Friday, April 18, 2014

My Seven Year Anniversary

Isaiah 53:4-5  Yet it was our sicknesses that he carried, it was our pains that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But, he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

On April 19, 2007, Jon and I were called in and told I have cancer.  Seven years ago our life changed in an instant, and we had no comprehension at that moment what all it would entail.  Surgery on my broken neck was the first order of business, then years of chemotherapy drugs.  Some of the drugs were fabulous and gave me long stretches of time when I felt really great.  I would say that five, almost six years, were mainly tolerable.  Considering my odds of living past five were low, I am thankful for the miracles that God worked on my behalf to have the extra years.

God works in mind boggling ways, and He has blessed me with the ability to have a Blog and share my faith during my struggles with stage 4 cancer.  This has been a great ministry for me, and I am so thankful to read comments from people all over the country who have allowed me into their hearts, and have searched for a closer relationship with God.

Of all the years, my anniversary has never landed on the same weekend as Easter.  I feel so grateful this year to be quietly celebrating seven years on Saturday, but celebrating an eternal risen Savior on Sunday.  It is truly what this journey is all about for me.  My suffering, my meager years of existence, are nothing compared to the life of Jesus, His suffering for us all, and the endless days of being in His presence here on earth and always.

On this Good Friday, I pray that you ponder the events that led to Jesus's death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection that we celebrate on Sunday.  I love the story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus as told by Pastor Rick Warren.

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

In Luke 23:42, one of the criminals hanging next to Jesus on the cross prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (NIV).

Notice that he didn’t ask Jesus to stop his pain, although he would have been in excruciating pain on the cross. By that time, Jesus was famous for doing miracles, but the man didn’t ask Jesus to save him from death, either.
He said, “Jesus, remember me.” Why? Because he knew that his deepest need was salvation from sin — not just salvation to get into Heaven. He believed in Jesus.
The Bible says in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (NIV).
So how do you know for sure that you’re saved? How do you know you’re going to Heaven when you die? How can you be certain? How can you eliminate your doubt?
Your assurance of salvation is not by your works, because you can’t earn your salvation. Your assurance of salvation is not by your feelings, because feelings come and go.
What is your assurance of salvation? The promise of God’s Word. If God says it, that settles it, because God cannot lie. You can trust the promise of God’s Word. You can rest in it.
Jesus replied to the criminal hanging on the cross, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NLT).

Your assurance of salvation is the same: God’s promise that you will be in Heaven with him one day if you believe in faith.

Love,
Sandy

Sunday, April 13, 2014

24 Hour Prayer

I want to thank you for the enormous amount of love and prayer you have given me this week.  Many are asking how the girls are doing.  I think we have had some meaningful conversations, and we have also kept it light around here.  We need to laugh, and so we find moments each day to do so. 

After my post last week, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the many messages posted on my Facebook and Blog.  I must tell you that I read them all with tears flowing like a waterfall, and I am so humbled and blessed to be a part of your lives in a way that has reflected back to Jesus.  I love the way that God has allowed me to write this Blog, and gave me this ministry to bring purpose for me and hope for you.

One of the really beautiful gifts that came from this week was a 24 hour prayer chain that my Women's Bible Study started.  To stop and think that someone is praying for me each minute of the day is so empowering.  Last night I woke up with a little foot cramp.  I did not want to wake Jon so I quietly sat on the edge of our bed trying to relax and work it out.  I looked at the clock and thought, "Someone right now is praying for me at 3am."  I started praying myself, knowing that God's Word says that when two or three are gathered in His name, He is there.  I felt God's peace and comfort that I was not alone. 

I am sure that the "why" question is on all of our minds.  Why has God not saved Sandy from pain? Why would God take Sandy from her family?  Why does there have to be cancer and suffering?

I am learning that instead of asking God “Why?” you need to learn to trust God in things you don’t understand.

For 37 chapters in the book of Job, Job asks the “why” questions: “Why is this happening to me? Why are you allowing this? Why so much pain? Why so much discomfort? Why haven’t you answered my prayers?”

