He is good

Tomorrow marks 142 days since Alex was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.  Tomorrow marks the end of everything we’ve been holding our breath for over those past 141 days.  We sat in that room, overwhelmed with emotions I cannot put into words, listening as his oncologist explained that this is “very treatable” & “this would just be a 6 month detour” in the road.  “Soon” she said “we would be having final scans & getting back to life”.

And that’s tomorrow.  Final scan.

It was dark 141 days ago.  Although we trusted his oncologist, it only takes a quick WebMD search to see that “treatable” for oncologists and “treatable” for mamas are two very different percentages.  Knock-you-to-the-floor-fear loves to creep into the space between those two numbers.  And doubt is close beside it.  Darkness surrounds you.  It is heavy and cold and damp. It is a scary, awful place to sit, that space between percentages.  But with every passing round, improvement is made and you begin to believe & the gap of fear & doubt closes ever so slowly until it is just a crack.

Right now darkness has been overtaken by light.  Things are looking very good.  Every indication is that sweet ginger has fought hard & cancer has retreated.  Hallelujah!  God is so good.

hmmmmm…God is good.

But what if?  What if things aren’t so bright tomorrow?  What if scans come back with signs of disease?  What if sweet ginger still has cancer?  Then what?  Do we assume that God is not good?

I’ve wrestled with the goodness of God before in my life.  Perhaps we all have.  I’ve searched for how God can be a good God when my circumstances have screamed “this is not good”.  How can God be good when life is not?  When babies die and mamas die and teens get sick and tragedy strikes?  How is God good then?

“In the beginning…” it says, he created everything.  “And he saw that it was good.”  God was good and He created good things.  And everything was good.  Until it wasn’t.  And the only thing that changed, was us.  We disobeyed & the world has been in disrepair ever since.  And all these generation later, we are dealing with the consequences of those that walked before us.  And these consequences make our circumstances really, really bad sometimes.  But God has never changed.  He is the same always.  He is still as good as the day he created good things.  He is still good.

The Bible has the phrase “he is good” nine times.  {for some light reading: 1 Chronicles 16:34 & 5:13, 2 Chronicles 7:3, Ezra 3:11, Psalm 106:1 & 107:1 & 118:1 & 118:29 & 136:1}  Each of these verses says something almost exactly the same – “he is good; for his mercy endures forever”.  He is good.  But it’s not that “he is good; for he healed my son of cancer” or “he is good; for he made me have lots of money” or “he is good; for he allowed that mama to give birth to a healthy baby”.  “He is good; for His mercy endures forever”.  His character drips with mercy and grace and faithfulness and love.  God’s character is nothing but good.  God’s goodness isn’t about my changing circumstances, but rather all about His unchangeable character.  He’s not good when good things happen & not good when bad things are happening.  He is always good.  Everyday, every moment, every circumstance.  His goodness never wavers.  He is good because in the end, when everything that we hold onto so dearly with our death grip in this life is gone, His mercy will still be there covering over our disobedience.  All the junk we do that we ought not {love the phrase ought not} do will be covered by His mercy.  All of it.  And that will be very, very good.  Forever.

Do I wish my circumstances to be good?  Absolutely! But if they are not and I am staring at the darkness, He is still good.

February – NT in 2017

We did it.  If you’ve been reading along, join me in celebrating reading through two full books of the New Testament and a good way into a third.  It’s amazing.  Many verses have been familiar, but have also hit me fresh – smacking me upside the head when necessary or stirring things around in my heart in new, fresh ways.  That’s what’s so wonderful about the Word.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been days that have been more along the lines of “hmmmm  nothing.  Well, at least I read the chapter.”  It’s not all overflowing emotions all the time.  At least not for me.  There are desert moments along with the dessert ones.  And just because everyday isn’t a sundae with whipped cream and a cherry on top does not mean that something’s wrong.  It just means that some areas God really wants me to see, feel & let settle in the depth of my soul today & some He’s waiting until another day to reveal to me.

A new month.  Are you ready?  If you haven’t gotten your “Make It A Great Week” sheets for February yet over at Etsy, here they are for your printing enjoyment.  Again these may not be perfect.  All are designed to print on letter size paper in the color you see.  All can also be trimmed to a nice 7×9.25 size to fit neatly in your Happy Planner after you’ve punched them with your handy Happy Planner puncher.  {best purchase!}  And if you’d rather not use all your printer ink, feel free to head over to the Etsy store & let me do the printing, trimming and punching for you.

