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...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Known by the Lamb

This little fluffy guy was a gift from a friend during my recent hospitalization.

Immediately after my surgery, I went to ICU and it was during that early part of my stay the lamb was given to me.

Everyone who came into the room was drawn to him and wanted to check him out, including the wonderful nurses who tended to me during my three days in the unit.

Naturally, when I made the move from ICU to the post-surgical 4th floor, the lamb came along. He had a place of honor on the windowsill and his precious smile brought me joy.

One friend who came several days to sit and keep me company had a bit of trouble keeping track of which room was mine.

I had a green "latex allergy" sign on my door, but so did the patient in the next room, which created the confusion. Then she realized if she looked for the lamb sitting on my windowsill, she was assured of entering the correct room.

Six days later, on my last day in the hospital, one of the ICU nurses was working on my floor. She came into the room to say 'hi.'

"I wasn't sure it was you, but then I saw the lamb and I knew it was!"

My friends, did you catch that? I was known by the lamb.

And that started me thinking...am I known by THE Lamb?

Do I live my life in such a way that others are drawn to Him?

Does association with Him set me apart?

Does He have a place of honor on the windowsill of my heart and soul?

My challenge to each of us today is to act in such a way that those who don't have a personal relationship with Christ can see the Lamb in and through us and desire to get to know Him.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29 (NLT)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Simple Act of Kindness

I slowly exited the bathroom and gingerly made my way to the hospital bed.

A tech walking by my room poked her head inside and asked if I needed any help.

My eyes welled up and the tears spilled over.

"Now I can't finish out my shift knowing one of my patients is upset! What's wrong honey?"

Five days earlier I had been through an assault on my person the likes of which I could never have imagined. Because of God's grace, I was able to experience that part of the journey with Inexplicable Peace.

But although I had endured a nine and a half hour surgery, although I now sported scars across my chest and hips, although I had six drains coming out of my body, although I still didn't know exactly what the cancer diagnosis held, I had not cried.

"I'm filthy" I responded. "It's been five days and my body and my hair haven't seen a drop of water. My gown has not been changed. I just can't stand myself and I can't help myself either."

"No need to cry sweetie. I'll be right back."

It seemed like a silly thing to be upset about given all I'd undergone, but I was exhausted and having seen myself in the bathroom mirror caused all the emotions to bubble over.

My angel of mercy was named Mary and she returned with two tubs of water - one soapy, one clear - and a pile of wash cloths.

She dunked one of the cloths in the clear water and handed it to me.

"Why don't you clean your face and neck and I'll help you with the rest."

She helped me remove the hospital gown and spent the next twenty minutes washing my arms, back and legs taking great care not to get close to all the scars and drains.

Mary gave me one last cloth and asked if I wanted a minute alone to clean my "private areas."

I laughed.

Over the past five days dozens of people had seen more of me than I ever thought I would expose to strangers.

I responded "there's not much private anymore."

Truly nothing was private. For days an endless barrage of doctors, nurses, techs, interns, and PAs had filtered through my room, moving aside my gown to draw blood, take vitals, Doppler my incisions to ensure blood flow, empty drains, and examine surgical sites.

Since the type of reconstruction I had was a fairly new procedure, there were many comments made as "viewers" wondered aloud at how fascinating it all was, forgetting I was there, the recipient of the medical marvel.

It was a humbling experience on many levels.

But this sweet woman had seen past all that and dealt first with my emotional need as she helped with the physical one.

I know sponge baths were part of what she did each day, but she never made me feel I was just a job duty. I was a hurting person who needed comforting.

The last thing she did was help me don a clean gown. What a difference!

I tear up just writing about this simple act of kindness that left me feeling better about myself and gave me strength to face a new day of assaults on my privacy.

Do you feel "filthy"? Has life beaten you up and left you feeling scarred? Does it seem that everyone is talking about you but no one is relating to you?

