Offended

I know this is the year of the woman. I had a hard time with that at first, but I’m accepting it, and embracing it, however I think a more accurate title may be The Year of the Offended. At least that is the theme for my week.  God tends to speak to me in multiples. So, if there is something I am supposed to be paying attention to, it will show up in several different ways, from different sources.  This week, the topic is offense and forgiveness. 

Last Sunday, I attended Greenville United Methodist, and Brother Steven gave a powerful message on forgiveness.  It was wonderful.  As I sat there, I couldn’t think of a single person I needed to forgive.  I asked God to show me, and nothing showed up.  I was just happy to be alive & able to eat.

Lesson 1 So, when we got home, Cary said, “I forgive you for getting sick.  I wasn’t mad at you, but I just needed to say it.” Brilliant! He was right.  I needed to forgive me for being sick too.  I needed to forgive me for being weak, for worrying my family, for not being able to carry on with all my responsibilities.  I needed to forgive my body for betraying me and growing cells that would injure my body, that would try to kill me. Immune system, I forgive you for not identifying and destroying the cancer cells. I release you from my judgement, and I restore you to do the job God created you to do, to protect me and keep me alive. I restore you to your rightful place.

Lesson 2 I was invited to pray with people at Living Word’s Soul Sisters meeting.  It was beautiful, honest, and about forgiveness.

Lesson 3 My friend Rosi had people steal from her, really steal from her, and she shared her desire to forgive. 


Lesson 4 Earlier in the week, I saw a friend. She came to greet me, tears streaming down her face, welcoming me home. Offense immediately sprung up in my heart. This woman took advantage of me, I don’t think it was intentional, but it ended up costing me quite a bit of money in lost income and resources.  As I hugged her, I realized, I had not forgiven her, and I really thought I had, but the offense was still there.  Lord, how do I forgive? I thought I had let it go.  I thought I had released her, but I see that I have not.  As I am pondering this question scripture is popping into my head.  James 5:16 Confess and acknowledge how you have offended one another and then pray for one another to be instantly healed, for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!  Jesus taught his disciples on a mountain one day. He said many difficult things (Matthew 5), but specifically this in verse 21 You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’ (an Aramaic word of contempt. Insert your own explicative as an American substitute), is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the of the fire of hell. So, I don’t want to be subject to court.  I don’t want bitterness to set up in my heart where unforgivness now resides. Bitterness destroys joy, and I can say I have had real, pure joy in the depth of me since a dear group of friends/family prayed over me in the last year.  I NEVER want to lose this joy.  On my worst day in Houston, the day I asked for a feeding tube and the doctors refused, I still had peace and joy. (And they changed my meds so I quit throwing up everything that went in my body.)  Being angry, harboring offense isn’t worth giving up joy and peace.  I’d rather be taken advantage.

Wow! In fact, being offended that I was taken advantage of (essentially stolen from), is a point of view issue.  It’s a trust issue.  God has blown our minds in the ways he has provided for us through the last four months.  Someday, I will have to share the full story of his faithfulness. He is such a loving Father.  He is our provider, not me, not Cary. HE IS OUR PROVIDER! What was mistreated didn’t really belong to me in the first place.  It was his to give. In fact, as I reflect, the income lost has more than been recovered through other avenues. 

Looks like my solution to this problem is easy. Father, I am so sorry I took your place as judge for my friend.  I judged her as inconsiderate and selfish, and I cannot know her heart. You alone know the hearts of all men.  Lord, I didn’t trust you to provide for us. I thought I had to take care of myself. Please forgive me for waivering in my trust of you as judge and provider.  Thank you for using circumstances to reveal the ugly parts of me, for refining me, and thank you for being a forgiving God. Thank you that you don’t act like me, and think of my offenses when you look at me.  Help me to be more like you in this way. In Jesus name I pray and praise you! Amen

