In God’s Hands

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I have cancer! The big C! The one word that can make even the biggest, strongest men quiver in their boots. Now that I have your attention, I’d like to tell you how God has had His hands on me from the very beginning…

A little over a year ago, I took a new position working for a doctor that performs ultrasound guided fine needle aspirations (USGFNA). Basically, it’s a biopsy of a nodule, mass, etc. Most of the patients we see, have thyroid nodules, neck masses, those type of things. The doctor takes a sample using a needle, makes slides, and then goes to look at the slides under the microscope before the patient leaves the office. He is able to give the patient a preliminary diagnosis before they even leave the office. Nice, right? Then the patient doesn’t have to wait a week to find out what is going on.

About a month ago, we had a medical student rotate through the office. The poor guy stood for two weeks and just watched the doctor perform the procedures. About a week into the rotation, I told the med student that if he wanted to practice doing an ultrasound, he could use my neck. Nothing more was said about it at the time. However, on the student’s last day, the doctor asked if the med student could practice on me. Sure. All in the name of science and learning, right?

So I laid back on the table and he began the ultrasound. I saw a funny look pass over my doctor’s face. The med student proclaimed that I was free and clear of any thyroid/neck issues. At that point, the doctor grabbed the transducer from the student and started looking around. Then he told me that I have two thyroid nodules and they look a little weird. Really? Come on. I don’t have time for this!

I reminded myself that thyroid nodules are very common. Twenty percent of people have at least one. Of those 20%, only about 8% are anything other than benign. Then the doctor told me that the one nodule has a calcified rim around it. Hmmmm, that’s not good.

Anyway, a few days later, the doctor took samples of both nodules. The one in my left thyroid lobe was suspicious for neoplasm (which could mean benign or malignant) and the one in my isthmus (the connecting piece between the two lobes) was suspicious for papillary thyroid cancer. What?! I really don’t have time for this! I actually looked at my own slides under the microscope. I remember being very shaky after he told me my diagnosis. Remember, I work there, so it was back to business as soon as I was done with my biopsies. I remember feeling tearful (not actually crying, just being on the verge). Then my problem solving instincts clicked in. Ok, what’s the next step?

The treatment for papillary thyroid carcinoma is to remove the thyroid. I made an appointment with a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. I met with her and loved her immediately. I also had another appointment with a surgeon at Ohio State University, but I cancelled that because I felt such a peace about my choice with the Clinic. I scheduled my surgery. As long as the nodules are not invasive, a thyroidectomy is the only procedure I will need. If it is invasive, then I will have to do a radioactive iodine treatment as well. There is no chemotherapy needed.

So you may be asking yourself, why is this post titled In God’s Hands? Well, He has had His hands on me from the very beginning of this whole process. It goes as far back as me even accepting my current position. If I hadn’t, I’d still be working at the hospital and there would have been no opportunity for me to be a guinea pig for a medical student. He guided me to the facility and surgeon where He knows I am in good hands. He has comforted me when I feel my anxiety skyrocketing and I feel like I’m going to jump out of my own skin. He has comforted my thoughts. Quelled my queasy stomach. I give Him all the glory for guiding my surgeon and her team.

He is amazing! Will you let Him work in your life? Will you let Him show you what He can do? What He can overcome? Some naysayers, may say I am weak for putting my trust in something I can’t even see or explain. Weak? It’s quite the opposite! It takes strength to relinquish control. It takes strength to realize that you’re not even in control in the first place. Are you ready to relinquish that control over to God? It may seem impossible to you, but He can accomplish more than you can ever dream possible!

 

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Being a disciple…

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I have a lot on my heart. I have been thinking and praying on a lot of issues. My pastor has been preaching a lot lately on the topic of Christians being the “salt and light” to non-Christians which made me question the category of Christian that I fall into. Can others tell from my actions that I am a disciple of Christ? I have been doing some soul searching for the answer to that question and have come up with the answer that I am falling far short of being the salt and light for Jesus. I am ashamed to admit that I am sucked into gossip at work. I am ashamed to admit that I form an opinion and judge others based on their outward appearance. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t always have kind thoughts towards others. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t love or pray for my neighbors.

