Thursday, December 16, 2010

I can sing Mary's song!

It was a year ago, today, that I received a surprising diagnosis of invasive breast cancer. God was my only lifeline then, and He continues to be my lifeline today. The cancer was removed in January of this year, with clear margins, and none was found in my lymph nodes. I have been remarkably healthy this past year, despite my health trials. On this day, a year ago, all I could say was, "My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord, for He has done great things for me"! Bill says God heard my praise before He heard my prayers. I was mindful of all the blessings He had already given me and, in Him, I had to continue to put my trust. I knew that whatever was to come, I could only get through it with God's help.

So, today, as I revel in God's faithfulness, I am reminded again of Mary's song in Luke 1:46-49. I will always sing this song with praise and thanksgiving:
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servent. From now on, all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name".

Last week, Bill had me read this scripture at the end of the Celebrate Recovery service. With joy in my spirit, I readily agreed to read the scripture because of what it meant to me and the hope I thought it would instill in others. I became all choked up with emotion and gratitude and could barely get the words out. Initially, I thought, "Great, I've really blown this"! But then I remembered who God is, and knew He would use His words as He intended. It didn't matter that my delivery wasn't perfect; wasn't even good, really. What matters is that He used my testimony to portray His faithfulness. And I'll be singing that song forevermore.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A snuggie and a cup of joe

Seriously, the relationship between me and this blog is in deep trouble! I have been emotionally and physically unavailable and I'm in dire need of a cup of joe. Even if no one else is around to share a cup with me, I need to get back into my happy zone. Writing is a place that makes me happy. I may be random, but I'm in my sweet spot, nontheless, when I can express my thoughts...deep or shallow, funny or sad...and just be me. Is it always pretty? No, but it is usually somewhat interesting to say the least.

Today's random thoughts are jumping to my constant struggle with cold weather. It got below freezing here today and I am now officially accepting sympathy cards for my grief over the loss of warm weather. I kid you not, this is really a challenge for me. We left 70 degree weather in Lexington this past weekend and now I'm watching my University of Kentucky Wildcats play basketball in Maui as I sit here in the frigid cold. They keep showing pictures of the landscape in Hawaii. Oh, how I would love to be there cheering them person.

As I'm lamenting the onset of wicked winter in the Northwest, I have to snap back to a happy place and count my blessings. It's high time for a psalm and song of praise to bring me up out of the pits of my despair. For goodness sake, we're about to celebrate Thanksgiving this week and I'm whining about a little cold weather. I've got so much to be thankful for - it almost embarrasses me that my focus is on a little discomfort that can be covered up with a snuggie a good warm drink.

This all sort of reminds me of my prayer life and the time I spend with God. Even though my time with Him is sweeter than anywhere else in life, I kinda go AWOL on Him every once in a while and find myself in a cold season. How does He respond when I find myself out in the cold? He opens His arms and envelopes me like a warm blanket just out of the dryer. He doesn't berate me for how long I've been gone. He just lets me say anything I want, even the random stuff, as if He was having coffee with Carolynn! If I close my eyes, I can feel my toes in the sand...right by His footprints. I think I'm going to snuggle up in my snuggie, get a nice cup of coffee and take a walk with my Father. We've got some catching up to do because I've been gone far too long.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spa Days with Jesus

I was at a women’s event a couple of weeks ago and two different people approached me and said they knew me from somewhere. I just smiled and said “I have one of those faces”. I got to thinking about it later, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if what people recognized in me was Jesus?!”

We go to all sorts of trouble to “doll-up” our outer appearance, but what are we doing to beautify our inner self, our character, so that none can compare to the beauty that is within us? I think this intensive beauty regimen is available and I think it’s rather inexpensive, depending upon the way you view things. Inexpensive, in that it really costs you nothing monetarily; costly in that you might have to reach a point where you surrender your precious control to Jesus. Yet, He can do so much for us when we turn over that one little thing. He can make us into His likeness, a beauty none of us can manufacture on our own.

I am starting to find that the closer I get to Jesus, the more I want to know Him and be known by Him; the more I am becoming like Him on the inside. I’m no rocket scientist, but even I can tell you that the result of a spa day with Jesus could be nothing less than incredible; so beautiful that the love and authenticity on the inside will begin to show on the outside. Imagine the sweet fragrance lingering in the nostrils of those you’ve spent time with, making them feel like beautiful music has just washed over them. That seems a little unnatural, huh? Yea, you got that right – connecting with our Lord on that level would have to be supernatural.

