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Michelle Warner

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Launching Out

Posted on October 24th, 2016

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I have been silent on here for quite some time. Partly because I have had a challenging time finding quiet space in my mind and schedule to write out my thoughts while chasing my girls. And mostly because in the past ten months I have been working on a new writing project that God has put in my heart.

Back in January, Jared and I got away for a few days by ourselves and it was then that I felt God nudge me to begin working toward a new blog for moms. I sent an email to some writer friends and began dreaming about what this could look like.

A month later, I traveled to Austin to attend the IF:Gathering, an amazing women’s conference featuring some brave, honest women sharing their stories. After hearing many inspiring stories of women following God’s calling on their lives, I felt a confirmation to continue to move forward with the project.

The only thing is, as much as I felt that confirmation, I also felt trepidation.

Revisiting Old Fear

One morning at the conference while listening to the song, “Good, Good Father,” I burst into tears. I asked God, where are these tears coming from? He answered by helping me see a vulnerable place in my heart that needed some healing.

If you’ve followed this blog since the beginning, you know that right after I launched this blog, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. What I didn’t realize is that I have carried a misconception in a deep place of my heart since that diagnosis. With the desire to launch this new blog, it bubbled to the surface in a prayer to God:

Last time I took a step of faith and started a blog, I found out I had cancer. If I start a new blog and follow what I believe You put in my heart, what will you allow to happen to me this time?

Wow. I didn’t know that deep-rooted fear had lodged its way in my heart and it’s interesting how it can reside there for quite some time until a circumstance will arise and force that fear to the surface.

All weekend I grappled with this fear. Are You a good Father? Do You really have my good in mind? If I take a step of faith here, will something else happen to me?

It felt like all of the questions I had grappled with during my diagnosis had risen to the surface again. As I boarded a plane back to Cincinnati, I didn’t necessarily feel like I had great resolution to all of those questions, but I felt a renewed confidence that I could trust God with all that hung in the balance. I also felt continued confirmation to move forward with the new blog even if it felt a bit frightening.

 Getting the Blog Ready

For the next several months, I pressed on toward the goal of getting this new blog up and running. I found a wonderful web designer in Nashville, formed and met many times with my lovely writing team, and spent many of my early mornings, late nights, and nap times writing.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing; we’ve hit several roadblocks along the way. There have been moments when I’ve questioned if putting so much effort into this blog was really what I felt led to do. There have been moments when I’ve wondered if I was nuts spending precious time I didn’t have writing. There have been moments when I’ve doubted if I had what it takes to lead this team and keep it together at home as well. But each time God has reconfirmed this is where He wants me and to keep pressing on.

It’s been really exciting to see everything come together. We are so close to our launch date and have been busy working on the last details.

 And then…

Fearing the Worst

What I had feared all those months ago came bubbling to the surface when I started bleeding unexpectedly. You may remember that my original symptom when they found my ovarian tumor was bleeding, and so every alarm bell sounded in my head when this happened.

I would love to say I handled this scare gracefully but I will be the first to admit I freaked out. All of those memories of enduring chemo and dealing with the realities seven years ago came rushing right back to the forefront of my mind. I tried to not “go there” and stay focused on what was true in my present day, but to be honest the memories haunted me.

As the spotting continued, my fears intensified as I had to wait through the weekend before getting any answers. I knew if I was going to make it in one piece to Monday I needed to be honest with God about all that I was feeling.

I kept saying, I can’t believe this is happening again. It’s just like old times. I get ready to launch a blog and the bleeding starts again. God, why would You allow this?

I knew His heart toward me was good, but these circumstances felt confusing, like lifting a scab off an old wound.

Digging Deeper

The next morning I woke up with my mind racing. I decided I needed to get my journal and Bible and talk with God about all of these fears. As I sat down with my coffee, a verse popped into my mind that I had heard at the MOPS conference a week before. I looked it up:

“He will protect His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arms,

He will carry them in His bosom,

He will gently and carefully lead those nursing their young.” Isaiah 40:11

I sat on my couch with all of these feelings and thoughts, trying to process what God was up to. Why would He be bringing me right up to my fear again? And why now in the midst of launching this new blog, just like last time?

Then a quote came to me from a Beth Moore study I had read in the past. I don’t remember it exactly, but the point is – God cares more about us meeting the Healer than He does about our healing. For whatever reason, that unlocked a truth I needed to hear in that moment:

Regardless of the outcome, God wanted me to know Him in a deeper way.

And it seemed He wanted me to press into this concept of God not just being my Father but being a gentle Shepherd—something I haven’t thought too much about beyond the words in Psalm 23.

I asked God, What do you want me to understand about You being my Shepherd? Where do I need that truth in my life?

