The End of Me

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Don’t you love when God hits you sideways with something He’s probably been trying to get through to you for a while and you finally get it?

I admit, I have to laugh.  Because when I do get it, I can look back and see how long He’s been after me to learn something.  I laugh because God knows I’m a dolt sometimes and loves me anyway!  He’s so good to give us space to laugh at ourselves.

In Bible Study Fellowship this week we’re studying John 16 and one of the questions asks, “What circumstances in your life test your commitment to follow Jesus?”  I thought and thought about this question because over the past 9 years the Lord has brought me to a place where I can no longer imagine not following Him.

So I considered my previous life … a time when I backslid … and answered with the situations that tested (and won over) my commitment to follow Jesus.  Namely – success in my career (which gave me prestige and popularity), health (which wasn’t that good, but wasn’t bad enough to worry about), and finances (which were so that I was frivolous and spent buying possessions to fill up the ache in my heart).

As we answered the question in leader’s group on Saturday, I looked at the words on the page: career, health, finances …

The three were the world’s interpretation of success.  I spent my time focusing on those things that were going to help me live the “good life.”  I was doing good.  I had everything I needed and then some.  I … I … I … what I didn’t see was the gulf between God and I getting wider and wider until … I lost it all.

That’s when it hit me.  I’d answered the question a couple of days prior but right in the middle of leader’s group I had an epiphany.

God had brought me to the end of myself.

Ten years ago I was ignoring God and doing my own thing – great career, decent health, super finances.  But now …

Now I have no career, no health, and no finances!!!

Why do I sound so happy?

Because I’m closer to Jesus than I’ve ever been in my whole life!  That alone fills me with so much hope and joy I’m busting at the seams.  At the end of myself my thirst was quenched, my pain was comforted, and my sorrow turned to joy.

So no, nothing can get me to go back to the world’s system.  I’m following Jesus as closely as I can and when I get a little ahead of Him … or perhaps lag too far behind … I know that He’ll pull me close to Him again.

Have you come to the end of yourself yet?

The Wait

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It’s weird … this waiting.

This Neverland of Infinite Possibilities.

Well, no.  There really are only two possibilities.  Do I still have active cancer or am I back in remission?

And will this be my life going forward?  Do I or don’t I?  Holding my breath at every doctor’s visit awaiting the word?

I finished radiation treatments three weeks ago but can’t get a PET scan for another five weeks.

In the meantime I wait.  Everyone waits.

Like beached sailboats.  No water.  No movement.

Family.  Friends.  Everyone on hold.

We pray.

We wait.

It’s weird … this waiting.

The Interloper’s Homecoming

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This is the third in a series.  If you’ve not yet read The Demise of the Interloper, please travel here for Part One and here for Part Two to be brought up to date.

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It was one of those autumn days in Florida.  The kind where you walk outside and instead of being hit with the usual warm, wet washrag of humidity; you come instantly to a standstill noticing the change.  The air is drier and the temperature reduced a few degrees.  A day that instantly puts a smile on your face and changes your outlook.

Standing in the middle of the driveway I took a deep breath of the crisp air before walking gleefully to the mailbox at the end of the drive.  There was a spring in my step and a large smile plastered across my face.  I had every right to feel a sense of bliss as the seasons changed.  I’d been free of the Interloper for six months and had re-discovered independence inside my own home.

I found my friend Herman at the mailbox.  A little lizard who enjoyed sunning himself on the black metal.  “Isn’t this a glorious day, Herman?” I sang out.  He scampered, as he always did, to the very back of the box as if I was going to hurt him.  We’d only been performing this ritual for months.  I laughed and pulled down the door grabbing at the bills and circulars that threatened to fall out of the open box.  Closing the door I looked for Herman to say good-bye but he’d already moved off and onto some other adventure.  Turning on my heel I headed back to the house but stopped quickly.  What was that?  I thought I heard something in the bushes behind me and it was much too big to be Herman.  At once the hackles on the back of my neck stood up as I turned slowly, needing to see what was there but not really wanting face what it might be.

The sound seemed slightly familiar.  Like a noise you heard once, years ago, and swore you’d never forget it … but now maybe you had forgotten and my mind raced … trying to recall.  I sucked in my breath, at once very afraid, turned and walked quickly toward the safety of my home.  My fear grew quickly in intensity as I all but expected to be jumped from behind by some wild animal or deranged person with mayhem on their mind.  Inside the house I slammed shut the door, locked it, and leaned against it trying to calm my shaking.

Safe now with my anxiety diminishing, I walked into the living room, kicked off my shoes, and settled into a soft couch to read the mail.  A matter of minutes passed as I flipped through junk and bills when I suddenly sat bolt upright.

“The Interloper!”  I practically shouted into the empty house.  My mind reeled.  Could it be?  Hadn’t we gotten rid of him six months ago?  Sweat broke out on my forehead and the mail in my lap slid to the floor as I rushed over to the window and peered down to the foliage at the bottom of the drive.  The leaves moved silently as if blown by wind but I could see nothing else out of order.

