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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Januaray Joy Dare

My gift list...Ann Voskamp (Januaray-Joy-Dare)
1. Growing hair on my head
2. I can sing
3. Organized recipes
4. Wood pecker on power pole
5. Laughter
6. Avocado on a plate
7. Handmade quilt
8. Truck
9. Comfy blue jeans
10. Cling to hope and My rays of light will reach you through the darkness.
11. Apron
12. Sunrise
13. Chap stick
14. Artwork by Dustin
15. Love
16. Firewood neatly stacked
17. Let's do a lunch date
18. I love you mommy
19. Early evening glorious moon
20. Sun on hardwood floor
21. A book
22. My house
23. A sweet friend
24. Limeade
25. Carmel candy
26. Candle
27. Sunflowers
28. Lemonade
29. Bright yellow sunrise
30. A dog
31. Tera firma
32. Bird nest outside
33. water running
34. Tractor idling
35. The words I'm sorry
36. His WORD
37. Personal testimony of a friend
38. Handmade head wrap
39. A meal
40. A prayer request
41. Watching my dogs play
42. Boy laughter
43. Finishing a baby blanket
44. A friend came to visit me
45. Lab results
46. No Chemo today
47. Isaiah 1:18
48. Psalm 73:26
49. Ephesians 6:10-18
50. Abundance of food
51. Rain: a picture of His quenching my thirst
52. Phone calls: prompted by Holy Spirit and powerful prayer
53. A reflection in a rain puddle
54. Soft muzzle of a dog
55. Embers in the fireplace
56. Morning sun
57. A hug from a friend
58. Mud
59. Old notes in my Bible
60. Wood cross (fits in my palm)
61. Peace of Christ (Phil. 4:7)
62. Love in Christ (Rom. 8:38-39)
63. Hope in Christ (Col. 1:27)
64. Old baby quilt with blue blocks
65. Blue hat
66. Dustin's blue lunch box (it was lost but came home today!)
67. A written prayer request
68. A note
69. Blue eyes
70. Fruit
71. Answered prayer
72. Sweet slumber
73. Solitude
74. Nap in the afternoon
75. Nausea medicine
76. Encouragement
77. Tears
78. Honesty
79. Overcome (Jeremy Camp)
80. Bedroom window sill
81. Hi Mommy
82. A red barn
83. Picture frame
84. Worn leather work gloves

Monday, January 30, 2012

Finishing Strong

It is finished!

Happy to report that the cycle of chemotherapy is now complete!  Let the celebration continue. Praise Him!

Finished
           Last
                 Close
                         Terminate
                                      Completeness
                                                         End
                                                              Done

You are the God who sees me. El Roi.  He has been faithful through it all. He truly is able.  Extremely thankful to be finished with this portion of my race. I set out at the beginning of this race not knowing what it would look like, let alone how the finish would be.  With grace as my companion I have conquered the beast of fear and won.  It was not easy.  Through Christ I was able to do all things.  I was able to face each treatment and endure the yucky nausea, body aches and poison to my body.


Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  Hebrews 12:1-2

Keeping the eyes focused has been a challenge.  I believe this is what you call perseverance.  Without this lesson to force me to daily fix my eyes I would be a different person.  Time can change a person, but His Word changes the heart: the spiritual eyes.  Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus, that the eyes of their heart would be enlightened. My eyes have seen the glory.  They are forever changed in light of cancer and this race.

Trials are an opportunity to prove the faithfulness of God in our lives.  

It is through the fiery furnace of affliction that we grow and thus reflect the light, the hope of glory.  None of us want these heart aches.  Yet at the same time we are keenly aware that troubles, trials and afflictions are part of life.  Jesus said so himself.  It's no wonder that these heart pains contribute to our earthly woes.  God allows these tests to come into our lives for the purpose of strengthening our faith in Him.  Satan would love to kill, steal and destroy us by tempting us to choose the pathway of sin.  God always provides a way out.  He is good, all the time.  It is His character, He can't be anything else.

Brothers I do consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13-14

Maybe you find yourself in one of these firey tests.  What are you going to do about it?  Let me share what I have learned...

