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,