In chapter 38, Job stops asking “why.” And God says, “Now I’d like to ask you a few questions.” And for the next two chapters, God hits Job with questions that only God can answer.
He asks things like, “Where were you when I made the universe? Can you explain the law of gravity?” And, after two chapters, Job realizes that he is just a man, and his knowledge is limited. Who is he to question God?

Job stops questioning, and he starts trusting. He replied to the Lord, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I — and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.… I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (Job 42:1-3, 6 NLT).

What do you do when you can’t see the whole picture, things aren’t clear, and it makes no sense to you what’s happening?

I don’t know what you’re dealing with in your life, but I will tell you this: God is passionately and intimately aware of every detail that you’re going through right now. He’s paying attention to your every breath. Nothing gets by God’s attention.

You may not understand why you’re going through what you’re going through, but you need to say this to God: “I know you’re good; I know you’re loving; I know you’re powerful; I know you notice the details of my life; I know you’re in control; I know you have a plan; I know you will protect me.” Then, you need to trust God — no matter what.

I find that my biggest challenge is living with hope that God can do the impossible at any moment, but being responsible for my family and the many ways that I run my house, pay bills, and other tasks that must be handed off to others if God's will is to take me home.  It is a surreal place to be.
                  
 I am writing this Blog on Palm Sunday.  This is an important day to recognize because Jesus was entering Jerusalem for Passover with much praise, and the hope of many Jews that he would deliver them from the Romans.  By the end of the week the disciples will have lots of "why" questions.  Jesus tried to prepare them, but they just were not getting the picture.  By Friday, they felt disillusioned and scared, and nothing made sense anymore.  How could they ever know that Sunday was coming?  Not in a million years would they imagine the unimaginable and impossible resurrection! 

I hope you get a chance this week to ponder the events that led to the crucifixion and Jesus' death on the cross for all of our sins.  God had said that our sinful ways had a consequence, and God does not lie.  Jesus came clean and pure, a lamb without blemish, to be take on the penalty of death for all of us.  In the biggest act of love ever recorded, Jesus became our substitute so that we would never have to enter the depths of hell for our sins. 

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long...this is why I walk the path I walk.  I have nothing but gratitude that God loved us all so very much.  I trust that every day He makes decisions on my behalf out of love for me. 

Blessings,
Sandy

Monday, April 7, 2014

Time For The Truth

This past weekend was a hard one for our girls.  Because of recent news, we were encouraged to tell them the truth about my current condition.  Now that they know, I feel I can be honest to all of my friends and family.

Two weeks ago I as given the news that I only have one more chemotherapy available to me, and it's chance of shrinking the tumors in my liver are about 20% at best.  I have quickly gone through the last really strong chemo drugs.  One started in September, but by the end of December had become ineffective.  The second chemo started in January and has now failed me.  This last chemo is a long shot, but one we are hoping God can work with. I start the new chemo tomorrow.

My second crack (in the door of hope) is a biopsy I had done this past Friday that will be sent in for Molecular Profiling.  There is a slight chance it will come back in three week with a chemo that the doctors may have not thought of.

There is a final shot in the dark option having to do with radiation.  We have not gotten word if I am a candidate for it.

Not news we wanted to ever hear, and not news we ever wanted to pass on.  But the reality is facing us that time is winding down, unless God wants to step in.

It is no secret that I believe in healing.  I believe it with all my heart.  At this very moment I feel like two freight trains are bearing down on me.  One is healing and the power of God to use it as an incredible testimony for what I know is true.  The other train is death, and I am not afraid for myself but deeply sad for my family.

My faith will never waiver.  No matter what the answer is, I know God will provide for everyone around me in ways that will blow their mind.  I have always tried hard not to make this about me, but about the amazing purpose and journey I have found in the past seven years, which has brought others to know Jesus better. 

I still believe in God's promises, and I know at the end of the day He would never lie.  Answers to promises don't always come as we would like them to look.  I am honestly in the negotiation phase of convincing God that I can do more for His Kingdom here on earth than in an hour funeral service.  But, when you want the will of God above anything else, you know in your heart that the masterpiece God is painting is not fully revealed until we are in heaven.  I don't know what role I have in this masterpiece.  I know it has been something, but I want more.