I realized in my perception of God, I don’t have a problem knowing that He has the “whole world in His hands” and is fully in control of the big things of life. But I do struggle with knowing that God tenderly loves me—not just as a Holy Father but as Someone who pulls me close and gently reassures me. Through this scare I felt God wanted me to press in a little tighter to the tender side of Him.

Speaking of perceptions of God, I have to add a disclaimer here because as I was doing a little looking on the internet about this concept of the Shepherd, I kept seeing photos like these:

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Who is that?? I don’t think that is really an accurate picture of the Jesus I know because it makes me feel like he’s a softy. And maybe a bit weird. :) Jesus being a Shepherd to me means Someone who is  fierce enough to fight off anything that harms me (think: bears attacking His beloved sheep), but tender enough to reassure me of His love.

Breathing Out

I’m so relieved to share that after two exams by my oncologist and gynecologist and an ultrasound, they found nothing alarming and chalked the bleeding up to an off month. I breathed a deep sigh of relief for the rest of the day.

But then the next morning the bleeding began again.

I felt like in that moment I had to choose to trust the doctors but most importantly, my Shepherd. I surrendered how I felt things should go with shaky hands and asked God to “gather me in His arms” just like the verse said.  I knew the alternative was freaking out and it didn’t get me anywhere but stressed. I knew I needed Him to fill me with peace rather than me try to muster it up on my own.

Thinking back to the quote about God being most concerned about my healing, I realized God brought healing to my heart through this scare because in that moment when my situation wasn’t instantly resolved, I wasn’t overly stressed. Yes, I still was concerned but I felt a peace that My Shepherd’s love for me was not only unconditional and powerful but tender and gentle. I could trust Him to give me what I needed even if it wasn’t what I envisioned.

Thankfully in a day all seemed back to normal but these last few weeks have definitely deepened me. Not only in knowing God in a fuller way, but in being vulnerable with those close to me, facing my fears, and giving grace to myself when I fall apart.

It’s funny to consider it now in hindsight because all of those things are what this new blog is all about. Maybe I just needed a reminder of how important those virtues are in my life and how much mamas like me need this message.

Launching the Blog

I couldn’t be more thrilled that our blog launch date is almost here. We are finishing up some last minute design details but we plan to have it officially up in the next two weeks.

And in case you’re wondering, our blog is called TextingTheTruth: Real Moms, Real Grace. The name is born out of the idea that a group of moms text the truth to each other about our lives and we receive Biblical Truth and grace back about our situations. It is created to celebrate, empower, and encourage moms by using the format of a text message conversation between friends to bring light, perspective, and truth to the realities of motherhood. We are very excited about launching it and would love to have you hop on over and check us out very soon!

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We’d love for you to follow us:

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TextingtheTruth/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TextingtheTruth/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TextingTruth

 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield;

   in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;

my heart exults,

   and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people;

   he is the saving refuge of his anointed.

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!

   Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalm 28:7-9

Five Years Ago Today

Posted on November 10th, 2014

I took Jared to the airport on Saturday morning at 3:30am. Although I am far from a morning person, it was actually really nice to have some space and time to think and reflect all to myself in a quiet car. (Olivia was fast asleep at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.) As I drove and listened to good music, my heart became really full as I reflected on how gracious and faithful God has been in my life.

It started with thinking about how Jared was flying down to Orlando to golf with his brother and dad, something he did eight years ago that allowed us to reconnect while I was living in Florida. I would have never thought that after five years of being apart, God would bring us back together in His perfect timing and give me my deepest heart’s desire.

And then as I drove the stretch of highway on the way home to my house, I reflected on the fact that I had driven that road back and forth visiting two boyfriends at different seasons of my life. And while they were both great guys, I was so grateful that God led me to Jared, God’s perfect match for me. Though those years of dating felt quite long and excruciating at times, God taught me so much about myself. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the wait.

My mind stayed in reflective mode and I smiled thinking how I would have never guessed as I drove that road all those years ago that one day I would live off of that highway with my husband, daughter and almost-born daughter. It would have been something I would have only dreamed of during those seasons. And yet, look at how gracious and faithful the Lord has been to me to give me such gifts.

And then all of those thoughts led me to realizing that I was coming upon a very momentous anniversary in my life. Five years ago today, I went into (what we thought was) a routine surgery to remove an ovarian cyst but the results of that surgery altered my life forever. A cancer diagnosis. Another surgery. Chemo. Loss of my hair and possibly my fertility. Fear of what-ifs.

And yet here I am, five years later and my cup runneth over with a rambunctious two-year-old and a baby on the way. And a stronger marriage. And a deeper faith.  And a more grace-filled perspective on life. And a clean bill of health for five whole years.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that music speaks to my heart during times like these and I’ve had several songs floating around in my mind the last several days. One has been one of Jared’s and my favorite’s right now: Big Daddy Weave’s Overwhelmed. And one has been the song I heard the day before my surgery when I was feeling anxious about the what-ifs: That’s What Faith Can Do by Kutless.  But as I type right now the song on my mind is the one that one of my best friend’s sang at our wedding: How Could I Ask For More? By Cindy Morgan.

