Our spring is coming

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They are telling us that we’ll be here until spring.  Who would have thought that we’d be here, in this place, longer than we would be home in the time span of a  year?  It could end up being a total of 8 or 9 months.

They tell us we’ll be living a “new normal.”

There isn’t anything normal about this.  Cancer isn’t normal.  We weren’t created for it.  God has given us life.  So we fight for that precious gift daily.

Jesus wept at Lazarus’ grave.  He weeps with us too.  Our sorrow becomes His sorrow.

The truth is this world is fallen.  We were created for life~for right here forever~but it was stolen away from us.  Now we live with glimpses of paradise but this world isn’t paradise.

Part of the fall brought with it sickness and disease.  It has affected Bob.  He is fighting for his life and until the Lord tells him to quit fighting here~and welcomes him into his eternal home~he fights on and I fight alongside of him, because life is a gift!

God has a plan in all of this and it’s unfolding.

Summer, Fall, Winter…  The seasons changed.  And so have we.

It has brought us back to a vulnerable childlike place.  But isn’t that exactly where God wants us?

We don’t experience His presence unless we are humble, vulnerable, like little children crying out to a parent.  And what good parent ignores a child?  And what good papa doesn’t quiet the cries of his children?  Abba, our papa cares.  He’s a good Father.

Bob and I have a question that we ask each other often.  That question is…  “Is it time to lament?”

You see one night when things looked bleak, when we didn’t think we could go another step and we were tired of being strong, I said, “Christians have lost the art of lamenting.  We need to lament.  It’s not an option.  It’s a necessity.”

So lament we did.  Lying in bed we cried, cried out to God, not with fancy words or prayers.  No, just with the truth of how we were feeling.  And you know what?  We fell asleep in the arms of God.  And the next day brought peace and answered prayer.

We are looking forward to the end of this storm, this winter that we are in.  We are looking forward to seeing all the signs of spring and new life…The crocus’ poking up from beneath the snow, the sun shining brighter, the patches of snow disappearing and the grass greening.

We are looking forward to spring with the hope of being home where we can live out what the medical staff is calling our “new normal.”

Blessings,

Nancy

(Transplant day is Wednesday, January 13, 2016.  Scott’s bone marrow will be harvested that morning and Bob will receive the infusion that afternoon.  Thank you, our friends, who have been so faithful in prayer.  We love and appreciate each one of you.)

An Unexpected Gift

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This place so far from home, the one we live in close to the hospital some may call isolation but we call it holy ground.

It’s a new normal.  A place stripped of most of our possessions but here in the quiet we have found God to be more than enough.

His presence is often experienced the most in our deep nights of the soul.

We are experiencing Him in new and profound ways.

That’s a gift.

Cancer.  My husband’s cancer has caused us to go deeper with God, to experience His peace that passes all understanding more frequently.  Especially in times of fear when we feel lost and alone and cry out to Him.  It may not happen immediately but He always lets us know that He hasn’t abandoned us.

We will never be the same.  You can’t go through something like this and ever come out on the other side of it the same as you entered into it.

Often God’s mercies are wrapped in unexpected ways.

Look at Jesus.  Away in a manger no crib for a bed…

Who would have thought God would wrap His most precious gift of love, grace and mercy in swaddling cloths?

Who would have thought God Himself would come to earth in such a lowly, humble way?

Truth is His most precious gifts often come wrapped that way.  In ways that we would never expect.  His gifts are perfect and right on time.

We prayed for 4 months that a bone marrow donor would be found for my husband.

Many have prayed.  Perhaps you prayed too.

The news came that a donor could not be found through the registry.

More chemo.  More waiting.  More praying. More hoping.

Then the miracle came.

Our oldest son, Scott, tested as over half a match.

Not perfect but good enough.

It’s good enough for a haploidentical bone marrow transplant.

These types of transplants have been done successfully at the University Research Hospital where the transplant will be done.  All transplants come with benefits and risks.  It’s not easy by any means but we trust God with the outcome.

On January 6 my husband will enter the hospital.  His immune system will be suppressed through more chemotherapy and radiation.

