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!

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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!

Houston, we have a problem 

It’s been an interesting week.  New president, marches, protests, a lot to process.  And as I process, I am less and less ok. I’ve tried to write this blog three times, and I don’t know what to say because my head starts swimming with images of the week and confusion about what is true and what isn’t. Which way is up? 

This week has more symptoms from treatment. (On a super positive note, possibly the only one in this entire blog, my cancer symptoms have mostly disappeared! Praise the Lord!) All the questions I’m asked on my weekly questionnaire are starting to make sense: My mouth throat dryness has a bad effect on tasting foods.  ✔️ I have a lack of energy. ✔️I think it was last Saturday that I woke up and my mouth quit producing spit. Monday I awoke, and my throat was so swollen that if I weren’t going through treatments I would have thought I needed a tonsillectomy. Thankfully, my burns are higher in my nasopharynx , and do not make it hurt to swallow, just a bit more difficult because everything is so dry. I cannot imagine what this would be like with traditional radiation, or being treated for throat cancer. I am thankful for donors who have funded building Proton Centers around the country. 

I awoke the morning of the inauguration or the morning after, it kind of all runs together.  I started talking to God, asked him what he wanted to do to spend time together.  I felt in my spirit 1 Peter 2:13.  I looked it up – 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.-  Kind of timely, huh? See I don’t agree with everything our new president says he wants to do.  I’m holding out my final judgement on his immigration policy until I actually read a plan of some sort,  but the things he has said in sound bites concern me, and greatly effect people I care about.  I have other concerns as well, but I also disagreed with and had concerns with our former administration. So, in light of God’s leading, I am going to support our president.  I will pray for him, as I prayed for Mr. Obama, I am going to use my words and actions to build him up.

 The Girls… My daughter & niece visited this weekend! I needed to see them. This is the longest I’ve been away from my kids. I’m not a doting mom who can’t stand to be away, but three weeks is all I ever want.  I know it would be difficult to be home and manage life right now, but I miss them! And as tough as they are, this is hard on them too. It was an interesting week to have 14 & 21 year old women around. There were marches around the country for women’s equality (at least I think that was the point).   My first exposure to this was my friends who participated and posted on Facebook.  I have to say, I was a little confused by the concept of feeling that we aren’t equal based on gender, but that is my life experience. I remember sitting in my dad’s lap as a little girl and he told me I could do anything a boy could do.  I never doubted him. It didn’t cross my mind to think otherwise.  I work for a large company, and I have never felt looked over or inferior because of my gender.  In fact, my greatest advocate is male. 

I don’t want to make it sound like I have never faced sexism, certainly in sports.  Once, when my daughter was very small, we were with friends and the dads and kids were roughhousing. A father told her she couldn’t participate because she was a girl, and pushed her away.  That hurt, a lot, but that doesn’t make the world biased against her.  It makes one man, who had no sisters and no daughters unaware of how words can hurt. As a female pastor, I’ve had plenty of comments, but not as much as I expected, and I don’t consider that sexism in any way.

I have a professional organization I am involved in through work.  When I started attending, I was one of three woman at the meetings.  The older members used to make little comments that may have offended some (They are around Trump’s age), but it never bothered me, I just played dumb and went on with business.  They respected me and treated me as an equal in business, even if they noticed I was a girl.). Those men retired, and I miss them.  New people (male and female) are my peers, no comments get made, at least to my face.  Now, the men in the organization play golf together and fish once in awhile, and if I want to be in that networking environment I have to be present, so I am learning to golf without cursing or throwing clubs. I don’t see me ever learning to fish.

