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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 and....the WORD

Oh I am grateful.
Grateful that 2013 is ending.
Grateful that 2014 begins at midnight.
Grateful that I am alive to see a new year.
Grateful for God's faithfulness and grace and forgiveness to me, over and over and over again this past year.

Whew! It was quite a year.
Friends getting cancer and other terminal illnesses.
Me getting cancer.
People I care about dying.
One person in particular that I loved so deeply and so dear to my heart leaving earth too early for me.
Hunger and homelessness and poverty and wars abound. Not much has changed since the beginning of time. They are all still around in abundance.
Injustices occur everyday throughout our world.
Misunderstandings occur daily.
We get hurt. We get angry. 
We get fearful.
We get lost.
We get so caught up in our own messes, that we forget about others.

Thankfully, there are also good and wonderful things that happened.
At Woodleaf, week after week in "Say So", I was privileged to watch many new babes in Christ profess their new found Savior.
I was indeed blessed watching loved ones get engaged and see the hope of new love.
I was deemed cancer free.
I learned how to pray more and love that my list gets longer.
I was blessed to be involved in 3 small groups with some amazing, God seeking young women in Chico.

And yet....my heart yearns for more.
My heart yearns to be more Christ like.
To forgive much more easily. To forget quickly. To love unconditionally and unselfishly. To extend grace as often as needed.
With others and with myself.
Oh those failures want to keep haunting me.
I want to remember how the Holy Spirit is seen in me in the Father's eyes. That He sees Jesus and not all my failures.
I want to not be judgemental. 
And wonder how tired God must be of hearing me say that.

Oh yes, there is much work to be done in my life. 
I think I am up for the challenge.
I've never been one for new years resolutions, because lets face it, time would quickly pass by before I broke each one of them; and that would just be another failure. 
Why set myself up?

So this year I am not resolving anything.
Instead I am going to focus on something.
A WORD or a few WORDS that I can think about, learn about and practice being in 2014.
I had a few in mind.
But finally came up with THE WORD I will concentrate on.

G.R.A.C.E.

How much different will my life be if I extend GRACE to others?
I imagine it could be very very different.
How wonderful it would be to be a GRACE GIVING person.
Just like God is to me: Grace giving, full of grace. extending grace upon grace as needed.
OK, this will be a challenge.
BUT i look forward to it.
I will re-read Yancey's excellent book "What so amazing about Grace".
I will re-read "One thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.
I will seek out other books to help me understand GRACE more and ask the Holy Spirit to do a mighty work in me. To transform me into a person of GRACE.
I will reflect at the end of 2014 on how I did and thank God that He continues to change me into the character of JESUS.
It's ALL ABOUT HIM, remember.

May you be thankful for the gifts you've been given in 2013. May you reflect on the goodness and faithfulness of God. And may you learn from the pain and heartache you suffered, that you are never alone.
May the LORD bless you and keep you His in 2014.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

LIGHT in the Darkness

Christmas. The Word itself evokes emotions, memories, traditions, family, friends.
In various ways throughout most of our world, it is celebrated. Not necessarily on December 25th as we do in the United States.
Christmas means so much to so many of us.

The original story, the original Christmas is often overlooked now days. But not for me. It is the most favorite time of the year for me, because it is about God entering our world and becoming one of us.
The problem is that part of the story often goes unsaid, un-noticed.
It is one of THE TWO GREATEST MIRACLES EVER.
How can we miss it?
The basis of the Christmas story is that God sent His very own Son to earth-to be born just as we all are, as a newborn baby.
From the beginning, when God created the universe and then created Adam and Eve, He has longed to be Our Father. He cherishes us as His very precious children and longs to love us in the most perfect way.
Maybe you know the story, maybe you don't. So I will give you a brief synopsis. God created the world, then created the first man and woman: Adam and Eve. God desired so much to be their Father. He envisioned a perfect world. One that was without sickness and death, grief and heartache, poverty, racism, hatred and war. He wanted us to know Him and live in peace.
He asked Adam and Eve to take care of His Creation, which they were happy to do. He asked them not to eat the fruit of one specific tree- the tree of knowledge of good and evil, because if they did, He told them they would surely die.
Well as it often happens, curiosity got the best of Eve, (thru the trickery of God's enemy, aka the devil, disguised as a serpent), and she wanted to find out why this fruit was forbidden. In a short conversation, the devil misquoted God, confused her, and then encouraged her to take the fruit because then she would be like God.
Sounded good to Eve, so she ate the fruit and then convinced Adam to do the same.
And that is when God's vision of His perfect world stopped.
We tend to forget that He is God and we are not. 
I do that way too often.
Reality though, is that HE INDEED IS GOD, and we are not.
God is the Creator and the Sustainer of all life.
He knows what is BEST for each of us. And think how many there are of us; both now and in history past.
Our basic problem is that we want to be god, and that is just never going to happen. He is what holds together our universe.

When Adam and Eve took the fruit (this is what was known as the first or original sin), God came up with Plan B.
First we might need to give a quick basic definition of sin. 
sIn is putting ourselves as first. Giving us the Capital I. We want to be god and not follow the real GOD. Somebody has to be the one in charge and in God's plan, He is the One. 
We tend to struggle with that a bit, we want to be in charge of our own lives-and often the lives of others. Since God was the One who created the world and us, He became the top dog-the one in command. And sin is basically us rebelling against God's plan. We like to be in charge. 
So God's "perfect creation and world" ended with Adam and Eve deciding to do what they wanted, and God came up with Plan B that would allow us again to have the original relationship God had intended for each of us with Himself. He knew that there was nothing we as humans could do, to make things right.
Oh we tried. We followed His laws (most of the time). We offered sacrifices to make up for our sins and He accepted those. But they would never take away permanently our need to keep asking God to forgive us thru our sacrifices.
So God's plan involved sending His Precious Son, Jesus to earth.
Together they knew what must be done to save us from our sins.

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us"
John 1:14 (NIV)

Or as another version states: 
"The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" The Message

God's own Son, Jesus, came into our world, as a newborn baby. He lived and grew just as we did. He was man and yet He was still God. Jesus was God in the Flesh; God Incarnate. Jesus became the Light in a very dark world. But as we often do, we didn't recognize Him, didn't want to acknowledge who He really is. That doesn't change the fact of WHO He is or why He came.
Fact be known, Jesus came to our earth as a man, to take care of sin once and for all. His sole purpose in leaving heaven and coming to earth was to reconcile us to the intended relationship with God the Father that He had envisioned since before time began.
He lived to die. He lived so that He could be the ONE sacrifice that was needed to take care of our sins. And He did that on Good Friday when He was crucified and died for the sins of entire mankind. Just so that we could know Our Father the way He had intended. Know His Love for us, His Grace and His Forgiveness.

