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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and Meditation.  Mindfulness is a catch-phrase these days and becoming a popular concept.  It means not just going through the motions, it means taking pause from busyness, it means being present in the moment. Meditation is focusing on a particular object or thought or teaching.

Why are these becoming increasingly more popular? I assert it’s because if we take a moment to pause and a moment to look up, we see our hearts ache for more.  Career, consumerism, accomplishment, and adventure are just a handful of the things we often wish would fill this void (but they just can’t completely do it).  People long for meaning, for attachment, for love in its deepest, purest form.   When people have opened up to me and shared what it has meant to them to learn of my diagnosis or when they have lost someone else to cancer I see the ache for “more”.  The questions spill out, “am I living as I truly wish to be living?” “Am I making the impact or difference that I want to be?” “Are my energies being poured out where I want them to be?” “Does x, y or z really matter?”.  And the biggest questions of all ---- “how can I get through life when it falls apart?”  “What can I depend on?”  “What is this life all about – the ancient question of the meaning of life.”  These are universal questions.  They are inside you and I waiting to be heard, waiting to be answered.

PAUSE. 

My oncologist told me last week that research has shown that 30 minutes of daily meditation increases longevity.*  Meditation helps you live longer!  These are not just catch-phrase concepts, they MATTER.  I’m attending a workshop called “Hearing God”.  It is teaching me to spend half an hour daily pondering scriptures.  I read the bible, I bathe myself in the scripture and it becomes ALIVE.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “The word of God is alive and active…it penetrates.”  I testify to this scripture, the words of the bible have become alive to me.  The Holy Scriptures are my LIFELINE they call me to TRUST, they call me to BELIEVE.  Exodus 34 God says, “I can be trusted”.  Faith is trust.  I am trusting that the holy scripture of the bible is true.  Jesus asks repeatedly “Do you believe?”  In Matt 9:28 Jesus says, “Do you believe that I can do this?” then in John 16:31 “Do you finally believe” that I came from God?

I read the scriptures and they speak into my life.  Exodus tells the story of Moses.  This man started off by asking God to please  send someone else to do his work, because he is not equipped. (Sound familiar? – it does to me).  But then this man leads the Israelite group of people out of slavery into freedom!  I’ve just read how Moses was on the mountain talking to God. “The Lord came down in a cloud and stood beside Moses.” (Exodux 34:5, CEV) And God’s light shone so brightly that when Moses came down from the mountain his face glowed! Moses encountered God firsthand.  Powerful!

In Matthew I’m reading about Jesus.  Jesus blows me away.  What I see at the end of Matthew is incredible.  Jesus is approaching his time to die on the cross.  He knows it.  He goes to the garden of Gethsemane to plead with God for his life (I’ve been there, I get it) he brings his buddies as support and they keep falling asleep.  I feel it, seriously, when Jesus needs you, so desparately needs you, you fall asleep?!  I feel Jesus’ loneliness.  His support has left him.  But it gets worse.  They deny they even know him! He is rejected not only by the Romans but by his closest friends!!!  He is humiliated, He is tortured and ridiculed.  He has to watch his mother watch him die.  This is the passion of Christ!  And He is separated from God himself as all the sins of the world fall on Jesus’ shoulders.  This is a weighty unfathomable burden. (And we haven’t even talked about his physical suffering.)  THIS IS WHAT JESUS EXPERIENCED FOR OUR REDEMPTION.  Take a moment to sit there.  Let it wash over you.  Let the cost of it soak in.  We sing about Amazing Grace.  Why is it so amazing? Because Jesus did this for me a wretched lowly human!

Oh my GOD!

Jesus endured the exact opposite of what I needed to keep going when I was diagnosed with cancer.  I needed to know I wasn’t alone, I needed to know I was loved, I needed to know I was cherished. Treasured.  That someone saw my desperation and brokenness.

I needed LOVE, penetrating love!

Jesus took on the loneliness, abandonment, humiliation, rejection so I don’t ever have to.

Jesus says “remain in my love” (John 15:9)

My experience:
My mom shared that she saw God’s love afresh when she had to face that her daughter might die and her heart longed for me to live.  She then encountered the magnitude of the God’s love for her.  My mom doesn’t want me to die; but God gave up his son to die for our sake.

