Our Hearts Are Being Refreshed

macarons xxx

It’s early.  I woke before dawn and watched daylight break through the darkness.  I glance at the cup a dear friend sent to me and read the prayer printed on it.

“May God grant you courage, and through His grace provide the peace that lies in knowing He’s always at your side.”

More than ever I need to know this.  We, my husband and I, need to know this.

My friend sent two different but special mugs.  One for me and one for Bob.

The other mug says:

FAITH, is being sure of what we hope for.  Hebrews 11:1

Our hope is in the Lord.  Our hope is knowing that He will give us strength and courage to walk through this valley.  And as the prayer on the cup says…and through His grace provide the peace that lies in knowing He’s always at our side.

We believe.

Bob went to sleep with those words on his lips last night:  “I believe.”

There have been bursts of glory knowing God is near as His overwhelming presence carries us.  It’s actually more than knowing it.  We’re experiencing it.

We arrived here in this place, 170 miles and three hours away from our home, at the end of August.

It is the beginning of December now and we are still here in our home away from home.  In this apartment 2 miles away from the hospital where Bob is being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, we are living our new normal.

Bob spent 34 days in the hospital during his induction treatment.  Now he is having his treatments out patient as we wait for news about a stem cell/bone marrow transplant.

A donor match hasn’t been found.

We’re running against time and soon the transplant team will be making a decision to do either an umbilical cord blood transplant or use a 1/2 match from a family member in an attempt to save Bob’s life.

Chemotherapy alone will not keep the aggressive fast growing cancer in remission.

Without the quick decisions and chemotherapy program that Bob’s doctors designed for him, he may not be here today.

We were whisked away within days to begin his treatment.  They didn’t waste any time.

Bob is in remission receiving chemo to keep it there until a transplant can be done.

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A couple of weeks ago, we found flowers on the doorstep of the apartment where we’re living.  A gift from friends back home.  I clipped and arranged them, put them in a vase and they have been giving us many days of joy.

As we look around at the gifts and cards that so many friends have sent we’re overwhelmed with gratitude.

My sister and her husband have been coming at least once a week.  Dave stays with Bob and Judy takes me out for a while.  My other sister, Diane and her husband Andy visit and Diane meets Judy and I for lunch often.

The doctors and nurses ask me, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?”  It’s easy to forget that if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to care for Bob.

My sisters have been lifesavers for me, rescuers who won’t let me slip into depression or neglect my emotional or mental health.

Our sons; our daughter-in-law ~ ~ they’re like life-saving medicine to our hearts.

My brothers, my parents, many friends ~ their cards, their calls, their texts, their visits, their prayers are bathing us with hope and courage. We have an army of prayer warriors standing with us in prayer.

We arrived here in the summer…

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Saw the beauty of autumn come…

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then slowly slip away…

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droplets

and stood amazed at the winter wonderland of our first snowfall…

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Through the seasons of change and waiting, we are refreshed by the love and prayers of so many people.

In the fights of life, people can be conduits of great joy and deep refreshment.  Margaret Feinberg

There are many friends and family members fighting this fight with us.

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Philemon 1:7

Blessings,

Nancy ❤

(All photos were taken by me in or near our home away from home.  I believe God has given us the ability to find and create beauty in the middle of this messy often painful world.  I hang tight to Him and to His promises and will continue my search for beauty through my lens)

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)

Your answer could be right around the corner

hills 3 x - Copy wdpI tossed and turned most of the night knowing what was ahead of us in the morning.  At 5:30am, my eyes opened.  I stared at the ceiling for a while then rolled over and closed my eyes.  My husband’s arm wrapped around me and grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze.  This would be the last time we’d be this close for many months.  As tears rolled down my cheeks, I drifted off to sleep for half an hour.

Bob’s cancer is mutating. He not only has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia but, through a bone marrow biopsy, his doctors detected Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  An extremely rare combination. The only hope for a cure is through a bone marrow transplant or what is commonly known today as a stem cell transplant. That process begins today.

