In Our Trouble

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“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Trouble.  Jesus promises us trouble.  He didn’t say you might have trouble or there is a possibility of having trouble.  He tells us we will have trouble.

His words are recorded at the end of chapter 16 in the gospel of John.  Right smack dab at the end of His teaching to the disciples–which was meant to prepare them for His impending death and resurrection–He tells them what to expect and that it wasn’t going to be easy or comfortable.

He taught them but they really didn’t get it.  He also promised them a gift…the gift of the Holy Spirit.  When they received that gift after His resurrection, they understood and they received power to live as overcomers.

Jesus overcame death through the resurrection.  And His followers will too.  “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

But what does all this mean for me today in the here and now?

In my present situation, it means that when the doctor tells me that I will be my husband’s nurse–post bone marrow transplant–and there will be daily infusions to give him in his chest catheter, flushing the 3 lines with saline and heparin, taking his blood pressure, temperature and watching him closely for signs of disease…I tremble!  This is trouble!

And I cry out to God and I overcome my fears, not by bailing out, but by sticking in there with the help of the Holy Spirit.

When I am at my weakest, when I feel helpless and I look at Bob who is even more helpless, this is trouble!

And I cry out to God and somehow I’m uplifted and given strength that I could never muster up myself.

When I say, “I’m not capable for this task.  I’m not a nurse and if I wanted to be a nurse I would have become a nurse,”  and when I fear doing new things and organizing and administering 13 medications, preparing food that Bob can tolerate, keeping the house fit and sanitized for a transplant patient, and transporting him to hospital visits, I miraculously don’t cave under the weight of it.  Humanly, I think I will.  But I don’t

God knows ‘I can’t’ but through Him I can do all things.  Just like Philippians 4:13 promises.

And in the midst of the trouble there’s even moments of repose, quiet and deep peace.

It doesn’t always come easy but it comes.

God is good in the midst of trouble and in our weakness He is strong.  And that’s how we overcome.

Blessings,

Nancy

(The above photo was taken in our home away from home near the hospital where my husband is being treated.  I have been photographing indoor scenes since I don’t get out in nature much.  My camera is my companion on this journey.  I thought I’d have to give up my photography but how could I?  It’s a gift from God, and all that I photograph are reminders of the small delights and simple pleasures that I have to be thankful for).

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)

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

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

Expressions of Love

heart sunset 2 - Copy wdp“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”  Sarah Kay


I’m not sure why I was having a bad day.  It was several years ago.  All I remember was there were tears and I wanted a little slice of time to myself.
Bob left the house and returned later with a box of Good and Plenty, handed it to me and said, “I thought this might make you feel a little better.”
I smiled, opened the box and we went for a walk while I ate my candy.
And you know what?  That simple gesture of love lifted my spirits.
He could have brought home a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring and it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
I’m not saying those gifts would be meaningless but there’s a time and place for everything.
The little box of Good and Plenty was perfect.
Why?  Because it came from someone who has studied me, therefore knows me and my husband picked a simple, thoughtful gift for that day.  Knowing that Good and Plenty was one of my favorite childhood candies, he went out and bought a box.
It was just an ordinary day, with me needing a little encouragement and my husband decided that Good and Plenty may do the trick.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I ate that candy–it was many years ago so it was a special surprise.
Silly, huh?  But you know what?  It’s often the simplest gestures of love that mean the most.
As hard as I try to remember, I can’t recall why I was so sad that day and either does Bob but we both remember the gift of Good and Plenty and how it made me feel.
That’s important information for many of us to remember, especially during the month of February when images of love abound as we approach Valentine’s Day.
We can start by studying our loved ones, making mental notes of their likes and favorite things, listening for clues of what may lift their spirits, bring them joy, put a smile on their face and then follow through with a simple gift.
It doesn’t have to happen on Valentine’s Day.  Actually, an unexpected gift expressing love on any day has even more meaning and impact.  However, Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to express our love to a spouse, child, friend and even a stranger with a random act of kindness.
Sometimes bigger isn’t better and less really is more.  One simple rose (in a favorite color) placed in beautiful vase instead of a dozen roses — a box or boxes of favorite childhood candy instead of a box of expensive chocolates — think, study, explore, put thought into purchasing a simple gift and then share your love.

I took the photo of the sunset, at the top of this post, on February 13, 2014 in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.  My husband and I were walking the shoreline when we noticed that the sparkling reflection of the sun on the sand looked like a heart.
I refer to that photo as the night that God kissed the shore with a heart for us just in time for Valentine’s Day–a reminder of his love for us.
His love cost everything he had — his only son and his very life.  That’s truly the only BIG GIFT worth receiving, because that’s how we learn how to love even in the smallest of ways.
We love because he first loved us.  (1 John 4:19)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The greatest gift is LOVE–go out and express it in creative ways and give someone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Blessings!  Nancy ❤    © 2015

When too much salt spoils the soup

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It was a cool autumn day, lunch time, and a hearty bowl of soup sounded good.

Bob and I stopped at a familiar restaurant and ordered the vegetable beef soup and a salad.

