Chemo and a New Normal?

My new normal? Being that this is my temporary new normal, doesn’t make it much easier to handle, it also doesn’t make it normal at all. It just makes it my life. Most people don’t really know the extent of what it’s like unless they’ve experienced it as only they can through their body or they have lived with someone going through it. To the rest of the world you may hear about cancer and treatments and side effects in varying degrees but you are far enough removed it isn’t something you have to think about and experience all day everyday. So the impression you can get of what it’s like is convoluted. Most people just want to focus on the positives. It is treatable. Treatments have come so far. It is curable. They know someone who beat it. I will pray for healing. I know this is how many think because this was me before I had cancer. All of this is wonderful, positive, wishful and hopeful thinking. But for the person going through it and those loved ones walking through it with them, it is a whole different experience even when it’s curable. Being curable really means it can return. Even if being a “survivor” only means a survivor for now and maybe you won’t die from it but the thought of it returning may never go away, but yet you survive. So this blog post is to tell of my experience, for those who really want to learn what it is like through my eyes. Also, for those who really want to know “how I’m doing?” Please know that it is different for everybody. This is my story. These are my details. This is my reality. This post is a lengthy one. Some details are not fun details and very personal. You’ve been warned.

How am I doing? That is the question I get the most on the day after my chemo infusions. It is really a loaded question though. The day after chemo is usually a really good day with minimal side effects. So it does not give anyone asking a good representation of what going through chemo is like for me. When my answer is almost always, “good, just a little tired.” Other answers I usually give throughout my cycle: “I’m doing good,” really means life is tolerable and I’m having an ok day. “I’m ok,” really means life kinda sucks but I’m trying to stay positive. “Not good,” means life sucks bad today and staying positive is really hard.

So, with experiencing chemo #4 today, I want to talk about how I’m doing and what it’s been like for me. I say, what it is like for me, because it is different for everyone. Not only does it depend on how the individual person handles the side effects of chemo but also what chemo meds and other meds the individual is on and the dosages and regimen. It is individualized to each person, their type of cancer, their type of tumor of that cancer, the stage of that tumor, and several other individual factors that effect treatment.

Cancer is not just cancer. Breast cancer is not all the same. Treatment is different for everyone. And chemo is just a piece of the puzzle in the treatment plan and very individualized.

For example for my type of cancer, tumor, stage and age. There where two different and very specific chemo regimens that my oncologist had to choose from that would be the best course of action for me. Those two are specific to just my type of tumor. (HER2 +, ER and PR -). The one that we didn’t go with was not as harsh because it only had 2 meds (1 chemo drug and 1 targeted therapy drug) that would be infused weekly for 12 weeks. The med combination that my oncologist decided was the best for MY specific circumstances was the second option. My chemo regimen is 4 meds (2 chemo drugs and 2 targeted therapy drugs), infused every 3 weeks or 21 days for 6 total infusions, lasting a total of 18 weeks. Referred to as the “big guns.” Because of my age and higher risk of spread and reoccurrence the “big guns” were felt to be necessary. Many people think it is just the chemo meds that are “poison” and come with horrendous side effects. Well all 4 meds come with their own set of harsh side effects.

Let me first share what my chemo day is like. I want to start with my wonderful husband who accompanies me to every chemo day and is committed to being there throughout my treatment for everything, especially the treatment days, Doctor appointments and any other day that is crucial to my treatment, procedures and planning. He has been my rock and has sacrificed so much since the day we found out. He has taken up the role of caregiver selflessly and compassionately. He sees to my every need while coping with his own emotions and fears. All of this while working 50+ hour weeks and taking care of our family. On chemo day he is with me the whole time, he drives me there and sits with me throughout, sometimes just watching me sleep for hours, then drives me home.

