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If you've faced cancer, or have walked through it with someone you love, you know there are typically three ways to treat the dreaded disease: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. I have been fortunate enough (yes, that's sarcasm) to experience all three in the last 3 1/2 years.

In 2010, I had surgery to remove a 6-inch, malignant tumor from the muscle of my thigh. That was followed by 7 weeks of radiation treatment. Last August, doctors found a "suspicious mass" on a routine follow-up visit, and I started chemotherapy 6 weeks later. Each treatment worked...to an extent. Doctors removed the entire tumor through the first surgery, and the radiation treatments "killed off" any remaining cancer cells in the area. When the cancer returned (to a different area) last year, chemotherapy was a "success," meaning it successfully shrunk the tumors, even when doctors were skeptical that it would.

In January, my oncologists decided to give me a break from chemo. The tumors had continued to shrink after six rounds of chemotherapy, so it seemed like a good time to give my body a break from the toxicity of the chemo drugs. That's when we began looking into other, "alternative," options.

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I know the very term "alternative cancer treatment" is rife with controversy. (Rife...adjective, "of common or frequent occurrence; prevalent"...you're welcome). I've read/heard stories of people abandoning traditional medicine, clinging to the belief that either God would heal them without the use of drugs or they could "heal themselves" naturally through non-traditional methods. I can't speak to those experiences, because I am not those people. I simply want to share how we have come to the place we now find ourselves.

**This is where I remind you that I AM NOT A DOCTOR...I do not play one on TV, nor pretend to be one on the Internet. This is NOT medical advice, and should not be taken as such. This is simply an account of my experience.**

Step 1: We exhausted medical expertise. We have literally done everything traditional, medical doctors have told us to do. When they said, "Start chemo right away," we did (after doing our own research and having all our questions sufficiently answered, of course). But we have reached a point where doctors have no other tricks up their sleeve and have told us (on multiple occasions), "All we can do is wait  for the tumors to grow again. Then we will do chemo...probably a more aggressive type." We are constantly reminded that (as far as they are concerned), the goal is to control the cancer, not get rid of it. We've done surgery. We've done radiation. We've done chemo. Now we simply wait.

Step 2: We prayed...a lot. I've never been very good at just waiting. I'm always looking for "the next thing," or wondering what I can be doing while I wait. So I prayed...I literally blocked off time every day for several days to pray for healing. My husband prayed for me and with me. We asked friends and family to pray with us and for us. Our church has special prayer each week for healing, and we have gone forward every week. I know God is able to heal miraculously. I've seen it happen in my own family. I prayed...and believed...for total healing. The more we prayed, however, the more I felt led to research other options for treatment. So, in addition to healing, we began to ask God for wisdom.

Step 3: We found an expert. When I began researching alternative options to cancer treatment, the information and advice was overwhelming: stop eating anything that tastes good and sip on a satisfying wheatgrass smoothie throughout the day (or something like that), rub exotic-sounding oils on your body in various, random places (hmmm...maybe not), avoid any type of radioactive airwaves (so, no microwave popcorn?). OK, maybe that wasn't exactly the advice I read, but that's kind of what it sounded like to me. I obviously needed someone with more knowledge and experience than I had.

As we continued to pray and research, one name kept coming up in various conversations. Different friends and acquaintances, on separate occasions, recommended a local naturopath who had experience with treating cancer naturally. I was still a little skeptical. Honestly, I feared what he would say. Would he make me disavow all traditional medicine? Would I have to drink my own urine or sacrifice a small animal in a bubbling cauldron? (I exaggerate...a little.) Still, we kept hearing this man's name mentioned with high regard, so it seemed we should at least check it out.

The short version is this: We met with him and liked him very much. So much of what he said concerning diseases, and how our bodies fight them, made sense to us. We (including my even-more-skeptical husband!) were encouraged by him and by the things he recommended.  He is a born-again Christian, and he views natural medicine as a supplement to traditional medicine.

