Well. Today’s the day. We’ve come full circle in this cancer journey as we sit waiting, in a room full of other cancer victims, to have another PET SCAN. This one even more important than the last. This one will tell us the cancer is gone….or not. But our gut feeling is this cancer monster has been conquered! Our lives have revolved around that frightening “C” word for seven months. 2018 will be our year of woes that was filled with blessings. 2018 will be our year of victory over cancer. I am not as anxious or feel like a deer in headlights this time. I am not afraid. My big guy has faced this giant with courage, with determination, with soldier like strength and I believe he will walk away a conquerer. Some say they are cancer survivors, but i think they should call themselves cancer conquerors! Fighting this beast is an all out battle both physically and mentally! God has sustained us and will continue to sustain us. He is worthy to be trusted. He will hold you up when you feel you are crumbling. He will provide when you aren’t sure where it will come from. He will send one of His children to wrap loving arms around you or to hold your hand and let you cry. He will provide humor to get through difficult moments and He is faithful to walk every step with you. I knew this before….but I am absolutely certain of it now. I trust Him…..no matter the outcome of today.
The Armstrong Saga Continues
So the Armstrong saga continues. Today I sit here in our recliner, right leg propped up and iced down while watching Alabama beat Ole Miss. Yes, I am recovering from partial knee replacement…..and just so you know, it’s no joke. I had unrealistic expectations of walking unassisted and already returning to my regular routine. No. The bandage is off, I can see the approximate four inch incision with pieces of tape on each end mocking me. The knee is still pretty stiff and I haven’t achieved a 90 degree knee bend yet. My right hip is complaining, so while I ice down the knee, I heating pad the hip😳😭.
I have discovered a few things about myself: I am not a patient patient. Not necessarily with others, but with my own progress. I really expected to be moving more freely at this point (9 days in). I do not handle pain meds very well. I tend to get weepy and depressed. Not a good combo with my lack of patience with myself. And I have an amazing family who takes care of me and puts up with my issues (I hope), and great friends who sacrifice in their own lives to help us out! Shout out to Keith Bradley and his mad a/c skills and servant heart. And a special shout out to my dear friend of 37 years, Dottie Hartley, who stayed with me the night before surgery and got up at 3:45am to get ready to get me to surgery by 5:00am because Lynn was already in Springhill taking chemo. Speaking of Lynn, I love this man. Even though he’s in the first week after chemo, he’s been taking care of me, amazing. I do so much better when he’s babying me and holding my hand.Our lives are crazy, but the love of our family and friends is stronger!! I’ve said this repeatedly over the last few months, and I still shout it loudly, God is sovereign, God is faithful and He will walk us through this season.
The Cancer Journey Continues
Today. Today is the day we find out if this cancer journey is coming to an end. We are waiting patiently in a room filled with other cancer patients who are in various stages of treatment. They joke with each other about whether they are doing good or not….as Lynn said to the elderly man next to him “Well, I guess I’m not doing too great if I’m here, right!”. The older man laughed a deep and crackly laugh. Blood pressure has been taken, more blood samples taken and now waiting for the doctor and the verdict. Fingers crossed and prayers flying up. It’s been a long three and a half months. If the subject had come up a year ago of where we would be in a year…THIS would never have been even been on the radar! But I will say this, this experience has given us first hand experience with the love and concern of God’s people and of God’s provision. We have re-evaluated our future and are choosing to simplify life as much as possible, to gather with friends more, to enjoy every time we are together with family and to reach out and love on others who may be experiencing the same unexpected illness.
This year has been probably the most difficult beginning with December of 2017. …
So the verdict is in. The mass has shrunk from 9.8cm down to 6.4cm. Yay! However,not enough to only have 2 more treatments. Lynn will have 4 more including the one starting today. We are a bit discouraged….we were hoping to be nearly done with this cancer journey. So dear sisters and brothers, don’t stop encouraging my big guy….he’s a bit weary and is trying to keep a positive front. But I know he was hoping. Hoping for a miraculous “it’s all gone” result. He’s been so strong and positive, but it’s been nearly 4 months of tests and needles and chemo and stays in the hospital and losing his hair and now his signature eyebrows 😁. He wants to move forward. We know God has a purpose in this, we know He is with us, we know He is sovereign. We don’t like this journey, this season, but we’ll walk it clinging to faith. Not faith in our own strength, but in His.