City of Hope is in Duarte, Ca. This is where my team of Doctors and specialists collaborate on my care and all my appointments and care is given. It will also be where I have my surgery in March. It’s about 40 min from our home, sometimes up to 60 min in traffic. When we arrive we report to the VAD lab. VAD stands for Vascular Access Device. This is a special department of the lab, staffed with nurses instead of phlebotomists, who can access central lines. I have a port cath placed under my skin below my right clavicle and runs up into my external jugular vein. It is a centrally placed line used for all infusions and lab draws and must be accessed under sterile technique and have a needle placed in it and secured for infusions. In general the port itself and line can easily be felt under my skin and also seen. The port site is a lump about the size of a nickel in my chest. I have two scars from the placement of the port. One over the port itself about an inch long and one tiny one about 1/2cm over the site in the base of my neck just below where the catheter enters my jugular vein. I use lidocaine cream over the port prior to my appointment. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It takes 30min to an hour to be effective, so if it has to be accessed quickly or unexpectedly there is not time for lidocaine cream. That was the case when I had my fainting spell 3 weeks ago and was taken to urgent care at COH. The poke of the IV/infusion needle itself hurts and feels uncomfortable for a period of time after insertion. Often the lidocaine doesn’t work to completely numb the skin and with the exception of one time, it has been uncomfortable with each access.

Once accessed they draw several tubes of blood to run labs that are essential tests to run prior to each chemo infusion to make sure that my body has recovered adequately enough from the last chemo effects and to check my liver function, my electrolytes and my blood count and differential. After drawing labs they secure the needle in my port for use later with chemo, then flush it with heparin to keep the port from clotting.

After my VAD lab appointment, I report to the Women’s Center where I wait, usually about an hour, while my labs are being processed, then I see my medical oncologist for an update. She reviews my labs, my symptoms, my meds and any changes to my plan and treatment, she reviews updates on any test results and specialist consultations and addresses any needs or questions I have. Sometimes this leads to additional scheduling after the appointment for further imaging or consults. One problem or side effect that has revealed itself through my lab work is that chemo is killing off my rbc’s. So in 2 months my hemoglobin has dropped from 14.5 to 9.9, which means I am anemic, which contributes to fatigue, dark circles under my eyes and fainting spells. If it drops to 8 they will have to transfuse. We will see what happens.

After my Doctor appointment I report to the infusion floor to check in for chemo. When I learned that the chemo meds I would be on have a 100% side effect of hair loss but there is a therapy called dignicap or cold cap therapy that has a 67% effectiveness rate, I was interested. It is not covered by insurance and it is not cheap. It is $350 for each session. My chemo consists of 6 separate sessions. My generous and wonderful husband told me from the beginning if it was important to me than we would find a way to pay for it. (I told you he is pretty great!) Hair loss is very personal and everyone feels differently about it and copes with it differently. For me it was a matter of not wanting to “look” like a cancer patient and get that pity look from everyone I encounter. I don’t want strangers to know I’m a cancer patient. I also want to look like myself when I look in the mirror and don’t want to avoid pictures because of it. For me, keeping my hair would be a way I could still feel somewhat normal in a very not normal struggle and year of my life. And yes, hair grows back, but it takes years for hair to grow back out to a pre-cancer length, so that means living with a very outward appearance reminder long after chemo is over. Scars can be hidden under clothes. Lack of hair cannot, except with wigs, which to me are almost just as obvious as scarves, wraps and hats to those who know me and most importantly to me. Also, when you go to bed at night it is usually not with any head covers. My wonderful husband says it wouldn’t bother him, but it sure would bother me. Fortunately I have proven to be in the 67% that cold cap therapy works on. I would have lost all of my hair by the second chemo treatment if I was going to. Although you can loose up to 50% of your hair and still be considered in the 67% group. My hair is thinning but it isn’t noticeable at this point. I try to wash it no more than 2 times a week because I loose the most hair when I wash it and brush it, especially when it’s wet. I could still possibly loose my eyebrows and eyelashes although I haven’t yet, they are not protected by the cold cap.

One benefit to cold cap therapy beside the preservation of my hair is that it means I get a private room during my chemo infusion. I have to be attached to the dignicap machine the entire time of the infusion which lasts about 6 hours, so they put a commode next to my infusion/lounge chair which is the primary reason for the private room. But it is nice having the privacy, the cap looks funny on me. It also gives me a quieter environment to preferably sleep as much as I can through the miserable therapy session and gives my husband privacy being the introvert he is.

The worst part of the infusion experience is the cold cap therapy. You may wonder why I would subject myself to torture that is elective. Again, it’s because keeping my hair is worth it to me and they sedate me pretty heavily to be able to tolerate the pain and discomfort of the most intense brain freeze you can imagine, which is why I am able to sleep for periods of time. If you can imagine what it feels like to stick your entire scalp, wet, in a snow bank, with nothing protecting your head and then staying there for 6 hours, that is the best sensation I can imagine comparing it to.