On Januray 13, Scott’s bone marrow will be harvested and given to Bob through an IV.

My husband, Bob, will receive the gift of life through the son that he gave life to.  The son we gave birth to is giving his father a second chance at life.

Who would have thought that the answer; the gift would come through our son?

We celebrate the most precious gift ever given in Jesus this month, the one who has given us life eternal.

And we receive with grateful hearts His precious gift of mercy wrapped in the most unexpected way through our son, Scott and we thank our son for his most special offering.  Certainly it’s the best gift that he’s ever given his dad for Christmas.

We are going to have a Merry Christmas knowing that our God knows what He is doing and although a perfect donor match could not be found He is going to give Bob a perfect transplant.

Merry Christmas!

Nancy ❤

( The photo was taken of an angel adorning our beautiful European Cyprus Tree.  Both the tree and ornaments were sent to us by some dear friends)

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

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).

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

Come for all things are ready

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I was waiting for the call, the invite, the day, the time and place.

A group of old friends, some of us knowing each other from kindergarten through high school, reconnected and a dinner date was in the works.

The woman organizing the evening promised to call me as soon as all the arrangements were in place.

A few weeks went by and one day while scrolling down my facebook news feed I saw them — all of them sitting around a table, having dinner together.

Oh the curse of facebook.  We see things that, once upon time, came to our attention through the grapevine.

It’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the social media craze.

Did I miss a text, an email, a phone call?  I checked.  Nope.

I was forgotten.  Skipped over.

You know those feelings of rejection you got in junior high when your friends went to a party without you and afterwards you found out about it?  Well, those long, long ago feelings paid me a visit and I felt like a foolish junior higher with left-out and rejected emotions coursing through me.

They had dinner together and I wasn’t invited? 

It bothered me for a while and then my friend’s text came — “Mea Culpa” — I googled those words, there was more communication between us and forgiveness extended.

There have been more serious rejections and painful situations in my life than the story that I just shared.  I think it’s safe to say that you’ve experienced them too.

We’ve all been there, feeling rejected, excluded, forgotten, ignored at one time or another.

But there’s one table – a banquet table – where there aren’t any exclusions. It’s an open invitation and we’re all invited.

Jesus set the table and it’s a table where we can bring all our baggage, rejections, hurt, pain, frustration and lay out our sin.  It’s not for the perfect or for those dressed a certain way, those of the right ethnic background, social status, the VIP, or the prestigious.   No, it’s all-inclusive.

He welcomes all with open arms to his banquet table.  It’s a place to feast on his goodness and receive his gifts.  The gifts of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

He sends out the invitation: “Come, for everything is now ready.”  (Luke 14: 17)  But not everyone accepts the invitation.

Sometimes the excuses we make to decline his invitation seem sensible.  We ignore the invitation because we’re busy with life–family, jobs, financial obligations, to do lists, bucket lists or whatever else consumes our time.

At his table there’s great love, we learn and grow in our relationship with him –it’s the discipleship process–we grasp the depth of his love that came through a horrific sacrifice–and through it came grace.  It was all about grace.

His grace is lavish.  It’s an astonishing grace but it’s not cheap grace.  It was never cheap.  There was a cost and that brings us to another table.

On that night so long ago, the night before his death, he broke the bread and lifted the cup — a symbol of his broken body and spilled out blood.

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It should have been me, it should have been you but he took the pain and suffered the cross so we wouldn’t have to.  It cost him his life.

Thankfully it didn’t end there, because 3 days after Jesus’ death he rose and is alive and he’s waiting at the BIG BANQUET TABLE that he’s preparing for those who will meet him face to face.  It’s another table, for another time and will be the biggest most beautiful celebration of all.

But until that day his table (on this side of heaven) is set, the invitations are out, you’re invited, I’m invited.

And he says, Come for all things are ready…


Read about the feast and banquet table here:  Luke 14: 15-24

The last supper:  Matthew 26: 17-30 / Luke 22: 14-24

Happy Easter!

Nancy Janiga