Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Please forgive my absence.....

it happened unintentionally. There has been a lot of living happening since radiation ended back in February and somehow the calendar now displays April 20th. Not quite sure where all the time went, but here is a sampling of my last month.

 Certain subjects are beginning to wind down. End of year projects underway. 
A little over a month left in the school year. It truly has been by God's grace that we have made it through the year with success and progress!

Our Thursday Women in Christ Bible study has been going through the book of Daniel for the Spring semester.....We meet every Thursday morning at church for worship, teaching and small group discussion time. I share the teaching with one other woman as we trade off each week. Oh my, the study has been so rich with God's truth and application as we've looked at Daniel's life and Godly example, and also looked through the lens of Biblical prophecy. 

I have had to study more than ever before in preparation to teach every other week. I've never taken Bible College classes, but this semester feels like I might have a glimpse as to what those classes entail. All good....but very time consuming! I teach on Daniel 10 next week. Our study concludes for the year on May 12th.

As the Women's Ministry Coordinator at our church, I have the privilege of planning and organizing our annual Women's Retreat each year, with the help of many hands along the way. 
This year, we held our retreat at our church as a 1 and a half day Seminar. The theme was taken from Romans 6:22 "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your FRUIT to HOLINESS, and the end, everlasting life." The seminar was held April 8 & 9th. It was glorious. God moved mightily and once again I am in awe of His faithfulness. 

As "Fruit to Holiness" was the theme, we took the ladies through 5 sessions on living lives that bear  fruit to Christ's holiness. We began Friday night with "Plowing and breaking up the fallow ground," and then Saturday took us through "Planting God's Word in our hearts," "Cultivating and weeding out sin," "Pruning," and then "The Harvest." I taught the session on Pruning, and shared with the ladies much of what God did in my heart this past year as He pruned me and walked me through breast cancer. It was very poignant & personal for me, as it was at our previous year's women's retreat that I found my lump. What a year of pruning, but what a year of growth! God is truly amazing.  His ways so much higher than our own. 

We had the privilege of having Debbi Bryson come and be our main speaker. She shared for three of the sessions. If you've never heard her teach, she is a gem and a treasure and shares powerfully from God's Word.  She is from Calvary Chapel Vista in California and her husband is the director of Calvary Chapel Church Plant Missions in Russia. It was such a treat having her with us for the weekend. Her precious assistant, Barbara traveled with her, and they both stayed at my house. 
Again, another treat for me to spend that time with them. They were here last year, as well. The work He began in our hearts last year, He added to it this year in powerful ways. 

On Monday, April 11th, we all traveled to North East, MD, to attend the East Coast Pastor's Wives conference at the Sandy Cove Retreat Center. It was three days of sitting under wonderful Bible teachers and allowing God to wash over me and rejuvenate me. The theme was from Psalm 103, "Blessed," and blessed I was to be there. God had much He needed to tell me during those three days. 

And then onto racing.....the boy's Harescramble racing season has begun! Their 2nd race was this past weekend. After days of rain, the weather cleared for raceday, but as you can see, the track was pretty muddy. At the end of their races, they were all covered in mud, a boy's dream, right!?! 

And finally, the Betties, have been the topic of much discussion and doctor's appointments this past month. Following radiation, I had to start seeing my plastic surgeon again as preparation was needed for my breast revision/reconstruction surgery. Yesterday, I went in for one of my final surgeries of this breast cancer journey. I had the temporary tissue expanders removed and replaced with my permanent silicone implants. It was a 2 hour surgery done under general anesthesia, but I was able to come home afterwards without having to spend the night in the hospital. 

I am bound tightly around my chest and will remain that way until Thursday, when my two drains are removed along with the dressings. The pain is significant, but manageable. Yesterday afternoon was pretty rough, as I had a lot of nausea from the anesthesia and my stomach didn't agree with all that went in.  Praising God, though,  that the surgery went well according to my plastic surgeon. I am anxious to see the final result! Please keep me in prayer the next few days as I move through this recovery phase. 

So, there you have it. A little bit of what my last month has looked like. I had no intentions of being away from blogging for so long and apologize that I haven't kept you all updated as to how I have been doing. Thank you to those of you who have checked in on me. It really has meant a lot! I hope to get around in the next few days and say hi, now that I have some down time in bed as my body heals and God continues the restoration and rebuilding process within. 

"I will do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.....I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and planted what was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken it and I will do it." Ezekiel 36:11, 36

The rebuilding process is underway. As my friend, Elisa, said to me this weekend, "Stacy, you have moved from deconstruction to reconstruction!" God is good, always and the restorer of all things. 

