Pure Joy

It’s difficult to describe just how good it feels to celebrate God’s faithfulness every.single.day. so I thought I’d just show it instead! God is really moving! Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared a devotional & words of encouragement faith art (below) at a local pregnancy center, I’ve been asked to lead a faith art session at an upcoming women’s retreat, AND I’ve been asked to create faith art coloring pages for a children’s ministry!

Isn’t God grand? Gosh….even the word grand doesn’t begin to describe God! The latter part of 2017 and early part of 2018 were more challenging as the trickle-down effects of cancer and its treatments wreaked havoc on my lungs, but God still has work for me to do! Thankfully, I’m feeling much, much better these days and pleased to report current scans & markers show the cancer remains stable! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

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The thing is, God has a plan that far exceeds anything I could dream up for myself…. the desire to create faith are came as a byproduct of cancer, and the  opportunities to share God’s love through art came before I received results of my latest scans… I didn’t hesitate to accept because…

I know God’s got this!

This past year, I’ve learned to live like I am always HIS and not just after He proves I’m His in a particular situation…. does that make any sense? In other words, I don’t wait until I see proof of His faithfulness to step forward….

Today I attended a Bible Journaling Group: H.I.S. (Houston’s Illustrating Sisterhood) and we discussed the perils of spiritual amnesia – God is ALWAYS at work and ALWAYS working for the best in our lives…especially when it may not “feel” that way!

Living in gratitude is a choice and testifying to the daily miracles of faithfulness He is working in our lives is a must!

 

Joy in the Journey!

More often than not, folks will say,

“how do you do it? how do you stay so positive? how do you always seem to be so happy?”

The answer is truly simple and yet seemed so elusive most of my adult life….God worked very diligently to prepare me for a cancer journey!

In 2013,

  • my daughter endured two debilitating bouts of meningitis
  • I moved my dad to assisted living as Alzheimer’s was taking its devastating toll
  • my job went from crazy stress, to off the charts insane stress
  • I experienced the brink of physical and emotional collapse

Being soooooooo close to that edge, I knew something had to change….and that’s where God took my trust in Him to the “liberating place.” A place where I set aside my overly analytical mind. A place where He was my sole focus. A place where I confidently said goodbye to the corporate world where I was dying. A place where miracles happen.

It was a time when I had NO IDEA as to what was next and a time where I wasn’t scrambling to come up with a “plan” of my own. It was a time of the most wonderful peace I’d ever experienced.

Don’t get me wrong, the crazies were still present in 2014 – they just weren’t dictating my steps! It was a time when my feet didn’t move without God’s influence.

  • It was a time when I began experiencing serious pain with no idea as to the cause.
  • It was a time when I enjoyed visits with my dad and eventually said goodbye.
  • It was a time when my mom & stepdad came for a visit that resulted in them staying.
  • It was a time when my relationship with my oldest sister went to a new level as we spent countless hours together helping my other sister transition her life as we packed up my parents life in California.

With God as my focus and sole compass, I began seeing each day, each challenge, so differently. Anxiety diminished and peace reigned. I began to more fully receive God’s no matter what precious love!

So later that year, when the doctor said, “you have stage IV cancer that has spread extensively through your bones,” I didn’t panic. I knew God was still with me & prepared me for the battle ahead.

Have there been really tough days? Definitely. But God is faithful. He’s my go-to guy and gets me through every single challenge – every single day.

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This past weekend I experienced a first – I attended a Bible Journalers group! I was like a kid in a candy shop for the first time – all these like-minded women in one place – at the same time – with more art goodies than I could ever imagine!

As we were about an hour in, the coordinator stopped by my table and asked what I was planning…. you would’ve thought she’d asked me to explain some vast scientific thoughts on the universe….of which I haven’t a clue!

I soon discovered that I’m really challenged to focus with so much external stimulation… granted I was probably a BIG distraction to others….I chatted incessantly…a combination of nerves and excitement…. but somehow God settled me long enough to create this page, which I now “see” as the preface to a Bible study by Lisa Harper on Job that I started this past Sunday – isn’t God grand??????

Sunday’s message is still filtering through to my heart…

Last night I started reading through Job – I may have read a verse or two before and knew the 50,000ft view (sort of)…. and as I read, it seemed as if Job certainly was affected by initial losses, but not dissuaded in his faith. Then in chapter in chapter 3, after the boils, loss & pain started taking it toll…

Pain & Circumstances….it’s something we’re all familiar with… when my focus is narrowed through my imperfect lens, I can’t focus to see what God is doing IN the circumstance.

For example,

– I have an aggressive type of cancer. check.

– I experience physical pain every single day. check.