I wish I could stay in this reflective moment, but Olivia has now bounded into the room and the sound of an excited little girl has disrupted my thoughts. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

With a grateful heart, praising God for His faithful hand on my life these last five years, I sign off for now. Thank you, Lord. How could I ask for more?

***

How Could I Ask For More?

There’s nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon
Waking to the sunlight, being cradled by the moon
Catching fireflies at night, building castles in the sand
Kissing mama’s face goodnight and holding daddy’s hand
Thank you, Lord, how could I ask for more?

Running barefoot through the grass, a little hide and go seek
Being so in love that you can hardly eat
Dancing in the dark when there’s no one else around
Being bundled ‘neath the covers, watching snow fall to the ground
Thank you, Lord, how could I ask for more?

So many things I thought would bring me happiness
Some dreams that are realities today
Such an irony the things that mean the most to me
Are the memories that I’ve made along the way

So if there’s anything I’ve learned from this journey I am on
Simple truths will keep you going, simple love will keep you strong
‘Cause there are questions without answers and flames that never die
And heartaches we go through are often blessings in disguise
So thank you, Lord, oh thank you, Lord
And yeah, how could I ask for more?

 

Caring Through Cancer

Posted on June 11th, 2014

Recently a dear woman in my Bible Study was diagnosed with cancer and I experienced that feeling that I know many felt when I was going through my cancer treatments: I want to help, but how? It can feel overwhelming to know where to even begin because there is so much we want to do but feel at a loss as to what would really encourage.

Although I wouldn’t have chosen to walk through cancer, one benefit was experiencing the amazing generosity of so many people in my life. Because of the way people loved me, I feel more equipped in how to love others through challenging experiences. This is not to say I always do it well; I think one of the most difficult parts about supporting others is making the time and following through with the desire to encourage and help. It is definitely an area I am trying to grow in and asking the Holy Spirit to prod my heart when I need it.

I thought I would share some of the ways that people in my life encouraged me so that if you are looking for ways to bless those you love who have an illness, you have a starting point. Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list so please feel free to share if you have another idea to add.

 

Meeting Emotional Needs through Encouragement

Many amazing friends encouraged my mind and spirit in such creative ways:

Mail

One friend organized many people in my life to send me a note so that I would have something in the mail each day. Every day I would look forward to discovering who sent me a card or package. Being the words person that I am, I loved hearing from so many loved ones and I have kept all of the cards to this day.

Another friend decided my chemo journey was like a marathon and since she had run one, she wrote me a new narrative about my race each week. At the end of my chemo, she sent me her medal and other things to symbolize that I endured the race. It was such a thoughtful gesture and I will never forget it.

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So many friends sent cards (whether they were a part of  “Operation Encourage Michelle” or not) and they truly uplifted me. It is amazing how a simple card can go such a long way. (And now that I have just gone through the death of my Grandma, I am reminded how much it means!) I wish I had taken a photo of my pantry door in my kitchen when I was going through chemo because it was covered with the cards I had received. (If you look closely in the photo below you can see some of the cards hung on the doors.). I needed to see those reminders daily, and so appreciated that people took time out of their busy schedules to drop me a note in the mail.

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[I am so grateful for all of the friends including this sweet one who ministered to me so tangibly during my cancer journey. Also please note the cards hung on the doors and the necklace I am wearing which I mention later in this post.]

Flowers

I am not necessarily a flower-person but especially when I was going through an illness where so much felt discouraging, the sight of flowers was so uplifting. And it really is true: when there are no words, flowers speak. My aunt and friend gave me rose plants, which were thoughtful because they lived beyond my illness and were a constant reminder of their thoughtfulness and God’s faithfulness. Another friend sent us a fruit bouquet, which was along the same lines because it brought me great cheer but it was also practical because we had as much fruit as we wanted to eat!

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Care Packages

Friends and family sent pajamas, slippers, movies, candles, sheets (to bring cheer to the hospital bed, pictured below) and so many other nurturing-type gifts. I still wear the pjs and when I do I think of how far I’ve come and it brings a deep sense of gratitude.  Jared’s aunt knit me a prayer blanket to put on when I was cold and I so appreciated her labor of love. Big or small ways that people reached out encouraged my heart.

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IMG_0939_2Devotionals

A couple of friends sent me some books that encouraged my heart.  The one that I connected with the most and highly recommend was entitled Praying Through Cancer: Set Your Heart Free From Fear. It was originally written for breast cancer patients but it included such wonderful truth and encouragement that it didn’t matter. Also there were excerpts for 90 days and each was only a page long, so it was very manageable with chemo brain! I also appreciated reading Don’t Waste Your Cancer by John Piper. I recently heard about a book entitled Warrior in Pink by Vivian Mabuni. I have not read it but know people who think highly of the author who is on staff with Cru.

