Living Water and Good Coffee

I woke up this morning with a pit in my stomach so big, it was hard to get out of bed. Emotionally, I feel like I’m going through the pain of cancer again. Physically, I am nauseated and lethargic.

I dragged my fatigued body down the stairs more than an hour later than I prefer to rise, and only got up at all because I prayed for help doing so. I looked through the various coffee flavors we collect and pushed one away, telling myself, “I don’t deserve that one today”.

Because all my current suffering is self-induced. Sin-induced. I deserve the bland, flavorless coffee today. The “Sinner’s” coffee. That’ll teach me.

This isn’t a post about being depressed. This isn’t a moment to share that I am in the midst of some major sin. This is just me admitting that I have a problem.

This problem is the supervillain in my story, lurking in the shadows to blast truth out of every good thing. She uses the cloak of invisibility to appear in unexpected ways when I least expect it. She has always been a part of my story, but she’s grown better at disguising herself. She is so crafty, I follow her down paths of destruction time and again. I usually don’t recognize her until true damage has been done. Worst of all, this problem is bigger than me. Stronger than me. I cannot beat her on my own.

Her name is Pride.

My attempts to overcome her result in my own backsliding into her comforting embrace. “But, He gives more grace.” He does not show up to provide back-up, the way I wish. Instead, the Holy Spirit swoops in like the true Hero He is. When I trust in Him, submit to Him, He reflects light on pride so I can see her hideous face. He helps me recognize her voice, and to follow His instead. He provides the instruction, power, and cleansing I need for a pure heart (see James 4:6-10 below). Most of all, He draws near to me so my enemy’s lure is less enticing.

I wish I could throw away the “bad girl” coffee, knowing I’ll never need it again. If His help is real and my redemption is complete, it shouldn’t be an issue, right?

Unfortunately, as long as we are in this phase of life on earth, Pride will thrive. The days are full of her, and opportunities to stray abound. But the help, guidance, and forgiveness from Abba Father will continue to be steadfast and free for those of us who trust in Him. Hallelujah for the One who gives living water and good coffee!

 

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:6-10

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Wedding Vows

My big brother is getting married! Bennie is getting married! Eeeeeek, I’m going to have a new sister! I always wanted a sister!

Okay. Deep breath. There’s only a week left before the wedding and I’m completely thrilled in a thousand different ways, but want to take some time to focus on the important ones–that is, the Important One.

His name is Jesus. AKA, The Bridegroom.

 

John says the one who has the bride IS the bridegroom, and His friend, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly at His voice (3:29). How often do we hear Jesus’ voice, and instead of rejoicing, we sugarcoat, or make excuses not to obey it? How many times has my earthly groom said or done something I consider “wrong”, only to have me respond with judgment instead of prayer?

Okay, okay, so Amy is marrying Ben, not Jesus. But God created marriage, and used tons of references to help us understand the relationship we can have with Him through it. The apostle Paul cautioned followers to remain unwed if possible. But I’ve learned so much more about the Lord because of living life with this guy He gave me. We are supposed to honor and serve our spouses, to unite with them as one flesh, and to put their interests over our own. If we treated Jesus that way we might not even need to tap into all that grace He left us with.

 

Traditional wedding vows involve a man and a woman, in the presence of God, being united with verbal promises to love, keep, honor, comfort, and obey each other. We solemnly declare that no circumstances, other than death, will separate us from the love of one another.

Then the honeymoon ends.

Maybe we hit some rough patches. Life isn’t what we expected. I remember for the first year we were married, I used to attack Yaacov with insults like, “If I knew this about you before we were married…”. Charming, I know. But he put up with me. Not because he promised he would. Not because he “had” to. And honestly, not because I’m so lovable. But because of Jesus.

Marriage can be easy when both spouses are head over heels in love–with Jesus, the anchor. You really can’t be in love with Him without starting to act like Him, meaning that we imitate the true humility He exuded on earth, which in turn glorifies Him. Over the 12 years of our own marriage, it’s not the circumstances like terminal cancer that have made the vows so difficult to follow. It’s the times that we tried to walk around our true bridegroom that have been the hardest.

Whether we are married or not, wedding vows can remind us of the promises we make to the true Bridegroom. It’s not about making huge sacrifices or winning converts. It’s about rejoicing in the promises He already made us, and in freely receiving the eternal wedding gifts He lavishes us with.

In other words, whether you are getting married this summer, have been wed for several decades, or will live all future days as a single person, it’s time to renew our vows–I pray that all who read this are blessed with the deep understanding of the love of Jesus. May He show Himself to you as the perfect bridegroom, as He knows, leads, comforts, and helps you through each day. In turn, let us decrease as the awesome depth of His love is highlighted in us as we promise to honor, serve, and follow Him all of our days.