Isn’t it crazy how God will use things that are filtering through your life unassuming and unexpected. It’s amazing to me how He will take the words of someone else and stir something up inside you that cannot even be explained out loud, only through the flying of fingers on a keyboard as you type out the thoughts and feelings building up inside like some long dormant volcano about to explode, spilling lava in every direction. Today. Today I happened upon one of my favorite writer and speaker’s excerpt from her new book. You know, the teaser pages they attach to the advertisement. As I read her words, I was immediately pulled into her life. I understood exactly her words pouncing across the page “Nothing helps me hash things out like a blank Word document with a blinking cursor.” I get it, Beth Moore. I’m there. The need to write causes a million words to swirl uncontrollably in my head until they form some wild tornado trying to find a place to make it’s mark. It cannot be denied.
I’ve resisted. I’ve closed my eyes to squeeze out the stories. To erase the thoughts that need paper. I cannot continue to write aimlessly. It seems like a pipe dream always out of my reach. Publication is some kind of validation for a writer. Some reward for being good enough. It is painful to long to write something incredibly profound and God honoring, only to find yourself reduced to writing in a journal that no one, hopefully, will ever read.
She expressed so perfectly a shared thought of how God can use a book to mark a life. Maybe it is because I have been marked by the greatest book ever written, the Bible. Maybe it is because my life has been changed by words from her Bible Studies and her books. God uses phrases and sentences from random books to reach out and touch that raw place inside of us that needs changing.
She had read a book, 21 Great Leaders: Learn Their Lessons, Improve Your Influence authored by Pat Williams, a motivational speaker and senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. I find it amusing that she was undone by what she read in that book. The questions asked were these: What is your dream? What is your vision for the future? How is it I am affected by these questions. What purpose does God have for allowing these two questions that Beth Moore read in a book a year ago to slap me in the back of the head as I read her words about those questions and how they rocked her world in this excerpt from her new book. If that even makes sense to you….you and I are on the same wave link. Beth Moore. Wow. She is the one Bible teacher, the one author, that has stirred up something in my heart so many times. Maybe not her, necessarily, but God using her. I want to have her ability to paint a picture so vividly that for just a moment, you think you are sitting across the table from her sipping iced tea and enjoying a great friend conversation. And then I read her thoughts, and they resonate in my heart. “What is your dream? What is your vision for the future?” Both wrenching questions that make me suddenly find it hard to breathe and try desparately to hold back the tears. Why? Because I only know the answer to one of the questions. Why? Because I am not even sure the answer I am thinking is even a possibility! Even now, I am faltering as I write because I don’t even know what the point of this blog is at this point.
I know one thing for sure and that is I love the Lord. After this many years of ups and downs, of struggles and victories, I haven’t lost interest in Him. He’s so incredibly worth it. He has and continues to rock my world. He watches me closely just as a parent watches their child as they go through each season of life, standing ready to catch them if they fall, hold them if they cry and high-five them as they conquer! Jesus is way bigger than I ever thought. He shows me over and over that knowing Him is an incredible journey. So whatever the answer is to those two questions, I’m sure He’ll give me a peep at some point. I may be 54, I may feel like the time is lost for me to accomplish a dream, I may not be able to even imagine Him using me as a writer….but I will rest in the truth that He’ll show me when it is time.
I can run, but I can’t hide!