Music

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know how much music and lyrics encourage me so I really appreciated when friends sent me gifts related to music. Several friends sent me cds and a sweet friend made me her own cd of songs to encourage me. I played it almost every time I would drive down for an appointment.

I have always wanted to make a playlist of music that spoke to me during my treatments and journey. Maybe someday in my spare time I will do that (ha!), but in for now here are a few of my favorite songs that I would play on repeat:

  • “Healer” by Hillsong
  • “Healing Is in Your Hands” Christy Nockels
  • “Hosanna” by Christy Nockels
  • “How He Loves” David Crowder
  • “Heal the Wound” by Jami Jamgochian
  • “Our God”, “Need You Now” by Chris Tomlin
  • “Hope Now” by Addison Road
  • “Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture
  • “After All” by Meredith Andrews
  • “Unredeemed” by Selah
  • “Cast My Cares” by Tim Timmons

Bible Verses

My thoughtful gift-giving sister-in-law ordered me a necklace with my favorite Bible verses (from Etsy and pictured in the first photo posted above) so that I could tangibly hold onto God’s promises. From that idea, I wrote down the Bible verses that spoke to my heart on a spiral notecard book. I brought that with me to each of my appointments so that when I was in the waiting room and needing some reassurance, I would pull it out and remind myself of truth.

Presence

Sometimes when there are no words, just your sheer presence is all that’s needed. So many friends came and sat with me at the hospital or in my home. I will never forget that a few friends and family members flew or drove in to spend a few days with me. It was also especially helpful to have someone else at my appointments so that I could have another set of ears to hear the information the doctor told me. Even though I knew I could go alone, having my mom, Jared, my mother-in-law or another friend offer to go with me truly spoke to me. I think it’s hard for so many of us to accept the help and encouragement of our loved ones but the persistence will speak volumes.

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[When in the hospital for several days, you do crazy things to make the time more comical!]

[I appreciated all of the friends who were truly "there" for me. Many not pictured as well!]

[I appreciated all of the friends who were truly "there" for me. Many not pictured as well!]

 Support

An organization called Inerman Angels was also helpful because it gathered people with all sorts of cancers together for support and encouragement. I also really appreciated getting together with those my age who had gone through cancer treatments. The camaraderie is irreplaceable when going through such an illness like cancer.

Prayer

Nothing is more powerful than prayer and nothing meant more to me than when people reached out to me to let me know they were truly praying for my healing. No card or flower could touch the power that prayer to a Sovereign God had!

 

Meeting Physical Needs in Tangible Ways

My friends also met so many of my physical needs and cared for me during my cancer road:

Hair

As I shared on this blog before, losing my hair was one of the most difficult parts of my journey. A group of my friends organized a “Hair-cutting Party” to shave off my hair. They brought food for tacos, we had a time of prayer and sharing, and then they shaved my hair. It was a time I will never forget and their encouragement through a very difficult time made it so much easier.

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Other friends and family members sent me scarves or hats. I felt so loved knowing they were thinking of me in that way, and I enjoyed having the variety to choose from each day.

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Wigs

Another dear friend shopped for a wig with my mom and me. I think her mission that day was to make me laugh by finding all of the ridiculous wigs, picking them out for me or trying them on! I look back on what could have been a difficult day with fond memories because of the laughter and encouragement.

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A note about this sensitive subject of losing your hair: Usually once your hair falls out (which as I mentioned above, it is much better to just shave/chop it off than to watch piece by piece fall out), it takes two to three months after treatments for your hair to come back enough to cover your head so you don’t need a wig or scarf. The investment of different cute hair accessories is worth it and will help normalize life as much as possible.

I was shocked to see how expensive wigs were but here are two helpful pieces of advice:

I ended up having two wigs—one I bought and one I received free. That way when I needed a little variety, I had it. The wigs are really hot and itchy on your head but some days when I was going out to dinner, I just wanted to have hair on my head! (Speaking of, there is a wig hair cap, which goes over the head before the wig, which helps some with the uncomfortable qualities of the wig. And there is also a sleeping hat that I wore because my head got cold at night. And then Jared would affectionately call me Michael Phelps because I looked like I was going for a swim!)

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Pampering Gifts

Because it is so hard to lose your hair, any other way to emphasize other beautiful features really is priceless. I did not know that I would lose my eyelashes and eyebrows, so splurging on some fun eye shadow helped. You can’t go wrong with earrings or other jewelry pieces either. I will never forget when one friend came to visit and painted my nails because she wanted me to feel a little pampered. There is also an organization called “Look Good, Feel Better” that I know has been so helpful to many.