But, oh, don’t you want to know Him that way? I know I do! How about scheduling some Spa days with Jesus? I could use a little exfoliation to work away some rough spots; a little intensive conditioner to smooth the harshness in my soul; a little deep cleansing to draw out the dirt and grime in my life and wash it away; a little massage to let me know that the hands of Jesus are all I need to work out the stress in my life and to give me peace and serenity.

YES…I’m scheduling lots of spa days and I’m urging you to do the same. Wouldn’t it be cool if people started recognizing Jesus in us and saying, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” Let’s hope so.

Monday, August 16, 2010

To “SUMMIT” up!

We are sitting in John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA, after spending 8 days in beautiful Southern California. Thirty-nine of us from Heartland Community Church in Rockford, IL, attended the Celebrate Recovery Summit at Saddleback Church the last half of this past week. What a great time of worship and learning how we can better react and help ourselves and others with hurts, hang-ups and habits!

Many of the 3000+ attendees at this conference have been transformed by the biblical principals modeled through Celebrate Recovery – a Christ-centered recovery program based on the Beatitudes that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew. The bible says that those who have been FORGIVEN much LOVE much. We like to say, “And they worship and live accordingly!” Worshipping our Savior, Jesus Christ, with 3000+ grateful forgiven people, who are learning to trust God and let go of their past, was so incredibly authentic and real. One can’t effectively do that, unless they’ve learned to trust their one and only higher power, Jesus Christ. He, alone, can forgive and transform; take all the junk in our lives and allow us to start anew.

Many people hear “recovery” and think it is something that is only for “those people” and not for them. That is a belief that comes from what I believe is either lack of knowledge about what Celebrate Recovery is really about or denial that they have any issues – hurts, hang-ups or habits of their own. Either way, many people would be very surprised to learn that by REALLY APPLYING the principals of Celebrate Recovery to their lives, they can learn how to better react to the things that have caused them to be hurt in life, can seek forgiveness for the hurt they have caused others and can learn to live in the present and for the future – not in the past.

So let me ask you, “Have you ever been hurt by anyone in your life or have you ever hurt anyone else? Do things from your past still cause you to struggle with your relationships in the present? Do you find yourself feeling angry or bitter and always having issues with others?” If your answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then please allow me to say that you too could be a perfect candidate to attend Celebrate Recovery!

Oh yes, Celebrate Recovery is still for those who have had drug and alcohol addictions, but we find that those issues are largely caused by underlying hurts and hang-ups. So, instead of thinking you’ve got it all together, when you really don’t – consider that becoming one of “those people” could be the best thing you could ever do. After all, Rick Warren is a pretty smart man and I think he’s on to something when he said during the opening session, “There are two kinds of people in the world; those who know they need recovery and those who don’t!”

So, which kind are you? Do you know you need recovery from your issues or are you in denial that you even have any? Ask other people in your life. They may be able to enlighten you. Better yet, pray that God will enlighten you to anything in your life that He wants to change or heal. Many of “those people” have done just that and have applied the principles of Celebrate Recovery to their lives and renewed their minds, causing them to be transformed by the love and power of Jesus Christ.

Since there are no perfect people, I think a fair share of us have some issues. We can continue to deny them and/or let them rule our lives and ruin our relationships OR we can choose to let God heal us and help us to be free from our hurts, hang-ups and habits. Are you ready to stop letting your issues wreck your life…then “Here’s your sign”….it’s Celebrate Recovery!

Do you want to get well? Find a Celebrate Recovery near you by visiting the web page at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

From Winter to Summer

As we are approaching Summer, I've been wanting to post an update on how God has triumphed and kept me during the breast cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment of recent months. I do not consider myself a breast cancer survivor - that's giving too much power and putting too much emphasis on the cancer. I am a Survivor of breast cancer - I was attacked by something that God has helped me be delivered from and I have survived it because of Him. I don't call it "my" breast cancer, because that would indicate that it is in my possession - it is is gone...and I am ever so grateful to God and those He placed in my life to help me be rid of it. Praise you, My Lord, for I know my life and every facet of it is now, and will forever be, in your hands. And, yes, YOU are worthy of the praise. I can boast in nothing other than His goodness and grace. Because of His loving mercy, I am able to tell others about His goodness. I am also willing. That is why you will often hear me thanking my Jesus for my life and my health. I know where my help comes from and I will always be pointing in that direction.