How can I expect others to fall in love with my Jesus when I represent Him so poorly? If I am no different than anyone else, why would they want to follow my Jesus? If I claim to be a follower of Jesus and succumb to all the worldly behaviors/attitudes, how am I any different from a non-believer?

I was challenged this week, in church, to pray for my neighbors, to serve my neighbors and to eventually invite them to church. This is easy when it concerns my elderly neighbor. He’s been over for dinner, my son has carried in his groceries for him on multiple occasions, we’ve taken him doughnuts and fresh baked cookies. This isn’t so easy when it concerns my neighbor who leaves trash all over outside and who has the dog that barks pretty much all day/night long or the neighbor that purposely parks under my son’s basketball hoop so he can’t play basketball and then refuses to answer her door so that we can politely ask her to move her car. Those are the neighbors that my pastor challenged me to pray for, to get to know their story, to serve them and to invite them to church. I will be the first one to admit that this will be very, very difficult. I am an introvert, so I prefer to stay inside my fortress. Jesus never said being His disciple would be easy. There is awkwardness and effort involved. And I will just have to get over it because my Jesus wants my neighbors in Heaven. It’s my responsibility to show Jesus to them. Wow what a responsibility!

Please pray for me. I want to be the disciple that people see and say, “Wow, she’s different.” And then I want them to ask me why I’m different and I can tell them it’s because I am in love with and sold out for Jesus!

Faith…and what it means to me

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I was raised in church. Back then, religion taught me that there are rules, lots of rules. Do this, not that. Do that, not this. God was this entity to fear and obey because of this fear that was instilled in my bones. I didn’t take God and His Word seriously. I was scared of God. Church was not somewhere I enjoyed going. In my mid to late 20’s and on into my early 30’s, I strayed from God. It was easy to stop going to church. It was easy to stop praying and it was definitely easy to stop following His rules. I made a lot of mistakes and bad choices.

About four years ago, I started looking for a new church. I decided that I wanted to raise my son to love God. It took me about a year to find a church that I felt was home. The best part is that my son loves going. He loves church, learning about God, spending time with other kids who love God.

Up until about a year and a half ago, I thought I could still live my life the way I wanted and honor God at the same time. Nope, I was wrong. It doesn’t work that way. FINALLY, after God knocking me on the head multiple times, it has finally penetrated my thick skull, that HE has to come first. There is so much more to God’s love for me than I will ever be able to comprehend. The God I know now is a God of love. He wants me to spend time with Him because I love Him. He wants me to obey Him and follow His commands out of love for Him, not fear of Him. God’s love for me will NEVER fail. It will NEVER falter or fizzle out. His is the one true unconditional love. I owe a huge thank you to my church and pastor for opening my eyes and my heart so that I can receive the love that God meant for me.

Now I live for Him. I pray and wait for an answer before making decisions. It is so much easier making the right decisions because I don’t want to disappoint the One who loves me the most. I want to make the right decisions, I want to follow the rules that He made for me to follow. He made those rules to protect me. I realize this now…I realize His love for me.

A woman of faith…

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A woman of faith…what does this mean to you? I thought I knew what it was to be a woman of faith until a few weeks ago when my stepmom (who’s been a part of my life since I was 5) was diagnosed with an acute leukemia which caused a condition called DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) which caused bilateral brain hemorrhages. Defining the medical terminology isn’t important, suffice it to say that the doctors told us she probably wouldn’t “make it” through the night. What? How was this possible? She was taken to the ER with a severe headache and some unexplained bruising on her arms and legs and ended up in the neuro-intensive care unit. The medications that they used to treat the cancer caused her lungs to fill with fluid. They spoke to us about possibly having to intubate. My dad and I looked at each other helplessly. The medications they gave her to get rid of the fluid buildup caused her sodium levels to drop…and on and on and on the complications went. Everything that could possibly happen, happened.

