Friday, July 22, 2016

Fodder, Fodder, Everywhere and Not a Stop to Think

It never ends. 

Talking heads, pundits, bloggers, social media friends, picketers, neighbors . . . they all seem to have something to say about everything. The desire to join in the discussion and make our thoughts known builds and convinces us that we have to add to the noise, that we too must say something, about everything. 

Whether it’s division about building walls, about racial inequality, about lifestyle choices and rights based on those choices, about which candidate’s history makes him or her a worse candidate for an office, about candidates calling each other names or endorsing each other, we start to think we must take a side publicly, right now . . . to spout out something pithy, to post a cutting meme, to share a sarcastic blog post that gets a point across in a crafty, clever-sounding, (and usually insulting) way.

It all makes my head spin. Sometimes I want to join in, but mostly I want to drown it out and just drive my son around to find Pokemon, but then I’m afraid I might miss something . . . something I should have an opinion about.

But what would I be missing, really? Mostly a collection of ignorance . . . people yelling at and insulting each other to . . . try to win the other one over? Hmmm . . . Really? How in the world do they think that is going to work? The only ones who read and argue back are the ones who are looking for a fight. And they’re not going to listen, because they’re yelling about their own side, convinced they’re going to win the wayward opponent to the right side, too . . . I guess.

Reminds me of Proverbs 18:2: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

As I’m pondering my deep desire to turn it all off before I too get sucked into the futility and start spouting off (like I really, really want to), I am also considering the value of responding. What are we to do? If we care, how can we stand back and say nothing? So we add to the noise and think we’re helping the cause of whatever righteousness we’re fighting for when we make some quick, clever comeback. But is that pithy response really going to change someone’s conviction? Seriously, who in the world is reading the 735th reply to the 63rd comment on a post about a candidate’s stance on gluten-free food for the military anyhow . . . well, other than me, and if someone IS reading it, is THAT comment finally going to be the one to change that person’s mind?

Reminds me of Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

I’m not saying we should be absent from the conversation. It just seems to me that we all need to push away the opinion megaphones that are screaming in our ears and think for ourselves first . . . especially before we pick up our own megaphone to start screaming at others! But how can we possibly have our own thoughts if we don’t bother stopping to consider both sides, with open minds and open hearts? If we stop to listen, both sides usually have some valid points. But we have to WANT to hear them.

Reminds me of Proverbs 18:17: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

I am persuaded the endless streams of opinions that are flooding our lives are indicative of our deep desire to be heard. But is what we are saying adding value or are we just joining in the hot air that is blowing across our nation (maybe the real reason for global warming? . . . not that I’m affirming or denying global warming :-/), adding more ignorance as we guffaw with the other scoffers at the idiocy of the people who think differently than we do?

Maybe we should more carefully consider the end goal. Are we trying to persuade in a thoughtful and winsome way to encourage understanding and growth of others as well as understanding and growth in ourselves, or do we just want to be victorious? If it is the latter, our words are wasted, provoking others, solidifying in their minds how wrong and foolish we are, and only hinder the cause we so desperately want to defend.

Reminds me of Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I pray our nation (and Christ-followers specifically) will become more thoughtful before responding to each other in a way that continues division among us. May we all strive to stop and think before we spew more fodder for others to exploit.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why I Did It

  • I did it for love.
  • I did it to inspire.
  • I did it because I was afraid.

Sounds very dramatic, doesn’t it? It might be disappointing to realize I’m just talking about going on a trip with my daughter, but that’s it. 

We embarked on a 1500-mile girls’ drive up the east coast to tour 13 colleges in 13 days. Some initial reactions I received were shock at the cost or shock at the fact that two women were doing this alone or questioning as to whether it was a good idea to give my daughter encouragement to move away. Some even did their own self-questioning, as if they were somehow short-changing their children because they didn’t do the same. That surprised me. I wasn’t doing this to make a statement to anyone other than my daughter.

I once heard a pastor ask a church to think of one time they felt really loved. I tended to think of showing love in terms of a consistent self-sacrificing devotion to someone, until that moment. Don’t get me wrong . . . I still think that. But in that moment, as he knew we would, we all thought of something that someone did or said that was above-and-beyond, or at least outside the ordinary. I’m not saying that the normal routine self-sacrifice of devotion to another isn’t the most loving thing you can do, but is that what stands out to the ones you want to show love to? That illustration stuck with me. So, I did it for love . . . to show her I love her enough to plan for months and to stop everything else for only her for two weeks. I hope she felt loved.

