Out of the Heart – Continued Encouragement

Today I was reading through a study I have been doing for some time in Ephesians, when I read something that I know I have read plenty of times, but it echoed over and over in my mind.  The text referred back to verse in Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  Or basically the mouth speaks what the heart is full of…..I sat back against the couch and chewed on this thought.  A verse came to mind in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”    Our hearts are the epicenter of who we are.  We can change our looks, our location, and our language, but at some point the truth of who we are, which lies within our hearts will flow out of our mouths.  The truth will be known.

During this time in the world we live in, when we are quarantined, isolated, uncertain, the truth of who we are will be revealed in what flows out of our mouths.   Sometimes anxiousness will cause us to allow frustrations to escape through our words.  Sometimes we speak without thinking.  But it is then that the truth of what lies deep in our hearts will cause us to stop, ponder our words and realize we have spoken with harshness or anger.  It is then we step forward and apologize, ask forgiveness, and then ask God to forgive us and help us to think before we speak!  But I believe, also, that those that know of God, but don’t have a true relationship with Him, will be revealed by what proceeds from their mouths.  

It has taken me 59 years, but I am finally learning to “not” say what first comes to mind.  I haven’t perfected this skill yet, but I find myself thinking about what I am about to say, and deciding to just say nothing.   You may have already conquered this skill, but I have struggled with it my entire adult life.  I sometimes over share, I sometimes speak what comes to mind, and I sometimes say what truth is about a particular situation whether it is necessary or not.  And I confess I haven’t always asked God if I should say something before it is released from my mouth.  I have prayed and asked God to help me in this area and I realized a few months ago that I was thinking before I allowed something I was thinking to escape my lips.  I wanted to say “Hey, I was about to say something, but God said no and I didn’t!!!” But decided to keep it to myself! I want to walk in a way that honors God.  Whether in the middle of a pandemic or living in what used to be normal life.   I remember hearing a former music pastor tell the choir I was a part of, to ponder in our hearts our questions, as he was giving us instructions.  So I am trying to ponder my thoughts before I release them!  But I digress from the verse that I first shared.

During this time, when we have so much time, ponder what is in your heart.  Think about the words that flow from your mouth.  Do they honor God?  Are they uplifting?  Are they encouraging?  Are they loving?  Are they beneficial?  I want to encourage you to examine your heart. Determine whether He is the Lord of your heart, your thoughts, your life.  I am taking time to do the same.  We are spending time with family and possibly friends 24/7, which could be a stressful time, maybe we need to isolate to a quiet place (even if that means hiding in your closet) and allow Jesus to minister to our hearts and minds, and reveal what is in our hearts.

Love y’all.

 

One Year Ago

One year ago. One year ago we were being hit by one storm after another. But the ultimate storm of cancer came and stayed….and now, on the other side of that storm looking back, I am once again reminded of God’s faithfulness, His provision, His comfort, His healing power. I read back over the blogs of the past year and I see a woman clinging desperately to the Savior. I am reminded of the woman who reached out to touch the hem of His garment and I understand her in a new way. I know myself, that I have tightly gripped the hem of His garment in my clinched fists refusing to let go. We have walked through this cancer journey saying over and over “I trust you” aloud for ourselves mostly, but also to our God, declaring that while we don’t understand, and while we know His plan is perfect, and while we were even fearful at times, we would TRUST HIM, no matter the outcome. Our faith is stronger, our family is stronger, our love is stronger and our compassion is stronger. Today, after a year of diagnosis, biopsies, surgeries, chemo, radiation, doctor appointments, uncertainties, waiting, frustrations and sometimes fear, we got the official words of cancer free. I hesitated to even post this because we have friends and family still doing battle with this evil disease. But I want those reading this who are in the battle to be encouraged, optimistic and strengthened. God is with you and you can trust Him with whatever the outcome of your journey may be. People have stated over and over that “God is good” and it is so true. But if we had gotten different news, and the battle with cancer had continued, the truth is that God is still good. He is good even when things are seemingly bad in our lives and life’s storms are coming at us so fast they are tearing us apart. When we feel like we can’t catch our breath between storms and we are staring death in the face, God is good. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. So wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever battle you are in, trust Him. “Be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Cast Your Burdens

God is faithful. He is. Really. Even when I am not. I am not faithful to remember all He has done for me when I am in the midst of an overwhelming circumstance. It’s easy for me to say those words to someone else who is crumbling beneath a difficult situation or an overwhelming state of mind. But then just moments later, it seems, I am sitting here, throat constricted, my mind chaotic with possible answers to a problem, instead of taking a deep breath and releasing my burdens into His capable outstretched arms.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”. Matthew 11:29-30

It’s interesting to me, that given this word from the Lord, we still take our burdens to the feet of Jesus, lament and cry and beg for answers or resolutions or even for Him to take them from us, but then we promptly get up, pick up the burden and walk away. I want to learn from Him, I want to lay my burden at His feet and trust His hand. But I am a control freak. I am a dweller. I hold the situation or issue in my hand, study it, dwell on it and try to figure the best way to resolve it. I’m not so good at releasing my burdens into His hands. The crazy part is this: after I’ve struggled over it, lost sleep over it, tried my ideas on it, I finally come to His feet and just fall in a puddle of tears with my hands still clinching the burden. And, just as He promised in these verses, He pries my sweaty hands from the burden, brushes my hair back from my tear stained face as I relax and release it into His capable hands. He comforts me and calms my spirit and I finally rest. I wish that I could say I do not repeat this process very often, but it isn’t true. I am stubborn and willful. I am a child of God still learning that I am not in control. He is. Still learning that life is easier when a burden comes into my life if I instantly snatch it up and race to the feet of Jesus and quickly place it in His hands.