We will travel 170 miles from home where he will enter the hospital for a month to receive extensive chemotherapy treatments — both orally and intravenously to try and bring both cancers into remission.  This will begin the process to move him toward the transplant.

I’m moving into an apartment near the hospital where I will be close to him.  It could be 6 months or longer before we can return home.

It’s been a whirlwind.  We just heard the news last week and we’re already being whisked away.

Bob has a wonderful medical team at one of the best hospitals in our state but our trust is in God.  He has been our guide and strength through this long and winding road.  If we had to depend on ourselves, we’d be incapable.

We heard the news on Thursday and they wanted him admitted the following Monday.  Where will I live?  How can we manage this so far from home?  Those were questions that I kept asking God.

We stopped at a café to eat lunch after we met with the medical team last Thursday.

Scrambling through the internet looking for rentals, proved futile.  We were trying to find a place, in a college town, near a University Hospital.  Bob’s doctors and staff at the hospital told us that it would be extremely hard to find an apartment there.

Concern for Bob flooded me.  I didn’t want him admitted into the hospital on Monday with this weight on his shoulders.  His concern was over me having to deal with this alone after Monday.

We had to get back to our home 170 miles away to get ready, pack and prepare for Monday.

As we left the café, we turned the corner and drove less than a block and saw a “Now leasing” sign.   We pulled in.  They had a 2 bedroom apartment available.  The people living there were moving out on Monday.  It was the only unit available.

The leasing agent showed us the place, in a quiet and quaint area, and said it was ours if we could give her a deposit that day.  We did and it’s now ours.  The extra bedroom will come in handy for family visits.

Our answer was right around the corner!  God had the place picked out for us long before we knew that we would need an apartment in that area.

He hasn’t brought us this far to leave us and we know that ultimately He is in total control.  We are leaning on Him for strength through this storm and praying for Bob’s healing.

God is good.  He’s always good even in the middle of a storm.

Blessings,

Nancy

(I took the photo in this post in New Mexico a couple of years ago)

Celebrate!

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Red, white and blue.  I’ve seen it everywhere this past week.

If you live in the USA, you have too.

There are flags waving, crepe paper adorning, patriotic symbols flashing, celebration of the 4th. of July, our independence day, the birthday of America ring out across our land.

And the celebration continues into Sunday, July 5.

I celebrate my freedom to worship today, to serve the God I love, to live in a country where I can proclaim my faith without fear of persecution.  I celebrate that I can worship openly, not in hiding, like so many fellow believers do in other parts of the world.

Despite my freedom, at times I feel like a fish out of water or a fish in the water swimming upstream, going against the flow.

When I get weary and tired, God’s strength and power gives me the Spiritual muscles to keep swimming even when the current pushes against me.

And He gives me the power to live here, now, at such a time as this but to always remember who I am, where I came from and where I’m headed.

He gives me the power to LOVE. And I hope I will LOVE coming from a humble position.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers. adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Luke 18: 9-14

My prayer is that I will LOVE coming from the humble place of one needing mercy–ah, grace, mercy–I am nothing without it and everything with it.

I’m aware that as a Christ follower I am called to be different, live differently than our culture — to live counter culturally — but I am also called to love differently than is humanly possible in a world that is not my home.  That is hard and impossible without the power of Christ in me.

I don’t want to forget that this is not my home.  I don’t want to forget that I live in a world where I don’t really belong.  I don’t want to ever forget that I am a citizen of Heaven and that I am just passing through.

I am a sojourner.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a sojourner too.

We are not citizens of our world trying to work our way to Heaven.  We are citizens of Heaven allowing Him to complete His work through us.

As I look around at all the red, white and blue.  When I celebrate, join in on the festivities, parades, fireworks, I’m reminded that this celebration can’t compare to the one going on in Heaven when we open our hearts and lives to Jesus–the one who loved us enough to come down into this world to save us.

