In St. Jude/Out St. Jude

That day is very vivid in my mind. It was so hot as we sat in the car. It we just the two of us, Jay and I. July 5, 2012. We had just walked out of St. Jude for what we thought was the last time and left Trey’s sick cancerous body. We both looked at each other and said, “What are we doing to do now?” We had no idea where the next 7 to 8 years would take us and that it would keep us at St. Jude.

Soon after Trey’s death, Dr. Sara Federico contacted us and set up an appointment for Collin to see her. We knew that he carried the same malignant melanoma gene that we believe caused Trey’s cancer. Dr. Sara told us that normally they send patients out for screening since they do not actively have cancer. Dr. Sara loves our family. She petitioned the powers that be and also because of Trey, Collin remained a St. Jude patient for screening. . .until February 19, 2020.

What my head was saying in both instances was the right thing.

“THIS IS WHAT IS NATURAL AND NEEDS TO HAPPEN!”

But my heart had emotions swirling like a carousel at Disneyworld. The picture below shows Collin walking down a long hallway at St. Jude as we enter the Chili’s building to go to our car to leave. What you DON’T see is that he was so happy he was walking and weaving from one side of the hall to the other. No more Kid’s Kafe, no more patient number, no more little red wagons, and no more painted halls. Now, it will be West Cancer Clinic. Leaving with one child and left without one child.

As I thought further when I took another picture through the windshield of St. Jude to go along with the 10 million I already have, our hospital is our church. How many of us leave our church, turn around, and feel sadness because of what life is handing us? Feeling cancerous.

We drove away and didn’t chat much, but I kept thinking. Jesus is our healer, our Jehovah Raphah. This last week or two has been very hard on us because Jay had surgery on February 18, my mother died that afternoon, and Collin’s appointment was on the 19th. There has not been a time of whaling or crying over our mother. We were at peace because she wanted to see Jesus more than anything. We were at peace.

I have the verse of the day sent to my phone each day and on February 26th it read, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4. I posted it on my Facebook story and said “You can’t make this stuff up.” I wanted people to know that God was comforting me and speaking to me in the most amazing ways and through friends and loved ones in our church. I actually got excited and began to think more about the church being the hospital and I began to pray that people would know that there are really genuine people in the church there to love and serve you and tell you about how Jesus can save you and give you the peace you so desperately desire.

There are things in our life that we have let sin become a cancer and metastasis to other people in the church. We know their needs to be forgiveness and He is waiting to cure us of all the ugly diseases we carry.  There may not be healing, like with Trey, but he’s healthy in heaven. We know we do not have the power to save, only God. There will be changes, as with Collin. There will be more bad news of cancer, as with Jay. But I know, I KNOW, like I told someone else, He never promised us an easy road. He only promised to walk with us through the valleys. He’s got my hand! You need to grab it too!

Psalms 23 – From the Message.

 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.collin st jude

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I can’t believe it has been since September that I have posted, but I know it has been that long that I have been struggling.

I’m going to test your memory. Remember the test that you have taken to know what spiritual gift you have? You may have the gift of  teaching, serving, giving, etc. Many people have more than one. Do you think that God changes these gifts in your life? This is an honest question.

I have had several gifts for many, many years and I have felt a tug from God to go in another direction. How in the world do you say NO to using your gifts? This has caused sleepless nights, bad dreams, stress, until I began to pray about this certain activity.

I was given an amaryllis plant at Christmas and I put it on my desk and I have watched it miraculously grow, produce what would turn out to be the most beautiful blooms. I walked into work last week and saw the plant in full bloom.

I was doing my bible study last week and this jumped off the page at me:

Because we have Christ, no matter WHAT is going on around us, there is always a reason to rejoice. Because Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever;…”

“Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever;…” I looked at the plant again and this phrase came to me – Bloom Where You Are Planted. Okay, so, what? I listened a little closer.  This plant requires NO water. It is not in a pot and is not in the ground. It made me ask the question of myself, where am I planted that I can pour out the beauty of Christ? I immediately started with the area I was struggling and a peace came over me to let it go.