New opportunities & other news: I just got the final denial that Aetna refuses to cover my proton therapy. A new opportunity to thank God for Humana & let go of offense.  I will be preaching Sunday at 9:30 at Shaver’s Chapel. I’m feeling better each day, as long as I take a nap. And life is getting pretty normal, except I am home enough to tidy the house each day, so that is a new beautiful thing. I am struggling to not get anxious about going back to work next month. I love my job, but I’m aware that I had the candle lit at both ends for years, and I think that was part of my getting sick.  I don’t want to return to that lifestyle, and I am not sure how to avoid it. Things to pray about…

Blessings

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Eating

Yesterday I ate Japanese food, my FAVORITE!  It almost tasted right.  It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago I would drink water to have something to throw up, took my fluids by IV every few days, and couldn’t eat. I am in awe of the body’s ability to heal.  I am also in awe of how crazy side effects of treatment and medication can be.


I think my body thinks I’m pregnant. Because I was radiated so close to my pituitary gland, I think my hormones/systems are confused.  During treatment I kept comparing my symptoms to morning sickness. Thankfully the nausea has gone away, but this week I have cried at Good Morning America three times (Actually I have cried about everything three times. Not sad crying, just crying.) lactated, and I may be nesting.  But my house is looking better each day!

The taste of chemo Everyone in my life is worried about my weight, except me. My theory after having babies was that it took 9 months for my body to get that way.  It should take 9 months to get back (It actually takes two to twenty years to get some resemblance of your body back.) It took 7 weeks to loose 15 pounds. It’s going to take that long to gain 10 back. Even so, there are a lot of precious people concerned about my waify build who don’t understand why I’m not gorging on doughnuts 🍩 and other foods people over 25 try to avoid. It’s because they don’t taste right. Postchemo taste is like eating texture instead of food.  Here is the best way I can explain it, imagine a loaded baked potato in front of you.  Butter running over the sides, savory bacon cut into little strips, shredded cheese lays limply over the top, and on the top, a dollop of sour cream. You inhale the smell and it fills your soul with delight. Your body anticipates the savory goodness, but your tongue doesn’t agree.  You taste the texture of the food. You experience each grainy particle of potato. The salty butter and savory bacon are reduced to the slimy grease that coats every surface of your mouth. The sour cream is just the sour. The joy of the bite is gone. It’s disappointing at best & revolting at worst. So, you find what you can tolerate and move on. I have been able to add a new food each day this week. Rice and beans are my friends.

Weakness Someone asked me if I was able to do any ministry while I was in Houston.  Outside of writing this blog, the answer to that question is no.  I wasn’t.  What I learned in Houston was how to be weak.  I learned what it was to come to the end of your body, mind and spirit, and still be loved.  I learned what it was to depend onmy husband for food, rides to the doctor, times for medications, and memory. The prayers and support of my friends and strangers sustained me when I didn’t have words to pray.  It also made me appreciate the beauty of praying in Spirit instead of my mind. 

Cary didn’t love me less in Houston in my weakness and vulnerability.  Instead, I got to see just how loving and kind he really is. I have never needed him like that, so I never got to see how deeply devoted he is to me.  God didn’t love me less when I was in bed crying. Instead he sent people to text, Cary to hold me, his peace to know He was with me, and that I was loved every bit as much as when I am praying or preaching. God wasn’t disappointed in me for being vulnerable. I think this is a lie we believe, that God relies on our strength. He doesn’t.  He’s strong enough on his own.

My daughter is very gifted in math and very driven. She is a great writer, but hates grammar.  (Like her mama.) This week she was saying she didn’t feel smart because grammar doesn’t come easy like math.  I explained that if she is best at everything then other people never get to be the best.  She has to embrace her strengths and her weaknesses, and celebrate people who excel in areas she doesn’t, but equally appreciate and celebrate her own strengths.  The key to success is surrounding yourself with people who balance you out, and being confident enough to be okay with them.

So, now I am home and life is returning to normal.  Only it’s not normal.  I cannot go all day and all night, and I realized last night I was ignoring my lesson on weakness.  I have pushed too hard the last four days, and the last two nights I didn’t have anything left to give.  I have to rest.  That means I have to say no to some things I want to do during the day to be available in the evenings to my family.  I have to be weak. I have to ask for help.  I am terrible at asking for help.  I fear the person will say no or grumble, and then I will get mad and resent them, so I just do things for myself, like moving large furniture and being two places at once.  But this isn’t how God designed me to exist.  He designed me to be interdependent, vulnerable, weak.  There is beauty in weakness. We get to see the beauty of others and the strength of God in our weakness. So go, be weak my friends!  I am going to seek out some personal healing over my difficulty asking for help and live this more balanced life.

