GOD’S CONFORMING POWER – THE SOURCE OF CONTINUAL BLESSING -Genesis 50:20

The past few weeks have been busy and demanding – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  On February 8th through 10th, I went to Corinth, Texas along with two dear friends to attend a workshop at a Messianic Church there.  Then, in a quick turnaround, I went back to the Baylor Medical Center in the Dallas area on Tuesday, February 12 for a visit that would determine my readiness physically to undergo a stem cell transplant.

First, the workshop in Corinth was wonderful as was the fellowship with the people I went with.  I was so glad I went there before my Baylor trip as I believe it built up my spiritual resources which would carry me through the decisions that I have had to make since I got home!  At Baylor, I learned after extensive testing that I was fully eligible to go ahead with the transplant.  At the same time, I began to have very mixed feelings about doing so.  Stem cell transplant is difficult at all levels, and carries significant risks that I was not sure I wanted to take.  To make a long story short, I have decided NOT to go that route at this time.  This is a decision that I agonized over as I so wanted to hear God’s voice in making what felt like one of  the most important decisions of my life.   I went to trusted counselors and asked for prayer from many praying people to help me decide.    What helped me “seal the deal” was my conversation yesterday with my local oncologist who assured me that he could and would put me on a preventive course of treatment that has an equal chance of preventing a reoccurrence of cancer with significantly less risk.  I have decided to take that route, and will start some IV therapy next Tuesday and Wednesday with a combination of immunological and chemotherapeutic drugs.

One thing all medical tests agree on at this point is that I am in a complete remission.  What I know for sure is that I’m feeling great!  So much of the evidence points to my having experienced a true healing from prayer, and I believe this to be true.  My present course is, I also believe, the best way to keep cancer at bay.

After making this decision I find myself reviewing in my mind all that God has done for me in the last six months.  While not the easiest period of time I have ever been through, I can say with all honesty that it has drawn me closer to the Lord in a very sweet and satisfying way.  It  has also re-focused my energy, renewed my mind through scripture, caused me to make progress in trusting God rather than my own understanding, and revealed to me the warmth, love, and support of the people who surround me at this time in my life.  Some of you supportive people are reading this right now, and I cannot tell you what an impact your loving me through this has had on me, body, mind, and spirit.

I would like to offer you today an entry from my personal journal.  What I wrote was pivotal in that changed my perspective on having had cancer.  It is as follows:

Throughout a big part of recorded history, cancer has been identified as an invader and an enemy.  There are writings from early Egyptians that reflect this perspective.  I realized today that if I re-orient my own perspective using the Word of God (particularly Genesis 50 : 20,  which is in the context of the story of Joseph), I see a simple fact.  That is that God can turn ANY evil scheme (invader, enemy) to something that “saves many” and works for good, and not for evil.

God is inherently good, merciful, kind, and just and He loves me.  He will allow me to undergo whatever is necessary to conform me to the image of His Son because that is what IS BEST FOR ME.  I may not understand my circumstances at any given moment, but one day, sometime in my 28th year, I said ‘Lord, I commit my life to you .  Take it and do with it as you will’.  When I said that as an act of my will, He took me seriously and has been working for my benefit ever since.  He continues to mold and make me for His purposes.  Therefore, I am NOT fighting cancer in the conventional sense of mustering all my human resources within my human strength.  The only real fight I have at this moment is to continually submit myself to God’s will and control and joyfully serve Him in the process of cancer.  As I do this, He will not only use me to bring about His purposes, but  will provide me with abundant blessings which enable me not to just endure, but to overcome, no matter what happens to me.”  

The Genesis scripture along with some others has carried me through the weeks of evaluation and decision-making.  There is nothing like the Word of God to sustain us and give us the ability to trust God no matter what!  May you find His peace, joy, direction, and whatever else you need this day as you open the Bible and draw near to  God through His unchanging Word!

