Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Happy Tears - A Week of Ups and Downs

Monday promised warmer temps and a glimpse of the sun.

Since much of the past 2 weeks have been spent inside doctor offices, a friend and I made plans to head to Belmar and walk the boardwalk to "God's Square Mile on the Jersey Shore," also known as Ocean Grove.

When I realized it was 2.2 miles in each direction, I suggested perhaps we park closer.

My friend polietely said "no."

So off we headed while I internally fretted a bit about the chilly winds and the fact that I was heading out on a 4 1/2 mile round trip walk after weeks - okay, maybe more like months - of virtual couch potato-ness punctuated by the occasional shoveling session for what seemed to be our weekly encounter with a Nor'easter in the Garden State.

I didn't want to overdo things 2 days before my first surgery to remove "sentinel lymph nodes" to check on any spread of the cancer.

We walked for what seemed like an eternity and considered giving up our quest when we bumped into a couple who told us it was another 10 minutes away. We kept walking.

We arrived at our intended destination with a few minutes to spare before their 2 pm closing time.

A delicious lunch, two cups of tea and a slice of double chocolate mousse cake warmed me up and gave me the energy to head back!!

We enjoyed a warmer, less windy return trip, stopping on occasion to snap a few pictures.

 I slept well that night.

Tuesday I headed back to the hospital for a nuclear dye injection.

Now, because I'm allergic to so many things, my first question always is "what's in this?" before anyone gives me anything.

The response from the technician was "you should be fine as long as you're not allergic to sulfa."

Well, guess what. I am. And I have detailed that a million times on the litany of forms I've filled out for the hospital and every doctor in the place over the past 2 months.

Tears started welling up because I was frustrated and a little scared. I could have taken Benedryl or something else to prepare for this, but now, here I was, in the position of having to make a decision on whether or not to move forward with this very important test.

The alternatives weren't much better - one drug would turn me blue..."you'll look a little like a smurf for a few days"... and the other had a 3% chance of anaphylaxis.

"Jesus, you knew this would happen. This is not a surprise to you! Help me."

The doctor reentered the room voicing doubt that my earlier reaction was to sulfa. He believed it was another ingredient in the pills I had taken.

I hesitantly agreed to the injection.

The test finished, I began to notice my tongue felt as if I had scalded it on a hot drink. That lasted for the entire day. Although my surgeon said she'd never heard of such a thing before, I'm kind of the poster child for weird diseases and reactions.

I didn't sleep well that night.

4:30 a.m. came as early as it sounds and I got ready for the trip to the hospital. Although I thought I was calm on the outside, my subconscious was messing with my stomach.

My sister dropped me at the door and went to park. I pulled out my Bible, and opened it up to the Psalms where my eyes fell on 138:3 "When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted." I read the rest of the passage which ends with "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, oh Lord, endures forever-do not abandon the works of your hand." I felt God's presence and was ready for the next step.

I registered and my sister and I chit-chatted until the nurse came to take me back to the prep room. On the way, she shared that she too had breast cancer but was a 7 year survivor. It's a story I've heard far too many times since my diagnosis. So many women have walked this path before me! Too many.

I had been concerned about anesthesia because after my last operation more than 30 years ago it took longer than normal to come out of it and I woke up nauseous. So when the anesthesiologist walked in, I said "you're the one I'm concerned about."

"Me? Why?"

I explained my fears, but he went over all my allergies and addressed my concerns. When he left, the nurse said "He's the best...he was my anesthesiologist. You know if the nurses use him for their own surgeries, he's a good one."

Again, peace.

I remember being moved from gurney to operating table and not much more. As my eyes fluttered and I began to emerge from unconsciousness, a nurse asked how I was feeling.

"Tired." I drifted off again as I heard her say, "that's okay, rest."

The doctor came in and told my sister that the nuclear material from the day before had somewhat worn off and so she was only able to remove one node instead of the intended two, but it would be okay.

Eventually, I wakened and steadied and was able to leave.

I went home and slept some more, but all the early dozing and the soreness of the area under my arm made for a rough night.

In my previous post, I stated that I was praying for a Good Friday. A good report. When I woke from a nap this afternoon, I was surprised that I had slept through half a dozen phone calls, one of which was from the surgeon.