John 1 :4-5 says:
 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jesus was life. Jesus was the Light. Jesus was the Light in the darkness of the world. And even the darkest dark cannot hide Him from us.

We all need Light in the midst of the darkness of our world. The atrocities that occur over and over again. The raping of women and young girls, those sold into prostitution or child slavery, the rampant wars that continue, the extreme poverty that 7/8 of the world endures, the sicknesses, the deaths of those we love. The wrong decisions we make that cost us, either emotionally or financially. WE need THE LIGHT of Jesus to counteract the hatred and jealousy of racism. We need His Light to bring healing to broken homes, broken relationships. We need to be embraced by the Light of Jesus, to hold us close when life seems completely overwhelming.

Jesus often shows us His Light thru His people.
He has shown me His LIGHT in my very dark fall thru the lives of 11 incredible young women.
Two of them, Andi and Jen are my Young Life staff friends who I try to mentor. They have showered me with love and affection all fall long-even during Andi's wedding to Mike. Thank you both so so much.

The other LIGHT in my darkness has been my Young Life College Friends in Chico. They have blessed me, prayed for me, sent me texts and messages, called me and upheld and supported me in my very darkest fall ever. Having two cancer surgeries within 6 days and a very long recovery time, plus losing my dear 4th "son" Robby has made life difficult to say the least.
I am blessed and beyond grateful to both my Sarah's, Kristin, Caitlin, Lauren, Katie, Bri, Emily and Robin. They have been Jesus to me. They are my Jesus sightings all thru this hard time.
Jesus brought them into my life to be HIS LIGHT in the darkness I experienced.
I am truly truly thankful.
I am so amazed at how day in and day out, the LIGHT of JESUS shines. We just need to look for it-to look for HIM, in all our days.
My prayer is that in this next week, we all look and long for the true LIGHT that will not allow the darkness we face, to extinguish His Presence with us.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrating Christmas when you don't feel like it.

I love Christmas.
Its always my favorite time of the year. I love decorating my home, I enjoy the goodies I make and give away. I love the lights. I love the carols-and never tire of them.
I love that what we are celebrating is that God is with us. Immanuel (or Emmanuel ). God who left heaven to be born as a baby. God Incarnate. So amazing. So wondrous. In the child born in Bethleham, in the powerlessness of a baby, God entered into our world. That's so remarkable to me.
My tree is up-although this year its a bit Charlie Brown like, the ornaments are hung; the ones that evoke memories and are treasured. The house looks festive, both inside and out.

Yet, I am not excited this year about celebrating.
I am really trying to keep my focus on Jesus, because that is what Christmas is really all about.
This has happened to me twice before. Not wanting to have Christmas.
The first time was forty years ago; the Christmas that snuck up on me two months after my mother had died.
The second one was probably twenty five years ago. I was a NICU nurse and the primary caregiver of a very sweet baby boy named David, who never was expected to live and yet he did. He had osteogenesis Imperfecta-type 2. Its a brittle, in his case , very very brittle bone disease. At birth, thru the trauma that he endured, he had over 200 breaks in his little body. So this sweet little boy lived ten days, and he went home to heaven on Christmas Eve day. It truly affected me in such a deep way. But I had young kids who looked forward to Christmas, so I put on my biggest "fake" self to make the holiday enjoyable for them.

This year Christmas will come, one day short of four weeks since our Robby too, went home to be with Jesus-way too early for us.
So that thrill I get each year anticipating celebrating Christ's birth is very absent right now.
I know this Christmas will be very different, very difficult. I grieve for my dear friends who will not spend another holiday with their son until eternity. Its their new normal, one that wasn't wanted.
They aren't the only ones who will spend this Christmas without their loved one. 
Countless families across the globe will spend the holidays remembering their lost loved ones. They will be sorely missed. And most likely, they will wish they could pass on this holiday this year.
Many times, in order to deal with what we have lost, we try to keep busy, we try to make new traditions. This can help, but it doesn't take away the fact, that someone you love is just not there.

So what do we do when this happens to us? When The Christmas Season arrives and we don't feel like even acknowledging it.
Just like the life we have now been given, we keep on; we keep going. Because more than likely, that is what our loved one would want us to do. They want us to keep living when everything in us screams that we don't want to.
We need to be realistic; things are going to be different, Try and not set up expectations that won't come about. It will be hard and seem different. Of course it will be.
We can try new things to do, we can go away to a place that we haven't been before. One important thing to remember is that we still need to rest and take care of ourselves. Grief can bring on illness as our bodies have taken a hit in our immune systems as we deal with our loss.
We need to give ourselves permission to continue to grieve and not try and pretend that life is the same.  A very dear friend sent me a wonderful passage written by the gifted Anne Lamott today and it is too good not to share.

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp." 

So although I may not feel like there's a reason to celebrate, there is a reason: We don't forget those we have loved and lost, we remember them, with fondness, with our sweet memories and we treasure them and begin to be grateful that our lives were blessed with someone we loved so deeply. And slowly, very slowly, we begin to move on.
But we will never forget.
One step at a time. Even if its a very small step.

A grateful heart.
One that rejoices in God, Our Savior, who came to earth to give us life and life abundantly.
One that doesn't try to pretend we aren't sad, that we don't miss those we lost, but one that begins to have a heart that longs to be thankful, longs to find joy again and one that remembers the love we had been blessed to give and receive.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dear Robbo

Dear Robbo,
Has it really only been 12 days since I heard the news? when I was awakened to the horrific word that you were no longer with us? Was I dreaming? was it real??
And yet now as I get ready to go to bed again, so tired, so emotionally drained, our new reality has hit.
I don't like it at all. In fact, I hate it.
Yeah, I know. We were taught not to use the word "hate".
but I think hate is something that one detests, something that causes you pain and you want to avoid at all costs, the thought of something or someone that makes you cringe.
So you leaving our earth is painful, and I hate it.