Be careful in trials.  If you find yourself asking this question over and over...why am I going through this?  If you sense your body temperature rising, if the tone of your questioning is whiney, cynacal or even a sniveling cry...here is what you do:
  • James 1:19 Listen.  Be swift to hear and slow to speak.  You can't be swift to hear if all you are doing is yelling at God, or for that matter your loved ones. 
  • James 1:20 It does no good to be angry, it bears no fruit. Instead be quiet, retreat.  Spend some time alone.
  • James 1:21 Do some housecleaning.  No, not your home -- but your temple: self examination. Get rid of the moral filth that is weighing you down. Ask God to show you and be honest with what He reveals to you. 
  • James 1:22-25 Go to the Word for direction. Take a good look at the face in the mirror.  Ask yourself what am I filling my ears with?  Is my mind set in stone? It's one thing to hear the Word and think you are fine. AKA: attending church on Sunday morning, check again. You can agree with the Word, but that is not good enough.  You will be blessed if you do (live it) the Word.
  • James 1:26 Watch your words.  Keep a tight rein on your tongue.  If you are in right standing with the Lord & your brother(s) you will bridle your tongue.
In the end you will be able to agree with James when he states,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  James 1:2

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Pinch of Patience

Today started with a lesson in patience.  It was a typical morning in the house.  Dustin up, dressed, feed and waiting for the bus to arrive.  I bundled up to walk him across the road and then hurry back into the house.  To my surprise my door had frozen shut, locked and key-less I was stuck.  Now, I had just put two of the four dogs outside and locked the back door because they have figured out how to open the door on their own.  This of course is not good in 20 degree weather.  I thought to myself no big deal just go up to the shop and find the spare key.  Well to my dismay their was no spare key to be found.  I called my in-laws who fortunately did have a spare key.  Whew!  I just had to be patient and wait.  I could see the coffee I just poured on the counter through the window.  I could also see two naughty dogs emptying the contents of the trash can all over the kitchen floor.  I could do nothing to stop them.  

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 
James 1:2-4

I wait for tomorrow with much weighing on my mind.  I will be done with this road of chemotherapy tomorrow.  

Tomorrow...

Regardless of lab results affirming treatment or denying treatment.  At any rate, the end of a chapter in this race will be finished.  My faith has been stretched.  I have overcome many obstacles in my path.  I have not accomplished this alone.  Testing of ones faith comes with a price.  How much has it cost?   It had all ready been paid - His death - covered the cost - in full.  I am eternally grateful.  My cup of patience has been filled to overflowing.  I have come to understand it takes trials and struggles of all shapes and sizes to grow.  With out these tests we would not have a way to prove our faith.  I believe and so I am saved.  It's like Abraham - he believed God and it was credited to him as righteous (Hebrews 11).  This came before the act of offering Issac on the alter.  His faith was tested.  Abraham's works proved his faith was real.  God brings these tests to bestow blessings upon us. Like sand on the seashore...too many to count.  Blessings like fruit in the form of patience.  We can't give birth to fruit with out a growing season.  It takes time for fruit to develop and become ripe.  So it is with our faith. 
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must first believe he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  
Hebrews 11:6

What does it mean to earnestly seek? 

 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:7

 I have discovered over these past nine months that prayer has become my lifeline to the throne.  It is open 24/7 for business.  It's not that I didn't pray before all of this happened, I just have been praying more...like all the time. 

Be joyful because you have hope, be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. Romans 12:12

I have prayed for patience.  He has delivered.  If you don't ask you won't receive.  We don't ask and we wonder why things stay the same or get worse.  Seeking His kingdom enables his outpouring of various gifts - blessings He wants to bestow upon us.  I am overwhelmed with the response.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Are Thank Offerings?

I am reminded once again by some notes I was re-reading in my journal.  Notes from 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp, "How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?" Her answer is this: "We only enter into the full life if our life gives thanks."  Psalm 50:23 states, "He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." Thank offerings are those graces that cross our paths daily.  Sometimes they are easily spotted.  Sometimes we have to look for them.  Either way it is in the naming of these graces that our thanks makes its way heavenward.  When you can give something a name and identify it's source this brings our hearts to a place of thankfulness.  This really is the premise to Voskamap's book -- name the gifts and record them.  Making a record validates the authenticity of who is responsible for giving the grace. This is why I am listing my January Joy-Dare gifts.  There is something so powerful, refreshing and inspiring about the naming.  It is contagious.  I can't help but share.