Love and Blessings,                         Joy

GOD IN THE DRY TIME II CORINTHIANS 3:18

Hello Everyone!

Over the last week, I have started this post and trashed it twice. Usually my posts just flow, so this is a new experience for me. I realize now that there was some work I had to do on a personal level before I could report on our recent trip to Dallas on January 14. So here goes with a report on what has prehaps been the toughest part of my journey so far!

We had a good, safe trip to the amazing Baylor University Medical Center. It is located on a huge campus made up of many buildings, and the Sammons Cancer Center itself is the newest building on campus. It is there that the nations leading research facility on lymphoma is located, and my appointment was with the physician who is the Director of Cancer Immunotherapy, Blood and Marrow Transplant Services for Baylor Medical Center. I have no idea how I landed in such a place to be meeting with the director when there are many doctors in that department, but spending an hour with him sharing his knowledge with Marv and I was worth the trip in itself. He gave us clear information on every possible thing connected to the nature and treatment of Mantle Cell Lymphoma and sent us home with more to read. While I felt better informed than ever, I realized shortly after I got home that I was newly over-whelmed by what has happened to me in the last few months and “information overload” was in full swing in my brain.

I found myself squarely in the center of a dry and dusty road. While I never lost the sense of the Lord’s presence, I began to withdraw from Him in that I had lost my zest for Bible study (which is usually my delight), or even Bible reading as I found myself thinking “What’s the use? Why am I even considering further treatment for this  rare and poorly understood disease which carries a very poor prognosis? Should I just walk away from further treatment and let nature take its course? The worst that could happen is my getting to heaven sooner rather than later which looks pretty attractive to me at this moment”. These thoughts whirled through my head and I shared them with no one. I came close to real despair. Prayer became wooden and stilted.  I saw no way out.

Finally, yesterday, I let my thoughts spill out to my ever-supportive husband. He listened, and listened, and listened to me. Then he said “Before you say another word, let me read you something”. He began to read to me from three little devotional books that he reads every morning. One was “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, the second was “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, and the third was “Daily Declarations for Spiritual Warfare” by John Eckhardt. As he read them to me, it was as if every phrase, or sentence had been written to address some aspect of what I had poured out as I talked (and cried) to Marv just moments before. I won’t reproduce them here, but I will summarize their messages in three quotes, one from each book:

“Live in a constant state of expectancy and leave room for God to come in as HE decides” (Oswald Chambers based on Galatians 1:15)

“As you keep your focus on Me, I form you into the one I desire you to be. Your part is to yield to My creative work in you, neither resisting it
nor trying to speed it up.”  (Sarah Young based on Hebrews 13:15, II Corinthians 3:18, Psalm 73:23-24)

“My child, I will visit you every morning and will show forth My salvation in your life from day-to-day. My judgements will come upon your enemies
morning by morning. Because of My great mercy toward you, your enemies will not enslave you. My compassions will not fail you; they are
new every morning. My faithfulness will never cease, and I will be your portion forever. Therefore, place your hope in Me. I will be with you
and I am mighty to save. I take great delight in you, and I will quiet you with My love. I will rejoice over you with singing. I will remove
sorrow from you. I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give you honor and praise and will
restore your fortunes before your very eyes.” (John Eckhardt based on Psalm 91:3-5, Lamentations 3:22-23, Zephaniah 3:17-20).

My conclusion from all this was that I had taken my eyes off of God and returned them to my circumstances. And, I am constantly fighting an enemy who knows the power of my keeping my eyes on my Lord and Maker.   And that “eyes on God” is indeed the key to victory over circumstances. I was also reminded that I may never know the reason for the circumstances I am going through, but that is perfectly OK because God is acting in my life to demonstrate His power to others. That was confirmed to me this morning after a powerful time of worship followed by a sermon based on Joshua 4 (never under-estimate the power of showing up at church on Sunday morning!). Joshua 4:23 and 24 says “…For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the people of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever”.