It pains me to watch your dad cry. He loves you so much and hates that he won't get to see you here anymore.
It makes me so incredibly sad to watch your mom, my best friend, be stoic and yet I know how her heart is breaking and empty.
And Tommy and Kelly? Those older siblings of yours, they are at a loss. Just as I am.
And then to watch the other kids.
do you know that Kristi cried throughout your celebration of life?? Kristi cried. We know how big that is, and she couldn't stop. And Todd, well, he has cried alot for you, for that little brother that he won't see on this side of time.
And then there's Katie. she was invaluable to your family. And God held her together...for awhile, and then she broke down when she saw the shell that was once you. She wrote the MOST beautiful words describing you that I have readhttp://nkbruce.blogspot.com/2013/12/to-robby-youll-never-expire.html. Then there was Ryan, the brother from another mother, who struggled again with another loss. All so gut wrenching.
And there have been so many who wrote about you, telling stories of how you made everyone feel special, everyone feel valued, everyone feel loved.

I'm sure there are alot of us who wonder, "how did he do that?" .
How could Robby love so many of us well?
Scud and I talked about that. It was because you loved like Jesus, and that was so , or is so, difficult for us to do. We avoid the down and outers, the marginalized. You were like Your Savior, and sought them out and made them feel valued.
As we looked and thought of verses for your celebration of life service, we couldn't agree on one.
All of a sudden I told Katie to look at Romans 12.
You know - that book we studied ALL SUMMER LONG when you were a Nintern.
R12- we even got a bit tired of it, and yet there it was..the perfect verses.
I so remember you and I talking in the kitchen at Woodleaf about how you wanted to be how we were called to be in that amazing chapter.
Katie picked verses 9-18 from the New Living Translation....oh how they described you to a tee.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[e] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[f]12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Oh you did what you wanted to Robby. You loved us so well. You honored us. And I watched how hard you worked, you weren't lazy (except for when it was hard to wake up!). You were happy with others, you were sad with others. You loved all people, especially those of us who are just ordinary. We all know you were honorable and you tried to not have conflicts with anyone.

I remember when you called me before our birthdays to say you were praying for me when I was about to have my second surgery for cancer, and you cried and said you couldn't lose me. As i type those words now, the tears are streaming down my face, because I have lost you now. But its just for a time. But its not fair that for you it will be a blink of the eye and for the rest of us, it could be what seems like forever.
But the forever is where we will meet again.
I call your cell just to hear your voice, and heard your message on your parents answering machine several times last week, and each time I heard your voice, I smiled.

And the reception or party we had for you after the service, you would have loved it. All sorts of different groups of friends who were celebrating your life and sad for your early departure from our lives. I kept expecting for you to show up...Paine time of course-late-but the life of the party.

Yeah I know you weren't perfect...boy did i know that. But it didn't matter to me at all. I loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you on September 16,1988.
I watched you struggle and be conflicted and prayed for you nonstop. I knew you would be OK and I wasn't worried.
You are OK now. You are better than ok, you are in heaven with Jesus. And I know how you loved Him, how you served Him. 
Yet, like all of us, your life wasn't perfect, you weren't without sin. But heck, I certainly am not-and you knew that about me.
but Robbo, you loved so well.

You were little when the commercials came on when little kids saw Michael Jordan play hoops and everyone said "I want to be like Mike". I surely enjoyed watching him, but I never said that. For one, I am a white woman who isn't very tall and I can't play basketball, so I think I was a realist.
But I now can say, "I want to be like Robby".
I want to love and be present with people like you did.
And I will try Robbo, I will try. But dammit, why aren't you here so I can watch you more and learn from you.

The first few days you were gone, so many people wrote things like, " I miss you". I don't think I could comprehend in my small mind that you were really gone, so I didn't understand that.
Oh, but now I do.
I miss you Robby Paine...I miss you so so so much.
I am thankful I will see you again, and spend eternity with you.
And I pray that so many of your friends will be with us too.
I love you...like I always said to you...always have, always will.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Robby

This will be a very hard blog to write but one that I need to so that I can process thoughts and feelings and questions that are in my mind. I imagine that some of you who read this are experiencing some similar thoughts.
I was awakened on Thanksgiving night and received the news that Robby Paine had died.
I couldn't believe it.
Surely this was a mistake.
But NO, it was a horrific reality.
My vibrant, fun loving, lover of people friend Robby, was gone.
My dearest friend in life had lost her youngest son.
Our family's BEST FRIENDS had lost their precious Robbo.

This is seriously WRONG. 
As most of us who knew Robby were, our minds were flooded with questions as to why and how. And one of the hardest things to process is that we might likely never know what happened.
As I write that, my first thought now is: Is that really the important thing? And NO, it isn't. What is most important is that we who are left behind will now live out our lives without Robby. And that's what hurts; that is what sucks.

Robby was my birthday buddy. Its the name we both came up with for ourselves. Although our birthdays were a day apart, we were still birthday buddies. When MaryKay was pregnant with him, she knew she would have a C Section and with the due date she had, she asked her doctor if he could be born on September 15. The nerve of that man to say it was his day off! So instead Robby was born on September 16, 1988. Our whole family was so excited to meet the newest Paine that I took all three of my kids out of school and we were at the hospital when he was born.
So Yes, I am one of the privileged few to say that I knew and loved Robby his entire life. And that is a priceless, precious gift I have been given.
I have so many stories and memories of Robby from his growing up years. I loved him thru his chubby years ( Paine loves chocolate) to watching him slim down and become a dynamite volleyball player. I am remembering gifts I have given him over the years and how my daughter Kristi was the one who gave him presents at our annual Christmas Eve gathering. With Todd and Tommy best buds, and Katie and Kelly as well, Kristi was left with Robby who was ten years younger than her to trade gifts with. She delighted in the fact that Robby was her partner in this annual tradition.
I cherish and relish the fact that both my daughters, believed that the Paine's were truly their family, and they both had Tommy and Robby in their weddings as ushers. Neither of them would have gotten married without those two being involved. And of course Kelly was a bridesmaid for Kristi and she was Katie's Maid of Honor.

As many of us have our memories of Robby, I have been overwhelmed with how many friends have stated that he was their best friend and made everyone feel special and loved and valued. Truly Robert Allen Paine was indeed a very special gift to all of us.
His smile could light up a room. His smile is something we always will remember. Even when he was late (aka "Paine time"), he would smile and try and get away with it. He made people feel so special. He was truly "present" with you when you were with him.
Gosh how he could make me laugh. And his humor-so great.

How do I (you) say Goodbye? This is something I do not want to do. Something Scott, MaryKay, Tommy and Kelly definitely do not want to do. Something any of us who knew and loved Robby dread.

