you know.  In my urgency I was only going to work 3 hours–done in 3 hours–cleaning and organizing the craft supply room at the church.  And then I received a text message fom a dear friend, ‘you have been on my mind–are you okay?’ And right then the altar was calling me more than the disarray of glue, paint, beads, twine, yarn, stickers.  And on that day God was preparing me for 2018.

The past few years I have chosen a word and this year my word is brave.

And on January 31st my baby brother was rushed to the ER and the medical staff gave us little hope.

March 22, 2018. Dear God, My journal stopped on January 29th, two days before Tom was close to death.  And I couldn’t write–only pray.  My brother is a miracle because of you.  Thank you God for your healing grace.

August 23, 2018. Today I am waking up to a new season in my life–a new chapter–so to speak.    I have breast cancer.  Breast cancer–not sure it has soaked into my heart–fully saturated it but my mind has absorbed all the medical language–the procedure steps.  Today I am a number–one of the many women diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.  A partial lumpectomy with six weeks of radiation.  God, keep me brave.  Keep me strong.  And thank you for your many blessings.

My journals are often times filled with lists–names–people needing the uplifting of prayer–one liners of gratefulness-blank pages.

  • Sunrises so blinding I have to look away.
  • Hugs so tight from grand baby girl they almost take my breath away
  • Pink clouds
  • The dark night sky filled with stars.  Filled with visions of heaven
  • Birds at the feeder
  • Baby Wyatt’s first birthday party–his curls are just like his Daddy’s at that age–my baby boy
  • Sweet tea with crushed ice
  • My grand baby boy Kase singing loud, Love Lifted Me

And my prayer lists–

  • Jacob Brown and his family
  • My aunt Geraldine and family
  • My church
  • My family
  • Children in need
  • Homeless

And the list goes on…….

Do I write in my prayer journal and gratitude journal every day–no.  I fail God daily.  But I am trying to do better.  Because what I have found most for me in keeping a prayer journal, a gratitude journal is this–returning to the pages whether I am writing or rereading, they both bring me closer to God.

Keeping a journal has helped me to be more grateful for the privilege of prayer, both answered and unanswered–to pray–to read and remember scriptures–to be thankful for both my blessings and my storms.

And on some days I return to the pages and many are filled with tear stains–marked by the noise of the world and sadly even myself–trying to drown me in words such as loser-failure–unworthy.  And as I reread my past I am once again reminded of how much God has changed me through some of the hardest struggles.  How my faith and trust in Him has grown.  How His presence, His grace, and His mercy are steadfast.  I remember His goodness and remember He is my hope.  And I am reminded these words should be a constant in my thoughts–my warrior cry–I am His daughter and I am forgiven.

I ask each of you to take a moment and think of three things you are thankful for and three people who are in need of prayer.  I am certain you didn’t have to think very long.  We all have much to be thankful for and many are in need of prayer.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, study God’s word, serve others, and to give thanks.  When we focus on our blessings rather than our burdens and our complaints, I believe we will experience more contentment and our faith will become stronger.  And when our hearts are on the needs of others, we will forget self.

O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: His mercy endureth forever. Psalm 136:1

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

2 Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God. 

Isaiah 34:15 Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read

And the story of the Good Samaritan–to serve others–And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:37

You may want to give journaling a try.  Whether it’s illustrating or simply keeping a list of names in a prayer book, keeping a prayer journal, a scripture journal along with your thoughts–a list of ways you can serve others or sermon notes on Sunday mornings.  You don’t have to have a fancy journal to begin.  Only a pen and paper will do, along with a willing heart.

Thank you for your presence today.  I thank you for your kindness and your prayers.  I am not worthy nor do I deserve to stand before you.  But I hope something I have shared with you today will encourage you.  And most importantly I pray I have used my voice to praise His Holy Name.

In closing I want to share this.

The hard is getting harder.  The cruel in this world is becoming more and more hurtful.  And evil is, as we have never experienced.  We are living in a world that has forgotten God–a world that has forgotten to where our blessings flow.  A world that has forgotten how to love.

As I stand here and look at all of us–together in this room I want to leave you with this thought and read from Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6.  

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  

We need God to shine strong in our lives.  Together. Our world needs God and they need to see God in us.  Our world needs to hear our prayers and see us praise Him more.  And our world needs to see us more like Jesus–love more and judge less.

Let’s share His story and share ours.  We need each other.  We need the giving of thanks–the giving of love–the giving of encouragement–the lifting of prayer for one another.

We are so much better together than we are apart.

May God bless each of you.

