from a dear, sweet friend.
Seriously…I have a book called “Total Forgiveness” that I have underlined to death and has been hucked across the room with a scream on more than one occasion. I had gotten it from a counselor so obviously, I had to buy her a new one to return to her. Besides, I really need to read it regularly, so keeping it in my daily reading pile is essential.
Forgiveness, I am realizing as I am trying to narrow down what to write, is a HUGE, sensitive and scary topic. To be honest, I don’t really like it ( unless it’s towards me, of course 🙂 ). Let me give you a few truths about forgiveness that are particularly hard for me to swallow; To accept as reality even when everything in me cringes at the very suggestion. If I want to TOTALLY FORGIVE and be TOTALLY FREE in my heart and be TOTALLY able to relate authentically to the God who sent his son to die to give me this same forgiveness, then I must:
1. Not let anyone else know what was done to me or said about me by those who hurt me (epic fail in this area for me)
2 not allow my offender to be afraid or intimidated by me (worrying that I might “tell” on them to others.)
3. desire that they forgive themselves and not feel guilty or bad about what they have done (hard one for me). Show them there is a reason God can use it for good.
4. remember that it is a life-long commitment. If I am prepared to make a covenant to forgive-and forgive TOTALLY- I must realize I will have to renew this covenant tomorrow. And it may be even harder to do tomorrow than it is today. It could even be harder next week-or next year. But again-it’s a life-long commitment.
*I must never tell what I know, cause my offenders to feel fear, make them feel guilty, hope they will lose face or reveal their most devastating secrets. And I must keep this up for as long as I live.
…Ok. Is anyone else mad yet? I find those truths annoying, unfair (my dear friend always says, “FAIR is where you go to get a corndog 🙂 ) and exhausting. I realize I sound like and ungrateful brat. But here is some good news that appeals to my selfish nature-it’s a place I can start until GOD gives me the ability to love and forgive like He loves and forgives me. That too, is a life-long commitment. So, here it is, from what I have learned in recovery rooms and books:
“Forgiveness is NO FAVOR. We do it for no one but ourselves. We simply pay too high a price when we refuse to forgive. Lingering resentments are like acid eating away at us. Rehearsing and re-rehearsing old injuries robs us of all that is precious. Shame never liberated a single spirit. And self-righteousness never softened a heart. Can we afford to perpetuate such destructiveness? Surely we can make better use of our time and energy. Although we may despise what others have done, if we keep in mind that everything we are now trying to do has the goal of healing us, we are bound to decide that the best thing we can do for OURSELVES is to FORGIVE.”
As I sat at a church function a few months ago I was battling with the crazy “squirrels” of unforgivness that were running wild in my mind. My dear husband reminded me not to let others live rent-free in my head. I thought about that for a minute and then it dawned on me that nothing is totally free. SOMEONE has to pay that rent. Then it hit me like a punch in the gut…I WAS THE ONE PAYING!!!!! “Those people” have moved on, are living their lives, not giving me a second thought. I am most likely the only one suffering and I am the one causing the suffering to myself. Here is what I have found as the only solution that actually works for me: Pray for my enemies. Jesus wasn’t just making up some pithy slogan-He knows that I will not be free until I can be free of my resentments.
Here is a suggested solution from a “prominent Clergyman”: He says, in effect: “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, YOU WILL BE FREE. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, YOU WILL BE FREE. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and YOU WILL BE FREE. Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and want it for them, and you will realized that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”
I have a list of people on my phone that I have to do this for daily if I want to remain FREE of the resentment and bitterness that make ME sick. WHen I feel this soul-sickness, it is almost always directly related to the fact that I have neglected that list for a chunk of time. 2 Weeks is a good start, but some of us, namely me, are sicker than that. Everyday for the rest of my life is a better life-forgiveness plan for me. Just start somewhere so you can begin your journey to freedom as well.
First, I want to say thank you to those of you who commented about your own struggle with forgiveness. I woke up, started reading, and just started to cry and cry. Not sure exactly why. Maybe because of relief: “I’m not the only one.” Or maybe just being overwhelmed with the fact that God can use my pain and failure and battle to give hope to someone else-that He is redeeming it all. It made me want to talk more about forgiveness, which I will later today. But, as usual, God has something else for me put out there this morning until he can clarify and simplify what to say on forgiveness ( as I said, I could write a book and none of us need to read all of that right now).