I also never even considered thinking outside the box when it was time for me to go to college. I went to the most reasonable option at the time, one that was close to home and wasn’t too expensive. Selfishly, I kind of hope she chooses a college with some of those same criteria. But more than that, I wanted to let her explore her dreams of moving to a big city and doing something completely crazy and out of the ordinary. I want her to dream and believe that she can achieve those dreams and not be caged in by the expected. I know it’s not the most practical, but I hope she was inspired.

Ultimately, I think I did it because I was afraid. Surviving cancer will certainly change your perspective. No longer do you coast through life assuming you’ll live to a ripe, old age. You are well aware of your mortality, that you cannot take one day for granted. Each day is a gift. I often think of the song, “Live Like You Were Dying,” by Tim McGraw. So far, it has not inspired me to go skydiving, but every time I hear it, I am reminded that I have been given bonus time that many others have not been given. It makes me afraid . . . that I will squander that time, that my bonus time could still run out (as could everyone’s), and that those I love won’t have as many special memories of us together as we could have had. So many fears can creep in, but ultimately, I am far more afraid of missing out on the life I’ve been given in the present than the life I don’t know if I’ve been given in the future. So, fear drove me to make memories now, not later, not when it's practical, not when it's safe. In the end, those memories are all our family and friends will have of us.

In light of the almost constant tragic news bombarding us on the airwaves, I hope we will all be driven to show those most important to us an extra dose of love, to inspire them to pursue dreams, and to let whatever fears we have drive us to DO, rather than NOT do. I have others in my life I’d like to show an extraordinary love to and to inspire. I hope my fear will drive me to continue making what could be mundane a lot more memorable! Will you join me?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Savannah at The Greenhouse

I am so thankful for the heart Savannah and her friends have to share God's love with others. 

Several girls from our church organized and led an event they called The Greenhouse, for middle- and high-school girls this past Saturday. The theme was "Beloved," and each of the four speakers shared about different aspects of love. Savannah got to share about God's amazing love for us. I hope it encourages you, as it did me!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Year . . . in Hair

It's been a while since I've updated, so I decided it was time. I hope you enjoy:

Looking Back on My Year . . . in Hair

(as told by random celebrity pictures):

Spring 2015:

Before Chemo . . . It looked JUST like this, I'm sure of it! :-/ (...with a little less facial hair, of course.) 

After Chemo Began . . . not quite as full-bodied.

Summer of 2015:

Too hot for my wigs, so I went with this look at home . . .

And this look when I went out.

Fall 2015:

Cooler weather, so I went with the wigs. I looked a lot like these two:


or perhaps a little more like this:

(but I'm pretty sure it was more like the first two).

Winter 2015/2016:

I started getting brave enough to show off my newly growing hair. It started out looking like this:

But I decided I wasn't quite ready to sport that much gray, so I went with this:

Spring of 2016:

Now, it's getting longer, so it's looking much better. When I blow it dry, it looks like this:

If I let it dry on its own, it's a cross between this:

and this.

Looking good, don't you think? :-)

There you have it . . . my year in hair. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Very Good Friday

A year ago yesterday, I found out I needed to be rescued. That was the day I heard my diagnosis . . . cancer. I’ve written many times about the difficulties of our past year, but today I have a different story. It was confirmed exactly a year later that I continue to be in remission. It was a very Good Friday!

I’ve been thinking about how things could have been different. What if I had ignored my symptoms? What if I had disagreed with the doctor and denied my problem? What if I hadn’t agreed to the treatment plan? I would likely not even be here to write this.

There was certainly opportunity to do all of those things. My symptoms weren’t that noticeable and they didn’t bother me very much, and no one else even noticed anything was wrong with me. In fact, just a few weeks earlier, I had been told by a doctor that I was completely healthy.

The thing is, that doctor didn’t see everything. She only tested for certain things that she was looking for. But my core problem couldn’t be seen with those tests.