I realize my perspective comes with generations of sacrifice.  Woman have been treated as second class in our society, and I am so thankful for the men and women before me who fought for change.  I was raised by a strong woman, who was raised by a strong woman.  My mother golfs, and flys an airplane, directs the local health department, and went back to school with three kids to be one of the first generation of nurse practitioners.  She has biked 100 miles in a day, and she walked 200+ kilometers in 8 days with me just months ago.  She is an adventurer, and she taught me this along the way. She took my son to Washington DC to meet with her legislators about nurse practitioner issues they were making decisions about. I’ve seen her called,  “The son her father never had,” lovingly by her brother. I’ve seen her live a life of feminity and strength.  She has lived a life of equality because that’s what she chose to do, not because the rules were fair. However, her boldness, and that of women like her have paved the way for me to be me, and to live a life where I don’t feel discriminated against based on my gender.

Because I do not know what is true and what is not these days, I was researching a news post that led me to the White House website the day after Trump took office.  I was there to read the top issues on the page.  I was reflecting on how different Obama’s vision of what America should be is from Tump’s vision.  I had a passing thought that stuck with me, “They have each come to their vision from life experience.” And I have come to my vision/ perspective on women’s rights based on my life experience.  My experience doesn’t negate someone else’s, just as Obama’s doesn’t negate Trumps.  They are just different, so I decided I support the march. I am thankful we have a right to assemble, and I suport people in exercising that right, even if I don’t understand their perspective. And we need to take a moment to appreciate that many people came together for a purpose and didn’t destroy local businesses or riot or injur police.  Thank you for being that example. We need it.

That being said, if you wore a vagina costume or stood on a stage screaming obscenities, or threatened to blow up the White House, if you have used your influence in media for the past 20 years to make women sex objects by your behavior, then I am appalled by you, and the way you reflect on me as a woman.  Our battle, ladies, to be feminine equals with men in business and life is not against Washington, it’s against Hollywood and romance novels!  Wake up!

As I mentioned earlier, my first exposure to the march was from my friends on Facebook who participated or posted footage of some sort.  I am thankful for that first impression because I am grieved by what followed. I cannot get some of the images out of my head.  I keep telling myself that the outrageous is what makes news (why else would Joy Bahart and  Whoopie Goldberg have a daytime TV program?). Right now, I am spending 1/2 hour a day strapped to a table with the scent of burning flesh in my nose trying to think of anything else other than where I am, and I am tired, so I have a lot of time to sit around and think.  Monday on the table, I was processing these images. One in particular, of two women with a sign that read, If Mary had an abortion we wouldn’t be in this mess kept flashing in my head.  (I’m not inserting the picture because I don’t want to further the hype, and it turns out it wasn’t actually from the march.) Upon first seeing it, my response was, “I don’t even know what to say to that.” But, strapped to the table, I found the expression. I felt hopeless like my nation was turning from God and there was nothing I could do about it.  

Just in case you don’t know, I don’t do hopeless.  If you are ever feeling hopeless, you need to back up and recognize that the Enemy of your life is in your head lying to you.  Christ is hope! Hope is part of his character.  There are 3 (actually more than 3, but I grasp these three most fully) truths to living a Kingdom live, an abundant life with joy and peace and truth.  1. Confession 2. Repentance 3. Forgiveness will turn your life around and close access to the accuser to harass you!  So, I headed straight for repentance on that table, my heart full of grief and sorrow, I was reminded of Josiah, a king who did not know God’s ways because his nation was so corrupt, but who led his nation back to God through confession and repentance after hearing God’s word, and I started pleading with the Lord for mercy, that he would call us back to him and his truth. 
I’ve been ending up in scriptures I didn’t like for several months, and it affected me to the point that I didn’t read as much.  I kept landing in scripture about God’s judgement and I like to deny that part of things.  I just want his grace, his mercy, his kindness, but justice is equally part of his person. For me to ignore that is to make him small, and right now I don’t need a small god.  I need an all powerful God, one who comforts me in MRI machines, stills me when I am throwing up, and gives strength when I can’t face treatments on my own.  On the table I was also reminded that God is not to be mocked.  He is holy. His name is holy, and we are called to holiness as well.  I was reminded of Ananias and Sapphira.

