Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Final Post: That He May Be Glorified

As you have probably noticed, I have been publishing blog posts less frequently in the past several months. Life with three little kids is always busy, of course. But I am very glad to say that the main reason for publishing posts less frequently has been that I have not had too many noteworthy medical updates to share. I did have a reconstructive surgery on May 1st to make some adjustments to my chest and to repair scar tissue on my abdomen, and in August I will have one more small surgery, but other than that things have been fairly normal in terms of my health. I do still have some ongoing health issues, but I am cancer free and overall I am feeling better now than I have since my cancer treatments began in November of 2010. In a very real sense, my “cancer journey” is over. And so this will be my final post to my blog.

It was my husband’s idea for me to write this blog. When we intially discussed the idea, we thought of three main reasons why it would be a good idea.

First, we thought it would be an efficient way to keep people updated on my health. And it did turn out to be a great way to not only keep friends and family informed, but to connect with and minister to others who were going through similar health issues. Over the course of 20 months, I published 140 posts. According to my Blogger Statistics, my blog was viewed over 86,000 times by people as close as my own neighborhood and as far away as New Zealand. My story and blog information was shared by others through word of mouth, e-mail, Facebook. And in God’s providence, I was asked to share my story and blog information with the entire Savannah community through two newspaper articles, three television interviews, and a story in The South magazine (which will be published later this week). I am so thankful that so many people in so many places read my blog – not because I wanted to be known – but because I wanted God to be known through me. Like my dad, I wanted to use my cancer for God’s glory. And if just one person was encouraged in whatever struggle they faced, or if just one person was prompted to trust in Christ by faith for their salvation, of if just one person was able to make sense of God’s goodness in the midst of suffering, it was all worth it.

Second, we thought writing a blog would be a good idea because it would be a unique way to capture the experiences and emotions of this time in our family’s life. Yes, it would help us remember various medical details (we have consulted my blog more than once as we tried to remember when various tests or surgeries happened), but it would also help us remember the experience through pictures, prayers, and simple statements of joy, pain, or confusion. It is amazing to look back through the blog entries and remember what was going through my mind when I was diagnosed, or when I was going through chemotherapy, or when a friend came to visit, or when my kids did or said something memorable. This blog has helped me remember, and give thanks for, each twist and turn in my journey.

And third, we thought writing a blog would be a blessing for our children. Once they are grown, our three kids will probably not remember much if anything from these past 20 months (Lydia is 5, Hudson is 3, and Samuel is 20 months). But we believe these 20 months will be formative for who we are as a family for decades to come. And so it was important to us to do what we could to help our children understand and appreciation this time in our family’s life. At the very least, it will help them know how much of a blessing they have been to me during this time. And Lord willing, just like my dad’s cancer journal was a blessing to me, perhaps my cancer journal will be a blessing to them. Of course, I pray that none of them will have to face their own struggle with cancer; but if they must, I pray this might help them face it by faith, discovering the joy in the journey themselves.

I’m so glad my husband encouraged me to write this blog. It has helped others know my story and my God, it has helped us remember the experience, and it will, we hope, be a blessing to our children. But there is one more reason I am glad my husband encouraged me to write this blog – and it’s something neither of us anticipated. The reason is this: it has forced me to pause the activities of my life in order to think about the meaning of my life in a biblical way. Secular psychologists might call it, “therapeutic.” I would call it, “devotional.” If you know my personality, you know it’s not easy for me to stop doing things, and it’s not natural for me to be reflective. And if you knew my heart, you would know that it’s not natural for me to think about my life in a biblical way. God has been so good and so gracious to teach me so many lessons through the process of writing these 140 blog posts. He has driven me to His Word again and again for counsel, correction, and comfort. And He has helped me see again and again His wisdom, grace, and goodness to me in Jesus.

As I paused one last time (on this blog) to think about the meaning of my life in a biblical way, Matt pointed me to a passage that I heard a lot growing up – Isaiah 61:1-3. It is from this passage that my dad got the title for his radio ministry, “Oaks of Righteousness,” and I can’t hear it without thinking of him, his voice, and how God anointed him – like Isaiah – to bring the good news of the gospel to me and so many others. And it is from this passage that I can clearly see the “big picture” of what God has been doing in my life over the past 20 months.  