For quite a few of Robby's friends, they may or may not know that he had a spiritual side to him. As a young boy, Robby asked Jesus to come into his life and be a part of his life forever. There were times of tremendous growth in Robby's relationship with Jesus. What a privilege it was for Scud and I to be a part of that aspect of Robby's life as well. I remember vividly going to his house on East 1st in Chico at finals time and telling him this was the year he was going to be on Summer Staff at Woodleaf. I remember him telling me " I need this", and we began to fill out his application together.
And so he first served on team 609 , aka sick with swine. How many of you became friends with Robby then? and how grateful are you for that? And then he came back for the August session that year. The next year he worked at Woodleaf on the weekends and the summer of 2010, he was one of our Interns that served the entire summer. What a tremendous group those Ninterns were!! I love them dearly.
It was that year when Robby really decided to pursue Jesus Christ again and he was in a bible study (scudlife) for 2 years with Thomas and Will and Scud.
So for me, saying goodbye to Robby really isn't goodbye. It is most definitely, "I'll see you again".
For me, for his family, for my family and for many of his friends, we know with complete assurance that we will see Robby again in heaven. That we will spend eternity with him. Which means FOREVER.
For whatever time I have left on this earth, I will not see Robby. But I will see him again and I will get one of his hugs again and live forever with his smile.
Some of you didn't know the spiritual side of Robby. Some of you might question that side and wonder how could that be. You might have seen him drink too much, do certain things that didn't seem "christian like".
But the truth is, that doesn't matter.
Every single person that has ever walked the face of this earth has sinned. All except Jesus Christ, and He is God's son.
Sin is basically choosing to be the god of your life. Doing what you want to do and not caring if there indeed is a real GOD.
I know there is. Robby knew there was.
Robby, like alot of us, realized that there was something more to life that just what meets the eye. That there was a "higher power".
Robby believed that Jesus Christ was the son of God and that He came to earth for the sole purpose of taking on our sin so that we too, could have a relationship with God. 
This might be alot to take in right now, especially as we are grieving so and our hearts are broken. What I do know for absolute certainty is that Robby is in heaven with the God he loved, and that he would like you to be there too.
The MOST famous verse in all of the bible is John 3:16.
It says:
For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (New Living Translation)

This is what Robby believed. He believed in Jesus. He believed that he was the Son of the Most High God. He believed that Jesus died on a cross so that he (and me and you) would be able to live with God thru all eternity.
One day- who knows when that will be - I will see Robby again. I will see spend eternity with him, with Jesus.
Both of our prayer is that you will as well.
If you have any questions about this, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me (melissa.scudder@gmail.com).
I love you Robby Paine. Always have. Always will.
I miss you deeply but look forward to your smile and hug.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving.

I'm not one of those who thinks of all the things I am grateful for on Thanksgiving Day.
I am trying to be thankful each and every day.
Ann Voskamp's book, " One Thousand Gifts", has inspired me to be thankful and grateful each and everyday.

Why do we make one day each year, a day to give thanks?
Are we not able to express gratitude on a daily basis?
Do we need someone or some holiday to tell us to count the blessings we have been given?

Don't get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving.
I love that it brings families together (well most of the time).
I love that it causes us to give thanks.
But I wish we were thankful everyday. 
For the things that have caused us joy, but also for the things that might have blind-sided us.

This year, I have been thankful for having been diagnosed with a rare form of thryoid cancer.
Thankful for cancer you ask? 
YES, most definitely.
I am thankful that I was reminded vividly of the gift of life.
I know I take life for granted. I'm sure some of you do too.
What was a supposed to be an exam to see where my weird blood disorder was heading, turned out to be a life changing event, when a large nodule was seen on my thyroid.
For me, it was a gift from God. A blessing that this nodule showed up on a CT scan, and that eventually would prove to be a cancer that would require two surgeries within six  days.

So yes, I am thankful for cancer. I know how precious life is.
I am also thankful for the hard times my kids have gone thru (and are still going thru). Whether they grow closer to God and cling to Him is their choice, but for me, it accelerates my need to run to my Father for comfort, for help and for hope.

This thanksgiving is the first one in 36 years that we will not be with any of our kids. This makes me a little sad, well maybe more than a  little. But Scud and I realize that this is the new stage of our life. There is the high probability that this will occur more in the years to come. When your children grow up and get married and either you move away or they do, it isn't guaranteed that you will spend holidays together.

We have our annual Thanksgiving tradition and I suppose there are many families who do this same thing: where you go around the table and say what you are grateful for in the past year. It wasn't always our kids favorite activity but I think they might appreciate it as they have gotten older.
So today when it was just me and the hubs, I had the idea of giving thanks for each year we had the kids with us. I'm almost certain that when my offspring hear about this, they will be ecstatic they were not here. 
It was actually an incredible gift to see how blessed we have been over the years. Scud and I each thought of 36 things we were so grateful for in our lives together. From our own individual relationships with the LORD, to our children and their spouses, and the intended spouses, to our careers, our health, our dear friends who have loved and supported us tremendously, to the ministry of Young Life that has impacted us and our family, to our spiritual mentors and many others, we are indeed blessed beyond measure.

So although it wasn't the Thanksgiving that I would have wanted, it was exactly the Thanksgiving I needed. A day to remember once again to count all the gifts that God has given me.
Now, I just have to keep up this practice of being grateful each and everyday.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

WOOPS.....FAILED AGAIN.

I wish right now that I could tell you about my failing miserably at having a vegetable garden this past summer. For some reason, whether it be the cold spell we had in June for a few days, or the not so hot summer we encountered, my first real attempt at growing my own vegetables while living in the mountains was pretty much a colossal failure. Sure, I harvested  a few tomatoes and I actually got about 4 little zucchini's, but other than that: ZILCH. This has never happened to me before. My corn grew with husks about thigh high and then just quit. The green beans were probably all eaten by Riley, my hungry Black Lab. The cantelope, well, it just never appeared, although there were lots of leaves spreading everywhere. I will do my research for next year to see if I can do this.

I wish my failure had to do with my cooking fiasco's. Because I certainly have had plenty of them. My most memorable was a tuna casserole the first year we were married. Oh my, it was BAD. I mean really BAD. We still laugh about it whenever it is brought up again.

No my failure this time was brought to my attention this afternoon as I was reading the New Testament book of 2 John. Man, its a really short book and yet it pointed out a HUGE failure of mine. And not just mine, alot of failure in the American Church. One short sentence and I was stopped in my tracks. It is found in the second part of verse five.
                   "I ask that we love one another."