But here's the kicker...when his wife faced cancer FOR THE THIRD time, doctors told her she had a year to live. He determined to find an "alternative" treatment for her, and he did. That was 16 years ago...she beat it and she's doing well today! So, not only does he know what vitamins and supplements you need to take to beat this year's toughest cold, he knows all the latest and greatest treatments to cancer (both traditional and alternative)!

So, we have begun a new leg of the journey....one that involves a new approach to eating and nutrition among other things. As I learn, I will be sharing more about our lifestyle and dietary changes here. (Probably reworking some of my favorite recipes, and sharing new ones I find/create!)

Don't worry...I am still under the care of a medical doctor (several, actually). As a matter of fact, I had a PET scan at the end of March that showed the tumors are still shrinking...even though I am no longer taking chemo! Woo-Hoo! :D

I believe this next step is part of the journey God has for us. Yes, He can heal me miraculously. Yes, He can use modern medicine to destroy the tumors. I also believe He can give me the knowledge and wisdom to equip my body to fight the tumors. We continue to pray for healing, and we continue to pray for wisdom in the journey. Personally, I don't care how He heals me, I just believe He will!

If you are searching for alternative treatment to cancer, here are some resources I found helpful:

Books
Beating Cancer: Twenty Natural, Spiritual, and Medical Remedies That Can Slow--and Even Reverse--Cancer's Progression by Francisco Contreras, MD and Daniel Kennedy MC
The Bible Cure for Cancer by Don Colbert, MD

Web Sites (I do not have firsthand experience with these programs, but you may find their sites helpful in your research):
Oasis of Hope Cancer Center
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Dr. Nicholas Gonzales

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"Did you see how strong I am, Mama?"

We were on a walk in the woods...just the two of us. He had just defeated a near-dead limb with ninja-like movements and a walking stick bigger than he was. I smiled to myself and affirmed his feat of great strength.

His increasing sense of adventure is matched only by his passion to be with, and be like, his Dad. I love and encourage that endeavor, even though it means I take the back seat for awhile. So I treasure these fleeting moments when he seeks my acknowledgement and approval. In that brief window of opportunity, it dawned on me that strength is not the only thing I see in him. And I want to make sure he knows it.

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1. You are strong. Yes, Son, you are strong. You are growing stronger (and taller!) every day. But more than physical height and brawn, I hope you always remember your greatest strength comes from Christ. The day will come when you face challenges greater than sticks and leaves. You'll face choices that could potentially threaten your innocence and your character. When that time comes, remember that in Christ you are strong. No matter what your friends do, no matter what the world says you should do, be strong. Because your strength comes from Someone greater.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you
is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

2. You are smart. In a world that insists on "dumbing us down" by feeding us a steady diet of entertainment, ideologies, and philosophies they deem important, I pray you always seek Truth. I hope you love to learn, but not just for knowledge's sake. Remember where true knowledge and wisdom are found...search out that Truth, and always, always speak up for it. Determine to choose what's right, even when it's not popular (and especially then).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise
wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

3. You have a purpose. God has has given you specific abilities and talents for a reason...there are things He created you to do. It's OK if you make some mistakes along the way, everyone does. Learn from them, and grow from them. As much as you can, learn from the mistakes others have already made. Run hard after God. Discover what He created you for. Then pursue those things with great passion.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

4. You are funny. This one isn't too deep, but seriously...you are funny! You have brought such joy and laughter to our family, and we are happier because you're here. Your humor and silliness will serve you well in the years to come if you learn to use it well. It can keep you from taking yourself too seriously. But remember to never use it at someone else's expense. As a great philosopher once said, "with great power comes great responsibility!" ;)

A joyful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22)

5. You are loved. Of course Dad and I love you. Your 6-year-old self never questions that. I pray your 16-year-old self, your 26-year-old self, and all the "selfs" between and beyond never question it either.  I pray you also know that God loves you. He loved you before you were born. He loves you when you mess up and when you get it right. Nothing you do can make Him love you any more, or any less, than He already does. In the years to come...when you wrestle with what you believe and struggle to understand all that you've been shown and taught...remember this one thing: God, and Dad, and I all love you more than you know.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3)

Yes, Son, I see how strong you are, but more than that, I see how strong you will become.