Here is a teaching on Blessing, from Grace Center that is rocking my brain this week. If you listen, let me know what stirs in your spirit.
Blessings!

Reentry

Family picture our first day home. And can we all agree I don’t look old enough to have parented these kids. LOL! (You have to agree, I just defeated cancer)

The transition into real life is going better than I expected.  It seems kind of surreal to be home.  I didn’t realize how stir crazy I had become in that little apartment in Houston until I got home to some space.  I am often brought to my knees in gratitude and tears as I consider what God is doing and has done through this time. He is such a good God.

On the way to the airport in Houston we Ubered.  We Uber quite a bit, and I love the service because we get to meet such interesting people. I say this because my last ride was not a typical ride.  As my husband is famous for saying, “I thought we were going to die in a fiery crash.” Our driver drove from New York to Houston to drive for the Super Bowl. So on the day of our exit (3 weeks later) he was still in Houston driving.  He liked to go 80 in a 60 in heavy traffic. I was working to not be scared. And as God does, he used this time to assure me (and keep us alive). His music selection was Reggae, specifically Great is Thy Faithfulness and Jesus Loves Me in Reggae. As I mouthed the words to the songs on the radio as God’s promise that if he can kill cancer, he can keep me alive in Houston rush hour with a New York cabbie, I was overcome with the emotions of gratitude in his provision for this time. (And traffic came to a screeching halt, I told the cabbie he may want to slow down because I just finished chemo and I might puke in his car -a slight but true exaggeration- and he found an alternate, slow back route to the airport.) 

And Great is thy Faithfulness has been running through my head ever since. Why? Because it is so true. God prepared us, me specifically, for this time.  In fact, he told me to get quite and still a couple of years ago.  Last January I felt like I needed to get in shape. At the time, I wasn’t sure why, buy my 40th year seemed like a good enough reason. He brought a special 20 something woman into my life who was just right to encourage me in this way & who had just met Jesus & was in love with him for all the right reasons. And I needed a reminder of what that puppy love looks like, because my love was getting stale and comfortable. Her passion inspires my heart every time we talk. So, I started an exercise class. I spent a good portion of three weeks panting on the floor while Jess, my instructor, encouraged me, and the rest of the class did their cute little moves.  After a few weeks, I started to keep up better & eventually learned to beat myself instead of focusing on how others were better at this than me. Then my opportunity to walk the Camino came.  I thought this was clearly why I was getting in shape. But after my Camino, I felt God saying something else was coming. And it did, the doctor visit, the MRI, THE PHONE CALL, the move to Houston, proton therapy, the people met, losing 15 pounds.  They all came, and they have all past, and every day I’m a little bit better.  I’m napping or resting hours a day, and walking through the book of Hebrews at a snails pace (which is the perfect pace to let it saturate my heart and mind). So it is a surreal experience to be home. I cannot do the busyness that has been my life for the last 15 years, so I am doing all the other things.  I am watching TV on the couch with my kid, and doing spelling homework. I can’t really eat much yet, so my mother and mother-in-law are keeping my family fed, and I am adding a new food a day (yesterday I ate a whole roll) to my stomach. 

Upon reentry I am still outside my life a bit, and I am thankful to be here because I feel like I can see better from here.  My 17 year old doesn’t need the mom who worked to make him better with self improvement speeches any more.  He needs an encourager who will speak life and hope over him as he test drives life.  It’s his turn to be the pilot.  He is going to have success and failure, just like to rest of us, and my job is to believe in him and to remind him that God’s plan for his life is too big to be imagined, so he should pray and obey. Pray for me that I will “know my role” and that my mouth will keep up with this new plan.