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—           to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Matt explained the passage like this, "The prophet Isaiah is promising the exiled Israelites (who are poor, brokenhearted, captive, bound, mourning, and faint in spirit), that healing, freedom, favor, justice, comfort, beauty, gladness, and praise was coming. In an immediate sense, those blessing would come as they were given the freedom to return to Jerusalem and restore their identity as God’s people. But in an ultimate sense, those blessings would come as the 'good news' (gospel) of salvation in Jesus Christ was proclaimed to them. A rebuilt temple (a temporary, earthly blessing) would certainly give them a measure encouragement and strength, but only Christ (a permanent, spiritual blessing) would make them true, deep, lasting encouragement and strength. Only Christ could make them be, 'oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD.'"

I have received many temporary, earthly blessings in the past 20 months: good doctors, a loving family, supportive friends, a caring church, effective treatments, financial help, the joy of my children, a timely care package or card, the opportunity to speak to others about my struggle, and the list could go on and on. All of them made my struggle with cancer a little easier as they have given me comfort and gladness. And God was gracious to give me each one, at just the right time, in just the right way, in order to give me a measure of encouragement and strength. But at the end of the day, these things are temporary and earthly. As Matt explained, it is like the Israelites rebuilt temple, they are susceptible to decay and destruction. Cancer – like other hardships in life – strip away our confidence in such temporary and earthly things, and forces us to consider more ultimate and eternal things.

Just like Isaiah promised, the ultimate “good news” is not an announcement of remission, the forgiveness of debt, or the joy of family. The ultimate “good news,” and what has made me an “oak of righteousness, a planting of the LORD,” is not anything earthly, but is Christ alone. On my own, I am not strong – not in the eyes of the world, and certainly not in the eyes of God. But through Christ, I am made strong. I am a tree, not corrupted by sin, or withering under the guilt of its sin, but a tree that stands tall in confidence before God and man because of Christ. A tree that is healthy with the nourishment that comes through God’s Spirit and from God’s Word. A tree that is radiant and beautiful because of the surpassing beauty of Jesus Christ the righteous crucified for me.

It is this gospel, this good news, that gives me strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow as I face the uncertain circumstances of life. Trusting that I am secure, body and soul, in God through Christ, I can face the hardships of life knowing that if God has done the greater (given me salvation in Christ), he can surely do the lesser (care for my body and soul in the midst of hardship). Through these past 20 months and 140 blog posts, my confidence in the supremacy of Christ and the sufficiency of the gospel has been strengthened. And for that, I am grateful.

In the end, my prayer is Isaiah's final promise: "that He may be glorified." The ultimate outcome of God showing me grace by making me an "oak of righteousness" is not the blessing that comes to me, but the glory that goes to Him. His grace. His mercy. His love. His righteousness. His justice. His purpose. His glory. I pray that in some small way, my life and this blog might glorify Him.

Just like I can’t think of Isaiah’s metaphor, “oaks of righteousness,” without thinking of my dad, I can’t hear the band Page CXVI without thinking of my journey through cancer. And so it is fitting, I think, that I include one of their hymn arrangements in my final post. Just today they released a music video for their arrangement of the hymn, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” by Stuart Townend, which is embedded below. The third verse of this hymn is very fitting as I close:

I will not boast in anything – no gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ – His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.

Amen! To God be the glory!

Thanks for reading. Thanks for praying. God bless.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Puzzle Piece

God has been challenging me in a lot of ways, especially health-wise. But even more He is showing me how small I am and how big He is. A friend recently sent me an excerpt from a sermon from a pastor in Florida.  As I read it I coudn't help but subsitute my own name throughout the writing.

