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,
Stacy

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 one....it signaled a looking forward to what laid beyond...living 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 stirred.....it 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 me.....as 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,
Stacy


Monday, February 21, 2011

Word of God Speak - Part 2

(sorry this is a long one...so 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,
Stacy

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....


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Word of God Speak - Part 1

Tuesday came with much anticipation....and a bit (ok a lot) of house cleaning in preparation. About a month ago, my Aunt Kay called and asked if she could come and spend a few days with us, as my radiation was beginning. We looked at our calendars trying to work out the days and both of our schedules and a forecasted snow storm prohibited our time together. A later date was put on the calendar, one that worked for us all and one that would mark the final days of radiation. She would be able to be the hands and feet for my tired body, and she would be able to walk the steps with me that my feet have traveled daily for 20 some days. I was thrilled to be able to share this leg of the journey with her.

She walked through the door around lunchtime on Tuesday, cleaning cloth still in my hands and quickly jumped into our daily routine and life, making lunch for the kids as I hurried off to shower and get ready for that day's radiation treatment.

One day closer to the door closing, the chapter ending and cancer treatment being behind me. A door that I am having trouble closing. A threshold that you would think I would be running full steam across, but instead feel tethered to a harness, holding me back. Like I am swimming upstream, wanting to reach the end, but unable...tired, sore and restless....characterize my going forward, and yet somehow, I make few strides in that direction.

And it is there that I have been this last week somewhere in the midst of faith and fear. Kay has been a much needed distraction, a helping hand, a dose of laughter, a special gift.... offering words of encouragement, loving arms, an open heart and reminders to surrender: A favorite word for she and I. A word that God has been speaking to my heart for many, many years. A word that she christened me with  almost 3 years ago, following our attendance at the Rochester Women of Faith. As we attended together with some other special women in my life, my sisters included. The platform for many deep conversations. Little did I know at the time, how God was using that time not only with her, but also my sisters and grandmother, to deepen relationships, chisel away things from the past and push forward in healing some deep hurts, while at the same time, preparing me for what 2010 would hold...breast cancer.

A few weeks after the conference ended, a special package arrived in the mail, its contents as meaningful as the one who gave it....my Aunt Kay. Nestled inside a creamy white ceramic pitcher were tokens of remembrance from our time together that weekend, and the deeper messages that God had for our lives and our hearts.

"It is with a full heart, filled with love, that I give you this pitcher, capturing the memory of our incredible experience we shared, offering tools to keep us all remembering what we need to do, to survive and blossom."


....a pair of glasses to keep a clear vision of what you need to do, 
....lens cleaner for when they get foggy and need cleaning
...notepaper to write down those important ideas, fears, hopes, issues
....a mirror for you to see those traits, strengths and weaknesses
....Kleenex to dry the inevitable tears
....mints for when your breath needs calming 
....The "church lady" with raised arms, to remind us to raise our arms to God in prayer and praise
...a telephone to call each other for support, to share, to listen, cry or celebrate
...a worded stone...


My word.....surrender. 

Little did she know that it is a word that God had been speaking to my heart since I could remember.  A word that held more significance than she knew. A word on a rock, a polished stone....that in Christ alone, I can surrender all. Outside of Him....nothing. And that as I surrender, He makes me that polished stone for Him. What was significant then, in the Spring of 2008, has become that much more significant today, 2011. And here I am once again, at those crossroads, will I walk over this next threshold with fear or will I walk in faith, surrendering my future days, my future breaths, all the uncertainty that lies within treatment ending and the waiting to see if cancer will return...the unknowns, the fear that can easily sweep into my mind holding me back from fully crossing the threshold....whole. 

Today, will I surrender my fears, my future, my what ifs, my life to the God of the heavens? The sovereign one with whom there are no accidents. With whom truth gives way, shining its light on the very core of my fears. With whom His very Word, that which we can hold in our fingertips, and take into the inner places of our beings.....

brings hope, love, truth, comfort, encouragement, courage, forgiveness, healing, strength and endurance...and the ability to surrender to Him. 

These precious reminders were all tucked neatly inside a hand chosen ceramic pitcher. 

"Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days." Jeremiah 32:14

The reminder through Jeremiah that restoration of the land was certain. It would be possessed again by the Jews. They would return to their land. 