So be it – in my life, and in your life anytime you give testimony to the love, faithfulness and power of God.

I spent yesterday on a “mini retreat”, soaking in the Word of God and being delighted by it once again.   Next steps became clear.  The next step in the natural is to return to Baylor for further testing on my blood, lungs, heart, and kidneys (all in one day!) to help determine the best way to move forward medically.  That appointment will probably be within the next two weeks although I don’t have a firm date yet.  So please continue to pray for me as this is by now OUR, and not just MY journey.   There are decisions and arrangements to be made, and Marv and I count on prayer support as we make them.  Your faithful support of me is humbling, amazing and wonderful!

Love to you all,               Joy

HALLELUJAH AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! Psalm 91:1-2

Hello dear ones!
Just a quick post to wish you all a happy 2013 and deliver some very good news.  My first round of chemo is complete and that is a major “HALLELUJAH” in itself!   I  had a  PET scan (last month) which revealed that the tumors that were there in July were there no longer,  and I proceeded to have a the bone marrow test done the week before Christmas.  This is the definitive test of progress as it goes to the source of where lymphoma happens, and I am so happy to report that my bone marrow was completely clear, a “couldn’t have been better” report to quote my oncologist.  I think Marv and I were in shock when the news was delivered!

This was a very rapid and complete response to treatment, and I have absolutely no doubt that your prayers have prevailed in my situation.  How will I ever find the words to thank all of you who have stood so faithfully with me in prayer?  My heart is full when I think of your love and willingness to exercise your faith on my behalf.  I’m not sure we human beings can ever grasp the incredible power of prayer.

Now, this disease is relentless in nature, so preventative measures are necessary to prevent reccurance and I continue to ask for your prayers.  My oncologist wants me to go to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas sometime in mid-January to get a second opinion regarding further treatment.   There are some fairly new but very promising chemotherapy protocols that are maintanence in nature and are given every few weeks just for the purpose of preventing recurrance and they may be a good option for me.  If I go that route, I can probably avoid having a stem cell transplant which is a very intensive procedure that carries many risks and almost certain negative effects on my body in general.  I had originally thought that was my only option, but with my rapid progress and clear bone marrow at this point, I may be able to avoid all that.  Please pray that Marv and I and our doctors have great wisdom as we make further treatment decisions.

Meanwhile, we are praising God continually and anticipating a 2013 full of His grace, which is the element that has been with us every step of the way just as He promised.  This afternoon I was reviewing in my mind the course of 2012, and I marvel at how God’s presence has been so real.  I have learned much, some of which I have already shared with you along the way, and I wouldn’t have traded a minute of this last year for all the good it has brought to my walk with Him.  Words like “thankfulness” and “joy” have taken on whole new meaning as I have experienced them both entirely apart from what the world views as at least negtive and sometimes horrible circumstances!   I will close just by saying that as I thought of all that, I saw myself being firmly and lovingly tucked under His wing in a way that I know has changed my life forever, and I am grateful beyond belief for all of the life experience that 2012 delivered to me from the hand of  our awesome God!  May He alone be glorified.

May God bless each one of you richly as we all continue on our journey with Him in this fresh, new year!                      Joy

Overdue Update – II Corinthians 12:9

Hello!

I had to take a short “blog break” after my last chemo on November 29 because it left me wiped out!  My doc tells me that it is not unusual to have the cumulative effects of chemo hit hard after 4 or 5 sessions and that is what I encountered.  After a few day, just as I was feeling a return of my old energy level, I went right into a bout of bronchitis which put me down again.  If anyone had told me that sitting up at the computer would look like an overwhelming task I would have said “impossible”.  But I learned differently when I reached a new level of tired.

I recovered enough to  make my first Christmas shopping trip last weekend during which a very freaky accident  left me with a re-injury to an old shoulder problem that was very painful.  That too delayed my use of the computer for a few more days!  Since that happened I have been suffering from pain plus frustration that my “good” days between chemo treatments have been spoiled by a bad shoulder.

