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

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It’s a WIN – WIN – WIN Situation – Part 2

Before my diagnosis, I’d already experienced one heck of a year… wait…whoa…let’s back up the horses… actually, 2012 & 2013 were monumental growth precursors…

In 2012, I learned a HUMONGOUS lesson… although I didn’t realize it at the time (do we ever?????) I was trying to fast forward  the growth process in my relationship with God.  We’ve all been there in the learning process when we’d much rather know than learn – and sadly, my relationship with God wasn’t really any different.  During 2011, I knew I wanted more in my relationship with God – I just wasn’t sure how to get there.

Clueless at the time, my biggest obstacle was receiving love – in turn, I was trying to give something I didn’t fully understand.  Although my love for others was genuine, there was a blind component – at times, I inadvertently attached a sense of self-worth to love.  In hindsight, I can see I was a tangled mess that only God could and would take the time to unravel and weave into a beautiful tapestry.

StepsToPeace_03My first realization of short-changing my relationship with God was a broken engagement – on Valentine’s Day no less (God does have a sense of humor, doesn’t He?) – a sense of betrayal that cut deep through years of personally applied duct tape to my fragile heart.  You see, I put a man on a pedestal in between myself and God – a good enough go-between of sorts.  I knew I wasn’t good enough (sinless) to approach God – my mistake? My actions completely trumped Jesus for another man – and yeah…that’s hard to admit.  It’s no surprise now how much of a mess I was – I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing… the good news? I am thankful EVERY DAY God shut the door on that relationship to help me  finally understand and believe what the Bridge of Faith really means (click HERE to read the original post). Three years later and God is still providing greater revelation!

Of course, God uses every situation to teach us something – whether we realize it or not!  You see, during my engagement there were plans for me to move out of Texas… yeah…this homegrown 50+ deeply rooted Texas gal… away from family – away from my precious daughter – away from siblings and my aging widowed father.  Pretty bold, right??? PRAISE GOD that did not come to fruition – I was willing – but again, for all the wrong reasons.  Never doubt it folks, God may call you to leave where you are today, but He will ALWAYS meet and use you exactly where you are!

Indeed He did!  Not two weeks after the engagement was called off my dad fell ill – the beginning awareness of a much bigger health issue: dementia / Alzheimer’s – we never had a clear diagnosis, but in my mind they were equally debilitating.  During 2012 my dad, who lived about three hours away, was hospitalized several times.  And each time I was there for him – and each time it was emotionally painful.  You see, I still wanted that non-existent fairytale father-daughter relationship.  But just as God meets us exactly where we are – He was teaching me to meet my father where he was: aging – fragile – frightened.  Let me tell you, IT WAS HARD.  The good news? God is faithful!  He didn’t send me out on that battlefield alone – my dad’s neighbors were absolutely wonderful – as my dad said time and again “I got two good neighbors” – actually, he had a great community of caring individuals!  I remember on one visit in particular, standing on the front lawn crying my eyes out…and here were the neighbors, coming to lift us up in prayer – providing words of encouragement and assurance to watch over my dad when I wasn’t there.

2012 wrapped up on a high note.  In late October I attended a Walk to Emmaus hosted in northwest Houston.  To read more about this extraordinary experience, click here.  During this weekend, I finally began to understand what it meant to receive God’s love and how critical it is to every facet of my life (that’s a post in and of itself!).  The following week I was scheduled to visit family in California – my mom, stepdad, and sister.  I’m gonna be super transparent here – my relationship had been pretty superficial to this point and I was on such a ‘believer’s high’ following the Emmaus weekend, the last thing I wanted was to spend a week with distant family who couldn’t begin to grasp the extent of my recent experience.  Of course I was clueless God would use this time to firmly root the newfound understanding of His love.

In a heart-to-heart with God, I voiced my hesitancy and said, “Lord, you’re just gonna have to love them through me!”  I’m sure God was cheering, aren’t you?  To think…Miss ‘I Can Do it Myself’ willingly turning a situation over to God before I was knee deep in the muck of a mess I’d created!  And let me tell you…it was the BEST six days I’d ever spent with each and every one of them!!!!  The biggest blessing was walking through the door to a new relationship with my stepdad – the sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet – a guy I hadn’t really given the time of day to for over 30 years.  Yes – another not so proud transparent moment.  My quiet childish attitude of “he took my mama away” faded into oblivion as he welcomed me with open arms.  Imagine that – God using this new relationship to show me fatherly love – no strings attached.

