Thankful Thursday: Gratitude, Peace and Vision

As some of you know, we’ve been battling cancer in our house. Entrepreneur was diagnosed with renal cell cancer (kidney cancer) in November 2014. Surgery removed the diseased kidney and scans of his lungs and thyroid were inconclusive for any metastasized cell growth. However….they were not scanning his brain. In February of 2016, a mass was discovered on the right side of his brain, which required surgery.  After surgery and radiation, he developed Bell’s Palsy which rendered the right side of his face partially paralyzed. It took almost nine months for that to pass, although he still has some minor issues with his right eye. Daily oral chemotherapy was prescribed to try and get out ahead of any cancer that might be waiting to show its ugly head.

At this time, there is no cure for renal cell cancer. Average lifespan after renal cell diagnosis is 5 years. The oncologist said the best we can do is try and stave off its growth for as long as possible. But chemo began to ravage his systems and he lost about 25 pounds along with having to deal with the other nasty chemo-induced side effects. We literally have friends and family from across the globe lifting us up in prayer.

Fast forward to Wednesday, October 3rd. Entrepreneur’s new oncologist is of the opinion that, because no new renal cell cancer growth has shown up for the past year and a half, he will give him a drug holiday! His words were, “right now, it’s not the cancer that’s killing you, it’s the chemo.” I concur. It’s been heartbreaking to watch my husband of 38 years wasting away; his strength and resolve getting weaker and weaker by the day because of the chemo pills.

It’s a mixed bag of blessings. Was the chemo keeping the cancer at bay, which is why nothing shows on the scans? Or, like the doctor said, there isn’t anything in your body for the chemo to fight, so why are we continuing to destroy you?  He will continue to be scanned every three months and, when it returns, we’ll discuss options again.

But for now, we’re thankful and grateful for God’s tender mercy that will allow him to enjoy our upcoming family vacation, the holidays, and hopefully reach far into 2019. We’re thankful and grateful for every word of prayer offered on our behalf. We’re thankful and grateful to be surrounded by love and support. It has truly made a difference in our lives.

He’s gained back five pounds this week. 🙂


Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie

Blog hopping today with Brian’s Home for Thankful Thursday. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

 

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Spark of friendship


A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
~Proverbs 27:9

Last Wednesday, Entrepreneur was scheduled for another set of CT scans to monitor the renal cell cancer spots in his lungs. While many friends are aware of the anxiety that always builds up to these appointments, one friend took their support a bit further.

No one is definitively claiming authorship of the mini mural that appeared at the end of my driveway Wednesday morning, but I have a good idea who the artist is. And, I love her for it. She is truly a sparkly person that dispels darkness wherever she goes.

I purposely didn’t crop out anything out of this photo or “pretty it up” in any way. I think the juxtaposition between the beauty of the chalk drawing and message with the raw reality of the concrete, asphalt and winter scruff makes the point quite well.

Playing along with Sparks and Awww……Monday. Annie’s Sparks philosophy is very simple.

The negative energy of the world has become thick and oppressive. Social media has become a part of this dare, negative storm. There is an obvious, universal need for more positive energy and peace. And, we can be a part of this affirmative change.

I believe we are meant to be lights in this world. If we allow our light to shine, we can see where we are going. It is then that we can begin to truly see each other clearly. There is hope. Together, we can light up the entire world!

 

Sandee’s Awww…..Monday is a simple blog hop where all that’s needed is a photo that makes the viewer say “awwwwwww.” How easy is that?

My One Word for 2018

In 2015, I began choosing My One Word for the year as a replacement for coming up with New Year’s resolutions. The goal is to help my attitude and attention focus on an aspect for my life moving forward into the new year. Doing it this way, instead of focusing on changing past behaviors, allows me to grow as a person and, hopefully, be better for the effort.

One Word for 2015: Fearless: This was the year after Entrepreneur was diagnosed with renal cell cancer. Overall, I think I’m stronger in the face of this challenge by focusing on trying to be less fearful of the future.

One Word for 2016: Present:  This was the year I wanted to focus more on being present with my grandbabykins and family without the distraction of social media. There were mixed results, but I’m more conscious now of how much time my eyes are focused downward instead of outward.

One Word for 2017: Joy:  I would have to chalk this one up to a FAIL. I tried. I really did. But Joy was elusive to me last year. Similar to 2014, Entrepreneur’s cancer manifested itself as a brain tumor in February. After surgery on Valentine’s Day, the rest of the year was spent trying to overcome the deficits that come along with brain surgery. Bells Palsy set in around April after radiation treatments. He started oral chemotherapy and the side effects have been rough. I did try to be open to moments where I felt a sense of Joy but they were few and far between…and maybe somewhat nonexistent. While 2017 did have some happy moments, I’m afraid I lost my Joy in the middle of the muck.