However, the Lord is near, and in the flow of all this I have been rolling over in my mind the whole concept of suffering in the life of a Christ-follower.  Don’t get me wrong – I know that my “light afflictions” , as frustrating as they have been over the last few months, are so minor in comparison to that which so many undergo that I hesitate to even use the word “suffering”.  It’s a little embarrassing to use that word it as it seems overly dramatic.  But I’m going to use it anyway and uncomfortably forge ahead to examine how this whole situation is  playing out.  Here’s hoping my attempt at transparency will resonate with someone else who may have the same problem that I do with being less than fully capable in my own strength.

Here is my current “schoolroom”.  I know that I have long been trapped in the deception that “performance” equals “worth” which has resulted in striving in all areas of my life, including that of the spiritual.  My head knows all about grace and the unconditional love of God, but it has seemed impossible for my soul and spirit to catch up to my head knowledge. I also know that I have been unwilling to deal with whole idea of being unable to be a complete “conquerer”, to use a Biblical term, of all things. So along comes a debilitating physical illness which has forced me to say the words  “I can’t” way more than I want to.  Having recognized that,  I find that my emotional discomfort is greater than my physical painl!  After all, if I (that big, bold “I”) can’t take care of everything concerning me, who can?

So on to the topic of weakness“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strenth is perfected in weakness” (II Corinthiaans 12:9).  This is one of those scripture verses that I have known since I could talk, it seems.  But I never wanted to be weak, no matter how much it might connect me to the power of God.  I may not have realized that in such stark terms, but being in a position of physical weakness the last few weeks has caused me to see something in big, flashing, neon letters. It is that my over-the-top self-reliant nature is part of that pesky little thing called “sin”.  Somehow I picked up the idea that self-reliance was one of the most sterling of virtues.  In spite of my life experiences to the contrary, it never quite hit home what a destructive thing that was to my intimacy with God, who desires to be my strength.

So I find myself now in the middle of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.  Can this possibly be God working in my life??  Much as I hate to admit it, the answer is a big, loud YES, and I know it.  Now you’ll have to excuse me while I take a break, because my wounded wing (shoulder) is killing me!  More later- maybe I’ll be “stronger” then.      Blessings!                         Joy

THANKSGIVING UPDATE (Hebrews 7:25)

Hello Everyone!

I have generally tried to post something once a week, and I could hardly believe it when I looked at the calendar and saw that I hadn’t posted since November 8th!  I can’t blame it on being busy because I’m not!  In fact I’ve been staying very close to home as I remain immuno-suppressed (very susceptible to infection) and have been sternly told to stay out of crowds.  Chemo number 4 went smoothly, although it did seem to take me a little longer to recoup my energy this time, and just in time for Thanksgiving!  I love Thanksgiving – it is definitely my favorite holiday.  When I was working as a nurse, having holidays off was a rare treat.   While I never really minded working on the holidays too awfully much, after over eight years of retirement it always seems like a special treat to get to celebrate when everyone else is.

I was reminiscing today about a memory that has stuck with me for years since I was in the first grade and got to be in a Thanksgiving play.  All my little classmates and I dressed up in pilgrim costumes and together we recited Psalm 100.  I remember that the entire first grade worked for several weeks learning all the words and presenting them to our parents and families (can you imagine that going on in our public schools today?!).  I don’t know why that episode has stuck with me for these many years, but I wonder if it wasn’t seeds like that being planted in my life that gave me a heart that yearns to reach out to God in praise and thanksgiving on a regular basis. I’ve been reading in Psalms all week and enjoying them so very much as it seems the natural thing to do as this time of the year rolls around.  I think it is a curious thing that in this culture of ours in which people strive to discount God, we still have a national holiday during which it is hard to ignore Him, the source of every good thing.