Love, Mom

Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
~ A.A. Milne
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I don't typically watch Dancing with the Stars (unless you count the occasional clip on Facebook or late night TV). And although I was a fan of Full House back in the day, my two younger sisters were the DJ Tanner fans. I watched it for Uncle Jesse. :) But lately my FB feed has been abuzz with all things Candace Cameron Bure and DWTS. So I had to check it out.

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When I first learned that Candace was going to be on DWTS, I was a tad disappointed, I admit. DWTS seems to be where old celebrities go to prove they can still get their sexy on. Instead, it typically ends up a train wreck of sorts. I like Candace, and I didn't want to see that happen to her.

I haven't actually seen the show this season, but from what I've read and the clips I've seen of her performances, I'd say Candace is causing anything but a train wreck!

I'm sure there's all sorts of controversy somewhere over her choice, as a professing Christian, to be on the show in the first place. (I haven't heard any, but I know how we Christians are, so I'm sure there's some talk somewhere.) No matter what you think of her decision to do the show, here's what I see that she's doing amazingly, incredibly right.

1. She's taking a stand.
Candace has been very vocal from the beginning about her beliefs and how that will make her different from the typical contestant. She's made statements like, "I'm a Christian, my life revolves around my relationship with Jesus Christ...I'm not going to take a backseat, my voice will definitely be heard."

America is getting to see someone in the spotlight who is willing to put feet to her faith. She's not worried about offending anyone or not getting the votes. She's saying, "This is who I am. This is what I believe. Period."

2. She's being a role model.
The truth is, there aren't many women in Hollywood who are willing to put their career on the line and say, "I'm not going to do this or that because it goes against what I believe." That is exactly what Candace Cameron Bure is doing...she's showing girls everywhere (in Hollywood and in Smalltown USA) they don't have to compromise their morals to be taken seriously, even vetoing partner Mark Ballas's plan to dance shirtless. I love that  Bure confidently said, "I've been married 18 years. I am a sexual woman, but I reserve some things for my husband."

3. She's not sacrificing art or talent.
I'm sure there are those who will take exception to her costuming choices, but it's hard to dance the rumba in a parka, and a lot of the artistic impression would be lost if she came out in a frumpy pair of sweats. Bure dances with passion and with heart. And I think she is doing a fantastic job of showcasing her talent as a performer (and newfound talent as a dancer) while refusing to compromise her commitment to modesty.

3. She's influencing people.
Yes, millions of people are watching her on national TV. And so are her fellow contestants. These are her people, her circles, her stomping grounds. In the first episode, she joked with Danica McKellar about having dated the same guy "back in the day." These people are watching her, wondering if she's the real deal. And she's happy to show them that what a Christian woman with values looks like.

So, I say, "You go, Candace!" Use your beautiful talent and passion for performing to showcase your greatest passion...your relationship with Christ. We're all watching you, Candace. And we're cheering you all the way!

If you missed Candace's performance this week, watch it here.

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I am a firm believer in learning from our experiences, and if there's one thing that cancer has taught me, it's to slow down and savor life. I am a deeply committed, type-A overachiever. I like to be busy. So it's hard for me to just. stop. doing. When I was forced to do just that last fall and focus entirely on my health and my family, I found a pace that I fell in love with.

I entered 2014 with a resolve to simplify my life. The first thing I noticed is how truly difficult it is to live simply. It soon became clear that if I want my family to eat more simply (and healthy), create wiggle room in our routines, and truly focus on what matters in life, I would need to make some tough choices. It won't just happen; I would have to be intentional about it.

So when I was presented with the opportunity to review Tsh Oxenreider's new book, Notes from a Blue Bike, I planned to decline, proud of myself for drawing some much-needed boundary lines. Then I read the subtitle to the book: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. Well, given my new lofty goal of simplicity, it would just be irresponsible of me to not review the book, wouldn't it?

So I agreed, and I'm so glad I did!

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Tsh's warm and conversational writing style drew me in instantly. It was less like reading a book and more like chatting with a friend over coffee, hearing about her wild, overseas adventures. I flew through the short chapters easily. Who wants to wade through long and cumbersome chapters in a book about living simply? Tsh nailed it here...short and to the point.