Yes, I’m gonna say it again… stay tuned! Til then…

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Shattered

So often when I visualize the impact of witnessing, I see shattered glass. I find myself mesmerized by the beauty and intricacy of the design….how one act can have such a far-reaching impact.

 

Picture with me:

  • Zoom in – our perfect model is Christ’s sacrifice for our sins…His crucifixion, burial and resurrection is at the center; you can literally see the impact of those closest to Him!
  • Zoom out – not only can you can see impact from the initial act of sacrifice, look at how every one and every thing is connected…even the furthest shard (person) is connected to another shard (person) and yet still connected to the center (Christ)! I envision the bursts as willing vessels allowing God to work thru them to reach others…can you just imagine Paul?????

Now…picture your life….what kind of glass does it represent? Regular run of the mill glass that shatters with minimal pressure or heavy duty safety glass?  With Christ, we have security.  Although broken, we are held steady at the center…the Holy Spirit in us…with the ability to work thru us to reach others. The thing is, for God to work thru us, we have to act! Does it have to be some grand gesture? Absolutely not.  Every little act of faith exercised has a far reaching impact when used by the Holy Spirit.

What holds you back from exercising faith?  We all have struggles of one sort or another.  Me? I’ve often struggled with validation – acceptance – whatever you want to call it….doubt creeps in….ususally when I’m trying really hard to carry out God’s call on my life to share a journey of faith through writing.  My head knows Truth, but pieces of my heart faulter and stumble.  In retrospect it’s also clear to see that’s when I’m relying on my own strength – see how easily the glass can shatter without Christ as the center?! Thankfully God is so merciful to provide encouragement when confidence wanes by sharing a glimpse of how authentic obedience can impact another life.  The thing is, we rarely get to see how God uses our acts of obedience.  What to do? Choose to rest in His Word for guidance, assurance and affirmation

5 I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor come from God alone.  – Psalm 62:5-7

What about God’s call on your life? The big and small – how do you choose to respond?

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Lookin’ for Love

Interesting…I completely forgot I’d written this post (APR’14) and never published…

Talk about an oldie but a goodie!  The song was made popular with the hit movie Urban Cowboy and the lyrics ring true on more than an emotional level – with this part of my journey – inviting you Behind the Mask, looking for love is at the crux of my barriers – physical, emotional, and spiritual.

heartsI was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces
Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of

While the song may be speaking of finding that special someone, the pattern I seem to repeat in different ways is seeking to fill a void reserved for God alone. Quizzed, intellect dictates my response.  Carefully observed, my beliefs – rather unbeliefs shout an opposing view far louder than any intellectual response.  My guess is quite a few folks can readily identify with this conundrum.

A couple of years ago, God revealed a pattern of me seeking affirmation from a potential life partner – talk about a painful realization! While the root cause was obvious and I truly desired a change – time revealed the truth: A: I didn’t permanently give it to God.  B: I’m powerless to change myself.  Of course, now that I’ve journeyed through some pretty rough pitfalls, it’s easier to recognize certain behaviors – in the moment though? I didn’t have  a clue – I was too busy trying to drive the direction of my life!  You see, masks have a tendency to limit the view – a broader perspective – and as a result, I often missed diligently looking to God for the answers.

Oh how easily & seamlessly I push God out of the driver’s seat! The places we look for human love to fill what only God can…not just in a life partner, but in a job, friendships…you name it! I wonder if I wrote this last year just after I realized I’d been searching to fill that void with my job…affirmation…yes…circling again and again around worthiness.

Is my mask more transparent today compared to this time last year? Definitely.  Is there still work to be done? Absolutely. God so gentle – so merciful…the closer He draws us to Him (light) we always see much clearer than before.

Paying it Forward – the Liebster Blog Award Nomination

liebsterHow cool is this! I received a notification on my last post from another blogger at Life as I interpret it about this thing called the Liebster Award and they felt led to nominate my blog (along with others) in connection with their interest in Cancer.

So… Mr Google and I were curious- hoax? or a genuine avenue to connect bloggers with like interests.  I vote for the latter.