My Dad has always loved me well.  Lately he has shared more tender words with me proclaiming his love for me.  He loves me immensely.

There is a song I learned in childhood which has lyrics “[God’s] love [is] like an ocean.”

As I was praying God communicated this to me:
“My love is an ocean.  OCEAN! An Ocean!
Cheryl, you know how much your Dad loves you?”
“Yes, he’s made it very clear and I feel it deeply.”
“I love you vastly more.  Your earthly father’s love for you is like a drop in the ocean.”


My God is LOVE.
MY GOD IS LOVE.
God’s banner over me is love. (Song of Solomon 2:4)

In Exodus 17 Moses won an epic battle.  To commemorate the victory Moses build an altar and named it “The Lord is my banner!”.  Then he says “Hold high the banner of the Lord!”

In the preceding chapters you read about words like this: “The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.”(14:14)  And “The Lord is my strength and my song and he has become my salvation; this is my God and I will praise Him, my father’s God and I will exalt him. “

And then I read in Psalms (27)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Do you feel it? God the Father fighting for you in love? Fighting for you to be able to have life to the full.

My response:
Oh Lord, You are my banner that I wave victoriously!!!

Lent is tomorrow. Historically and traditionally I do not practice lent.  But this year as I feast on what Jesus has done for me I am compelled to commit to keep meditating on the Holy Scriptures of the bible.  My life depends on this! (arguable yours does too. And remember there’s science behind meditation increasing longevity?)  I am choosing not to “give up” something for lent (this seems too reminiscent of the ‘rules’ Christianity seemed to historically teach).  No this lent I choose to ADD in to my life meditation on the bible in order to push out the less important.  What could be more lovely and worthy than meditating on Jesus?

This sort of mindfulness is absolutely vital.  Keep adding in exactly what you want your life to emulate and naturally you’ll find the junk or trivialness and all that which doesn’t fit will simply get pushed out.

Consider this with me:  What do you want more of in your life?

And if you love Jesus, take a fresh look at all he has done for you as we enter this season. 


Much love to all you readers who take the time to read my words.  I pray diligently that God will give me wisdom in my words, that I am not just sharing my heart but the heart of God as well.

XOXO
Cheryl



(*I hope to track down this source to cite)


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Good News!

Good news today again from my MRI.  Will share more when I have more energy again:)








Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Even if

Today driving to the library to have some quiet reflective and writing time this song came on the radio.


My friend sent me this song months ago when it first came out.

Today I listen to it with new ears.  I am waiting for my MRI results.  Usually this is surrounded in a time of anxiousness and fear that I can only manage to a small extent.  In the past as I await my results the fear becomes like a roaring lion that I’m trying to silence and pretend I’m not afraid of.  Much has happened in my heart the past couple of months (as I’ve discussed in previous blogs).  I wrestled with God and my faith was bolstered in mighty ways.  I assessed my faith.  I evaluated whether I could really hang my hope on what Jesus and the bible say.  I wrestled and in the end I made a decision.  I made the clear and conscious decision to believe that Jesus is who He says he is.  And it changed everything.

Fear has evaporated as I choose to believe in the unfailing love of my God.  Do you see how powerful my God has been to set me free?!  I no longer have to pretend that I’m not afraid.  Do I still have fears that pop up? Absolutely, but the paralyzing, incapacitating fear of dreading my MRI results because I dreaded that they would say cancer is coming back has gone.  Gone. 

How? There’s only one answer: Jesus. 

I read Psalm 23 this past week, words that I memorized years ago; but it was as if I read them for the first time.  This is my paraphrase:

God will guide me
I have everything I need. 
God renews my strength and leads me to right paths for His honor
When I’m in the valley of death I won’t be afraid.
God is my protection and comfort.
God blesses me with a feast and anoints my head.
**Surely goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE**
and (the promise) I will live in the house of the LORD forever!

That’s my God!

I don’t know what the results will say on Thursday; but I do know that God will be with me in it all!  He’ll be there on Thursday, just as He’s been there every step of my life and will continue to be there until I enter His magnificent, Glorious, presence some day. 

God is my loving Father who pursues me with His unfailing love and goodness. 
And when my life on this earth ends, my life in heaven with God begins.
My ancestors believed this.  My own mother is the one who comforted me with the words, “it will be okay” when she was diagnosed with cancer.  Years later I say to you readers: “it will be okay.” 

