Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Grateful Heart


God, if you love me why did you take my husband? God, if you are in control why is life so hard? Yes, I found myself crying out these exact words a few days ago.  You may have your own list of different questions at times, but the answer remains the same...Life is tough my friends, but God is always faithful! I have had people say to me, "How do you still have so much faith after all you have been through?" And I think, "how can I not?" I still have bad days, days I will question, but not due to lack of faith, but because I am simply feeling sad or discouraged. Having a bad day doesn't mean you have any less faith. 

Anyone who has suffered a great loss in their life knows what I am talking about when I say this: I lost a part of myself when my husband died. I discovered over the last year that I have struggled to try and regain that. But I have realized that a lot of what is gone, needed to be and that it's okay, because God wants to take what has been lost and restore it with something better, something more refined and polished. I am continuous work in progress!

I think my emotions are running high lately due partly to Aaron graduating and not having Nick here to experience this very important and joyous occasion. I confess, that over the last couple of months I found myself really focusing more on what and who I didn't have in my life, instead of all I have to be grateful for. I always try to encourage others to find that daily "nugget" or blessing that God has for them, yet I was failing to do that myself. The enemy had been robbing me of my joy and I didn't even know it.

God had a message for me! This past Sunday at church I heard a sermon about gratitude given by Pastor Steven Furtick. Before the message was even over the tears were flowing. I had such conviction about the lack of gratitude I had been giving to the things in my life. During the sermon Pastor Steven asked the congregation to take a deep breath in and then let it out....then he said, "Now, that was on credit!" That quickly brought back the memory of Jan 29th, 2011 and seeing my husband take his last breath. I was instantly reminded of how grateful I needed to be for my own health and the health and protection of my children. How could I not be grateful for the amazing friends that God had chosen to fill that void in my life with? How can I not be thankful when my Savior is working to repair what has been broken inside of me? Or when in the depths of my loneliness I am really never alone, because He is always there to comfort me. The list is really endless when you break it down daily. Don't we all really have so much to be thankful  and praise God for?

Psalm 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. 

I pray that my thoughts, my attitude, but most of all my heart will overflow with gratefulness at all that God has so graciously blessed me with. 

With a grateful heart,


Thursday, May 24, 2012


My latest story on FACES is about someone who I have known for a while now, someone who started his own journey with cancer shortly after my husband started his. There is no doubt that the Lord crossed our paths and our lives would forever be changed because of it.

His name is Eddie and he was diagnosed with AML, Acute Myeloid Leukemia in August 2010, just three months after my husband's cancer had returned. AML is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and is the most common type of acute leukemia. More than 11,900 new cases occur in the United States each year, mostly in older adults.

Eddie had started feeling really tired, but like most of us do he chalked it up to being very busy. After all, he had a very busy summer, which included a missions trip to Thailand. But when a mouth sore just would not heal, and at the urging of his wife, Kelley, he went to the doctor. After a series of tests, and a very frightening trip to the ER, which resulted in a hospital stay, the results were conclusive and confirmed that Eddie had AML.

As you can imagine and as with many that get this diagnosis, Eddie was shocked, in disbelief, and just felt sadness and fear. He says his wife shed a lot of tears those first few days.

As I write this I cannot help but to think about the many times we were all at Mayo hospital together, them on one floor, us on another. One time in particular, we by chance ran into Eddie and his precious wife in the lobby. I took one look at her face, and I saw that her eyes were filled with tears. We huddled in circle, holding hands, and began to pray for God's supernatural peace to flow throughout us right there in that Mayo lobby. It certainly did! I am not sure that I ever told that dear couple how thankful my husband and I were for that moment and that prayer time.

One question I always ask is: How do you feel like this has changed you? Eddie said "I think it has made me appreciate what's really important that much more...especially the time with my family." Eddie goes on to say how he felt like he had missed out on so much like his son's 3rd birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas because he had to spend so much time in the hospital, including one stay which concluded with 100 days in isolation after his bone marrow transplant.

Eddie also shared how it was one of the most powerful examples of answered prayers he had ever experienced firsthand. I wholeheartedly agree with Eddie! When you have walked hand and hand with the Lord in the valley of cancer you become transformed and you will experience the power of prayer in your life like never before. Not only is cancer a physical and emotional life is a spiritual one as well.

Both Eddie and Kelley shared how the wonderfully kind and gracious support from so many of their family, friends and church family was a constant reminder to them they were not alone and gave them so much strength.

I asked Eddie to explain if someone did not know you, what is the one thing you would want them to learn about you through this story? Eddie said that they had always believed the commonly quoted idea, "God never gives you more than you can handle." Interestingly, he looked, and this is actually not found anywhere in the Bible. What Eddie did find, however, was that God will never give you more than He can handle." Eddie shared how that gave them such great comfort. He went on to say that if we fall into the mindset of believing that it's about what "we" can handle, we start to think, "I must really be something special because God gave me such a big obstacle!" Eddie emphasized that it is ultimately not about us! It is about God and how He will see you through. He does not promise an easy ride or a happy ending, but He does promise to be there every step of the way.

