My Very Heartbeat

I am a sinner.

I don’t deserve this life.

I could be dead, but I am breathing.

I am alive because someone else took my place. Jesus is my Savior, and I love Him with all my heart.

I have been humbled by my cancer.

I have been reminded that life is precious, that life is given and taken away by God Himself. There is a great respect that comes with finally accepting the reality of that fact.

Use me, Lord. Allow me to be productive with this day that you have given me, this opportunity to give you the glory for all that You are and all that You have done.

Oh Lord, I love you like no other.

I love you more than my very heartbeat.

“I found the one my heart loves.” Song of Solomon 3:4

Advertisements

What Shingles Looks Like

My husband, Nick, mentioned that I forgot to add something to my last post. Pictures. You know, of what shingles looks like. Oops.

For those interested, here you go. This is how it looks when the rash first starts…

IMG_6385

 

It wrapped around my right side between my breasts to the middle of my back. It’s right under my bra line so wearing bras is completely out of the question until I’m healed.

IMG_6425

 

IMG_6427

 

Of course, it’s gotten much worse. This is what it looks like when the blisters start bursting.

IMG_6474.jpg

 

IMG_6498

I pray none of you have to deal with this, but even more, I pray that you know Jesus like I do. That you put your whole heart and your whole body at His feet. He truly can bring a peace that you will never quite understand.

May peace be with you.

Peace Can Only Come From Jesus

dove pic

I’ve been quiet lately. There’s always a reason.

I spend so much time just trying to be okay. Just trying to feel okay. You can’t really make your body feel better though even with the pain medicine and other things meant to help you feel better, to help you get through the day. Medicine is just not enough.

My battle lately? Shingles. Starts as a rash and then turns into a ton of blisters that burst and then crust over. It is extremely painful, stressful, and takes weeks to recover. You can learn more about it here. I had it for a good week before we knew what it was.

To make matters worse, I can’t have chemo while recovering from shingles. And with a fast moving cancer, I can feel the difference when I don’t have treatment for a week or two. I’m coughing a lot more which makes mobility difficult. Coughing more means throwing up more. I sat in the car yesterday puking after being stationary for a good thirty minutes. It’s not just moving that causes me to puke more. Needless to say, I am really hoping I am cleared to have chemo next Thursday when I see my doctor again.

But here’s the thing… in the midst of all this suffering, I have peace and am virtually pain free. I can’t explain it. I walked in the doctor’s office last Monday with level 8 pain, barely being able to move without screaming on the inside. I left with pain killers that only toned it down to a level 6-7. So how did I go from that level of pain, to virtually no pain the next day? To the point that I stopped taking pain medicine way too early. The blisters started bursting days later, and yet still no pain.

You have to understand the amount of stress, sorrow, and shock I was under when I found out I had shingles. That I couldn’t get the chemo I desperately need. I went to bed early. My husband went to bed early. It was just all too much for all of us. So what was the turning point?

I prayed that night, and something changed. I wrote that poem and just felt a great release. I felt at peace. That was at 2 o’clock in the morning, and I woke up pain-free. During this whole trial from the beginning of 2017 to now, I haven’t quite felt this level of peace since first getting diagnosed with cancer. It’s also the first time that I have been virtually pain free in an area that doesn’t make sense.

On my own, I can’t do anything. I can’t take away my own pain and I can’t take away my own stress. I just don’t have the power BUT I know the one that does. Peace can only come from Jesus.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16. 

I May Not Be A Pastor But…

There are a lot of books and study materials on the market geared toward Christians but not all of them are based on biblical truths. As a small group leader, I feel that I have a responsibility to ensure that the materials I share with others supports biblical truths. I don’t want to unknowingly give out false doctrine.

I go through the proper channels, making sure my pastor approves the Bible studies chosen for my small group. But I also allow my own discernment to steer me in the right direction. I have to do my own due process by prescreening material for appropriateness, just like I do for my kids before I let them watch a movie.

Still, one area I haven’t really thought about prescreening before is my own personal library. I’ve acquired many Christian books over the last six years, most of which I have not read. I’m just now getting around to reading some of these books.

I opened one last night, read the introduction and thought, “this would be a great book for my friend Jennifer. I need to get her a copy.” Jennifer is a girl that I’ve been having 3-hour weekly lunches with in the spirit of discipleship. She knows the Bible pretty well but has been working on her prayer life. I thought maybe this book on developing a better prayer life might be a good fit. I asked Nick to remind me to get in touch with the author this week so that I can get another copy. Then I continued reading.

While reading the first chapter, I became very uncomfortable. I kind of stopped reading the words and started to glaze over them. I wanted to keep reading but it was beginning to be a struggle. Something about the material didn’t feel like it added up to God’s word. I closed the book and immediately started praying, “Lord, show me the truth. Tell me if I should be reading this, if I should be sharing this with Jennifer.”

