Monday, March 19, 2012

The Strength of a Warrior

2 Corinthians 1:11 NLT - And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

Oh, Dear Friends,

On this day I write to you with such rich gratitude that fills my heart because of you. No doubt, so many of you have encouraged our hearts daily with your prayers that have ascended to Heaven as such a sweet aroma, pleasing to our Heavenly Dad. He has heard YOU and answered your prayers! Proverbs 15:8, 29 NIV - The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him. ... The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous. As I have mentioned before, I truly believe that there is no greater honor or gift that you may bestow upon us than your prayers. For in them, you seek the most powerful being in this universe, the only One whom nothing is too difficult for; the Great Physician, whom no infirmity is too great to heal. Prayer may not always bring comfortable circumstances but it brings The Comforter; it may not always bring peace but it brings the Prince of Peace; it may not always bring ceasing to the struggle but it brings the One who fights on our behalf. Prayer climbs Jacob's ladder, lays hold of the Balm in Gilead, travels the Highway of Holiness, and rains down the blessings of heaven. Is there anything too difficult for our God? The only prayer guaranteed to be unanswered is the prayer left unasked. Oh, how I thank you for your prayers! Philippians 1:19 NLT - For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

This last weekend (March 10), Randi and I celebrated Five years of marriage. I still recall the moment when I saw her walking down the aisle, holding the arm of her father, coming to be my bride. My heart was brimming over with love for her as evidenced by the tears that fell from my eyes and the smile that so effortlessly graced my face.  I had never felt so much love for her prior to that moment; I have never felt so much love for her more than today. Everyday has been a new day of exponential growth with her in love. Oh, how I love her. She is my best friend and I can't imagine going through something as difficult as this with anyone else. It was the famous basketball coach John Wooden who said that pressure can do one of two things: it can burst pipes or make diamonds. Well, I have been down deep in the dirt of this trial with my bride, and let me tell you: I have a true gem. Proverbs 31:10 NASB - An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. Perhaps, the pressure that you are facing today is meant to make something beautiful out of you, something pure, something that can't be created by any other thing. With increased pressure comes increased heat. The refining process may not be fun but it's worth it. Thank God for it, you will learn what you are made of.

One of the things that Randi and I like to do when we celebrate an anniversary is to get away and go on a hike. We love that our anniversary is in the spring because it is a reminder to us of new life. Below is a picture of the path that we walked.

It's amazing thing to think that just a few weeks earlier this path was covered with nothing but dead leaves and all that comes with winter. What a picture of the path that Randi and I have been walking. I get to see something so beautiful growing from these ugly circumstances; and there is nothing more beautiful to me. Song of Songs 4:7 NIV - All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

Proverbs 17:22 NIV - A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. I love that no matter what we go through, we can still laugh! My best friend always has the best medicine!

Below is a tree that we had found on the hike. I don't think I have ever seen anything like it.

It would appear that this tree had been broken at some time in the past. Today it is growing straight and is stronger than it has ever been. This is how I view my bride. Even though what we face is heavy and is breaking us, I know that in the end we will be much stronger; she will be much stronger for it. There is a story of a man in the Scriptures named Samson who was perhaps the strongest man to ever live. He lost his strength in conjunction with losing his hair. I have seen quite the opposite: when Randi lost her hair, I have never seen such strength. Psalm 1:1-3 NASB - How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

God graced us with energy for the weekend getaway and He has graced us with a great week since. Randi has actually been sleeping through the night for the past few days! I would be a fool to say that this has had nothing to do with the prayers to the Almighty that you have given on our behalf. We are so grateful for you. I know that often when you pray for someone else it is a difficult thing to hear back and see if anything has come of those prayers, but my friend your prayers have wrought the answers that we have needed.

My precious bride faces round four of chemotherapy tomorrow (Tuesday, March 20th). Romans 15:30 NLT - Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. Please pray that all would go well, that Randi would continue to have strength, and that throughout all of this, we would make the Almighty all famous. Ephesians 6:19 NLT - And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God's mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.