My radiation lasted for six weeks, from March 1st through mid-April. There was a repeated prayer I offered up to God every day during the 10 minute session. I prayed that He would direct the beams "precisely" where they should go to treat the area in the "precise" manner that it should be treated, and I prayed that He would protect me from any harmful effects of the treatment. I suffered very few visible ill effects from the treatments. I was sunburned, but it never really hurt and it never peeled to cause me discomfort. I know God's hand kept me sheltered and buffered the ill effects I could have suffered. I'm starting to wonder, if the hot flashes I'm beginning to experience now may be worse than anything up to this point....I'll have to update you on that one later:-)

Yes, God has been so good to me throughout this whole ordeal. In late April I had a mammogram and ultrasounds on both sides and was given a good report that there was no indication of any cancer. I rejoiced, to say the least. I don't know if I ever shared that I knew what the doctor was going to say when he came into the room that previous fateful December day to say, "You have cancer". Before going to his office, I had prayed, "God, I don't want to have cancer", yet I knew that for whatever reason that day I would get the news that I did. I can't tell you how those words felt. Only people who have heard it know. It's like somebody punches you in the gut and it leaves a gaping hole that hurts all the way to your heart. A sense of grieving starts, even then. You think, "Lord, why if this happening"? You know that it's about to be a Winter season of life.

Yet, in my case, I was convinced that for whatever reason God had allowed me to go through this, I would forever give Him praise because of all He had ALREADY done for me. My heart was totally overwhelmed by what He continues to do. I was never mad at could I be? My heart and mind just don't react that way. Maybe it's because He's given me faith above all my spiritual gifts. With that measure of faith that He has given me, I have been able to face my giants with angels by my side. This is not of my own spirituality, but of God's amazing grace. He knew just what I needed to get me through my obsticles in life. Faith is His gift to me. It's like a lifeline He threw to me and said, "Hold on to this and I will hold on to you". I cling to it with all my strength.

At the onset of the diagnosis, I had a sense that what I was about to go through was not about me at all, but about how I could help others in the future who might have a similar experience to mine. I had worked for the American Cancer Society for over 5 years and I had experienced many occasions to meet and become friends with survivors. I thought I had an understanding of what they might be going through. I had no idea. How could I? How could anyone who hasn't walked in their shoes or sat in their doctor's office really know? I was about to get a crash course in cancer 101. I wish I could have skipped class or changed the focus of study, but I was locked into this course. Even when praying, I often was careful to allow God room to do whatever He wanted in my situation. I know God's power; I've experienced it with great magnitude in the past, yet I was not exercising the full arsenal of power in my prayers. I knew this, yet I knew that if I surrendered myself and my situation to God, that He would take care of the outcome. Getting to the point where I could say, "God, your will be done", had never seemed like such a distant prayer, but one I knew I had to pray. I was stricken with the conviction that whatever happened to me would be alright, either way. I knew that God would be glorified with whatever He chose to do with or for me. I was His...for now and for eternity.

My other saving grace in this battle has been my dear husband. I cannot fully express how loved he has made me feel; how well he has taken care of me. God has truly restored what the locusts had stolen. I am so blessed by the man he has become and how he loves me. Let's just call him a slow learner, but once he gets it, he does not waver! He also has proven himself faithful - to me and to our God. I am convinced that he loved me so much that it made him sick! He fully trusted in God for my health and well-being, but I think he cared so much that he felt it to the core of his being. In February, he started having heart palpitations and proceeded to have sleep deprivation for a couple of months. The doctors couldn't find anything and said it was stress. He didn't think he was stressed, but the depth of his love and caring for me was the culprit, nonetheless. Subsequently, loss of sleep and a weakened body brought on new symptoms in early April. Bill's back went out and he was diagnosed with a herniated disk. The pain was intense and there was no comfortable position for him to rest in. Sleep deprivation continued and there was no relief for about a month from his pain. After the second lumbar epidural and phsysical therapy, he finally was relieved of pain and has been pain-free now for several weeks. We are so thankful. Yet we are convinced that even this experience was for the purpose of helping someone else get to know God and his son Jesus. Bill's doctor had read his book twice by the time he had the second shot. He had lots of questions and was at a crossroads in life. We saw God in it all.