She had gotten the pathology report back a day early. The lymph node was clear. It will indeed be a Good Friday!

"Thank you Jesus. Praise you Lord!" I sobbed the words out loud, tears of joy running down my face.

It's the first good news I've had since January 22nd.

I still have a long road ahead. The bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction scheduled for Monday looms large, but I am bold and stouthearted. I know God has heard my cries and the prayers of scores of people. Some know me well, some have heard of me, some I've never met. But each person who lifts their voice toward heaven and intercedes on my behalf is precious to me.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through your encouraging words and prayers. I pray that should you find yourself facing something similar in the future, you will know that peace is possible when you look to the Prince of Peace for strength.

Joshua 1:9: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do no be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."







Monday, March 26, 2018

He's In The Waiting

The days pass quickly even as time seems to be standing still.

I hold my breath and power through a litany of preparatory tests.

My mind reels from endless conversations with doctors.

Detail upon detail.

Information overload.

I've seen pictures of what to expect. They are hard to look at, but I don't want to be shocked when I see the results of the doctor's handiwork.

I am trying to wrap my mind around eight hours of surgery too.

I haven't really allowed myself to go beyond the operation to possible courses of treatment after the removal of this "thing" that has taken up residence in my body.

Despite all this, I feel incredibly calm most of the time. On occasion, a thought, a song, a word will cause tears to stream down my face. But mostly, even in the presence of so much uncertainty, I have peace. Truly a peace that passes understanding...there's no earthly reason for it.

Perhaps it is because I am trying hard to meditate on my one word for this year - Presence. I am doing my best to be present and full of praise in His Presence.

He is here,  even in the waiting. 

There is no room for fear in the presence of God's love and care. His Light drives out the darkness that fear dwells in.

Lord, please, let the lymph nodes be clear. That is my daily prayer. Wednesday they will remove two of them and Friday I should know the answer.

Good Friday.

Will it be good?

There was another Friday, more than 2,000 years ago when things didn't look so good on the surface.

The man who walked the earth proclaiming Himself to be the son of God, the Savior of world, hung on a cross and died.

What good could come from that?

The sky turned dark, thunder rolled, the temple curtain tore in two, and the man many had pinned their hopes on lay lifeless in a tomb.

For the followers of Christ, I'm sure it was a desperate time indeed.

God was with them in the waiting even though they didn't know it.

On the other side of the cross, I know that their despair would be short-lived. I know there was hope restored.

On the other side of my surgery date, Christ knows the answers to my desperate prayers. My hope is in Him.

On this side of that date, He is using His word and His people to bring me encouragement. Cards, emails, prayers, hugs, time spent in community with friends, buoy my faith.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, I got a simple yet priceless gift. Two CDs of music that speak to my heart and along with them, a quote from Natalie Grant that praise precedes a miracle.

Palm Sunday was a day of praise, followed by a dark time, that preceded a miracle two millennia ago.

Now I envelop my mind in praise before  my own personal dark time through which I'm trusting for a miracle.

One of those songs of praise is Take Courage by Kristene DiMarco.

Slow down, take time
Breathe in He said
He'd reveal what's to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He'll reveal all to come.

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He's in the waiting
He's in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He's never failing
He's never failing

Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His Words lead you on
Do not forget His great faithfulness
He'll finish all He's begun.

He's in the waiting. He is faithful. He'll reveal what's to come. Selah.

Psalm 27:13-14: I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Where's Your GPS?

Today was a crazy day!

Last night, I ran over a random tire lying in the road. I hit it hard and was concerned there was front end damage underneath, so this morning, I drove out to the repair shop to have it looked at.

Then I headed over to the cell phone store to have my phone checked because after 8 hours of charging, it was dead. There were 2 people ahead of me and it was obvious I'd never get waited on in time to make my doctor's visit.

My doctor's visit! I remembered the form I needed him to complete, the reason for the visit, was still at home.

I dashed out the door of the cell phone store and headed home to grab the paperwork.

I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment and caught my breath. Cleared for surgery, my next stop was the hospital to pick up a letter from the surgeon which would allow me to put my gym membership on hold for a few months.

Problem was, I wasn't exactly sure how to get there from where I was. I reached for my phone and...oh yeah. It was dead. Forget GPS.

I thought I could do it relying on my memory to guide me.