My infusion session starts with a specially trained dignicap technician securing the cold cap on my head which starts with her saturating my hair with a spray bottle then placing three layers, a thin cotton cap, a rubber type cap fitted to my scalp and then the attachment layer to the machine that locks the cap down to my scalp and wraps it around my chin. They turn two knobs on the sides of my head that lock it down tightly. Once they turn the machine on it is immediate extremely cold water that constantly circulates through the cap and gives me an instant intense painful headache and overall discomfort. It is absolutely miserable initially but with the sedation it gets better and eventually more tolerable as I get used to it. For the first 30 minutes the chemo nurse that is assigned to me loads multiple medications through my IV port, including Ativan sedation, Benadryl, steroids, anti-emetics, acid reducer and any other medications the Dr decides I need based on my labs. I usually also take Tylenol to help with the cold cap headache as well. It takes the full 30 minutes for the cold cap to gradually reach the temperature it has to be at for the chemotherapy infusion to begin.

Once the temperature in the cap reaches 34 degrees then the nurse starts my first of 4 infusions, they begin the chemo medications first over 1-2 hours for each, separately. After the two chemo drugs have infused, the other two targeted therapy medications are infused separately over 1-2 hours each. Once all four medications have infused, the cold cap is turned off and removed. A medication infusion patch called Neulasta is applied to my abdomen before I leave. It injects a needle into my abdomen after applied and stays adhered on my abdomen with a tiny plastic cannula in my subcutaneous tissue until it infuses the medication 27 hours later over a 45 min time period, it then alarms and I remove it. It is a bone marrow stimulant that can help the body make white blood cells after receiving cancer medications.

After all of this, we go home. Once the cap is off, I feel pretty good, just tired. I continue taking oral steroids through the end of the next day. I usually feel pretty good through the next day and into the 3rd day before the steroids wear off and the worst side effects really start kicking in. Fatigue is always present in varying degrees and never completely goes away. Chemo brain kicks in right away, which is a lack of focus and concentration, brain fog, inattentiveness and restlessness. There are other side effects that can happen and don’t go away until after all chemo is complete and some can last for 8-12 months after chemo. Some side effects can even cause permanent issues. Side effects I am unfortunately experiencing that fit in that category are my monthly periods, they have stopped and because of my age, may or may not come back. This is accompanied with menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, so that’s not fun. Secondly, and more serious, I am also experiencing neuropathy symptoms in my hands and feet since after my second infusion, worsening after my third and it is expected to progressively get worse. It often doesn’t go away until months and sometimes years after chemo. There are cases where it is permanent. 30-40% of chemo recipients are effected by varying degrees of neuropathy. For me it feels like a pins and needles sensation in the bottoms of my feet and finger tips and mild numbness and tingling in my feet and hands. This comes and goes throughout the day and seems to be worse when I’m inactive or laying in bed. But it does not go away throughout my 3 week cycles and seems to be worsening, as warned, with each progressive infusion. Fatigue and energy depletion also gets worse with each progressive infusion.

Then there are the side effects that start to kick in on day 3 and last for varying lengths of time. The worst of these and the most annoying is bowel issues, primarily diarrhea accompanied with abdominal cramping. That usually starts by day 4-5 and lasts daily till about day 12-14 and causes the soreness that you would expect especially with all my mucous membranes being raw. That is also a side effect. All my mucous membranes are effected, by day 3 and lasting into the 3rd week in varying ways and cause a variety of issues. Those include mouth rawness, which feels like the entire inside of my mouth, throat and tongue is burnt and raw, this causes problems with nausea, bleeding gums, occasional mouth sores and loss of appetite, also it makes food taste differently and makes it harder to want to eat and drink on the worst of those days. Throat sensitivity and hoarseness occur with overuse of my voice, the rawness in my esophagus causes heartburn that lasts throughout the cycle. Nose rawness leads to dryness which leads to my nose running incessantly by week two and my nose bleeding for several days, up to a week, especially in the morning. My eyes water constantly by week two which drain through my tear ducts and cause my nose to run even more. Other annoying mucous membranes that are effected and not pleasant to talk about, cause vaginal dryness and rawness and rectal rawness.