We have come so far in such a short period of time. To many onlookers it would seem that we have suffered pain, but, ultimately, I feel that we have been blessed and have gained far more in grace than could ever be lost in pain. Yes, my soul continues to magnify the Lord, for He has done great things for me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Does March Madness trump April Awareness?

Every year, I am caught up with the rest of SEC and NCAA basketball fans, as I cheer for my favorite team during the championship tournaments. GO KENTUCKY WILDCATS! March Madness was always a favorite time of the year for me, mostly because Kentucky Basketball has had a great winning basketball program in the past and they are re-energized again this year with a charismatic and passionate coach and some really talented players. It's hard not to be excited about the team if you've lived in Kentucky or watched college's just contagious. What is almost as interesting for me to watch, though, is the way dignified people lose their mind when it comes to their favorite team. This is especially true for the people and fans of Kentucky. They bleed blue, eat blue, breathe blue and (should they lose) feel blue! It is a big blue nation and everyone in the Bluegrass (and beyond )is proud to support their team - me included. Rumor has it, that approximately 180,000 Kentucky Wildcat fans converged upon Nashville, Tennessee this weekend to try to get a ticket to see their team in an arena that houses less than 20,000! Those who say that basketball is the religion there may not be far off base - based on that show of allegiance.

I find it admirable that so many people are committed to something they love. It's hard to deny that these March Madness fans are very loyal. I'm impressed, yet I'm pondering how people can abandon their normally cool, calm and collected selves to become rabid, rowdy and relentless maniacs. They don't care who sees or hears them as they root for their favorite team with complete and utter abandonment. It's complete entertainment, and a double treat, for people watchers like me - I get to watch a sideshow at the big show...or see the John Wall dance at the Big Dance! Yes, it's FUN and exciting!

I'm really wondering, though, how many of us will be tuckered out by March Madness, come April. This year, Easter is in early April. Easter, the Resurrection, the time of year that Christians celebrate that Jesus Christ arose from the grave three days after He willingly died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. WOW...can anybody get excited about that?! Can they abandon themselves and not care who sees how much they love a Saviour who gave His life for us? I'd like to say I could, but would I be as apt to show that loyalty with shouts of adoration and praise? Will I raise my hands and shout loudly that I love Him? Will I sing to the top of my lungs? Will I dance like no one is watching? Will I laugh and smile because my sin debt has been paid by the only One who could pay it? Will I celebrate the victory because I know the battle has already been won? Will I? Will you?

I'm just wondering today, will March Madness trump April Awareness? I'm hoping it doesn't, for me. I plan on enjoying March Madness - every minute of it - but I hope I place a greater value and awareness on a time in early April, when I give my Jesus unrivaled praise for the sacrifice He made for me. I hope I don't let the little gods I give my adoration to in March, evoke a more passionate response from me than the Big God who deserves my ongoing continuous adoration and praise, not only in April, but every waking moment for a lifetime and eternity. I'm just sayin'......

Monday, February 15, 2010

21 Days!

The doctor notified me today that it will not be necessary for me to have chemotherapy! I am both blessed and thankful. My GOD is so good!!!

My surgery was on Friday - Jan 22. The hospital further processed my tissue sample on Monday, Jan 25, and readied it for more testing. Early indications were that everything was removed successfully; there were clear margins in the tissue removal and nothing had spread to the lymph nodes. I was encouraged with the news. Some women with early-stage breast cancer do not benefit from chemotherapy. I was hoping and praying that I would not have to undergo chemo.

I soon learned that my oncologist was waiting on a test called Oncotype DX, used in early stage, estrogen receptor-positive and lymph node-negative breast cancer to determine the liklihood of the breast cancer returning. The outcome of this test would tell whether the doctor thought I would benefit from chemotherapy. While I was praying for a good outcome, I also became very aware that if the test indicated that I would benefit from chemo, that I would indeed be grateful to know that and would willingly and thankfully embrace that. My doctor informed me that the test results are usually back within 10-14 days. So the waiting began and the praying continued.

Last week, the company performing the test called me to let me know the cost of the test and my expected co-pay after insurance coverage. They wanted to make sure that was okay. After urging them to proceed as quickly as possible, they told me it could still take 10 to 14 days for the results to get faxed to my doctor. I implored them to move as quickly as possible, as I was waiting on this information before proceeding with any treatment. I continued to wait and pray. All the while, God granted me peace.