Then the chemotherapy treatment began after the DIC was resolved. The chemo agents were pumped into her system 24 hours a day for an entire week. She also had oral chemo meds to take as well. Her blood counts/platelets plummeted, which was a good thing, or so they told us. The idea is that with leukemias you have to “kill” everything in the blood, good and bad, and then build all the levels back up again. They warned us that they week after the chemo was finished would be the worst. We are right now at the tail end of the week following the leukemia. Yesterday, she decided she wanted her head shaved because her hair had started falling out. She is losing muscle mass because she is unable to keep food down after she eats and because she has been in a hospital bed for 3 weeks now. She has lost weight, that she didn’t really need to lose. She developed painful blisters inside her mouth from the chemo. She lost the ability to control her bodily functions. She spent Mother’s Day in the hospital. She will miss her youngest granddaughter’s first birthday party. She will miss another granddaughter’s birthday party. She will miss Friend Day at her church (a very important, fun event when people she would’ve invited would have attended church – some for the very first time). She missed the tulips blooming. She missed the trees growing their beautiful green leaves. She missed the smell of lavender and honeysuckle. If you ask her, I bet she wouldn’t mention any of these things. If you ask her about this journey, she would tell you that she got to witness to so many people on this journey because through it all, she remained a woman of faith.

Never once did she doubt that her God would take care of her. Never once did she doubt that her God was in control. Never once did she fail to praise Him in her circumstances and in her physical pain. Never once did she question Him. Never once did she ask, “Why me, God?” Never once did she doubt that He would heal her and make her whole again.

While in the ICU her favorite worship song was played for her and she raised her hands in praise and glory to Him. While in the midst of an extremely painful bone marrow biopsy procedure she prayed to her God and thanked Him for being in control, thanked Him for being so good to her and then asked me to sing to her. While being visited by the many different doctors who have consulted in her care, never once did she fail to give God the praises for her situation. While being visited she never fails to ask that family member, “Are you ok?” Her main concern is where all her grandbabies are, who are they with and when can she see them.

How many of us in this dire situation would’ve remained so true to our God? Never questioning, never doubting. I would like to say that my faith would’ve been unwavering, unquestioning, but I’m not so sure that would be a true statement. Through this journey I have been taught what it means to be a woman of faith and for this I say, “Thank you, Toni.” And make sure you thank your God, no matter what your circumstance.

 

 

Not for the faint of heart…

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I hope this post doesn’t seem too spastic or random. I have a lot on my heart and my thoughts are jumping every which way. I also am not really going to edit this post too much because I want to get my unadultered thoughts out and “on paper.” If this post seems confusing, I apologize. This is what is on my heart and what I want to share with you…

Yesterday at church, my pastor read some statistics about Christians that were earth-shattering to me. I will share just a few of these with you:

1. 50% of people who describe themselves as Christians believe that Satan does not exist.

2. 30% of people who describe themselves as Christians contend that Jesus sinned while He was on earth.

3. 88% of children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return.

These are some very sobering statistics and I feel they should challenge us to rethink our presentation of what it means to believe in Christ. First, ask yourself, why did you accept Christ? Was it because you were told your life would be easier, more peaceful, that things would always go your way if you have God on your side? There’s a movement in churches where they feel the need to present God in a seeker-sensitive way. They don’t want to offend someone who COULD become a Christian. They don’t want to come across as too hardcore in their beliefs. The premise of these churches is that after attending a service, you feel better about yourself as a person.

I think we are getting it wrong. People need to be told the truth. Basically it is this according to Scripture: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

We have watered down Scripture for so long. The reason that you should accept Christ as your Savior is because “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. It’s Law that you accept Christ.

Once you accept Christ, “…you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.” Romans 6:22 Did you catch that? ENSLAVED to God. Jesus commanded us to “…take up his cross and follow Him.” Matthew 16:24 He wasn’t referring to the cross as a burden or a heavy load. Back in Jesus’ day, the cross represented torture, humiliation, death. That Scripture calls us to die to self, to surrender completely. This picture doesn’t paint the life that the seeker sensitive church wants you to believe Christianity is.