February looks to be a great month of reading.  We’ll finish up 1 Corinthians & read through 2 Corinthians then jump into Mark.  So many opportunities to learn & grow in the days ahead.  You with me?

submission:: like a four letter word

If you’re reading along with the New Testament in 2017 reading plan, you know today we find ourselves in 1 Corinthians 11.  Paul is continuing to address questions that the Corinthian people have asked him.  Today we find instructions for worship & order at the Lord’s supper.  Seems simple enough…

Not quite.  Beginning in verse 5 we see Paul’s instructions regarding women covering their heads during worship services.  Specifically if she is praying or prophesying.  Hmmmm.  Head coverings?  I would love to just fly over this part of Scripture, call it irrelevant & move on.  But something holds me here.  Makes me pause to consider “should I be wearing a head covering at church?”

On the surface the answer appears to “yes”.  Paul is pretty darn adamant.  “But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head.”  Yikes!  But let’s dig a bit deeper into the meaning behind Paul’s instruction.  Paul’s message in these few verses is pretty clear from the get-go…Authority.  The head of man is Christ.  The head of woman is man and the head of Christ is God. {vs.3}  I realize that this is not a popular world view.  I am not writing this, just copying the Word.  And Paul clearly states that there is an authoritative chain-of-command.

With authority there comes submission.  Everyone cannot be in authority.  Someone has to lead.  Someone has to be submissive or follow.  According to this part of scripture and others like it, God establishes this lead/follow structure pretty clearly.  God leads Christ.  Christ leads man.  Man leads woman.  {I know.  Not a popular world view currently.  But Biblical nonetheless}  And in the culture that this was written, one way that signified submission was head-covering. It was not an uncommon practice nor was it thought to be out-of-place.

Today, however, head covering is not very common {at least in Western Judeo-Christian  cultures} and certainly does not necessary signify submission to my man.  If I were to suddenly begin wearing a head covering to church on Sunday, I would cause quite a stir.  No one would associate my wearing a head covering with submission. At all.  And in fact, I might actually feel incredibly uncomfortable, perhaps even embarrassed.  Paul’s instructions regarding head covering were intended to show submission not bring about embarrassment.  In order to fulfill the spirit of the instruction {showing submission} it seems more likely that a culturally relevant way to show submission would be a better fit.

What does that look like? I’m not sure, to be honest. For this, I don’t have an answer.  This is one of those sections of Scripture that may require some searching & praying to discover.  I’m not willing to just toss it out as irrelevant & move on though, because I believe that if it’s in the Word, it is important somehow to me today.

If you’re interested in reading up on this particular passage regarding head covering, perhaps digging a bit deeper & forming your own opinion on what it means, I found a great resource that does a great job of explaining the verses & going through several possible options.  Please check it out here.

The idea of submission to a man isn’t a super popular one.  Especially right now in our current culture.  I get that.  This was not a Scripture I wanted to try to lay out here & comment on.  Believe me.  But I couldn’t just let it go & move on.  Submission isn’t an easy word…or verb to live out.  Whenever I begin to feel like I want to be in charge, I want to lead and direct this ship though, I need only look at Christ.  In the hours before they nailed him to a wooden cross & lifted him into the air to die he submitted to the will of the Father.  Submitted.  It wasn’t easy for him {“take this cup”}, and he understands that it’s not easy for us either.  But He is good.  His instructions are good.


But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

In any case, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman. But all things come from God.

Four Apps You Need While Fighting Cancer

We’re just a few short days on the other side of treatment.  Counts are still dropping.  Scans are still pending.  But with treatment fresh on my brain, I wanted to sit for a minute to look back at all I’ve learned from a practical standpoint.  Apps on my smartphone were a must!  Technology used to make treatment more manageable.   If you ever find yourself on the cancer road, these are apps you’ll definitely want.

  1. Medication App called Round Health.  You can download it to your smart thing here.  At one point, sweet ginger was on several medications.  Not all were taken at the same time or in the same interval.  Plus, with two of us {me & dad} administering the various meds, it was hard to keep track of what he’d had, what he needed and when he took it last.  Round Health app was the easiest medication tracker that I tried.  I added all meds and their schedule.  When he took a dose we simply tapped the button recording the time & dose taken.  No matter who administered it, it was recorded for both of us to see.  Notifications could be set up to alert us when a dose was due.  This app proved itself over and over again and was very useful in talking with his doctors.
  2. Calorie Tracking App called My Plate.  You can download the Apple version here.  For the first few rounds of chemotherapy, sweet ginger’s weight was of major concern.  He had initially lost about 15 pounds in the weeks leading up to and immediately following diagnosis.  His doctors were concerned & after the debacled feeding tube incident, we were determined to make sure sweet ginger gained weight.  This app has oodles of barcode data, simply scan what’s eaten & it tracks the calories {and other nutrients} you’ve eaten.  Simple to use, easy to track.  Gladly, it helped sweet ginger gain all those 15 pounds back, plus!
  3. Caring Bridge.  You can find it here.  Family & friends want to keep up to date.  They want to know how things are going.  To celebrate the ups and help during the downs.  The very, very best way to keep everyone you know in the loop is with Caringbridge.  This site allows you to write quick journal updates that go to everyone you know who follows.  It completely {or nearly completely} eliminates your need to text, email and call everyone you know with information.  Everyone gets your updates at the same time.
  4. Bite Squad.  Hospital food can be alright.  But after several days, weeks, months…maybe not exactly what you’re craving.  Enter Bite Squad.  Another app you can find here.  Depending on where you live {or where your treatment is} this service is a must!  Food from hundreds of restaurants delivered right to where ever you are.  Feel like pasta? great!  Feel like Mexican? no problem.  Need your favorite burger?  it’ll be at your door in a flash.  Delivery charges range from $1-$10.  We used it every chemo round at least once, sometimes every night.  **if you’re looking for a gift card to get someone in treatment, this would be the BEST gift card I could imagine receiving**