My take on the Liebster Award? It’s sort of like a Pay it Forward for the blogging community to encourage connections sprinkled with a condensed insight to what each blogger is about on a particular subject of interest…sounds pretty cool to me!  If you’d like to learn more, just ask Mr Google

Oh yeah….and apparently there are the rules, which I sorta followed – not exactly sure how many followers each blogger has and since I ask questions with a bit of meat on them, I stopped at 5.  The most exciting part? I seized the opportunity to explore and expand blog readings!

Rules:

1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
2. Answer the questions given by the nominator.
3. Nominate 11 other bloggers, who have less than 200 followers and link them.
4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.

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For this award, I have chosen to nominate the following bloggers, who share their faith openly and authentically…as a gal on the journey of faith, I enjoy reading how mightily God works in and through the lives of willing vessels.

I nominate the following bloggers/websites – I pray they are each open to the idea of a nomination and willing to share their thoughts.

Nominees:

  1. New Life
  2. The Devotion Cafe’
  3. A Way With Words
  4. Susan Irene Fox
  5. Full of Roses Inspirationals
  6. caterpillardays
  7. Where Grace Abounds
  8. faith, “sigh”, and diy
  9. The Mark
  10. Headed for Home
  11. stones from the quarry

Questions to nominees:

  1. What prompted you to start writing/blogging/journaling?
  2. Tell me about an influential person in your journey of faith.
  3. What is one (or more!) example of how God has shown His faithfulness to you?
  4. Tell me how a prophet in the Old Testament dramatically impacted your relationship with God.
  5. What is your take on the decline of religious freedom in the US?

 

Answers to questions by Life as I interpret it  are:

1. How do you feel about connecting to others going through cancer in the social media?  I think it’s an excellent way to encourage/minister to others.

2. Do you think connecting to other cancer patients would be useful in supporting you and them while going through the disease? Yes.  Now that I’m past the initial numb phase.

3. What are the words, sentences, or questions you think are appropriate to hear from others when they first learn one has cancer? Gosh…that’s tough! Honestly, I think listening is key – the one thing I’d say is definitely is not a great comment?  “If there’s anything I can do, let me know” – I realize it comes from a good place (I’ve said the same thing countless times!), but RARELY will the individual ask for help.

4. Do you have care-givers? or Are you a care-giver? My two primary go-to gals are my daughter and my oldest sister – they are AWESOME!  I’ve been a care-giver in the past so it’s easier to be aware of compassion fatigue in those providing care! 

5. What kind of support would you like from cancer-related organizations and the government? It really does take a village in these situations, so family – friends – neighbors – churches, etc. is critical.

6. Do you think you sharing your experiences in the social media help others going through similar experiences?  It’s quite possible – it’s easy to feel alone with cancer and any type of life altering diagnosis can be overwhelming.

7. What is your favourite book? TV show?  Each book I read is my current favorite – right now? Kyle Idelman’s “Not a Fan” is rocking my world!

8. What is your favourite season?  Fall in East Texas – humidity is low, fires are burning, and the air is crisp!

9. What is your favourite breakfast?  My indulgent breakfast (once every few years) is coffee & pumpkin cheesecake – yum!

10. Do you have artistic creations, such as poems, stories, drawings, paintings, and hand-crafting? I like to doodle Scripture and I LOVE taking photos of trees!

11. Is there something you would like to share about your experience with cancer?  Yes! It’s deepened my relationship with God – He is the answer to cancer – He is my Healer!

Laying it Down

He is the AnswerPraying I can focus the thoughts in my head (running at a ridiculous pace!) to make sense on cyber-paper… please be patient!  So that the real post will make sense, I’ll backfill a bit from the post last month where I put my big girl panties on and shared a medical diagnosis:

Stage IV NeuroEndocrine Breast Cancer

with widespread osseous metastasis…

In other words cancer run amok in the bones.  I haven’t spoken with others – perhaps it’s the same for everyone when they’re first diagnosed…life seems to move at a warp speed whirling around doctors, tests, more tests, medicines, more medicines…chemo and/or radiation. The past few months have been painful, emotional, overwhelming, and odd as it may sound…wonderful! Wonderful to rely on God’s faithfulness, and more wonderful in retrospect to see God consistently in action for His precious children – whether they act like defiant two-year olds… or not!