So, for this morning, God reminded me through one of my devotionals, that I wrote something on April 12th (read it again so this makes more sense) that I have already neglected to live out and believe: GOD is my REFUGE. My place of safety and shelter from harm. My protection. NOT the Hospital ( though hospitals are for sick or injured people, which I clearly am, which means God could also be my HOSPITAL…hmmm) . Anyway-when I wrote about being a REFUGEE a few weeks ago, I also had some extra thoughts on what that means:
A REFUGEE is Unsettled. Lost. Broken. Frightened. Longing for their Homeland. Misplaced. In danger from hateful, selfish people. Hopeful. Trusting that if they can make it to a country-a camp-a Leader who has the power and means to provide protection, they will finally be SAFE. I WROTE THAT! How quickly we forget truth. God is my Refuge. My HOSPITAL.
Trust in Him at all times, O people.; pour out your hearts to him, for GOD is our REFUGE. Psalm 62:8
I have been looking up the definition of blessed and blessing. Have some interesting perspective and have had some recent conversations with people about what it really looks like to be “blessed.” I read my 4 devotionals to see if there was something from today’s reading that God might want me to use. Well, it’s either the chemo making me feel nauseous or God telling me to write about what he has been telling me to write about for a few days. I just really don’t want to. It gets me worked up to talk about it and I like to feel a bit more like I have just had a mild dose of pain meds. So here it goes (Dangit)…
I am relieved to be back in the hospital this week. Partly because now I can stop “waiting” to come back in and be doing something productive ( phew…that waiting is rough!). The other part of why I am relieved to be here is because I am “SAFE” here. It’s a beautiful, not to mention fairly unhealthy, combination of escape and denial. Most of you know it’s been a challenging few years for us; for me. Losing long-time friends and an entire church family and working full-time and my husband starting a new career and downsizing our home by half ( all this within a months’ time), and yada yada yada- it has been a major time of growth, to say the least. I know we all have struggles. But the hardest, most constant turmoil for me has been the haunting of painful relationships that have been lost. The hurt and betrayal I feel, whether it was intentional on their part or not, has been debilitating some days. After much work and prayer, it’s gotten SO much better, but it is most definitely a daily, often several times a day, choice to forgive. To let them “off the hook.” I am not sure this is a choice I will ever NOT have to make on a regular basis. It’s been 4 years and just when I think I am “good”, I run across someone who triggers memories of pain and the “squirrels” are off and running again. Since I have been out of the hospital and in public lately, God had apparently felt it necessary to have me run across about a half-dozen people who I struggle forgiving. ( if i have “run into” you, don’t panic…i didn’t have the guts to actually interact with those people, duh!) I start sweating, I can’t focus on anything, and get grouchy at my family. That’s a sign that I’ve given over my serenity to someone else. Letting them live rent-free in my head. When I am in the hospital, people are only NICE to me. And I only invite NICE people to come see me. I protect myself from “mean” people and hide. But deep down that unforgiveness is still festering, raring to go when I get out. Exhausting. I read a lot on forgiveness and here are some things I am learning that keep me relatively peaceful, happy and free of resentment (but…It is a daily journey. Praying, reading, choosing, all necessary. But, STILL HARD).
*Blake and I went to a place called Blessing Ranch for a few days a couple of years ago. In talking with a counselor there I confessed my motive for even being WILLING to forgive certain people: “I don’t want to forgive these people. But, I know God says I have to forgive them. SO, because I want God’s blessing and want to be in communion with Him MORE than I want to hold a grudge, I choose to forgive. ” That seemed really lame and I was embarrassed to admit it, but to my surprise he reached out, gave me high-five, and said, “I call that NOBLE. That’s exactly what God wants; for us to love HIM and HIS ways MORE than the way WE want to operate.”