I have two areas right now that I feel responsible to concentrate on in my life; home and work. I have struggled over the last six months to be the person that writes the gratitude list, the person that journals in five colors (and spent too much money to try), that studies from three bibles, that is committed to two bibles studies, and even rearranged my dining room to have a study area.

To be honest, my name is Lisa and I have tremors. I can barely write study notes anymore. I work 60 hours a week (hard). My husband and I need each other desperately during this time in our life to make it through his cancer battle and my migraines.  We just found out today he has another melanoma and there will be more surgery.  My son needs me and he is growing into a wonderful young man and I am SO proud. I need to be on top of my game at Burch, Porter & Johnson for many reasons.  A smile goes a long way.

Bloom Where You Are Planted. . .

“God has planted you where you are that you might be a blessing. He wants you to take deep root. He wants you to bear rich fruit. And if you will draw upon His spiritual power, He will enable you to be a blessing. Bloom where you are planted and bear fruit to the glory of God and the enrichment of others.

God has blessed you with certain abilities so you may invest them in others and bring glory to Him. As you use your God-given talents, you glorify Him and bless others. Draw from God’s spiritual resources and let Him use you to enrich others. (Ps. 80:8-13)”

                                                                                          The Baker Publishing Group

Yes, Lord. I hear you. I will strive to bloom where you have planted me as a wife, mother, and employee. Do not be afraid to step back, look, and bloom.

(Yes, this is my plant pictured)

flower

I’m Only Human

You have to admit it. You started singing the song, right? “… of flesh and blood I’m made.” Human League from 1986. That is exactly what I thought Monday when Jay called me after seeing Dr. Fleming and told me his biopsy returned as cancer in his neck.  I will tell you, I was angry.  It was a throw your hands in the air and scream – What the hell? – kind of anger.

Then I crashed. Rock bottom. Do not look at me; do not talk to me, kind of crash (at work).

Trust me, God was not on my radar to run to for answers. Why? Because I have done it time after time, occurrence after occurrence and still…cancer. I am not even the one fighting it! Jay has to endure more than I do. So much more. His words ring in my ears, “I hate this.”

I put my foot down and said enough.

That might have been when God laughed. Or maybe when I was spilling my guts in the office of one of the attorneys I work for at Burch, Porter & Johnson.  My kind friend, as tears streamed down my face said, I’m glad you are in here. No, I do not really think God laughed at me.  I truly believe He saw my hurt and understood that I was hurting for my soulmate that He had so graciously given me. He knew the crushing weight of emptiness I felt because I could not and still cannot help my husband.  I also believe He was preparing someone else to minister to me also.

Monday nights are when I attend a high school bible study and help as a small group leader. I immediately thought, there is NO WAY I am going there and act as if I have it all together, because I obviously do not. I might cry or yell in front of one of those precious kids and I just could not take that chance.  So you text the leader, right? I did not want to hear her words either. I think she knew that, but she was persistent.

This is what she shared: (We are studying Exodus) She said, “I don’t know if you have read chapter 5 yet, but it is good and right where you are.” (I am thinking yeah Moses, come on down, join me.) “And in 6:1 God doesn’t shame him or condemn him or even strike him dead, but just gently reminds Moses…just watch what I will do.  It has nothing to do with you Moses, it is all about Me and when it is done…I will be glorified and it will be for your good.”

As you can imagine, by this time I am in tears reading her text.  Her words were hard, but truth, as we both agreed. Sometimes the truth, especially the word of God, is hard to hear or read. However, when it is delivered in a loving, caring manner, God can change the heart of the receiver. Isn’t that why we pray for others?

She went on to share:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” Ephesians 3:20-21

Yes, that anger was fleeting, but it was there.  As I said at the beginning, I’m only human; of flesh and blood I’m made. Anger, frustration, worry, and anxiousness, all things that cause us to drift from God were filling my heart.  Nevertheless, God did not drift away from me or from Jay. I cancelled all commitments for the week (except women’s bible study), and we did what we always do, we have watched television together, ate pizza, and talked football (oh, and maybe Big Brother).