As we waited for our lunch, we sipped our coffee.  Not just good coffee but great coffee — something the restaurant is known for and we enjoyed every drop.

When our meal arrived, I scooped up the steaming liquid brimming with chunky veggies and bits of beef and tasted my first spoonful.

Bob asked, “So how is it?”  I swallowed then responded, “It’s flavorful.  Almost too flavorful.  Actually, It’s pretty salty.”

He tried his.  “Wow, you know me, I like my meals salted well but this is overpowering.”

Both of us kept remarking how salty the soup was with every spoonful.  I don’t know why we didn’t send it back.  We should have.

By the time we left, we had a bad taste in our mouths.  Not only because of the overpowering salty soup but toward the restaurant who served it.

On this side of that lunch experience, we have lost our desire to go back there to eat.  We’ve steered clear of it ever since.

Just one bad experience, from a normally good establishment, and we don’t want to return.

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 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

Recently I’ve heard several people say that Christians have lost their saltiness.

That statement may be true in certain situations.  Salt was used as a preservative in the first century, because of the lack of refrigeration.

Followers of Christ are like preservatives in the world, preserving it from evil.  I get that.

But salt back then was also used as a flavor enhancer.  Just as it is now.  That hasn’t changed.

Followers of Christ should enhance the flavor of our world.  We should influence the world toward good, bringing out the best in it just as salt brings out the best flavors in the food we eat.

  • Where there is strife we are peacemakers
  • Where there is sorrow we are comforters
  • Where there is hurt we should bind up wounds
  • Where there is hate we should love

Did you ever notice the gentle way Jesus engaged the broken, sick, sorrowful, hurting, unloved, abused people in conversation?   With great love.

Did you ever notice who He was the harshest with?  The religious leaders.  The ones who loved to use their religious rules to pour salt into the wounds of people.  The ones with the judgmental pointing fingers — pointing out all the wrongs in others — those were the ones that He was harshest with.

How thankful I am that Christianity isn’t about religion but about a relationship with Christ.  He doesn’t force Himself into anyone’s life but when we open our lives to Him a beautiful relationship begins.  Out of that loving relationship comes the salt of the world.


Back to the soup story.  It tasted as if someone had removed the top of the salt shaker and, instead of a little sprinkling, all the contents ended up into the bowl.

It was too much of a good thing.  A lesser amount would have been perfect.

“You are the salt of the world…

Sure we can lose our saltiness but we can also be guilty of using too much salt and become overbearing like the salty soup we ate that autumn day.

The grace given to us is a flavor enhancer to sprinkle on our surroundings by using just the right amount at just the right time.

We don’t want to pour our salt into the wounds of the hurting.  Those who are grieving over their choices, or the choices of others, those who are trying to take steps back to God don’t need our salt poured out carelessly.

And even if someone isn’t taking steps toward God, even if they don’t agree with us or we don’t agree with their lifestyle, the right amount of salt doesn’t judge.  It loves. It’s patient.  And it’s respectful.

A little salt goes a long way to flavor the lives of others and possibly wet their appetites.

Then hopefully, through God’s grace, they won’t leave our company with a bad taste in their mouths.  I think that glorifies God.  Don’t you?

Blessings!  Nancy

Daddy, Carry Me

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“Daddy, I can’t go.  I’m tired.”  Her hands reach up, “Daddy carry me. I’m scared.  It’s getting dark.  I can’t see.”

Like a good daddy he whisks her up into his arms and gently places her on his shoulders.

The evening is fading and the sun begins to withdraw behind the horizon.  Darkness isn’t far behind.

But she’s safe; secure in her father’s embrace and her fear subsides.

He sprints across the shore with confidence because he knows the way and she trusts him.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will         strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.            Isaiah 41:10

Blessings!  Nancy ❤

BE.YOU.TIFUL

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Like a carnival barker the woman summoned me to the store entrance.  I glanced in her direction as she held out a sample of moisturizer explaining, “We’re sharing a few of our skin care products today.”  I hesitated.  She continued, “It’s free.”  I thought, Oh what the heck.  I took the small foil pack, thanked her and turned to walk away.

“Wait, I have one more thing for you.  It’s a sample of our non-surgical eye lift serum.”  “No thank you,”  I responded.

Before I knew it I left my husband, Bob, standing in the mall and I was sitting in a chair facing a mirror.  How did this happen?  I never fall for this sort of thing, I thought.

But there I was in a spa–as she called it–at the mall getting a trial non-surgical eye lift from the carnival (like) barker.  Her name was Lily.  As Lily applied the potions, I kept telling her, “I’m not purchasing anything.”

All of a sudden Bob appeared with a look on his face that said, “For real?”  I shrugged my shoulders and smiled.  “No no, don’t smile, don’t move,”  Lily commanded.  I sat up straight, threw my shoulders back and froze to attention.

She applied a gel substance under my eyes, smoothed it, fanned my face with a piece of paper and explained to me that the routine would have to be done a couple of times a week.  She added that I should notice amazing results in just a few applications.