Groceries

I also will never forget when one friend showed up at my door with two big bags of groceries and filled my fridge and pantry with delicious goodies. Another neighbor brought over a huge box filled with fruits and vegetables from Costco. Both of those kind gestures spoke volumes to me. One friend even brought me Graeter’s ice cream in the hospital!

Dinners

So many dear friends and neighbors cooked us dinner. One of my friends set up a calendar on www.mealbaby.com and friends filled in the boxes to bless me with meals. It was so helpful for Jared and me to not have to worry about cooking meals during that time. The effort it takes to make (or buy) the meal will never be wasted.

Remedies

Unfortunately, chemo can affect people in all different ways depending on the length of the treatment and kind of treatment. But there are a few side effects that are more or less “universal” and I’ve found a few ways (mostly through the advice of my kind friends) to help ease the discomforts.

  • For mouth sores, jolly ranchers, chloraseptic lozenges or spray for your throat, salt water gargles/listerine gargles and popsicles are all helpful. My nurse friends sent me hard candy in the mail which was a great, practical gift.
  • For nausea and tingling or loss of feeling in extremities, acupuncture and massage seem to help. A gift card for a massage could speak volumes.
  • For chemo brain, unfortunately I am not sure there is much to do with the brain fog, but I do know that acupuncture and rest helped.

I was fortunate to not have chemo for too long of a period so I do not feel like I am an “expert” in this area. Please share in the comments below if you have found a remedy for a chemo side effect that could help others.

Rides

Offering to drive the patient to or from cancer treatments can go a long way as well. I don’t think I ever went to an appointment by myself, which is a testament to my amazing friends, family, and husband.

Cleaning

I found out about an amazing service called Cleaning For a Reason that comes to cancer patients’ homes once a month and cleans your house for no cost. To find out more information, go to www.cleaningforareason.com. If they do not service your area, offering to come clean the house or do the laundry can speak volumes as well! Both my mom and mother-in-law cleaned our house from top to bottom and when I didn’t have enough energy to get up from the couch, that gesture served me so much.

Help

After my second surgery, my energy was very depleted. One of my friends offered to come over and decorate my house for Christmas. Seriously?What good friends! They wouldn’t let me do hardly anything but sit on the couch while they served me. It was so hard for me to let them love me that way, but it communicated so much care to me and I will never forget it.

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Integrative Centers

I feel blessed that God brought led me to a couple Integrative Medicine Centers that helped support my healing during and after cancer. I especially benefitted from The Block Center, who provided a nutritionist to help know how to eat food that could help keep my body strong. I also took many supplements to improve my immune system as well. I had never had acupuncture treatments before being diagnosed with cancer, but after my experience, I highly recommend it. There is a wide range of people and places connected to acupuncture, so I always chose to go to a place where the treatment was more in a doctor’s office setting and didn’t make me feel uncomfortable in any way.

***

It has been such an encouragement to me to relive some of the ways that people reached out to me as I was going through cancer treatments. I pray that this list can help jump-start for you ways to encourage people in your life.

And to those of you who reached out to me during my journey, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget your kindness!

 

Never Once Did We Ever Walk Alone

Posted on November 11th, 2013

I was hoping to sit down and reflect a bit in a blog post yesterday but I didn’t plan on my sweet Olivia catching a cold.  My plans changed from tackling my to-do list and relaxing with Jared to entertaining and soothing sick Olivia. It seemed fitting to me though to focus on Olivia because yesterday (November 10) marked four years from my surgery that discovered my tumor. I’ll be honest that I sorta wanted to complain yesterday since the day totally didn’t go as I planned but I just couldn’t because overriding the disruption of my plans was a deep joy and gratefulness that I even had a sweet interruption named Olivia. I can’t count the times I desperately prayed for a baby during those difficult years and though she has totally changed my life, I am so, so thankful. And I am so, so thankful to be four years out from my cancer diagnosis.

My favorite song on the radio right now totally encompasses all that I am feeling on this milestone:

Never Once by Matt Redman

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Thanks for praying

Posted on September 11th, 2013

Yesterday was a busy day from beginning to end so I did not have a chance to sit down and update you after my doctor’s appointment. But I wanted to thank you for your prayers. I could feel them as I waited for what seemed like forever for the doctor to deliver the news that no cancer was evident in the scan. Thank you, Lord!

As we drove down to the appointment and I sat in the waiting room, I had to rehearse all of the truth I’ve read and God’s given me in the past. My two favorite verses in these moments are:

“You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is STEADFAST because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

“He will have no fear of bad news, his heart is STEADFAST, trusting in You.” Psalm 112:7

And a dear friend texted me another great verse to cling to as I waited:

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

We are relieved when the doctor told us my blood work and scan looked good. There was a small cyst detected but the doctor feels confident it is a normal cyst and shows that my body is getting back to normal after pregnancy. However, I do have to get an ultrasound in six weeks to confirm it is shrinking. I’d appreciate prayers for that but since this has been a reoccuring problem, I am not too worried about it.