 

Dayenu!

I was reading through my blog and my heart just about stopped when I got to one of the most precious moments in there–“Dayenu”! My heart has this achy, drowsy, lovey-dovey feeling when I read the words He gave me back then.

I wrote it back on January 4, 2012, I was going through chemo, with no real idea if the Lord would have mercy on my family and me to heal me. Even with the chemo, would I live to see another Christmas? We didn’t know, but we still saw the Lord in every moment. I won’t sugar-coat it, every moment was hard, and I don’t know if a day passed without my crying. Yet, one thing remained–the one thing that mattered, and His peace transcended all understanding, just like He promised it would.

So basically, there is a tradition where the jews recall the great victories the Lord had throughout the Exodus from Egypt, and shout, “Dayenu!”, which means, “We would have been satisfied”. I made a personalized version of this to celebrate what He had done until that point in my life. It was really special, and I remember there was a lot of feedback from readers about it. There is something so touching about recalling what He does and who He is.

Now that more than 5 years have passed since the original post, the list would be just too long to include all the major things He has done. He really is THAT good. Our blessings truly are innumerable. I don’t think I could list everything He’s done this week before my fingers would exhaust themselves from the typing. But, I have added to it to cover a few of the major things.

To quote John (21:25), “there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

“If He had merely saved my soul but left me without a partner, DAYENU”
“If He had introduced me to Yaacov but left me without children, DAYENU”
“If He had blessed me with Abigail for even a day, but hadn’t given me 4 9 years with her, DAYENU”
“If He had given me Naomi but gave me less than 9 months 6 years with her, DAYENU”
“If He had put friends and family in my life but not allowed us to grow together from an advanced cancer diagnosis, DAYENU”
“If He had moved my Dr. Perry to order an ultrasound for my lump, but it was left with a false negative and thus shorter life, DAYENU”
“If He had Dr. Perry refer me for a surgical consultation, but didn’t have Neenad tell me it should be with Dr. Crooms, DAYENU”
“If He had introduced me to Dr. Crooms but didn’t get him to secure a proper diagnosis so quickly, DAYENU”
“If He had merely allowed satan to threaten my life but chose not to give me the warnings, DAYENU”
“If He had given me the warnings via proper diagnoses, but didn’t get me to Dr. Rassam, DAYENU”
“If He had convinced us to go to the hospital in Texas but did not secure insurance approval, DAYENU”
“If He had secured insurance approval but not a fundraiser to help with other expenses, DAYENU”
“If He had moved people to raise funds for us but it was no incredibly successful, DAYENU”                                                                                                                                              “If He had helped me cover my head but not to overcome the shame from losing my hair, DAYENU”
“If He had allowed me to go through chemo but hadn’t made my tumor shrink 2 cm, DAYENU”
“If He had just comforted me through three  four rounds of the worst type of chemo but didn’t make me feel better than ever, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN SATISFIED! Dayenu!”
“If He had just carried me through the visit to MD Anderson in Texas but not allowed it to break and humiliate me, Dayenu!”                                                                                                 “If He had rescued me from the pit of despair but not led me to believe He would answer my prayers for healing, Dayenu!”                                                                                                      “If He had led me to believe I’d be healed but didn’t heal me on earth, Dayenu!”                   “If He had MIRACULOUSLY healed me on earth of “incurable”, stage 4 cancer, but left me with horrendous side effects from treatments, Dayenu!”                                                             “If He had healed me from everything, but not let me share the story, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN SATISFIED!”

He has let me share the story and continue to grow in faith, love, hope, and overall health. I can not imagine looking back now and not having every moment of this life exactly as it has been. His way is perfect, His path is right. It is hard, but not too hard for the daughter of the king.

FIVE Year Anniversary

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I was healed! Despite tons of tests and false alarms to get the anxiety rushing, there has never been even one result that came back as cancer. The result of every biopsy, x-ray, PET scan, ultrasound, bone scan, and blood tumor marker work-up has testified that the Lord miraculously removed every cell of cancer from my body, blood stream, organs, and bones. Remember when a well-known and respected oncologist told me I will never be cancer-free for even a day ? I will never forget that. And I will never forget that, from the world’s standards she was right. But from the Creator’s point of view, laws of nature are not an issue.

It’s been 5 years now: 1,826 days of health. 1,826 days of evidence that God always has the final word. 1,826 times that my bones, blood, and organs declared the healing of the Lord. According to the blog view tracker, some part of the story of His healing was declared 288,649 times, plus all those times it was verbally reported. His story resounded through all the states and at least 18 different countries. Once again, He fulfilled His promise from Ezekiel 38:23, “So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” He does this all the time with weak sinners like me, please don’t think I’m taking any sort of credit, I’m just boasting in my Lord.

