When God sends messengers

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My husband, Bob, has been in the hospital for a little over two weeks. He’s already had 4 rounds of intravenous chemo and they just changed his oral chemo med tonight. The oral chemo targets the Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.  The intravenous chemo targets the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  The CML mutated into ALL but the CML still exists.  The doctors tell us that both cancers have the Philadelphia Chromosome, which makes his condition rare and difficult to treat.  Since they don’t have much data to fall back on with this rare combination, his medical team came up with what they are referring to as a “hybrid treatment plan.”

He’ll receive round 5 of intravenous chemo this Thursday.

All his blood counts are in the range that the doctors expected them to be this week and overall his doctors are happy with how Bob is responding.

About 4:00pm yesterday, Bob’s chemo nurse told him that he would be receiving another chemo drug by injection on Friday and that his doctors would explain more about it in the morning.

Bob wasn’t expecting to receive anything on Friday so the news was overwhelming and hard for him to hear.  He slipped into depression.

I wasn’t there when he heard the news. I returned at 5:00pm.

I usually park in the parking garage but decided to go in the emergency entrance when I got back to the hospital.

As I entered, there was a man sitting in a wheel chair by the door. He looked at me and asked if I was a volunteer. I said no. He asked, “Do you work here?” I replied, “No, I’m on my way up to the 5th. floor to visit my husband. The man asked, “What’s your husband’s name?” I responded, “Robert”. “Can you give Robert a message for me?” he asked. I nodded. Then he said, “You tell Robert that I’m praying for him and to keep the faith!” I smiled, thanked him and told him that I’d definitely give him the message. As I approached the elevator, he yelled out “You both keep the faith!”

How can we not keep the faith when God sends messengers (perhaps even angels) to encourage us daily?

Bob’s words after he heard the message? “Our God is good. He is reminding me that He’s right here with me and He’ll never leave me.”  His spirits lifted.

Peace returned to Bob’s heart and he rested well last night.

Blessings,

Nancy

(I snapped the above photo from Bob’s hospital room)

Bless and be thankful continually

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“We bless you, Lord.”

I heard those words flow out of the mouth of someone praying once.

And those four words got me thinking.

Does God need our blessing?

I know I need his blessing.  I need his blessing to live.

I’m blessed when I inhale my first breath of morning air.

I’m blessed with my first sip of coffee and with my first spoonful of Cheerios.

I’m blessed with a warm shower and my bar of dove sudsing up my washcloth.

The clothes I put on are his blessing.

His provision.

Sustaining grace.

The sunshine.

Shelter.

Rain that soaks the earth.

Plants and flowers that bloom in my yard.

Everything.  Everywhere.  I’m surrounded by his blessings.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.  Jonathan Oatman, Jr

We sing, recite and teach children and grandchildren to sing and recite these or similar words.

But are we conscious, really conscious of even the simplest of blessings?

We need his blessing to survive.

Does he need or want ours?

The Orthodox Jews blessed God.  So did Jesus.

If we look closely at Jesus’ prayers and even the Apostle Paul’s, we see clearly that their style of prayer was one that continually blessed God.

That prayer style was passed down from Moses when he told the Israelites to focus on the Lord and to not forget that he is the source of all that they have and that he alone sustains them.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you.  Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God.  Deut. 8: 10-11.

Moses didn’t want the Israelites to rely on God only in their lean days but to also acknowledge him in their abundance — especially when things were going good.  That’s when it’s easy to forget about God.  He was stressing the importance of blessing God always and in all circumstances.

Blessing God with short bursts of prayer shifts our attention to him…the source of all blessings and to keep him foremost in our line of vision and in our thoughts.

Praying before meals often becomes a mindless ritual but what a great time to really pause, think, focus, and remember God’s blessings that we received throughout the day and to bless him for them.

Jesus took the bread and gave thanks — the original translation says, Jesus took the bread and blessed…not to bless the food but to bless God for the food…in other words, to thank God.  Some translations sneak in the word ‘it’ as if Jesus was blessing the food.

Maybe that’s where we’ve gotten confused with what praying before meals is really about.