In order to live the full life I must practice thankfulness.  What does this look like?  Seriously it's hard to give thanks all the time.  But this is what we are reminded to do over and over in the scriptures.  There are 39 exact phrases recorded for us with the words, "give thanks" in the OT and NT.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for [He is] good! For His mercy [endures] forever. Psalm 107:1 

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. Psalm 97:12

A deeper understanding comes (wisdom?) from God in my faith as I offer up these graces.  This may actually be how my salvation is being worked out.  Through the pain and often difficult circumstances I can still thank my God and praise him.  He is still God and always good. Regardless of how I feel, and these days I don't feel so great. My body is crippled with poison and weighed down with side-effects I can't hide.  It doesn't change who He is. I name in spite of my road and because of my road.Cancer may change me, but not Him.  It is in these moments that I discover the joy that comes with naming the gifts. This is the nugget of truth one reads in Voskamp's book.  Why am I so drawn back to her writings?  There is nothing new under the sun.  This is no new truth.  What is new is the presentation. A fresh perspective.  A revelation that is a taste of reality, not fake.  I love how God can use a simple farmers wife and mom of six to be a spokeswomen.  God still speaks today.  Through the writings inspired by the Holy Spirit a whosoever became obedient to write what had been placed on her heart. She had a story to share. We all have a story to share. I am inspired, encouraged and motivated to press on.  To fight my own giants and discover the joys placed on my path.  Why didn't I see them before?  They have always been there.  I needed a tool, a system to help me stay the course and march along the highway of thankfulness.  As I name and record, the thank offerings make there way to heaven.  An offering.  A fragrant offering. Like incense burning on the altar.  The sweet smell rising above circumstances, above the pain and above self. 

Let my prayer be set before You [as] incense, The lifting up of my hands [as] the evening sacrifice.  Psalm 141:2

A form of thanksgiving can be a simple raise of my hands.  They are high and lifted up in adoration of His graces given. The palms turn and open to receive more. I become the fragrance. Sweet smelling to the Savior: the best gift of all.

Now thanks [be] to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  2 Corinthians 2:14


So I continue to name and number...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Word for 2012

I have been trying to think of a word to describe what I believe the Lord would have me focus on in 2012. It's no an easy feat to come up with just one word.  It really is a challenge.  I wanted clear confirmation from the Lord about this.  It's not about me...then again it is about me.  I have so many questions.  No answers for these questions looming in my mind.  Time. Space. Family. Friends. Church. Ministry. Exercise. Food. Bible Study. Worship. Laundry. Animals. Cleaning. Homework. Health. The list could go on and on.  Then it hit me.  What am I really about? I have so many things I want to do.  Again it is "me" driven.  Not your will Lord but thine be done...remember the sacrifice He paid.  Keep the main thing the main thing: Christ and Christ alone.

So this year my word is:   INTENTIONAL.

To be intentional in three specific areas of my life.  
1. My personal relationship with Christ. A re-commitment to grow in my knowledge of His Word, to commit myself to prayer and to seek His kingdom above all else.
2.  My health.  I must give myself permission to take proper care of my body.  Meaning to eat well, getting some exercise and resting. This one is most likely going to be the hardest.  To me this speaks of not getting over-committed, possibly even saying no to some good opportunities. 
3.  My relationships.  To make time for "dates" and un-interrupted communication with my husband.  To follow my heart and be led by the spirit when it comes to being with friends.  Connect on a deep level and minister in the moment.

This approach is different than picking a bad habit you may want to break or setting an impossible goal.  It replaces the concept of a New Year's Resolution. You might be wondering how on earth can I pick one word.  I have some help for you.  Check out this web page called: www.myoneword.org.  You will find some tips that can help you pick a word for the year.





Monday, January 16, 2012

Comic Relief

I wanted to write a few thoughts down on the lighter side and maybe try to get  you to laugh.  I feel like I have been so serious about myself these last few rounds of chemo.  Not allowing myself to be fully here. For those of you who read Ann Voskamp you may be familiar with the term: live fully here, now.  So I was pondering some funny things that have happened to me.  I am sure most of you will be able to relate to my crazy and often hilarious life.  It really is funny when you step back and look.  Perspective brings into focus what is truly important.  Besides one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy.

You know that life dishes out some rather hair raising situations, here are a few of mine:

1. I was talking on the phone with a lady from the bank because once again I think somehow it's a mistake that my bank account is overdrawn.  I know this lady and she thinks my son is so quiet and obedient.  Yet while talking to her my son is, yelling and kicking the dog(s) and running around the house half dressed.

2. I've discovered evidence (who knows how long it has been sitting in a pile!) that one of my dogs is sick.  Immediately I put the dog outside. Only to turn around and find another pile of loveliness.  This has happened to me several times.  I have four dogs! 

3.  I awoke in the middle of the night and rolled over only to find my son in the middle of the bed and I wondered how did that happen? Didn't hear a thing...I used to hear everything he did as a baby in the middle of the night, even his breathing!