Today, Feb 15, my doctor informed me that he had gotten the test back and it looked good. He did not feel that I would need chemotherapy....PRAISE GOD!!! I will see the radiologist later in the week to determine when radiation will begin and I will meet with the oncologist to see if there are any other treatments indicated, such as tamoxifen. But right now, I am so elated and thankful that God heard my prayers and answered them in the manner that He did.

Today was the 21st day after the hospital started processing my tissue samples for further testing. I had resolved that whatever the test revealed, I would be blessed by the outcome. I would either not have to do chemo or learn that I needed it and be grateful to have the help that it would lend me in getting well. Again, I had peace because I knew God's best for me would be revealed, either way. To be quiet honest with you though, I was really praying hard that I did not have to do chemo:D I have many friends that have undergone that path of treatment and I know it is grueling. Of course, anyone, would rather avoid it if they could. I am so grateful that God has spared me that path of treatment.

In Daniel 10:12, he was told "Do not be afraid Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia."

I have always loved this story in the bible and have often prayed that God would dispatch his angels on my behalf to help me fight any battles that were waged against me. I've even prayed for Michael, the arch angel, to be sent on my behalf, on occasion. It's not a stretch for me to envision myself in Daniel's shoes and to beleive that God fights for me and lends me His army of angels to help in that battle, now and then.

This could have very well been one of those times. I have prayed and waited patiently for 21 days. The Lord has given me peace and I have trusted Him the entire time. I've said it before and I'll say it again...HE IS FAITHFUL!

My sould magnifies the Lord, for He has done great things for me!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Further prayer requests

The needs in Haiti, even before this past week's devastating earthquake, but especially in the aftermath of the disaster, are monumental. Please continue to pray for these precious people. They need compassion and love in many forms. Pray that the financial, physical and spiritual needs of this country and it's people will be met like never before. God loves them and they need to see His love through His people. Please continue to pray for them and do whatever you can to help as God leads you to do so. That's what God's people do.

I was thinking about all that's going on in the world. Trouble is something we can be assured of. Yet we can hold on to hope in a faithful God. He never leaves us or foresakes us and He will be with us through whatever trials we may endure. It seems that, with an event like this week's earthquake, there is a boatload of trouble going on. We needn't fear, though. Our God is a big God. He can handle the prayers of ALL His people.

In the bible, Job was afflicted with significant trouble. The cause for which is unclear. What is clear is that God, in His perfect timing, healed and rewarded Job. It's interesting that this blessing came after Job prayed for his friends. Let this be a reminder that we should continually pray for the needs of others. They matter to God and, therefore, they should matter to us. He doesn't actually "need" us, but, thankfully, He uses us to bless others when we allow Him to. Our blessings are so sweet when we surrender to His plan and allow Him to use us to bless others.

Considering that our God can handle a multitude of prayer requests, I would be remiss not to continue to ask for your prayers of agreement for God to completely heal me of the breast cancer I have been diagnosed with. Not only do I believe and trust in the power of prayer, but I am a particularly satisfied customer in prayers of specificity. With that being said, I am praying for God to heal me in any way He chooses to and for Him to be glorified in and through my current "trouble". Please join with me to specifically pray that God will do the following:
*heal me through supernatural intervention, i.e. a miracle, or
*heal me through the surgeons and/or medical professionals who will be involved in any treatment I may have to undergo
*give the surgeon and medical staff wisdom and giftedness to "encapsulate" the entire area that is affected and remove it completely
*not allow any cancer to be in lymph nodes or to spread to any other area of my body, i.e. bloodstream, organs or bones - again - let it be safely and completely removed from my body
*allow any needed follow-up treatment to be completely effective without any further danger or harm to me or my body
*surround me, Bill, Kristen, our family and friends with your peace that comes from knowing that YOU are in control and that YOU are good and faithful.
*allow this trial in my life to be used for good to help others and to shine a light on YOU, your goodness and your faithfulness.

The lumpectomy surgery is this Friday, January 22nd, at OSF - St. Anthony's Hospital in Rockford, IL. I go in at 8:00 am for needle placement and anesthesia preparation. The surgery is scheduled for 11:00 am.

Bill will give an update on facebook as soon as he is able to. To get an update, you can send him a friend request if you are not already on his friend list. We will also try to update my facebook status if possible.

God's blessings to you and THANK YOU for your prayers for me and others who are in need of God's grace and mercy. He is GOOD!

My soul magnifies the Lord, for He has done great things for me!