I think all people are forgetful, but I’m even more sensitive to that feeling after experiencing Chemo-brain (totally a real thing!). So, I sometimes need to remind myself to look at things clearly.

As yesterday was Good Friday and the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis, I think it’s a good time for me to remember. Imagine, if I had ignored my problem since it wasn’t that noticeable or if I had denied my diagnosis or trusted an expert who didn’t see a problem from her limited viewpoint, I would be lost forever. That disease would have killed me by now.

I absolutely hated being told the reality of my condition, and the difficult road involved in curing me was unpleasant and inconvenient; the medicine was not fun and changed so many things about my life. I really did NOT want to take it. But, only in that medicine could I be cured, and in the end, the discomfort I felt was nothing compared to the life I have today!

This Easter weekend, I am pondering how similar it is to surrendering our lives to Christ. It would be much easier to deny we have a problem (sin). We’re comfortable with the way things are. Others may think we’re fine, even those who seem to be experts of a sort (people who deny the reality of God or sin, people who feel like they're good enough on their own, etc.). 

Even if we admit we have a problem, we’d prefer to explain our sickness away and forget about it rather than disrupting our comfort and our normalcy by acknowledging and receiving the cure for that problem. Truthfully, that’s why so many don’t do it . . . they don’t want to have to be faced with the reality of their condition or that they need a cure. But those who take that path will eventually find that it was the path that led to death. Had they faced the reality of their condition and their need for a cure, they would instead find life.

This Easter, I pray you have realized that we all have a condition that requires treatment. The great news is there is a cure! If we will accept our need and receive the treatment, we can be cured! Yes, there is a cost. Grace is free for those who receive it, but it does permeate every part of your being. It will change you. You will no longer be your own boss and won't be able to live the same way. Becoming a Christ-follower can be uncomfortable and inconvenient for life as you have known it. But the medicine of the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus will give you life to replace the death you don’t realize is swallowing you. 

Romans 6:23:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 14:6:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

1 John 5:10-12:

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I pray that you have received the medicine of Good Friday that will lead you to the life of Easter!

Thursday, January 21, 2016


January 23, 2015 . . . It was a normal day in Lexington, SC. It was also my brother’s birthday, so I called him (not normal . . . I usually forget). This time, I had more to say than “Happy Birthday.” I had to tell him I was on the way to the hospital. Earlier that day, I had an MRI because one of my eyelids had been swollen for a week or so. Three hours later, my doctor called and told me to go to the hospital. They had a room ready for me, because the MRI showed “an infection” touching my brain.

Little did I know that that was the first night of a year that would be filled with pokes, prods, scans, fears, tears, insertion of a PICC line, daily self-administered IV treatments for hours at a time, at-home nurse visits, misdiagnoses, allergic reactions to medicines, a craniotomy, a port surgery, chemo, hair loss and other side effects, hospital stays, lots of trips to Charleston for doctor appointments, and much more prayer for myself than I usually offer up . . . oh, and a job change for Eric, yet another move for us, another new school for the kids where they would know no one, a search for a new church, starting over with new doctors (and new out-of-pocket expenses), the sale of a house, multiple house-hunting trips while going through cancer treatment, and a purchase of a new house in the suburbs of Atlanta.

Today, I painted a room in that house. That’s kind of a big deal, because it was just so . . . normal. The last 363 days have not contained a lot of normal for me. I’m exhausted right now, as I am still not at 100% strength, but I did it. Tomorrow, another big deal happens . . . my port is being removed.

I must confess that I’m a little nervous. Truthfully, while I am so thankful there are doctors, nurses, technicians, and hospitals to deal with those of us who have a year (or often many years) of the abnormal, I am tired of it. I don’t like being poked and prodded, slit open and sewn back together. (Prayers greatly appreciated that all will go well!)

And another confession . . . I’m scared that I may need that port again. It’s how my chemo was administered and my blood is drawn and my contrast for my scans is given. What if, once it comes out, the cancer comes back? The first two years is the most common reoccurrence time frame. Most people don’t keep the port in for two years, as it has to be flushed regularly to make sure a clot doesn’t form. The doctors won’t tell me what the normal time frame is for removing ports. I get the generic “anywhere from two months to a year” answer. So, is now the right time? It’s scheduled, so I guess it is for me.