Acts 5 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.  

7 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” 10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.

Over and over in scripture that God comes to people and wins them to him with his kindness and grace, but if we continue to ignore him, he speaks with judgement to get our attention. Because he’s a good father. As parents, we try to correct our children gently when they are out of line, but when they don’t respond, we have to be more forceful to save their lives, to grow them into mature people.  Please, spend time with him this week.  Ask, “Lord, what do you want to say today?” Then listen.

Blessings!

#hashtags Matter and other thoughts

Can I be honest? I haven’t been to Sunday morning church since Christmas Day.  I can tell you that it is because I am avoiding germs, the stomach bug, bronchitis, and that is true.  More true is this: I’m intimidated by it.  The people we know in Houston who have ties to churches attend VERY LARGE churches, 10,000 member kind of churches.  My town has a population of 5,000. Not to mention that in a crowd, I feel like a middle school girl at a dance with a bad haircut and ugly dress…AWKWARD. So, I’ve worshipped in (if that’s a thing).  It’s easy to do, to watch Bethel or Grace Center, to interact with God, to ponder, to consider, to look at Facebook, all the things I do in church, right?  I’ve tried guilting myself with my standard thoughts, “Isn’t God worthy of your time?” “You’re a pastor for goodness sake!” Yet, I don’t go… I would make an excuse, but I would just be lying.  Yet I am experiencing the profound importance of the Church as I never have in my life.

We just watched This is Where I Leave You. I have watched so much TV because most other forms of entertainment make me car sick.  Anyway, there is a line in the movie after Jason Bateman explains that his wife has left him after having an affair with his boss, and his father died that his love interest responds, “You are having a profoundly bad year.” Cary looked at me and said, “Do you think we could say that?” I suppose we could (I won’t, because I refuse to have a bad year).  Last May Cary’s father passed.  It was the first time I knew the impact of visiting a funeral home.  We are overwhelmed by the people who stopped by to say goodbye, the line out the front door.  I just didn’t know how important the little things are: the cards that were sent, the little gifts and notes. It means something to know you are seen in a crisis, that other people realize that the world should stop for a bit because you have suffered a major loss.

This week, this month really, I have understood again how much little things matter. For some crazy reason, I thought it would be fun to have a hashtag contest.  Just for fun. So after three days of suggestions and voting #notmybattle (submitted by good friend Rachelle Boggess)  beat out #KatieAli (a nickname given to me by my grandfather when I got in a fight at 16 – I won, btw🥊) and #katenip (submitted by Ron Dockery) along with several other clever suggestions. Then my best friend for most of high school, Preston, sent out a request for people to send in pictures and scriptures and funny videos to lift us up, and boy did people get on board! My heart is overflowing with the scripture that showed up at the right moments, the crazy videos in Message, a vase of sunflowers on the table from ‘Team Katie’, a box of goodness, the precious faces of people I love & who love me on Facebook.  Sunday morning I sat at brunch with happy tears destroying my mascara because one of my schools posted a picture with their faculty to support us.  My pharmacy, both my sister in laws, friends from preschool, the list goes on and on, and it all is overwhelming! Today I had 5 greeting cards in the mailbox, and each touched a different part of my heart. (Can we just say that greeting cards trump bills any day!)

I didn’t know how much it all mattered. I’ve always thought no one noticed if I made it to an event, a birthday party, a graduation, a funeral because I was so lost in the crowd at those places.  So, if I have missed something that was important to you, I am so sorry.  I would like to blame it on my insecurity, but really I am just selfish and more worried about my feelings of loneliness than how my presence might support you.  I am changing… slowly.


 

So, back to church.  We were invited to a home church today.  We didn’t go.  I didn’t feel great at meeting time, but I was so much more comfortable with the idea of going there.  We have had home church at our house several times.  I like the freedom, that things are different every time.  My kids ask often if we can do it again. I think it’s their preferred worship setting. Our home church experience didn’t pan out, and I got a little gun shy, but I think maybe it is time to start it again.