Jay and I are registered to participate in the West Fight On Run/Walk tomorrow.  We both have agreed to stay home and do a little cleaning before football. (He does not know about the cleaning part.) We know that only with God makes us stronger together.

Jay has his PET scan on Monday to see if his cancer has spread. He will then see Dr. Tauer and decide which specific chemo pill he will take with the plan to eventually have radiation.  Things always change.

We ask for your prayers as we file insurance claims, juggle this and that, and mostly for Jay to endure the side effects without missing work. We have a good group of firefighter family and growing in Living Hope Church. I also have other friends battling cancer that need prayer.

When someone steps in to speak truth, listen. You may not want to hear it at the moment, but it will eventually soak into your soul and feed you where your heart is aching.  Be thankful for those that speak truth to you and remember they are human also.

#cancerstillsucks

Only Human

Married or Single?

My sweet boy:

I have to tell you Buddy, your Aunt Donna and I saw Hamilton last week. Oh, it was something you would have loved! Almost as much as Wicked.  As Aunt Donna and I sat outside on a bench, I asked her, “What do you think Trey would be doing at 23?”  She had no idea. I think, as many “girl” friends as you had, you would have been married. We had a good laugh about that.  Well, look at all your male friends! They are just about all married!

Ms. Shawn (I know, you don’t know her, but you know Taylor), said something to me after the anniversary of your death.  She said I seem to be handling things with more strength.  She couldn’t put her finger on it.  I told her I knew.  I’ve allowed myself to grieve for you. I’m not letting anyone influence me anymore.

I had a rough time one week and I talked to Papa K.  I just didn’t know what to do.  They lost Oreo, Trey. And he told me that just like Oreo will always be a part of them and they will miss him as they walk through life, so will be the same with you, but to a greater grief.  I will always walk through life with an amount of grief as a mother with you beside me.  It was like a light bulb went off.

How can I not grieve? I’ve thought about it a lot this week. I’ve been in the bed and tried to remember the feeling 23 years ago and how massive my belly was.  You kicked the fool out of me. Sometimes it really hurt. As with labor pains, so does death of the child.

God has put us at Living Hope and Trey, it has been such a blessing.  I met someone who lost their child many years ago. They were able to share with me that missing your baby just doesn’t go away and no one should ever tell you to get over it. I felt SO much better! It was like a weight was lifted. God has put many in our path.  Remember Ms. Anita and Ms. Janice?

Honey, I know you didn’t want us upset.  But on earth, we don’t have the ultimate joy you have in heaven even though we try.

Sometimes, things are pitch black, as if I’m looking down a dark tunnel.  I feel as if my heart will break and there is total emptiness.  But, the goodness of God fills my soul somehow.  I do ask Him why.

Why God are you still forgiving my anger?

Why God are you still loving me after crying with jealously of other parents?

A friend of mine posted this and it’s so true:

“We tend to stay away from mourning and dancing. Too afraid to cry, too shy to dance…we become narrow-minded complainers, avoiding pain and also true human joy…While we live in a world subject to the evil one, we belong to God. Let us mourn, and let us dance.” Henri Nouwen

Trey, I still mourn. But buddy, I do dance.  And I’m so thankful for the people in my life that are still willing to walk beside me and your daddy and mourn with us when we need it.  You know the 24’s take care of us! You know God understands.

I know you would be so proud of Collin.  He’s growing up and trying to find his way. He’s wanting that truck that you wanted to buy. So when he gets it, I know he’ll think of you.

I need to stop the tears and end this Happy Birthday.  Another year of healthy in heaven.  Please hug Jimdaddy for us.  We miss him so.  I know you were glad to see someone else to play basketball with!

Dad and I still cling to James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”  We endure many trials and we continue to grow.

Love you Buddy.

Iphone 2017 1153

 

Depression and Suicide

img_2685Random conversations.  Facebook messenger.  Email.  Text.  Coincidental meetings. All females with the same issue…loneliness. Many with depression.  We are all the same age and all in the same phase of life.