Jesus was giving God thanks for the food.  He was not blessing the food.

The original Hebrew word for bless is barak which means “to kneel.”

I get the image of kneeling before him in total surrender and worship when I think of the word barak.

To bless God is to give him thanks.

We can give thanks before meals and not only then but continually all day long.

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Even during painful situations, we can thank him for the specific ways he sees us through them.

“Bless (thank) you Lord for…

We can write them down, focus on them, take our eyes off of our circumstances and place them on him and bless his name.

Life gets hard at times but God is good.  Always good.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.  Psalm 103: 1-5, RSV

“Oh, Lord, we bless your name.”  And we can say it over and over, because there isn’t a second in life that hasn’t been saturated with his blessings.

Oh, Lord we bless (thank) you for________.  You fill in the blank and I’ll bet you will be able to fill in more than just one blank.  Count your blessings name them one by one.  Count your blessings see what God has done!

Be blessed!

Nancy

Breaking up the Unplowed Ground

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It’s been a long goodbye this week.  I’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones traveling cross-country to start a new chapter of life in a new place.  It’s been a bittersweet separation these past few days.

My emotions range from being hopeful, happy, excited and then sad and lonely all at once.  Then there’s worry and anxiety close by to turn my world upside down.

Letting go.  It’s hard.

I spent the last few months in my garden.  Weeding, working the soil, planting.  It’s therapy.  And the therapy became a blessing as I have anticipated this week for some time now.

I worked the soil, in a large planter on my deck, trying to release a stump leftover from a shrub that once grew in the pot.

I dug, pulled, chopped, yanked.  Little by little the deeply embedded roots gave way to my prodding and poking.  Bit by bit I tossed the entangled roots until I got to the stump.  I dug a little more and released its grip.  It was finally gone for good.

Adding more potting soil, it was ready to receive fresh new plants.

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My heart can feel that way sometimes–choked and clogged by a number of embedded emotions that need uprooting so that new growth can sprout.

It may seem easier to let them fester, ignore them or even wallow in them but if I want to flourish, both emotionally and spiritually they need releasing.

It’s funny how God can speak to me in the most unbelievable ways.  Yesterday it was through a Persian poet born in 1207.

I opened a magazine and these words popped out at me:

Do not worry that your life is turning upside down.  How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?  Rumi

Ok, God.  I hear you.

I wandered through my garden today and noticed the beauty.  There are flowers blooming everywhere.

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The hard work this past spring produced an over abundance of growth.

I know It’s time to work the unplowed ground in my heart too.  I sit quietly, flipping through the pages of His unshakable and reliable word.

Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.  Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts…   Jeremiah 4: 3-4a

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.  Hosea 10:12

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I’m doing the hard work of pulling out some of those deeply rooted roots and weeds in my heart, because I know that to see new growth and flourish I must first dig out the worry and anxiety.  I have to uproot the wanting to hold on tightly when it’s time to let go.

And you know what?  The more I work at this uprooting process the more I’m seeing evidence of joy and peace sprout once again.

What do you need to uproot today?

Blessings!

Nancy ©pensandjournals.com

When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

When Light Meets The Dark

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It was that time again–time to travel the 160 miles to the medical center for my husband’s cancer check-up with his oncologist/hematologist.

We left yesterday morning while it was still dark.

The darkness of uncertainty always covers us as we travel east for his appointments but the sun coming up yesterday was a reminder that God’s light would already be there to meet us when we got to the hospital.

Yesterday we received a great report from his doctor.  Bob is still responding well to the chemo drug without side effects.  He has another appointment in August and if the markers of the Leukemia in his blood reach a certain target level he will not need another bone marrow biopsy.

So we travel and trust and we know that no matter what the outcome will be in August the light of God’s presence always goes with us and before us.

We are never alone.

(This post is in response to the Daily Post’s Friday Photo Challenge:  Early Bird)

Blessings,

Nancy

Do what you love, love what you do and always remember why you do it

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When I was younger, I always dreamed of writing.  I couldn’t deny the desire that I had to put pen to paper.  I filled many journals and as my faith grew so did the desire.