He’s the one who throws open wide the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven and welcomes us into a new and forever citizenship — a land with similar colors to remember and celebrate.

Jesus bore the red – through His blood, the blue through His bruises and we wear the white.

When God looks at us clothed in Jesus, He sees us as though we have never sinned.  White as snow.  Pure and perfect without blemish or stain.

As I celebrate my freedom here, I’m thankful for my liberty, the freedom to worship, the freedom to express myself.  I celebrate all that and more.

I celebrate the beauty, the glimpses of His glory that surround me daily and I’m truly thankful for all the good and perfect gifts that He’s given to me for my enjoyment.

But I also remember not to get too comfortable and to remember that I will be called to live counter-culturally at times, maybe even be ridiculed for that, possibly be misunderstood,  but I will remain joyful remembering that this is not my home, I’m just passing through.  The best is yet to come.

Blessings,

Nancy

Sometimes We Need To Go Back Before We Can Move Forward

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We had a large lilac bush behind my childhood home.  Every spring when I fill a vase with lilacs, their fragrance transports my thoughts back to that house where many special memories were made.

Memories.  We all have them.  Some good, some not so good but they’re stored somewhere deep within our brains.  Just like a computer stores information on a hard drive, our brains also have some sort of storage system.

I have wonderful parents and I have wonderful memories from childhood too.

But I believe it’s safe to say that all of us have some not so good memories whether from childhood, teenage years, young adult years or beyond.

Painful circumstances or trauma can occur at anytime or any age.

So what do we do with those nagging painful memories if they keep re-surfacing?

I don’t have a professional answer to that question but I can share a snippet from my own personal experience.

I believe that painful memories will hurt forever unless we find a way to release them and we can’t release them until they’re healed and there’s only one healer.

After I became a Christian, I took Jesus back with me to a painful time in my life.  A time period when I was too weak and consumed with circumstances to reach out to Him.

I talked to Him about it, showed Him the scene, the pain, the emotions, the heartache and relived it in His presence.  He knew all about it anyway but healing began when it came out of the darkness of my soul and into His light.

I emptied myself first by confessing my own sins–making myself a clean vessel ready to receive all the healing Jesus had for me–I prayed, pondered, journaled, talked to trusted friends, prayed with friends and even talked and prayed with a Christian therapist for 6 weeks when I got stuck at one point in the process.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  Matthew 18:20

He is the God who heals, not only for today, but for the trauma of yesterday too.   What concerned me, concerned Him.

God is LOVE.  And Jesus is God.

Love is the balm that heals.

Emotional pain is just as hard to work through as physical pain.  Often it’s even harder because nobody sees it.

Others don’t always know when we’re suffering from emotional pain.  It’s easy to hide it but those hidden things are like razors cutting away at the fiber of our being.  It’s hard to keep it together when that’s going on so we may head into the safety zone of denial and just pretend it never happened.

Denial is a safeguard.  I truly believe that denial is a gift from God to guard us against the overwhelming rush of emotions that are too painful to deal with all at once.  But in the long run it’s not a healthy place to stay.   It’s a place to visit but not to live.  We weren’t meant to live in denial forever.  It will sideline us.  Stagnant us.  Bind us.  And it will keep us in chains if we pretend we’re okay when we’re not.

The buried hurt will come out eventually.  Most often through things like isolating ourselves from others, bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, just to name a few.

We’re designed to go through life with God–allowing Him to help us through the valleys and the rough rocky places.  When we shut Him out, or if we were too young or weak to cope with the pain (when it occurred) we may try to soothe it through other methods.

There’s the obvious ones like over consumption of alcohol, drugs, risky sexual behavior.  Usually, it’s not the behavior that needs addressing first but the deeply rooted pain that causes the behavior.