And I invite you to sing this song with me, (praising and trusting our good and loving God.)

Because the Peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) has enter my life and it has brought with it life giving freedom that is worth celebrating!


Monday, January 29, 2018

Just a friendly UPDATE

Update

I feel like an update is long overdue.  Where I’m at including struggles and blessings, what I’ve been up to, where I am headed.

How I’m feeling/everyday life

With the supports I have in place (our nanny 4 days a week and my mother in law helping out) I’m doing very well.  What this means is that although my energy is more limited than in the past, I am at least able to manage when and how I want to use my energy.  I have to go to bed right after the kids at least a couple nights of the week and often take a rest during the day; but this allows me the energy I need to invest in what matters most to me. 

I continue to find multi-tasking very challenging.  I do well when I focus on one task at a time.  I end up “short-circuiting” if I am pulled in more than one direction.  This can be frustrating at times; but also with an awareness of it I can prepare better to prevent system overload.

I can handle and enjoy a couple hours of more intense energy output (either physical or mental/noise); but then I need a rest.  These activities include things such as watching my kids, preparing/organizing for an outing, going for a run, being in an environment with lots of noise (such as family gatherings with adult conversation and kid noise in the background or the church lobby with the buzz of conversations before and after church.)  Noise now factors in to what makes me tired as does multitasking/organizing where the mind needs to be aware of multiple requirements.  (In fact I found it interesting how tiring it felt to travel by myself to Calgary by airplane in fall.  I’ve traveled quite a bit and this was a very simple route I’ve taken numerous times; but being completely responsible for myself and the buzz of all the people in the airport was tiring.  I was glad that I’m a relatively well-seasoned traveler so I was able to travel solo even though its taxing and mentally demanding.) 

My Christmas letter noted the specifics of what I’ve been up to.  The day in/ day out is variable but has a rhythm focused on getting my daughter to and from school and making sure I figure out something to feed my family.  If I have no appointments and don’t need a rest on the days my nanny is at our house, I often spend time at the library.  Slowly I’m getting closer and closer to completing the first draft of my novel.  Thursdays, I still try to make a retreat “day” (days are realistically only from 10AM until 2PM when I go pick up my daughter).  Here I work on my legacy writing.  I have only 5 or 6 letters left to write to my children for each year through adulthood.  “after school” I typically work on errands, chores, or school reading exercises for Rayna, since after supper my energy is usually zapped (I am very much enjoying facilitating teaching Rayna to read- she gets frustrated, but always wants to try; also I just finished reading her the youth version of the book I am Malala.  This was delightful – we were both inspired and it opened Rayna up to part of the rest of the world as well as to how reading can “take” you anywhere.)

MRI

I have my next MRI coming up this week (results to follow at the end of next week).  Awaiting these results has always been nerve-racking.  I’m currently experiencing mild headaches (probably tension headaches from typing/tending to small kids!) which just gets my mind going. (Also I noticed a small hard bump on my head about 3 weeks ago that may very likely be just from me bumping my head --- the girls have bunkbeds and I bang my head way too often tucking Alli in L---- but it’s ‘something’ that my mind may use to deceive me into thinking negatively.

All this to say, I continue to be optimistic about my results and I ask you to pray with me that God’s perfect love would drive out fear.  That I would hold loosely to what the results will be and trust God.  I rest in HOPE.  My friend shared a devotional with me today that quoted:

 Romans 5:5 “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us”

Pray with me for miraculous results.

Hope in God does not disappoint.  So I am all-in hoping for the best; trusting God no matter what.


GOALS
My goals for the upcoming months and year are as follows:
-       Complete my first draft of my novel
-       Begin and eventually complete writing out my story
-       Keep blogging, living real life like an open-book
-       Potentially explore speaking opportunities

And on my heart is a desire to bless the women of Chilliwack.  (The following isn't completely clear to me so bear with me if it isn't completely clear to you either!) I’ve received so much from so many people to help me in my challenges – from cosmetics through the cancer center and a beautiful gift basket for moms with cancer to gifts from personal friends, a jewelry party in my honor, etc. etc.  I needed the extra HOPE that these gifts helped to create; BUT SO DO SO MANY WOMEN IN MY CITY who are struggling in hopelessness of a variety of capacities (financial struggles, social struggles, mental health struggles, wounds of abuse, or like me crippling health struggles)!!!  As a pharmacist at Walmart I was privileged to meet people struggling in many of these capacities ---- so I know first hand the need to bless and breathe hope into people in this city.  (My heart just happens to bend particularly to women.)