Express it to God. He sees the need and wants to help you if you'll let Him. He'll painstakingly wash away the dirt, tend to your wounds, and show you how much He cares. He will drape you in clean garments and give you strength to face the day because His mercies are new each morning.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-2

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Inexplicable Peace

There was no reason to feel at peace.

I was about to undergo a complicated eight hour cancer surgery.

I have multiple medication allergies and needed to take an antibiotic intravenously during the procedure.

Because of my allergies, the surgeon was unable to perform a CT scan of the area he would be reconstructing which meant he was going in "blind," unable to map out his strategy in advance.

My past experience with anesthesia wasn't pleasant - nausea and a longer than normal recovery time. And I had never been under for this length of time.

No, there was no reason to feel at peace and every reason to hold on to anxiety.

Just look at that long green line. That was my surgery compared to all the others that would be performed that day.

But despite the overwhelming potential for fear that human nature would dictate as totally understandable, there was peace. 

A supernatural, all-encompassing peace that passed understanding.

Normally a champion worrier, on Monday, April 2nd at 5:30 a.m., I rolled up to the hospital uncharacteristically fearless.

I felt the prayers of scores of people from all over the country being lifted on my behalf. I knew I was on the prayer list of at least half a dozen churches, as well as family, friends, and friends of friends. So many assuring me they were praying and encouraging others to pray as well.

In the prep room, I opened my Bible for one last word of encouragement. My eyes fell on Psalm 121.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber, indeed He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand, the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

Moments later, the room was filled with a stream of doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, and technicians each introducing themselves and sharing what roll they would play.

It took a few tries, but the intravenous port was put in and the gurney was rolled toward the operating room.

From that point on, I remember very little. A few seconds of staring at the ceiling and the next thing I knew, someone was calling my name asking if I was awake.

I vaguely remember the voice telling me I had a button in my hand I could push if I needed more pain medication. I recall expressing concern that in my stupor I would push too often and overdose.

They assured me that wasn't possible and encouraged me to take as much as I needed.

One of the nurses informed my sister and daughter that she would be working in ICU all week. I piped up with an old comedy comeback, "try the veal."

My joke-cracking put my family more at ease. They kissed me goodnight and headed home to get some rest.

It was 10:30 pm.

I learned later that the eight hour surgery had actually taken nine and a half. The reconstruction effort had hit an enigma.

The last thing the plastic surgeon had said to me was that because he was going in without the benefit of the CT scan, if he encountered something complex, he might not be able to do the reconstruction as we had discussed.

We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, but apparently I am a little more unique than most. 

The snag hit was the discovery of a second vascular system on my left side. It took the surgeon the extra time to follow the veins and "untangle" them.

I also learned that a portion of rib needed removal in order to reattach all the veins.

None of this surprised the Great Physician, and He graced my surgeon with the knowledge and talent needed to understand how to work through the difficulty.

All of this occurred while I rested in perfect peace.

If anyone told me even at the end of last year what the past four months would look like and how I would handle them, I would have said they were crazy.

My biggest fear for a long time has been surgery of any type because of my many allergies. Now I have come through a HUGE surgery with multiple surgical sites and not only survived it, but got through it carried in peace every step of the way.

I have received dozens of cards in my recovery, but today I received one where the sentiment seemed particularly perfect as I write this post. It was written by Roy Lessin, author and co-founder of DaySpring cards.

"When we are going through tough times in our lives, Jesus doesn't stand on the outside of our difficulties. He is in the midst of each thing we walk through in life. He is there to speak peace to us, to calm the storm, to assure us of victory, and to walk with us into a new day."

My friend, I don't know what you're facing today, but I know God's inexplicable peace is possible no matter what. I've experienced it first hand.

But I also know we need to seek His peace daily because things of this world come against us relentlessly, trying to shake our faith and the peace that comes with it. I've experienced that first-hand as well.

Trust Him to be there for you through it all.

Isaiah 26:3 "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."

Picture Credit: Nathan Greene - Chief of the Medical Staff

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.