4. I recently discovered alphabet magnetic letters in the toilet.  I know why on earth were they in the toilet?  Well apparently my son was using the towel rack bar (it is magnetic, who knew?) to spell words in the bathroom.  Some "accidentally" fell off the towel bar into the toilet.  I then (being a vet's wife) used at large artificial insemination glove and scooped the letters to safety before they became another problem.  (see photo!)
Yes I actually fished out the letters!

5.  One of my favorite cards I received right after I shaved off my hair was from my sister.  I posted it in my office.  It has a picture of a pirate on the front and states: If people ask why you're wearing a scarf on your head and you say it's because you're a pirate...they'll have no follow-up question.  I actually told some kids this and I think they really believed me. (I even pretended to talk like a pirate...eye ma tee!)

Okay so maybe they aren't that funny.  At any rate you have to be willing to laugh at yourself and the silly things that do happen.  I find that I am taking things that happen to me with more grace.  The other night my sweet husband washed and cleaned up the dishes for me.  I failed to mention that the saucepan on the stove was part of our dinner.  He threw it away.  The old Anna would have seriously lost it and most likely would have stormed off into solitude for the night pouting like a child.  I was frustrated yes, but I just swallowed hard and made a second batch of the sauce.  I laughed silently to myself.  I am learning that some things just aren't worth getting upset over.  Dogs seem to test my patience the most along with an un-compliant child. It's in these moments when I have the opportunity to exercise self-control.  I have a chart on my fridge that lists the attributes of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  It also lists the opposite to each attribute in an  attitude.  This is especially helpful for myself as well as those teachable moments as a Mom. 

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  
Love never fails. 
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

It is the eve before my last round of chemo, number 12.  It's hard to believe the road is actually coming to an end.  So grateful for the journey.  Many tears and sleepless nights.  Sweet times of solitude and prayer.  Priceless.  I know there are battles along this journey that I will still have to fight.  Cancer is one of those nasty things that likes to resurface.  I believe with all my heart that the cancer is gone.  I can't say it won't ever come back.  I don't want to go there.  That my friends will be the battle for me.  Controlling my fears.  Most fears never come true anyway, so why waste precious time and energy on them.  The Father has it all planned out.  I am not to worry.  I just keep casting my cares on Him and receive in return peace that passes all understanding.  I stand and guard my heart, I press on toward that prize, I rest in the Shelter of the Almighty, I sing a new song and the dance continues.  He leads and I follow.  Laughter is my friend, wisdom like a sister comes as I age.  The joy of the Lord is my strength.  Stay with me for the next chapter of this glorious journey. I promise it will be good.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

9 Months


You could say I am on the homestretch of the racetrack.  If you aren't familiar with that term it means this: the straight part of the race track from the last turn to the finish line.  It basically means the final phase of the race is here! I am counting the days.  Eight days and I will have my last chemo treatment.   Can you tell I am excited?  These last 9 months have had my share of ups and downs.  It's funny that it ended up being 9 months.  Isn't that the same period of time for gestation? Now I know that God is big on time and His timing is perfect.  It's just rather comical if you ask me that this season has lasted almost exactly 9 months. I am about to give birth.  Literally this is what it feels like.  I have been waiting through this season of dormancy, resting in His Presence, trusting Him daily for strength, praying for peace and healing.  So the fruit is getting ripe.  The transformation is going to take place.  A re-birth you could say is about to unfold.  Seasons don't last forever.  Through creation God speaks.  It is through the seasons that change that He speaks.  It is winter here in Idaho.  It is cold out.  We haven't had much snow to speak of (yet).  The ground is frozen and plants are asleep for the long winter.  But spring is coming.  The days are getting longer.
The moon was glorious the other night.  It was low in the black sky with bright yellow to golden hues beaming from 238,857 miles away. It spoke so clearly to me of His character.  You see that is what creation does.  It speaks of His character to us.  Through tangible things we see with our own eyes, we get a glimpse into what our heavenly Father is like.  He is powerful, almighty, merciful, creative and romantic.  He calls to us through the beauty of creation to seek Him.  To know Him deeper.  You can count on the seasons changing.  Our calendars tell us when summer turns to fall to winter then spring.  You can count on life changes. Life altering changes.  Changes like cancer. It changes you and your family.  I prayed for a long time for something to change in my circumstances.  I wanted God to intervene and help change me into the women He wanted.  I stopped saying change "them."  Once this occurred a heavy weight was lifted.  I experienced such freedom in Christ.  I am not saying that I prayed for something like cancer to occur, but I honestly meant it when I said your will not mine.  Can we be that real with ourselves and with God to say it and really mean it?  Can I really sing blessed be your name...you give and take away?  Can I sing I'll stand with my arms high and lifted to the one who gave it all? Am I really willing to bless and stand?  What is this going to cost me?  The answer my friend is found in the season you are in.  Through the journey we are to take the time and taste, smell, feel and experience His beauty around us.  It is in the process of walking through the season that we begin to get answers to these questions. Why cancer to me? Why now?  I may never know those answers.  But I do know this:  God is sovereign and his creation speaks to me of his great love for me.  I walk through the season because He is with me, guiding me step by step.  He gives me a glorious moon that reflects His glory to remind me of His never ending fountain of love just for me.
I am awestruck at His creativity.  I love plants, especially flowers.  They are so intricate, beautiful and colorful.  Intelligent design was behind this.  Sunflowers are my favorites.  They are part of the Aster family.  There are over 460 identified plant families with an estimation of over 400,000 individual flowers species on the planet.  This blows me away.  Even flowers are only here on earth for a season.  They do not last long. "The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people [are] grass." Isaiah 40:7  God cares about the beauty contained in a flower but it doesn't last long.  How much more does He care for me and for you? So much more.  We just don't take the time to enjoy the beauty around us.  To see what He has made for us to enjoy.  "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."  Romans 1:20
Sunflower from my garden last year

