Thursday, March 31, 2016

This new world



I find myself more and more troubled as of late. Conversations I’ve had and things I’ve read just keep playing over and over in my head and my heart breaks. People are showing their true colors, or maybe I’m just finally seeing more clearly, and I don’t like what I see.
My entire life, I have equated being a Christian with being a Republican. There was no such thing as a Christian Democrat. Good people were against raises in minimum wage, against raises in taxes, against welfare, against marriage equality, against abortion, and pro-firearms and pro-military. It just was the way things were. I remember in High School somehow finding out that my drama director and his wife were Conservative Democrats, but they also claimed to be Christians, and I couldn’t wrap my head around that. How could that be? Weren’t the two contradictory?
I moved to Modesto in 2008 as an Evangelical Conservative Republican. Then I discovered the world. It was nasty, and messy, and gritty, and dirty, and suddenly the black and white lines I had so clearly drawn in my life weren’t quite as clear anymore. I wrestled with how someone who claimed to follow Christ could exhibit absolutely no compassion for the poor, or for those who were ill. I struggled with how people who had been pulled up from the gutters of life and forgiven for a multitude of sins could turn around and find others unworthy of grace. I wrestled with questions that I wasn’t supposed to ask, with the authority of Scripture, with male dominance, and with a discrepancy that was growing bigger and bigger between what I read of the life of Jesus and what I was seeing in the people around me.
Why would someone who sought to be just like Jesus, who Himself fed the hungry, healed the sick, and taught repeatedly to take care of the poor, be against welfare? Why would they be angry that they had less to put toward retirement, a bigger house, a new car, or a college education because of taxes, when Jesus said “Woe to the rich” and “Blessed are the poor”?
Then the refugee crisis came to light, and the Presidential race started, and along with them, more questions and heartache. Why would people who claimed to be pro-life, and vote Republican for that very reason, also be against helping the starving, dying Syrian refugees? How could someone who reads, believes, and preaches the parable of the Good Samaritan spew hatred toward Muslims? How can someone who cherishes the top two commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” align themselves with a man who exemplifies hatred and bigotry?! I don’t understand it. I don’t want to accept it. I don’t like this new world I see.
I’m fully aware that the world itself has not changed. It is I who have changed. I left Oregon as an Evangelical Conservative Republican. I came back as a seeking Liberal Democrat. I left as a believer in Christianity. I came back clinging to God. I don’t like this new reality, and to be honest, I’m having a really tough time adjusting to it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Are we heading back down the mountain?

I do not find myself having much faith tonight. Or perhaps a better word would be trust. I trust God to know what is best. I do not trust that what is best will be the easy road.
Since I'm nervous about my ultrasound tomorrow, I can't sleep, despite the Ativan I took awhile ago. So I decided to get up, get something to eat, and dink around on the internet. Word of advice: Don't google "metastatic cancer" if you are a cancer survivor trying to sleep on the eve of an ultrasound of a mass on your right side. I'm scared sleepless! It doesn't help that hubby's scared too. It always throws me when he's scared. And my mom's nervous. And my mother-in-law is nervous. And the doctor didn't even say it was nothing to worry about this time around. She just said it could be a lot of things and then mentioned a couple benign things it could be.
I'm not sure why I'm working myself up so much. It's not going to change the outcome of the ultrasound. I just...I've learned over the past few years that God's plans for us do not always mean life is going to be a breeze. Many times, it's quite the opposite, and I just...I don't want to fight again quite yet. Okay, I don't really want to fight again at all. I like it here on life's mountaintop, living a cush life, with a great job, great kids, great marriage, all while residing in earthly paradise, surrounding by the beauty of the mountains and the stunning rivers and streams. I like the easy life, and I'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible. Not to mention that I like my hair, and I'd like to keep that for as long as possible too!
I think trying to wrap my mind around the worst case scenario is my way of trying to prevent myself from being hit by a truck, like last time, but it won't work. If I have cancer, the truck will come, whether I imagined what it would feel like to be hit or not.
I'm hoping I will chide myself tomorrow for getting worked up for nothing. I'm really, really hoping.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Help me!