“There,” she swung my chair toward Bob.  “What do you think?  This is just one treatment and look how amazing she looks.  Imagine what this will do with long-term applications?  This is like Botox in a bottle at an affordable price.”

Bob studied my face, nods and says,  “Yes, she looks great.  I see the difference.”

I started to say, “Really?”  But Lily stopped me at ‘real’ and instructed me not to move the muscles around my eyes.   She said, “Like Botox, it’s working on relaxing all your muscles.”  I looked in the mirror.  The skin around my eyes did appear smooth but only if I didn’t move any part of my face.

Lily offers Bob the same treatment stating that men use it too.  Bob declines saying, “I don’t need it.”   That’s when I thought, Hmm…but I do?

Lily informs me of the cost of Botox and then shares the price of the eye treatment indicating how affordable it would be.

Bob’s stunned look and my squirming to get out of the chair must have signaled to Lily that we were done.  She whipped out a cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliate scrub and said that the package was worth over $800.00 but for that day she’d give it to us for the price of the eye lift serum which was $400.00.

“We’re hungry, it’s time for lunch,”  I looked toward Bob and we start to leave.

Lily throws in a nail care package thinking that would seal the deal.

As we head for the exit, Lily follows us waving her business card and I see two women purchasing the products from another carnival (like) barker.  Now we’re really stunned.

Bob and I break free and make a run for the nearest restaurant.  On our way, I must have made some facial expressions, because I caught a glimpse of myself in the lady’s room mirror at the restaurant.  I leaned in closer and saw dried gel serum crackling in the lines around my eyes making me appear to have double the wrinkles.  Then I noticed flaking white stuff hanging from my skin.

I threw on some sun glasses.  We ate and ended up at Starbucks after lunch to talk about the experience and to search for reviews on our phones.

Never mind the reviews on the products.  I have to review the truth.

The truth is simple–we live in a culture caught up with outward appearance.  Aging is viewed as something to be ashamed of.  We can’t run from the anti-aging messages.  They’re all around us–telling us to tweak this, tuck that, shift this, improve that.  Anti-aging.  It insinuates that we have to be against aging and something must be done about it.  Stat!

Today I’m reviewing the real truth.  It’s found all through God’s word and it reveals what He thinks about us.  He knows we’re flawed.  He sees the creases, outwardly and inwardly and He loves us anyway, but he’s more concerned about our inward flaws.  Those are the flaws that nobody else can see but I’m reminded that they get shed slowly over time.  Those of us who are Christians are works in progress.

  • Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.   (1 Peter 3: 3-4)
  • Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

Being renewed day by day means that our inner glow gets brighter the more we grow in our faith.  No matter what our circumstances are, or what our age is, we will radiate outwardly what is happening inwardly and that’s true beauty.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2015

Along Right Paths

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Along Right Paths

Lord, let me hear You whisper
And recognize Your voice,
For I am at the crossroads
And need to make a choice.
There are so many pathways,
But only one is right.
Point me in Your way, Lord,
I’ll let You be my light.
Allow the path to shine
And illuminate with You,
As Your presence goes before me
And shows me what to do.
May each step I take be grounded
in the knowledge that You care,
And that I can have confidence
Because You’re always there.
No road is too long or hard
When it’s you who leads the way.
I’ll follow Your footsteps, Lord,
On the path I walk this day.

…He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3

Nancy Janiga

Grace Like Rain

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I slip my glasses on so I can see my way into the kitchen.  With pen and journal in hand, I click the brew switch on the coffee maker and take a seat at the table to wait for my first cup of morning brew.

As I flip open my journal, I notice the sound of gentle rain hitting the window.  My eyes land on the sliding door as beads of moisture glide down the glass.

Dawn is trying to break through the darkened clouds.

I hear the ready ring from the coffee pot.

The Italian roast flows into my mug.  The rich aroma wafts through the still air.

Taking my seat at the table once again, I sip and write.  Sip and write.  Ideas race through my mind and out the tip of my pen.  On the blank journal page, I scribble words leftover in my mind from the night before.

I’m always thinking, feeling, trying to sort out what I envision in my writer’s mind.  Whether I have a pen, journal, keyboard or not it’s the way I’m wired.  My brain is always creating.

I close my journal and listen to the patter of rain.

Sometimes we need a dark day.  It pulls us in, it quiets our souls, we are hidden and alone, away from any commotion or communication.

It’s a necessary place to be at times–small and hidden.

The electronics beckon but sometimes we need to tuck ourselves away from TV, phones, computers–away from the “Look at me” world that we are living in.  The false realities of our day make us believe that we’re not fully alive unless we’re seen.

So here alone I ponder.  In this space, in the dark cover of morning I’m embraced in solitude.

I stop striving, contemplating, thinking, being distracted by my own thoughts and I quiet my mind.  I empty myself and it’s here that I’m fully alive.

In this place there is no communication with others, except with the Lord my God.  Here there is no pretense.  I am fully seen, fully known and fully loved.

Like the rain that saturates the earth, my soul is saturated in grace.

And like Mary I know that I have picked the better thing.

 …but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2015

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