Day 3-6 I have body aches, nerve pain, tenderness and sensitivity to touch all over, I also have facial flushing, and my scalp and face feel tender to the touch. After my first treatment, I broke out badly with acne all over my face, neck and scalp and was treated with antibiotics. Since then I have been faithfully using an activated charcoal bar from Beauty Counter to wash my face, neck, chest and behind my ears and that seems to be helping a lot with the breakouts. I use moisturizer to treat my dry skin and essential oils for my nails which are dry and brittle. I also use oils for skin breakouts and other breakdown, scars and abrasions. Lip balm is always on my lips to prevent chapping.

By day 4-5 I want to crawl out of my skin, I just don’t feel normal, it is like I can feel my cells dying. It is a miserable sensation throughout my body and this is when it is the worst. My hands and feet get really warm from the neuropathy, nerve and body pain on these days especially. I experience sensations at times of my ears ringing and buzzing and my pulse beating loudly in my ears. I have only had one actual mouth sore so far. But I am really careful with oral care and I rinse with biotene and salt water/baking soda mixtures because of the rawness and burnt sensation. I brush with a special, extra soft bristle tooth brush. This helps with the rawness and bleeding. I get completely depleted doing simple things like taking a shower or climbing the stairs. I stay in bed a lot or lay on the couch most of the day. I have difficulty sleeping some nights or wake up frequently.

Day 4-6 is the worst of the symptoms and they are pretty constant. Day 7-14 I may have several good hours (good means ok in comparison) and then several bad hours lasting different lengths and times of the day. I never know when the worst of it is going to hit. So I stay close to home mostly. Day 14-21 get better, some symptoms have gone away, my energy level increases and I feel pretty good for most of the week before my next infusion. During this time the lingering issues are mostly annoying but tolerable, usually lessening of the fatigue, watery eyes and runny nose and occasional queasiness. I have only thrown up once.

This last cycle I got sick with a cold prior to chemo and it settled in my chest and even though it never got very serious, the phlegm and productive cough and on and off throat irritation lasted for over 3 weeks. It is very hard for my body to heal and very easy to catch infections and viruses because my entire immune system is suppressed and my white count depletes. The typical days when research shows white count dips lowest is days 7-12. Then it begins to recover to normal in time for the next chemo infusion. The Neulasta injection is supposed to help boost white cell production in the bone marrow which can cause bone pain. I take Claritin to help prevent this histamine response. I also have multiple PRN (as needed) medications for some of my symptoms, including antiemetic/nausea meds, an antidiarrheal, antacids, lidocaine rinses, anti-anxiety medication, pain meds, allergy meds, throat spray, and other topical OTC creams and ointments. I pretty much keep a pharmacy with me.

My tastes have changed and change on and off throughout the 3 week cycles. Some days what I can eat or what I have an appetite for is limited. I have to force myself to drink anything because of the rawness and queasy sensation in my throat. Sadly I have lost my enjoyment of the flavor of coffee by day 3 and don’t get it back until about day 16 or so. So I have learned some flavored teas that I like. I cannot drink green tea because it actually counteracts the chemotherapy.

This is my new normal for now. So when you ask me how I’m doing on day 2 or 3, or day 16 or 18 or 20. I may tell you I’m feeling pretty good. Because in comparison, I am. But this is my life for 21 solid weeks including the 3 weeks of side effects following the last chemo infusion. Then I will continue the infusions of 1 of the targeted therapy medications (not a chemo drug). It is called Herceptin and I will continue to receive this infusion every 3 weeks for an entire year, with follow up echocardiograms and cardiologist consults every 3 months for the duration of treatment because of possible adverse side effects of this medication. Most of my side effects will stop and the lasting ones should go away during this time.

After the #6 and final chemo infusion, 4 weeks later on March 12th, 8 days after my 30th wedding anniversary, I will have an incredibly intense and hard surgery that takes 3 months to recover from. The surgery is 12-14 hours long, 4-5 days in the hospital and 3-4 weeks with drains in. I’ve been told I will walk hunched over like a granny for nearly a month and will have weekly Doctor appointments and OT/PT follow up.