My vision is to champion sharing our stories to learn from one another and grow in love for one another.

My mission (though its still developing) is to champion bringing HOPE to Chilliwack women in 'hopeless' situations.

I will never forget the first breath of real hope I received after my diagnosis.  It was from my wonderful colleague who told me Glioblastoma survivor stories and told me I could be one of them.  Her words opened up a world of HOPE to me.  Similarly, I want to breathe hope into other women's lives.

I’m not sure exactly what this will practically look like; but I have a dear friend of mine prepared to partner with me and hopefully launch something near the end of the year.  We have ideas and are excited to see how they will take shape.  I’ve become somewhat used to the fact that things happen slowly in my life; but I am excited for small steps toward this.


Partnership Opportunities

I invite you to continue to partner with me by reading my blog and sharing it and by praying.  My prayer requests are:
--Praise to our great God for His faithfulness and the blessings He has poured out on my family this past year.
            -- **Miraculous MRI results next week**
            -- **Peace as I wait for my MRI results**
            --wisdom and energy for my friend and myself to develop a beautiful and practical way to bless women in Chilliwack.
            -- I have an online twin mom friend (her twins are a bit younger than mine) with cancer named Charlene, who just found out, rather shockingly, that her cancer spread.  Please pray for her and her family (they love Jesus too), for healing, wisdom, hope and peace. 
            

Now this next “partnership opportunity” I add humbly and admittedly sheepishly.  I feel an explanation is required, sorry it’s lengthy. The partnership opportunity is MEALS/FOOD

--cooking has always been a challenge for me, it's simply something I do not enjoy (except for eating the home cooked meal!).  Plus as I mentioned multi tasking has become much more challenging for me, it just doesn't seem to work! ---and cooking requires a lot of multi-tasking! (I'm sure it's partially"mom brain" but I also believe there's a brain injury component from all my brain has had to deal with.)
All this to say, we are coping well with the blessed help of our nanny and my mother-in-law; but putting food on the table is still my greatest daily stressor.
So I present this opportunity IF and only IF (all of the below):
1) cooking is something you actually like to do
2) you desire to support me and partner with me in accomplishing my goals 
3) you have a surplus of energy
4) the words that I write are ministering to you &/or you also have a heart for the things that I do and am striving to promote &/or you just want a practical way to support/bless our family.

NOTE- this is not an urgent request and really 1 meal a week or so is all it would take to really feel my load lightened. (Message me for arrangements if you’d like to partner with me in this way or email me at cheryl.rostek@gmail.com)

And from the bottom of my heart – Thank you for loving me and my family and supporting us.  Finding and maintaining HOPE is truly a community endeavor.

Much love,


Cheryl


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Better To Have Loved

I wrote the following post and immediately felt that it was perhaps my most raw and beautiful post yet.  I wanted Ryan’s consent before publishing it; he immediately supported me posting it.  I reread my post, and was again pleased with what I had written.  But in this post I feel vulnerable in a new way, so I’ve hesitated, letting this document sit in my “unpublished” folder.  The thought crossed my mind, perhaps this is too personal to share.  It’s been a week.  Today in my quiet time I wrote this:


What good is a closed book on the shelf – collecting dust?
(No use at all.)
And so I choose to live my life as an open book.


So today I share.


Better to Have Loved

 Yesterday, I faced her.  Fear, grief, loss, emotion that can’t be labeled; it just sits in the gut raw and real and calls to be heard.  I didn’t intentionally decide I was now ready to face her.  In a way she popped up; I guess my heart and soul and body knew I was ready to enter this stage of grief. 

 I’m almost done writing letters to my children for each year of their lives through graduation.  This has been an onerous project; daunting at first – so many letters to write, how much time to write them unknown.  But it is beautiful as I enter these moments of writing letter I find myself traveling time.  I feel so very present in the moments I am writing for and yet so very absent.  It breaks my heart and builds me up all in the same stroke.  It is sorrow and celebration intertwined.  With over a year of writing these letters I am well versed in the dance of hoping mightily for the future, preparing for the “worst”, and trying to live fully present joyfully in today. 

