"Let's kick cancer's booty and take some names."
LORD, after this suffering, let it be said that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, make my Savior clear to all those around me. Because of my suffering and willing perseverance, cause others to be encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
(Phillippians 1:12-14)

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God is walking with me. This I know.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chemo #3-Stand Your Ground

I love mashed potatoes. They fall under the category of "blessing" in my book. Due to the chemo and the sickness I've felt after each treatment, mashed potatoes have been my bread AND my water. And as much as I love mashed potatoes, I'm getting a little tired of them.

God seems to work that way in my life as well. Sometimes I will hear a sermon, study a lesson, or in passing have a conversation with someone and the theme is always the same. That's when I know God Most High is trying to tell me something. Don't tell me it's a coincidence. It's a God-incidence. God speaks to me in a language I understand and He knows how hard headed I can be. Therefore, in His patience and everlasting love, He brings up a point to me time after time, until I finally understand and it sinks into the marrow of my bones and I can live the thing out.

Chemo #3 has been nothing out of the ordinary physically. But mentally, emotionally and spiritually, it has taken it's toll. The point I believe God is making to me is to stand. My good friend, Tammy, brought it up to me today. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you what you've been thinking all along. God is good that way and He is urging His children to believe that He is believable.

For those who grew up in church, you've no doubt heard of the armor of God. Ephesians has always been one of my favorite books of the bible, and the armor of God described in Ephesians 6 is no small thing to me. It is how we maneuver the battles we face in life. I love how the bible describes heaven and the joy we will have there and the home that God has prepared for us. But God didn't create us and leave us here to figure it out on our own. Jesus said in John 10 that He came so that we may have life, and have it to the full. God did not create us, put us on this earth, give it a whirl and said, "I'll see you in heaven." He knew we would need some help. So, among other things, He gave us the armor of God.

I love how Paul writes what he knows. He was chained in a prison in Rome. He saw the soldiers each and every day dressed in their armor. My favorite piece of armor is the belt of truth. It comes first because the other pieces of armor hooked to the actual belt of the Roman armor. You can't wear the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of salvation without some truth to hang it on. Each piece of armor protects a major part of the body: the waist, the chest, the head, and the feet. Isn't in interesting that there is no armor for the back? Why? Because God never intended for His children to turn their back on their enemy. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we are allowed to intimidate the kingdom of darkness.

And so as God has brought me through this journey of cancer, He has driven home the point to me over and over that I must fight. Today I had no strength to fight. So I called Tammy. She is a lifelong friend whom I love dearly. I told her I was having trouble focusing and thinking. I was becoming paranoid and feeling as though my life will never be the same again. Praise God that through His blessing, all can be recovered.

As I was talking to her about how I believe God has asked me to fight this battle and how I've prayed to keep my armor on, she said to me, "Oh Candy. It also says to stand and we will hold you up if you can't stand." She's right. 4 times in Ephesians 6:11-14, the word stand is used. I recalled how in Exodus 17, Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses while the Israelites battled the Amalekites because as long as he held his arms up the Israelites were winning. And he got tired so his friends held up his arms for him.

Praise God that our weaknesses do not strain His strength and that what we see with our eyes and understand with our minds is not the only thing God has going. We talked today about the the spiritual battles going on all around us. John Eldridge writes referring to Daniel 10: 1-3, "Something has happened that Daniel doesn't understand. I think we can all relate to that. We don't understand about 90% of what happens to us, either. Daniel is troubled. He sets out to get an answer. But three weeks of prayer and fasting produce no results. What is he to conclude? If Daniel were like most people, by this point he'd probably be headed towards one of two conclusions: "I'm blowing it", or, "God is holding out on me." He might try confessing every sin and petty offense, in hopes of opening up the lines of communication with God. Or, he might withdraw into a sort of disappointed resignation, drop the fast, and turn on the television. In an effort to hang onto his faith, he might embrace the difficulty as part of "God's will for his life." He might read a book on "the silence of God." That's the way the people I know handle this sort of thing.

And he would be dead wrong.

On the 21st day of the fast an angel shows up, out of breath. In a sort of apology the angel explains to Daniel that God had actually dispatched him in answer to Daniel's prayers the very first day he prayed - three weeks ago. (There goes the whole unanswered prayer thesis, right out the window). Three weeks ago? What is Daniel to do with that? "The very first day? But....I've....I mean, thank you so very much, and I don't want to seem ungrateful, but......where have you been?" "You haven't blown it, Daniel, and God isn't holding out on you." The angel goes on to explain that he was locked in hand-to-hand combat with a mighty fallen angel, a demonic power of dreadful strength, who kept him out of the Persian kingdom for these three weeks, and how he finally had to go get Michael (the great Archangel, the Captain of the Lord's hosts) to come and help him break through enemy lines. "Now I am here, in answer to your prayer. Sorry its taken so long."

It is a good thing to stop and remember that God is completely in control and that He never asks His children to do something and then not provide the strength to carry it out. And sometimes though the battle rages on around us, God only asks us to stand. Steven Curtis Chapman's song Believe Me Now says, "You hear the enemy that's closing in around you and I know that you don't have the strength to fight. But do you have the faith to stand?"