When you choose to follow Christ, you will be persecuted, humiliated and your life will be chock full of tribulations and trials. It is time that we stop misrepresenting Jesus to others. If you don’t accept Christ, you will be banished to hell for eternity.

Until recently (the last couple years), I attended seeker sensitive churches. Until recently, I didn’t realize that receiving blessings from God hinged upon my obedience (or blatant disobedience) to God, His commandments and His will for my life. I didn’t understand that flaunting my disobedience in front of God, angered Him because He loves me so much. He wants what is best for me as any parent would. It’s amazing how I would rationalize my sin to myself, not understanding that there are consequences to be paid because of my choices.

It is an everyday struggle, but I yearn to be enslaved to God. I want to see what blessings he has in store for me for loving Him, serving Him, living for Him. I am going all out for God! Will you join me?

Being the mom of a boy…

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Allow me to set the stage: A dark room with the door pulled shut halfway. My son is in the dark room, calling for me. I push the door open and I walk into a bungee cord which is attached to a fan. When I “activate” the bungee, some sort of plastic thing hits me on the head. An exclamation of, “Awesome! It worked.” I’ve been booby trapped!

Another example: A jump from the sofa to the ottoman, then a jump from the ottoman onto the floor combined with a front flip where the end result is the Christmas tree receiving a bear hug from my son, then the Christmas tree hits the wall, which in turn knocks a clock and a picture off and while the clock is falling, knocks a vase of flowers of the nearby table. Flowers and water all over the floor, battery knocked out of the clock, Christmas tree branches crunched and bent in (yes, it’s fake), and only one ornament fell off in the surprise attack. I looked at my son who had a look of, “Oh, crap, I’m in big trouble now.” Now tell me, how I’m not supposed to laugh at this situation?

I’ve stepped on more Legos than I can count and have gone sprawling multiple times after walking on Matchbox cars. Dirty laundry litters the floor of his room after he is repeatedly reminded to put it in the laundry basket. I find slimy, squishy things everywhere. Clothing has to be pretreated for stains on a regular basis. A quiet room is a sign of another booby trap being designed. I have found worms in places where there shouldn’t be worms, dirt in places where the sun doesn’t shine, a fine sandy grit in the bottom of the bathtub after he’s had a good soak. Boys are stinky and gross! But I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world! He makes me laugh multiple times a day. I marvel at his imagination and creativity and fearlessness. He just never ceases to amaze me…

I am so blessed that God gave him to me to take care of and enjoy while he’s here on this earth. I wonder what I did to deserve being blessed with him. I love watching his personality and intelligence develop and mature.

I am in awe of God and His creation!Image

Tummy aches…

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ImageGood morning! I’m sitting in my favorite chair, drinking my favorite coffee and watching the snow fall. I’m waiting for a phone call. You see, it started last night with a tummy ache. In anticipation of school today, my son’s tummy was jumpy. He actually cried a bit before bed which is VERY unlike him. He slept fine. Upon waking him this morning, said tummy was still upset and he proclaimed he couldn’t go to school like that. Once again, very unlike him, he started to cry. Interesting to me, that if his tummy was upset, how could he down two waffles in the matter of ten minutes? I explained to him that school is his job and if he misses he will lose his perfect attendance record for this year. I also explained that he would be going to school and if he was indeed sick (fever, vomiting, etc.) that the school would call me. 

Yes it would be easy to allow him a “sick” day. He’s in first grade. It wouldn’t be detrimental. However, what precendent am I setting? If I had let him stay home, it would teach him that all he has to do is cry a bit and complain of not feeling well and he would get a stay home day.

Of course I felt terrible about forcing him to go to school. What if he really is sick? This morning I felt it was more important to teach the lesson of perserverance, diligence in doing something that he really didn’t want to do and helping him to establish a good work ethic. If I wait to teach him those lessons when he’s older, it will be too late.

It’s my job to be his parent, not his friend at this point in his life. It’s more important to teach him character and integrity than to be the nice mom who let him have a “sick” day. I’m far from a perfect parent, but I strive to do what is best for him everyday, even if it means making him go to school when he’s “sick.” 

Enjoy your Monday!
Emily