I opened my eyes, and found my husband looking over me. I told him my concerns with the book, and he agreed with what I knew to be the truth. I couldn’t share the book with my friend. I put the book back on my nightstand, making a mental note to throw it in the trash later.

When I woke up this morning, the situation was still heavy on my mind. Jennifer has borrowed two books from me recently, two books that I haven’t read. As someone that I’ve been discipling, she’s likely thinking on some level that these books are good because I own them. She probably thinks that I’ve already read them and it never occurred to me to tell her that I haven’t.

Perhaps moving forward I should read a book first before I lend it out, much like I prescreen our small group material, the movies that my kids watch, and the books that they read. Taking some responsibility as a Christian friend is just as important as taking responsibility as a parent. I’m hoping that in doing so, I can protect her from falling victim to false beliefs during a vulnerable period where she is rebuilding her faith. It also challenges me even more as a Christian to stay abreast to the current trends and delivery methods of false doctrine.

I may not be a pastor, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do my part in helping protect the next group of Christian leaders. We all have a role to play. I hope that you’ll join me in sharing only verified biblically sound teachings, and stand with me in prayer for all of us to have the spiritual discernment to know the difference. God bless you all.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” Proverbs 18:15

 

Fear of the Living Will

Crying. Just sitting crying. The first time it was because thinking about how fast my mom died in the end. Now, it’s because I’m thinking of my husband. No, he’s not on his way to dying but I may very well be.

It’s not that the cancer is in a bad state. It’s actually stable right now. But up until this point, I have refused to do a living will. The questions… the decisions you have to make and put on paper. Not everyone is able to face the hard task it is about your own death.

I don’t know what I should do if I wind up in a vegetable state, or be in a bed on a breathing machine for the rest of my life. When I think of these questions, my first thought is to preserve myself; I don’t want to die. But I don’t want to burden my husband either.

I would want him to be able to grieve properly so he can move on when the time is right. If I’m on a ventilator for a year, he would be hurting seeing me in that condition. So what do I do?

I’m gonna fill out the paperwork now. I’m not going to put it aside again. I can handle this, I can handle the hard questions.

I want to leave room for God in my decisions. I want Him to have all opportunity to save me in the end. You know, how I asked God to save my mom in the end. Well, the will of God will definitely trump any decisions I make.

Mustard Seed Faith

I had a CT scan done last week, and got my results when I saw my oncologist on Wednesday. I was incredibly nervous to find out what was going on with the lesion in my left lung. Back when I was diagnosed last September, it measured approximately 6x6cm (about the size of an egg), and had only shrunk down to 4×4 cm after six rounds of standard chemotherapy.

By standard chemotherapy, I mean using one platinum-based IV drug called carboplatin combined with another kind of chemo called alimta once every three weeks. Carboplatin is very toxic so patients typically only do six rounds, but if you have advanced disease like myself, you may continue using the chemo drug alimta as maintenance therapy. Alimta takes only about 15-20 minutes to get in your system, and is not as harsh on your body.

I was concerned that my lesion wasn’t going to shrink anymore with just the maintenance therapy. All I could hope for was that it didn’t start growing because if that happened, I would move to my last line of defense and try immunotherapy. I technically had already tried one of these drugs (avastin prevents new blood vessels from forming) when I moved to maintenance therapy, but it caused me to be in more pain to the point I needed to start taking pain meds again so I stopped after only two rounds. Having five extra months to live (as the drug promised) was not worth the pain I was going through.

So here I was knowing that I had already said no to one drug that could help prevent any new growths, and I had to face the results of another scan. My husband was with me as he always is for dr visit/chemo days and I think he was a little nervous too. When my doctor came in the room, the first thing he addressed was the good report on the CT scan. No new growth! We were relieved, but as we were trying to find out how big the tumor was now, we were shocked to learn that it wasn’t there.

We didn’t understand what the doctor was saying, not sure we had heard him correctly. We were having him reiterate what he had just said while I was trying to study the report in my lap. He said “there is no measurable mass” in my left lung, the same thing staring back at me in black and white. It had only been six weeks since the last CT scan where the report clearly stated the tumor was 4×4 cm. Somehow, it went from being the size of a walnut to nothing in just two chemo cycles of maintenance therapy.

Now, I know that there is no way that a maintenance drug that only puts 15 minutes of chemo in my body for 2 rounds can make a tumor of that size just disappear when standard chemo with a much stronger drug couldn’t do that in 6 rounds. The math just doesn’t add up. Even the avastin can’t make tumors disappear like that. There was only one explanation. God did that.