Immediately we pulled in the professionals to conference and they put my home through a battery of tests.  While waiting for results I laid silently in bed each night straining to hear any evidence of the Interloper’s evil presence.  I’d already dealt with his malevolence once and truly had no wish to be involved with him again.  I sought out my Guardian but He didn’t speak … or I couldn’t hear Him.  Perhaps my inner turmoil simply drowned out His voice, but the silence was unnerving.

I met with the cutter first.  He was my go-to guy with the ready smile and quirky bounce.  Except this time he wasn’t quite so jovial.  “It’s here,” he said solemnly.  “You may have to live with him for the rest of your life.”

“What?”  I asked quickly, even though I knew I’d heard him the first time.

“This type is hard to completely eradicate.”

I immediately thought about a time in the Bible when the disciples were trying to remove a demon from a young boy but were unable.  After Jesus had removed the demon the disciples asked Him why they hadn’t been able to do the job.  Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29 HCSB)  I was already praying but I wondered if I needed to start fasting.

The cutter suggested that I meet with the Brazilian next.  He, with his toxic lotions and potions, almost immediately told me that there was little he could do.  Through testing, part of my home had been found to be lacking suitable internal structure.  The toxins he had to use to eradicate the beast required my home to be stronger than it was.  He looked at me solemnly while taking a bite of his turkey sandwich as if contemplating what he could say.  Clearing his throat, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and suggested I meet with the genius … the Mastermind.  My options were running out.

Approaching the Mastermind’s office I prayed that he would be able to help me.  If not … if not … I couldn’t speak the words.  The alternative was not something I wanted to have to face.

Where was my Guardian?  I knew He hadn’t left me, wouldn’t ever leave me, but why wasn’t He talking?  Why couldn’t I hear Him?  He so readily spoke peace into me the first time I’d encountered this evil presence.  Why not now?  I stopped asking knowing that sometimes we just didn’t get answers.  Feeling resigned, but with a touch of contentment, “Thy will be done,” I whispered.

The Mastermind greeted me warmly.  I’d spent so much time with him and his machines that I’d grown fond of this man.  Aristotle is quoted as having said, “There is no great genius without some touch of madness.”  I’m not sure I could call him ‘mad’ but certainly I enjoy the touch of weirdness that seems to skirt around the edges of his brilliant mind.

I left his office with hope and determination that we were going to be able to exterminate the Interloper once again.  They would build me my special bed the following week and begin shooting the photon torpedoes into my home directly after.

Then, on a Saturday evening before we’d even started the process, a friend said, “You’re the most courageous person I know.”

I sighed.  “If I’m courageous, it’s only because I know the Creator is with me, goes before me, and stands behind me.”

She smiled knowing that what I said was true but still shook her head.  “It helps that He’s working with gold.”

I blushed, “You’re a good friend.”

The next day as I listened to my pastor in church, he seemed to stare directly at me when he uttered the word, “Courage.”  I shivered in my seat thinking about my friend’s comment the day before.

I only had to wait one more day before a family friend met up with me in the grocery and said, “Have courage.”  I could hardly contain my delight realizing that I’d just heard from my Savior.  In the matter of three small days He was successful in getting His message through.

Courage.

Instantly peace settled into my dry bones and filled my heart.

“Thank you,” I whisper into the air, knowing He hears me.

And now.  Now I lay in my special bed while the Mastermind and his minions shoot photons around my house targeting the intruder.  Each strike sends the enemy screeching and running for cover.  I pray that God keeps this professional’s aim true and that every blast weakens the Interloper further.  I imagine he will be reduced to ruins and cease to live no more – and pray the same.  But I draw on the courage given to me by my Maker and smile.  I will be courageous.

Thy will be done.

 

My Word for 2017

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God gave me my word for 2017 early this year.  Do any of you do that?  Ask God for a word to focus on … something to learn as we approach a new year?

It’s fun and scary and interesting all the same.  In 2014 He gave me the word Grace.  From January 1, I was astounded about how much I didn’t know about Grace.  It wasn’t about the grace He poured out on me.  God mainly taught me how to give grace to others.  I had to break down old ways of thinking and breakthrough stereotypical opinions and it was a tough lesson and an extremely rewarding year.

Last year God started me out with Joy.  How could I have known that that word would carry me through multiple trials and tribulations regarding my health?  But God knew.  I needed a whole new outlook on Joy – what it was – how to get it – and how to maintain it through dark and scary times.  It is to God’s glory alone that I was able to find my joy (which was truly HIS joy) and spread that joy to others while suffering through cancer and all the therapy’s to combat it.

While I normally spend the last week of the year grumbling and groveling and praying for God to give me a word – this year – it was just before Christmas when I thought that I oughta start the process so I could hear the word before New Year’s Day.  God decided not to wait.  Over the Christmas weekend I received the same word by three different people.

What is it?

Courage.