We are trying to keep things normal for our family.  We don't listen to doctor estimates because we know God can do exceedingly more, and I have always been on His time table.  I have had seven years instead of five (or less).  It is a tough year to have this happen with all of the incredible milestones of graduation, Hawaii, 50th BD, Rachel going to college and Michelle going to High School.

I cling to some familiar verses that people of written on my Blog and sent in cards.

Isaiah 43:1-3
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,


Ephesians 3:20-21
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

What can you do?  Just pray for us.  Pray for great memories to be made.  Pray for joy and peace to settle into all of our hearts.  Pray for wisdom and guidance.  Most of all, pray for healing.

Love to you all,
Sandy

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Minor Surgery

I will be having minor surgery tomorrow to place a catheter into my chest wall so that I can drain my lung at home and not continue going to COH every week or two weeks.  This will be a positive step because if I can keep that area dry, there is a chance of the lung coming back to the chest wall and not having to be drained.  The catheter is not permanent.

In addition to the catheter, a surgeon will be taking a biopsy of a tumor on my neck so that it can be sent in for molecular profiling.  This profiling helps doctors to see what is the very best chemo for the cancer, and there are times when it reveals something they would not have thought of otherwise.

I feeling stronger this week, and hopeful that the decisions we are making will help me fight for the future.

There are so many verses that come to my mind at the moment.  I have been reading in Psalms, and the scripture is full of fight and promises. 

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.    Psalm 62:5

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD. 
Psalm 27:14

The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.  Psalm 121:5-8

I could never physically walk this road, so I am thankful that Jesus is carrying me.

Blessings,
Sandy





Monday, March 31, 2014

Prayers That Shook The Ground

I want to thank you all so much for being diligent in praying for me last week.  I am not feeling well, and it is hard to have energy to write.  I had my lung drained again on both sides, which gave relief for a few days.  I could really feel your prayers because my situation had not changed, but my attitude got better, and I felt more peace as the week progressed.

By the time the earthquake hit on Friday night, we had a good laugh watching the news, and a picture of the same chandelier swinging for two hours.  I know earthquakes are not meant to be funny, but it tickled our funny bone and gave us some comic relief. 

There are test results this week and decisions to be made.  I am always grateful that God walks these tough roads with me (us).  My faith has not waivered, and my eyes are fixed on Him.

Blessings,
Sandy

Monday, March 24, 2014

Does Satan Read Blogs?

Sometimes I think that Satan is reading my Blog and then attacks me right where it hurts.  I wrote about Joy is Suffering several weeks back, and I thought I had a good handle on keeping the joy going even though things were not exactly great with my health. 

Lately, I have had a hard time finding joy in my day.  I have tried singing little songs in my head about the joy that Jesus brings, but that bubble of happiness has not surfaced.  I sink myself deep into God's Word and understand fully that He wants us to give our sorrows and fears to Him so we can feel His joy, but my head is not connecting to my heart. 

I feel like I need a good belly laugh.  The kind that makes you cry, and at my old age, pee my pants.  I certainly don't get joy from the endless hours of watching TV because I don't have much strength to do anything else. 

I heard that a person needs to experience at least 5 minutes of joy every day for their overall health.  I think of my children and husband, and the great moments of joy we have had in traveling.  I think about the fun times with my parents, step-parents, and friends.  I am very blessed with such a great support system.  I absolutely can't help but thank God for his mercy and work in my life, and the good I have been able to be a part of through Him. 

You would think that these beautiful thoughts would fill my entire day with joy, but something dark starts to take over by mid-morning, and the joy starts to fade into frustration that I can't breathe well (I had another 1700 ml drained from lung last Thursday), and that I will be at COH every day this week due to chemo and radiation.  I don't think the chemo is working out.

My minister, and friend, Betsy told me to be honest this week when I wrote my Blog.  So this is my honest struggle right now, and I know it will help you to be specific in your prayers for me.  I still could not live without my love of Jesus and the knowledge that I serve a God who can do great things.  God lays it all out there in His Word, but somehow it needs to penetrate my heart and flood the chamber that taps into joy. 

I am looking for better, and joyful, days ahead.  Thank you for speaking to God on my behalf.  Sometimes I don't have all the answers, but I know that God does.

