Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Everybody gets to see so much of my mom in the words on this blog. They get to see a compassion and a desire to reach out to others who are experiencing a pain she knows so well. They get to see a strength and a persistence in encouraging other people. 
But what you don’t always get to see is her gift as a mother. I can’t express how incredible it is to know you have someone who is always protective of you, concerned about you, and supportive of you. I’m blessed beyond measure to be able to experience that kind of love from a parent. 
I think sometimes my mom’s strength is seen in light of all she has gracefully overcome in the past year, and while she certainly as grown so much from that, I have always known her to be this person whose wisdom and loyalty you can’t help but to admire. I am no stranger to this beautiful person that my mom is, inside and out. 
It’s a privilege to be your son, mom. I thank God for you, and pray that He blesses you abundantly for your heart to reach other people. I cannot wait to see you continue to transform and allow your life to become a living testimony to so many more people. 

Though things might not be as simple as they once were, and though there is always going to be uncertainty, I know that there is an anointing on your life if you continue to allow God to work through you. Great things come in obedience, and so much of what you do is a testament to what it means to be refined by fire. 
Thank you for being you. Happy Birthday to the most amazing mother, friend, and woman I know. 

Friday, February 24, 2012


Of the people I have written about so far, I think Cindy is the one I can relate to the most as a caretaker, a widow, and a mother, who lost her husband to cancer at the very young age of 42. 
Cindy and Gary were married for 16 years and have three wonderful daughters. They both attended Christ the Redeemer Church. Cindy says that Redeemer has been their church family since 1993. In fact, that is where they first became boyfriend and girlfriend, got engaged, and fought the cancer fight together with the Body of Christ loving and praying for them. 
Gary suffered with bone cancer, an exceptionally painful type of cancer. As with many cancer patients, at lot of time was spent in and out of the hospital and going to countless doctor’s appointments. As Cindy continued to talk about her caretaking role, I realized we had walked a very similar path. She said her husband would not let anyone else take care of him, and she considered it her privilege to be his full-time caretaker herself. There was joy in knowing that Gary loved and trusted her that much.
I asked Cindy to tell me about the day that she heard the word “terminal” for the first time. Cindy said, “We were stunned, we had to just sit and comprehend what had been told to us. We decided we didn’t tell our kids right away until we felt like we could process things.” 
Cindy went on to tell how if she and Gary would feel overwhelmed or sad, they would get in the car together and drive down the long road they lived on. She said they had a lot of talks with God driving up that road. She shared how there were times when she would even yell at the Lord, and she knew He was okay with that. But I think one of the most powerful things Cindy shared was how she remembers the moment when she could hear the faint voice of her Heavenly Father saying “Will you love me no matter what?”  She decided at that point that her faith in God was not dependent on whether her husband lived or died. 
After Cindy confided this, we were both in tears. I knew God had brought me to this sweet sister in Christ for a reason, to let us both know we were not alone on this journey of healing. 
On August 2nd, 2011 Gary, an amazing husband and father was called home to spend an eternity with his Heavenly Father.  Cindy shared how she remembers thinking, “I am alone now and I don’t like to be alone, how am I going to do this?” God’s gentle voice responded, “You’re going to have to continue to trust in Me, and you’re going to have to do this now as Cindy, not Gary and Cindy.” Praise the Lord that His strength is always sufficient! 
As Cindy went on to speak about how she is learning to live again, she shared that she went back to college and is only two classes away from getting her AA and then her goal is to transfer into the print journalism program at UNF. I am sure Gary is so proud!

A final but touching story that Cindy told me was about going with her daughters to see the movie Courageous, after Gary had passed away. Courageous is a movie about four men who vow to raise their families under the covenant of God. “Of course, I cried,” Cindy said “but my daughters didn’t." Instead they saw what could only been seen from the eyes of a child that loved and adored their father; they saw that their Dad was Courageous.
When I asked Cindy to share something that she wants others to know about her journey, she so eloquently said “to trust and put everything in God and don’t deny others the blessing of wanting to help you.” I recognized in Cindy that same strength I had to gain, that strength to humble oneself in order that others might lift you up. 

It seemed fitting that  one of Cindy’s favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 from the Message Translation: "Satan's angel did his best to get me down. What he in fact did was push me to my knees. At first, I did not think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Then He told me, "My grace is enough. It's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness." For all of those who fight with extraordinary strength, it is wonderful to know the true source of the power within us. 