The good news, chemo works! After my first infusion prior to my second, I could tell the tumor had shrunk considerably. After my second infusion, I could no longer feel it nor could my doctor. After my third infusion I had a follow up breast ultrasound and it showed that it was less than half the size of what it was when I started chemo. At the halfway mark Chemo has shrunk more than half the tumor. So we know that even though the treatment is awful, and harsh to the body, it does it’s job very effectively!

Most people don’t ask how my husband is doing which is something he notices. When we go anywhere and see people everyone asks how I’m doing and gives me attention and shows concern over me but almost never ask him. He says he doesn’t mind really because he doesn’t like the attention or having to answer questions anyhow but he says he can see how it could really bother people with different personality types. He is amazing. He is such a source of strength, compassion, understanding, service, care and stability. He works 10-11 hour days and comes home wanting to serve me. He caters to all my needs and tells me constantly, you should be resting. He checks in on me throughout the day and I know if I told him I needed him home he would come immediately. He is walking through this with me, literally. I can describe to all of you what this is like for me but he actually experiences it all with me. It becomes a lot more real and difficult to watch a loved one experience when you are physically there watching them go through it. When you come home at the end of an already heavily stressful day and ask how their day went and you get all the details. When you check in throughout the day and hear the updates and wish desperately you can be there with them so they don’t have to be alone while they suffer. Then there is the fear and the unknowns of being married to and wanting to grow old with your best friend and love of your life and not knowing what the future holds for them. He has to hold it together everyday for me while I’m given permission from everyone to fall apart as needed. This is his experience. This is his new normal.

I wrote this post to focus more on the chemo experience and treatment plan for me and what my future treatment plan will entail. To help others who would like to understand my experience and truly know how I’m doing. I could write so much more about the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspect of my journey. But I will save that for another day. God has been so faithful and so present. I walk through the valley of the shadow with Him right there with me. His will, not mine. His plan is perfect, and I am content in his peace as I walk with him in his plan for me to bring glory to His Name.

There is hope beyond this!

My Life, Hallmark Movies and Unexpected Bonuses

I’m a romantic at heart. It’s why I’m such a fan of cheesy Hallmark movies. You can guess, at the beginning, exactly how they will end. You know there will always be a silly mix up or misunderstanding that will have to get resolved. There will always be interrupted, almost kisses. Many of the plots are similar. Someone always seems to be having to make a decision about accepting a job offer that will mean relocating away from or to a small town. But, what I really love about them is the settings and relationships. The adorable small towns over-saturated in Christmas decorations where everyone knows and loves everyone. Where communities pull together to support each other and help each other. Where family is the most important thing. Where moms are thrilled to have their sons meet the sweet girl who will become the daughter she always wanted. Grandmas are always delightful and the most involved grandmas on the planet, the granny that anyone would want to have. Moms and Dads are always there to receive their adult children home for the holidays with unconditional love, family traditions and holiday cheer. They are always eager to welcome the love interest into the family as a valued member. Yes, I just love the homey, small town details and the dreamy, close-knit relationships!

I guess I live vicariously through those relational stories. Don’t get me wrong, I come from a large and incredible family. My parents love me with unconditional love and have welcomed each of their children’s spouses into the family as their own. Growing up, the holidays were big family celebrations with all the trimmings. What has always been missing for me was the grandparent connections and then the feeling of being welcomed into a family who loved me when I got married. My grandparents always lived in another state and so unfortunately I was never very close to them. My family didn’t travel to visit extended family for the holidays when I was young. I have six siblings, so growing up it was the nine of us and that was a large gathering by most standards. Then as we each started getting married and having kids of our own, we just kept expanding and the holiday gatherings became worthy of a Hallmark movie scene of their own.

Relationships are important to me. Feeling loved and accepted by others matters. It bothers me deeply when people don’t like me. So when I got married I wanted the Hallmark story. I wanted to gain a “second” mom, who would appreciate me and love me like her own daughter. That did not happen in my story. No matter how hard I’ve tried to win her over all my attempts have fallen short. So my own personal life experiences didn’t have all the Hallmark movie moments and relationships I would have liked but that has led to two realizations of the person I aspire to become: a fun grandma who is involved with and close to my grandchildren and a mother-in-law whose “added” children feel loved and valued as part of my family.