That sounds easy enough, right?
Oh, but boy have I failed and probably you too have missed the mark here as well.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
I certainly don't do that when I complain about Mark Driscoll and his view of woman in leadership. I don't know this man and yet I admit I have maligned him plenty.

I don't love one another when I gossip about someone.
I don't love one another when I judge others who are different than me; who hold different views than me.
I don't love one another when I am jealous that you have more than me.
I don't love one another when I criticize the church. And the people or leaders involved.

I remember the chorus of a praise song from years back that said: "they will know we are Christians by our love".
Yikes, I don't think that holds true very much.
What about the churches that condemn homosexuality? That repeatedly call gay people sinners and make them feel most unwelcome. Are we loving them by our words and actions? I don't think so. Many of the gay population wouldn't ever opt to enter the doors of any church because of what we have done to them. Made them feel like second class citizens because we don't condone their particular sin. And yet I am welcome at church because I am a white woman. But I often have terrible thoughts. I often judge others. I can be materialistic at times when I often want "stuff" that I really don't need.
I guess I believe that homosexuals are experiencing what the Black population has long experienced in America. And this breaks my heart in ways I can't even describe.

I recently finished a book by Nadia Bolz Weber called "Pastrix".
I recommend this book heartily. But I am somewhat afraid to because she swears alot in the book. She drops the F bomb frequently. I was never offended by her words because she was very very real. And Honest. And vulnerable. But my friends might be offended because of her language. 
No one would be offended by her heart. She is a Lutheran pastor in Denver who welcomes homosexuals, drug addicts, homeless people, and yet would welcome me and you. I would have a major dilemna if I lived in Denver. I would want to attend her church. I would also love to attend Kathy Escobar's church called "the Refuge", a church home where anyone feels welcome. Both of these churches are loving people exactly for who they are, and where they are at this stage in their lives
They are loving people the way Jesus would love them. Accepting them, encouraging them, offering help as they can, and all the while pointing them to the Savior of their lives. THE ONE who can transform brokenness into wholeness, He who turns ashes into beauty.

It really has me thinking. 
I am accepted in most any church because of what I look like.
But if people knew the "real" me, would they just as easily welcome me? Would they want me to be a part of their church if they knew the brokenness I carried, the sins I have committed, the thoughts that I think. My "true self" is often hidden. People can't see my sins all the time and yet I can promise you, they are there.

The gays, the homeless, the drug addicts, the pimps, the schemers, the people who seek to fraud us, the down and outers-their so called sins sometimes are so visible to us and most of the time, we tend to shy away from them. Or even flee from them like they are the plague. 

I ask that we love one another.

Something that often seems like an impossibility, is possible when we look to the ONE who has loved us with complete abandon. The ONE who loves us and really knows the true us and yet accepts us just as we are.

Oh LORD, forgive me for failing to love as you have asked.
I too, am a sinner. 
One who has experienced your unending grace and unconditional love. And your forgivenes.
I am grateful that you keep showing me how I need to change. And that you love me just where I am.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

42 and Fllippancy?

Yesterday as I wrote the date November 19 in my journal, my mind stopped immediately. 
You see November19, 1971 is the day, that while I was driving home for a long Thanksgiving break from Tacoma to Palo Alto, that I asked Jesus to come into my life and take control. I remember it vividly. I was in my 1970 VW bug (still one of my 2 favorite cars ever) and somewhere in the Siskiyou Mountains in Oregon as I contemplated my long talk the night before with my friends Bill and Dave, that it all made sense. That Jesus wanted to have an everyday relationship with me.
It was an easy decision.
Probably because I had been raised a Catholic and had always believed in God and that Jesus was His Son, who came to earth to die for my sins. I just wasn't aware of His desire to be involved in my whole life and that's where it all finally made sense.
I wanted that relationship too. The way God desired it.

Little did I know then, how much that would change my life through the years.
I was so used to being "in control" of my life. I didn't understand what it all meant at the time. I don't think any of us do. Bit by bit, piece by piece, area by area, God taps us on the shoulder. or bangs our head so it seems on a wall and shows us a part of our lives that we still want to hang on to; the part that we don't want to give to Him, that part that we want to have control of.
We can resist all we want. But He will keep pursuing. Eventually, we cave; we learn -all too often through rough times, that He really is the better ONE to be in control.

Here's part of what I wrote yesterday in my journal:
42 years ago today, I asked YOU to come and take charge of my life. BEST decision I ever could have made. I can't imagine my life apart from YOU. Thank you Father for drawing me to You....I know i've often been flakey. I've sinned way too much. Have been defiant and disobedient. I've wanted to hang on to control of my life and YOU often have had to pray away the tight grip I held...I have been faithless more times that I even want to count. And YET, YOU still love me. You extend your amazing GRACE to me every single day. You forgive my sins. You are patient with me. And at the same time, You will discipline me. You keep pursuing me, keep drawing me back to YOU.
You keep reminding me that YOU are GOD. That I am not. 
You are in control.
You are not surprised or fazed by what happens in my life or catches me completely off guard.
YOU are always present with me, whether I "feel" it or not.
I am so so grateful LORD GOD. I can't even find the words to express this.
But today LORD, my heart is bursting with my love for YOU, with my gratitude for Your Love, Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness...

I am completely blown away how Our God keeps pursuing us. How the Creator and Sustainer of our lives loves us. Loves us unconditionally; all the time, whether we are good or not.

So having a day where I really chose to reflect on what it means for me to follow Christ, for how He has pursues me (and you), and how He has forgiven me time and time again, for being ever so grateful for His constant Presence in my life, I was caught off balance by something I read in the Bible.
I am currently reading the Book of Acts. This is the story of the early Church of Jesus. How God caused it, despite huge disturbances from the Jews, to grow exponentially. In the 19th chapter of Acts, Paul the Apostle, is in Ephesus and the church is growing. Paul has cast out demons from people. Some Jews went around trying to cast out demons by saying " In the name of Jesus who Paul preaches, I command you to come out."
I presume from the account of this story that one evil spirit, did not like this at all and thru the man he inhabited, gave a beating to those who tried this practice. It says that when this became known, people were seized with fear "and the Name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor".

The Name of the LORD JESUS held in high honor.
Do we do that today? 
Sometimes yes, and other times I shudder how little we hold His Name in high honor. I want to ALWAYS hold the Name of Jesus in high honor; to give Him the Honor HE alone deserves.
But often I feel like we can be too flippant. 