What burden is weighing you down today? Release it dear friend into the Savior’s hands and then pick up His yoke which is about peace and rest, and the. watch Him do His thing in that situation!

Old Might Be Around the Corner

I’ve had some quite sobering moments this week. The realization that if I live as long as my grandmothers did, and if there is nothing unexpected in the near future health wise, I may only have 20-30 yrs left. Quite sobering when I know how quickly the last 30 flew by. The English ancestry in me leans toward the whole stiff upper lip attitude, while my Irish blood wants to put up a good fight, and with those two ancestory bloods coursing through me I stick out my chin and choose to press on. Mostly I just want to fall into the Father’s arms and beg for a do-over, or declare I’ll do better. I wish I had done more with this life He gave me….why do we realize this when we are older and the clock is tick tick ticking away? This week has been an emotional one in my head. I sat in my car and cried a few days ago. I know I’ve said this before but this year has been more difficult than I realized emotionally. So many layers to the life experiences that occurred in the last 14 months as I now understand the concept of PTSD to some degree. Delayed reaction is sometimes more painful than immediate reaction. It has time to swirl in the back of your mind, churning and building like some low category hurricane in the gulf until suddenly it gains unexpected strength and barrels into the coastline surprising everyone in it’s path. There were warning signs that were ignored or waved off as minimally important, but still the storm churns and builds. Then suddenly you’re in the middle of it struggling to contain the possible surge that threatens to burst forth. Out of nowhere there is a hand reaching towards you and you desperately grasp it, finally willing to listen to the wisdom that will follow. The answer to the storm was always there. Trust Him.

 

“Trust in Him with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding”.

 

I’m just going to let that sit there for a moment.

 

That verse has new meaning for me. Trust Him. Don’t try to figure out how you could have done it different or better or not at all. Don’t lean into my own understanding of what time is and how much or little I have left. But face forward. Remember the truth: I know that I am His child and He cares for me. He doesn’t see me with critical, judging human eyes, He sees the heart of me and He sees the plan He has for my life. His unconditional steadfast love wraps around me like a warm blanket calming the storm swirling inside and I rest peacefully. I will choose to walk closer with Him. I will choose to take joy in every day I have left with confident expectation of what He has planned for this mess of a human He created and loved enough to send His Son to die for in order that my eternity would be spent with Him. Yes…..I trust Him.

Sweet Sam Moment

This morning I had a sweet moment. I snuggled with my grandson as I rubbed his little back and hummed the same tune I had sung to his mama as a baby. My grandson. Those two words still fall awkwardly from my lips. When I say them, I still feel as if I’m practicing words that are not yet real to me. He’s been here for over ten months and I’ve kept him three days a week since August and still I’m surprised that I am a grandmother. I often think of my Mamaw Bessie when I am holding him close. She had such a kind and gentle spirit. I remember the softness of her skin and the safeness I felt when she hugged me or I just sat next to her resting my face against her shoulder. As I held him and took in the sweetness of his eyelashes resting on his cheek, I continued to softly rub his back and pat his bottom. Without opening his eyes he slid his free arm up my arm and rubbed it slowly back and forth, then rested it there and slowly patted my arm. What a treasured moment of love. He is my grandson, my first precious grand baby and I love him so much.

Radiating

So we’ve reached another hurdle to jump in this cancer journey. Radiation. It started with a doctor appointment on December 13th. We heard many new medical terms and explanations of radiation procedures. We were again in information overload, but, we left confident that this would be the final kick in the butt of this cancer that has been an uninvited visitor in our lives for the past nine months. It took the programmers, physicist, doctor and who knows who else a month to configure and calculate the big radiation machine (I’m assuming it is a big machine at this point but have not seen it). All this for 22 prescribed visits of 15 minutes of a laser type of radiation to be precisely shot into my big guys body, carefully dodging his kidney, aorta, pancreas and spine while basically frying the shrunken mass. Literally from entering the room to walking out of the building only takes 15 minutes! I am praying they clearly have that mass in their sight before they pull the trigger. I am sitting in the car right now waiting, looking at Springhill Hospital and thinking about how much time we have spent at this facility over the past months and feeling thankful that God created people who have the knowledge necessary to treat people who have been shocked by the word “cancer”. God is so good. I am not oblivious to the countless sweet people who are still struggling for answers and successful treatment. I am thankful He has walked every step with us and blanketed us in peace and the security He is with us. I am thankful that Lynn’s treatment seems to be working. I will never take our time together for granted, and will continually thank Him for letting me grow old with my big guy.

Cancer Part 2

We are waiting….yet again. Cancer is not only a life altering experience in the life of the patient and their loved ones, but it’s a game of waiting….always. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for tests to be done. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for a treatment plan. Waiting for results. Today we are waiting for yet another CT scan so the radiologist can them create a formula of treatment for radiation. In theory, we think this will be easier than the last eight months, but we are no longer hanging our hopes on unrealistic expectations. It will take a week for them to do their thing and program the monster radiation machine that will shoot pin pointed radiation into my big guys body. Then, according to the consultation…a month ago….he will take 20-23 treatments that last 15 minutes (I find this hard to believe) and will happen Monday through Friday until he reaches the prescribed number between twenty and twenty-three.

Sometimes it feels like this cancer journey started yesterday and other times it feels like it has been going on forever. I wonder if we’ll ever get past life with cancer. Will we be able to walk through each day without the “what if” of cancer imprinted on our subconscious? Will the affects of the last year of life’s storms ever slip away and return to normal? I hope so.

PET SCAN Day

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.