*Now, that’s the kindergarten level of forgiveness. It really doesn’t involve me having any NICE feelings towards those I have to forgive. That part takes time…and lots and lots of prayer and practice. I have had guilt about this because I feel like I am generally a “nice” person. I don’t LIKE to wish bad things on people or want to run them over with my car. A reading i came across a couple of years ago, and, as “luck” would have it, was my reading for May 11th, says some pretty poignant stuff that reminds me there are options that i can live with more authentically: “God loved me not because I was lovable, but because IT WAS HIS NATURE TO DO SO. Now, He says to ME, show the same love to others-‘love as I have loved you. I will bring any number of people about you who you cannot RESPECT, and you must exhibit My love to them as I have exhibited it to you.’ Let me look within and see His dealings with me. The knowledge that God has loved ME to the uttermost, to the end af all MY sin and meanness and selfishness and wrong, will send ME forth into the world to love in the same way. God’s love to me is inexhaustible, and I must love others from the bedrock of God’s love to me.” Whoa. What a relief: God doesn’t demand that I RESPECT my enemies, only that I love them whether I respect them or not. I can do that. I can do that and still be in good graces with God. Besides, when i think of how he forgives me and the grace I need just to make it through a day, I am more willing to “let” him offer it to others. I want my NATURE to be such that I am like God in this-that there is no deliberation about extending love or forgiveness-it just happens because it is MY NATURE TO DO SO.
I have much more to say on resentment and forgiveness; much more to confess…but it can wait for another day. My counselor at Blessings Ranch suggested I write a book about forgiveness called, “Forgiveness: It’s Still Hard.” And so it is.
“Delivering help trumps offering hope any day of the week.” Peyton Manning
Blake sent me this quote from a conference he was attending today. Peyton says it better than me, but I swear I was just making this point to a friend yesterday. I was expressing how grateful we are to have people, often people we have never even met before, clean our house or bring us food or mow our lawn. I have received gifts and cards from people all over the world, again, some of whom have never even met me face to face. It’s overwhelming. God has sent PEOPLE to RESCUE me.
My friend, Sharon, took it upon herself to research and inquire about ways to be of practical help to someone with cancer. She possibly knows more about what I need than I do! The best reward resulting from her “research”, is that she learned ways to be of PRACTICAL help to our family and invited others into that. She didn’t just pray for me-which I know is important-but she has also been available for the messy, not so “spiritual” work of being a child of God. She has organized cleaning teams that come in once a week to keep me from being buried alive in my house. That is how I feel God loving me. I remember being a young mom with 3 very young children. We were brainstorming in a women’s group about how to “reach” or “serve” young moms better. I piped in, “I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but I could really use some help cleaning my house! I’m exhausted!”. The truth really is that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We can talk about the hope of the gospel or about how much God loves us, but to be honest, I don’t think anyone will truly hear us unless we are meeting some of their more basic needs. It might be serving the poor, but it could also be that I keep my trap shut and withhold judgment when a friend needs to talk about their struggles. Maybe it’s offering to babysit to give a ragged mom a break. It could be actually calling or visiting your friend today instead of “just praying” for them. I remember calling a friend ( I even left a voicemail) after a tragedy struck her boyfriends family. She called back later and ended up leaving me a voicemail. She said, “thank you so much for calling. Many people have texted, but no one has actually called. That means so much to me.” I was struck by how much it meant to her that even though we didn’t actually speak, the fact that I intended to speak to her and gave up time and effort to have a conversation was different than a quick, one-sided text. We are God’s hands and feet…and mouth. Whatever we do for others is an action that directly reaches his heart; as if we have done it for him.
I hope I am not rambling and especially hope that no one out there feels like I am asking for help or shaming anyone not giving practical help. I pray you hear my heart on this. I guess my point is that showing God’s love to people around us doesn’t have to be as “spiritual” as we make it. We sometimes use our lack of bible knowledge or even our lack of virtuous behavior as excuses to not follow the top two commandments: LOVE GOD. LOVE PEOPLE. it’s not that complicated. Anyone can make a phone call or a meal. Anyone can WAIT ON someone else to show God’s love to them. And here’s the kicker: you don’t even have to mention God or church or Jesus or use the words like “bless you”, when you do it. God is love and He has an uncanny way of making himself known in people’s hearts. So relax. Be yourself. Be real. Give someone hope: Deliver some help today.
