Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why I Don't Give Up

"That's it!  I give up!"  That's a statement that I've heard my children say from time to time.  When they were younger it might have been about a game they just couldn't win.  As they got older it was more often than not about homework.  And as they continue to mature, I'm sure there will be times where they will want to give up again, and they just might have a right to do so.  But it is my job to encourage them to keep going, to push through, not because they might just get it, but because they will learn from the struggle.

Five years ago on May 28th I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Sometimes it's hard to believe that it's been that long.  Other times it seems like an eternity.  When I was diagnosed giving up was not even in my vocabulary.  We were going to hit the cancer hard, get into remission, hit the 5 year mark free of cancer, and then feel like the worst was behind us.  There just wasn't any other option, so the thought of giving up never even entered my mind.

Since then, I've thought about giving up.  There have been times where Ive been so tired that I just don't want to be tired anymore.  There have been  times I have felt so sick that I thought I wasn't going to make it another couple of months.  I have dealt with drug withdrawals, neuropathy, surgeries, intense pain and depression.  I've been ready to give up and stop treatment.  Heaven seems much more appealing.

Yet I haven't given up.  Some of you might be thinking it's because of my family.  Honestly, that is only a very small part of why I don't give up.  The real reason I don't give up is because God hasn't let me know that it's time for me to give up.  I think he has more to teach me.

Max Lucado says it this way:
 "No, we don't give up.  We look up.
   We trust.    We believe.
   And our optimism in not hollow.
   Christ has proven worthy.
   He has shown that He never fails.
   That's what makes God, God."

My favorite line is "our optimism is not hollow".  At one point my optimism focused on my healing.  My optimism doesn't lie there any more, not because it's not possible, but because it's not necessary.  My healing is not dependent upon how much God loves me.  He proved His love for me long ago when He sent Jesus, His son, to die for me.  My healing doesn't correlate with how much I love God.  I love God because He has already saved me from my spiritual cancer.  My optimism now focuses on all the amazing things God has done for me from the beginning of time to my death and finally at my resurrection.  It's not hollow because Heaven will happen.  It's not hollow because I will rise again.  It's not hollow because my sins are forgiven.  It's not hollow because He has shown me countless times over the past five years how much He really does love me.  There is no doubt, just perfect hope.
Since He's taught me that over the past five years, I wonder what He has in store for me next.

Over the weekend I was given an amazing gift by one brother's family.  It was this bonsai tree.

The unique thing about this tree is that it was started 5 years ago on May 28th.  The same day I found out I had cancer and stared death in the face for the first time, this tree started it's life.  In some ways it's my own personal tree of life which I now get to look at every day.

This tree got me thinking about the Tree of Life in the Bible.  We all know about the one in Genesis that God placed in the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve.  But we forget about the Tree of Life that is mentioned in Revelation.  The Tree of Life is in Heaven, the place where our paradise we lost is now restored.  Revelation 22:14 says "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city."  Because of what Jesus has done for us, our robes are clean by His blood.  We now have the right to this Tree of Life.  We will be in Heaven forever.  

So why don't I give up?  It's not because I know I will be healed.  There is no guarantee in that. It's not because I need to be here for my family.  God will take care of them if it's time for me to go home. I don't give up because God will never, ever fail me.  I don't give up because He will lead me through whatever comes my way.  I don't give up because my God will take me home to live with Him forever.  That's why I don't give up.  That's why none of us ever need to give up.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Praying for Many on May 28th

Tomorrow marks my 5 year anniversary of being diagnosed. We found out around 9 in the morning. If I could be so bold, I have a prayer request for everyone. If you could stop and pray around 9, either in your own time zone or at 9 Pacific Time, and pray for 5 minutes. Pray for all those who need to know God is with them during their time of need. If you can't pray at that time, pick a time that works for you. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Shell

I suppose when some of you look at the title of this posting, you might be thinking about someone who reverts into their "shell" when life gets hard.  Those of you who know me well know that is not what I do.  I'm not talking about that kind of shell, but the earthly shell of my body.

I got to thinking about this about a week ago when I received my daily devotion entitled "How Are You Today?".  What struck me the most in this devotion was the first paragraph:
 "Pearl was one of the most enthusiastic Christians I’ve known, even though she suffered through the pain of polio and all of its complications for many years. When people would greet her and inquire, "How are you today?" she would cheerfully answer, "Just fine!" Those who knew what Pearl went through in life—difficulties including being confined to a wheelchair and losing her fiancée because of the polio—sometimes questioned her sincerity. "How can you say you're fine when you are suffering so much?" Pearl's sincere response was: "How I feel has very little to do with how I am. You see, the part of me that hurts is just a shell, not the real me, and the real me is just fine!"
It really got me thinking about my attitude toward my chemo and my cancer.  My standard response lately has been, "I'm ok, just really tired. We just keep going one day at a time."  I've been disheartened because I am so tired already, and have already noticed that I don't feel comfortable doing things that I was able to do just a month ago.  Chemo-brain has come back with a vengeance.  I can't remember names, I loose my train of thought easily and I can get confused by things that made sense before.  After almost two years of feeling somewhat normal again, it's been hard accepting that things are going to change again.

Yet, I can say with Pearl, the real me is just fine.  This passage from 2 Corinthians tells me why.

Outwardly, my body and parts of my mind are going to increasingly waste away with this chemo.  I learned today on a board that the worst part of the chemo is the tiredness.  I'm going to have to learn to adjust to that.  Of course my confusion at times with chemo-brain will get worse.  I will have to be patient with myself and my family will have to learn to be patient with me by not trying to finish my sentences or figure out what I'm trying to say.  Yet those parts of me don't really matter.  It's my soul that matters, and God is using many things to keep me focused on Him and to make sure I am renewed every day.

This week I was blessed with a great renewal.  The Junior Class at Evergreen Lutheran High School was given an assignment to write letters to me encouraging me and my family as we continue in this journey we are on.  Most of them don't know me well, even though they know my daughter.  These letters could have easily been very simple things that were written, but they weren't.  Each letter was written to truly help me.  Stories were shared, Bible passages quoted and used, and promises of prayers were given.  Each letter renewed my soul.  Some made me laugh, others made me cry, but each one was a gift from God to renew me.  

Tomorrow I have my next chemo session. Outwardly, because of this, I am wasting away.  That's just the way it is for all of us.  But these troubles we all face are just light and momentary.  One day our shells will be renewed to their perfect glory.  Until then, I will be thankful for the many ways that God uses people and His Word to renew my soul. And I can say with confidence "I'm just fine!"