I like to think of my life like a puzzle-piece.  It's one part of a really big picture that I cannot see.  In fact, all that I can see is my one little piece!  I can see its colors and hues and shapes and I can speculate about what it all is and about what it all means, but that's the best that I can do because I can't see the big picture that it fits into.  I can't see the overarching theme into which my little puzzle-piece life fits, and in which alone, its final meaning and purposes are found.  God alone sees the big picture.  God alone has the box top of the puzzle.  In fact, he created that picture.  It's his puzzle.  And here's the deal: he also created my little life, with all of its colors and hues and often odd, nonsensical shapes.  And, he created it to fit into the whole of his really big picture and, in finding its place in his picture (and only then and only there), to make perfect sense. 

As a result, I think that it's unreasonable to expect that my life will always make perfect sense to me in the here and now.  My vision is too limited.  The scope of my wisdom is too small.  And God (and life, for that matter) has not led me to believe otherwise.  I go to God's word and he tells me directly that his thoughts are not my thoughts and that his ways are not my ways.  He tells me plainly that, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so also are his thoughts than my thoughts (Isa 55:8).  So then, what is he telling me?  Well, at the very least, he's saying:

"Erin, you're finite; I'm infinite!  You're limited; I'm unlimited.  By your very nature you are incapable of comprehending all of my thoughts and ways and you cannot reasonably expect to be able to do so!  Such an expectation is illogical.  Erin, there will be things in your life for which you have no explanation.  Expect it!  Things that make no sense.  Anticipate it!  Pain that seems meaningless and pointless, from your itty bitty, microscopic, puny, infinitesimally small, sin-stained, corrupted, perspective.  So, if I can just say this somewhat gently, get over yourself and stop arrogantly assuming that I am as limited as you are and that, just because you can't make sense of it all, that I won't be able to make sense of it either.  Stop with your faithlessness and do what I've called you to do: to trust me even when nothing makes sense, for what is faith?  Erin I've told you what faith is.  I've given you its definition.  I'm not hiding these things from you!  I've put it in my word.  Go to my word!  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (not things actualized, not things already in your hands), faith is the conviction of things NOT seen (as opposed to what you can, in this life, see - Heb. 11:1).  And, there are plenty of things, my daughter that you have not yet seen (like the whole rest of my really big and amazing picture!).  Have your read the story of Job, Erin?  Have you read what I ordained in life for him?  Have you compared your sufferings to that most famous of all sufferers?  Did you notice that there were TONS of things happening in that story which fully justified and made sense of his sufferings, but that Job was completely unaware of (thus, his, and your, questionings).  Have you read what I said to him? (Job 38-42)  Perhaps you should read it again.  And, have you considered my Son, Jesus.  Who left all of heaven with all of its glories to suffer trials and temptations like no other man (even you).  A man of sorrows who can fully sympathize with your weaknesses, yet without sin.  And a man who, on the cross, asked 'why?'  Now there's something you can relate to!  And what was the answer.  Well, in that moment, there was no answer.  But you know that answer, Erin, don't you?  The answer is 'for you.'  You're not supposed to know the answers to every question life leads you to pose (and there will be many).  I am supposed to know the answer and here's the thing: I do.  You are supposed to trust in me and when you doubt my love or goodness, you're supposed to go to the cross, over and over and over again, where my love for you is forever and indelibly written in the most precious ointment ever fashioned: the blood of my precious Son.  It is a healing balm for the troubled heart and mind.  So, Erin, stop with your fussing.  Enough with your anger (put it away).  Quit demanding answers that you are not even equipped to understand and run instead to my cross, which was a tree of death to my Son, but which is a tree of life to you.  Eat the fruit of his body and blood and come home, my son, to the Father who loves you, who collects all of your tears in his bottle (Ps. 56:8) and who promises one day to wipe them all away (Rev. 21:4) as I reveal to you the great beauty of your life as it finally finds its place in my picture.  There, the colors and hues and odd, nonsensical shapes will suddenly make sense.  And there you will stand in awe of how I can take even the darkest, most evil, awful things (like the unjust murder of my own Son, for example) and, out of them, bring light and beauty and goodness and life.  Come home, my daughter.  Do not delay."