Because, what if I hadn’t spent years in community with other people? So many people in so many different bodies of faith.  How lonely would this be? Who would text with a prayer when my faith is weak? Who would remind me that Psalm 91 is for me & that healing is coming? And how many people are in that boat?  Of the 5000 people in my little town, how many look at my tiny church and are just a intemidated as I am by the 10,000 member church? How many of them long for community, for people who will really be there, but they don’t know anything like that exists? They don’t know the importance of Christ’s body because they haven’t experienced Church, real church, in the trenches, people surrounding you, God speaking today Church & it’s sad!

You know what hurts my heart? The people at M.D. Anderson with kids. The ones with sick kids destroy me, but the couple last week in the waiting room with a 3 & 4 year old scaring the fish in the tank and yelling “Poppy! Poppy! We are going to daycare here!”made me happy, because I miss my kids, but sad because they looked tired, and I knew they probably didn’t have the support that we have. And it made me thankful for my family (like my sister who is spending a week at my house with her babies), and my extended family who ask what they can do, anything, and they mean it. 

So, I’m convinced scripture is true.  Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Here’s a little truth.  I wouldn’t have all these amazing people if my mom hadn’t brainwashed me into church.  When I complained about going as a kid, she made me go anyway. When we were in Owensboro for the weekend, we went to 1st Baptist.  She made being part of the body a habit in my life until I was old enough to fall in love with Christ and his church. At home, I church hop.  I’ve been a member of the same church for 19 years, but I find joy in a wider exposure to people who do things differently than GUMC.  

I took off the month of December from Shaver’s Chapel because my schedule was so unpredictable and we expected to start treatments weeks earlier than reality allowed. During my unexpected time in the ‘Berg, I visitied Living Word, a church God has given a unique vision to produce productions that draw a generation to him.  While there, a comment was made about me & friends with us, that we were people working to bring the churches together for Christ’s purposes in our region.  I was incredibly humbled.  This is my heart, but it isn’t a named, defined ministry, and to have someone recognize that was, well, humbling.  I visited ACC for the kicks off of their new college and up ministry, I got to see my friend C.B. lay his heart and testimony on the line to tell the greatness of God’s goodness and glory. 

Church doesn’t look like it used to.  God is doing a new thing (or an old thing, if you return to the first 100 years of the Way).  As the Church, we need to stop and think about some things.  1. A traditional church is super intimidating to someone who hasn’t attended before, or who has been hurt by church people. 2. New church expressions are going to be equally uncomfortable for people who have been raised in a church, any church, because it’s different, and change is hard. But we have to find a way to support one another in the ministry God has called us each to live out. 3. People still need Jesus and his Church because HE IS AWESOME! Jesus is so much more and so much bigger than the Bible Belt has allowed us to believe. Here’s the reality: the creator of everything, of time, of space, of air, of land, of cells, and protons, that Creator saw you and everyone you have ever met from the first beam of light breaking through darkness, and he loved. That’s what he did. He created us to love and to be loved and to know him, not just to know about him, but to KNOW him, to talk to him and to listen to him speak (do more listening, actually). That God, wants to have influence with you, like your best friend has influence with you, not like the president of the company has influence with you.  

Some day you are going to have a cancer diagnosis, or your spouse is going to have an affair with your boss, or your father will die, or some crisis will come that you can not control and your are going to need people and a God who is bigger than your problems. So, Go to church. Start building that support system now.  Make your kids go with you, especially the winey ones. For me, I’m going to a home meeting with people I’ve never met, in the 3rd largest city in the USA. I’m taking my daughter, because she’s coming to see me this weekend (so excited!).  If you don’t know where to go, say a little prayer, shut up, and go where you feel led.  God is bigger than your confusion and mine.
Blessings & love from Houston❤️