Kay said...."And all is contained in the memory of the visual of the white pitcher....of our fractured, imperfect lives made whole and beautiful by God's love, blessing and forgiveness shining through."

As I pulled my pitcher out of the package, two pieces fell back into the box. 

My pitcher had arrived broken. The handle cracked in two places. I smiled at the imagery. God wasn't finished with me. I didn't know then, what I know now....no one can but God. 

Kay was beside herself, apologizing profusely. 

I just smiled and reassured her, all was well....it would be a constant reminder of the unfinished work of God in my life.....I was still in His hands being made whole. 

I placed the pitcher up on the shelf sitting over my desk in the office.

A constant reminder of the work of the cross. The work of master Potter....my life His masterpiece. 

(Kay had asked Barclay on Thursday to glue the handle back on)


Kay joined me and Barclay on Wednesday, as I had my first follow up appointment with my Medical Oncologist. My "chemo" doc. It was the first time seeing her since chemo ended back in December. I wanted Kay there. She, too, having had breast cancer 16 years ago. She would think of questions we had missed, be another set of ears. 

My oncologist greeted us with smiles and proceeded to get the results of my blood work. Within a few minutes, I learned that my white count is still low, under the normal range. Immediate fear swept over my body as the questions poured into my head. My oncologist seemed unconcerned and verbalized just that. Still, I couldn't move past the new information. The appointment continued as we discussed Tamoxifen...a pill that will be added to my daily intake beginning next week. A pill that will encapsulate my breast cells prohibiting estrogen to enter in. A pill that I will be on for 5 years that will catapult my body even further into menopause with all the lovely side effects. 

And yet, my mind couldn't get off of the low white count. 

Stacy....will you surrender to ME? Will you continue to trust ME? Will you? 

Kay left on Thursday afternoon, after my radiation treatment. As we hugged and kissed farewell, she got in her car and said, "Remember your word.....SURRENDER"

I arrived home shortly thereafter. The house was quiet as the children were all at a friends. As I walked into the office, there on my desk sat a new, creamy white, unbroken....ceramic pitcher....with a note on top.

"I always felt bad that your vessel arrived broken ~ you deserve to have a perfect vessel to hold your tools."



And the tears welled up as they freely fell upon my cheeks. This side of heaven, I will never have a "perfect vessel." After cancer treatment comes to an end, there will be other tryings, other pressings, more refining, more lessons to learn, more brokenness.  But the King of kings and the Lord of Lords will heal the brokenness. He will bring faith where there was fear. He will speak words of Truth, shining His magnificent light into all areas and then out through the cracks that He has mended, I pray He shines...if I would only surrender to His mighty Hand, trusting Him fully.

It is a choice. A daily choice. And the irony that that is right where God had me this past week...faith versus fear. Choosing Him and His Truth....or choosing me and my circumstances.

"Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter, so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make." Jeremiah 18:2-4

"But now, O LORD, you are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand." Isaiah 64:8

God gave me a glimpse of what He desires me to be.....a vessel for his honor. A vessel fit for the Master's use. A vessel marked by the healing brought only by my Father's hand.

The events of Tuesday through Thursday were divinely orchestrated. Each moment, as He knew. He knew what I would struggle with. He knew what I needed to be reminded. He knew.....as He knows the beginning from the end.

And as I taught on Thursday, at our ladies Bible Study.....that there are no accidents with God. There is no darkness in Him. In Him is light. He is the revealer of all things secret.....just as with Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar....God had an eternal kingdom to show Neb, Daniel, and all those in Babylon....and He had intimate truths to share at the same time to each one of them. The big picture and the little picture. He cares about it all, is over it all and through it all.  And just as the Neb's dream and its interpretation were certain and sure (Daniel 2:45), so too is God....certain and sure.

And He kept asking....Stacy, will you just surrender.....as my faith and my fears kept colliding, as a pendulum swings back and forth. Monday marks the end of radiation and the crossing over into life after treatment. The treatment door swings closed. Two more reconstruction surgeries to go....but no more treatment. A waiting, as 5 years is the magic number for recurrences. A getting on with it, with life, with living and my emotions need to get in line with my faith.  Where uncertainty in the physical needs to rest in the certainty in the Spiritual...in who God is. Not just a passing through, but a true resting. He is certain and sure. Nothing else is. But in Him is where I need to be planted, firmly and securely. In Him there is no fear.