We are so grateful for you,


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Ever-Watchful Eye Overseeing My Life

"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber... The Lord watches over you... The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life." Psalm 121:2-7

Sweet friends,

I find so much comfort today knowing that God never takes His eyes off of us; he never sleeps; he never misses a moment of our life. He knows exactly where we are, he meets us there. I write to you completely exhausted, with just a few total hours of sleep in days. But Chemotherapy #3 is done (yay!) and I know ever more fully that my help comes only from the Lord. There is such a sweetness, a victory really, looking back on a chemotherapy week and seeing God's blessings amidst so much ickyness. My wonderful little sister, Ryli, was here all week to take care of us. McKinley loved having her Aunt Ry Ry here and I just treasure that time with my sister. Oh, how I pray that McKinley can have a sister (and brother) one day! I don't know what I would do without my siblings. As far as the side effects of the chemotherapy, they were very similar to round #2, just extreme weakness and nausea. However, it was so much better than the first round of chemo, and I am 75% done with the really harsh chemotherapy treatments. Praise God! However, this round has given me terrible insomnia. Despite many sleeping aids, my silly body just does not want to slumber. So I have had many sleepless hours deep into the night to spend with my heavenly Dad. Although, I do truthfully wish I were sleeping, and oh do I cry out to the Lord for sleep, I have come to treasure those still moments just with Him. It comforts me so much knowing that God doesn't ever sleep; as I lie awake He is there: my protector, my shepherd. When McKinley was first born, I would love to watch her sleep; the peace of a precious sleeping baby is unmatched. I am sure that is exactly how God feels as He watches his precious children sleep. I wish He were watching me sleep a little more these days, but He has been teaching me such a sweet lesson as I learn to rely on Him for every ounce of strength.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a "mommy's" class at our church about having an attitude of gratitude. We were challenged to look at everything as an opportunity to be thankful. "Be Joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. " 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Its sounds so simple: that part of God's will for our life is to be thankful in ALL circumstances. I sat there and reflected on all that I have to be thankful for and I was overwhelmed and humbled. But I so pridefully thought, 'gosh I am great at being thankful'! God really doesn't need to teach me anything else about thankfulness! Ha! Then as I was driving home with my sweet friend and our darling daughters, she asked how I was feeling and I began to complain about how exhausted I was and how terrible this insomnia is. She asked what the insomnia was attributed to and I explained how the insomnia was not actually from the chemotherapy drugs, it is a side effect of the Lupron drug that is being used to shut down my ovarian function. As I rattled off with all my explanations and complaints, the Lord just took a hold of my heart and reminded me so loudly that His ways are so much bigger than I can possibly understand. It dawned on me that the Lupron, the silly drug that causes me not to sleep, have terrible hot flashes and go through menopause at age 28, is the very drug that is allowing the chemotherapy drugs to be effective, killing the cancer and not having to fight with my estrogen and progesterone. The Lupron's function of shutting down my ovaries is also the means by which we have the hope of having another biological baby. Oh Lord, how silly I am to question your ways. I will take a thousand sleepless nights for the hope of getting to live without cancer and the hope of getting to have another baby. God taught me such a huge lesson that day about trying to look at everything from His perspective. Unlike me, He sees everything, from the very beginning of time until the very end. He knows exactly whats best for my life. In Romans 8:28 its says, "For we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose." I know that most people would think I'm crazy to say that this cancer is good, but I am so confident that the Lord is using all of this for good in my life and to make me more like His Son. Oh, how I want to be more like Jesus. Sometimes, more often that not, I just need God's sweet reminder that He is in control and I'm not. I can't make my cancer go away and I can't make myself sleep, but I can be so thankful that God cares so much about me (and you) to work out everything for His perfect purpose in our lives. There is a song, called "Blessings" by Laura Story that I heard for the first time right before I was diagnosed. I loved it then, and I love it evermore now. I could listen to it a thousand times over, because it speaks such truth. Listen to the words...

"What if your blessings come through raindrops;
What if your healing comes through tears;
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it take to know you are know you're near.
What if trials in this life are your mercies in disguise."

Oh, how those words bless my heart and remind me how Big and beautiful God's plans are for my life. He uses every trial, every heart break, every moment of sickness, every disappointment, every sleepless night. None of it is in vain. He's working it all together for our good and His glory. Although we may not understand what He is doing today, we can trust that He has our very best intentions in mind. He's our Dad; he cares more than we can possibly fathom. He knit us together in our mother's womb, he knows us better than we know ourselves, and only He knows what is best for our lives. We just have to trust that and believe with all our hearts that sometimes God's greatest blessings come from our worst pain. I know that so many of you are facing really hard things today, so I pray that you will find comfort in knowing that God's plans for your life are so good and He will use this pain for something so beautiful if we allow Him to. I encourage you to think about all you have to be thankful for today. I just know that an attitude of gratitude changes my heart and draws me so much closer to Jesus. Will you allow whatever you are facing to draw you closer to Jesus?

Friends, I just love you! The Lord uses you to encourage me every day. We are so thankful for you. It is easy to see how great God is when we think on the blessings He has given us through your friendships. I hope you are having a wonderful week! Have fun having an attitude of gratitude!

Joyfully in HIM~