My daughter is a beautiful woman inside and out. Fourteen is not a child any more, it is WAY more grown up than I thought.  I keep reminding myself that girls this age used to get married and run households, successfully.  This particular kid could run a bank.  She took on a lot of responsibility in our absence, and she was trustworthy with a lot of freedom, so not taking that back because I can, and still setting appropriate moral limits is going to be a challenge for a couple of years. God is at work in this child, and I need more time listening in prayer and less time intervening.

The baby. Well, he’s just that, he’s 8. And spoiled.  And our work isn’t wrapping up like it is with the other two. It’s not time to let go.  It’s time to cultivate a person. He’s the youngest by a lot, and I have appeased him because it made my life easier than doing the work. So, we are doing the hard things (like cursive homework 😣😵😩). He is a comedian, and uses his wit to distract me. I’m beginning to think he’s the most like his dad & so dad can raise him! (Just kidding. I don’t want to miss any more time.) The trick is going to be living this life and still seeing things from the outside.

So much good has already come from this time away.  I was great at trying to make everyone happy that I got in the way or other relationships. Because we were gone, my kids have deeper relationships with all of their grandparents, more authentic.  They have also gained weight and loved eating home cooked meals (they will have to get over that.). Because we were gone, Cary and I love each other even more, I’m head over heals for Jesus again, and I know more of the Greatness of his Faithfulness.  Our story is nowhere near complete.  There is still more Faithfulness to be told, but I’m getting tired of writing, so you will have to get the rest of the story later.
Listen to Great is thy Faithfulness  https://youtu.be/v92I3GYL55g
Blessings!

The Disneyland of Cancer Treatment

Today is my last proton treatment & I am almost 2 weeks out from my last chemotherapy treatment, and I would love to tell you I’m doing great, but really, it depends on the moment.  Lucky for you, I’m typing in the morning. This morning I’m reflecting on my experience at MD Anderson. I was listening to Alyn and AJ‘s pod cast last week, and Alyn made a comment about when things are done really well, really intentionally, he feels cared about, or something to this effect.  I realized MD Anderson cares about caring excellently.  It is the culture of this place to care.  I have heard custodial staff being trained to make sure they greet and smile at the patients.

I have gone to a couple of dozen doctor visits, six chemotherapy visits, 33 proton therapy visits, fluid infusions, and had my vitals taken many many many times.  And the remarkable thing is, each time you are treated like you’re the only person they are taking care of that day.  I’m not, but people make eye contact and ask how you are doing. 

Several of my chemo nurses let me know they prayed for me, one special lady remembered that she had treated me the week before. They asked questions about my life, not just my medical information. And don’t get me started about my Proton Team.  They shared life with me, 5 days a week.  I got to hear about their kids,their houses, the fact that Jay is a cancer survivor and plans to go to medical school (he’s going to be an amazing doctor). I’ve gotten close enough that the thought of not seeing them again makes me cry. Because in the most abnormal season of my life, their excellence has allowed me to feel less like a patient and more like a friend.  It has been a huge blessing.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent care taken by my husband the other 22 hours a day.  I guess I’m going to have to learn to share him with the rest of the world again.  So it is with great celebration and a little bit of sadness that I come to today, the formal end of my treatments, but not the end of my recovery.  

I come with this question: Where can I come with intentional excellence? Where can I treat people as the one, not as one of many? I have several answers, what about you?

The End is Near

For real!! My last proton treatment is in one week! That’s exciting! 

I start there because I’m struggling today. #notmybattle feels like a lie. Living Philippians 4 is a moment by moment choice, and I’ve failed. So I’m reminded of strategy that has worked before … Picture it line by line.

Rejoice in the Lord, always. I say it again, REJOICE! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Lord Jesus, you are here. I rejoice because I am not alone. So I close my eyes and ask you to show me where you are in the room. I sense you sitting by my knees on the bed. I wish I could see you.  How can I show gentleness in this hospital where I am getting fluids?  Please & thank you show gentleness. I do rejoice because I haven’t experienced any rage since being here. There have been seasons when rage and anxiety have led me into into places of deep misery and depression . But I am not depressed or even sad, so I celebrate your healing in my life by replacing those habits with your peace.  Thank you Lord for showing me the work you’ve done in my life.