I am a terrible Waiter. In college I attempted to wait tables as a job. Disasterous. I would either bug my table to death or forget about them entirely. By the end of the night I always seemed to owe money rather than make money. It was really not a good fit for my “giftedness.”
I am still a terrible “Waiter.” I hate waiting. It feels so unproductive and, well, lazy. The old adage, “don’t just sit there. Do something!” has been wisely challenged in my recovery brain: “Don’t just DO something. Sit there!.. “. Sometimes activity makes me feel like I have some say. Some control. We wait for many things: we wait for test results, for healing, for recovery, for a family, for the right person to come along, for the wrong person to leave, for people to change, for us to change, for someone to get sober, for the time we will see our loved ones who died and left us here. I wait for my next hospital stay, for my hair to grow back, to start selling houses again, to exercise like a normal person, for the news about whether I need more chemo or a transplant. I wait to get sick, I wait to recover, to see if I can go in public or have to stay home or need to get a blood transfusion. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Eddie Lowen, tha pastor at Westside talked about this Sunday. I like his honest re-interpretation of Psalm 40:1…”I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. ” He said that for him it would say something more like, “I waited IMPATIENTLY for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my WHINING.” That sounds about right for me too. I often plead, “How long, oh Lord? How long must I wait for….?”
As soon as I opened my eyes this morning I had this thought regarding waiting: There’s a big difference between waiting FOR and waiting ON. It occurred to me that waiting ON is what you do while you are waiting FOR. Waiting ON is about serving others. Waiting FOR is about ME getting what I want when I want it. Waiting ON is a wonderful way to get outside our own plans, desires and wishes and focus on GOD’s plans, desires and wishes. Waiting ON means that even though I have Leukemia, I can still send a note to a friend who is struggling, visit someone in the hospital, or set up coffee with someone who I know is hurting. This makes the waiting FOR time a sweet time. A “get to” rather than a “have to”. I think I might have more to say on waiting but for now, I need to get dressed to head to my bone marrow biopsy. I only GET TO wait 45 more minutes. 🙂
First-went for a bike ride today for first time this season! it was hard ( I’m not as strong and my lungs were working pretty hard) but i went for a half hour on bike trail. So happy. You can’t even tell i have no hair with a helmet on!
Tomorrow I will go in and have a bone marrow biopsy at 8:30. It will actually take about 2 weeks before we will know the results. That is too long to go without chemo ( whether i need a transplant or not) so I am going to be in the hospital mon-fri next week for my 3rd round so I can crash and burn and recover in time for Bennett’s graduation on the 28th. God’s timing is perfect. Thanks for the prayers!
During the night I had some thoughts I wanted to share regarding “waiting.” Then, while on a bike ride ( you read that right….more on that later!) I had some other thoughts about Neil Diamond ( you read that right also…more on THAT later!). Well, as I was looking for some great insights on waiting ( since I am terrible at it) I decided to check out what was written in my Oswald Chambers Devotional for February 6th. In case you have forgotten, that is D-Day for Leukemia. Maybe it’s just me, but these authors seem to write things just for me, just on the day I need to hear them! I think I might have skipped that reading back on February 6th, but reading it today made me cry. I knew immediately this is what God wants me to say.
Here’s the title: “Are you ready to be offered?” ( Um, not really). The main verse is 2 Timothy 4:6: “I am already being poured out as a drink offering.” The offering they are referring to would go on an altar, not in a plate passed at church. “The altar means fire-burning and purification and insulation for one purpose only, The destruction of every affinity that God has not started and of every attachment that is not an attachment in God. YOU do not destroy it, God does; you bind the sacrifice to the horns of the altar; and see that you do not give way to self-pity when the fire begins. After this way of fire, there is nothing that oppresses or depresses. WHEN THE CRISIS ARISES, YOU REALIZE THAT THINGS CANNOT TOUCH YOU AS THEY USED TO DO. Tell God you are ready to be offered, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.”