I quickly realized Tsh understood my goals, as well as my dilemmas, in achieving a simpler life. After returning from life overseas, Tsh found herself in the midst of the North American chaos to which most of us have grown accustomed. Realizing her new life competed with her longing for simplicity, Tsh created a list of five areas in which her family would live with intention: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.

To live with intention means to make little daily choices that resonate deeply in our souls.
~Tsh Oxenreider

The principles Tsh shares for pursuing simplicity, and the wisdom with which she applies those principles in her daily life, are easily worth the read. Yes, living intentionally takes time and energy, and Tsh shows you how to make it completely doable.

Here are some of my takeaways from the areas Tsh addresses:

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Food
Tsh introduced me to the term "slow food":  contrasting the fast-food culture by growing (or purchasing locally), cooking, and eating good, clean food. I love it! As a cancer-fighter and mother of a child with multiple food allergies, overhauling our family's diet has become a pet project of mine. Plus, she set my all-or-nothing personality at ease with her 80/20 principle: "If 80 percent of my family's food consumption involves whole, seasonal food made with care, then we're doing all right. The 20 percent is the sprinkles on top of the ice cream. Literally."

Jobs

Work
Tsh shares a story in this section of visiting a friend who introduced her to the concept of a "boundary stone" which was simply a tangible reminder to work with intention. Tsh explains it this way, "To give myself the time and freedom to create my best art, and to confidently turn down those roles and opportunities that aren't the best fit." As a chronic people-pleaser, I sure needed that one...anyone else?

Tsh02

Entertainment
Tsh's honest struggle with her family in this area was refreshing...to simply know that we are not alone in the battle is comforting. And to know that she has made intentional choices that fit her family reminds me that, with a little work, it is possible. My favorite line from this section: "When we're intentional about what we watch, it's a lot more interesting to watch it."

Tsh explores two other areas of living intentionally, education and travel. She writes beautifully and compellingly about each, but I'll let you read those for yourself. I don't want to give away all her wisdom!

If you find a longing somewhere inside for a quieter, simpler life, it won't be easy. It will take intentionality and perseverance. But you don't have to go it alone, Tsh has bravely paved the way for us. And if simplicity is a quest you're on, you might want to pick up this handy little guide to help you along the way.

We were made to live slower than our fast-paced Western culture deems normal. But it means paddling upstream through strong currents. ~Tsh Oxenreider

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I am so excited to announce that I will be speaking at the 2014 Arise Conference in Savannah, Georgia on April 4 and 5. The event is hosted by City Church Savannah, an exciting and vibrant church in downtown Savannah.

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authentic hearts

The women who are planning this event have a sincere desire to see God move in their church, in their city, and in the lives of women everywhere. I am excited about what God is going to do at this event, and I would love to see you there!

The event is free, but you do need to register so they know how best to prepare. (Did I mention meals and childcare are provided at no charge? You CANNOT pass up this opportunity!) For more info, and to register, go here.

Hope to see you there!

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Last March, "The Bible" miniseries took The History Channel, and the world, by storm bringing in 14.1 million viewers and breaking all kinds of ratings records. From that phenomenal event was born the Son of God movie which opened in theaters last weekend. (Read the fascinating story of how the movie was born here.)

Of course Son of God has received a myriad of reviews, many of them less than flattering as is often the case with films related to Christianity and the Bible. I tend to wobble on the fence with such movies, torn between dramatic interpretations that are often heavy on "the cheese factor" and the sincere desire to share the most significant story in history.

While Son of God is not entirely without "cheese," those moments are few and far between. And I believe the potential influence of the movie far outweighs its few awkward moments.

son-of-god

Photo courtesy of Fox Studios

First, a word of caution to parents: While I think it is important that our children understand the sacrifice of Christ and all that it involved, and while I believe media can be a valuable tool in doing this, the PG-13 rating on Son of God should be taken seriously. The crucifixion scene is graphic, as it should be. I recommend seeing Son of God without your children first, then determine at what age it is appropriate for your children to see the film.