Sure, I can get bogged down in the muck – I’m human! I have to nurture my Holy Habits – to KNOW and EXERCISE God’s promises…most importantly? BELIEVE His promises. God has promised my healing.period.

If my focus is constantly on ‘when’ or ‘how’ God’s healing will come, then I’m at risk to miss out on everything in between!

It’s the “in-between” where God shows Himself & is glorified

it’s the “in-between” where my relationships are enriched

it’s the “in-between” where I get to be extraordinarily grateful for sunrises & promises of a new day

it’s the “in-between” where I get to share His love in the midst of life’s storms

it’s the “in-between” where my love for Him grows with each breath…

Oh, precious readers…my prayer is that each of you experience and treasure the liberating place!

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It’s a “dang…not so fast” kinda day

My one word this year is FOCUS! Something I often need desperately… my mind has a tendency to flit from one thing to the next… and most often, I totally forget the thing I started out doing…. sound familiar?

This morning was no exception… often the week post-injections is kinda iffy; the medication designed to help strengthen my bones increases bone pain, and the meds focused on starving cancer cells leaves me feeling achy and just plain yucky… it’s like a see-saw – one day I think, “woohoo! I’m over the hump!” and the next day is “dang…not so fast…”  Today is a “dang…not so fast” kinda day… unfortunate, because I REALLY wanted to go to church, but knowing if I push myself, then my body rebels in a not so nice way… so here I am… in bed… fighting away resentment…

Oh yeah… back to the focus (or lack thereof!)… my NUMBER ONE task – objective – goal…call it what you will… is to ensure the bible study is ready to start at the end of this month… and I am overwhelmed at times with the “what were you thinking????” thoughts.  So what do I do? ANYTHING but focus on the task at hand!

bible tabs.jpgExample?  Well, other than writing this post?  Oh…the thing that prompted to me write this post??? Bible tabs.  Yeah…innocent enough, right?  I bought a new interleaved Bible for art journaling this year and it needed tabs… as in yesterday…. never mind I’m not ready to start working in the new Bible… it was tab-less…  sure, I could buy tabs… but no, I must make them… with cute paper and my tab punch and handwrite each of the sixty-six books… which led me down another rabbit hole… I have sooooooo much to learn!!!!

A seemingly simple task churned up more insecurities…. I know so little about God’s Word!!! My thoughts immediately jumped to planning out a better reading plan…and maybe I need to do a certain study….. and….. and…. and….

And I started writing a post, which has brought me to this:  FOCUS!!!  But I can’t truly focus on the job God assigned to me until I surrender everything else to HIM…. yeah… that thing – surrender…. you see God most often speaks to and through me with writing…. I rarely know where I’m going until finally He says…”see????” and my heart smiles wider than the Grand Canyon!

What is God trying to tell you today????  You aren’t where you are at this very moment by accident… just like for me, today started as a “dang…not so fast” day and it wasn’t so much about what I didn’t get to do, but definitely about what He needed to teach me.  He’s got a plan for every.single.minute. and it’s incredible!

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Just for Today

HappyNewYearI pray this post finds you well on your way to recovering from holiday festivities!  In a few days (or sooner), the rush of every day life will be back in full swing…kiddos getting back in the school groove, businesses returning to regular work hours (or insane yearend workloads!) and we are bombarded with New Year’s advice, resolution ideas, and such…

As I was sitting in church Sunday, the sermon, like many, touched on resolutions for the new year… 365 days of opportunity, 52 weeks of resolve, 12 months of change…. I gotta tell you, the thought that kept popping in my head was “really?” “that’s pretty presumptuous!”

As a cancer thriver, the reality I learned to accept and appreciate is that anything beyond today is presumed… and it’s not just the unknowns of cancer – that was simply the catalyst to realize tomorrow is not a guarantee for anyone.

Yesterday, my stepdad shared a Dear Abby article that has sort of been my mantra for the past few years – I just loved seeing it in print!

Just for Today

JUST FOR TODAY: I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.

I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those I cannot.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I’ll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly and not interrupt when someone else is talking. Just for today, I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will do something positive to improve my health. If I’m a smoker, I’ll quit. If I am overweight, I will eat healthfully — if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it’s only around the block.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

As you work through the days of this New Year, perhaps printing a copy of Just for Today and cutting each thought intro strips (so you focus on just ONE) and placing in a conspicuous place, will help guide you through your day.  click HERE to download!

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My “Mess” is My Message

Today I received my copy of Stephanie Ackerman’s latest book Faith Journaling for the Inspired Artist. Did I need another book on Journaling or Art? Well, apparently I did! Not five pages in, the photo to the left smacked me upside the head…kinda crazy, right? Stephanie, among other wonderful women, have encouraged me from afar with their zest for art, an insane love for God, and the desire to intertwine the two.