 Yesterday I sat down to write letters to my children.  When I sit with this intention the words spill out onto paper, tumbling without effort.  But, yesterday I sat and I was cracked open when what spilled out was raw, real, beautiful love of a different sort.  I invite you to come along the journey, as intimate as it may be, because this beauty is too marvelous not to share.

 I have a legacy notebook, a journal for keeping track of the letters I have written and ideas for future letters.  Upon my cancer diagnosis I jotted down a list of “plans” for my letters: letters to my children each year, letters to Ryan, writing out our wedding story….  There is always more to write about.  Number three on my list was “write a letter to my kids’ future mom and my husband’s future wife”.  It sat there untouched, not needing to be opened, until yesterday when I happened upon writing this letter.

 I wrote the letter- to my husband’s future wife, with tears falling; but I remained composed and did not crumble into a weeping mess.  I came home to my busy life, made supper with my husband then bid him goodnight as he left to play pickleball. I fell asleep in my daughter’s bed as she asked me to lay beside her at bedtime.  I awoke and traipsed to my own bed, ready to continue my slumber.  But my grief said, “we are not finished yet.”

 I began sobbing, crying.  The letter came back.  I put on the song that my husband recorded for me.  I grieved that I would lose this man, by me losing my life.  When he came home I was awake crying.  The words to explain my tears felt impossible to say.  He was patient and waited until I was ready.  I mustered courage and resolve, “today I wrote a letter to your future wife” I said.  “Oh” He replied, knowly, “I see”.  We didn’t say much, other than acknowledging the awareness of this potential reality.  We held one another.  Maybe, he just held me?  We said enough to know that we love one another in a way that we would never have imagined 15 years ago when we were married.  We are in this together and it is beautiful.  The trust and intimacy of bravely facing this challenge together is inexplicable. 

 By writing a letter to my husband’s future wife I realized how dearly I cherish my husband and desire the ultimate best for his life.  But I also realized I have moved through stages of grief.  These stages are not linear, but I have seen sorrow, and anger, and bargaining --- oh to find the “right prayer” to say to God,---- and here I realize I am journeying into something new.  It may be called acceptance. 

Luke 9:24 says:

 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

 I am learning not to cling so tightly to this life of mine and this is precipitating a life-giving transformation.  Maybe this has helped me come to a place of acceptance?

 Acceptance.  Acceptance that I have been diagnosed with a life-threatening stage 4 cancer said to most certainly dramatically shorten my life.  Acceptance does NOT mean that I am giving up fighting to live.  Acceptance does NOT mean I am giving up hope.  Acceptance means the emotions have parted, at least temporarily, and I am able to see peace in the reality before me.  Perhaps this acceptance ought to be called “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7) Whatever we call her, I am being transformed.

 While I used to desperately petition God for my life, now its become a quieter request.  A steadfast knowing that God sees my heart and knows my desires.  A steadfast knowing that God is in the future, just as he’s been in the present.  A steadfast knowing that a simple, whispered request is as powerful as a mighty, emotional plea. 

 I believe in an Almighty God with power to hear and to act; but, regardless of what happens, I put my faith in Him and trust in Him as I walk out the remainder of my days - as many or as few as they may be.  I find beauty everywhere I turn.  I live in the beautiful of today because I do not know what tomorrow will bring.  My husband’s embrace, my children’s hugs and smiles, words shared between friends: these are no longer taken for granted. 

 I feel like the luckiest girl alive, to have been pursued by and fallen in love with my handsome, caring, wise, optimistic, and adventurous husband. 


Alfred Lloyd Tennesen said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

 Oh how sweet the love I have for my husband.  That he has chosen me, feels incredible.  How sweet to know how deeply he loves me in return.  He writes me songs, what greater act of romance could there be?

 In releasing my husband to freely marry again, shall I die, I have uncovered the depths of our love for each other.  It is love incomparably beautiful.  We are journeying dark roads;  but we are hand in hand, and we have the beacon of God’s love to illuminate our path.