Sandy

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Seasons of LIfe

"God has made everything beautiful for its own time."  Ecclesiastes 3:11

God created four weather seasons to give a visual when the seasons of life change for us.  Winter is cold and barren, spring is full of hope, summer is hot, and fall is about beautiful colors.  However, our lives are much more complicated than four seasons.  If you read Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 you will find an entire list of life experiences.  We have wins and losses, success and failure, mountains and valleys.

If you are truly trying to live life according to God's will for you, then all of these experiences have purpose and value in your life.

In the verse above it says that God makes things beautiful for its own time.  This means that God can take even the bad things and turn them around for His good.

Some of you are going through a barren and cold season.  Finances are ugly, your health is ugly, your marriage or relationships are ugly.  I completely understand, and so does God.  I know what it is like, and it is exhausting.  I need a break, and I am sure you do too.  We always have hope that spring is coming.  I pray for refreshing healing rain, and the blooming of new life in the days ahead.  But there is much to learn about the season that I am in, so I need to be thankful for all seasons and trust that God will be by my side through it all.

It is good to remember that we can give God the pieces and He can make something good out of any season we are in.

Love,
Sandy

Please continue to pray for the chemo to be effective, radiation starts this week for brain tumor, and overall energy and strength. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fighting Discouragement

We have all felt discouraged at one time in our life.  It is the moment when you really don't think you can take one more disappointment or set-back.  I have many of those moments lately.  I woke up last night and was really feeling discouraged so I went on into my mailbox to pass some time when I saw this devotion from Rick Warren.  It was very timely words for me, and I hope his words encourage you.

“Then the people of Judah said, ‘The work crews are worn out, and there is too much rubble. We can’t continue to rebuild the wall.’” (Nehemiah 4:10 GWT)

Discouragement is curable. Whenever I get discouraged, I head straight to Nehemiah. This great leader of ancient Israel understood there were four reasons for discouragement.

First, you get fatigued. You simply get tired as the laborers did in Nehemiah 4:10. We’re human beings, and we wear out. You cannot burn the candle at both ends. So if you’re discouraged, it may be you don’t have to change anything. You just need a vacation! Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is go to bed.

Second, you get frustrated. Nehemiah says there was rubble all around, so much that it was getting in the way of rebuilding the wall. Do you have rubble in your life? Have you noticed that anytime you start doing something new, the trash starts piling up?
If you don’t clean it out periodically, it’s going to stop your progress. You can’t avoid it, so you need to learn to recognize it and dispose of it quickly so you don’t lose focus on your original intention.

Third, you think you’ve failed. Nehemiah’s people were unable to finish their task as quickly as originally planned and, as a result, their confidence collapsed. They were thinking, “We were stupid to think we could ever rebuild this wall.”
But you know what I do when I don’t reach a goal on time? I just set a new goal. I don’t give up. Everybody fails. Everybody does foolish things. So the issue is not that you failed; it’s how you respond to your failure.
Do you give in to self-pity? Do you start blaming other people? Do you start complaining that it’s impossible? Or, do you refocus on God’s intentions and start moving again?

Finally, when you give in to fear, you get discouraged. Nehemiah 4 suggests the people most affected by fear are those who hang around negative people. If you’re going to control the negative thoughts in your life, you’ve got to get away from negative people as much as you can.
Maybe you’re discouraged because of fear. You’re dealing with fears like, “I can’t handle this. It’s too much responsibility.” Maybe it’s the fear that you don’t deserve it or the fear of criticism. Fear will destroy your life if you let it. But you can choose to resist the discouragement. Say, “God, help me get my eyes off the problem and the circumstance and keep my eyes on you.”

Blessings,
Sandy

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Power of Joy

The second round of chemo went better for me.  I was not feeling under the weather quite so long.  I get chemo every Tuesday, so Wednesday is my down day.  My third treatment of chemo should have been this past week, however, my platelets were too low so I was given a unit of blood instead of chemo.  The blood helped put a little color in my cheeks, and it was really nice to go to Glenkirk's Women's Bible Study on Wednesday instead of hanging out in my PJs.  I really miss the Olympics!!

