Category: Uncategorized

Put the idol down and walk away with your hands up…

 

worship God_std_t_nvIn the second chapter of Jonah, we find him praying to God from the belly of a big fish.  In the midst of his bleak circumstances, he seems to get the concept that when we pay regard to idols before God, we forfeit a steadfast hope.  He also understands that even in our discontentment, we should give thanks and wait on God’s salvation.  *Spoiler alert–God heard Jonah and told the fish to vomit him up!  I think it’s interesting that even the fish listened and obeyed in a speedy manner, but Jonah took his time obeying God…but that’s another blog!*

Let’s get back to the idols…We often think of “idols” as things or people or activities, but a mindset can also be an idol. If the desire for change consumes you, then that desire (even if it is for good things) becomes an idol.  We allow our own planning and yearning for something to replace just being still and listening for God to whisper.  We sacrifice peace and embrace negative thinking when we allow our desire for something to take control.  This thought changed my perspective more than anything else I’ve processed lately.  I need to be content and thankful and know that I am ok where I am.  I was so very sure and thankful when God opened the doors I have walked through to arrive at my current location.  So why do I feel the need to take a crowbar to a closed door?  Has God given me even just one tiny reason to doubt that He can and WILL take care of me? No.  He has been faithful every step of the way.  Now I need to just work hard where I am until God moves me according to His perfect timing.  This revelation was such a gift to me. I am so thankful that God knows how to speak to my heart through songs.  The song that sparked this thought was Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham.

Anything I put before my God is an idol

Anything I want with all my heart is an idol

And anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol

And anything that I give all my love is an idol”

My challenge to you is this:

Take a hard look at your life…shine a light in the dark corners.  Are you holding on to any idols?  Habits?  Relationships?  Wrong-thinking?  What is standing between you and an uncluttered connection with God?  What do you need to put down to free your hands to be raised in true worship to God?

Root Rot

The ivy plant I brought home from Mawmaw’s funeral was dying.  The leaves were turning yellow and falling off daily with a quickening pace.  I was discouraged by this, but my husband said “it’s not dead yet, it just needs to be repotted”.  Ahh…yes, I know about repotting a plant and seeing it come back to life and thrive.  I set out this morning with my scissors and a pitcher of water to salvage the ivy.  As I began to cut off the pieces of healthy plant at the correct spots just like Mawmaw taught me, I saw that large portions of the lowers stems at the roots were yellow and soggy.  I researched what might be happening and found it was likely root rot.

Webster’s dictionary says that root rot is characterized by decay of the roots and caused by overwatering of the plant leading to fungi in the soil.  You treat root rot by disposing of the soil in the pot, washing the pot with a bleach solution, rinsing off the remaining roots and repotting in clean soil.

mawmawrootsAs I continued salvaging the plant, I began to think about roots.  I smiled as I felt the dots connecting and the inspiration coming.  I remembered snapping this picture of the board in my office earlier this week to send to a friend.  I was having a rough day and it was nice to glance over and see Mawmaw’s smile.  I had placed the cross and the quote with Colossians 2:7 next to her picture almost 2 years ago.  Colossians 2:7 reads “Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”  I thought then that the choice and placement of that verse about roots next to Mawmaw’s picture was not a random thing.

We all have roots, people and plants alike.  What is the condition of my roots?  Are they thriving and growing deep or are they rotting?  What kind of pot am I planted in?  Does it need to be washed?  Is my soil overwatered?  Does it need to be treated or thrown out?

As all these questions came to mind, I felt the need to self-reflect and make a plan for change.  So, my roots…my roots…I think about Westlake, Louisiana and my “Cajun” roots.  I think about growing up in Bellview Baptist Church and developing an understanding of “church family”.  All the sweet faces of those who loved me best appear on the big screen of my mind like a favorite movie I watch in quiet moments.  Knowing where you come from is definitely part of root maintenance, but it is only the first step in a daily process of intentionally thriving.

After some reflection, I have discovered some areas for improvement in my root system.  My roots are deeper in some areas and more shallow in others.  I need to work on the depth of my roots in my daily quiet time and prayer.  I need to trim my roots in the area of social media and mindless activity, like television.  When our roots get too deep in unhealthy soil, they begin to rot causing death and we when we don’t invest time and effort to grow our roots in healthy soil the result is the same…death.

Another reason for lack of growth can be the pot that houses the roots.  If the pot is too small, the plant will become root-bound and it’s growth is stunted.  This means that the roots are “bound” by some kind of barrier. Even plants growing outside in the ground can become root bound if their roots are caught between several solid barriers, like foundation walls, footers or pipes.  What kind of barriers am I caught between?  Is the “pot” I have planted my life in big enough to hold everything God has for me?  Am I selling myself short by staying in a pot that is too small?  Have I allowed barriers to take up space in my pot that are causing my growth to be stunted?  Am I in the right pot, but it needs to be cleaned for me to thrive?  What unhealthy things are growing in my life that are causing my root system to be unhealthy?  This is a question that we must ask ourselves on a daily basis.  The answers are sometimes not easy to realize and the solutions usually require some drastic measures of removal or relocation.