The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything! But in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. I don’t worship a distant God, or a god without power.  I worship a loving God who is near, and who hears me, and who cares deeply about me. So Lord, here are the anxieties I have let play in my mind.  I am sorry for entertaining them instead of bringing them to you first. Please forgive me for that.  I’m worried that I cannot take in enough calories or fluids, and I won’t heal quickly. I’m concerned that my kids are going to expect me to be normal when I get home, and I cannot.  I cannot be the referee or even go to the grocery. I know Cary will do all he can, but they are still going to come to me with expectation. Yet, you have met every single need we have had on this journey so far, and you have carried us through so many other trials, so I delight in watching how you work this out!  It’s going to be fun to share! So thank you Lord for being near, and for going before me in these things, and making my road straight.  I pray for my medical team making decisions on my behalf, give them wisdom beyond that of man, not just on my behalf, but for all their patients.  Lord, I lift up Bridge to you as she finishes he treatments. I ask for complete healing for her, not just the cancer in her body, but from all the trauma associated with it.  She is such a beautiful soul, mother, wife, daughter.  Carry her too, in Jesus name.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Yes!  There is your peace and sound mind.  I trust you, Papa!  I love you!

There are a 1000 ways to say something

There are 1000 ways to say something.” This phrase has been in my head for several days.  I don’t know why, but it it is accompanied by this thought:

 I can say

Cancer sucks! I hate this! I’m tired! I want to go home!  Screw this, I’m done! My throat is starting to hurt, and I throw up several times a day at this point.  My platelets are low, heck my everything is low.  I have lost my sense of humor. I still haven’t heard if Aetna is going to uphold the denial. I miss my kids. I miss my life!

Or I can say

I miss my little house on the farm.  Won’t it be lovely to sit in my hammock chair (note to self, buy a new hammock chair- yours broke last year) in April with the first warm rays of spring sunlight beaming on your face and the soft tickle of the new green grass brushing against the bottoms of your feet? Bow tie, the Lion dog, will scratch his back brushing underneath the swing before settling to nap in the grass. Ty will pull in the driveway and give me his gentle smile & roll his eyes when I ask him to go pick up his sister, who will want to go do something as soon as she gets home.  Deacon will try to annoy me by spinning the swing or maybe he will just crawl in my lap as ask a question too philosophical for 8. And I will be home.

Both of these are true, and they both express my current situation, but at the end of the thought, one leaves me angry and frustrated, the other tearful and joyful and looking forward to good things.

I don’t want to write a preachy post, but Philippians 4:4-8 has transformed my life in the last few years, and since it is directly related to this thought… I would be remiss not to share.


How powerful our words and thoughts are!  Just thinking about my tree, and my swing, and the view from that spot lifts my heart.  So funny, I’ve spent years dreaming about moving from that very spot to a bigger city.  I was afraid I was missing something.  Here’s something I have learned during our time in Houston.  If I am with Cary Mathis, I am home.  There are good adventures and people everywhere. With him, I am with someone who is for me, and will fight for God’s best for me. If my kids are with me, even better (as long as they aren’t fighting or whining). If I feel good, great!

I’ve also learned that I live in a very white, and honestly segregated, world.  In fact, I have a friend from Atlanta who said “Muhlenberg County has the whitest black people I’ve ever seen.” I don’t know what that means exactly.  I would be a fool to weigh in on the statement.  But I do see a difference between the families here and at home, all races included.  I see a difference in the families.  In Houston, when I go out to eat, I see lots of families together. African American, Hispanic multigenerational families, Chinese and Japanese families, young whitish (let’s face it, nobody is one race at this point) families pushing strollers and lugging dogs.  The dads are plugged in.  They are not ornamental pieces in the group, but carrying kids, wiping noses, having conversation kind of dads.  It’s awesome.  I feel like that happens in Muhlenberg County, but it isn’t celebrated like it is in the city. The intimacy of father relationships give so much identity to children.  That identity is a hedge of protection around that child in a way we cannot understand for a lifetime.  Thing is, we need to be emotionally healthy parents, and that takes work.