 

 

 

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

I have this scar—it’s about five inches long.  The place where my skin was broken and the cancer was taken out of me.

She wore a pink shirt and when she got ready to leave the cancer clinic she forgot which side of the building she had parked her car.

And another lady–she walked in.  Her face glowed and her head, it was covered in a yellow and blue scarf with the tiniest of flowers weaved into the colors.

Cancer does these things.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

He came into the house and turned around quickly, back out to his truck.  I forgot something my son-in-law said.  And when he came back into the house he handed me this pink ribbon pin.  ‘I got this for you’.  And I couldn’t get my voice to speak as it wrestled with my overwhelmed smile.

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A Mama this week–her message read, my family is praying for you.  Her message went on to say–‘even though the treatments are different, please know I am here to talk anytime you need to talk.’  And I broke.  You see, this Mama, she’s in her own battle with cancer.  Her young son, in the midst of chemotherapy.  And he is a warrior, a fighter, and he makes no bones about it nor does his Mama or Daddy or his family–they all love Jesus and their faith and hope is steadfast in Him.

And I think about her, thinking of others in the midst of her own storm and I am drowning in this undeserved grace.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

The mail comes and more than once comes this love.  A beautiful shirt handmade by a friend I don’t see very often but I know she’s always there–anytime–day or night if I need her.  And I will do the same for her.

And so many other heart gifts, words, cards, reminders of ‘I’m praying for you’, ‘We are thinking of you’

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We take our seats before worship songs begin and one of our Deacons is carrying this large Ziploc bag–filled with pink ribbons with pink pins.  And he hands me the pin and tells me one of the ladies in our church fixed the ribbons and he was giving them out to everyone.  And I can’t imagine the time she spent making these gifts. I look up and see pink ribbons adorning lapels and dresses and shirts and jackets and coats.  And in my heart there’s this pouring out of what seems to be like the breaking of the alabaster jar where heaven breaks and blessings pour down.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

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This week my aunt was rushed to the hospital on Monday fears she had had a stroke.  It was later determined she had a large mass on her brain.  God answered our prayers as the surgery on Thursday was successful, the mass was removed and my aunt is doing very well.  Our family is waiting on the test results and we covet your continued prayers.

It’s true.  Cancer doesn’t treat us all the same.  Our treatments and diagnosis may be different.  But there is this promise in the lifting of prayers in faith-believing. And the love we give to each other matters.  Love matters.

And cancer is cancer and love is of God.

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cornithians 12:9

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid.

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid.

You don’t know this and you may not even know me. And I may not know your name. But I want to thank you.

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid. Because of you.

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The morning darkness was still lit by the stars of Abraham’s promise. And before walking out the door I clasp the lock on my brave necklace—the butterfly necklace a friend gave me. I hope they allow me to keep it on.  

I count the trucks on the interstate. Some parked along the exits. A rest for the weary. Some with their wheels warm to the road. Not many cars traveling on this early morn.

And God is here.

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I find my entrance at the place that never sleeps. The volunteer receptionist—an older lady and she smiles at me. Her voice is a calm and I take my place in the waiting room and within minutes it begins to fill and I see them walk in. She’s wearing her pajama bottoms, her arms tightly wrapped around a red blanket. And her friend with her camouflage shirt adorned with the large pink ribbon.  I don’t ask their story. I have no need—the friend’s shirt speaks loud….I am here. I am right here by your side. I am fighting with you—for you. I won’t leave you. And they take their seats. Together, they wait.

And God is here.

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A few minutes pass and the doors swing open and the nurse in the blue scrubs calls my name. We exchange morning hellos and I notice how shiny the floors are and how the hallway goes on forever. We go into what looks like the emergency room and she explains she will take my vitals and I will stay there until another nurse comes for me. She’s a sweet lady. Our birthdays are six days apart—hers the 6th and mine the 12th. December babies.

Another nurse enters the area and with her is an elderly gentleman. She takes him behind the adjoining curtain and he tells her his bride of 53 years—she’s right outside the room.  

My nurse finishes my vitals and assures me I won’t have to wait much longer and before she leaves she softly says to me, ‘don’t worry.’  

And the man next to me —well, he’s still talking.  

‘Are you saved?, He ask to his nurse. And she said, ‘oh, yes sir I am.’ 

‘I quit church and join the Marines where they cussed some,’ he said. ‘My Mama wasn’t happy. But God let me live. I praise God for my salvation.’

And God is here.

It’s almost 7am and my other nurse arrives. Wearing a smock, black adorned with a million pink ribbons it seems. Her black hair pulled partially back into a ponytail. I learn she and her boyfriend ride motorcycles.  She promises the procedure won’t take long.