Much love,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Exercised faith...Part 1

Early into my cancer treatment, my sweet friend, Beth, gave me these workout clothes and this Nike hat for a gift. They were significant and meaningful for many reasons. 

About a year and a half ago, we decided to meet early each Saturday morning at our church, the midway point for both of us, and walk together a course that her husband had mapped for us. We would do some walking, some jogging and a lot of heart to heart chatting, as we together felt the pain of getting back in physical shape. Each week, we could do a little more. Jog a little longer and faster. Recover a bit more quickly. Cover more ground both in conversation and miles. 

Fall came and the morning temps started getting a little tough to bear. And our Saturday morning meetings were put on hold until Spring.

But when Spring came, so did cancer. Last year, the walking never resumed. 

The steps we covered together weren't over pavement. They were in hospital waiting rooms, over phone lines, in the Chemo lounge and car rides going back and forth from radiation.  

Important steps. 

Steps that took on a whole new meaning and importance as we together uncovered deeper heart issues and encouraged each other in the Lord, each of us walking a journey of faith and trust in God the Almighty. Instead of just walking beside me, many days, she held my hand. Other days she helped me raise them to the Giver of all good things...Jesus Christ... when I really couldn't raise them myself.  

She loved me through my treatment and journey in many ways. A debt I will never be able to repay. 

So when I opened this package on chemo treatment number signaled a looking forward to what laid strong....walking strong......a getting on with life....more pavement to cover together once these cancer steps were complete....spring was coming, at that point it seemed a long way off, but spring never fails to show up and with spring.....more Saturday morning walks. 

Last Saturday, our feet met the pavement together once again and our hearts rejoiced at the ground God brought me through the past 11 months. 

We were living strong.....not in our strength....but the strength of the Lord. He was gracious and had brought me to the other side of treatment. Here we were once again. The same two people, but yet forever changed by the hand of God. 

The air was brisk as the wind gently caressed our faces. Our legs felt the absence and reminded us of the months of neglect. Our hearts reminded us though, that the mileage we logged was more meaningful. As a faith journey had been trekked. Our hearts were strengthened and God carried our legs. 

We finished that morning, tired, but invigorated. 

Kind of the way I have felt these last couple of weeks since radiation ended. 

My energy is returning bit by bit. My skin peeling and being restored. My hair.....growing so much so that I can actually gel the top trying to achieve some "style," and my spirit refreshed, restored and yes, invigorated. 

God is truly good, always. 

Sunday, I awoke feeling the after affects of my walking. My thighs burned. My calves ached. And yet, I rejoiced that my aches and pains weren't from cancer, but from the getting on with it from a place of healing. That the physical walking, the moving forward makes the body tired....but when my faith is being walked out just the opposite happens.....I am strengthened. I am renewed. I am invigorated. 

An exercised body is physically hurt and tired. A good sore and a good tired. But sore and tired, nonetheless.

But an exercised faith strengthens and rejuvenates.  And when faith is exercised, God gives you His strength. He produces steadfastness....we lack nothing. I am beginning to more fully understand what James said, 

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

Faith must be exercised. 

We must first learn faith. We must learn about God's character....."as faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."  You can have a head full of faith understanding.

But without walking out that faith.....that faith isn't tried and proven. 

Truly the rubber must hit the road. God calls us to act out our faith. And trials and difficult circumstances will cause us to do just that....they are the testing ground for our faith. 

Do you truly believe what you say you believe? Do you truly believe that God can handle your problem and bring about the solution? Do you believe that He can and will handle it better than you can with your own knowledge, and understanding? Do you believe He is able? 

And that is how our trials become joy. 

Because as our faith in God is stretched, challenged, shaken and becomes proven. It praises. It honors. It glories in the one and only God because He alone is faithful. He is sure and certain. And our faith grows deep roots in Him. 

God had taken my feet and my faith to the mountaintop and the view is glorious! 

Back to my story....

While at church Sunday morning, a lady came up to me to see how I was doing. We began talking and she asked me a pointed question. A question that was unexpected. A fully loaded question, at that. One that gave me a moments pause as a smile crept across my face. 

"Stacy," she asked, "I am always intrigued when someone goes through a trial such as yours.  Tell me, what did God teach you?" 

