Surviving Five

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SURVIVING FIVE

November 6, 2014

Five. For cancer survivors that number is like the Mt. Everest of milestones. Statistics prove that reaching that mark without a recurrance represents so much more in terms continuing to survive and thrive after cancer. So, I’ve reached five…and that’s a good thing. Five is the number of grace; mentioned over 300 times in Scripture it symbolizes God’s grace, goodness and favor toward humans. Not many people would associate cancer with the “grace. goodness, and favor of God”…but I do. I’m grateful, indeed, and not just to have survived five years, but to have been graced. For these past five years have been nothing short of grace-filled: experiencing God’s grace, His goodness, and favor by teaching me things about Himself that no one else could have taught me. Showing me things about Himself…and about myself, that I would never have had eyes to see had cancer not removed the scales to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Grace has shown me that…
1. God does indeed give you more than you can handle: Because if you could handle everything He gave you, then you wouldn’t need Him (think about it.) Whoever said that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is an idiot, or has never had to trust in, rely on, depend on, and cling to God. Grace…God’s grace, makes you stronger than you think you are. You really can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13). If He calls you to it, HE will get you through it.

2. Being on the receiving end of kindness let’s you see God in the flesh: It’s not easy for a doer to be receiver, but it’s critical that we learn to become a gracious one and allow Jesus to love on us through the people who serve us and show us compassion. I’ve seen Jesus daily, in the faces of my friends, neighbors, family, and church family members; in the guys and gals who bag my groceries at Whole Foods or brew my coffee at Drip; in my step-kids and grandgirls. And I’ve seen Jesus day after day in my amazing husband, John (I heart him), who loves and serves me as Jesus does. I never thought to ask God for a husband who would love me even if I got breast cancer. But He knew exactly the man I needed… the man who would make me feel like I am more beautiful and desirable now than the day he married me. That’s grace.

3. Some of God’s greatest gifts come wrapped in some pretty ugly (and scary) paper: If you’re really tracking with God, at some point you’ll actually thank Him for that gift… and the many ways it keeps on giving. I was blessed with so much more than I ever imagined. I have met the most wonderful women along the way; some of the dearest friends I have today, all members of the same PINK club. I call them my “Bosom Buddies” and I love them dearly…too many to name, but they know who they are, and each one is “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37).

4. Doctors are people too, with lives, and families, and hearts and feelings: I’ve been blessed with absolutely fabulous doctors… an amazing team of physicians and their incredible, caring staff: My breast surgeon, Dr. Michael Grant (his wife, Judy); my plastic surgeon, Dr. William Carpenter (his wife, Sheri); and my oncologist, Dr. John Pippen. I will be eternally grateful for their brilliant minds and gifts, their medical knowledge and practices to help heal and reconstruct, and for their compassionate care. I’m nuts about them all. I pray for them and thank God for them all.

5. You’ll never know that Jesus is the One and Only, until He’s your only one. He knows that life is hard and that walking around on this planet can be terrifying. When it come right down to it, He’s the only one who can do anything about everything that concerns you and me. Doctors can treat you, but only Jesus can heal you…where you need healing the most. Only Jesus can carry you through it all.

When cancer comes a knockin’ you don’t have a choice. You can’t just not answer the door, hoping it will go away and move on to the next house. It doesn’t and it won’t. And now, five years later, I’m glad it didn’t. It wasn’t quite a walk in the park and it’s absolutely fine with me if this was just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. But I would have missed so much if cancer had not come my way. I would have missed the grace, the goodness, and the favor of God…in the most extraordinarily ordinary ways.

What happens to you ultimately happens for you…for good. And that’s grace.

CONSIDER THIS:
Review the Grace Points I made above and think them through as they apply to your own life:
• Have you had an experience where you felt overwhelmed, that was too much to handle? How did God’s grace get you through?

• Are you a gracious receiver? Is it hard for you to be on the receiving end of kindness? Is it hard for you to be kind to yourself? Take a “grace check” periodically throughout your day. Ask God to show you where you need to be gracious to yourself.

• What ugly “gift” have you been graced with? Can you count the blessings from it and thank God for them?

• How has God graciously provided care for you through others? Have you thanked Him? Have you thanked them?

• Have you had a situation in your life that has caused you to realize that Jesus is all you need and that Jesus is really all you’ve got? Take some time and write about that, thanking God for His faithfulness to never leave or forsake you.

Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace… will keep leading me, and you, until we make it safely home. Until then, there is much to do… much to make of this time, this now.

I’ll meet you back here next week with a new Making the Most of Now message. Until then…

You are greatly and dearly loved by The King!

Making the Most of YOUR Now!