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Photo Courtesy of Fox Studios

WHAT I LIKED...

This is a quality film. Hollywood producers who have already proven their worth in the industry, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey used their skill sets and influence to create a quality production from start to finish. The writing and direction is great. The cinematography and orchestration is superb. And the acting is somewhat impressive (once you get past the fact that they all speak with a British accent.) While some will question their casting choices, costume design, and even the use of hair product, no one can argue with their commitment to quality.

It's a great overview. I imagine it's difficult to tell the story of the Bible in a 10-week miniseries. I imagine it's almost impossible to portray the crux of the story--the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus--in a mere 2.5 hours! But Burnett and Downey did so masterfully. While the video montage of the Old Testament felt slightly like a highlight video of the mini-series, the overall story was beautifully told by the disciple closest to Jesus and the writer of one of the Gospels, John. A perfect choice for a first-hand account of the life and ministry of the Christ.

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Photo courtesy of Fox Studios

WHAT I LOVED...

It's purpose. The version I saw had a message from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey at the beginning of the film. In that message, as well as all of the interviews I've seen and read with them, their purpose seems to be genuine: to acquaint the general public with the Bible (through the mini-series) and with the Son of God (through the movie) in order to spread the Gospel. No matter what the critics say, Burnett and Downey can rest knowing they found a way  put their great success to work for a greater purpose. And, let's be honest, this movie would probably not have the publicity that it does if it had lesser-known names behind it.

It shows the loving heart of Christ. This film, more than any I recall, seems to focus on the relationships of Jesus...with his disciples, with the crowds, and with His mother. We get to know the disciples, how they respond to Christ and how He interacts with them. Since Jesus is the reflection of God the Father to us (God with us), I like that the general public will see Him as loving and kind. Sadly, I think too often we Christians do a rather poor job of demonstrating that attribute of God.

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Photo courtesy of Fox Studios

WHAT I WISH HAD BEEN BETTER...

The character of Jesus. It's hard to create the character of Jesus for stage or screen. It's a difficult task to write what He would do (outside of Scripture), it's hard to cast the person who has to play Him, and it's got to be difficult to be the one to bring Christ to life on the big screen. While I think Son of God does a fair job of this, I wish their version of Jesus had been a little more commanding at times. Yes, He was 100% man, but He was also 100% God. Like I said...it's a hard balance to attain. Someone in our group liked how "relatable" Jesus seemed, so maybe it's more of a personal preference than a flaw in the movie.

Message of Grace. While Son of God is a fantastic, historical narrative that remains true to Scripture, I came away feeling that a major theme had been lost somewhere in the editing process. As a believer, I connected with the stories and the characters. I felt the shame and heartache of one who's received grace as I watched the bloody crucifixion scene. I rejoiced in the Resurrection and triumph over sin and the grave. But I'm not sure someone unfamiliar with Scripture, and with God's story of love and redemption, would have found those deeper themes woven into the narrative.

son-of-god-5

Photo courtesy of Fox Studios

THE TAKEAWAY

If you are looking for a bigger and better version of Passion of the Christ, this is not it. (Despite Mel Gibson's personal demons, he makes a great movie!) But for a quality, overview of the life and ministry of Christ, Son of God is spot on.

The greatest thing to come from the movie Son of God is, in my opinion, one thing: opportunity. Not since 2004 when Mel Gibson released Passion of the Christ, has the message of the Gospel been more forefront in popular culture. As Christians, this provides us a prime opportunity to discuss our faith with others. We should not sit back and let the movie speak for us, hoping our loved ones will see it and fall with conviction to their knees in their local theater. Call me crazy, I just don't see that happening.

But neither should we, as Christians, needlessly criticize a well-made portrayal of the Gospel for popular culture or "skip it" because we've heard the story before. So, then, what should we do?

We should go see the movie. We should take our friends and family members. We should take anyone who will go. Then we should take them out for coffee and talk about it. Discuss the "cheese" factor. Talk about whether Thomas should have had darker features as a Middle Eastern man. Discuss the merits of the movie and ways it might have fallen short.