I am not casting stones. I just want us to give THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE the reverence He rightly is entitled to.
In working with younger folks, I often hear them pray: "heh God".
Heh, like He is their friend.
And He is.
In Young Life we constantly tell kids to talk to God like He is their friend. Because He is the best friend they will ever have.
But I seriously believe that when we meet God face to face, we aren't going to say "Heh God", I think we will fall down on our knees in awe and adoration. Or we will be speechless.
I want all of us to talk to God the easiest way possible for each of us. 
I just want us to remember WHO HE REALLY IS. 
HE IS GOD,  the Creator, Giver and Sustainer of life.
We need to give Him the respect He deserves, and requires.
We need to acknowledge His Supremacy.
We need to be humble before Him.

I don't believe any of us will be flippant in how we will respond to seeing Him face to face when our time on earth is over.
So why don't we start now?
Holding the Name of the LORD in high honor.

42 years ago. Still by far  THE BEST decision I ever made.
I am eternally grateful LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.


Monday, November 18, 2013

An INCREDIBLE week......of joy, laughter and blessings.

An epic week.
Its hard to even comprehend how blessed I feel.

A week ago Friday, I flew to Texas to meet Scud in Houston. We drove to Bryan-College Station to visit with some of his college buddies. It was wonderful to re-connect with some of his friends, and meet some new ones. These guys were in a bible study all four years at Texas A&M. And I get to be friends with their wives! 
On Saturday, we went to the AGGIES football game where we got to watch Johnny Manziel play most likely his last college game at Kyle Field. That kid has an incredible arm and he knows the game. (Now if he could just grow up!!). 

It was an amazing visit, and a bit too short.
We left Sunday around noon and after a short hour drive, we met up with Harry and Audrey Slye. Harry was Scud's YL campaigner leader and had more of an influence on my sweet husband than probably any other person has or ever will. What an incredible blessing we have had knowing and being loved by this godly couple.
From there we spent the night and had a quick but great visit with Scud's sister and her family in the Woodlands.
Monday morning Scud dropped me off at the airport and he headed to Tyler to visit his sweet mom for a couple of days.
I landed in New Orleans and quickly met my new friend Barb, arriving from Berlin, Germany to attend the Young Life College Summit. Due to travel times and when the conference was to start, we both had to arrive a day early-which turned out to be the most wonderful opportunity to discover the French Quarter in this city.
The jammed packed summit was indeed what every Young Life College staff person needed: some great input of ideas, inspiring teaching and a phenomenal story by a gracious woman who was the victim of rape and has used it for good. Not to mention the incredible fun that we had. Our first full summit evening, we had dinner and then were led on a "Second Line Parade".
Second Line Parades are a common occurance in NOLA, but not many of us had ever heard of one. Initially they were parades that led a funeral procession through the streets with a brass band leading the parade. Eventually, these parades became common scenes at weddings.
Well, imagine 200 YL College staff folk, running after the brass band that led us, singing and hollering all for JESUS, through Bourbon Street-perhaps one of the darkest streets in our country. Usually people surround this street to drink way too much, to indulge in things they never would have anywhere else, and here we were having the time of our lives running through the neighborhoods celebrating Jesus. People lined the streets to look at us. I wish I had a picture to show you, but I was too too busy having fun to stop for a picture. I'm not sure I will ever have that experience again, but it was something I will never forget.
I got the full dining experience in New Orleans: from amazing Cafe Au Lait and beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde, to tasty shrimp Po boy sandwich, to seafood gumbo and jumbalaya, and even a Hurricane at Pat O'Brian's.
And one of the highlights of NOLA was a visit with my niece and nephew, who are in their second year of pediatric residency, and second year of med school at Tulane. It had been way too long since I last saw Gabriella or Miles.



I returned home late Thursday night and Friday began a full day and a half preparations to stage a surprise (to just her) engagement party to our son Todd, and his new fiancee, Katy!!!
Todd knew EXACTLY how he wanted this day to go and planned many details. He flew Katie and Nate down from Seattle and his two college roomies and best friends, Dave and Macha drove from LA with their families to join the celebration.
Katy's family lives just an hour and a half from Woodleaf in the Sacramento area and drove up for a memorable day celebrating their sweet daughter and our son.
Todd proposed at the LOOKOUT TOWER by Woodleaf. If you've been an intern, or on summer staff or work crew, you know the beauty of this spot. Dave and Macha hid and captured everything on camera!!
Then they drove to our house and we surprised them with a party.
And then I captured this picture of our children and for the girls, their spouses, the new fiancee and hopefully the almost fiancee.




The past nine days I've been in three states, hardly slept much, and am exhausted now, BUT I have been blessed beyond belief. My joy is overflowing. Blessings upon blessings. I am indeed grateful.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

WHAT A TREAT!!

Today is Halloween.
So I've never been much of a fan of this so called "holiday".

Well, maybe when I was growing up, I liked it because going to a Catholic school, we always got the next day off for All Saints Day. So we could go out trick or treating and come home and not worry about having to get up for school. I vividly remember one year when I had my good friend Angela spend the night. We stayed up late and ate ALL of our candy that night. Funny, I don't remember getting sick, but the thought of it now, causes me to shudder.

I probably had an aversion to Halloween because I think I'm missing out on that "creative" gene that so many have. And when you have kids, they want you to be creative. Its a good thing I had a husband with a bit more of  creative bent than me. Todd as Dracula was one of the best costumes ever!! No one, and I mean , no one knew it was him.

So now that I live in a place where there are hardly any neighbors around, I don't have the fun of watching kids come to the door trick or treating. THAT was my favorite part of Halloween: watching the kids and their costumes and seeing little ones try and say "trick or treat".

This year is the first year that I will not get to be with Kellen and Jax on Halloween. That makes me sad, but Jax had me close my eyes two weeks ago, while his Mom helped him put on his spider man costume so that I could see him and be surprised. I will miss them tonight.

But today I got the most wonderful treat.
I got to spend almost two hours with Bob and Claudia Mitchell.

Bob Mitchell was in the very first Young Life club. He has been around since the beginning.
He went on staff when he graduated from college and has been everything from an area director to being the third president of Young Life.