I am NOT saying that I believe God gave me cancer so I could be used by him. But for whatever reason, He allowed it and is using me in it because I am willing to be OFFERED. This is not the equivalent of those crazy thoughts we have about God: “What if I turn my children over to him and then he makes them get in an accident/a disease/ or die?”. Or the infamous, “What if I turn my will over to him completely and he makes me be a Missionary in Africa?”. I have had those thoughts. That’s when I realize that I have designed my own God…and He is a terrorist. This is not the gracious, loving God described in scripture-who sent his son into this *%#%$ world to live and die for my brokenness.
Life happens. In this world we will have trouble. It’s a promise. But He has overcome this world. The best I can do is offer myself to Him to be used as I deal with life on life’s terms.
I love the verse that follows 2 Timothy 4:6…”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” I am ready to be OFFERED.
So-more good news: my blood counts are all phenomenal ( my neupogen shots that I had to give myself in the stomach jump started my immune system) which means i can have my biopsy THURSDAY if everything looks the same on Wednesday. They will send the results to Washington (to a place that can look even closer at the molecular structure of the marrow). If there is ANY TRACE of Leukemia at that point, they will start the transplant process immediately. If NO TRACE, we do 2 or 3 more rounds of Chemo ( 5 days in hospital each time, with a couple of weeks in between) and call it a day. Please pray for clear answers about how to proceed and that if i need a transplant that my brother or sister will be a match. Thanks friends!
Here’s the history on how I lost my hair. It wasn’t remotely gradual and we didn’t have a whimsical, symbolic “shave your head” party like I read about other cancer patients doing. First of all, as you know, I have (had) a LOT of hair. I always assumed I would be 90 yrs old and still shaving my legs, waxing, and braiding my full head of hair. Well, the week I was in ICU, my giant head of hair morphed into one giant dreadlock. When I awoke and finally addressed what to do with the rat’s nest on my head, it was already too late. We even poured an entire bottle of conditioner on it and let it sit all night to see if we could possible comb through it. When my dear friend, Tracy, came to help “cut” my hair the next day, it was clear that combing was not an option. We went straight to shaving my head bald.
So, some comments on being bald: Emma thinks my head is “cute” and is not freaked out at all by my baldness. Blake encourages a variety of wigs just for, well, variety. 🙂 I have to admit that I don’t miss doing my hair: at all. It cuts out about 40 minutes of minutia, although putting my eyelashes on takes me about that long since I glue my eyes shut a few times before I get it right, so it’s sort of a wash.
I used to have “bad hair days”. Now, I have “hair” or “no hair” days. Yesterday I chose a “no hair” day because I wanted to test my observations so I could write this entry. Here’s is what has been confirmed: People are nicer to me when I don’t wear hair. Yep. I started noticing this one day when a store clerk was being especially helpful and pleasant ( sadly, I became suspicious). Then it hit me-I had on a scarf and no hair. Instead of the casual checkout and an obligatory, “have a good day” as I walk away, people stop short of grabbing my face in their hands, looking me in the eye, and saying “YOU have GREAT day” ( possibly wiping a tear from their eye). I am not complaining at all, mind you. It’s lovely to be treated this way. But I am sure you are way ahead of me on this: What would our world be like if we treated everyone like they have cancer? Like they are “sick” rather than just annoying? What if we gave people the benefit of the doubt when they are cranky or short-tempered or down right mean? A principal of faith and one that has been reiterated to me in recovery is one that helps me gain a better approach to people around me: I realized that people…” were perhaps SPIRITUALLY SICK. Though we didn’t like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, LIKE OURSELVES, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick person. How can I be helpful to them? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.'”
Reminding myself of this causes me to consider that even if someone is not walking around bald, with their illness advertised for all to see, that most people are suffering from many other ailments and are acting the way they do as a result of those. We can’t SEE the fear in his heart, we just think things like, “what’s that jerks’ problem!?”. We don’t SEE the emotional anguish, we just think, “why is she always so bitter and negative?”. We can’t SEE the deep hurt and betrayal, we just think, “boy, he’s a drag to be around. Such a downer.” We don’t SEE the insecurity that haunts her, we just think, “well, doesn’t she think she’s ALL THAT!?”.
We have all got our demons. Our wounds. Our baggage. We are all SPIRITUALLY SICK. When I remember this, God softens my heart and fills it with compassion…replacing judgment. Helping me see others with HIS grace and forgiveness and mercy. Treating them like they had “no hair”.