These appointments always bring up emotions all over the board. My prayer as we drove to the appointment was, “God, I am not entitled to good health and I surrender my hopes to You, but I do ask you for a good report.” I know He would still be good if I had received a different result but I am very grateful for the good news and for all of your prayers.

More to come!

Peace in the Waiting

Posted on September 9th, 2013

Last Wednesday was not my favorite day. I had to drink a disgusting liquid called Barium at 7 a.m. in preparation for my CT scan later that morning. I didn’t sleep that well the night before because of what loomed before me but after some prayers for peace, I remarkably felt pretty calm as I prepared for the procedure. (And even swallowed the glue-like drink without much agony!) Because there is not enough research with Barium’s effects on babies, I also had to forgo nursing Olivia for the day.  Unfortunately my sweet little girl did not take very kindly to the nursing restriction which made for quite a fussy day. But we managed and God sustained me with peace even as Olivia threw herself on the ground in protest of drinking with a bottle. (Oh boy, she has opinions!) Thankfully the sun came up the next day, we resumed routine and everyone was happier!

Since the CT scan, I have had to actively turn my thoughts to God as I wait for the results. My appointment is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) morning and I am eager to hear a good report. I am writing for two reasons -

1) I would love your prayers for peace for me as I wait and a good report if that is God’s will.

2) I wanted to share an excerpt of what I read in my Bible study this morning. In Beth Moore’s Living Beyond Yourself study, she focuses five lessons on the fruit of the Spirit of peace. In Day 4 of the lesson on peace, she instructs us to read the story of Lazarus dying before Jesus arrived in John 11. She summarizes the story and the lessons we can learn by saying:

“Several vital truths concerning the peace of God are woven into this unique scriptural account. Christ purposefully timed His absence from Lazarus during his critical illness. Consistently through God’s Word, illness and infirmity arise as opportunities for God’s work…Christ experienced peace in the midst of tears. Why did Christ Jesus cry? Because He saw the tears of His loved ones (vs 33-35). “He demonstrated His love” with tears of anguish, yet all the while His peace remained. Please understand this vital point of peace: peace means the absence of fear and turmoil, not the absence of pain and grief…

We can be filled with sadness and still possess a wonderful sense of God’s peace. Perhaps it is that moment beyond all others when the peace of God transcends all understanding…

Our goal is not the absence of sorrow in our grieving, but rather that we refuse to grieve “as those who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Perhaps right now you are walking through a time when the obvious actions of Christ in your behalf seems inconsistent with His professed love for you. Oh Beloved, can you see today that it is quite consistent with our Savior to:

  • go for the greater glory?
  • have us be void of all other explanations?
  • wait until many surround us who may put their faith in Him?

If you believe Him, He will show you His glory. Guaranteed” (pgs 106-107).

As I wait for my results, I am mindful that there are many others in my life waiting as well. A friend is waiting for her baby to arrive. Another is praying for healing in her marriage. Another friend, Lindsey (who I shared her story a couple of weeks ago), is  holding onto God’s promises as she grieves the loss of her precious Sophie. You may be waiting right now too. I’m so grateful for the truth that though life may not be easy, we have a hope through Jesus Christ that overrides the pain. Praying that this truth can lodge its way into our hearts today as we wait.

“Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”
Isaiah 64:4

Exhaling

Posted on March 5th, 2013

Olivia is asleep in the swing, the rain is falling softly, and I am sitting on the couch ready to reflect for a few moments on what God has been teaching me the past few days while waiting for the news of my CT scan.

First of all, I was so relieved and grateful to find out everything looks “perfect.” I haven’t had much of an opportunity to exhale yet because right after the doctor left the room, I needed to feed a hungry baby and then we packed up and headed home. I am so grateful for a few moments of quiet to thank God for a clean bill of health. I remember a woman I respect mentioning a few years ago how important it is to give as much effort in thanking God for how He’s answered our prayers as we do at presenting our requests to Him. I think of that every time I leave the doctor’s office with a good report. It’s so easy to move right along to the next request on my mind instead of reveling in the way God showed up. I am so incredibly humbled and grateful for a good report and I do not take it for granted. Not one minute.

I would be remiss to not mention how challenging the days leading up to this appointment have been. The anxiety crept in so stealthily that I didn’t realize I was worried about the appointment until I was cloaked in fear. I literally had a stomachache from the panic I was feeling internally.