I was first privileged to meet Bob and Claudia in the fall of 1977 after he had become President.
It was at Woodleaf for our Bay Area regional meeting.
What's amazing to me is that I now live at Woodleaf. And Mitch is the one who found the property for Young Life to buy 48 years ago.
Mitch is one of the funniest people you will ever meet . And his gift of story telling is unmatchable.
But what has drawn me to this dear couple is their love for Jesus Christ.

So today, instead of having to sit thru a (boring for me) business meeting, I got to spend time with them all by myself.  This is not the first time this has happend, and hopefully will not be the last, but oh how wonderful it was.
We shared stories of our family and our own physical battles.
The best part of our time was talking about Jesus and what He has done in our lives, what He means to us, and how that no matter how old we are, He can still use us.

I think Mitch just turned 84 in July, and although he can't see well-or hardly at all, and his short term memory is almost gone (both due to strokes he has had) and Claudia , who will turn 80 next February and has had 2 knee surgeries and a spinal fusion this past year, their passion and love for Jesus continues to grow and grow.
We laughed and we cried together as we shared life.
We talked about how getting old isn't fun, and yet that God keeps us alive to continue to allow us to know more of Him and then gives us the privilege of sharing that with others.
We marveled at how little we really know of Jesus and can't wait for eternity to know HIM fully.

We talked about being grateful and having joy in the midst of pain and suffering.
We just talked about Jesus and the richness of knowing Him.

The three of us agreed that we need to do everything we can to encourage those younger than us to spend time in God's Word. That somehow, the importance of the Bible is not what it used to be. That we need to keep telling the younger than us generations, how wonderful and amazing and NEW, God's Word is every single day.

Mitch has always been one of the godliest men I have ever met.
And I have always wanted to emulate Claudia for how well she serves and loves Jesus and her husband.
What an enormous privilege the LORD has given me to sit under their wisdom and their passion for Jesus the past 36 years. How they have spurred me on to be obedient to Jesus; to live for Him.

What a gift it was to be with them today. To share how real God is to us. To know we would be nothing without Him. To share joys and pain and know how to pray for each other. And for me, feeling somewhat discouraged that I am not as useful to the LORD in my 60's, being reprimanded by these two, that God will use us until He calls us home, was exactly what God wanted to tell me today.
So it might be Halloween to you, but I need no tricks tonight. I was given the best treat ever!!
Thank you Mitch and Claudia for loving Jesus, for loving so many of us, for serving until He calls you home.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Perspective

Your perspective can change in an instant.

I found this to be true this past August, when I got the call that my ultrasound was suspicious for malignancy.
It took another month to have my thyroid removed. Only to be followed in six days by another surgery, because the type of cancer they found can spread.

I really didn't even recover from the first operation before I had the second, which turned out to be much more extensive. One month later, I still have the incisional pain and nerve pain that can come from nowhere.
I can't wait for the day when clothes that rub against the incision don't cause some discomfort and for when I can where a seat belt without having to pull it out in front of me so it won't touch the incision. I also am anxious to go to bed at night without some pain medication and will relish the day when I can sleep on my right side again.

This past week has been a very emotional one for me.
It seems that finally my "emotions" have caught up with all that I experienced in the past five weeks. I can easily cry without much of a reason and have no control of how or when the tears may come. And I really really don't like that.
I was hoping that the news of the genetic marker and other test that came back negative would relieve this emotional upheaval, but as of yet, it hasn't. Add to that some family stuff, and I found myself not wanting to go to church today.

I know I needed some extra time with Jesus. But I am frustrated and don't understand why He won't answer some of my prayers.
I knew I needed to continue reading the book I have been reading off and on for a month by Joni Eareckson Tada on suffering.

If anyone can understand suffering, it is Joni. 
Imagine being in a wheelchair for over 45 years after sustaining a neck break that resulted in quadriplegia when you are 17 years old.
I have no business complaining; and yet I do.
This melancholy that seems to have taken residence in me is almost a joke when I consider that as of now, I am cancer free, and I have many friends who are battling (or thankfully in remission) this awful awful disease.

Joni's book is called:

Place of Healing: Wrestling With the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty 

and it has challenged me, ministered to me, and made me realize that what I have endured is so little compared to others.
You know how people tell you to remember "there is always someone who is going through something much worse"- they are so right.
No matter how bad things may seem, no matter that we might think we can't go on and what we are going through is not how we want to live or envisioned our life like, there are literally thousands and most likely millions, who have it much worse than we do.

In Joni's case, it isn't enough that she has been stuck in a wheelchair and quadriplegic, the reason that she began writing this book is that she was going thru intense physical pain in her hips and back for months upon months. 
As a nurse, I wondered how she could possibly feel this pain so deeply and then I remember that her nerves still work. I can't fathom the pain, the frustration and the prayers that she has cried out to God with begging Him to relieve her pain. And wonder why God would allow her to experience this on top of everything else.
She reminds herself and the readers that its not for us to always know or understand the reasonings of God.
He has His reasons. He is working things out for His purposes. And He doesn't have to explain to us or heal us.

That can be a bit hard to comprehend. Our finite mind cannot begin to understand the infiniteness of our Father.
Who am I to question what He ordains? I am not the puppeteer who can make things go my way and have Him do what I want.
Today in my reading I read once again about heaven.

It is in heaven that we will be whole and healed. It is in heaven that we will spend eternity. Pain free and without any tears. All the physical pain, the emotional anguish, the impossible trials that robbed us of all our senses, will be gone forever. I'm quite certain we won't even remember them.
Why is it that we think this earth is all there is?
This is just our journey into eternity.
Eternity is where we "will really live".

We will live with Jesus forever.
That is enough to be grateful for. For now and for tomorrow and the next hundred months of tomorrows.
Joni challenged me today in what she said. To paraphrase her words, she said something like, for every thought or sentence you speak talking about your problems or your health, spend ten sentences on how God has helped you, nurtured you, carried you, strengthened you, empowered you.

What a change of perspective.
Instead of dwelling on me and my pain or troubles, dwell on the LORD. His goodness, His grace, His love, His ability to hold us in the worst of times.
Once again, I am reminded that IT IS ALL ABOUT JESUS and not really anything about me. 
I needed that change of perspective. Do you?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

There were others BEFORE, there will be others AFTER

It is not that I don't like what they say, because I really really do.
It is not that I don't respect their opinions, because for the most part, I agree with them wholeheartedly.
It is not that I don't think they write with passion and eloquence, because they certainly do.
And it is not because I think they can't change the world, because they are.

But all the bloggers out there?? All the women who write with purpose and passion who have huge amounts of followers,  those who are challenging so many of us to be the women God envisions us to be, be women who work tirelessly for social justice. Who basically write for their generation?