I love to hear my chemo nurses.  They all speak English with me, but I hear them talking to colleagues in Aribic, Indian dialects, my favorite is the Spenglish conversations that happen as they pop between English and Spanish without missing a step.  It’s beautiful & necessary because the patients at MD Anderson are from all over this world.  They need providers who can communicate in their languages.  I do mourn that I am not fluent in more languages.  I could order food in Spain, get around in Monaco 🇲🇨, but I have never been able to be emerged in a language other than English, and I feel like I am missing something!

I want to readdress my first paragraph. But before I do, Lady GaGa rocked it out with amazing class! She surprised me! 

Cancer sucks! – it does.   I hate this sometimes.  Most of the time, I’m thankful that I am in a place with healers and knowledge.  I’m thankful for the two months alone with my man, and how good he is at taking care of me.  I’m tired sometimes! But, I walk when I can walk, and I take naps.  I want to go home– sometimes… it’s cold in Kentucky.  It’s 85 degrees next to this pool right now!  Screw this, I’m done! Sometimes I feel this way, but I curl up in a ball in the bed, and Cary curls up behind me, and tells me how close we are to the end, and says funny things that make my tears turn to laughter.  My throat is starting to hurt, and I throw up several times a day at this point. This is true, but I have strategies to combat the pain: nasal rinses & Tramadol.  My platelets are low, heck my everything is low. They are, but for the last three days, as I have been laying on the proton bed, strapped in with my lovely mask (Deacon says I look like a snake when I’m done) my favorite worship songs have come on Pandora to call my heart to worship from my broken place.  It has taken great self control not to raise my hands in praise in the machine, which I think would cause panic with my technicians.  And can we talk about my proton technicians? They have become my friends. Beautiful Russian Veda, with her naturally blond hair and quick smile finds me every day to walk me in to my treatment. She ask questions about my children, and I know about her daughter who ice skates, and her hopes to move.  She moved to the friend zone the day she let me talk about the woes of bikini and armpit hair. Jay is a cancer survivor.  He is especially attentive to tell me what is going on during my treatments.  It is very comforting. He is preparing to head off to med school to work in oncology.  He has such a sweet spirit, and I can’t wait to find out where God leads him in life. There are others who make me smile, laugh, who mother me as I gag and retry everyday to get my splint in my mouth. 

And my chemo nurses.  Every time it’s a different one, but every one is kind.  They are So attentive. They take the time to find a vein that won’t collapse, and apologize for the needle.  They explain how the drugs work and why they do things a certain way.  Their kindness is a gift to me.

Yesterday Deacon left which is good because I can’t take care of him right now, which is hard.  I am so thankful Mom was here to keep him entertained.  I had an audiology exam, and learned that I have normal hearing.  I haven’t had full hearing out of my left ear in three years! We are praising God for that! Last night, I ended up having to have fluids and Magnesium, which meant I was at the hospital until 10:00PM. This morning I started Chemo at 9:00. By the time I arrived, I was at the end of myself. When they called me back, I weighed and learned I lost another kilogram.  I looked at the nurse bracelet.  It said God is with you!  I teared up, and thanked her for wearing it. A friend called with good personal news in her life, I started writing this blog, which means processing my thoughts, and I have steroids in my system. So, I’m no longer at the end of myself, but full of the hope of Christ and his people.

You can say something 1000 different ways.  Choose wisely.

What are your labels? 

What are your labels? Here are mine, at least a start:  

God asked me this question this week: What are your labels? Then he told me to list them.  I have a lot of labels.  Here is what this is related to: Matthew 13:31-32 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

One day, I read the parable of the mustard seed, and I got it!  It blew my mind.  I had read that parable 100 times and wondered, what in the heck does that mean!?!  But this time, I saw it instead of reading it.  I saw the seed, I saw it so small & that it’s identity was a seed.  It knew what it was, a seed.   Seeds are nutritious, mustard seeds can be used to make burgers and sandwiches and salads tasty. But, the seed did not see its potential.  It did not see that by dying, being put in dirt, drenched in water, it would transform.  The transformation process isn’t pretty.  When I taught 3rd grade, we did a project where we taped baggies filled with wet paper towels and seeds to the classroom windows to watch the plant growing process. For days I t looked like nothing was happening, but one day little roots were extending from the seed, the next day or two produced a stem with the seed casing stuck to the top.  It looked ugly & useless, no longer able to be eaten, not able to at least look pretty. But, a few days later, the seed hull would fall off and green leaves would appear.  The seed took on a plant like look, still not useful, but at least pleasant to look at, at least identifiable. 