He had more for me.....more that He unveiled on Friday....as my heart sought Him deeply.....


Aunt Kay and I at my Grandmother's 90th birthday celebration, June 2009.

Part 2 later....until then....

Much love,
Stacy

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Faith or Fear Vlog

So, I'm trying this thing again....this vlog thing. Bear with me as this is a bit outside my comfort zone and  for some reason during the uploading process the voice doesn't match the words. Have I told you I am technically challenged! It might be that I am using my computer webcam to record instead of a video camera.

I can't believe it has been over a week since I have shared with you all. There is so much going on in my heart right now. I hope to share more in the days to come as I near the end of the radiation leg of this journey. Who hoo, this door is almost closed!

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Praying God encourages your heart on the road that has been set before you. Please let me know how I can be praying for you.

Much love,
Stacy


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Endurance - Half way through radiation

We've hit the next milestone. Day 14 of 28 radiation treatments.  Half way through this next phase of treatment and nearing the end of the medical fight against this beast. The arsenal of conventional medicine almost exhausted: surgery, chemo, radiation and then 2 final reconstruction surgeries waiting.

10 months in...... and the fatigue is taking its toll.

To say I am tired, would be inadequate.

Radiation has brought forth a fatigue that permeates my everyday. I wake with it. I walk around with it. I carry it to treatment and then it carries me home.

Within the last couple of days, the remaining energy seems to have evaporated leaving behind an overall loss of strength. It isn't a sleepy tired. It is a "just want to lay down and do nothing" kind of feeling.

And if you know me, that is so not me.

This past Sunday, while I was at church, a sweet friend came up to me to say hi and see how I was doing. She was quite intuitive, as she hugged me and saw something in me signaling my fragility. She grabbed my hand and asked if I was all right. In that moment, I wasn't. My body was worn. The free radicals from the radiation cursing through my body causing my body to wave the white flag of surrender. And the tears gently fell across my cheeks as she hugged me tighter whispering a prayer in my ear.

The strength from the hand of the Almighty ushered in through a faithful saint. Just when I needed it. He was there, and she became the vessel of His power.

Here I lay in bed tonight. After retreating here throughout the day.  And I opened my Bible searching for His Words to comfort me and once again, today, give me the strength I need to press on in Him.

To endure. To withstand. To continue on.

Not just putting my head down and plowing through, but truly resting in Him.

I'm struggling with that right now, the resting solely in Him part. As I wake up late, my time spent with Him is shorter, not always first in the morning, as the children seem to quickly rise up with needs and questions. The daily duties and responsibilities pressing in, as I watch the clock knowing that I must leave the house within a few short hours to make the trek to my daily radiation treatments. A few hours gone from each day. Just the daily coming and going has become exhausting.

And then when I get home, my body cries out for rest. All I want to do is crawl into bed.

But the activity around me often calls louder than my body's cries for rest and so those are pushed down, as the needs around me are met.

14 more days to go. It seems like forever.

And so tonight, as I looked to His Word for nourishment and strength.  He brought me to Hebrews 12.

There I read of running this race of faith with endurance.  A race that has been "set before me," by Christ. Even that resonates within my soul. He has set this journey before me and He is there guiding me, sustaining me and strengthening me.

"....Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
 and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," Hebrews 12:1

Endurance: 
 - characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith 
and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

-a patient, steadfast waiting for, enduring, perseverance



These aren't new words to me. My eyes have beheld them many times before.

And we see the key to endurance in verse 2:

"looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross..."

What hit me in a new way tonight was the start of verse 3:

"For consider Him who endured...."

Herein lies the solution.

Considering Him, when often what I want to do is "consider ME."

But what I often fail to think, is that Christ did in fact consider Me and that is why He endured.

Christ endured.

He endured the cross knowing that there was purpose and there would be fruit. For without the cross there would be no salvation. Without the cross there would be no forgiveness. Without the cross there would be no eternal life.

Christ knew. And so with joy He endured the pain. The scourging. The shame. The torture.  The physical exhaustion. He knew that journey from Bethlehem to Calvary had been set before Him by the loving hand of His Father. With purpose.

Our journeys are no different.

And so refreshed from the life giving words of Christ, I endure because in enduring there is purpose and there will be fruit.