 Strangely, I have come to welcome grief and fear and loss.  For they cannot steal joy, they cannot steal love.  Indeed, strangely they have come to do quite the opposite: I find love and joy increasingly overflowing in my life.  I give thanks for today.  I give thanks for a God who is present in it all: fear and grief and loss and anger and pain and love and hope.  Most of all, hope.  And I remember,


“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I Cor 13:7 (emphasis mine)




Thursday, January 11, 2018

Her children stand and bless her

To thrive we all need mentors: people with more life experience than ourselves who can speak encouragement and wisdom into our lives.  I am blessed that I can call my own mother a beloved and faithful mentor in my life.  She raised me to adulthood teaching me, by example, to love Jesus, love learning, and love people.  In adulthood, she continues to be a rock of wisdom and an out-pouring of practical support.  She has never stopped being my mom.  Now, she is grandmother to my children and how blessed they are to have this woman of faith to call Grandma.  I thank God for my mom: that she is still alive and that I can pick up the phone and hear her voice.  Thanks for everything you do, Mom.  For always being there and for setting my needs ahead of your own.  I love you.

2 Timothy 1:5 says
“I know that you sincerely trust the Lord, for you have the faith of your mother…and your grandmother.  This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you…”

I want to share with you all the faith of my mother, which is absolutely inspiring (and reflects the faith her own mother, my grandmother, who I was blessed to know for 13 years).  Indeed it has shaped my own faith which in turn will shape my daughters’ and son’s faith. (Beautiful isn’t it!)

Below is a letter my mother wrote this fall to her church documenting God’s goodness through her storm of battling Multiple myeloma (cancer) and experiencing her daughter’s (mine) brain cancer diagnosis.  I requested permission from my mom to share it on my blog to document my heritage of faith and to be able to bless others with the mighty wisdom and encouragement of my mom.


Three years ago today, September 3, 2014 I received the chemo that would hopefully knock out any remaining myeloma cancer cells in my body and in the process knock my immunity to nothing as well.  That was 6 months into my cancer journey. In other words it is 3 years since my stem cell transplant.  One of those situations where simultaneously it seems like yesterday and yet a lifetime ago as well. 

It is also 11 months since they found Cheryl's brain tumor which would soon thereafter be diagnosed as being an aggressive brain cancer.

I feel like there are things I would like to put on paper about those three years and yet I don't seem to be able to put anything into a logical sequence so I guess I will just start typing in bullet form and see what happens.  So here goes in no particular order...things I have experienced, things learned, things that are just rattling around in my head.  I make it available for you all to read. Perhaps it will encourage someone. If it gets tedious don't feel you must read on. 

-It's not fun having chemo cancer treatments. Stem Cell Transplants are definitely not a piece of cake.  But I've been blessed in that they did what they were supposed to do and put me into remission. However, I'm sure those of you who are parents will understand when I say 'I'd do it all again if that meant we didn't have to watch our children suffer'. 

-We have much to be thankful for.  Good medical people at the right place at the right time for both myself and especially so for Cheryl.  I believe in Jesus the great physician and I also believe that often he works through the gifts of medicine. 
Wonderful people who continue to pray and support.  When I was first diagnosed we were expecting grandchild #5 (with some people having said they doubted I would see that baby).  He is now 3 and we have 3 more grandchildren born since then approaching 2 years of age.  All healthy happy children.  
I was told at one point I was fortunate to be walking and wore a most uncomfortable neck collar for 4 months, but I do a lot more than just walk even if I can't do all I did before.  God has allowed me to have enough strength to be a help with Cheryl's twins when she had her surgery and treatment.  I can't play soccer with Carmen's boys but truth be told they would have played circles around me even if I hadn't been sick so I guess that's OK.  They also enjoy card and table games which I much prefer!
I've been able to ditch all pain medication and control discomfort with rest.

-When I was diagnosed God gave me the verse in Isaiah 26:3 'You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.

- When Cheryl was diagnosed God gave me the verses in Lamentations 3:22-24 - "His mercies are new every morning'.  They have proved to be truth.  See also the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness".