So, here I am…going into 2018 ready to focus my attention and attitude on another word. It’s a word I desperately need to focus upon in order to find last year’s lost Joy. And that word is:

Shalom

To many, Shalom simply means peace….or an absence of hostility. Honestly, I’d be good with less life hostilities.

But, what is peace? To those governing countries, it’s no other country trying to wage war against them. To parents, it’s the quiet that happens when children are not actively destroying the house. To others, it’s an absence of anxiety and worry. And still to others, it’s simply having peace of mind about a situation or circumstance.

Lasting peace is fleeting. There will always be war between countries somewhere in the world, The quiet, family household will always, once again, erupt in the noises of children. Worry and anxiety will always creep into our minds, destroying any “peace” of mind that might have been present.

True peace is fleeting when it’s dependent on us. Shalom has a much deeper meaning. Biblical Shalom is a deep sense of completeness or wholeness that settles our souls. It’s a feeling of contentment and harmony that transcends the circumstances of our lives. This kind of lasting peace, or shalom…wholeness, completeness and harmony…can only come from God.

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” ‘
~Numbers 6:22-26

When God spoke these words to Moses, he wanted him to understand there would be an inner peace and completeness only when they trusted in God’s protection, and had an understanding that He was in control, regardless of the circumstances.

Peace is dependent on the absence of something and is always fragmented. Shalom is more all-encompassing and lasting. It’s a positive force, not dependent on the absence of anything. It’s the gold standard of contentment in the middle of chaos, anger and despair.

For me, there is only one way to true shalom in my life. And, sadly, I tend to forget to trust in the One who is able to provide that for me. I tend to worry and be anxious about situations beyond my control. I run worst-case scenarios in my head when circumstances get dicey. My state of mind is as far from shalom as one can get.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
~Isaiah 26:3-4

This is my focus for 2018. Shalom is my goal through trust in the Prince of Peace, Jesus.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation…
~Ephesians 2:14

I wish nothing but the best for each and every one of you in 2018. Prosperity, good fortune and blessings, but most of all….Shalom!

Might have been bad timing….or not?

Can you believe I chose “Joy” as my One Word for 2017?

Joy. Really?

When I picked this word back in January, my crystal ball was evidently malfunctioning. For who in their right mind would choose Joy knowing their husband would be facing brain surgery in a month and a half? How in the world is one to be able to pay attention to Joy in the middle of crisis and chaos?

I had good intentions choosing Joy for my word this year. Yep, those good intentions were to try to see moments of Joy around me. But it’s oh so much easier to notice Joy when life is beautifully smooth, isn’t it?

Joy seems more elusive when we’re weary with one challenge after another. It’s hard to see the Joy in life when we’re up to our eyeballs in worry and anxiety. Choose Joy is a phrase batted around by those trying to offer help for people facing hopelessness, despair and uncertainty. Like “choosing” joy is as easy as choosing which pair of shoes to wear…or choosing what to order for dinner.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34

Isn’t that the truth.

Back in January, it was so easy to write that Joy doesn’t come from a worry-free, prosperity-filled life. In a more self-reflective moment, I wrote this:

I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

Very profound if I do say so myself. I just don’t know how well I’m doing in this department while in the middle of these “circumstances,” which are hard and more than little overwhelming at times. Left on my own, I don’t feel anything has settled in my heart except mental exhaustion, much less peace and strength.

But there I go again, confusing Joy with Happiness.

I have discovered my hindsight is working fairly well. In hindsight, I’m thankful for the flu. Yes, you heard correctly. I got the flu the Sunday before we were to leave on vacay. By Thursday, Entrepreneur was showing the first signs of it. A flu headache, coupled with the headache he already was experiencing is was drove us to the ER…and to the discovery of the cancer mass.

As terrifying as this event has been, in hindsight, I see it did provide opportunities to repair some family rifts, and opened up heartfelt conversations that otherwise might not have happened. I suppose there are things to be thankful for in the middle of chaos. Focusing on being grateful can result in experiencing Joy.

So, even though 2017 has not started the way I’d hoped, I am going to try and feel those moments of Joy in the middle of chaos and confusion by focusing on being thankful and grateful.

february-rose-72

One Word for 2017

This ended up being a long post, so grab a cuppa and get comfy. I hope to see you all at the end.

Back in 2015 I started choosing One Word for the new year instead of those pesky resolutions that are always broken before the snow thaws in the spring. In 2015 Entrepreneur was facing a cancer diagnosis and my One Word was Fearless (fear less). I believe it helped me focus during that time and continues to be a reminder today.