Then tell them what Jesus has done for you. Because Son of God is more than just a story. It is THE story. It is HIS story. And you have something no actor, camera crew, or make up artist can replicate...you have a first-hand account...personal experience with the star of the movie. No critic can can argue with that.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15).

Want to read more family-friendly movie reviews?
Epic
The Lost Medallion
Les Miserables

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Last week, I was over at Compassion That Compels sharing what not to say to someone who is facing cancer (or any devastating life event, for that matter). I didn't want to simply leave you with what not to do. I want to give you some tips to help you know what to do.

5-things-say-cancer

I realize cancer is a delicate subject, and not everyone handles it in the same way. Responses and reactions can change daily, sometimes moment by moment. For those and many more reasons, it can be difficult to know what to say, particularly if you don't know the person well. While each person copes differently, the following tips will help you bring hope and encouragement to the person battling cancer.

1. "You're beautiful"
Even if she looks tired, weak, or weary. Even if she's lost weight or gained weight. Tell her she's beautiful. She's probably self-conscious of her hair loss or weight gain (or loss), and it took a lot of courage for her to face the world today. Let her know that when you look at her, you don't just see the effects of cancer, you see her. (While this is specific to women battling cancer, I assume men would like to be told they are looking good, too...but maybe not "beautiful.") :)

2. "You're strong"
Cancer and its treatment takes it's toll on a person's body and emotions. When your body is weary, your emotions can run wild. Simple tasks become overwhelming and everyday moments become a constant reminder of your weakness and fragility. Even if she seems strong, there's a good chance she doesn't feel strong. Tell her she is, because she probably needs the reminder right about now.

3. "You can do this." (Better yet, "We can do this.")
Cancer is an overwhelming adversary. At times it seems unbeatable, even in the most treatable cases, and it creates a constant "what if" scenario in the back of one's mind. Your friend or family member needs to know she can do this and that she doesn't have to do it alone. Even if the odds are stacked against her. Even if the prognosis isn't good. Tell her she can do it. With God's help. With your help. She can do this.

4. I'm praying for you.
This is easily my favorite thing to hear from people. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that prayer moves the hand of God, so the more people praying for me, the better. I've had people I don't know stop me to say they're praying for me. I get emails from friends around the country telling me their churches are praying for me. I've even had teachers at my children's school stop to ask me how I'm doing and say they are praying for me. Bring it on. I will take all the prayers I can get!

5. What do you need?
Early in my journey, many people offered help, but I didn't have much need yet. Those same people were still there when my needs did arise. Some drove my kids to and from school and took me to doctor's appointments. Others brought meals and offered to get groceries or run errands. Some simply checked in from time to time asking if I needed anything. Each offer was an answered prayer, meeting whatever we needed at that time. If you don't know what to say to someone, offer to do something for them.

For those of you following my journey, here's a quick update: A PET scan in January showed the tumors have continued to shrink, so I am taking a break from chemotherapy for the time being (woo-hoo!) I appreciate all your prayers and will continue to keep post updates.

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The age-old advice to "choose your battles" is a great rule of thumb for relationships--friendships, parenting, even marriage. But, in life, sometimes you don't have a choice. Sometimes the battle chooses you. In my case, that battle is cancer.

battle-cancer

At first, of course, I was shocked...devastated. I cried...a lot. I prayed...a lot. I hugged my husband and my kids...a lot. Then I had a revelation: I may not have chosen this battle, but I could choose how I fight it. I could wallow in self-pity and depression, dragging down all of those around me.
Or I could lift my head, put my chin up and face this battle head-on. I decided
I was going to do the latter. That meant making some difficult changes and
learning some tough lessons along the way...

Read the rest of this post over at Your Thriving Family where I'm sharing how I am Making the Most of Cancer.