Thank you Tammy, for allowing God to use you and for all the prayer warriors you called upon to help me stand today. Y
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet Me In The Middle

I love the book of Joshua. I love the story of the enslaved Israelites who go from slavery into their promised land. I love how they had to fight for it. I love that God was with them every single step of the way. And I love that they did, indeed, finally finish their race.

However, I also hate that my life parallels their journey. In my first sentence out of the gate of this blog I wrote, "It's not that I hate the color pink." I've changed my mind. I now can say with surety that I HATE the color pink. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month as you probably know. I'm pretty sure we're all well aware of it by now. Somebody needs to find a cure for the thing! I hate that the journey the Israelites took was so long. I hate that I can look at it from my 21st century point of view and say, "Don't they get it? Don't they understand?" And I know full well that if I'd been there with them I'd have gotten myself into the same messes. It's like watching a horror movie and saying, "Nooooo! Don't go into the scary basement by yourself!" I hate cancer. I hate chemo. I hate that seasick feeling I get from it. And I hate the middle of the journey.

My Momma will tell you that when we'd go on a trip anywhere--and I mean anywhere--I'd continually whine, "How much further?" I hate the journey. I just want to get where I'm going without any stops along the way. I was fortunate enough to go to Hawaii 2 years ago and besides the blisters I got from walking on hot pavement in cheap flip flops, the flight was definitely the worst part. 10 hours on a plane with me was no picnic. I fidget. I whine. I look for things to occupy my mind and my time. I can't read in the car because I get carsick. Throwing up was an almost weekly occurrence. (Be sure to ask my sister, Angie, why she hates Krystal to this day and my Momma why she thought I was allergic to chocolate when I was little).

In Joshua 3, the Israelites are standing at the edge of the Jordan river. We're all familiar with the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and God parting the waters of the Red Sea. This is another less familiar story of God parting the waters for His children. At the end of Joshua 3, Joshua tells the people of Israel, "As soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord--the Lord of all the earth--set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap." I love that Joshua makes it very clear that the ark of the Lord is the Lord of all the earth. And don't you love that word 'heap'? I've heard of a heap o' trouble (and I've been in a heap o' trouble, but I'll save that blog post for my Momma to write!) but I've never heard of a heap of water. The bible says the Jordan was at flood stage. Those who live in Nashville or saw it on the news back in the spring remember the Cumberland River being past flood stage. That was a heap of water!

I've read this story probably a hundred times. But somehow I missed the last verse of chapter 3. "The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completely crossed on dry ground." How did I miss the part where the Lord's presence was "standing firm" in the middle of the Jordan?

The Hebrew word for firm is kuwn (koon) and it means ready, fixed, set, certain and to be stable. My seasick stomach and I could use a little stability right now. I think my favorite definition of the word is accomplish. Don't you just want God to accomplish some things in your life? Can we just finish some things up?

I've told some of the members of my family that after I finish radiation we're going to have a party. It's going to be Candy's After Cancer No Pink Allowed Party. But for now I'm in the middle. And like every other journey in my life, I'm wanting to be finished. I want to get to my destination.

In Joshua 4, God commands the Israelites to collect 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan and set up a memorial that God parted the waters yet again. As one of the ministers at Hendersonville church of Christ used to say, confession is good for the soul; bad for the reputation. So here's my question and confession: Did any of them dare grumble like I would have? Did any of them say, "Oh, for cryin' out loud! Can't we just get a move on?" I don't know. But it sure sounds like something I'd say.

My 3rd chemo treatment got rescheduled for Monday, the 25th. My family has a gathering at the park every October and I love it better than Christmas and Thanksgiving. We get there early and cook breakfast. People bring crockpots full of chili and we bring hot dogs and sit around the fire and we draw names for Christmas. And one of my favorite activities is the annual Ward family kickball game. We laugh until we cry (or pee on ourselves) and we have a ball. We stay until dark and before it's over I'm already thinking of next year's day in the park. I told Dr. Yardley about it and asked if I could have a mini dose of chemo so that I'd feel good for Saturday. She suggested that I wait until Monday to have chemo. I understand why she made the suggestion and I appreciate it so much. She said she's a bigger advocate for my Saturday than I am. But it was a stop in the middle of this journey. And I whined about it. The reason for my whining? I just want to get it over with. I didn't want to postpone it. I'm dying to get this journey over with. The end of December (when my last chemo is scheduled) can't come soon enough.

There are people out there who say, "Just sit back and enjoy the ride." Why?! I don't understand. I have some very dear friends who will hop in their car in Nashville and drive to Atlanta to the Varsity for a hamburger and then drive back home. I don't understand. I know people who like to take Sunday drives. I don't understand. That's precious nap time! I know people who love to read books and devour every page. I don't understand. Just tell me what the plot is and whodunit.

When I had my 5 surgeries back in the summer (yep, I added them up! 5 surgeries in 3 1/2 months!) I would come home from the hospital and would lay on the couch. I would try my hardest to stay awake. I think I was afraid I was gonna miss something. That might be why I hate journeys. I'm afraid something is happening out there, lingering in my future and if I don't get there soon, I'm gonna miss it.

So I have to remind myself that God is standing in the middle watching over my every move. And if I move too far ahead without Him, I'm toast.

I still hate the middle. But I'm learning from it. This place is not a happy place, but it is a good place to learn.