In 2016, my One Word was Present. I wanted to focus on trying to be more engaged in life, physically, instead of living vicariously through today’s social-media-technology-addicted world. Did I succeed? Overall, I’d say I had mixed results. I did really make an effort to not be obsessed with my phone at the expense of enjoying the moment. Some days were very successful…some were colossal FAILS. But it did make me realize just how easy it is to get sucked into living a virtual life instead of a real one. Last year helped me try and find a balance and use social media more sparingly. Plus, taking care of grandchildren doesn’t lend itself to distractions! In fact, I found myself so present in their well being, work and teaching that a lot of other things took a back seat….like blogging. Which also explains why this post is more than two weeks late.

This year, my One Word is Joy.

I’ve become painfully aware that, while I enjoy a lot of activities and have had many happy moments, a deep feeling of Joy is something that has been elusive the past few years.

Most people would define Joy as feeling extremely happy or something that gives great pleasure. But I think I disagree. Happiness and pleasure are temporary…and most of the time they’re dependent on external influences. Once the source of the happiness is gone, then what? I tend to go in search of the next happy or pleasurable moment. So my life becomes a string of happy/pleasurable experiences…or not.

No, I think Joy is something completely different. To quote CS Lewis,

Joy, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

And, oh baby, is it ever hard to find Joy in the world today. That is, if Joy is defined as something tangible and measurable. And, who doesn’t equate Joy with the feeling of satisfaction and happiness when our world is all good? But, what happens when our world falls apart? What happens when we suffer bitter disappointment, unbearable loss or extreme suffering? But, let’s not be so fatalistic. What about the days when those technology devices we are addicted to don’t work seamlessly? What about when the basement floods or the (pick an appliance) breaks? What about when, after picking up after a toddler, we turn around to feel like a tornado went through the house right behind us? What about the never-ending stress of worrying about your children’s welfare? We certainly are not happy campers during those times. How is it possible to still feel Joy when it seems as though Life’s purpose is to exhaust us into submission?

I suppose it depends on your worldview. Happy and pleasurable moments come and go. If I base my mental well-being on only the things that go right in my world I’m probably not going to be very enjoyable to be around much of the time.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
~James 1:2-3

So easy to say, so hard to live. Many times I wish God would not test my faith so much.

If I base Joy on having a worry-free, prosperity-filled life….well, let’s just say I’m setting myself up for an epic FAIL. No, I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

My goal this year is to be more aware of when Joy speaks to me; to pay more attention to my inner voice so I’m not distracted by the temporary elation of pleasure and happy moments when everything is going my way; to be able to feel calm amidst the irritations, inconveniences and injustices of this life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13

And just to begin this journey with a positive attitude, here’s a photo of a recent instance where Joy made an appearance.

meridia-sunset
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
~Psalm 16:11

O is for Olive Tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe grandeur of the oak tree.
The whispering of the pine tree.
The gracefulness of the weeping willow tree.
The glorious reds and yellows of the maple tree.

Yes, trees are one of nature’s most majestic and beautiful creations.

What about the olive tree? Have you ever wondered about its claim to fame?

Gnarled and twisted, the tree is a survivor…it grows in almost any condition and is virtually indestructible with some trees growing from root systems more than 2,000 years old. The olive tree will grow ever green in extreme heat or cold, drought or monsoon, rocky or sandy conditions. Regardless of its circumstances, the tree will thrive and produce fruit. Many times wild and cultivated olive trees are grafted together to take advantage of each other’s strengths….creating an even stronger tree.

Remarkable in its origins, the olive tree is one of those beautiful creations and symbolic in both Jewish and Christian history. It grows wild in the lands associated with biblical history. It’s fruit and oil is a dietary staple throughout the region and beyond. Noah’s dove returned with a leaf from the indestructible olive tree to confirm the flood waters were receding. Solomon sent the King of Tyre 100,000 gallons (378,533 liters) of olive oil as a gift. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus spent a lot of time during his ministry. Olive branches have been widely used since the time of Julius Cesar to symbolize peace.

We can learn a valuable life lesson from the olive tree; we should remain as steadfast as the olive tree and thrive no matter what circumstances we endure in life.

But there is another lesson to learn. The olive tree is symbolic of God’s people. The olive tree represents the covenant between God and his children. A covenant that is indestructible and can survive through any circumstance. The root system of this covenant is God’s Word….strong and life-giving. The natural branches symbolize Israel and the Jewish faith. The grafted branches are Gentile Christians that have been added to the trunk to enjoy being part of the established tree. The two types of branches don’t symbolize two different trees….the plant is one tree that feeds from the same root system. It’s through God’s covenant with Israel that we as Christians enjoy the promises of grace, forgiveness and salvation through Jesus. Christians need to understand their Hebrew roots and realize the Old Testament is the foundation for everything we hold dear.

Linking up with ABC Wednesday
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