I passed a road I recognized. Was it because it led to the hospital or because I took it to my daughter's house? Without GPS, I couldn't be sure.

I didn't make the left, but kept going straight.

I wound up on the main street of a small town I knew was NEAR my destination, but I wasn't exactly sure where it was in relationship to the hospital. Was it above or below? East or west of the facility?

I asked two women crossing the street. "Sorry, we're from the shore area...we don't really know our way around here."

I pulled over to ask the garbage man. "No idea."

I was sure I was close, but no one seemed to know the exact path to get there.

Then it dawned on me that there should be hospital signs along the road if I was as close as I thought I was. I prayed that God would open my eyes to see one soon to give me confidence that I was headed in the right direction.

Eventually, I ran across a road I knew and made the left I probably should have made miles before.

There!

Up ahead was the familiar white H on the blue background. I was back on track.

My friend, I would submit that our walk with God is often like my day today.

Bumps in the road can cause damage we can't even see.

Then we make things worse when we rush out on our way without GPS - God's Power Source.

Our Bible sits unopened and we are "uncharged" for the day at hand.

When decisions come regarding which road to travel, we rely on our own instincts and abilities...and miss the turn.

We ask others, rely on the world for direction, but they either don't know or get us lost even further. Being "close" isn't good enough. There's only one right path.

Then we realize we just need to pray. Pray for our eyes to be opened. Pray for divine guidance because left to our own devices, we're thoroughly lost.

When we seek God with all our heart, when we sincerely ask for guidance, He is faithful to provide it.

Where's your GPS? Have you opened it lately to charge your soul? Are your maps updated? Do you know which way to go and how to get there?

This year, my verse from God's GPS is Jeremiah 29:13: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Seek Him. In His Word, through prayer, through the signs He has posted along life's journey. He's faithful to get you where you need to go!



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Are You a Blessing Blocker?


A pastor's wife once told me how after having a baby, a friend of hers offered to help by doing the housework. The wife was used to helping others, but found it difficult to accept help. Her response was "no thank you, we'll be okay."

Her friend responded with "why are you trying to rob me of my blessing?"

She went on to explain "We're called to serve each other. God has promised to bless me as I bless others. If you don't allow me to serve you, you rob me of my blessing!"

I spend my day serving others. It's my profession but it's also my passion. I enjoy making a difference in the lives of others. Giving them hope and encouragement. Doing tangible things with the prayer that those I serve will see the love of Christ through my actions.

But when someone asks if they can help me? I'm more often than not guilty of responding like that pastor's wife.

And that's how you block a blessing for someone else!


***************************************************

Last week I shopped for a few items in preparation for my upcoming surgery. When I reached my car bags in hand, I realized I forgot the main reason I went into the store. I opened the trunk, dropped in my bags and headed back inside.

I'm a stomach sleeper and I've been concerned about turning in my sleep after surgery. I wanted to get a "husband pillow" - a high back pillow with arms like a chair. My hope is the arms will act as a barrier and keep me on my back.

Back in the store, I bumped into a mom of six who, for the past three years, has been a client of the ministry I oversee.

She smiled brightly and asked how I was doing.

"Well, you'll hear soon enough that I'm out of work for a while. I'm having surgery."

A look of concern crossed her face.

"Are you okay? What is it?" She quickly followed with "you don't have to say if you don't want to."

I mouthed "breast cancer" and immediately, her eyes welled up.

All the while, her middle child was chattering on, trying to get into things.

As she expressed her condolences on what I was dealing with, she reached into her pocket, pulled out her wallet and removed a $20 bill.

I assumed she was giving it to her eldest child to take the little ball of energy dancing around our knees elsewhere in the store to shop while we spoke.

"I want to bless you" she said as she slipped the $20 into my coat pocket.

For a split second, I stood in stunned silence, but quickly countered with "you've got to be kidding...I know your situation. I can't take it."

"I'm paying it forward. I've been so blessed. The organization that found me housing just bought me a car last week. No more taking all the kids and a baby carriage on buses. They paid six months of car insurance, the title, registration, everything. I want to pay it forward and you've been so kind to me, helping me all these years."

"That was the church...not me."

"You made it possible. Please take it."

"Don't rob me of my blessing" echoed in my mind.