I pray that I will continuously be reminded of these truths.  I had a CT scan of my kidneys and an MRI of my brain a few days ago.  I read this during the days that I was awaiting the results of those tests.  My life could have, once again, taken a dramatic turn.  But what seems dramatic to me would have just been one small blip in the scheme of things.  One more small way that Christ wanted to show his glory. 

Thankfully those tests came back with no metastatic disease.  Praise the Lord!  I will have a couple more tests next week.  I would appreciate continued prayers as I get those tests done and prepare for my reconstructive surgery on May 1st.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Don't Know Why

I don't know why...
I had a doctor's appointment yesterday because I have had some bleeding problems for the past 6 months.  They finally decided that I need to have a CT scan on my kidneys and a cystoscopy procedure to rule out kidney disease or bladder cancer that my chemo could have caused.  
I don't know why I got cancer...
I don't know why I had to do treatments...
I don't know why I was allergic to the treatment...
i don't know why they found more...
I don't know why my surgery went wrong...
I don't know why my body developed heart issues...
I don't know why my body is so weak...
I don't know why my kidneys are having problems....
All I KNOW is that God is in control and he WILL NOT give me anything that I cannot handle with His help.  

All I KNOW is that God is giving me these trials in my body to draw me to have a deeper dependance on Him.

All I KNOW is that it is not my job to worry about my health, but trust that the great physician will heal me completely, whether that be here on earth or in heaven.

All I KNOW is that I have the joy of giving Christ the glory in all circumstances because he is my King!
I was reading in the book, "Calm My Anxious Heart," by Linda Dillow and she spoke to my heart through a chapter focusing on Habakkuk and the "why" question:
Habakkuk was to live by faith. This same statement is repeated three times in the New Testament: "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). In other words, God didn't explain why; instead He told Habakkuk to trust Him with all his whys. Habakkuk was to trust God for what he didn't understand, what he couldn't see. He was to walk in the dark with God.
From a human perspective, this answer is frustrating. We want to know why. Surely God should explain Himself to us. Sometimes He does, but often He does not. God is God and He doesn't need to explain Himself. If we could fully comprehend God, He wouldn't be God -- He would be like us. In those instances when God doesn't tell us why, we will have to wait until we're in heaven for our answers.
Habakkuk realized this. Although he didn't get the response he wanted, he affirmed that God is God, in spite of Habakkuk's human lack of comprehension. Habakkuk praised God in his spirit, yet in his body he was quaking in his boots! "I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble, because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us (Habakkuk 3:16)."
I love this description of this dear saint -- trembling, in agony of spirit, in so much pain that he said his bones were decaying! This encourages me, as my body often rebels when I'm trying to trust in my spirit. And even though his body and soul were quaking, Habakkuk declared what I believe is the most beautiful proclamation of faith in the Bible.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
What an incredible statement of trust in God!
My hope is that I will not keep asking myself why, but that I will trust God with all the whys. Please pray that I can get these tests done and have nothing to worry about before I go in for my final surgery. Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Christ the Lord is Risen!

We had a wonderful day of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and King on Sunday. It is always such a joy to be in corporate worship singing and praising the one true God. The God who has come to live on this earth, suffered, died on the cross for us, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and is alive and working to bring us closer to him every day. I had the privilage of playing piano for worship yesterday and we sang the song "In Christ Alone" (you can hear a recording of our church singing it here). The third verse brought tears to my eyes,

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin?s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ"

I am reminded that I need to be just as excited about what Christ has done for us every day of the year. It can be a challenge to remember these truths when suffering is knocking on the door. But, remembering these truths and rejoicing in them is what will comfort me in my suffering. Praise the Lord, He is risen...risen indeed!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

After worship our family spent the day enjoying God's creation at the beach. I am so thankful for the wonderful and supportive family that God has blessed me with!

I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I continue to deal with various side effects from my treatments and as I prepare for my surgery on May 1st.


Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer God has been gracious to provide for our needs in many ways. But our ongoing medical expenses related to my cancer have continued to be a financial challenge for our family, as it is for so many families dealing with a major illness.