This year, more than anything, I am thankful for a God who is always near, and it seems that the more I recognize my need of Him, the more present He becomes.  I’m not sure that there are really degrees of “presentness” (probably not!).  However, for me this year has caused me to  run smack-dab into my own mortality, and that has effected my experience of my relationship with Him.  Hearing that I had cancer was a shock, but coming home and reading up on the type of cancer I had been more than a shock.  I first read words like “rare” and “aggressive”.  Then came mortality predictions of “average 24 months from time of diagnosis”.  Then, “few successful treatment protocols”, and “frequently recurrent  in spite of treatment”.  It took awhile for all that to sink in, but it all came around to my thinking “This can’t mean me – I’m too young – and too healthy – and too…”  Too what?  Just like everyone else, there is a time to live and a time to die and it slowly became real to me that my life could be wrapping up way sooner than I ever imagined.  But there is always another side,  and after a while I began to see it as I sensed God’s presence so strongly that it nearly took my breath away.  I cannot even explain in words how the Holy Spirit showed up as my comforter, my encourager, my guide, my teacher, my friend and anything else that I needed Him to be.  Those days that I spent thinking about this disease that turned my world upside down were so very, very worth the shock of it all as I slowly began to realize how  near He was – and how closely I live to the realm of heaven where Jesus ever lives to make intercession for me ( Hebrews 7:25).

Let me quickly say that the more I have learned recently about this disease, the more hopeful I have become that treatment has advanced for Lymphoma and  is more readily available now than ever.  Stem cell transplants are proving to be very effective and I learned last week that I will probably be going to Baylor Medical Center (Dallas) in early February for that treatment.  I am, for practical purposes, in remission now after just 4 rounds of chemo, and will go through two more (on November 28 and December 18) to get the maximum effect.  My progress is all to God’s glory and has everything to do with all of you who are praying for me. I know that a battle is being waged and it is not over, but your prayers keep me going and growing in Him!

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving as I certainly will!  God is so very good to us all!                                Love and Blessings,                        Joy

READY FOR SOME GOOD NEWS? (Psalm 118:8-9)

Good Evening!

I’ll get right to the point tonight!  I had chemo #4 today, and I met with my oncologist to review my PET scan results.  The results show that all of the tumors that were originally found on scanning in July are now completely gone.  In addition, there are no new areas of cancer anywhere in my body (I had a full body scan).  To sum it up, it was a normal PET scan!!  All I can say is praise the faithful, wonderful, awesome God that we serve!  I could never find the words to adequately praise Him (although I’ve been trying all day)!

When I told Marv, he said “the election results don’t seem so important to me now”!  While we both realize that the election results will of course impact our lives, we also see a bigger picture that has to do with our intimacy with the God of the universe who is always available to us personally.  That personal relationship with Him has never changed and will never change.  My good news today reminded me that in the Psalms we are told that “It is better to put confidence in the Lord than to put confidence in man.  It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm118:8-9).  The Psalms are full of verses that tell us to trust in the Lord.  Prior to this election, we prayed.  On November 6th, we voted.  Now it’s time to renew our minds with the Word of God and walk in trusting obedience, whether we personally like the outcome of the election or not.  In fact, now would be a perfect time for us to read through the Psalms again and note every verse that gives us all the benefits of trusting in God!

So, for me now, I will take the next two chemo’s (the last one being on December 19) because I am grateful that I have access to what the mind of man has discovered in cancer research.  Chemo is not easy and I can think of endless things that I would rather be doing besides being in the process of treating cancer, but I have to say that doing so has opened me up to learning more and more about the faithfulness of God.  There is more to come, as after completing my remaining treatments here in Hot Springs, I will have another scan and a bone marrow biopsy to confirm that I am in total remission.  Then, the plan is for me to  proceed to the next step of  having an autogenic stem cell trasplant, probably in early February as this way of approaching lymphoma is proving to be the best way to prevent it from recurring.  That means I will need to spend 4 to 6 weeks in a hospital in Dallas undergoing a rigorous course of treatment.  My doctor strongly recommends that I do this, but I will have to be accepted into the progam for it to happen. Whether or not it actually takes place is totally in God’s hands.  I’m continuing to trust that every step in this journey is entirely under His control!