You can read Cindy’s full story at:

Friday, February 17, 2012


One of Judy’s favorite bible verses is Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God.” She said this was her way of thinking that God would protect her from the devil “cancer”.

Nevertheless, Judy said that she always felt she would receive that diagnosis. She had been diagnosed with fiber cystic disease when she was 25 years old, a diagnosis that made breast cancer more likely and more difficult to detect. 
The extent of what Judy had to go through medically is almost unbelievable. She elected to do things in steps and phases. She shared with me that she asked her doctor what her prognosis was, and that he told her she had a 50/50 chance. Judy decided immediately which side of those odds she was on: “I’ve decided ‘I’m going to win this.’”
Having walked through cancer with a loved one, I am always interested in how people initially contend with the news of their diagnosis. I asked Judy how she felt when she first received the news she had cancer. 
“I didn’t cry at first, I think I was in shock and got sick to my stomach.” Judy said she remembers making that call to her sister Jo to tell her the news. The words Jo spoke to her sister stayed in Judy’s head throughout her battle. 
“She told me that cancer is not a death sentence,” Judy said. She confided that she began to cry on her car ride home that day in an effort to get it all out before she had to break the news to her daughter, who was seven at the time and her mom and dad.
 Judy shared with me a memory of sitting at her first chemotherapy treatment and getting teary-eyed, because she didn’t know how it was going to make her feel. The fear of the unknown is a fear that can be haunting in any life-changing situation, particularly with cancer. Thankfully, she responded very well, and she returned to work part-time and did not miss a single day during her six-week radiation treatment.The warrior in Judy was coming out. 
As with many cancer patients, Judy talked about the sadness she felt when she started losing her hair and knew it was time to get her head shaved. She spoke candidly about the experience, “I didn’t care what I looked like, it was just the fact that everybody would know I was sick. I didn’t look sick with my hair, but I did without it.” I felt that Judy did not identify herself as a victim of cancer, and she did not wish for anyone else to either. 
The determination in Judy’s voice when I spoke to her inspired me so much. She would say things like “I made myself get up, get dressed, and do something everyday and it is easier to sit in a corner and feel sorry for yourself, then to stand up and fight.” She went onto say  “I wasn’t afraid to die, but I had a will to beat this, because I had adopted my niece who had already lost one mother. I didn’t want her to lose another.” 
I loved the testimony Judy shared, and how she spoke with conviction when she spoke of Scripture. “The Bible says in Jeremiah to ask your elders to anoint you with oil for healing.” Judy went to her deacons with this, and as they came one night to speak prayers of healing over her, she said she could feel the weight lifted from her shoulders. God responded. 
This past Thanksgiving was four years cancer-free for Judy, who is now 50 years old. Through her faith, determination, and the many prayers from her family and friends, Judy has survived. I think one of the most incredible things that I heard Judy say was “I believe that I am in a win-win situation, live or die, I cannot lose.” That is a faith that runs deep in heart and soul, knowing your eternity is set. I am reminded of that verse in Philippians, chapter one, which reminds us that “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 
I ended our conversation with asking Judy “How has having cancer changed you?” 
She replied “The younger we are, we see life like we can live forever. Cancer reminds you there are no guarantees. God only promises us the moments we are breathing.” 

Friday, February 10, 2012


I arrived at Mara’s (that’s MAH-rah) quaint home, and the first thing I couldn’t help but notice was the trellised fence with an arched gate absolutely covered in ivy. It was a little piece of old-world brought right to her backyard. 

I don’t really know where to start with Mara’s story. Though quiet, and sweet, she had a stoicism about her. I imagined it came from migrating to America from Hungary at the age of 12, and having to learn a new language as she came of age in a foreign culture, and that her years as a mother of three and wife taught her how to be strong for others. 

“She has a maturity and a sweet spirit about her,” Sheri, her neighbor and caretaker, said. 

Seeing Mara, who is only 53 years old, was a reminder of what cancer can and cannot take away. She spoke about how much she missed working with computers at Baptist Hospital and taking care of her two dogs and two cats. She reminisced about skiing in Austria and visiting her homeland. Her eyes lit up when she spoke of her husband and how she liked when he was home from work and would sit by her side. About her house hung beautiful quilts stitched by Mara herself. “That one has my daughter Abigail’s handprints stitched into it,” Mara said. As I sat and listened to her speak I could hear the love of a mother's heart pouring out.  