A friend of mine recently mentioned the possibility of being an Avon representative. The business model is ideal for me as a stay-at-home mom, and the Avon Foundation is a huge supporter of breast cancer research and has programs in fifty countries that work to provide women access to care. And the products Avon sells go way beyond make-up; they also sell jewelery, clothes, home goods, children's products, and much more.

So as of today, I am working as an Avon representative! I am not intending to use this blog as a marketing tool - I want to keep it focused on being a "live diary" of my journey through cancer. But since this is a part of my journey, I thought I would include just one brief post about it.

If you would be interested in making an Avon purchase, you can shop at my personalized Avon website here. If you'd rather look through a printed catalog, just let me know - I can either give one to you in person or send you one in the mail. However, shopping on my Avon website will probably be best since there are new catalogs published every two weeks. 

Thanks so much for your prayers and continued support!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


These heart problems have proved not to slow me down at all! J I have enjoyed celebrating Lydia’s 5th birthday with her and continuing to keep up with my three little ones!

As I was putting Lydia to sleep last night she was listening to a CD that my sister, Bekah, and I recorded together. My sister is so talented! She wrote most of the songs on the CD. The song that was playing was called "Smile". I know she did not write this song about me because she wrote it years ago, but it just seemed so fitting for me in this last year! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Heart My Help

Last Monday was a very scary day. Just when I start getting comfortable with day to day life, God gave me a reminder that I need to trust in Him and not in myself. Monday was that reminder for me.
I had been having some heart palpatations over the past couple weeks. I would get dizzy, light headed, my heart would beat very fast, and then it would stop for a few seconds before regulating itself again. Matt started getting a little worried about these events because they were getting more intense and more frequent. He suggested that I go into the doctor first thing on Monday morning.

So I went in to see my GeneralPpractitioner and she did an EKG to see if everything looked okay. After they did the EKG, the doctor came into the room with a very worried look on her face. She told me she was going to call an ambulance and have me transferred to the ER. Apparantly my EKG was abnormal and along with some other symptoms and having had radiation and chemo she wanted to rule out a heart attack. I tried to tell her that I was perfectly capable of driving to the ER, or that my husband could come and take me there, but she insisted on the ambulance. Well, the ambulance experience alone was about enough to cause a heart attack! 
They did another EKG at the hospital which again came back  abnormal. They did several other tests and soon ruled out a heart attack. Praise the Lord! Soon after my tests, Matt arrived at the hospital. We waited for a couple of hours, and eventually a cardiologist came in to meet with us. He had suggested admitting me for tests and monitoring, but that didn’t seem necessary (and I wanted to get home in time to take Lydia to gymnastics!). So he gave me a small heart monitor to wear for 24 hours.

I met again with the cardiologist yesterday (Friday) and he did an echocardiogram (ultrasound) of my heart. His speculation is that my abnormal heart rhythm is something caused by my chemo treatments. But he still wants to do a stress test and have me wear a heart monitor for 30 days. Just another reminder that my body is broken, but one day will be whole and perfect! 
Today I was reading a daily reading by Charles Spurgeon from Morning by Morning, which I have posted below. It was such a good reminder that God will help me. He is the Almighty Heavenly Father. If He can care for my soul by sending Jesus to pay for my sins on the cross, how easy is it for him to heal my body? It is my responsibility to trust that he is loving and faithful and will not harm me. 
This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: "I will help thee." "It is but a small thing for me, thy God, to help thee. Consider what I have done already. What! not help thee? Why, I bought thee with my blood. What! not help thee? I have died for thee; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help thee! It is the least thing I will ever do for thee; I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose thee. I made the covenant for thee. I laid aside my glory and became a man for thee; I gave up my life for thee; and if I did all this, I will surely help thee now. In helping thee, I am giving thee what I have bought for thee already. If thou hadst need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it thee; thou requirest little compared with what I am ready to give. 'Tis much for thee to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow. 'Help thee?' Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of thy granary asking for help, it would not ruin thee to give him a handful of thy wheat; and thou art nothing but a tiny insect at the door of my all-sufficiency. 'I will help thee.'"
O my soul, is not this enough? Dost thou need more strength than the omnipotence of the United Trinity? Dost thou want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring hither thine empty pitcher! Surely this well will fill it. Haste, gather up thy wants, and bring them here-thine emptiness, thy woes, thy needs. Behold, this river of God is full for thy supply; what canst thou desire beside? Go forth, my soul, in this thy might. The Eternal God is thine helper!
In the hymn How Firm A Foundation, the hymnwriter says “Fear not I am with thee; O be not dismayed! I am thy God, and will still give thee aid.”
"I will help you," says the Lord.
Isaiah 41:14