My eyes will be directed to Him. Seeking daily His purpose. Seeking daily His strength. Seeking daily His peace. Seeking Him.

Knowing that this breast cancer journey has been set before me by His loving hand.

The physical fatigue is real. And God sees it and understands it. And by His grace He will bring me through it.

I celebrate today that another leg of the journey is almost complete. One step closer today....to the finish line.

Thanks again, for coming along with me on this journey.

Much love,
Stacy

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Small Things


The season turns colds. 

The harsh winter winds blow in slowly, yet steadily, calling for its companion. 

Snow falls blanketing the hard, frozen ground underneath. 

It lingers.

Covered. 

Beautiful white, yet barren.

Pruned.

The life that existed before, is no longer. 

The vibrant green, turned a rustic orange and red. 

Fragile. 

Then gone. 

Leaving a stark piece of wood in its place. 

The dead of winter. Literally and figuratively.

Resting. Waiting. Hopeful. Tired.

The hour unknown. But expectation looms.

And then, a teeny, tiny glimpse of what lies ahead. 

Maybe only a glimpse. But it is there. 

Newness.

Life.

Change.

Vibrant.

Beauty.

The work of the hand of the all mighty Creator.

Whispering.....

"Don't despair. I'm working behind the scenes."

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is NEW creation; old things have passed away, behold, ALL things have become NEW." 2 Corinthians 5:17

"And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey." Joshua 9:13

"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, That if may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater." Isaiah 55:10

The snow lays even still. 

But the bud, it is trying to peak forth. 

Yeah, but the small things in which I will rejoice. 

From two sparse lashes, to enough to curl. Yes, the small, but oh so significant. 

You see on the outside the work being done on the inside. 

Blessed be HIS name. 







And thank you Aunt Kay, for the "Miracle Grow!" You are a gift.

Much love,
Stacy

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A different point of view

"But from God's point of view....." Romans 4:2 (NLT)



A few weekends ago, I asked my husband if he would kindly use his mighty strong arms and help me change the master bedroom around. This was not an unusual request, as moving furniture around is a commonplace at our home. It began in my childhood, as my mother would come into my "shared" bedroom and just sigh as the bed moved from location to location. It didn't go over well, when I made a line of demarcation down the center of my bedroom, separating my side from my little sister's. The furniture line that yelled, "Do not cross." Not a highlight of my furniture moving days, but one that is laughed about now.

But you see the point. I like change and sometimes that change comes in just moving around the furniture. My husband has grown to appreciate this love of mine, as it saves us lots of money. A piece of furniture becomes completely new when it is moved from one corner to the next or from room to room. No new furniture is needed, just a repositioning of the old. A new vantage point to take in the surroundings.

And new vantage points are good, for they give us a different point of view. A new perspective. New appreciation.

As I was vacuuming our bedroom earlier this week, I looked around the room, taking in the new bed placement. Scanning the long wall that once held our bed and now stands tall behind the dresser. The pictures were repositioned and the room seems so much larger. I smiled to myself, pleased with the new arrangement. The old became new once more. My eyes took in a whole new surrounding. New possibilities were opened up.

And it got me thinking about God, as much of life does. That often in our walk with Him, we can have a one track, never tested, never tried point of view. A selfish, "Me" point of view. Saying this is just how I was raised. I believe this or that about God because that is what I've been told. But we don't go to His Word, open it and dig into Him ourselves allowing Him to change our thinking with His Truths.  We settle for the arrangement of the furniture and constantly buy new things to fill the open spaces of our hearts. We put Him in a box and put our lives in the box with Him, saying this is as good as it is going to get. This is all He has for me.  There is no hope. And sometimes,  through a particular "arrangement", all we see is fog. We settle, looking inward, instead of outward and upward, instead of living fully the life God has planned for us.

Often our point of view is what needs to be changed. God doesn't change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We need to change and sometimes, the surroundings need to change for the heart to be opened and able to receive. For the eyes to be focused on something different. Ultimately on Him and not ourselves.