I was frustrated with myself over how worried I was about this scan for a couple of reasons. First, I had just had a c-section three months prior where the oncologist was able to get a good look at my body and reported all looked “pristine.” So in my mind I knew there was not much to worry about but I was having a difficult time convincing my heart of that fact. Second, I have had so many of these scans and appointments over the last three and a half years that it’s not like a routine CT scan is new for me. So why was my stomach tied in knots over this one?

Maybe it was because I had gotten out of the practice of cancer check-ups since I took a break during my pregnancy and quickly forgot how fear-inducing those appointments were. Maybe it was because I had a little girl now and every decision and outcome felt twice as serious. Maybe it was because I was tired and still trying to find my rhythm as a new mom. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason, but all I knew was that I had some deep fears and triggers that were bubbling to the surface and needed to be addressed.

Once I realized that I had blown this scan way out of proportion in my mind, I knew I needed to invite God into my fears and thoughts. The first thing I did was find the song that I wrote about last week and begin playing it over and over. I have found that music speaks so intimately into my heart and helps me hold onto truth that I so desperately need. I specifically resonated with the words:

“God whatever comes my way, 
I will trust you.
All my fears all my dreams, held in your hands.”

That’s how I felt; My fears of returning cancer and my dreams of raising my children were in God’s hands and I needed that song to remind me over and over again that I could trust God with those personal thoughts. When my own words were difficult to find, singing those lyrics helped me articulate what I felt in my heart.

I knew that my next line of attack against my fear needed to be reading Scripture because that’s where the true power is. I’ll be honest, my Bible reading time has taken a major hit since having a baby. Yet I knew I needed to intentionally surround myself with truth to protect myself against the many lies and what if’s that were raging around me. While nursing on Saturday, I picked up my copy of Jesus Calling and asked God to speak to me. I admit that I am still reading in November instead of in March where I should be, but nevertheless, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I opened up my Bible app on my phone (so much easier while nursing!) and read the verse with my upcoming CT scan in mind:

“The Lord replied [to Moses], ‘My presence will go with you and I will give you rest’” (Exodus 33:14).

You know when you read something at just the right time that you know was for you? That was how I felt when I read those words. I needed the reminder that God’s presence would be with me and give my heart rest. And not just for this appointment but in this transition of becoming a mom too.

The next morning I asked God to keep speaking to me. One of my most favorite verses and one that I have held onto during so many nerve-wracking appointments in the past jumped off the page:

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

I drank up those words and allowed them to soothe my shaking soul. I repeated them to myself over and over and reminded myself to keep a steadfast mind (a concept I have studied about in the past and wrote about here).

God also spoke to me through the sermon at our church later that morning. Though I wasn’t able to totally concentrate because Jared and I were bouncing Olivia to keep her content, what I took away from the message was the importance of prayer in our daily lives and in our spiritual battle. And again, I admit, another discipline that has seriously lacked since having a baby. I knew I needed to ask for prayer from those close to me. I knew I needed others battling for truth and peace for me. I knew that the prayers of those around me truly would make a difference.

It amazed me that when I woke up this morning, the day of my appointment, I hardly felt any trepidation. I knew that was a direct result of the truth I was meditating on and the answered prayers for peace and strength. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t skipping around the halls of my house with great anticipation for my appointment, but I had a deep peace that God had prepared me for this day and He would work on my behalf.

It wasn’t a pretty process to get to that point. There was much nail-biting and stomach-rumbling, as well as many honest prayers and a few tears. I’m still trying to process why this appointment unearthed so many fears and anxieties, but one thing I know: God once again proved Himself faithful and provided so many reassurances to remind me He was walking every step with me.

As I finish this post, it is now late and the rain has turned to snow. My baby is sleeping in the room down the hall and my husband is sleeping next to me. My heart feels so full of gratitude for those two cherished answered prayers as well as today’s answered prayer of a clean bill of health. I lay my head down tonight so humbled for how faithful and kind God has been yet again to me. I can finally exhale.

It’s That Time Again

Posted on February 28th, 2013

It’s that time again. It’s funny how I can almost forget that I have to receive constant cancer check-ups, but once the date is on the calendar, it stares me in the face reminding me every day until it is behind me. Tomorrow (Friday) is the day for my first scan in over a year. I had one in December of 2011 but then was pregnant so I didn’t have any scans during that time. And boy, it was nice! As you know, my oncologist here in Cincinnati was able to peek inside when I had my c-section and everything looked “pristine” according to him. However, I need to get another scan to make sure everything continues to look pristine. I hate how the fears and anxieties creep up as the date approaches. As I was sitting here praying about the appointment and asking for peace, I felt like I should include you in on this part of the journey and ask for your continued prayers. I am specifically asking for:

*a completely clear report with no issues and no indication of any cancer

*for peace during my scan and while I wait until Tuesday for my appointment with my oncologist.