I have frequently written about all the things He has taught me through this journey, but it was only recent that He showed me what is so big in my own life–pride. It’s in my heart, fighting for self-sufficiency. For control. I’m stubborn. Worthless on my own. I see my inabilities now, and how quickly I had tried to claim credit for my “successes” in the past. I am constantly posed to wander, but slow to listen. These are all things I thought I had conquered long ago. I was so blinded by my self-righteousness that I had no clue they were even lurking, let alone were at work within me.

It hasn’t been fun to recognize these things about me. Sometimes it’s felt like I lost my foundation. The despair and frustration felt deeper than His love for me. Finally the other day I asked Him for hope, and He immediately obliged, and pointed out, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

This hope doesn’t mean anything when we are living as mighty warriors ourselves. When we think we can conquer all things with enough focus and aptitude. When we blame circumstances instead of ourselves for our failings. But when we get to the bottom of our strength, we see that we truly aren’t worthy. I don’t mean, “not as worthy as Him”. I mean, truly, we are not worthy. When we can finally and fully accept that truth, like Jonathan’s son did when he asked David, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” (2 Samuel 9:8), we can at last appreciate the full satisfaction of the Lord.

I’m so grateful that He started showing me this truth with the shocking diagnosis of incurable cancer, and that He didn’t give up me as I stubbornly refused to submit to the reality of my weakness in more than five years since then. Most of all, I’m so glad that He chose a dead dog such as I to display His glorious works of healing so I could really know, love, appreciate, and share about Him for many more days.

Love is…Law

I tend to think that the letter of the Law is easy to follow, but that the spirit of it is the real issue. Somehow, today, I’m convicted by the very words in it.

Well-respected and educated jews were so thrown off by how to deal with Jesus that they missed His words. They wanted to throw Him off, to get any excuse to accuse Him of blasphemy. So they asked for the greatest commandment, and He said:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:38

It’s pretty horrendous that they were speaking face-to-face with the God incarnate and wanted to destroy Him out of jealousy. And it’s bad enough that the very reputations they were trying to protect were built upon the law that Jesus referenced here. But beyond even that, they completely missed the words He spoke.

These people were Pharisees, they knew this commandment well. They were considered so devout and learned that they lived out many detailed rules that were created to help them obey the laws in the first place. But they stood next to Jesus, on the same ground, breathing the same air, discussing the same Father, and missed His words because they were preoccupied.

Love the Lord your God with all your mind.

We have a choice today–do this stuff, or do that stuff. I even spend a lot of time trying to honor Him by figuring out which of the stuff I’m supposed to do. But that’s all related to the stuff. Whether or not the stuff is loving to do, it all needs to go back to loving Him with all of me. Not just in the morning, or when He helps me out of a jam.

If you shelf the “stuff” and love Him more fully, I’d love to hear what He shows you!

 

 

 

Love is…Frozen Lasagna

“Wanna come over for Christmas dinner? We’re having frozen lasagna. Bring a fork.”

That’s the text I’ll send out next year. This year was…harder than that.

My heart is still racing from the stress of the day. Feet ache like I ran a marathon in high heels. But I’m ending the day with peace and joy in my heart. I just wish I’d fought for those fruits throughout the day. There’s good news, though. His mercies are new every day, and tomorrow He will provide new opportunities. Especially in our house, because we aren’t even having our traditional Christmas celebration until then!

There’s so much to learn from days like today, and I don’t think I’m the only one who keeps missing the point. Over this season I’ve had very low standards, and somehow they’re still too high. I didn’t bother sending Christmas cards (yet again) because we didn’t get around to getting cute pictures of the girls. And let’s face it, the pictures wouldn’t have looked good anyway because I don’t iron their clothes.

Every year my dad brings me a box of stuff he doesn’t need, and that includes those greeting cards random companies send out. Every year I tell him I don’t need them, but they end up shoved in a corner of the garage. And every year, they inevitably get rescued from the recycling bin at the last minute, creases unbent as I include them with a haphazardly arranged gift or two. This year I couldn’t even find matching envelopes so just sort of folded some cards smaller and shoved them at someone. I’m pretty sure it would have been better to recycle them. Anyway, even with standards as low as this, it’s nearly impossible to excel. And I mean, could I possibly do even less and still be a good representative for Christ? (Well, yes, but only because of grace)

As the hostess for holidays like today, there were lots of different roles for me. How can I ever do them all well?

The expectation of loving everyone well would mean I would excel in:

  1. Wifing
  2. Mothering
  3. Daughtering
  4. Sistering
  5. Friending
  6. Cleaning
  7. Cooking
  8. Organizing
  9. Entertaining
  10. Being present
  11. Putting deodorant on (hahahaha, it’s late, and I’m more hilarious as the night goes on). But really, did I brush my teeth today?
  12. Celebrating: Immanuel, God with us, who lowered Himself from total deity to become a human, beginning as a baby, to rescue all of us evildoers from our own sin and the punishments we deserve. He’s the reason we are here, and the reason we call this a holy day at all.