For the past month, God has really been working on me & my obedience factor… at the forefront has been a host of new cancer challenges…. but those challenges have been the catalyst to realizing I haven’t consistently been giving God my best.  I’ve been giving what’s easy and through numerous experiences… sermons especially ….(thanks Pastor Jim!), I’ve been convicted as to how I’m living my life I’m for God.

Stage IV Cancer, like so many other chronic diseases, is HARD.  It doesn’t go away.period. and more often than not, you get new challenges… like wonky lungs, blood clots, and such.  I am very thankful though – just think if God allowed cancer to hit you with everything all at once? No bueno!

While I thought I’d learned my new normal, I was still entirely too focused holding tightly onto the things I could still do.  Like grocery shopping, housekeeping, or walking the dog… yeah, call it what it is….PRIDE.  Don’t get me wrong, staying active is essential, but holding too tightly onto things is a slippery slope and sets you…me… up for missing great God opportunities.

As it is today, I’m in a season where those types of activities aren’t necessarily adding value to my days. Instead, little things, like going out to the grocery store, have the potential to set me back vs propel me forward.  So I’m learning to choose more wisely and it’s definitely a process!

My 2018 goal (starting now!) is to be more mindful and dig deeper in my relationship with God.  While cancer isn’t exactly what I may have chosen, it has given me the opportunity to focus more time on Him by not trying to balance a demanding and stressful full time job….HE is my full time job…and that is pretty darn amazing – not many get that opportunity!

If you’ve read my blog, the consistent thread has been my lack of consistency in writing. And writing is a big part of my relationship with God…to be vulnerable and transparent, and to share how He leads me daily to walk closer with Him.

If I had to choose ONE thing that propelled me into deepening my relationship with God, it was a little book you may be familiar with called The Love Dare by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. It is a 40-day Christian devotional designed to strengthen marriages.  No, I’m not married – I’m not even dating or in a relationship.  God brought me the book as a dare to strengthen my relationship with Him.  Weird? Odd? Perhaps.  But I hope you will follow me as I share, and possibly help,  precious readers do the same… coming soon… My Love Dare with God.

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God’s Mighty Love

My goodness it’s been a busy crazy summer! So different from last year, yet equally insane.  

Last year I was feeling pretty lousy – cancer complications were problematic and I was coming off four weeks of intensive radiation, followed by a case of shingles that landed me in the hospital, all the while planning a wedding!

This year has truly been a great year cancer-wise – I’ve felt great & much more physically active. Over a period of six weeks I made multiple 6+ hr (one way) drives to visit my daughter & family tucked in between a super condensed 4-day trip to California to help pack my sister as she moves forward in her journey there. 

Somewhere in the mix, I overdid (yes, that’s a big DUH!) ….things were going so well… until they weren’t. All of a sudden I was constantly tired, sleeping more, and simple short walks weren’t so simple. A middle of the night trip to the ER revealed I had a blood clot that moved to my lungs – no bueno – especially when you have stage IV cancer. An ambulance ride, meds, days of extremely thorough doctor checks, and I was good to go….slowly!  

When I’m feeling good (aka not constantly reminded of physical limitations), I wanna be like the other kids! I wanna go for brisk walks, water aerobics, long trips, play time with my grandson….but, I’ve got to remember the pace… and be mindful what a blessing that I’m able to do those things! But maybe….just maybe, I do them in moderation so I decrease the risk of setbacks and increase the probability future fun. 

The absolute best part???? It’s so wonderful to feel well enough to spend time expressing faith through art again! Hands down, the Thrive Bible is my all-time favorite  – I love how God speaks to me through the devotions, causing me to often say to myself, “wow! I never thought about it that way!” and to continually be in awe of His Mighty Love for us

#write31days – Day 19

imageOne of my primary goals in writing for 31 consecutive days is transparency… so here I am… being transparent.  I REALLY did not want to write this evening… I did exactly what I wrote about in my last post… thinking too far ahead (or perhaps behind…) of the posts to come… and I didn’t want to go there.

Well, of course I wrote…reminding myself of baby steps…two sheets of paper at a time… the great thing is that I was able to recall some really hard decisions and have peace over them vs my usual “could I have done more” mental interrogations.

And yes, that’s where God and His gracious healing power comes into full view… because of those hard days and seemingly impossible decisions, I was learning to receive God’s glorious embrace and willingly take refuge in Him… if only for a short while… make no mistake though, He was teaching me how to lean into Him for the days too difficult to imagine.

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