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A few weeks ago, a package arrived at my door. Since I hadn't recently ordered anything, and Christmas was long gone, I was a bit puzzled. What I found inside amazed me and overwhelmed me:

compassionbag

photo courtesy of Compassion That Compels, used with permission

Someone had blessed me with the following:

Jesus Calling devotional
Notebook
Journal
Pen
Reusable mug
Scripture Teabags
Scripture Candy Soft Mints
Small blanket
Chick-fil-A gift card
Beautiful, durable tote bag

The only note inside was from a sweet woman whom I had never met. Kristianne explained that a friend had requested this gift to encourage me in my battle with cancer. Her hand-written note said she was praying for me; her words were so genuine, I knew she really was.

Thanks to the power of the world wide web, I quickly found Kristianne's organization, Compassion That Compels and learned her story. What began as a simple request from a woman facing cancer has turned into a powerful ministry, offering hope and a "warm hug" to women who are in the fight of their lives.

Kristianne contacted me a few days later and a beautiful friendship began to unfold over the phone and across the miles. She had been following my writing, and when she asked me to consider doing a guest post for her blog, I didn't have to think twice. I was in. So today I would love for you to join me over at Kristianne's where I'm talking about what you should never say to a cancer patient.

And if you know someone who is facing this terrible battle, why not make her day a little more special by requesting a Compassion Bag for her. Or consider helping Kristianne by sponsoring Compassion Bags for those women she lovingly calls cancer overcomers...because, afterall, that is what we are. :)

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I was up, showered, dressed...I even had on makeup...all before my kids came down for breakfast. That was an unusual feat for this not-a-morning-person mama. But this wasn't just an ordinary day. This was Mom's Valentine Tea at my son's preschool.

Not only was I excited to wear cute shoes and curl my hair, I had visions of my little guy and myself chatting it up with all his friends and their moms...just as I had done with his sister a couple years before. My visions of our perfect little date were interrupted by my son bounding down the stairs. I could not believe my eyes. There, before me, stood my son in his favorite sweats and Avengers T-shirt.

love-is

"Is that what you're wearing to school?" I asked as nonchalantly as I could.

"Yup" he replied matter-of-factly, not even considering that The Incredible Hulk might not be appropriate attire for a Mother-Son Valentine Tea.

If there's one thing I've learned from his older sister, it's to choose my battles wisely, especially when they involve wardrobe choices. My mantra has always been, If it's modest and weather-appropriate, it's not worth the battle. So, I bit my tongue.

Still, there was no hiding my disappointment as I walked back to my bedroom.

"Uh-oh, what's wrong?" my husband asked.

"Have you seen what your son is wearing?" (yes, his son)

No further explanation was needed.

"I'm on it," my husband replied, quickly exiting the room to track down "his" son. He swept our little guy back upstairs, and I heard glimpses of great wisdom being imparted...

"This is a special day..."

"Mommy is going to your school..."

"You want to look nice for Mommy when she comes to your school, right?"

A few minutes later, my son arrived downstairs, looking like this...

love-is-2

I know, your heart just melted a little bit, didn't it? Mine did, too.

My husband had recognized something that I, in my disappointment, had missed: a teachable moment. I think he was trying to teach our son about manhood and how a man treats a lady (and he did). But I think the greater lesson was about love itself.

While Valentine's Day is about flowers and cards and candy and hearts, love isn't really about any of those things. Those things express our feelings of love. But love is so. much. more. More than cards. More than flowers. More than a feeling.

Love is about putting someone else before yourself.

Love is sitting through two and a half hours of non-stop singing because your wife wanted to see a movie.

Love is going to the pharmacy for medication when you are sick yourself.

Love is holding a scared child in the night or rising early to make a special breakfast.

Love is wearing a button-up shirt and vest when you really want to wear Iron Man. :)

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But love isn't just the sacrifices we make for those closest to us.

It's also taking a meal to someone recovering from surgery or sickness.

It's stopping in the middle of your day to help someone in need.

It's taking the time to write a note, e-mail, or text to a friend who needs encouragement.

Jesus explained it this way,

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

As you think about love this Valentine's Day, you don't have to jump in front of a bus for someone to show your love. You don't have to take a bullet. You don't even have to have a Valentine. You can show a little love by simply finding a way to put someone else's needs or desires above your own. I think we can all do that.

How has someone shown you love recently?

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