To be honest, seeing this list all written out makes it look much easier than it felt today. At a few points I knew it was too much. Too much to please everyone, too much to choose whose feelings or desires to forsake for the sake of my own sanity. I told myself, as I do each year, that we would figure out simpler ways to celebrate Christmas for future years. And I tried to block out the memory that I tried that one last year and hurt so many feelings someone brought it up again yesterday-363 days later!

A few solutions that sound appealing:

  1. Next year we rent a cabin without electricity, phones, or any noise. Just light a candle, eat some tree bark (that someone else harvests), and read the Bible.
  2. Have a party in the car. Whoever fits is welcome. It’ll be too crowded for anyone to notice it’s dirty, and my feet won’t hurt since I’ll be forced to sit.
  3. Serve non-perishable food items that can be eaten at any time of day and set them up as a buffet for the entire day’s food. We’d have canned fruit cocktail, Spam, muffins that we’d call “cupcakes” after noon… and…are those gas station breakfast sandwiches considered “perishable”?

Still this list is incomplete, there must be more. He brought me out of the insanity to His peace, and I need to stay there. To dwell in His love. It’s more than the logistics of swapping a homemade roast beef for a frozen lasagna. It’s swapping the Martha outlook to be more of a Mary.

Yaacov reminded me of this earlier, when I was in the midst of the pathetic breakdown we all knew was coming. I get so annoyed by the reference to those sisters. Martha was the one who was doing a good job taking care of the house so Jesus could be comfortable, and Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and ignore the hospitality stuff. But I argue that it’s less applicable this day and age, because Jesus isn’t sitting in my living room, it’s people who are there to be served. Jesus came to serve, so I don’t see it as the same thing.

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:39-42

Yes, I get that my frustration with it is my pride arguing that I want to do things my way.

So, tomorrow, I’m celebrating that Jesus came to this world with my family. Just call me “Mary”, because I’ll be the one at His feet. I don’t know what that looks like, but I’m pretty sure it’ll include the kids eating candy for breakfast, someone picking up Chick Fil A for lunch (a definite perk of postponing Christmas should mean that it’ll be open!), and perhaps we’ll start that tradition of consuming the extra large Stouffer’s frozen lasagnas for dinner. If I’m too preoccupied with the Word to put on deodorant, no one will blame me because I’ll still send a sweet incense offering up to Him…plus I’ll smell great because of the time I’ll have to spend with Naomi playing in her new Snowman bubble bath. It might not be much like the first Christmas, but we’ll enjoy our freedom from the law and punishments we deserve because of that very day.

Love is Christ

‘Tis the season to be jolly. We have so much to celebrate this year! And every year, of course. Thanks to all who read my last post and prayed–the Lord answered! WHAT?! I know, right? Sometimes we don’t even expect Him to show up. I’m SO glad He is able and willing to do more than we could ever ask or imagine!

Anyway, when I last posted, my friend’s liver was extremely enlarged and caused her a lot of pain, nausea, and trouble breathing. She could feel her liver in her back. You might know that this is a big, big deal. Her doctor called for an immediate PET scan and advised her to increase her pain medication. Which obviously wouldn’t solve anything. We kept praying, and that night she slept in peace, pain abated! Then the next day the results showed more cancer on her liver, but when she went to her oncologist to discuss it, he could not feel her liver anymore! It shrunk back to normal size without a reason. He called it “remarkable”. We call it “Answered Prayer”, a miracle! And we call He who answered, the Prince of Peace, Our Healer, Mighty God, and King of Kings.

More good news, too! Another friend, Leigh, has been suffering with an immune disorder for several years. I don’t know the whole order and layout of issues, but it is really debilitating and requires a lot of treatment just to be sort of stable. But He has really healed her recently, including an ongoing really bad eye issue plus new bloodwork showed she didn’t have the immune disorder!

I really wanted to share this stuff to raise more awareness for the power of prayer, the One who answers, and to credit the One who knows what we each go through. But I also wanted to share the hope that goes with it–these women were not diagnosed one way then stumbled across a great treatment. These women were suffering, big time, for years and years, with no good news or relief in sight. But they remained steadfast in prayer and hope, whether for healing, or for wisdom, or just help. And long after most of us stopped expecting big changes, He broke through and healed them! He doesn’t stop working, even when we stop caring. And He doesn’t stop caring even when we don’t think He is working. He is much too big for that manger they laid Him in. Let’s seek all of Him this Christmas!

“My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:2-5