Yet Mara spends the day very tired, working with physical therapy and battling her glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer. Currently on chemotherapy, Mara experiences the weakness and the fatigue of fighting with extraordinary strength. Though radiation did not work, Mara shared the greatest advice a cancer patient can be given: “Don’t worry about the numbers, focus on recovery. Averages don’t matter.” We always said that God has His own timeline. I think Mara might agree. 

In just the short time I spent with Mara, I could tell she was loved. Her boss from Baptist Hospital stopped by to say hello and pick up a stove. Sheri, who put me in contact with Mara, came upon the opportunity to spend time and help take care of Mara after losing her job. I saw so many faces affected by cancer, so many lives that Mara’s journey was influencing. 

“Are you afraid of dying?” I ask her. 


“Is that because you know that you will spend that eternity in heaven?” 

“It’s hard, because you can’t be sure where you will go.” 

I knew in my heart the answer to that uncertainty, and those of us in the room began to talk about our faith and how the Lord brought us through our journey. We ministered by testimony, and Mara seemed to understand that we had found joy. 

A little while later, we asked her what brought her comfort in her frustration. She said she liked to think about what heaven might be like, imagining her grandfather’s old house and garden with all of her cousins there. It was a sweet vision, sweet like Mara. 
I thought Sheri’s words as we began to leave were poignant for any battle in life: “He’s weaving a beautiful tapestry that we can’t see yet through the tears of our broken heart.”  It was a perfect way to phrase Mara’s story. 

We closed in prayer, and I truly could feel the warmth and peace of the Lord in her home. I hoped she could begin to feel it too, and accept the gift of the eternity that was nearing. I received a text the evening after we met, and Mara had asked for a book about Jesus. I pray that Mara receives that gift offered to her so that, after all her suffering, she might get to spend time in that old house and garden with her King.

Since visiting Mara over two weeks ago she has taken a turn for the worse. She spent a few short days in hospice and is now at home where she will be able to rest peacefully, surrounded by her family. 

Yet, my heart is overjoyed that this story isn't quite finished. This morning Mara's friend Sheri prayed a prayer of salvation with her, and now Mara can be sure where she will spend eternity.

It has been a privilege for me to get a little glimpse into the life of this sweet, courageous  woman. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2nd, 2012

As a Mother, being able to celebrate our children's birthday is a wonderful priviledge. I have so much joy thinking about my "baby" Aaron turning 18 tomorrow (Feb. 3rd). It breaks my heart to realize that I barely remember him turning 17, as it was such a difficult time for us. So, I pray that this birthday will be extra special for him. If I had my way, there would be birthday hats, blowers, pin the tail on the donkey, etc...But I will spare him that embarrassment and instead share my heart. 

Aaron this is for you Boo! (sorry, that is my nickname for him)!

I know this is one of your favorites:

1 Peter, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

When I think about all that God has orchestrated in my life, everything down to the last little detail, the thing that blows me away the most is you. He created you with such strength, love and determination. And although, I know you have had to grow up quickly, you really have always had that "old soul" within you. I think that Josh Turner says it best when you calls you a "man- child." It is so true! 

To say you make me proud doesn't even begin to describe how my heart feels. Watching you endure the loss of your dad, and seeing you walk closer to the Lord than ever before has been a remarkable sight. God has used you in such a way, that not only have you been a witness to so many others, but your obedience to the Lord has ministered to me in ways that I cannot even begin to explain and I am the parent!  

To look at you and see the man you are becoming moves me to tears. Your Dad use to say he would live on through his kids, and when I see that certain look on your face or hear that infamous Badida laugh, I know he was right. I cherish those moments and you must know how proud you made your Dad.

I do not know what the future holds for you. I know we are doing the only thing we know how to do and that is pray and trust the Lord with every decision. I know whatever happens God will have his hand on you, leading, guiding and continuing to mold you into the man He wants you to be.

 God has blessed us with each other, you are my joy and it is a privilege to be your Mom! 

I hope you enjoy every single second of your special day (better yet your special weekend)! Happy Birthday!

I love you,