I think they might have forgotten the generations before them.
When I was in my 30's and early 40's - there was no internet. So that means no blogosphere. 
But do they think that we didn't care? That we didn't think about these things? That we didn't do what we could? 
WE DID. We just didn't have the internet to tell everyone about it.

Did not the Women Of Faith conferences challenge and move us? Did we not spend time in bible studies learning what is really important?
Did we not care about social justice issues?
YES, we did.

My complaint is that they might think they are the only ones who have felt like this. That they don't realize how many blazed the trail before them without a huge social media following.

So now as a woman in my 60's, I know that I have more time to work on these things than I did when I was raising my children and working part time.

I wonder how much  traveling to tell others what they have written affects their families? I know what they say is terribly important. I just wonder if they are missing out on the most important role they will ever play: being mothers.
I truly believe what will be most important in God's eyes is how I did with my children and husband. Did they know they were loved and cherished?
Yes, I know my work as a nurse was important and that I ministered to many patients. I know that I was a very good Young Life leader and led some great campaigner and small groups and challenged young teenage girls to follow Christ. And I discipled many many gals thru the years and that was an incredible blessing and gift. And I believe I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do.
But nothing is more important that what I did at home.
Yes, I cared about the poor. And I cared about the homeless and believe I taught my children that too. I wanted justice for those who were marginalized. I took to heart World Vision and what they did. We have sponsored many many kids in third world countries since we got married. ( My children used to joke that they could have "more" if we didn't have so many kids on our mantle that mom and dad supported!). But more than anything I wanted and aspired to be a woman who sought Jesus with all my heart, mind and soul.

Now my biggest role is to be a grandmother. To love those little ones in the next generation and to encourage my kids to be the best parents they can be. Maybe these younger gals are on to something: that I need to spend more time encouraging both generations to get their priorities in alignment with God's; that together we can influence an army to be who God intended them to be.

I often share on my Facebook page things that Rachel Evans, Jen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp  and Shaunna Niequist write and I read what others post and am ever so grateful that these younger women are influencing their generation to fully pursue the passions God has given them. I believe they are writing what is on their hearts and have unbelievable compassion for so many that are marginalized. 
I have read Shaunna's books, I have read 7, I have been greatly inspired and challenged by One Thousand Gifts and read Rachel's book on living a year of biblical womanhood. They are all amazing.

But I think this generation of 20-40 year olds need to read the writings of Kay Warren and Lynn Hybels and Carol Kent. And spend time in God's Word thru Beth Moore and Kay Arthur's studies.
I just want them to know from the generation before them, that we too, had all those dreams, desires, passions and we wanted to obey Jesus just as much as they did.

Maybe I am jealous that they get the acclaim, when I had to buy and read what others wrote to inspire me to know, love and seek Jesus more. I just want this younger generation to KNOW and remember ( and I truly believe they do) that it is ALL ABOUT JESUS. 
I  know so many gals who spend more time reading blogs than actually pursuing Jesus. The blogs are great. Actually they are outstanding. But do you spend more time reading them than being with Our LORD? If you do, I think your priorities need to re-adjusted.
Yes, the blogs will help you and inspire you.
But when life throws you curveballs and you are thrown into one fierce trial after another, the blogs are not going to carry you through. JESUS WILL.
So my biggest challenge today is to spend more time with Jesus, because HE ALONE IS THE ONE WHO HOLDS YOU IN HIS ARMS.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Am I learning from this cancer?

It has been 3 weeks today.
3 weeks since my second surgery. You know the one that left a huge scar across most of my neck.
I feel stronger each day.
Today I actually spent 23 minutes on the elliptical machine; 20 minutes at level 8 and 3 minutes of a cool down. The makers of my elliptical machine should give me more than 3 minutes to cool down. I think I need at least 6.
Level 8 is where I normally go on this machine. But the two times I tried it last week, I could barely do level 7. So today I am feeling a bit accomplished.

I know I will probably pay for it later. I'll probably need a nap in a little while; but I'm OK with that. I'm feeling pretty good considering its only been 3 weeks since my friend Tom ripped open my neck to see if any of this medullary thyroid cancer had spread.
Yes. It still hurts. I get shooting nerve pain at least five times an hour. But Tom says this is a good sign because that means my nerves are healing. I still get swollen. I wonder if someday I might share the photos I've taken weekly to see the progress of my scar.
Seat belts are a killer. In reality, they save lives. But in my case they sit on parts of my incision and it just doesn't feel good. I'm thankful for pain meds. I wish I didn't need them still, but I do. I don't take very many of them but I do still need them; especially in the late afternoon and evenings. And someday I will get to lie on my right side again and not feel pulling and discomfort.

These things are all temporary.
I still am easily moved to tears. As a nurse, I know this is normal after surgery, but as a patient, I want this to stop. I want to be stronger than the tears. I know I am...but still.

Has cancer changed me?
I imagine so but not sure of all the how's just yet.
I just know I am grateful to be alive. I am forever grateful for how the LORD has sustained me and my family.
In this past week, I have heard of two different families that Scud and I love, who are undergoing tremendous struggles and challenges in health issues.

I wonder why.
Why is it that I have lived a fairly long life, only in recent years, have I had any major health issues, that I am OK?
It is not for me to know the answers. 
It is not for me to question God.
I wish sometimes that I could take on the cancer issues of some dear friends and let them have my kind.
But I don't get to decide that.
What I have to do is to learn what God wants to teach me through this and how I can use this for His Glory?

So many times I am such a slow learner in the lessons God wants me to know. This is one time I don't want to be. But do I have any choice? Not so sure that I do.

What I do know is that life is precious.
We've all heard it said that you don't know what's coming; that our life could change in a minute.
From the moment I first heard it, I have loved Tim McGraw's song, Live like you were Dying.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiOcW_YR1G8

What if I lived like that? What if you lived like that?
The petty things that annoy us would seem so insignificant.
The people that bug us would not be a concern.
How we live and love each day is what matters.
Am I doing the best job I can loving the people God has put in my life?
Do I appreciate the giftedness in others and cheer them on? Instead of being jealous?
Do I rejoice when others rejoice? and weep when they weep?
Because that is how Jesus wants me to live.
To think of others as more important than myself.
To care completely and to love deeply.
And to seek God with all that is within me, because HE alone is the ONE who I need to answer to.

I guess I am learning a few things from this thing called cancer.