I was in shock for quite a bit of that day, not because I didn’t believe God could do it, but because of the amount of favor He poured over me and my situation. Today, I found out that He has done the same thing for another person who had a 11 mm tumor in their left lung and theirs is completely gone now too!

God is definitely still in the business of doing miracles. Things can seem so bleak even when you have faith because you often still don’t know what God’s plan is for your life. We hold on to Him for dear life, praying and hoping that His plans for this life still include us a little bit longer, and it is just pure joy when we finally come to understand His plans for us.

I pray for anyone dealing with a long-term, debilitating illness. There are still plenty of reasons to hope, even if your faith is as small as a mustard seed.

He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

The Need For Rest Will Just Have To Do For Now

The last time I was sick on Christmas was five years ago… before my life was drastically altered after meeting my husband and embracing the Christian faith wholeheartedly for the first time. I had traveled to Colorado via Greyhound to spend the holiday with my best friend and her kids. Taking the bus was a great way to get out of the city to venture the beaten path with my camera after the end of a six-year relationship I never should have been in, and the end of a disillusionment for an affair that would never be more than a roll in the hay. 

Yeah, I’d had better days and the opportunity to run away from home was enchanting. The road to freedom was a little more traveled than I wanted it to be though; it took three days to get to Colorado and five to get home. I remember getting stuck in the Dallas bus station for a day and a half while a snowstorm wrecked havoc just north of us. I was still trying to get to Colorado, and I was completely at the mercy of a storm I couldn’t even see. It wasn’t snowing in Dallas where I was, but all around me it was coming down so heavy that travel all the way up to Denver was at a halt. I just wanted to get where I was going, and I wanted answers. There was no way out and nowhere to feel safe. 

I think it took a good 12 hours before they finally brought a bus out for us weary-eyed travelers to sleep on. I was so thankful… all I wanted was answers and rest, but I would settle at the moment for just some rest. It’s how I’m feeling again after all these years.

Cancer has a way of eating away at your soul… if you’ll let it. Sometimes I do, I won’t lie. Sometimes, I give in and let the cancer take a bite or two out of me. Sometimes it takes a few days, weeks, or months for me to wake up out of the chokehold-slumber that cancer is and stumble again onto my faith. On Christmas Day, it was just a reminder staring back at me that reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yesterday, it was a complete meltdown on the living room sofa where I begged God to help me over and over again. Today, it might look like something completely different but I’m not giving up. 

The answers may come another day but for today, I’m going to take the rest that comes with knowing Him. 

Tiptoe


Even when you’re going through it,

You’re not going through it;

You’re tiptoeing around,

Careful not to step on

Your own thoughts, your own feelings. 

You don’t really want to talk about it;

You don’t really want to write about it.

You only want to think about, write about 

Nothing at all.

The nothingness that stares you in the face,

The nothingness that will never be nothing again,

The life that will never be the same.

It’s Not About Me

instruments-microphone-51094

I’m not the best singer. I have to work really hard to get my notes clean and to not tremble. I have to work really hard to make sure I don’t run out of breath and to not forget the words. Singing can look so effortless but it’s really not. There is so much technical stuff going on.

As a singer, I want to get it right. I strive for perfection. And when I get it right, I rejoice. Sometimes, maybe I rejoice in myself a little too much. Humble little me can sometimes be not so humble. When you don’t think you’re good enough, it’s easy to hide in the shadows and run from the limelight. But when everything is lining up the way you want it to, it’s easy to think of the next few lyrics and “hey, look at me” simultaneously. But guess what? It’s not about me.

Being on stage can be a dangerous catch 22. It’s a vulnerable place to be because you have all of these people looking at you, judging you… and yet you know your place is to serve God. You are not there for yourself or for their attention. You are there solely to lead and encourage them to forget you are even standing there so they can have a moment with Jesus.

My microphone is not a gateway to seek approval but to humbly worship and lead others to do the same. It’s to let them know it’s ok to forget about all of the troubles in the world and to just focus on Him. It’s an opportunity for the church to collectively thank Jesus together for all of the blessings He has bestowed upon us. And honestly, it’s not even about singing. Not really. The best worship experiences I have ever had were in those moments when I actually stopped singing and just started praising God with prayer in the middle of a song. We can get so caught up just singing words sometimes that we completely miss the point of allowing the thankfulness in our hearts to come to the surface and give it to God. 

When I’m worshiping, I really only have one goal and that is to meet Jesus myself. I want to spend time with Him, and I want others to have a safe place to do that as well. I know that the enemy will continue to try to interfere and prevent me from truly connecting because he doesn’t want people to know Jesus, but I can’t let him. There will always be technical stuff going on and yes, I want to be prepared as best as possible before hitting the stage but in the end, the outcome is really up to God. I lay it all at His feet… every word, every note, and every prayer to bring Him alone the glory.