I am more than happy to report that Eddie is now cancer free. Thanks to an anonymous donor through the organization, a perfect 10/10 match was found, and he underwent a successful bone marrow transplant. In fact he recently celebrated his one year mark! Congratulations Eddie and family!

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for this family and the journey we shared with them. Though at times a very painful one, still one I know that God had so sweetly woven together. Each enduring our own level of suffering with our loved ones brought on by the sharp sword of cancer, but yet praying for and encouraging one another just as Christ would have it. I always believe if we look hard enough each day we will find a "nugget" that God has sent to us, big or small it is there! This family was definitely a "nugget" of joy on our journey.

I want to end with something Kelley shared with me. She said cancer brings much fear, and what is the opposite of fear? Peace. Perfect love. Security. Courage. God is the author of these beautiful things...and only God.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Today was one of those days where I woke up and I immediately had that feeling of the “blues”. It is just one of those things you cannot control, but before my feet even hit the floor I began to pray that the Lord would intercede and help me to feel His loving and peaceful arms wrapped around me, and to please guide and direct my steps today.

So, I  began my morning routine, except today the tears were flowing pretty steadily. I got dressed and left the house to run my errands. In the midst of the running around and wiping the tears I received a call from my friend and hair stylist (who was just released from the hospital a few days ago) asking me if I wanted to come in for a little touch up since I missed my appointment last week. Of course I said yes!

As I arrived and walked into the salon I saw a lady sitting under the dryer, flipping through a magazine. I didn’t really pay much attention to her at first, until I got seated in the chair across from her and then we began to talk. She spoke about how she used to love having blonde hair and would hope to have it again, once her hair had grown back in some more. That statement quickly grab my attention! I went on to speak with this lovely woman in depth about being diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2010.

Her name is Carla, and she is my first unplanned, impromptu F.A.C.E.S. story. After speaking with her and seeing how she exuded a joy that was so contagious, I could not wait to get home and write about some of what she shared with me.

From the moment Carla began to speak she had such a radiant smile on her face. She spoke about being diagnosed at the young age of 52. I asked her how she found out that she had breast cancer? She said she went for her routine mammogram ("Mammo-on-Wheels" she called it!). She was subsequently asked to do a ultrasound and a biopsy. She went on to say she got that dreaded phone call at work telling her that she had cancer. Her mother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 61 and made a full recovery, but a few years later lost her battle to stage four colon cancer. Carla was certainly no stranger to the world of cancer. She really didn’t talk a lot about the medical end of things, except about the chemotherapy that led to her hair loss, and that she underwent 34 radiation treatments while continuing to work!

Carla was more eager to share about the support and care she has received from her family, friends, and co-workers. She enjoys playing tennis and shared with me a wonderful story of how her tennis team attended an annual tennis tournament that she always looked forward to going to, but due to her chemotherapy could not go that year. Her tennis team made little fans with a picture of her face on them and would take pictures of the fans in different places at the tournament. Her team told her “we are bringing you with us!” They even managed to get a professional tennis player to take a picture with the fan and autograph it! You could tell this was a memory etched forever in Carla’s heart. Her face beamed with joy as she told it. Another sweet story she passionately shared involved her co-workers who all wore pink (even the men) on the day she returned back to work after her surgery. Carla said it was quite a sight!

I feel like it is moments like that, that help bridge the gap of loneliness and fear that cancer patients often suffer through. Carla shared how she would meet other breast cancer patients, some that would be really sick as the disease had progressed, and others that had made it through and were doing well. She said she used to think how grateful she was that she was not as sick as some and how much hope it would bring her being able to see the ones who had conquered and made it through. She shared how she viewed this experience as a chapter in her life and she kept turning the pages.

When I asked her in what way did she feel like cancer had changed her, she said “I just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.” Laughing, she said she surely doesn’t complain about having a bad hair day! I about fell out of my chair when she said about a quick reality check! All of a sudden the gray hairs didn’t seem that important anymore. And in the biggest, brightest smile Carla said the thing with chemo is that you also lose all your facial hair so it was nice not to have to worry about plucking or waxing for a while! Her attitude simply amazed me.

As she finished getting all dolled up, we exchanged emails, I took a quick picture of her and I told her I was going to write about her. She had inspired me with her positive spirit, her glowing smile and her willingness to be so open and share with me in hopes of helping others through their cancer journey. We may have been complete strangers when I walked in, but we definitely sparked a friendship that was ignited by common bond of a cancer journey. I was indeed blessed!

On my drive home I was smiling thinking about meeting Carla and how the weight of the world didn’t feel quite as heavy as it had. I was so thankful that the Lord had used Carla to bring some light into the darkness of my day. It was funny, I thought: I had no hair appointment, no intentions of going to that salon today, but my Heavenly Father had other plans for me.

I am reminded how God is always there to guide and direct our steps every single day. We just have to be willing to follow.