Out of those conversations came these remarks:

“I go home and just go straight to bed.”

“I go home and just go to my corner of the couch.”

“I never go out with friends because I don’t have any.”

“I sit and watch television by myself.”

“I’m in bed when I go home, just me and my glass of wine.”

“…and since I don’t work, I don’t even have work girlfriends.”

“Maybe we should start a no friends girlfriends club!”

“I feel like social media leads to a lot of depression.”

I’d like to pick it up with the last remark.  We smile and waive, laugh at puppy pictures, “likes” on baby pictures, “love” on scripture pictures or postings, all the while using social media as our backup friend.  Yet we are the people posting the puppy pictures, babies, and even pictures with our husbands that are either never home or never in the same room. I don’t think society allows us to deal with reality because our character will be judged.  Personally, I have never cared.  Oh, I lie.  I do care or I wouldn’t have dealt with depression since age 18.  But, here I am.

According to USA Today, “The suicide rate for white children and teens between 10 and 17 was up 70% between 2006 and 2016, the latest data analysis available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although black children and teens kill themselves less often than white youth do, the rate of increase was higher — 77%.”

We are losing too many of our young adults to suicide and asking why. Yet we can’t deal with our own depression and suicide issues.  It is very hard to help someone else when you cannot help yourself.  I get it.  It is the “walk in my shoes” syndrome. I’m there with you.

If you look at the symptoms in children and adults for depression according to Mayo Clinic, many of the symptoms are the same.  Symptoms such as:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

You might ask, “What does this have to do with me in the bed when I come home?” A lot.  I look at my son and I wonder what he thinks of me.  Then I remember my mother on the couch my entire childhood and it all makes sense.  Depression.

What does God say?

I like what how the Message phrases Galatians 6:1-3:

“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” 

Stoop down and reach out!

How do we decrease the rate of suicide? How do we uplift the depressed? We share burdens.  Are you too good for that?

Even with Jesus, loneliness and depression is very difficult.  Satan is very powerful and he knows how to turn every thought against you.

There are moments of pure vulnerability and uncertainty no one sees but God during your loneliness.  You try to make sense of it all while nurturing raw wounds embedded deeply within your soul.  These wounds may be from many different sources such as death, a spouse, children, or even church.

I have tried to throw myself into scripture and prayer crying out to God.  I’ve tried to be around friends at work to forget the loneliness.

           The struggle is real.  It is real with depression and suicide. 

These are topics people do not like to talk about.  Just like you don’t talk about sex at church, or depression and suicide really.  Well, I will talk about it.

A friend of mine said while teaching bible study that sometimes we like to find our answers when we cry out to God in our darkness by opening up the Bible to a random page and just pointing to a verse.  We then believe that is the scripture the Holy Spirit sent to us as an answer to our problems.  As much as I would like to believe that God works that way in coping with depression, I’m not sure that is His intention.  He wants us to seek Him constantly – in and out of depression.

Do you just want to throw in the towel?

Some days.  I believe God does heal our wounds of depression.  I believe he binds up our beautiful mess with a proper healing.  I know He provides sweet conversation with friends of like mind.  Though they may be few, they MAY be all you need.  It is all in HIS timing.  It might be the day I see Him FACE TO FACE! I can only tell you with my experience, it can be debilitating after losing a child.  The most hurtful thing you can say to a mother is that it is time to get over it and move on.  Nope, nada, ain’t gonna happen. Not soon.  I’ll grieve, in some manner, with an amount of depression, (even a thought of suicide, maybe) for the rest of my life for my baby boy.  But my faith is NOT diminished! I know that God still holds me in his hands and I take comfort in the song that says… “It’s your breath in my lungs, so I lift up my praise, lift up my praise to you only”.

I’m still on the road…a long and winding road.

But be encouraged! Oh Jerusalem!