Writing isn’t something that I picked.  It picked me.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.        Psalm 37:4

I can’t take credit for the desire either.  It came alive around the same time that my faith awakened. Words became my gift and as my soul reached higher that truth became brighter.

Writing wasn’t like deciding to go to the garden and pick a flower.

Oh, that is pretty.  I think I’ll pick that one.

No, the desire was firmly planted within me.

It was gently formed somewhere deep in those dark places where nobody else sees and it germinated, took root, grew and eventually blossomed.

God planted it, he watered it–like the dark earth of the soil that protects a seed or bulb until it’s ready to spring up–he protected the desire to write in me and when the conditions were just right it slowly unearthed.  Then he taught me how to nurture and care for my gift.

My very first article submission to a magazine was surprisingly accepted.  That had its advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage was that it confirmed to me that I was on the right track and writing was my calling.

I began a professional relationship with the editor that liked my writing voice and accepted most of my work.  If a piece that I wrote didn’t fit an upcoming publication, he’d make suggestions for revisions and I’d edit it and send it back for his approval.

The disadvantage of that initial accepted article and editorial relationship was that I thought it would always be that easy.  It was not.

That editor of that magazine eventually left his position, the magazine took a different direction and I was left writing and submitting to other publications.

Submissions, rejections, more submissions and once in a while an acceptance letter but, for the most part, it became a chore and I lost the spark.

The desire to write evaporated as I became more engrossed in the end result rather than enjoying the process.  As a result, for several years, I left the writing scene for other pastures.

In those other pastures, I found good things to do but sometimes good things aren’t always the best.

Something always felt missing and I tried to fill it with other work but, at the same time, I felt a tugging, a nudging, a calling back to where my gift was sown.

During those years in other pastures, I kept my pen and journal by my side.  I still jotted down personal entries, ideas and wrote poetry occasionally for a mission’s publications but that was about the extent of my writing.

In those other pastures where I roamed and where I ignored the calling back, I often rationalized it with thoughts like–but I’m not as good as that writer over there.  Their gift blooms more spectacular than mine.  As I played the comparison game, I stayed stuck right where I was. 

Most of us know what comparing ourselves to others will do and you don’t have to be a writer to experience it.

It’s like a thief in the night that digs into the rich soil of our hearts and tries to rip out the seeds that God has planted.  Tries is the key word here.  It can’t happen unless we allow it.

When we’re too busy examining others’ gifts we neglect our own.  Our soil becomes barren.

Even in the darkness when we can’t visualize the flower it is right there beneath the surface ready to bloom like a flower ready to emerge in the springtime.

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Once it blooms, we must care for it but we can’t do that when we’re roaming in other fields or pastures that look greener.

Eventually I listened to the voice calling me back and I started writing again–just for the sake of writing.  Now I write for an audience of ONE.  The ONE who planted the desire in me.

When I started to nurture and care for the gift that I was given instead of comparing my gift to others my passion returned.

It’s not about publication.  It’s about doing what I was born to do.  There’s joy, freedom and release in that.

Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesy holes. It won’t, it can’t. But writing can. So can singing.                       Anne Lamott

I love that quote by Anne.  I might add–the likes, the comments, the applause, the stats, the followers you receive will never fill those Swiss cheesy holes either.  Only God can do that and a beautiful way to find wholeness is by using the gifts you you’re designed to use.

Just do it and always remember why you do it.

Blessings,

Nancy Janiga  ❤

Savoring Moments Through My Lens # 2

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The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.  Psalm 24: 1-2

The sandpipers poked their beaks in the sand not noticing me at first.  As I approached them, they dispersed.  Flying across the water Afloat; they scattered.

I’m sitting at my desk doing what I do…writing.  I’ll publish my next writing post (most likely) by Monday.

I just took a break from writing to read and respond to the Daily Post’s Friday Photo Challenge: Afloat.

Besides writing, I also enjoy photography and savoring moments through my lens.  I captured the above photo on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.

I marvel at God’s creation.

Be blessed!

Nancy