- Paul the apostle  said God told him 'my grace is sufficient'.  As I look at our church I know many of the rest of you have been in position to test these words as well. Many of you have walked equally or even more difficult roads.   Isn't it wonderful that although 'all we need is Jesus' he gives us so much more. The community of believers is such a blessing and our church has to be among the best.  I know this was what I kept saying in 2014, but to me God did so much for us when he established the notion of church and having us care for one another.  And you have been faithful, you stood by us all through my active treatment time.  Then when Cheryl was diagnosed you just buckled up and supported with caring and prayers again.  I never heard anyone say we had already used up our quota of prayers.  We can't begin to thank you enough.  

-Does this mean that every day is positive or that we never worry.  You know I'd be lying if I said 'yes'.  But:  David gave great praise psalms to us. He also gave us psalms of lament. God hears all our prayers - the laments as well as the praise.  But, as with David if we're honest we always circle back to the fact that God is good and praiseworthy and can be trusted.  
Naomi is often seen as a woman of lament in a negative way, but I recently read something that rang true.  If Naomi didn't in the midst of her struggles exhibit faith in God would Ruth really have claimed Naomi`s God as hers and followed her to a foreign land? 

-Why do some people appear to suffer more than others?? Do you think when we get to heaven it will be an important enough question to ask?  I don't know.  
I realize that there are many forms of suffering. I don't think I/we should try to compare. That's not my purpose.  No matter what the struggle when it's ours it's ours and it's tough.  I write of my experience. God knows each of us by name so I'm sure He also knows our situations.

-Our troubles may surprise us but they don't surprise God.  Isaiah 55:8-9 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways  higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'  
Yes there are days when I have great faith, days when I just marvel at the goodness of God in 'the midst' of everything and then there are days when I dearly  wish there was a 'magic' formula or special prayer that I could recite to take the struggles away and bring perfect health. Days when I think maybe God should listen to the way I think I would do it or times when I'm tempted to try to bargain with God. 

-The God of the Mountain is also the God in the Valley.  Gotta cling to that. But it's truth. 

-Last winter our small group used the book by Laura Story 'When God doesn't Fix It'. Subtitled: lessons you never wanted to learn, truths you can't live without.  (It's worth a read if you're struggling and it is in the church library). 
One of the truths we discussed is how God always has our greater good in mind. Our own view and vision is so limited. He's there to help us grow. We desire the quick fix - but is that really God's best for us. She also wrote the song BLESSINGS - what if God has a greater plan than our idea of a fix?  What if Our blessings are learning to depend on Him more or learning to grow closer to Him. What if our blessings come through rain (tears)?  

-We need to share our stories. As we share we comfort one another, learn together, gain strength. Don't wait for that perfect miraculous ending to share. We rejoice with those who receive such but God's sustenance through a longer trial is also worth rejoicing over.  We also mourn with those who mourn and have to carry on without loved ones. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says God comforts us in our trials so we can comfort others. I believe sharing our stories is a way to do that. It helps when we know we're not alone. It also helps us pray better for each other. 

-I must look for the 'small' blessings.  Small blessings aren't really small at all. 
They are things that God orchestrates as much as major miracles.  But because we're so focused on the 'bad' we often don't recognize them. Look for them. They are faith boosters.  -That special word in my devotional book. 
That phone call at just the right time.  Amazing sunsets on drive to Regina. Cheryl was seen exceptionally quickly by medical people. We all love their nanny. Thank God for the retired nurse friend who pushed them to hire one and recommended Stefanie. Not small - each one big - as a grouping  huge. 

-God is worthy of our praise just because  - because he is God!!! He is after all creator, holy, all powerful, sovereign, omnipotent and perfect. You get the picture.  God is in control.  He knows what's going on AND He loves us with a perfect love. We can trust Him. 

-God is a lavish God. I don't want my daughter to die. God loved His son too but He freely gave His only son Jesus to die for my/our sins. 
We want the quick fix - Jesus freely gave up his life to die a horrible death on a cross to pay a penalty I/we could never pay. Isaiah says our righteous acts were like filthy rags. (wonder how He must see our unrighteous acts??)  We couldn't begin to face a holy God without Jesus' blood. 

I'm sure there's more I could say, but this has become long as is.  As you have stood with us you are part of the story.  And I'm so grateful for each and every one.

God Bless

Alice (and Arnold)



**reference for the title "Her children stand and bless her" Proverbs 31:28 (NLT)



    


Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Merry Christmas from our family to yours.
What a delightful Christmas it was! (though capturing 2 toddlers in a picture is near impossible!)