Stay tuned for more news!  No matter what happens, since He is the author of all good things, it promises to be good!

Love and Blessings,              Joy

 

 

 

 

LIGHT AFFLICTIONS? (II Corinthians 4:17-18)

Greetings from a beautiful Fall day in Arkansas!  It’s such a wonderful gift after the record-breaking heat and drought of the summer of 2012.  I remain pretty much confined to the house due to a very low white blood count, but I do get out and walk my dog and enjoy that thoroughly.  My main instruction is to stay out of crowds, so I’ve been in staying in until we see more white cells regenerating.

While this confinement has been very different, it has given me time for quiet contemplation that has been nothing but good.  I find in particular that scripture comes to life as I have the luxury of meditating on it and ruminating over it’s meaning.  One scripture in particular has been a focus for me for probably the last year, and I know that God has had it in my meditation for a reason.  That scripture is II Corinthians 4:17-18 as follows:

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal”.  (New King James Version)

I thought that I had studied those verses from every possible angle, but I just recently discovered some new territory in regard to the word “glory” as it is used in context.  That discovery came from a book entitled “Pure Grace” written by Clark Whitten.  There I found that the Greek word “doxa” (verse 17) is translated as “glory”,  and one meaning of the word “doxa” is “the manifest character of a person”.  Using the example of the word  as it is used in John 1:14, Whitten says, “…a person’s glory defines the person, sums up the nature of the person, or shows forth the essence of a person.”  I had always had the idea  that “glory” as it is used in scripture always (or at least most of the time) pertained to the glory of God, but a word-study of II Corinthians 4:17-18 revealed that “glory” may be shown from within the nature of a  human being.  That glory is a reflection of God who dwells within each of us who have believed in Jesus.  Most important, I saw that the “light affliction, which is but for a moment” is the very thing that allows the glory of God to be manifested in our own human nature!  It helps to notice that in the verses preceeding II Corinthians 4:7-8,Paul refers to his own experience as a disciple of Jesus by using the words “hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and stuck down”!   I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t call these descriptors light affliction.

For me, that brought into sharp awareness the thought that every single “affliction” (however I define it) that is allowed to come into my life can, if I will allow it, have a destructive effect on my fallen flesh and allow more of a reflection of the one who lives within me.  No matter how hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down I may be, if I am obedient in submitting to the work of God in me, the circumstance can allow more of God and less of me to be reflected to the darkness of the world.  Afflictions chaff our flesh, but they are momentary and they are necessary if we are to shine as lights in the darkness.  Chemotherapy chaffs my flesh for sure, but if I believe that “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus”,  I can recieve it as God taking something intended for evil (cancer) and turning it to good.  If that concept is hard to accept, you might want to review the story of Joseph  (particularly Genesis 50:20) to get his take on it!

II Corinthians 4:17 and 18 also casued me to think about things like how can glory have a weight when it is not a tangible object?  And how can we see things that are unseen?  So there you have a glimpse of what happens to me when I’m placed in relative isolation for a few days!  One thing I know is that as long as I have the Word of God upon which meditate, I am never bored!

I will have a PET scan on this coming Monday, (Nov. 5), and my fourth chemo treatment on November 7.  The PET scan will show what effect the chemo is having on the lymphatic tumors which will indicate whether or not there is a need to change or add to the current mix of medications that I’m getting. So by next Wednesday we should have further information about how I am doing.  I’ll be in touch again after that, but maybe not right away depending on how I’m feeling immediately post-chemo.

Meanwhile, I am carried on your prayers and thank you again for all you are doing for me!

Love and Blessings,             Joy