Thank you for praying me through another stop on this journey!

As I was driving home last night I listened to Chris Tomlin’s new cd, Burning Lights, and especially was struck by his song “Sovereign.” I think you’ll enjoy it too. May each of us say, “God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you.”

Sovereign by Chris Tomlin

Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

All my fears
All my dreams
Held in your hands

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

All my fears
All my dreams
Held in your hands

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

November 10th

Posted on November 10th, 2012

This evening as I was reflecting for my daily Thankful Challenge, I realized that November 10th marks a very important day. And one that is filled with SO MUCH gratefulness. Three years ago today, I had surgery on what was supposed to be a minor, harmless ovarian cyst. Instead of November 10th being a routine day with a routine surgery, it turned out to be the first day on a journey with ovarian cancer.

The irony is not lost on me that our baby girl is due any day–three years from when I thought all of my hopes were dashed to bear a child. What a Redeemer God is. Tears fill my eyes as I try to articulate in words my gratitude for what God has done in the past three years. (The song “Unredeemed” that I have posted on here before is running through my mind as I continue writing.)

Walking through a cancer diagnosis and chemo tested my faith. Some days every ounce. On those days, choosing to be thankful did not come naturally. Yet, hindsight has made my cancer journey even more beautiful because when I look back, I see so many ways God has worked. Sure, there are moments I wish cancer was not part of my story; I wish I didn’t have to have routine check-ups, and have to entertain thoughts that many without cancer never even consider. But I also know that this cancer journey has shaped me in ways that have made me more genuine, transparent, and dependent on God. And in so many ways, those gifts have made this difficult journey worth the heartache.

I know many of you who read this blog are walking through your own struggles, and if there is one thing I can say on November 10th it is this: Keep hanging onto God. You will be amazed how He will show up. It may be in three days, three months, three years, or three decades, but He will redeem your situation. And you will look back and be amazed at how God brought it to pass. I know there will be days I need this reminder but for today, November 10th, I am so thankful for the way God redeems.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Psalm 103:1-5

Two Years Ago

Posted on April 24th, 2012

Today is one of those days of reflection when I look back over the past several years and feel so, so grateful for all God has done in my life and all He has brought me through. Two years ago today I finished my last chemo treatment. Wow. There truly aren’t enough words for me to express my gratitude to be two years past that challenging season.

This weekend I have the exciting opportunity to speak at a women’s conference in Orlando. As I’ve been preparing for my talk, God has been working on my heart in the process. I love how that happens! One of the Scripture passages I was researching was in Genesis 3 when the serpent convinces Eve to take a bite of the apple. I was reminded all over again as I read this story how the she took a bite because she became convinced that God was holding out on her. That maybe God didn’t know what He was talking about and maybe, just maybe, He needed Eve to help Him.

How often am I in this situation in life? When I begin to doubt God’s good heart toward me and begin thinking maybe I should help God. And the way I try to help Him is by grasping for a bit of a control. Because in my mind, I inaccurately decide I need to take control for what God clearly hasn’t.

I am reflecting on all of these thoughts today because they bring me back to two+ years ago. I had to continually and intentionally work through my disappointment about my cancer diagnosis so as to not accuse God of holding out on me or not coming through for me. When life turns totally upside down, our (my) human nature is to decide God must have fallen asleep on the job, that if He cared He would do something. It’s so tempting to buy into the lie that God must not have our good in mind.

There were definitely days when I struggled believing that God had my good in mind, but it’s amazing what perspective will bring. Now two years out from that very challenging time, I see much more clearly that God was working for my good and for His glory. (And this brings me encouragement on the days when I battle all over again with wondering if God sees me in my current situations.) I believe that sometimes we must just hold onto that truth by faith until the fog lifts and we can see a clearer picture. And I’m learning that God doesn’t need any help at being God, and in His sovereignty, He knows exactly what He’s doing. Even when at times life feels totally out of control, God is fully in control and working out the situation in a way that brings us greater good and Him greater glory. How amazing is that.

I certainly don’t want to sound trite. I’ve seen and experienced enough to realize that life isn’t easily wrapped up in a tidy bow. Sometimes we may feel the fog never lifts and God seems quite distant. I can empathize in a small way because the truth is I don’t know what’s in store for my future. And to be quite honest, that make me shake in my boots some days. But through the last two and a half years, God has deepened Jared’s and my trust in Him–not just a Pollyanna trust, but an experiential God-will-give-us-what-we-need-even-if-we-don’t-understand trust. And so today I rest in the knowledge that He has been so faithful to us in the past, and so no matter what comes our way in the future, He will be faithful through those challenges too.

Today I celebrate all that He has done in Jared’s and my life over the past two years since finishing chemo. He has been so very good to us and we rejoice!

***

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8

“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.” Psalm 27:13,14

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28