Days of Grace

I celebrated my birthday over the weekend. It was a quiet event for the most part. A couple of friends surprised me with visits, and my youngest daughter and her fiancé brought pizzas for an impromptu pizza party in the evening. She celebrates her birthday a week after mine so her siblings are planning a combined family gathering on Sunday. It will hopefully distract me from my fourth chemo treatment on the Monday.

I am thankful I have these “days of grace”, as I call the ten to twelve days leading up to the next treatment. My treatment day and the nine to ten days following it are my most challenging. Chemo side effects level me on the frontline of the battle. Then it is like a fog lifts slowly from the battleground and my body goes into recovery mode. I catch my breath and feel almost normal. I relish these days of grace before I march onto the field of battle again.

During these calm, almost tranquil times, I seek solace and peace from the Lord. He renews my strength and prepares me for the challenging days ahead. I experience first hand what it means to be led beside quiet waters, to be refreshed, and to be comforted as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 23. There is a dark valley to be traversed through ahead of me, but God tells me not to fear because He is with me!

I will admit when I am experiencing the full effects of chemotherapy assaulting my body, I forget God is still with me. I feel alone in the valley, with the enemy screaming in my ear, “You are weak! You are insignificant! I will defeat you this time!” I listen to the lies and feel overwhelmed by the onslaught, but then the Lord’s still, small voice whispers almost imperceptibly into my ear, “You are mine!”

On my own strength, it’s hard to block out the barrage of verbal gunfire the enemy aims at me during those days of chemo thunder. So it is in the midst of battle I cling to Scripture that I have hidden away in my heart to remind me of God’s mercy. God’s Word encourages me to see past my circumstances and to look ahead to the days of grace that follow.

2 Corinthians 4:16-19. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Isaiah 40:31. “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Deuteronomy 31:6. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Matthew 11:28:29Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

John 14:1-4Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I covet your prayers on Monday and through the next round, dear readers!

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Another Tough Go

As I write today, I’m more or less confined to my lounge chair still feeling the effects of my last chemo treatment. I did not have the neuropathy pain this go-round, which gave me such a huge sense of relief, but there was (is) a whole arsenal of other unpleasant side effects that chemo has hit me with over the weekend. I’m still in its nasty grip.

So far since my cancer diagnosis, I have missed out on our anniversary cruise, Stampede Week, camping at the lake with all the kids, camping weekends with my husband, church services, and this past weekend the No Greater Love Christian Music Festival. We live near enough so we could hear the music drifting on the wind coming from the grounds of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, but I couldn’t join the crowds and enjoy the music in person. I contented myself instead with watching some of the videos NGL posted online. I don’t malign the fact I can’t participate in some activities I had planned to be a part of this summer, but it’s hard to look forward to next year when the day to day now is an endurance on its own.

I am in survival mode, living with and through nausea, unable to sleep at night, but so fatigued I can hardly move about my home. It’s hard to adequately describe what my body has gone through this past weekend, but it’s like being pulled apart from the inside out. No pain, but feeling constantly sick has worn me down. Oh, and I’ve lost six pounds in three days. ‘Nuff said.

My “help me” prayers have been two to three sentences in length, if that. My husband took over adding the specific details when I couldn’t find strength to voice the requests myself. He has watched helplessly as I struggled these many days. At one point, after helping me up the stairs to bed, he just hugged me while I wept into my pillow. I voiced my defeat, while he prayed me to sleep.

Why do I share this? My last post was so hopeful, filled with praise. I am thankful I was pain free this round, but cancer and the chemo that combats it are insidious bedfellows. There is no “easy” way to get to the other side of this. I can’t sidestep this, nor can I quit, even though the physical and mental toll on me is profound. Really all I think about this go-round is a great “cloud of witnesses” that surrounds me.

Hebrews 11 is a list of the faithful greats of the Bible. Men and women who despite setbacks, personal challenges, persecution, and more, lived their lives “by faith”. They were great overcomers, mostly ordinary individuals who are remembered in Scripture for their extraordinary faith. They were not perfect people. In fact, some of them were actually quite flawed in character, but God used them even in their weakness, to make them great for His purposes.

I have my own “cloud of witnesses” who have gone before me, who faced cancer with dignity and great faith. My mother-in-law, Laura, who battled breast cancer, raised her three children and shared the Gospel with them, with me, with family and friends and even when she was confined to a wheelchair in her last years witnessed to all who would listen. She knew her priorities. My mother, Ellen, who determined to put the needs of others before her own, while breast cancer and debilitating blood clots ravished her body. She faced her battle with great courage and strength. There are others: Vicky, Mary, Sarah, April, Michael, Jasmine and many more whom I know and who have battled, or are currently battling cancer in some form or other. They are heroes to me!

Let me also mention the “cloud of witnesses” who are watching MY journey with cancer in the here and now. My family, my friends as well as those who read and follow this blog are watching how I face this health challenge. Will I be found faithful?

Pray for me, dear ones.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

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Happy Dance!

I am a walking, dancing, miracle this morning! I should be in the throes of battling excruciating neuropathy pain, the nasty side effect I’ve dealt with over the last two rounds after chemo, but instead in this third round I am so far pain-free and praising God for answering our prayers!

I don’t know if I can adequately express in words my thankfulness for all the prayers lifted up on my behalf. To those who leave comments, I am humbled by your words of encouragement.

I will admit I had real misgivings going into this round. I am a wimp when it comes to pain. Round Two had been so challenging for me, I dreaded being in that state again this go-round. The prescribed pain-killers had little to no effect on controlling the neuropathy I was experiencing. It was sheer misery. Then, to make matters worse, a blood clot further complicated things and I truly questioned why God was allowing all this to happen to me. I questioned Him in 2001 as well when I battled breast cancer. I remember crying out, “Why me, Lord?” I was surprised by His response to me then and I remembered it this time too.

“Why not you?”

God’s response was profoundly impacting. How arrogant was I then, and now, to think that I should be somehow spared hardship? What claim do I have to any of His blessings really? Is it through my own works or merit? No. Am I better than another in my acts or deeds? Absolutely not! Let’s face it, God didn’t spare His only Son! Why in the world would I even question His authority over my life?

I am ashamed. Forgive me, Lord. I don’t deserve Your Grace and yet You have poured it over me again. You heard my feeble prayers and answered them more abundantly than I could have imagined.

This morning during my devotions I prayed back this precious scripture to the Lord:

Psalm 30 ” I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit. Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you favoured me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, Lord I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

Amen!

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