We chatted a few more minutes but the little guy had stayed in one place for as long as he was able. It was time to part ways.

"Are you sure?" I asked one last time.

"Please. I want to do this for you."

It was enough to pay for the pillow.

I have been concerned about money since I first heard the diagnosis. I knew the co-pays and deductibles and out of pocket expenses would add up fast.

But God has already shown me in big and small ways that He's got this. 

I love that about God. He's always showing me that He's able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I can ask or imagine. Lord knows I would have never imagined that person being able to bless me in that way!

I would do well to remember Proverbs 11:25 (MSG). "The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped." It's a two-way street.

My friend, if you're in a situation of need today, don't rob someone of their blessing. Accept what they offer you humbly, knowing that God sees your need and their hearts. Their actions will bless you, and He will bless them in return.

Has God used someone unexpected to bless you recently? Please share in the comment section!







Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Be Still: The Bucket List Bird Lesson

Just one week ago I wrote about my new cancer diagnosis in The Call You Never Want to Get.

New, because this is the second time in a year I've gotten a call that threw me for a loop.

Two different cancers, both out of left field, both "rare." Within the group of people who get these types of cancers, Sloan Kettering told me they only see 2-3 cases a year of the first kind, and the second only presents itself this way 10-15% of the time.

It gives new meaning to being unique and special. 

A meaning I could, frankly, live without - literally and figuratively.

The night the surgeon called with her recommendation, I cried, really cried, for the second time in this whole ordeal.

I kept apologizing for breaking down and all I could say beyond "I'm sorry" was "this sucks." She agreed. Cancer sucks.

The next morning, I headed into work.

I thought I was "hanging in there" and attempted to go about my day as if my world wasn't changing by the second.

It was an ill, self-advised attempt.

My uncontrollable tears led my boss to ask if I needed the week off. I'm not good at healthy boundaries and self-care, but even I knew at that moment I needed time to process.

Still, I'm a workaholic at heart, so when I couldn't guarantee I could stay away from my work email, we agreed she should lock me out of it.

I went directly to the place that serves as God's throne room for me. The lake where this blog was born.

I called a friend who headed out to join me, but for an hour, I reveled in the uncharacteristically warm February weather. A slight breeze, clear skies, and fresh air surrounded me as I talked to Jesus and He walked along with me.

Hearing the raucous cry of a jay, I looked up and spied the fellow in the picture above.

I have long complained that blue jays don't like to pose for me - they flit about and make it nearly impossible to photograph them. This guy was different. He's somewhat hidden in the tree, but he sat for quite some time while I tried this angle and that to get a good shot.

Two days later, I headed out with a friend and our cameras to another favorite place, Grounds for Sculpture. Once again, a blue jay stayed put for an inordinate amount of time, allowing me to capture this image.

"I half wonder if God is allowing me to check little things off my bucket list because I'm not going to be around much longer."

It was the first time I voiced the unthinkable. That whisper of the enemy that tries to diminish our faith by growing our fears.

My friend immediately shot it down. "Maybe He's just showing you how much He loves you."

I recounted the story to my counselor a few days later. Her response was similar. "Perhaps He's encouraging you to be still. He's letting you know you don't need to do anything but observe and He'll show you His presence."

The NIV version of Psalm 46:10 reads "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

As I looked up other versions, the beginning of that verse reads "Cease striving", "Be in awe", "Let go [of your concerns]", "Let be."

All of those versions speak volumes to me.

I'm so grateful for the past week. For three days the weather held, but even when it didn't, I was given wonderful gifts. Time to breathe, time to reflect, time to listen to wonderful old hymns and new worship songs, time to drink in the sights and sounds of God's creation, time with a number of friends as we shared a meal and what was on our hearts.

The suggestion was made during the first round of cancer treatments that perhaps I had gotten sick because God was telling me to slow down.

I don't believe for a moment that God would deliberately inflict a deadly disease on me to get my attention. He has far more compassionate ways to chastise and teach than that.

He is the Great Physician, not the Great Afflicter. 

That said, He wastes none of our pain and suffering. He works all things together for those who love Him. He speaks to us in the midst of storms.

And He can use a normally flighty blue jay to say "Take your time and see me. I'm here. I'm staying put."

Be still, cease striving, be in awe, let go, let be...and know that I am God.