I heard her cry for help, but I was too scared to answer it. “Help me.” She whispered in a voice so quiet and tortured that I could barely discern the words as they escaped her cracked and swollen lips. “What did you say?” I was scared. I didn’t want to be here and she looked scary. Her hair was matted and she shuffled her way down the hall, staring off in the distance with a vacant look, as if no one were home. And we were in an insane asylum after all. You never know what’s going on in people’s heads there. If I got too close, she could lash out at me and do some serious damage! I’d heard stories about places like this and I wasn’t about to become one! “Help me!” She whispered it again. “I don’t want to go to hell.”
The staff was walking up to us now and I was relieved. As they approached, I looked at her and said quickly “Me neither!” and walked away. I mean, honestly, I’m no shrink. She obviously had some serious problems and I wasn’t about to touch those with a ten foot pole! The staff walked her back to her room and I went into the dining room to do some more coloring.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. The staff checked on us every fifteen minutes, making sure we were safe in our beds where we were supposed to be, and every time I would start to dose, I would hear her hoarse whisper: “I don’t want to go to hell! Help me! Help me! Help me!”
I went home the next day. A half-hearted suicide attempt doesn’t earn you much time in an overcrowded psychward. Apparently, whatever was ailing my tortured floormate earned her much longer, because the rumor around the place was that she had been there two weeks already and that she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I had no intention of ever returning to that life-sucking place, and was fairly certain I would never run into her again and would forget about her soon enough.
That was not to be the case. I did not forget about her. She haunted my memories, burdening my heart every few weeks. Her tortured voice would play in my mind like it was yesterday. “I don’t want to go to hell!” and I would wonder what would cause someone to get to the point of desperation that poor woman encountered that dreadful October. What did someone do to her that she was filled with such fear? And I wished that I had told her about Jesus. I was fairly certain that if she had such a fear of hell, she had been painted a horrible picture of Jesus, and the thought filled me with anger. I knew what it was like to have been taught about the “wrong” Jesus, and how hard it was then to separate Truth from the lies we had been told. My heart ached for her and I wished that I could reach back into the past and save her for the wretchedness she must have experienced. I found myself praying repeatedly that God would send her someone to show her the love and forgiveness she so desperately needed.
Dear woman, wherever you are, may you know a life without fear. May you know that the person who instilled in you that debilitating fear of hell was wrong and that the blood of Jesus took ALL that away. Let Him cover you and cast away all your fears.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The sound of vacuuming

Has the sound of vacuuming ever filled your heart with joy? Yeah, it doesn't usually do it for me either, but this morning was different. This morning, as I was laying on my bed watching a sermon on tv, having missed church because I just didn't feel well yet again, the sound of the vacuum cleaner made its way up the stairs and suddenly I found myself smiling. You see, if finally dawned on me that I am blessed.
For the past five years, I have been fighting one illness after another, and sometimes more than one at a time, and as I have spent days on end in bed, my husband and kids have stepped up to the plate and carried the load that I used to carry, cooking and cleaning, running errands, etc. I cannot even begin to tell you how much guilt I have felt about this over the course of the last few years!
This morning, however, the reality of the matter hit me with the sound of the vacuum cleaner running. I am blessed. No, really. I mean this in all seriousness. I am honestly and truly blessed. For whatever reason, God has seen fit to allow me to be afflicted with some pretty serious medical conditions, but during that time, He has blessed me with a family that willingly and without complaint, will work together to care for the house, and care for me. (The kids do complain about the work sometimes, but they aren't complaining that I'm not working. They just don't want to have to work. They would do that if I was sick or not.)
I also just realized that I have been looking at my illnesses as just that, mine. But they aren't just mine. They are ours. They affect the whole family. I may be the one who is sick, but my illnesses will have a lifelong impact on all of us, and for me to try to pretend they won't is naive.
And with that, my brain is tired and foggy, so I must depart. Until later, my friends! My, it is good to be back into the vast world of blogging :-).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Silence

Seldom will you come across someone who has not cried out to God in anguish and heard nothing but crickets in return. I am no exception. I went through the agony of major depression and God proved Himself to me in a powerful way. I clung to Him and He pulled me through. When the people in my life I loved the most and held dearest turned their backs on me and threw me out of their lives, God covered me in His comfort and surrounded me in His love. When I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemo, my world was shattered and He proved to be my Rock. But when one final straw broke the back of my faith and in anger, hurt and rage, I DEMANDED that God PROVE Himself, I heard nothing but silence. For months, going on nearly a year now, I screamed and begged and pleaded at Him to prove Himself, to show me that He was real, because after all, if He was truly real, He wouldn't be so quiet! He would make Himself known, right? Right? What I hadn't realized was that He had already made Himself known, repeatedly, and because I was angry, I was refusing to see it. And the irony of it all? What I was angry about was done in His name, not by Him in the first place.
If God has proven Himself to us dozens of times in the past, why do we demand that He prove Himself again, as if this time is the "magical" time? This time, we will really believe! This time, we will really follow! Really? Maybe this time we need to really trust.
I was struck by a verse I've read probably a hundred times and never noticed before. Luke 1: 13 says: "But the angel said, 'Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer.'" The angel said this to Zechariah in his old age, I'm assuming well past Elizabeth's childbearing years. How many years do you think He and Elizabeth had prayed and prayed and cried out to God only to hear crickets in return. Yet, God was listening, but He was answering in His timing, not theirs, to accomplish His master plan.
So if you're crying out to God today and He's strangely silent in return, remember His faithfulness in the past and remember that He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If you could count on Him then, you can count on Him now, no matter how you feel or what you here. Trust Him. He won't let you down.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Good vs. Evil