FAST FORWARD:

March 2015:  This is the meat of this post – sorry for the scenic route, folks!  My family started a bible-study a few weeks ago based on Not a Fan by Kyle Idelman.  I won’t bore you with details of the pitiful rationalization process, but needless to say I’m still on week one of the journaling process… now, if you noticed a trend…yes, hesitancy to write, you are absolutely correct.  Like the quiet riot tendencies I exhibit on a far too frequent basis, I was still resisting God by not completing the journal assignments for the study – after all, the journal is *optional* – sure…every other writer out there knows there’s nothing optional when it comes to the way God speaks to a writer’s spirit…the defiant two-year old…hiding…thinking…”if I don’t write, I’m not vulnerable…if I’m not vulnerable, that rug doesn’t need to be pulled back and swept…right…let me know how that works for you…

It’s not even as if I put my study material out of sight…there are the books…along with my journal, right out in the open…I LOOK AT THEM EVERY DAY! It’s not as if I don’t “have time” – and that’s where I painted myself into a corner… I picked up the book yesterday and guess where the discussion started?

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  – Rev 3:14-16

The verse was easy enough to gloss over UNTIL I read the author’s words: “If you are to be hot, then you must be sufficiently heated.  Every stimulus you allow in your life will heat or cool your love for Jesus.” which were followed by a series of exercises to examine a typical day.  Keep in mind:

  • I’m not working,
  • I’m off chemo right now (recovering from the first two months),
  • Due to physical restrictions, I’m not constantly on the go or spending time on house projects

Looking at my typical day, I was embarrassed and convicted.  The amount of time I dedicated to God dwindled at an astronomical rate.  I praise Him daily and profess His Mighty Goodness and pulling back all at the same time.  But why????? Hello. Circle the mountain again Celeta.  The incredibly painful lesson I haven’t revisited for almost a year came blasting into clarity: I’m still struggling with performance based worthiness.  As I looked over the pages, I kept thinking, “It’s so much easier being a giver and now I’m just a taker” – why yes, I was feeling sorry for myself…but the thoughts are deeply rooted and apparently I didn’t let the Gardner of my Soul clear out all the weeds in my heart – translation? Unbelief.

Ugh…my head knows His truths – the circuitry to my heart is still a little faulty…

And guess what?  That’s okay! God is faithful and persistent because He loves each and every one of us and will consistently meet us EXACTLY where we are – two year old attitudes and all.  We each have a choice EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of EVERY SINGLE DAY: will you choose Him? God will teach me whatever I’m willing to learn from Him.

Lay it at the CrossAt some point, most believers have experienced the opportunity to physically lay cares at the foot of a cross – for me, it was a very powerful experience – so powerful, my daughter made me something very special – a shadow box where I can write and leave cares at Jesus’ feet.  Now, take a moment and look closely at the box…granted, this is the original  photo, but it’s still looks pretty darn empty today – speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I look at the cross every single day and yet I hold onto so many cares troubling my heart.  A pattern of unbelief I didn’t recognize before.  Yesterday I pulled out the ONE item I wrote and placed at the foot of the cross – it was a prayer to God over my work situation last year – in the weeks that followed, I left my corporate job and God blessed my obedience and trust in Him more than ten-fold.  You see for me, I only know I’ve really laid it down (and left it there) when I experience perfect peace in the days and months (or years) following.

Sisters and brothers, God is waiting patiently to show up and show off in our lives!  The lesson I’m still learning? Give your cares to Him freely and let Him show off!  Lean into Him and HOLD ON! Claim His strength, His favor, His healing, His provision – even when we can’t see the way…HE IS THE WAY!

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Testing of Faith

For weeks I’ve known it was time to share personal news beyond family and still putting it off! Thank You Chrystal Evans Hurst & P31 for sharing words on my heart! Click here to read Chrystal’s devotional.

October 15, 2014 might be seen as one of those “terrible-no-good-very-bad” days….as the doctor’s words floated across the hospital room…”aggressive stage 4 breast cancer….” and my response? “Well, darn”

Yep…tough news is…well…tough! The great thing? God is in control and I am surrounded by loved ones & covered in prayer literally across the country!

 The thing is…we never know what tomorrow holds and we each have a choice…I choose to believe God holds me in the palm of His Mighty Hand and find tremendous comfort in knowing on days when this body aches, He is my faithful healer and providing a way!

From my last post, it’s obvious there’s a lot of backfilling to the story…bear with me as I attempt to share where God has me today, as well as all the lessons learned in 2014.

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