Once the port is gone, my only visible, daily reminder that I had cancer will be my hairstyle. My hair is now short (until it grows out), curly, and red (because gray is just not my color). Yet another confession . . . I don’t like it. I feel very self-conscious about it (because I’m quite sure my hairstyle is a real concern for most people I see :-/.) Still, I truly am grateful my hair is growing back, and I spend entirely too much time looking in the mirror and stretching the strands out straight to see if maybe it’s just a little bit longer today than it was yesterday – a great use of my time, I know. It’s totally different in thickness and texture and style than before January 23, 2015. But now, it is my new normal.

As I reflect on the past year, I wonder what normal is anymore. I think I put far too much emphasis on life being normal or my feeling normal in the past. In an instant, on a normal day driving through car line at school, it all changed for me. I can’t help but wonder what this next year holds in store. Will it seem normal? Am I going to be obsessed with wanting to feel normal again? I don’t know. But I do think I want to look back in another year and know that whatever the year has held, some things will be normal for me: loving my family well, being grateful to God for each day, encouraging those who are struggling, praying regularly for those on my radar, spending time in God’s Word daily, using my time purposefully, using my words to build up and not tear down, and trusting that my normal is in God’s good and sovereign hands regardless what may happen. I hope this will be my consistent normal and yours, too.

And I hope I will remember to call my brother and tell him “Happy Birthday!" . . . and have nothing else to say.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Stories She Never Knew

Four years have passed since my mother left this life. I rest in the fact that she is joyfully worshiping and enjoying her Savior and the wonderful life beyond this life that He’s prepared for those of us who have put our faith in Him. She is reunited with all those she loved who have also passed from this life, and maybe they’re sharing stories. She loved to share stories and hear about other’s stories!

Still, four years have held a lot of stories for us, and I haven’t been able to talk to her about any of them: about our decision to move to NJ, about how hard it was to say goodbye to our friends and family in GA, about the NJ hurricane that ruined the house we ALMOST bought, about the house we did buy and lived in less than a year, about the friends we met and then had to say goodbye to, about the decision to move to SC, about living in temporary housing with our belongings in storage for months, about the house we bought and loved, about the friends we met and had to say goodbye to again, about our decision to move back to GA . . . about how much I miss her.

I wanted to call her and talk to her about all of those things and so many more! One thing I am thankful I didn’t have to tell her was that I was diagnosed with cancer. Had she not left us four years ago, that might have been enough to take her by now. I am thankful I didn’t have to share that part of my story with her.

This weekend, though, there’s a part of my story that I DO wish I could share with her. I would love to pick up that phone and say, “Guess what, Mom?! On Friday, the doctor said the scans are clear! And he didn’t even mention a stem cell transplant this time. When we asked why, he said some people think it might help, but there’s no definitive evidence that it would help me, because I’m young, I appear to be doing well, and my scans are clear. So, no stem cell transplant! Now, they just monitor and scan me every three months for a year or two to make sure they catch it early if it does come back.”

I wish I could tell her that part of my story, because that’s what happened! I think I know what her expression would have been. It would have been something like this (This is a picture of her being surprised at her 80th birthday party.):

And we would have cried many thankful tears together! I would love to have shared that with her! Some day I will . . . but it looks like she’ll have to wait a little longer to hear that story directly from me. :-)

God already knows all of our story, and He loves to hear and answer our prayers along the way. While my story has been a little more eventful than I would have liked this year, it also has been especially filled with His answers to our prayers for strength, for hope, and for healing for me.

Thank you all for your continued prayers, support, and encouragement throughout all of this! I’ve still got to get strong . . . and grow some more hair . . . but I’m feeling pretty done with cancer at this point. I’m ready to embrace what the doctor said and, as one of my cancer-surviving friends recently told me, to start saying that I HAD cancer. It is in my past. I am living in the healing God provided for me through answered prayers, medicines, and doctors. I don’t know if this healing is full or if I will have to walk the cancer-road again, but for now, that trip is in my past.

I still want to tell my mother all of my stories and I can’t wait to hear hers! But we’ll have an eternity to catch up on that stuff. For now, it will have to wait, because I’m done with cancer! That’s my story . . . and I’m stickin’ to it!