BONUS… the non-app tip that will make life with treatment SO much better.

  1. Glad Press & Seal Wrap.  Who knew this would be such a valuable thing??  At every appointment, the port is accessed.  Sweet ginger has a power port that requires about a 2 inch needle to be inserted into the port on his chest at every appointment, for every treatment.  In order to minimize pain, we use Emla numbing cream.  But what a mess that can be?  to keep the Emla on the port & not on his shirt, we cover it with Press & Seal wrap.  It is the perfect cover.  Sticks to the skin just enough without absorbing the Emla.

Un-Understandable

I’m working on a little project.  A little something-something.  I’ll post the finished work in a few days {fingers crossed} but for now you can have this sneak peek::

If counts look good tomorrow, Round #6 will begin in just 2 days.  The last round.  The final chemo.  The End.

It’s tradition on Floor 7, especially with the older cancer kids, to decorate doors to celebrate the end of treatment.  And I’ve been keeping myself busy this week with just that.  The young fellow at the CVS counter {I’m officially old when I call the kid at CVS a “young fellow”} laughed as he handed me the poster with our favorite hashtag #WeedsAreTough.  He found it a bit more amusing than most.  And the Cricut has seen a lot of action cutting out lime green ribbons and vinyl letters.  “LAST CHEMO”

As I pressed the black vinyl in place I couldn’t help but remember where this began.  I didn’t know then that I would ever get to make a “last chemo” poster.  Those early days were filled with so much unknown.  Anxiety.  Fear.  He was SO sick.  So sick so fast.  We didn’t know how this all would end…how it all would go.  I couldn’t know then if I would be making a “LAST CHEMO” poster or one for a memorial service.

I don’t know why God does what he does.  Or allows what He allows.  However that works.  I don’t understand His thoughts, His ideas, His vision or His plans.  Why my baby gets a “Last Chemo” celebration while another mom on Floor 7 gets the horrible news that the treatments aren’t working.  I cannot fathom.  It is un-understandable.

I am about as analytical a person as you can get.  Those silly Facebook quizzes usually peg me at 85% left brain, 15% right.  The left side are all those traits that made me an amazing accountant; analytical, rational, systematic, symbolic, objective, orderly.  The right is that artsy side…which clearly I lack.  Unless of course it can be contained in systematic patterns, usually a lot of symmetry & very precise layouts. Anyway, I would love for everything in life to fit neatly in a mathematical equation.  Solvable.  Understandable.  Predictable.  Believe me, I have tried with many life circumstances over the years.  Trying to control the uncontrollable.  I don’t handle un-understandable very well.

I could spin my wheels attempting to determine the formula God uses to heal.  I could try everything I can imagine to ensure a particular outcome.  But God, just doesn’t operate on the same line as my human thinking.  Bad stuff happens.  To so-called good people & so-called bad people.  To people who pray fervently & those who do not believe in a god at all.  To those who are building their own kingdoms and those who are doing amazing Kingdom work.  To those with deep faith who abide in Jesus & those with no faith who live contrary to every word of the Word.  Un-understandable.  And this side of eternity, I don’t think there will ever be adequate answers as to why.  Because we simply cannot understand the thoughts and ways of God.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.

But as un-understandable as His ways are, He has revealed His character to us.  And while I cannot plant my faith on every situation turning out the way my thoughts think it should, I can always stand firm & rely heavily on the character of God.  Always.

  • He is always faithful {2 Thes.3:3}
  • He loves me always
  • He will provide strength {Isaiah 41:10}
  • He is watching me & cares enough about my hurt to collect my tears {Psalm 56:8}
  • He is mercy & comfort {2 Cor 1:3}
  • He listens to my prayers {Psalm 116:2}

So much of what happens in this life just can’t be understood, can’t be determined, analyzed & formulated.  I don’t know {& neither do you, lest you think you are God} why I’m decorating sweet ginger’s hospital room door for a last chemo celebration while another family grieves the loss of their child.  Un-understandable.  But I know that I know that I know, that He will not fail when the circumstance of life do.