But there’s less obvious ones too — excessive spending, excessive eating, excessive use of social media, busyness, workaholism, perfectionism, over-dependence on people to meet our needs, running here, there and everywhere, doing rather than being, trying to order our world outwardly because inwardly we’re bleeding.

I’m sure there’s more ways but you get the idea.

I’ve been there; done that.  I mean getting trapped in the mindset that things, other than Christ, would fill me up and set me free.  It may work but only temporarily.

Using the gifts of God to replace the holy presence of God is a bandage not a remedy and we will go through many bandages until the remedy is finally applied.

Jesus said…

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   John 10:10

When I think of abundant living, I think of a surrendered and joyful relationship with our living Lord through worship, praise, prayer, with evidence of God’s Spirit growing in and through me like a harvest of blessings.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23

The fruit associated with abundant life is hard to experience when we’re hiding behind a facade, pretending that everything is okay.

God wants us to toss out the band aids and expose our wounds.  He wants to set us free.  Once we’re set free, the memories will be there but they won’t have the sharp sting that they once had.  They’ll turn from a bleeding wound  into a beautiful scar.

If the process seems slow, His faithfulness is not.  He’s there in the struggle and will bring us to the point where we can finally say,  “That memory is there, but it isn’t painful anymore.”

It’s not easy but when we finally get to the end of our grieving process with accounts settled and forgiveness extended (forgiveness is an essential part of healing–whether toward ourselves or others) there will be freedom.

The path ahead will clear.  No more getting stuck in one spot.  We’ll keep moving forward authentically with Jesus and others.

We won’t hide pain anymore, because we know life is hard and it’s okay to grieve safely anytime, anywhere in the presence and comfort of Jesus.

That beautiful scar I mentioned above?  It’s a reminder of what Christ has done, it gives us our story.  The wound becomes recycled into something lovely and useful.  It becomes a gift.  God gives it purpose, meaning and none of it will be wasted.  The byproduct is wisdom and doors will open to help others.

I know this is a simple way to describe emotional healing and some may not find it helpful.

However, I think what’s most important is that we are not alone and Jesus is the healer of yesterday today and tomorrow.

The journey toward emotional healing begins when we take our first step with Jesus and if that means stepping back before we can move forward it’s worth the trip.

Blessings,

Nancy

PS:  Whew! This was a lengthy post.  If you read this to the end, thank you.  I try to keep my posts around 800 words or less but as hard as I tried I couldn’t shave this one down.

(Disclosure:  This is not a professional article.  The opinions in this piece are that of the author and aren’t meant to be used to diagnose or treat illness or psychological trauma or pain.  It is solely meant to be a thought provoking piece about faith, hope and love.  Every situation is different.  If you have memories that are severely painful (more than just nagging) It is up to you to decide what course of action to take whether seeking professional services or other avenues).

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

And Then He Speaks Peace

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It had been a rough few days.

They were cowering behind locked doors.

They couldn’t wrap their minds around what happened.

Broken hearts.

Trying to comprehend.

But it was incomprehensible.

Afraid.

Afraid to move.

Afraid of the future.

Afraid to hope again.

Then he came.

The one they followed.

Their leader.

He could have said:

  • “Thanks guys.” (sarcastically)
  • “Why did you leave me”
  • “Why did you run?”
  • “Where were you when I needed you?”
  • “After all I’ve done, this is how you treat me?”
  • “Where is your respect?”
  • “When I spoke, were you even listening to me?”

He could have.

But he didn’t.

Instead he said:

“Peace be with you!”

And when we’re afraid.

When we’ve been hurt.

When we feel that we can’t go on.

When life is hard.

When burdens are heavy.

When friends leave.

When family is distant.

When life hurts.

When we don’t understand.

When tragedy strikes.

When illness invades.

When life gets messy.

When hope seems gone.

He comes.

And He speaks to us.

He speaks into our circumstances.

“Peace be with you!”

(Based on John 20:19-23)  To read the story click here ->Peace

Blessings,

Nancy