Courage.  Said like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz.  Normally here I break into song with one finger vibrating my Adam’s apple … “If I were king of the foreeeeesssssttttt … not queen, not duke, not prince.”

I know why God has given me this word (and you will too very soon) and I’m going to embrace it.  And even though I know I’ve moved miles away from being fearful over the past year and a half; I’m ecstatic that God will teach me more.  That He cares.  That He will take the time to grow me.

So … will you ask God for a word for 2017?  If you do, please circle back here when you’ve received it and let us know in the comments!

Happy New Year everyone!  I’ll see you back here in 2017.

To Our Health!

Felecia

The Fog

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The Fog

When Paula came home from Atlanta the last time – she was in, as they say in Hospice, a very delicate condition.  In fact she came home in a private medical jet because the hospital believed she wouldn’t survive the 10-hour drive.  Her friends rallied together so her husband could continue to work and we took shifts caring for her.

When I initially walked into her home for my first shift and saw my beautiful friend laying on the couch it dawned on me that this might be the end and I bit back the tears that threatened.  You see, Paula has cancer.  If you’ve read me for a while you recognize her name.  She was diagnosed before me but was there for me through every step of my treatment, leading the way, plying me with ginger chews and bible verses and toasty socks and lotions, and a safe, godly ear for me to whisper into.

Walking through her door that first day was shocking. She was flat out on the couch under a pile of blankets and could not speak well, walk, or control the shaking in her hands that were puffy with steroids. She was on oxygen 24/7 and a regimen of oxycodone and other drugs and was only occasionally lucid.  As the weeks went on I continued to take my turns sitting with her, helping her eat, and perform other vital necessities.  Since she slept most of the time I busied myself with reading, writing, working on my book, and dozing off myself every once in a while.

We continued on like this for weeks and even though I prayed for healing a part of me was watching my friend sink further and further away from us and I asked God a few times if this wasn’t the end.

That was, until last week.

My ‘visiting’ day that week was Friday and I walked into Paula’s house to find the morning-shift friend smiling at me and Paula sitting up on the couch, her eyes bright, and a wide smile on her face.  I can tell you now, I was more than a little freaked out.  My friend was back to her perky self.

“It’s so good to see you.” She said.  A weird thing to say when I had just seen her the week before.

But as the day progressed I was to discover that Paula remembered nothing of the past eight weeks.  Nothing – save the constant ringing of the doorbell on Halloween.

She remembered going to Atlanta that last time and then … nothing until last Sunday when she, as she said, “Woke up from my fog.”

I was dumbfounded.  Had God spared her the mental anguish of the last eight weeks by closing her mind to what was happening to her physically?  No one had an answer for it but I wouldn’t put it past Him to do such a thing.  That’s how much He loves us.

But that wasn’t the half of the miracle – here was my lovely friend Paula.  Sitting up – and I mean UP (not propped up!) eating, talking, joking, laughing, with only a small shake in her hands to offer any lasting evidence.  Her legs and arms were still mighty weak but that first day she walked with her walker, crossed her legs on the sofa like any proper lady, and held lasting coherent conversations.  Even though she continued to freak me out as I watched her, I praised God for His miraculous healing.

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It’s been four weeks since that day and Paula’s now moving around without the walker, has been out of the house to shop and dine and go to a Christmas party, and continues to amaze.

God is truly astounding.

Never give up praying.  Never stop praising Him.

Never give up believing that God will intervene.  I know that many times He doesn’t, and we won’t ever know why this side of Heaven, but sometimes He does.  In both times, in all times, we must pray, and believe, and have faith, and praise Him continuously.

I’m learning that now, more than ever.

 

One Weird Thing

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Last Monday I talked about how happy a pretty bowl of hen-fresh eggs make me.  When I awoke Monday morning I realized (too late) that I should have asked you guys what weird thing made you happy.  But I didn’t, because sometimes I’m selfish.  Well, yes, sometimes I’m selfish, but honestly, I didn’t write that post until late Sunday night and my brain just wasn’t working on all cylinders.

But on Monday morning I wanted to know.

I wanted to know, like my former boyfriend and the curve of the chrome front fender on his Hog, what makes you happy like eggs and front fenders?

Because I truly have never looked at the front fender of any motorcycle the same way again.  Maybe your answer will help me see another everyday, ordinary thing in a new way.

That’s really the fun of it.

Hearing what makes each other happy may just open our eyes to all the little joys we miss in this world.

There may be no rhyme or reason for why the thing you’re thinking of sparks happiness, joy, fulfillment, contentment … whatever.  It just does.  And we’re not here to judge.

Another thing that popped into my mind after the eggs was the scent of ozone in the air after a rain.  Ooooo I could smell that odor all day long.  It just makes me smile and I have no idea why!

So, in the comments tell us … what one weird, ordinary, everyday thing makes you wildly happy?  Feel free to expound if you’d like, or just list the thing.  Let me experience that one weird thing through your eyes …

The Farmer’s Market

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