Moses needed this. Born in Egypt and raised as an Egyptian Prince, he fled to Midian where he spent 40 years as a shepherd in the desert. Yes, the Arabian desert was where God needed him so He could  do some major heart surgery. Where Moses' grand vision of helping his people faded into a distant memory as he grows more humbled by the passage of time and the harshness of the desert. It is where God spoke to Moses in the burning bush. Where God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Where Moses accepted God's call. God was there. And from here, Moses went back to Egypt, seeing a scene completely different after his encounter with God. Moses becomes a deliverer.

God did the same with Paul. As Paul traveled to Damascus, there he was met on that road, by God. His scene was greatly interrupted. Paul planned on going to Damascus and dragging the believing Jews back to Jerusalem and persecuting them for their faith in Christ.  God had different plans. Instead, God was going to move around some furniture and change perspective. Do some major heart work. Blinded by God, Paul was taken to Damascus, and as the veil of lies fell off his eyes and heart by the hand of God,  he would go on and preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, but first he, too, spent a few years in the Arabian Desert. (Gal. 1:17,18). A new point of view. Paul became a writer and missionary sold out for Christ.

We all need our vantage points changed from time to time. A new point from which we take in the view.  And from that new point, often comes a new, deeper perspective. Clarity. Focus. Movement. Direction.

And it is that point that we view from that often needs rearranging. The interior furniture. From an "it's all about me point of view" to "it's all about Him and for Him point of view."

Sometimes that change has to come about in the desert. Sometimes along the road. Sometimes in suffering. If we are lucky, it happens on the mountain....or maybe a combination of them all. Right now, for me, it has been through cancer where God is doing some rearranging.

Either way, the point of view affects all tentacles of life. It makes us useful, or useless. It impacts relationships. It impacts our faith. It impacts marriage. It impacts parenthood. It impacts life. But most importantly, it impacts our relationship with Jesus Christ.

And it opens up new possibilities. Moses lead the Israelites to freedom. Paul saw thousands of lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Suffering becomes joy. Ashes become beauty. Bondage becomes freedom.



And in my little corner of my bedroom.....a little nook was found that always was there, yet undiscovered. That nook now holds a chair (from the family room) and a small side table (again, from the family room), and has become my spot to curl up and be quiet before the Lord.  And the room has taken on a whole new appearance with new uses. A whole new point of view.




May we all yield to God's rearranging. Knowing that with the rearranging comes whole new possibilities!

Much love,
Stacy

Saturday, January 22, 2011

We played hooky....

....one of the beauties that blanket homeschooling. I love the flexibility it affords. And some much needed family time.

Early in the week, the weatherman was forecasting some snow for our area. Not a lot, but enough to get us excited about hitting the slopes, once again. To add to that beauty, a good friend blessed us with a handful of free lift tickets to a new favorite ski spot close by. We played the wait and see game, waiting to see it the snow would actually come (you know those weatherman have been known to be wrong), and to see if my husband's calendar stayed open for that day. It did.

The only hiccup was my scheduled radiation. You can't easily play hooky from cancer. It has a way of showing up and staying around, and permeating every aspect of life. As the week wore on, I discussed this with my radiation nurses, whom I might add, I have grown to love. We joke. We laugh together each day. Our lives are becoming connected. Cancer does that. A beauty of the disease. A beauty that I love, as I am a connected person. I actually look forward to seeing them everyday. Crazy, I know.

Ok, I digress. Too many thoughts stirred up in my head.

I asked the nurses if I could change my time on Friday from 1:45 to early morning, telling them that we were going to try to take the kids skiing. They willingly obliged. On Thursday, as the snow seemed imminent, we discussed through Friday morning's treatment, as the snow was due to arrive overnight. It would make for a slippery ride to the Radiation Oncology Dept. in the early morning hours.  Testing the waters, I asked what would happen if I missed a day? Would that be ok? And they said the day would just get added on to the end. With that information, and the above pieces creating a beautiful picture..... I did in fact play hooky and off to the slopes we went.

I have a lot of momma guilt that I have been dealing with lately. That I should be doing more. Being more present when I can. More engaged. And the daily stress of leaving each day for treatment, begins to wear on us all. It is hard. This round of treatment presses in on all fronts of daily home life, unlike chemo, where you got a "normal week" between bi-weekly treatments. Both sides are beasts with different names. And then I come home from treatment and just feel tired. And the selfish me rears its ugly head, as all I want to do is crawl into bed and shut everything out for just a little while and rest, decompress, close my eyes.

I haven't found the balance just yet.