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Found in Christ

I have now started physical therapy for a loss of muscle due to my treatments. Just another reminder that my body is temporary and I get to look forward to a new and perfect body in heaven. One with no pain and no cancer! I am hoping that this physical therapy will be temporary. The goal is to go a few times a week for a month then be able to do strengthening exersises at home. I am surprised that my body has a lack of muscle considering how hard my kids work me all day!

I have a wonderful and encouraging friend who has been walking along side of me throughout this past year and a half. She has once again given me a wonderful reminder of God's truth in Philippians 3:1,7-11.

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you...Whatever I gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was able to have joy because I knew that I was, and am, "found in Him (v. 9)." Becuase of that truth i can, "rejoice in the Lord (v. 1)." My joy is not defined by circumstances, it is defined by Christ!

I may have posted this video before, but this song has such wonderful words and is such a great reminder that our hope is found In Christ Alone.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


The kids and I have been doing a lot of work on different arts and crafts projects over the past few weeks.  Lydia loves it when I say, "Come to the table, it is time for a project!" The kids are constantly reminding me that they have a plan for how their artwork will turn out, even though when I see it all I can do is smile and nod, and trust that they really do have a plan for their artwork. 
I have been reminded through a friend's words that we are God's masterpieces, His perfect artwork. Sometimes, well, most of the time I don't feel like anything even remotely resembling a masterpiece. But for some amazing reason that is what we are to Him! My broken body is actually a masterpiece!? That's amazing! And He is continually working on us, and when we or others think he is done with us...he molds us and makes us even more like him. What a loving, sovereign God we have.
God is creating a masterpiece in our lives that we cannot see. If an artist has not finished a painting, it would not make sense for us to juge the painting prematurely. But we judge our lives prematurely by not remembering that God is working on us. He is working to mature us and sanctify us every day!Because of that truth I have hope in this world and the next.

I have been working on a lot of crafts, cooking, and organizational projects lately. I have decided to start another blog with pictures and simple directions of ideas inspired by a stay at home mother of 3.  If that is something that interests you my blog is frayfamilycreations.blogspot.com.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Medical Update

I have been recovering so well since my last surgery. All I can be is thankful! I think I have been overcompensating for the lack of energy that I have had in the past year. I have been enjoying cooking and doing a lot of crafts and organization projects (especially from Pinterest!). And I have been enjoying working with kids at church teaching children's choir, teaching a Wednesday night class and working with the youth kids. God has been so good to me in allowing me to serve in His church in these ways. 

A few weeks ago I also had the opportunity to spend a few days in Florida with my mom and her husband, Ned. It was a sweet time of enjoying God's creation and relaxing (except for Samuel being sick with strep and an ear infection...but he was a trooper!).

I met with my surgeon this past Tuesday and we decided to go ahead and do one more minor surgery to complete my reconstruction. To help us avoid hospital charges, my surgeon has arranged to do the surgery in his office using local anesthesia. I would appreciate your prayers for this surgery, especially that my pain tolerance will be high! The surgery should take place sometime in April.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Butterfly Parable

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago and was given a precious reminder about how God uses our struggles to strengthen us. She told me this parable about the struggle that happens when a caterpillar is becoming a butterfly.

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it. The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly. The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge.

One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out. At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress! The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand. But neither happened! The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.