I laughed inside thinking this lady probably didn't want to pull up a chair and hear the long version. So I thought for a moment on my big take home message of this faith journey. There was so much He taught me and continues to. What was God hammering into this vessel of His?  How was I being shaped and transformed? What was being rooted out only to be replaced with more of Him? What beauty was He bringing from the pieces? 

I gently responded from where my faith had been exercised....."Live in the today. Trust God today. Gaze into His eyes today. Respond to Him today. Worrying about tomorrow wastes what God has to offer us today. Savor today, as you savor Him. He will take care of each of your tomorrows.  Believe Him today and walk from that believing."

A simple message. But a truth He needed to plant more deeply in the soil of my heart, thus this season of testing.....this breast cancer journey. It had purpose and continues to. 

Again on Monday, He laid these same truths before my feet hit the pavement once again......this time, alone in my neighborhood.......just Him and me and a long, uphill, winding road......

.....and you'll see that the view from the hilltop was glorious....and still is... because He is glorious! 

I'm sorry for my absence. There has been a lot of getting on with life....and a few doctor's appointments in between. All is well. I know I still haven't posted my pictures from my last radiation appointment. I will. Thanks for sticking around......I love you all so......and am glad that God has let me stick around, as well.  We have much more ground to cover together...

....and Beth, you are a sweet token of God's grace and beauty. Thank you for being you and allowing God to use you. I love you and look forward to many more miles walked together. 

Much love,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Word of God Speak - Part 2

(sorry this is a long much to share on the morning of my last radiation treatment....)

Friday was ushered in with a quiet anticipation. It would be day 27 of my 28 days of treatment. But even more exciting....a close friend was having a c-section that morning welcoming their 10th child into this world. My heart awoke that morning with her before me, as throughout the morning, I brought her before God's throne. This was her first c-section. A lot of uncertainty for her. A new experience. But a solid faith and trust in God Almighty.

For me, a sign of new life from the hand of God. New breath. New joy. New sounds. A springing forth.

Child number 10 for them....month number 10 for me. The end and a beginning.

I waited anxiously by the phone to hear the news, checking my computer a few times to see if their children had emailed. By 10:30 I couldn't wait any longer and called to hear that a sweet, healthy baby boy was born. All were doing well.

Thank you, Lord for the life that you give us. The life in the physical....but even more, life eternal through your Son, Jesus Christ. A dying for the purpose of living.  His life for ours. Bought at a price.

Worth the pain.

Worth the agony.

Worth the wait.

The day continued on, as each day does. Barclay had work commitments that prohibited him from coming to treatment that day. In the afternoon, off I went stopping along the way to drop Faith off at Preschool and then onto radiation.

And the pendulum continued swinging as my mind went to the getting on with life, while laying down the fears that the "getting on with" encompassed. Wanting in some strange way to just stay in this place a little longer because the "getting on with" it means waiting. The "getting on with it" means questions remain unanswered. "The getting on with it" means trusting God at the deepest level I have ever experienced. Will I live to see my children get older? Will I suffer at the hand of this disease? Will my husband grow old without me by his side?

Will I trust God with it all?

My head knows all the Bible verses. This isn't my first testing. It is one of many. And what I have found is that God uses each one to carve out fear deeper and deeper so that the word of God may be implanted in its place. A heart surgery of sorts....not laproscopy, not catheterization, but true open heart surgery.

But head knowledge isn't enough. Hence the surgery. Hence the walking it out. The testing.

You know faith isn't stagnant. You are either walking forward, standing still, or falling backward.

I want to move forward. And so my heart needs to align with my head. The Truths that I know, as I live them out.

There is a quote in the movie Shawshank Redemption that says, "You either get busy living, or you get busy dying."

I want to be busy living.

Later that afternoon, I called my friend to see if I could stop by for a visit. So desiring to see her. To encourage her in her recovery, after having 6 c-sections myself.

My husband took the kids off to their basketball practices, and I made my way up to the hospital, alone.

As I was driving, the Christian radio station I was listening to lost reception. As the garbled voices and music filtered through the speakers, I felt around for the stash of worship CD's that I knew my husband had somewhere in his car. One lone CD was felt behind the driver's seat, as I quickly grabbed for it, while trying to keep the car in the right lane.

I slipped it into the CD player. Praises poured through the speakers, clearly now. But my mind was in a different place. The words fell on closed ears as my mind bounced around with thoughts of the future.

I arrived at the hospital as darkness had descended. It was a hospital I hadn't frequented and the layout unknown. I eventually found the parking garage and then navigated through a myriad of walkways and doorways, more hallways until the elevator stood in front of me and I crossed into the maternity ward and then into her room.