And so, Friday, I put it all aside, and off to the slopes we went. Not that I'll make a habit of doing this, but yesterday, it felt good and the kids thanked us as we drove home at the end of the day.

On a side note, midway into the day, Seth came back to the ski lodge saying his head hurt, his body ached and his belly wasn't quite right. He put two chairs together and laid in the lodge for the afternoon. We left early in the evening because he just wasn't feeling well. He awoke in the night and thankfully made it to the bathroom just in time.  The stomach bug has officially invited itself into our home. I pray no one else gets hit with it.


Our little snow bunny. She has finally mastered skiing independently after hours of snowplowing alongside daddy. 

Jed and I spent most of the morning skiing together. Well he snowboards. I ski. He is quite good  I might add and many an adult snowboarder stopped us yesterday asking how old he was.
And one even said, "Wow, he boards better than I do!"

Me and my little boy riding to the top. 

Getting in line to do it all again. 

Ben, Luke and daddy riding up the lift. So much fun!!


Much love,
Stacy

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In an Instant....

Last night, I was reading the updates on a mother, wife and sister in Christ, Joanne. Somehow, I ended up on her blog, having never been introduced to her before, I lingered for awhile reading of all that she has endured these last 8 days.  She needs our prayers. On Jan. 12th, this 38 year old woman, suffered a massive stroke. She is in the ICU in a medicated-induced coma, following brain surgery to release the pressure that built up in her brain. Her future uncertain.

And it all happened in an instant.....

One minute she was fine and the next...found by her daughter on the floor shaking violently. 911 called and life forever changed.

In an instant.

Her story runs deep to my core for many reasons. You see, that was my mother, 36 years ago and the girls who were with her when her stroke occurred: Me, age 3 and my older sister, age 6 1/2. My memory is fuzzy because I was a wee little one. But I remember spilling the milk. I remember my mom was waiting for my dad to come home from work. I remember the room. I remember mom on the couch, I remember my dad walking in the door.....and then from there......nothing. A blank screen.

My mother was pregnant with my little sister, at the time of her stroke. My mom was taken to the hospital suffering a massive brain aneurysm. My sister, Tasha,  delivered by c-section, a healthy woman today. I was sent to live with my Aunt Kay who became my mother for that year, and in many ways has filled that role in the years since.

Life as we knew it changed forever.......in an instant. 

A family of 4 changed to a family of 5....geographically split for the 6+ months that my mother was in the hospital. When she came home, nurses frequented the house, an aunt lived with us and then a nanny took over many of the mothering duties. Mom was in a wheelchair for a long time having been left with left side paralysis and diminished brain function.  Those memories of my childhood are framed by pictures and photographs, stories told and retold. They aren't my own.

Those days gone from my memorybank. 

And then our family of 5 went back to a family of 4, as my parents divorced and my mother went on to raise us girls by herself. She fought the uphill battle, beating the odds. She walked, when doctors said she wouldn't. Many years later, she drove, when again, doctor's said it wouldn't happen. And she sacrificed everything for us girls, doing the best that she knew how.

I don't know what Joanne's story will be. Only God does. I pray her recovery defies the odds and she is healed and restored. God can do that, and more.

But what I know is that we are not promised tomorrow.

"All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as a the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the Word of the LORD endures forever." 1 Peter 1:24-25

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." James 4:13-15

In an instant.....
life can be changed......

....a son is born prematurely as his mother's life hangs in the balance.

....the doctor tells you your son has a random, fatal genetic condition and he will either die while still growing within or may live for hours following his birth, at most.

....my sister's husband of 20 years, shares that his interests lie in others areas....areas that don't include her.

.....my mother goes for a walk and gets hit by a car from behind, suffering another brain injury.

.....the doctor calls and says, "the pathology came back showing cancer."

And the lens is polished and shined as you come to look at the future differently, and look at each moment as a gift because life as you know it, can change in an instant.

We all have our "instants."

So, how are you living your todays?

Are you loving deeply..... telling those around you that they matter?

Are you investing in people or in things?

Are you harboring unforgiveness and bitterness or are you pursuing peace and reconciliation?

Are you saying you'll do it tomorrow......or embracing your today?

Are you living for your self, or living for God, the very one who put that breath in your lungs?


And if that instant of change comes along your path.....do you have a hope outside of this life? A faith in He who endures forever?