We walk down the shiny hallway again and there’s a young man mopping the floor. He’s the reason for the shine. And I say good morning.

Another room—this time smaller. And the nurse, she and my doctor explains the procedure steps. ‘You can keep your necklace on,’ she said.  I can’t help believe she knew it was part of my needed brave.

And as I laid there with my body perfectly still I watched as this tube carried my tissue and blood into the machine with the large button lit bright red, labeled biopsy and I thought about you.  Women who have been here before me.

My pain came and I prayed not only for myself but for Hannah, the young teacher with two small children whose fighting her own battle with breast cancer. On this morning her story—her pain helped with my pain.

To the dear friends and loved ones who has went through the same procedure, some more than once. On this morning your stories—your strength gave me strength.

To Elaine and Ann and so many other women who fought their battles hard and won the victory crossing over holding onto Jesus’ hands–on this morning your stories– your fight gave me fight–your faith deepened my faith.

And to Kathryn and Sharon and Teresa and Anne and Diane and Caroline and Sylvia and all of the women who fought hard and today your bodies hold battle scars as survivors—on this morning your  stories—your brave gave me brave.

And to every woman who is clinging to blankets going through chemo and mastectomies and lumpectomies and the families and friends and loved ones who wear pink ribbons and pink hats and pink shirts in support. Names I will never know. On this morning your stories—your courage gave me courage.

And God is here.

The nurse was right. The procedure didn’t take long. And my doctor, he’s done this before. More times than he cares to count or remember, I’m sure. His face is humble as he explains the biopsy results will be back in a week and once he receives them we will meet and talk. And before he leaves the room he scolds the nurse for riding a motorcycle in a pleasant, but very meaningful way and she smiles. 

And God is here.

Fifteen minutes or so pass and I am released. Well to drive. I made my way back to the car, the night skies now day blue. The car door shuts and in that moment the walls I had built around my heart over the last three weeks broke. And my tears flowed for every woman who has ever had to hear these words…..there is a chance you may have breast cancer.

And God is here. He’s always here.  

 

This Mama of His

This Mama of His

There was dead silence in the room as she spoke about getting down on her hands and knees cleaning up the child’s blood off the cold concrete leading into the home. The bloody trail of death.  She didn’t know how to console this Mama whose child had died the day before in a tragic accident right there in the family’s driveway.

This angel, she stood before an audience filled with Christ sisters that day and cried.  ‘I didn’t know what to do so I cried and prayed and I cleaned up the blood,’ she said. ‘Because no Mother should have to see her child’s blood stains. And there I was on my knees and I thought about my three children and how they should see their own Mama more on her knees in prayer.’

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_DSC0708.JPGI clung to this story for hours after she left the stage.  And in the days to come, more stories. The Mama whose child’s grave was tiny.  And other Mamas whose children’s graves were fresh and soft and new.

And I thought about Mary and the bloody ground at Golgotha.

Did the Mother of Jesus, Mary slip away from friends and family and with slow and trembling steps walk back to Calvary the day after she watched her Son take His last breath here on earth?

Did she fall to her knees grabbing what blood-stained earth her wrinkled hands could hold?

Did she find the blood stained wooded cross and try to wipe away the death, the hurt?

Her child.

God’s child.

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Mary was His mother.  And no doubt she did as all Mamas do. She carried Him on her hip when He was a toddler.  She kissed His skinned knees when He fell. And she rocked Him when He cried.  She washed His dirty little face and held Him close. And on many nights when she couldn’t sleep I’m sure she just sat in awe beside His bed and watched His little chest move up and down as He slept.  As us Mamas do.  She was His Mama in every way.

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But she was warned–warned of the hurt to come.   But could she have ever imagined His sacrifice being this horrific?  Or His love this large?

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.  Luke 2:34-35

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And He saw His Mother standing by His cross.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, who He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!

Then saith He to the disciple, Behold, thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.  John 19:25-27.

He loved her and before He took His last breath, He made sure she would be in good care. This Mama of His.

And I think about this angel Mama cleaning up another woman’s child’s blood, serving as Jesus served.  And loving like Jesus loved.

And I think about Holy Week and His mother Mary and Jesus’ sacrifice.

And I think about the many blessings of being a Mama and Granna. The privilege of prayer.  And the privilege of serving.

And I think about our world–broken and cruel and the desperate need for all of us Mamas and Mothers and Moms and Grannas and Nanas and Mamaws and Grandmas to be more on our prayer knees for our children and grandchildren.