This story is sad, but at the same time it is a comforting reminder of how God has designed things to be. Everyone goes through some kind of struggle or suffering, whether it is a matter of health, relationships, employment, or something else. But the Bible tells us that suffering is not in vain; it will strengthen our character (Rom. 5:1-5) and it will work for our good (Rom. 8:28).

Recently I got up the nerve – for the first time in the past year and a half – to go back and read some of my first few entries in this blog. Reading my own words about my physical pain and emotional struggles was like seeing the struggle of the caterpillar before my very eyes. But I am so thankful that I can look back and see how God has used those things to strengthen me and work for my good. As 1 Peter 4 says, we can entrust our souls to our faithful Creator in the midst of our suffering, knowing that he has created us – and our suffering – and is using it for his good and beautiful purposes.  

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Peter 4:12-13

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Medical Update: Pray Without Ceasing

I have found that one of the harder things in dealing with cancer is the unknowns.  There is always the worry that this cancer will come back, or that there will be side effects of my treatment.

Every three months I have a follow up appointment with my oncologist and every six months I have a follow up with my surgical oncologist. Those are my two "cancer doctors.” I recently have had very positive appointments with both of those doctors.

My oncologist has me taking a shot to control the cysts that I was having, and so far that has helped tremendously. As a negative it has caused me to have major hot flashes and can likely cause osteoporosis, but at the present it is working and things look good. They will do blood tests every three to six months as a way to make sure there is no reoccurrence. 

My follow up with my surgical oncologist was positive as well. I was informed that when my type of breast cancer spreads it usually will spread to the lungs or bones, so if I have any really bad pain that would be something to get checked out. I have had a tear in my hip joint for about a year now, being treated with cortisone injections. Because of this I have been put on bone calcium supplements so that my bones will stay strong and not encourage bad cell production. But overall my doctor was very pleased with how I am doing!

Even with getting good reports from all my doctors there is always that "what if" in the back of my mind. As I have thought through this, I have been reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." The fact that Paul says "do not" indicates that being anxious isn’t just unhelpful – it is actually sinful. God commands us not to be anxious. This does not mean that I can’t be concerned about real and serious needs, but that I should not give into the temptation to worry or be anxious about those concerns.

And just like God commands us not to be anxious, he commands us to pray. And the fact that he puts those two commands together is no mistake. When I am tempted to worry or be anxious, the best way to remove that temptation is to go directly to God in prayer. My daughter has learned a verse in her Pre-K class that she recites all the time. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." She gets so excited to recite something, and having her recite this verse so often has not only engrained it in her heart, but also in mine. When I get anxious, I need to pray. And when I get anxious again, I need to pray. That is what it means to pray without ceasing. 

I would appreciate your prayers as I continue to recover from this past surgery and decide what and if there will be a follow up surgery in the coming months. Thank you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'll Be Home

I was reminded of a very profound truth this past week that has given me a lot of encouragement and peace. It is from the book, "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis:

The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasantness, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home…God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

As I go through daily struggles in this life it gives me such joy and encouragement to be reminded by those trials that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven. Throughout this journey of cancer I am reminded that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven. When I feel like I don't have enough energy to make it through the day I am reminded that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven. When I feel like I am running an uphill race that is never going to end I am reminded that this world is not my home. My home is in heaven.

This is not to say that God does not have me here on earth for no reason. I am here to accomplish what he wants me to and he has given me purpose in every single thing that has happened in my life. I may not even know what those purposes are, but I do know: I am here to serve him, and enjoy him and I have a wonderful home waiting for me in heaven. As Paul says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20)."

When I was in high school I sang a song called “I’ll Be Home” in a musical that was written by a woman from my church, Janett Sugg. A few years later, I sang that same song with my sister at my dad's funeral. The words are so simple and so true. You can read them and hear the song below.

I’ll Be Home
Music and Lyrics by Janet Sugg
When I close my eyes I dream,
Of the place that waits for me.
There is happiness like I have never known,
It’s a place that I can finally call my own.
I’ll be home.