Soil is the source of nutrients for roots.  All plants need water, oxygen, and nutrients. These are most readily available near the soil surface where precipitation flows and oxygen from the atmosphere diffuses into the soil.  Am I surrounding myself with clean water, good nutrients and breathable air?  Everything we choose to allow into our pots infiltrates our soil, feeds our roots and ultimately shows up in what we produce.  Sometimes we don’t have much control of what precipitation is falling all around us, but we can make the choice to be under the protection of Jesus Christ.  We can relocate our pots under a tree or into a hothouse to escape harsh elements and we can move ourselves in direct alignment with the sun in order to flourish.

Has my soil become hard and packed down?  Can my roots even breathe with all the toxins I’ve allowed into my pot?  Maybe I need to just dump out the soil, allow Jesus to wash my roots clean and repot myself in the fertile, nourishing soil of His Word.

Here’s my challenge to you:  1.  Ask yourself about the condition of your roots.  Are you in the right pot?  Conduct a soil self-assessment.  Is your soil fertile or dry and lifeless?  2.  Make the changes needed to establish and maintain a healthy root-system.  Remember…nothing is dead yet!  3.  Consider that maybe you don’t have the kind of roots you need.  Maybe the seed of salvation has never been planted.   Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the beginning to everything.  The steps are easy and the choice is life-changing.  If you feel this option applies to you, reach out!  I’m always available!

The ABC’s of Becoming a Christian
A – Admit
Admit to God that you are a sinner.
“For all have sinned, and come short
of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23
 B – Believe
Believe that Jesus is God’s Son and accept God’s
gift of forgiveness from sin.
“While we were sinners,
Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8
 C – Confess
Confess your faith in Jesus Christ
as your Savior and Lord.
“If you will confess with your mouth,
“Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that
God raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Eulogy for Mawmaw

If you knewmawmaw Helen Chandler, you know that she boldly shared Jesus with everyone she met.  She never missed an opportunity to ask someone what church they attended and happily invited them to her beloved Pine Forest Baptist Church.

If you really knew Helen, you also know she enjoyed laughing and cracking a joke every now and then.  She also loved her Dallas Cowboys and could often be heard yelling at the TV while watching them play.

And if you really, really knew Helen, you know she  had a stubborn streak that made her a pretty tough cookie at times.

Speaking of cookies, she loved to bake and probably gifted you with a pie or zucchini bread at some point in your life.  There are probably hundreds of Vidor’s school children that used one of her chair bags.  I know as she loving made each one, she prayed for the child that would receive it.  She also had a powerful green thumb.  She could start a thriving plant from just a clipping.  Her yard was always filled with well-loved plants.

When I was thinking of what to say today, I found her prayer list in her Bible.  She was a fervent and dedicated prayer warrior.  She prayed for people until they left this earth.  I know this because she marked through their names when they passed.  The first thing on the list is my brother’s family.

Brother–I love you and I am proud of how you took responsibility and welcomed Mawmaw into your home and life for the last two years.  Your place as her favorite is now eternally secure.  Sister-in-law–I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate every little thing and every big thing you did for Mawmaw.  I know she is eternally grateful for your loving care.  Nephew–Mawmaw loved you so much.  She always said God had a special plan for you.  Her heart’s desire was for you and your sister to come to know Jesus and live lives that honor Him.  Niece–You are such a sweet and funny girl.  Mawmaw kept me posted on what you did that day that made her smile.  You were such a joy to her.  Thank you all for the sacrifices you made to give her peace and dignity until God called her home.

Next on the list was my family.  There was such comfort in knowing that my precious Grandmother talked to Jesus about me and my family everyday.  The rest of the list is filled with family and friends that she loved and cherished.  Many of you here today were lifted up in prayer by her daily.

During my last visit with her at the end of October, I was blessed to have some beautiful time with her.  She was present in the moments we shared.  We laughed and prayed together.  We read the Bible and drank coffee.  During breakfast one day, she said “Sister, this will be our last breakfast like this.”  I asked why and she said “because the Lord is going to call me home.”

Well, He did.  My rejoicing for her new home is matched with my heartache, but I know she is transformed and surrounded by a host of her loved ones and her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

When you think about Helen, let it be a reminder to pray for someone and boldly share Jesus with those around you.  In closing, I’d like to read a card Mawmaw sent to me on my birthday in 2010.  When I read it, I knew I would save it for today–

“Life Legacies–Thoughts for my Granddaughter on her birthday

Live deep–Never stop learning, playing or finding wonder in the world around you.  Live the length of your life, but live the depth of it as well.