1 Corintians :: NT in 2017

This week we begin 1 Corinthians.  You can find it here.

1 Corinthians

 

A quick flyover of the Book of 1 Corinthians:

  • It is widely accepted that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians.
  • This letter is partially an answer to questions written to Paul.
  • Paul’s first 6 chapters rebuke the church for their sinful behavior, both the divisions and the disorders in the church.  The last 10 chapters answer the specific questions the church asked Paul and cover many different topics.
  • Main theme :: Christian community and behavior.

Two weeks & two books completed!  Hooray!  I hope there’s things stirring around in your heart like there are in mine.  The Word is truly active and moving and personal and applicable.

    Be Strong

    Finishing up another book in our goal to read the New Testament in 2017.  Ephesians 6 takes us to the end & concludes the book with instructions on how to be strong in the Lord.  Armor.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. {vs 11}  We do not fight what we see, but the battle rages on in a behind-the-scenes manner.  And our armor as described in verses 13-20 is our only chance to stand firm.  Be strong in Him for he is Mighty.

    Next week…drumroll please…1 Corinthians.

    Free Mercy

    He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8


    Sixteen weeks ago we were handed the news that sweet ginger would be fighting the cancer beast.  Fear, unknown, anger, anxiety…just a few of the emotions that pumped through my veins in the days following.  We set the course, we leaned on each other & our friends and we stood as firmly as we could on our faith.  And we prayed.

    We look back now with a treasure trove of positives.  Sweet ginger has fought hard & treatment is working.  Cancer is dying {or completely dead!}  For that we are thankful to God.  But 16 weeks ago, I had no idea what all this would look like.  Darkness lingered.  And I know that sometimes even with the greatest of hope, there still comes hurt.  Even with fervent prayers, the answers are not the ones we are requesting.  Sometimes the joy in the morning is many, many mornings away.  And there are times when no amount of faith will change the final earthly story.

    There have been songs played these past 16 weeks that I cannot sing…”if that’s what it takes to praise you, then Jesus bring the rain”.  I have been standing with dark, ominous clouds all around, closing in on me & my family.  And I have prayed {unapologetically} to please don’t send anymore rain.  It’s ridiculously easy to sing about your faith & almost request that Jesus send the rain when you’re standing on a sun-filled day with no clouds in view.  But when the rain is so close your bones ache, and when you’ve stood in the middle of flooding rain waters before in your life…it’s just too much to ask for.

    Over the past 16 weeks I’ve gotten some stuff right.  But I’ve also gotten a whole lot of stuff wrong.  I’ve been thankful.  And I’ve been oh, so angry.  I’ve quietly praised & loudly complained.  I’ve wrestled, really wrestled with God-on the ground, all out WWF style.  And I’ve praised & celebrated with hands-raised hallelujahs.  And I’ve questioned & whined & even bargained a little.  Because that’s what we do.  Us humans.  If we were able to get this all right, we definitely wouldn’t need the Word.  Or a Savior, for that matter.  Everyone is going to mess up.  Over little things & enormous things.  We do our best & rely on the saving grace of Jesus to fill the gaps of our humanity.  The Bible is filled with stories of people getting this all wrong.  But it’s also filled with the unrelenting chasing of our God towards us, arms open,  handing out abundant & extravagant grace.

    I’ve learned a million lessons in the last 4 months.  {most that I would rather have never learned}  And I’m sure you’re thrilled {sarcasm font} to read them all.  But the top lesson has to be the power of mercy.  Throw that stuff around like you’ll never ever run out.  Hand it to every.single.person you ever come in contact with.  Especially those facing hardships that you cannot fathom, understand, imagine.  I have not always been so good at this.  Get off your high horse of judgment, of knowing exactly what is best, of thinking you understand how God uses another person’s story {a.k.a. pride} & get in the business of throwing around mercy.  Mercy says “God is bigger than any mistake you might be making”.  Mercy turns judgment on its head and destroys it.  Mercy eliminates shame.  Someone might not be where you are, or where you think they should be, or doing what you would do, or doing what you think they should be, but it might be exactly where God wants them, as He’s teaching them powerful lessons they need to learn.  There are people going through tremendous things, horrible situations, impossible moments.  They may be sitting in the dark.  Alone.  Give them compassion, grace, softheartedness, kindness.  Give them abundant mercy.  Because they likely won’t find the grace-filled arms of God through critique and judgment about how they’re sitting wrong in the dark, but will see Him clearly through the outpouring of abundant, undeserved, extravagant mercy.