I will leave behind the tears,
Disappointments, sorrows, fears.
For the peace within my heart will overflow,
I will never be afraid or all alone.
I’ll be home.

I’ll be home, home, home.
And the Lord will call my name,
Promise me I’ll live with him always.
And his smile will be like sunshine on my face.
I will find the love I’ve longed for in that place.
I’ll be home.

I’ll be home, home, home.
I’ll be home, home, I’ll be home.
I’ll be home.

Close your eyes and dream with me,
Hear the laughter, feel the peace.
Leave behind the cares that hold you in this life.
There is so much waiting for you, come with me.
Come with me.

We’ll be home, home, home.
We’ll be home, home, we’ll be home.
We’ll be home. We’ll be home. We’ll be home.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Kids Are Home...

The kids are home...I don't know how I'm going to do this! I think the three of them keep getting busier and busier and more and more energetic! I know I can do this because I have before. I just need to take it one day at a time.

The timing of this surgery worked out for many reasons, one of them being that my mother-in-law and father-in-law were in town for Christmas and were willing to stay with Lydia, Hudson and Samuel when I went in for surgery. They kept them here in Pooler for a couple days and then drove Lydia and Hudson to Atlanta to stay with Matt's sister, Kristin, and her family. Lydia and Hudson loved getting to drive to Atlanta with Grandma and Grandpa and they loved getting to play with their cousins Adalynn (5), Brooks (4), and Isaiah (9 months). I think they may have worn everyone out! I am thankful for the time and energy that our family was willing to give in caring for our children. What a blessing! I am also thankful for the willingness of friends around here in Pooler who were able to keep Samuel. Thank you!

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58
I have mentioned before that one thing that this cancer journey has taught me is that I am not in control of my life. I have been reminded of this numerous times, especially in regards to my children. It is hard to have to give them up to different people to be taken care of. And I know it is hard on other people to have to watch them! And it is hard for me to continually be asking for help. But with each of these things God has provided. He has provided me a peaceful heart to allow them to go. He has provided servant hearted people willing and ready to serve. And he has provided contentment as I have continued to ask for help. 

I am so thankful to have my three beautiful children all back home and under one roof. I told Matt that it has been so nice and quiet here as the kids have been in Atlanta. But I have missed the voices of my sweet (and often times loud and obnoxious) little angels. 

I am continuing to recover well, but still cannot lift Samuel. I would appreciate prayers that my left arm and back would heal efficiently so that I can care for all three again soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Identity in Christ

I had my surgery about four days ago. When I compare how I am doing now to how I was doing four days after my previous surgery (in October), I can’t help but be thankful for how I am feeling. I still have a lot of pain in my back and on my left side, and will still have drains in for another week, but there have been no complications which I am so thankful for.   

I was so nervous going into this surgery because of what happened before. I think I made things worse for myself by not putting all of my trust in Christ. I was trying to hold on to some control of the situation and it was beginning to harden my heart. But God was gracious and brought me though this surgery so smoothly. Once again, he has opened my eyes to be reminded of where my identity is found.
It is so important for me as a Christian to be constantly reminding myself of who I am in Christ.  My identity is found in Christ and in his work for me on the cross. When I begin to get lost in the idea that the world is here for me or that my identity rests in myself – that is when despair comes. The fact that my identity is in Christ gives me hope and joy that cannot be taken away...no matter what may come in this life! As the Apostle Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)."
Yesterday I heard a great reminder of these truths in the song, "Running to You," by Shane and Shane. It fits my situation over the last couple weeks perfectly (it even talks about being barely able to stand "on a cold night in December"). The lyrics and audio are below:

"Running to You" by Shane and Shane
It’s a cold night in December
And I can barely stand
Lord help me to remember
Who I am, oh, who I am

To You

I’m a dead man raised
A liberated slave
And I’m runnin’,
To You
My hands are raised
I’m giving everything
And I’m runnin’

My heart just started beating
And Your breath filled up my lungs
My eyes are finally seeing
What You’ve done
And who I am

To You