Travel light–There is no use in carrying around worry and regret.  They only weigh you down.  Always keep yourself open to hope and to love.  They give us wings.

Forgive imperfections–in yourself and in others.  Imperfections keep things interesting.  They’re the cracks where the light shines through.

Own beautiful things–and not just to keep in the drawer, tucked away for a perfect day.  Surround yourself with things that make you happy, that remind you of the beauty all around us if we only keep our eyes open to it.

Make mistakes–Follow detours.  Sometimes it takes an unexpected turn to help us find the life that is waiting for us around the bend.  Trust yourself and the path that is meant for you.

Take care of yourself–and sometimes that means you need the ice cream.  Be good to your body, but also to your mind and spirit.  You’re the only one who can.

And always, always know you are loved–you are a gift to this world and a blessing to me.  And that will never change.”

Love you, Mawmaw

4 months and counting…

It’s been a while since our last conversation.  I apologize for my absence, but I have been hesitant to write until I had inspiration and purpose.  I have been “cancer free” and free of chemo for 4 months now.  I had my first 3-month oncology follow-up and everything looks good.  My tumor markers are well within normal range and there are no physical indications that any disease remains.  I am very grateful for this.  My 6-month follow-up will be in December.

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I even have hair!  People have stopped asking “are you still in treatment” and are now complimenting me on my “haircut”.  It feels good to look a little less like a cancer patient every day.  I actually needed my stylist to give me a full-head haircut this past weekend and not just an “edge up”.  It was exciting!

It is hard to think about what I’ve been through over the last 8 months.  A few weeks ago, I paused to think back on my journey and I cried.   I cried tears of joy and pain and sadness.  I somehow find it hard to believe that I had cancer.  I suppose in my “freedom” I have distanced myself from the experience.  The emotions I have experienced have been unexpected.  On the last day of chemo, I cried.  The tears were not joyful.  The burden of going through chemo was being lifted, but what was I supposed to do next?  Port accesses and IV bags had become my existence.  The nurses congratulated me and gave me a t-shirt to celebrate my last treatment.  My body was so tired and I felt awful, so I didn’t want to celebrate.  I looked around at all the other infusion chairs filled with people still fighting .  Being happy just seemed out of place.  Cancer sucks.

I returned to work full-time less than 2 weeks after my last infusion…ready or not.  My energy level is good now and I am working full time like usual.  Life has become “normal” again.  This is a good thing…and a bad thing.  In my weakness of chemo and sickness, I depended on God on a minute-by-minute basis.  In my regained health, I am depending on Him less and less every day.  I have found myself praying to remember how it felt to need Him so desperately.  To once again cry out in silence for His comfort and strength.  In those moments when I thought I couldn’t keep going, that’s when I saw Him so clearly and felt His presence in a very real way.  Oh, how I miss that.  I don’t miss the sickness and I never again want to be in a position where surrender is my only choice.  I want to choose to surrender every day to be consumed by Him…in joy, in peace, in stress, in anxiety, in worry, in sickness and in health.

Rewind to my first blog post when I wasn’t sure why God allowed cancer to happen to me…I know now.  It wasn’t for others to see me “fight the good fight” (although I believe he used my journey to speak to others).  It was for ME.  He used the journey through cancer to draw me closer to Him.  You would think that you get the best view of God from the mountain top, right?…where the air is clear and life is wonderful.  I’ve been on the mountain top before and I can tell you that I never saw God more clearly than I did laying on the floor of the valley.

My challenge to you is this…

DON’T WAIT FOR THE VALLEY TO DEPEND ON GOD!  Seek Him, know Him, love Him, choose Him..NOW!

 

I knew this was going to happen…

Trough dayshey educated me about all the possible side effects.  They gave me tons of printouts and information about what would likely happen.  So why is it still so traumatic when it actually happens?  I know it has been a little while since my last blog post.  I have been in one of two states–I don’t feel like it or for a brief time I felt too good to sit at the computer.

Here are a few things that have happened since I last visited with you.  I lost my balance and fell hitting my chin and chest on the night stand.  No stitches or blood, but it did “demo” the wall behind the night stand knocking out the power and pushing the electrical plate into the wall.  Shawn very graciously went to Home Depot and got the supplies and fixed my efforts to destroy the wall.  I am very thankful that I was not injured more than bruising and a swollen lip and chin.  The hit to my chest missed my port by about 2 inches and the hit to my chin didn’t break any teeth.  My blood counts were too low for me to get treatment this week.  I am getting injections to stimulate my bone marrow to produce more white blood cells.  This medicine can cause bone pain.  I’ve had some, but it is tolerable.  I am just so tired these days.  My hair started to come out yesterday.  Clumps just came out in my hand.  I expected it, but it still broke my heart.  Shawn was a trooper.  He told me to close my eyes and he shaved my head and threw all the hair away.  I am ok with it now, it was just really hard to see it happen.  So, when I look in the mirror, I see a cancer patient looking back at me with a head scarf and surgical mask.