I like to view the world in black and white. It's easier that way. Lines are clearer. Life is simpler, but it's not reality. I like a world where people are either good or bad, where in a fight you are either right or wrong, but life just doesn't work that way.
I used to think "Christians" were right and "non-Christians" were wrong, Republicans were right and everyone else was wrong. Then I discovered that no two Christians believe exactly the same, that all politicians are corrupt (okay, okay. An overgeneralization...maybe.) Life taught me that people are broken, each and every one of us and that we will all mess up and that usually, within the same argument, all parties involved will behave poorly. Not always, but most of the time. Why? Because tempers flare. Emotions rage, and we react without thinking things through. Feelings get hurt. Words get said, and events are set into motion that we cannot undo. "How DARE they?!" We think and sometimes relationships are torn apart, never to be mended again. Yet if we were to take a step back, set aside our rights and our feelings for just a moment, and put ourselves in their shoes, in their lives for just a moment, we might get a better understanding of where they were coming from.
A year ago, I got my heart ripped out of my chest and stomped on repeatedly by people I loved dearly. It wasn't right and it should never have happened. No amount of putting myself in their shoes will ever make what they did right, but I can tell you this: After twelve months of pondering it and praying for them and the situation, I understand much better what they must have been going through. It wasn't right and neither was the way we reacted to the situation. Like fuel on a fire, we took a bad situation and made it worse, and Satan sat back and laughed while God's people devoured each other.
Months later, there are scars and wounds and some healing. Certain relationships have mended. Some are in the process and some may never get there. Only God knows. One of the many lessons I have taken from this situation, however, is that in every situation I encounter, it is vitally important to try to see things from the perspective of the other person. You never know what you may find.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Half a million dollars



 My oncologist started me on a new medication on Friday. It's a hormone blocker and if I tolerate it well, I will be on it a minimum of five years because my cancer was estrogen and progesterone receptive positive, meaning it feeds off hormones. I went to pick up my new medication from the pharmacy on Saturday, paid my $5 co-pay and noticed on the bag that it said my insurance had saved me $194.99. WOW!! $200 a month for one medication! That is a lot of money! That got me wondering how much my other medications run, so I started looking. $200 for one. $50 for another. One I can't tell until I refill it. Then I decided to look up the monthly Lupron injection I have to get. $1,060. $1,060!!! $1,060 a month so that I can then take my $200 an month prescription, but the injection gives me such severe migraines that I have to take another prescription that probably runs another couple hundred dollars (that's the one I don't have an exact figure on until I refill it). As these insane numbers swarmed before my eyes, I began to wonder why. Why me? Why was I so fortunate? Why did God decide that my life was worth saving? Before I went up to Stanford, when I was still having spasms, I called my insurance company and asked them how much they had paid out to date this year. Our plan has a two million dollar maximum per person and I wanted to make sure I wasn't getting close, because I didn't know if that was the maximum amount billed to the insurance or the maximum amount the insurance actually paid out. Thankfully, it was the amount they paid out, and I asked the customer service rep I was speaking to how much they had paid out in on my account this year. "Around $300,000" she said. $300,000. $300,000. And that was before a three day stay at Stanford's epilepsy center, before Botox treatments, before five years of monthly Lupron injections at $1,060 a pop, before monthly prescriptions at $200+/mth. We haven't yet received the bill for Stanford, the Botox treatments and my latest surgery at Memorial, but I would not be surprised if the insurance ends up paying out near half a million by the end of the year on my bills alone.

Our family sponsors a child in India. His name is Jit. According to the information we were given, the average family in his area lives on about $25 a month. In one year, our insurance company will have paid the equivalent of 20,000 months of living expenses for an entire family in India just to keep me alive and well! Somehow that doesn't seem quite right, and yet...Life isn't fair. Some are born to poverty and some are born to riches. Some are born healthy and some are born sick. Some are born into love and some are born into hurt and pain. I could turn down all future care, but it wouldn't help anyone else one iota. No one else would receive the care I would be turning down. I couldn't trade my life for the livelihood of 100 Indian families over 17 years. I can't trade my medical care for routine vaccinations needed around the world, BUT what I can do is realize the price that was paid for my life. Sometimes, we as Christians claim that we know a price was paid for our lives, but we don't live like it. If we truly believed that the very Son of God bought us with His own blood, we wouldn't live the way we do. I'm sorry but we wouldn't. If you really believed that you were worth that, if you believed that you had a price tag that said DIVINE BLOOD on it, you wouldn't sit on the couch and waste the gifts you were given like you do! You were given ONE life. ONE. What are you doing with it?? I will be honest with you. I was a hypocrite too. I wasted a lot of hours, a lot of opportunities and a lot of talent in my pre-cancer days, but I'm going to do everything within my power to make up for that now. Half a million dollars were paid in one year alone to keep me alive. Millions of people across the planet aren't so lucky. Since I've been given a second chance, I'm going to make the most of it. I don't know exactly what it's going to look like, but I want to make the most of every minute.

One small part of my effort to pay it forward includes collecting blankets to hand out to the homeless. Not only am I blessed to be alive and fighting my cancer, I am warm and dry during the process. Not everyone has that blessing, so I'd like to come alongside Church in the Park's efforts in Modesto and collect blankets to give to them to pass out in December. If you have blankets or funds you would like to donate to this, let me know. Thanks!