At this point, the plants must have some type of nutrients or they won’t grow into their potential, but with nutrition and continued hydration, what once was a seed is now a plant. In this case, the small mustard seed is a large bush in a garden where birds can rest.  God saw the bush when he looked at the seed.  He sees what we are created to be when he looks at us.  It doesn’t bother him when we are in the weird phase and we appear useless, no longer what we were, but not yet useful to anyone because he sees the final product.  The process doesn’t intimidate or frustrate him.  Just like the kids in my classroom would bound in each day to check the progress of their seed and get excited over the smallest change, God gets excited over each step in our transformation, even the ones we think are ugly. (I wonder if God created vegetation just so Jesus could teach that parable, just so we could understand his ways.)

So how does this relate to labels? My list was very different 20, 15, 10, 2 years ago.  My list is evidence of transformation. 15 years ago hopeful would not have been on the list because I had not yet learned that I can trust God to work ALL THINGS (especially cancer) for my good.  Angry has been replaced with calm because God is just. Self righteous has been replaced with forgiving because I have failed people and needed forgiveness.  Nagging wife with Good mate.  Bad speller hasn’t been replaced, but the shame when people correct my spelling is gone. I’ve come to rejoice that there is no perfect & if I’m not the best at something, it gives someone else an opportunity to be. And God partnered me with a spouse that can spell anything, backwards (he’s great for Scategories and proofreading) and friends that can diagram sentences, so if I ever write a book, I’ve got resources…

Two years ago loveable would not have been on my list because I usuallly felt rejected and lonely,  and this was magnified by a relationship that was broken and a couple of friends moving away.  I had not yet learned to quit comparing myself to other people to find my identity.  I spent a great deal of time failing to be like my closest friends, and this left me feeling guilty most all the time that I wasn’t an organic farming gourmet cook.  (I have no interest in cooking or farming, much less time to do it, but I continually chastised myself for this lack of skill.) This season was a time of great loss.  In fact I was so broken that I had to keep apologizing to a new acquaintance because I would push away to protect myself from being vulnerable.  I knew this friend was safe, but my wounds in this ugly phase made me pretty useless in relationships.  Through this pain, I learned what a wonderful friend I have in my husband, as I began to talk to him about the things on my heart I reserved for my girlfriends.  I learned that Jesus is not just my Lord, but he is my friend.  And last night, when I couldn’t sleep and I was frustrated with the side effects of radiation and ready to pack my bags and come home & screw treatment, I could rest in the arms of my Jesus who reminded me that from the beginning he has been assuring me that this is a transformation process.  He is at work, and this time is a transition into a new phase of life.  I don’t know what that means exactly, but I trust him.  He’s got this.

There are still many parts of me that need to die, but that is His journey to orchestrate.  I’m sure I don’t even recognize the behaviors/patterns as evil that he wants to eliminate next, so I can’t “self help” my way out of them.  I can however bend to the process of transformation he is making in me.  I can get excited about the small changes and celebrate them instead of bemoaning the ugly phases. (Even the bald spots appearing on the top of my head, I will find a way to celebrate, because somehow they are evidence of victory.  Natalie Skaggs, if you are reading this, you have your work cut out for you when I get home 💇🏼✂️!)

I asked the Father for his list of labels for me.  I won’t share, because I’m writing this in the chemotherapy room and I don’t have them with me,  but I will treasure them.  His list is beautiful and refined and a promise of what will be.  He’s asked me to exchange my list for his.  What is your list? Will you give up your labels for his?  I’d love to see your list.  I feel like I should leave you with Isaiah 61, so we can celebrate the work of his love in each of our lives.

Blessings!