We had a sweet time of fellowship. And her baby, simply divine. There was peace. The beauty of God's creation. All things made new.

As I left the hospital, reflecting on God's goodness. Once again on life. I made my way back through the maze of vacant hallways and doorways. The hospital closing down for the night, I turned into the parking garage foyer and there coming down a stairwell was my friend's oldest daughter. Distraught as she had just spent the last 30 minutes trying to find her way through the maze. Frustrated and tired after a long day.

Knowing the trouble I had finding the way, I asked her if I could lead her back to her mom. Together we  quietly walked the steps leading to the elevator and up to the second floor. As we walked I pointed out the landmarks so that on her way back, she would know she was going in the right direction. The signs pointing the way were hard to notice. You really had to walk with your eyes open, looking for signs marking the way. But they were there.

We said good-bye and once again the steps retraced. Only this time, my mind went to the beautiful picture it was of our walk with God. Of trusting that He will lead us to the end location. His ending. He gives us the landmarks. He gives us His Word to direct us. He gives us access to the throne of God to talk to the Father. He sets up the signposts and is the lamp. If only we would walk with eyes open to Him.  The road is often uncertain. The path winding. But He will lead, if we will follow.

I got in my car to travel home with a peace in my heart.

The air outside was still tinged with the warmth of the day. The thermometer had inched into the 70's, temperatures uncharacteristic for February in the northeast.

I glided the window down as I pulled out onto the road. I turned the volume dial on the radio and the CD from earlier flooded my ears, penetrating my heart.

I was ready to receive.

And this song came forth.....Mercy Me's "Word of God Speak"

Finding Myself
at a loss for words
and the funny thing is, it's ok

The last thing I need
is to be heard
but to hear
what YOU would say

Word of God speak
Would you pour down like rain
washing my eyes to see, your Majesty
to be still and KNOW
You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest in your Holiness
Word of God speak

Finding Myself
in the midst of YOU
beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need
is to be with YOU
and in the quiet
hear YOUR voice
Word of God Speak.....

Finding myself
at a loss for words
and the funny thing is, it's ok

I hit repeat and turned it up louder as I sang those words from the very core of my heart. Hearing this song long before. Knowing the words, well. But tonight a whole new meaning. They were words that I said in Truth. Not just lyrics. But my lyrics. The song of my heart sung to the heart of my God.

And the tears fell unabandoned, surrendered to Him alone.

Please, Lord, speak.

Give me a Word.

Show me You are in this place with me.

I have no words.

I am desperate to hear from you.

I am listening.

I got home and sat down at my computer, ready to write down all that God was speaking to me. I didn't want to lose this moment. Didn't want to forget for a minute.

But the kids walked through the door, moments later. A movie in hand asking me to join them for family movie night.

A tug of war....the kids wanted me....I shut the computer and snuggled next to them on the couch as God brought the day to a close.

Saturday morning, I awoke early and came down to the office to be with my Jesus and journal from the day before.

I opened my computer, as my email quickly filled my inbox. As I scanned the contents, there was an email from my sister in law. She had posted something on my FB wall.

She and I don't communicate often that way. I love her deeply, as I know she does me, but we don't talk very often. I was curious.

I opened the email. And here was the content:

Stephanie wrote:
"Hey Stacy, while I was praying on Thursday night with our praise team, I silently lifted your name up and God immediately instructed me to share a message with you.  

As clear as day these words rang in my head: "tell her to continue to trust in me". 

Sorry for the delay, I hope you are doing well and hanging in there. Know that we love you and are here if you need anything.  Hope we can get the family together again soon-"

I started bawling. 

I asked God for a Word. I asked God to show me He was in this place with me. And He did. 

He knew the moment that I would need those words of encouragement. He knew the preparation that was needed that I would receive. My sister in law, the messenger with a message from God to Me. 

God knows. He cares about the big picture, but He cares about the intimate details of our lives.

He is real. He is present. He is bigger than our little minds can comprehend.

"Tell her to continue to trust in Me."

Life giving words.

And today, as I walk through those radiation doors for the last time His Words will ring through my ears and into my heart as He blankets me with His love and Holy presence.

"Washing my eyes to see, your Majesty
to be still and know
You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest in your Holiness....."

Word of God Speak.

"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy. 
I have come that you may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  
I am the good shepherd. 
The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." John 10:9-11

Much love today,

If you are interested in hearing the song, pause the player at the bottom of the page, and sink deeply into the our Father's love....