My treatments will be delayed at least one week because of the low blood counts, so that throws off my timeframe for getting on with my life.  Then I remembered something I heard at the women’s retreat at church this weekend…God’s timing is perfect.  So, if I believe that then I have to know that the delay is necessary and right.  I am thankful that I felt up to going to the women’s retreat.  I was able to connect with ladies that I knew at a distance at church and I experienced renewal and reassurance that God is with me and I am not alone.

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and sometimes they do and it still knocks us for a loop.  Be kind to others.  You don’t know what they are going through.  Smile at them.  Make a connection by just looking in their eyes and acknowledging them.  You have no idea how much a perfectly timed smile can mean to someone.  Trust me, I know because I was that someone this week.

A lesson in grace…the cancer kind

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What is grace?  All of you who have made the life-changing decision to be a Christian have experienced God’s saving grace.  I suspect that each of us felt the effects of grace in that moment without truly knowing what God’s grace would mean in our lives.  Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  So grace is a gift.

We associate gifts with birthdays and Christmas and sometimes when we are lucky,  we get gifts “just because” from a loved one.  As lovely and meaningful as those gifts were, did any of them save your life?  I mean really save you?  God’s gift of saving grace brings us from death into life.  2 Corinthians 5:15 says “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”  So this gift is for everyone.

Where does cancer fit into all this?  After all cancer is no gift, right?  My pastor came to visit me two times during my hospital hysterectomy stay.  First, he showed up at the hospital to pray with me and my family before surgery.  He had scheduled this visit and I expected to see him.  The second visit was a very welcome surprise the day after surgery.  I was able to share more of my story with him and he said something very profound that started my exploration of grace.  He said that when we face challenges,  God gives us grace sufficient for those challenges and now…God had given me cancer grace .

Cancer grace?  Hmm…does that mean that the grace God is providing to me at this point in my life is tailor-made for my circumstances?  I am completely convinced that it means exactly that.  Not just for me, but for every one of us.  2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  There is absolutely no way that I could face cancer on my own.  It is only with the bravery and strength that comes through the grace of my Heavenly Father.  How have I missed the consciousness of this miraculous gift all my life?  God’s SUSTAINING grace is His love for us individualized in such a way that it meets our exact needs at the exact moment we need it.  If your mind isn’t blown right now, you either already know this or you need to reread my blog.  I always knew that God loved me and cared about me, but to think that in His supernatural, Omniscient way, He is our very real, down-in-the-trenchs support.  Among many other examples, the one that sticks out for me is when the first drop of chemo started, I began to feel overwhelmed.  At that same moment, “I will” by Citizen Way began playing on my Spotify playlist.  I knew at that moment He was with me to hold me through it.  Remember in my first blog I said that I wasn’t sure of the purpose of my cancer journey…well, I think I am beginning to understand and I am ever so grateful.

Here’s an update on my chemotherapy.   I have completed 2 sessions.  My port access was much easier than expected.  I am tolerating the chemo without nausea so far.  I am very tired and sleep escapes me at times because of the steroids that accompany the chemo, but I feel so much better than anticipated.  I know things may change as the medication accumulates in my body, but for now I am ok.  I am very thankful for your prayers.  They are being answered.

Infusion Chair 4

Zephaniah317_1920x1080_1So, tomorrow is the big day…my first day of chemotherapy.  My appointment printout says that I am scheduled for a port draw at 8:30 followed by lab work and an exam before my 9:30 infusion in chair #4.  They must have known that details and information  help me process things.  I was able to visit the chemo room at my last appointment, so I know exactly where I will be.  I will be getting infusions every day this week.  Tomorrow will be a full day and the others will be 9:00-2:00ish.

Although I am keeping it together for the most part, I am a bundle of emotions.

I am scared.  What will it feel like when the meds start flowing?  Will it hurt when they access my port?  Will I throw up on the first day?  How many times will I throw up?  I expect that once I have the first day under my belt, I will gain some confidence walking in for day #2.

I am anxious.  I want to get this started.  The sooner I start, the sooner I get to ring the bell.  I am not sure how much I will sleep tonight.

I am hopeful.  I am confident that God has put this team in place to care specifically for me.  I know that I will not be alone tomorrow.  I will be supported by all the love and prayers of my family and friends.  The most important thing I know is that my heavenly Father will be by my side.  His love can and WILL calm my fears and keep me hopeful.