A new hurdle has arrived.  Yesterday I had a follow-up brain MRI, which is every 3 months because of the tumor I had in September.  Unfortunately, I have another small tumor on the lining of my brain.  Fortunately, they caught it so small that there is hope that it can be radiated rather quick, and without talon screws (a nightmare for me).  Still, it was a bit discouraging and felt like one more thing I have to give attention to and deal with.

The lesson on Wednesday for GWBS was The Transforming Power of Joy.  Believe me when I say, it is only through the peace and power of Christ do I display joy in the middle of my circumstance.  People approach me all the time with accolades on how good I look, and the joy that I display.  I have to always remind them that it is not me, but Christ's light shining out.  If I did not have my foundation in God's Word, I would be on the couch waiting for my last day.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Joy comes from trusting God in all circumstances.  This seems hard, but it is clearly possible because it is in the Word of God.  Joy does not just come naturally in hard times, actually, for some people joy does not come naturally in really good times!  Sometimes you have to make a definite choice to find joy in your life.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit just surrounds you with joy and you can't help but feel it deep in your soul.

When you look up the definition of joy in the dictionary you see that joy is defined as, "The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good."

Worldly joy can be found when you get a new car, a pay raise, or something has made you very happy.  But worldly joy can be short lived when the car gets a scratch.  It is clearly possible to have joy without a relationship with God, but it is usually a fleeting joy.  Here is the Biblical definition of joy:

It appears that for us to experience biblical joy, the fruit of God's Spirit, we need godly inner qualities that we do not possess by nature. As with love—the love that springs from us by nature that is but a pale reflection of God's love—so also is it with joy. Until we come to the point where by faith we are supremely confident of God's presence in our life—of His providence toward us in the past, present and future—we will not experience the enduring fullness of satisfaction God wants us to have.

God's joy is contagious,  powerful, and eternal.  God's joy gives us strength because we know that God can bring us through to the other side of our trial.  Biblical joy comes from a long-term perspective.  We know we have eternity to look forward to. 

If you need a burst of Godly joy, then look up scripture in your Bible's concordance.  I get tremendous joy listening to Christian music.  Being a part of God's kingdom on earth gives me the deepest and longest lasting joy I could ever imagine!!

When I was a child, we sang a song in Sunday School that went like this:

I have the joy,joy, joy, joy down in my heart    Where!
Down in my heart!
I have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart    Where!
Down in my heart to stay!

Even a little tumor can't squelch my joy!

Blessings,
Sandy

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Power in Weakness

Well... the new chemo kicked my butt this week.  I am looking at it as a good thing because feeling achy and miserable means that something is at work.  One positive, my shoulder felt better right away, and I have not had any major incidents of horrible pain in that area. 

It is really hard for me to be down and unable to do anything but sleep.  I am the ultimate multi-tasker.  Lethargy is a horrible feeling because I can't muster the energy to do even simple things, and it is during these times Satan works on me and starts getting ideas in my head that things won't improve.  I am in a constant fight mentally of fending off negative feelings and replacing them with God's truths and promises.

This morning I was praying and asking God to give me energy.  I told Him how frustrated I am to be doing nothing.  Even posting on my Blog is a huge effort.  I went downstairs and took a quick look at my phone.  My friend, Cindy, told me to read today's Jesus Calling Devotional.  This is what it said:

Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells.  Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for My way in the midst of these very circumstances.  Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to Me.

Quietness and trust enhance your awareness of My presence with you.  Do not despise these simple ways of serving me.  Although you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms.  My strength and power show themselves most effective in weakness.

Wow!  That one was for me.  I have to say that with every fiber of my being, I don't want to accept it, but I know in my soul that these words are God speaking to me, and I need to obey and trust in God's Word. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

I need to accept this time of quiet and rest.  I understand that God can work even in these down times that are so hard for an active person like me.  I am so thankful that I have a God that loves me so much that He interacts with me in powerful ways.  He has not been silent during this time, and His power is being shown through my weakness.

Love to all,
Sandy

P.S.  I want to give a shout out to the best Valentine ever.  Jon is my rock and best friend, and  I am so thankful for his love and tenderness. He does laundry, dishes, and anything that will help me not be stressed.  I can't imagine a better partner!!