“But now take another look. I’m going to give this city a thorough renovation, working a true healing inside and out. I’m going to show them life whole, life brimming with blessings. I’ll restore everything that was lost to Judah and Jerusalem. I’ll build everything back as good as new. I’ll scrub them clean from the dirt they’ve done against me. I’ll forgive everything they’ve done wrong, forgive all their rebellions. And Jerusalem will be a center of joy and praise and glory for all the countries on earth. They’ll get reports on all the good I’m doing for her. They’ll be in awe of the blessings I am pouring on her.” Jer. 33:6-9

The Wrestler

Jay was a wrestler so he liked to wrestle with the boys. He had Trey pinned to get his phone. Parents do that just to irritate their kids, ya know.

I remember the laughter…just as if you had tickled him when he was five under his armpits. It became contagious.

Tears from laughter fell.

Tears fall from grief.

Wrestling. What do we wrestle with? I’m wrestling with migraines, depression, grief, a dying dog, and to be honest – God.

Where do you want us God?

Tears fall from frustration and stress.

Eight years ago they wrestled. Today, we are still wrestling.

So for me – my prayer today is from Psalms. “But You, O GOD, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me;”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭109:21‬C485D394-E1FA-4C03-A158-3F22CAD0A8EA

Righteous Anger vs. Real Anger

You deal with anger a lot when you are grieving.  Many Christians like to categorize our anger as “righteous.” But when does that righteous anger cross the line and become just plain anger?

I have found myself angry a lot lately.  I won’t sugarcoat it.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.”  This anger has led to so many other things, such as depression.  (You should see my house – war zone.)

Why am I angry? I hate cancer.  Oh, wait, another sin…hate.  I feel like instead of being eaten up with cancer, maybe I’m eaten up with sin.

Let me tell you why.  In the last three months, my husband has had surgery for malignant melanoma and basosquamous cell carcinoma; July was “Trey” month, his birthday and the anniversary of his death; I lost two good friends to cancer; and, I have another one that has just been diagnosed who is fighting for her life.  Collin’s endoscopy that was scheduled for August has been rescheduled for November.  I won’t even mention that Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer.

I have to make it clear that I am not angry at God and I don’t know why.  I think because I have a healthy fear of the Lord.  I know God is good.  I think most people would be angry AT God believing that He is the cause.  Yes, I have shaken my fist in the air a couple of times over the last six years, but that has not resulted in any relief or extreme pleasure.

Can I admit that I am angry at the people working in research? Why haven’t you found a cure? Why do you keep saying you’re so close?  Don’t say you’re so close and lead us on.  I remember researchers saying that about ALS in 1982 before my Dad died and I don’t believe they are any closer than they were 30 plus years ago. I had to get that off my chest.

I want to place my anger somewhere.  When we are angry, we all want to place blame.  I do not know who to blame anymore.  I remember so vividly when the doctor who was from genetics came to see Trey at St. Jude to tell us about the P-16 gene.  They told us that it was passed from the father to the son and Jay immediately turned to the wall, became red, and tears began to flow down his face.  Dr. Sara’s hand suddenly grasped his shoulder and she said, “Jay, this is not your fault.”  I believe Jay carries that burden, as do I for giving birth to my children.  (It does take two, ya know.)  There is NO anger towards Jay and NO burden he should carry since God in His almighty power, knowing beginning to end, had a plan and purpose for Trey.

Wait, what?  …since God in His almighty power, knowing beginning to end, had a plan and a purpose…  My apple watch just told me to BREATHE.  And I think I just received an invisible B-12 shot!

Hummm.  “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

You might not see me in an outrage with my anger, but am I using this anger to help others, help them heal, grieve, or need Jesus? That would be righteous anger.  I don’t know that I am, but I want to.  I just know that God is not finished with me yet.  I am thankful He still catches all my tears.  I stepped out of the car crying yesterday…because the Dragons will play their last game in the stadium where Trey played.  Oh, my heart aches.  It aches for the past that cannot become the future.

I watched a video I recently taped for Trey.  The person asked if I liked it.  I told him that I had told Jay all I talked about was Trey’s faith and said nothing about how Trey suffered.  Jay and I got a good laugh how that sounded coming out of my mouth.  So did the person on the other end.  Maybe it not always about the suffering or the anger – righteous or not.  Maybe it’s just all about the faith.