There is fragrance in the flower. It is pretty to look at. The fruit develops from the flower.  It takes pollination and time then for the fruit to develop.  How does 9 months sound? I think that is long enough. If you really think about it most flowering plants and trees take about that long from spring to fall.  Is that a coincidence? No way, once again intelligence design is at work speaking to us about His plans, His ways and His love. Think about the sunflower seed.  Look at the photo above.  The seeds will develop in the center of the head.  The seeds are the fruit.  If planted again they will grow more sunflower plants.   Waiting for the fruit to be ripe in my life in my season. 
I have avocados sitting on my counter. They aren't ripe yet. Can't wait for them to be ripe because then I can eat them and taste the goodness.    "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34:8

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Seasons Do Change

Welcome to 2012!  I don't know about you but I am eager to engage in what this year holds.  I feel like standing as close to the edge and peaking over it...hoping to get a glimpse of what is in store.  Funny how we so desperately want to know what is next and yet it is kept under wraps till the perfect time.  Hindsight is always the best place to reflect.  This is where faith and real living play out. What does the next phase of life look like?  What is in store for me, for my family?  So many questions come to the surface.  Yet I wait, hope and trust in a living and faithful God.  My angst is put to rest and I breathe in His Word.  I sit in silence.  I journal.  I play my guitar.  I sing.  I wait.  I am trying to figure out what is next in my journey.  How involved do I let myself become?  How much do I hold back?  Words like, "just say no Anna...you need to rest more" plague me.  How much rest Lord is needed?  As many of you know I am a go, go , go type A person.  This year has taught me much about myself.  This season of dormancy to rest and to be still has been so fruitful to my body and Spirit.  I am very grateful for the quiet days and short list of to-dos.  I sense the season changing.  I am having to look deep with in at the things I want to do.  The gentle whisper of his voice speaking over me catches me off guard.  It hits me: what I want to do.  Opps.  It's not about what I want to do.  It is what He wants me to do.  I want to rely on Him to guide me, give me His heart and show me what His plans are.  I am so wrapped up in want I want to do I am afraid I'll miss what He has prepared for me to do.

"True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless what you have decided to do.  It is coming to Me with and open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant My desires within you.  I may infuse you with a dream that seems far beyond your reach.  You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal.  Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me." Sara Young, Jesus Calling.

So my journey of profound reliance continues.  I wait again.  I don't get tired of waiting.  Before this season I would grow impatient and forget what I was really waiting for.  Sometimes the lesson is learned in the waiting.  or the answer comes through the waiting.  It's all perspective.  What once seemed like an impossible situation became an amazing miracle.  I see His Glory and Power at work in these difficult situations.

I just finished my 11th round of chemo.  One more round to go.  It has been a long road.  Many days of feeling like will this ever end are coming to a close.  I have had to endure much.  Not alone mind you.  The Lord has been so faithful through it all.  My strength has been renewed daily.  I have my CT scan scheduled for the 27th of January. I believe strongly that this CT scan will result in a clean bill of cancer free!  It will be the days, weeks, months and years ahead that will be more difficult.  I remain hopeful and I trust that God is faithful.  Whatever He has planned is good.  I will remain diligent to care for my well being and take all the necessary steps to ensure that. 

I hope to write more about what is next for. me.  Again I am waiting.  Praying that the Lord directs my steps and gives me a clear picture for the future.  Seasons don't stay the same forever.  Looking forward to a change.