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October 30, 2014

“Making the Most of YOUR Now!”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

In January 2006, Dr. John Piper was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On the eve of his surgery he wrote a powerful message entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”.  Just a couple of months later his dear friend and colleague, Dr. David Pawlison, was also diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he later added his comments to Dr. Piper’s original message.   Their words inspired me three years before I was ever diagnosed. The message was a game-changer for me. It had never occurred to me to look at adversity of any kind as a great and rich “opportunity” to be maximized and not wasted. Even the opportunity of cancer. Because it’s not just about making it through cancer. It’s about making the most of cancer. It’s about making the most of the opportunity your have right now… whatever your “now” happens to be.

You waste your cancer when you are consumed worry, when your fear drives you to endless Internet searches about the cancer within you, or what the doctors are saying, what patients are saying, worrying if you have the best and right medical attention, worrying if you’ll have a reoccurrence… worrying until cancer becomes a ferocious mental preoccupation that consumes your every waking thought. Yes, it is good to acquire knowledge about what you’re experiencing. But allowing this knowledge to consume you with fear and worry is a waste of the opportunity God has given you. I considered deeply the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” The original Greek word translated “evil” means full of labors, annoyances, hardships; great trouble, pain…

Shortly after I was diagnosed I received an email from a godly woman whom I esteem and admire greatly. Her words were few, but profound, “When I learned of your diagnosis my first thought was, ‘Lord, you must love Punky dearly to trust her with something as important as this.’”

That’s when it hit me: “There’s an opportunity here.” I held onto the truth that the cancer card that had been dealt to me had first been shown to God, and in His great love a mercy He considered it all, seeing the end from the beginning, and said, “Yes, I’ll allow it”. This wasn’t a curse. I didn’t do anything to deserve this cancer. It wasn’t a punishment. God wasn’t holding a grudge against me. No, He was holding out a gift to me. A gift in disguise. My job was to open it up and put it to use.

I prayed, “Lord, I don’t want to waste this. Help me to make the most of what You’ve given me.” That prayer was my sanity. I began to focus on how I could do cancer well, and walk this adventure out in such a way that put the focus on God:

• At every doctor’s appointment a group of dear friends would join me not just to support and encourage me, but to pray that we would “be a blessing and bring a blessing” to every single person we’d come in contact with at the hospital and doctor’s offices, the diagnostic and imaging lab, the waiting rooms. We prayed for doctors, nurses, staff, technicians, attendants, receptionists, patients…that we would be Jesus to them in some way. And we had many opportunities to pray with folks along the way.

• Shortly after my first surgery I received an email from a man in our church whose young wife had just been diagnosed with very early stage cancer. She had two very young children and was devastated. He asked if I’d be willing to reach out to her, which I immediately did. Within a week we’d met for coffee, shared our fears, some tears, our faith, and a lot of hope and encouragement… and Kathy Anderson and I became the dearest of friends…“Bosom Buddies”. I would have missed one of the greatest blessings to come out of breast cancer had I refused to open the gift and reach out in love and friendship.

• My list of “Bosom Buddies” grew as I continued to meet with and encourage women who were newly diagnosed and in need of someone who spoke the same “language”. These life-on-life relationships forged through one of the most challenging seasons of life, knitted together with pink ribbons, and flourishing in the faith became for me the most precious of friendships. More gifts from the Great Physician, Healer, and victorious God Himself. Gifts I would never have had the joy of opening had it not been for the opportunity and gift of breast cancer.

CONSIDER THIS:

When life pitches you a curve ball you’re apt to cry, “Why me?” But do you ever ask why not me? When you get up in the morning and have a perfectly good day I bet you don’t typically question it. At least I don’t. So on those not-so-good days, like the days you find out you have cancer, well, why not you then? Here’s my point: We’re asking the wrong question when we ask why. The question to ask God is what. What would you have me do with what I’ve been given?

Here’s the deal: Some of God’s greatest gifts come wrapped in some pretty ugly paper.  But they’re gifts just the same. Your job is to open the gift. You can cower in fear, or you can step out in faith. You can get all self-absorbed or you can give yourself away. But in order to make the most of your now you’ve got to open the gift.

What “gifts” have you been given that are still waiting to be opened? Considering Dr. Piper’s message, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”, it can be applied to just about any adversity we encounter:
◦ Don’t waste your divorce
◦ Don’t waste your chronic illness
◦ Don’t waste your financial crisis
◦ Don’t waste your handicap
◦ Don’t waste your ( fill in the blank )

Don’t miss your opportunity. Take it to God, whatever it is, ask Him to help you unwrap the gift, and make the most of your now!

You are greatly and dearly loved by The King!