Today as I drove to work lost in my thoughts, only half listening to the Christian music station playing in the background, some of the words interrupted my thoughts, “You are not alone….”. I immediately thought of the scripture I had read on Saturday as I prepared my lesson for my Bible Study class I teach on Sunday morning. “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know! I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are both alike to you.” Psalm 139:1-12. I am blown away by these verses! Aren’t you? Just think about this revelation for a moment. The God of the universe, the creator of EVERYTHING, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God is attentive to you…to me! There is no place we can go, that He is not there with us! Even into that pit you take yourself, where you think you are destined to live out your life…NOPE!….He’s there. When I’m walking through life, and everything seems chaotic, NOPE!…He’s there! When I’m laying in my bed at night, darkness surrounding me, only the sound of my husband’s breathing can be heard and I replay the day, trying to figure out how to make ends meet….NOPE! He’s there too! When I am alone and disappointed over something or someone….NOPE! He’s right there too! Recently I listened as someone prayed in church service asking God to reveal His presence….I was thinking, “Silly man, He’s already here!” The truth is this….we don’t acknowledge the truth that He is ALWAYS with us! We ignore His presence, run from His presence, look somewhere else for His presence, but according to these verses, His presence is already with us! We want fireworks, rushing wind or a pillar of smoke…not just His presence. He will not slap us in the back of the head and say “I’m right here stupid!” He waits for us to acknowledge He is there….I truly believe that. It’s in those moments that we stop, breathe in the truth that He is right there with us, that we “feel” His blanket-like presence wrap around us. I love that He is not chasing us around like a little kid trying to get their parent’s attention, but He’s there, always there. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He’s looking ahead, checking out our path that He has prepared for us, He knows the words that are about to come from our mouths – even when they may not be pleasing to Him or glorify Him – He still knows. The idea that He would still place His hand upon our heads in blessing is just too big to comprehend! That is unconditional love, people! He knows my thoughts. That is just frightening! I know what goes on inside my head, no one would want to be there! But He knows… He is there to lift my head when I am weary, He is there to comfort me when I am heartbroken, He is there to hold me when I am afraid, He is there to push me forward when I need encouragement to go on, there is absolutely no place I can hide from or be lost from Him. We just have to acknowledge He is there to benefit from being in His presence… So, today, sitting there looking at this computer screen, reading my silly blog (which I appreciate, by the way!), close your eyes for a moment, and just breathe. Acknowledge that He is with you! Allow His presence to fill you and wrap around you like a warm blanket. I promise, you will feel it and you will be overwhelmed by Him.
I Am a Writer
I listened to the quiet. It was summer and my children lay in blissful slumber. I slowly got up and walked to the bathroom. Stopping in front of the mirror I looked at the woman before me. “Who are you?” I thought, leaning closer to get a better look. “Who are you?” I asked out loud this time. The sleepy face in the mirror stared back at me confused.
I looked down at the counter at the photos I had found the night before. Staring up at me was a fresh faced eighteen year old. “Who are you?” I asked the girl in the photo. She smiled, her hair perfect, skin flawless, eyes full of expectation. Aspirations of becoming a famous writer sought after by every agent in the publishing industry flooded through my mind. I looked back at the woman standing in the bathroom mirror and back at the girl in the picture. Were they the same person? Twenty-five years had changed everything. The woman in the mirror had hair sprinkled with gray….highlights, she jokingly told her friends. Freckles covered her face from sun exposure. Eyes now surrounded by little creases, looked very tired. Weight gain from pregnancies had not disappeared as hoped, and her face had become rounder. “Who are you” I asked her once again, agitated that no answer came. Suddenly I heard a voice “You don’t know either, huh?” Did I say that? Did she say that?
Where was that girl in the picture from twenty five years ago? Marriage, babies, potty training, laundry, ball practices, school projects, dinners, the list was endless. It had been years since I had sat down to put words on paper. “When did you get so old and fat?” I asked her. She frowned this time. Then I heard the words “Are you writing?”
Tears filled my eyes. Memories of dreams, tucked deep in my heart came flooding back. A dream that might not be worth removing and dusting off, I thought. “Tend your dreams” the words of a writer friend rang in my ears.
Then, as if someone was standing next to me, I heard “Dana, your real excuse is fear. Fear that you won’t be good enough, fear that you will fail.” This was too much, I backed up and sat down on the side of the tub and began to cry. I was afraid. Afraid that it was just one of those dreams never realized. The voice returned “What are you going to do about it?” I sat there for some time thinking, then from somewhere deep within, a renewed passion began to stir and a renewed strength found its voice and declared “I am going to write. Good or bad, I am going to write. Talent or not, I am going to write. Published or not, I am going to write.”
Joy bubbled up from somewhere. I stood and looked at the woman in the mirror. There was new sparkle in her eyes, her cheeks were flushed and she had a smile on her face. Walking closer to the mirror, I looked intently at her and introduced myself, “Hello, I’m Dana and I am a writer.”