Do you know that Christ came to give you life.....eternal life....an inheritance that is incorruptible?

An inheritance that waits for you, as does He. He won't push Himself on you. He isn't that way.

But He waits. As a patient Father. As a loving Father. As your Redeemer.....for you.....

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved..." Acts 16:31


May we all live as if today is our last day. No regrets. Secure in the arms of our Lord and Savior. 

Please pray for Joanne and her family, that God would give them many, many tomorrows. 

Much love,
Stacy

Monday, January 17, 2011

Radiation Update - 1st Vlog - 2 Timothy 4:17

Last week proved to be a busy week as I adjusted to adding radiation treatments to my daily schedule. So, sorry for the silence this last week. A lot of newness and change was added, not just for me, but my husband and children.  This is my first attempt at posting a vlog, and that too, proved to be a learning curve and a test of my patience as I learned how to upload it!! I am not a technical person, and we don't have a video camera, so I attempted using my laptop's webcam....I don't think I'll do this very often, but thought it would be a quick and more personal way to let you all know how my new treatment was going....and you get to see my new hair....probably more exciting for me than you...but thought I'd share!

Thanks so much for your ongoing prayers! God is faithful and continues to carry us each step of the way. Much love to you all!

Here we go.....:)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Battle Cry

8 months into the battle and herein lies my cry.

When the battle had just begun I remember sitting in worship one Sunday morning as this song rang through the sanctuary. Voices and hands raised, together.

It was new to me that day. A worship song I had never heard before but the words so alive and real. I've been on the battleground before.  The words flooded through my mind and ran to the deepest parts of my heart.  My voice lifted with the rest.

The battle field laid before me and the opposing army was coming....the diagnosis still fresh, as a wound that has just been afflicted dripping drops of bright red blood. Breast cancer thronged in my ears. My surgery on the horizon and over that hill the landscape was unknown, but there was the enemy charging forth.

I stood. Armed in the power of His might ready to declare His name.

I remember many a Sunday the pull in my heart to be among God's people, worshipping together. Maybe, you too, can relate to this draw. As an army stands against the enemy collectively and yet, you too, stand individually. And together the power of God blankets His people and possess you.

The power is so strong. You can't deny it and are brought to your knees in a posture of praise and worship.

He alone is worthy. He alone is God. And because of Him, no weapon on this earth or in the hands of the enemy can be used to defeat the power that God possess.

Oh, the battle ensues and Satan tries to take us down bringing defeat to our minds. But in Him, there is no defeat. We are conquerors and co-heirs with Christ.

So we stand. We worship. And we fight in the power of His Truth. For Truth always defeats the lie.

This cancer will not have me because God does. That is the truth.  May this cancer be used to refine me that more of His Truth may be seen through me.

That is my battle cry.

And on this battlefield, when the landscape is uncertain and the terrain unknown. I stand strong in my God who knows the hills and the valleys. Trusting that He will guide me through.

He has done that and more.

And this Sunday, as I sat surrounded by God's people, this battle cry rang out once again. The next phase of the battle dawning. Radiation begins tomorrow. My emotions laid just under the surface, ready to spring forth. They were hidden even from me. As the words spilled forth from my heart to my lips to the throne of God, so too, the tears came. Not tears of pain. Not tears of sorrow. Tears of triumph. Triumph for what He has already overcome and triumph for what is to come.

And I will bring praise. For no weapon formed against will prevail.

I will rejoice. I will declare.

God is my victory and He is here.

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and the power of His might." Eph. 6:10

(pause the songs at the bottom of the blog so that you can listen to this song. 
There are a couple seconds of silence in the beginning.)




This is my prayer in the desert
when all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord, through the flame.
And I will bring praise. I will bring praise.
No weapon formed against me shall remain.
I will rejoice. I will declare.
God is my victory and He is here.
This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand
I will bring praise. I will bring praise.
No weapon formed against me shall remain.
I will rejoice. I will declare.
God is my victory and He is here.
All of my life in every season you are still God 
I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship.
I will bring praise. I will bring praise.
No weapon formed against me shall remain.
I will rejoice. I will declare.
God is my victory and He is here.
This is my prayer in the harvest
when favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
the seed I’ve received I will sow. 


Much love,
Stacy