Presently, three of my seven children are married. So I am blessed with two added daughters and one added son. I love them all. They are each incredible matches for my children. They have enhanced our family in wonderfully unique ways and they are cherished members of our growing family. I want them to feel like they’ve added a mom who loves them and values them for not just what they add to my child’s life but for all the joy they bring to mine and to our family. I am also presently blessed with six wonderful grandchildren. Oh what fun they are! I love them all so much!

As a mom, you realize as your children grow up, that the relationships you have with your daughters is usually very different from those you have with your sons. In general, boys and girls are just different. Girls tend to be more relational, and boys, well they just don’t. Most men when they get married, their moms just aren’t foremost in their practical, get it done, day to day thoughts. They have a wife and a family and a job and that takes most of their energy. Moms are lucky to get a phone call here and there from their sons and often it’s because their wife reminds them, “call your mom, it’s her birthday.”

Daughters are different, by nature they tend to stay closer to their moms, leaning on them for advice and friendship and support. I am close to both my daughters and make effort to be close to both my added daughters. I love them all and cherish things like conversations with them, opportunities to spend time with them, sharing holiday traditions, giving advice when it’s asked for and generally being part of all their lives. There is mutual love and support with all my girls. I also look forward to the three potential daughters and one son I will be adding some day when my three single sons and daughter get married. Those are expected bonuses. I expected my kids would get married and I would add bonus children and grandchildren to my family. I mean don’t we all?

What I wasn’t anticipating was the sweet unexpected bonus relationships that have blessed my life in the last couple years from extended family. Let me explain! I mentioned coming from a large family of seven children. So I have a lot of nieces and nephews and I adore them all. Coming from such a large family, and having such a large family myself, it is difficult to maintain close and special relationships with everyone. Relationships are important to me and so is family, so I have tried to do some special things for my nieces and nephews over the years, like be there for the big things. Such as with birthdays, graduations, attending softball games, trying to get to all the weddings or sending a nice gift for the big occasions, I have tried to show them how special they are to me in whatever ways I can. Some, I have been closer to than others and many times that had to do with geography, which for me has changed from California to Texas and now back to California. I love to keep up with them all through Facebook. The absolute best thing about social media is how easy it is to stay connected to the people you care about and be able to actively participate in their lives even when you live far apart. Whatever those relationships have been, I love them all so much and they are all often in my thoughts and prayers.

Here is where the unexpected bonuses came in. I never dreamed that in my large extended family that as my nieces and nephews got married that I would gain what I have through them. Again, geography and Facebook has taken a role in the shaping of these wonderful relationships.

I have one nephew who just recently got married and two nephews who are engaged to get married to three of the sweetest and most remarkable young women. These women have become very special friends to me in unexpected ways in my life! They have embraced me as an “added aunt,” but as for me they are so much more than “added nieces.” I love them and treasure them more than they could know. They have each shown me so much love, support and encouragement and those relationships have become very special to me.

I always dreamed about the special blessings I would add to my family as my sons and daughters married and as my grandchildren came along, and that has happened. They are all blessings to me and they are deeply loved, valued and cherished. Each of them mean the world to me. I can’t wait to add more!!! But I never imagined the unexpected bonus relationships that I would get as my nephews got married. These women have added so much joy to my life in such unexpected and surprising ways. Oh how I love them!

So life isn’t always like a Hallmark movie. We can’t always predict the endings of the story and really what fun would that be anyways? Maybe those small town dreamy worlds with Christmas trees and lights and garland and snow everywhere aren’t very realistic. What I do know is real is the relationships we gain and the people who get added into our lives along the way, they are far from predictable but they are what really counts!

There is hope beyond this!

Glory glory glory to God the Father of all good gifts from above!!!

When Life Throws Curve Balls

I will be starting chemo on Thursday October 25th. It’s an all day thing. I only have to go in for it one day every three weeks, 6 times. (18 weeks total) That will take me through to February 7th. After that I will continue on one of the medications, Herceptin, every 3 weeks for an entire year.

The day will start with bloodwork and a visit to my medical oncologist then to an infusion chair. I have opted to try a therapy called dignicap. It is a cold cap that is placed on my head to blow cold air to constrict blood flow to my hair follicles in hopes of saving my hair. It’s expensive and not covered by insurance. 😕But I want to try it and see if I tolerate it and if it works for me. They have to start it 30min before and run it 2 hours after the 6 hour long infusion. Like I said, it will be an all day thing.

I will most likely still loose my eyebrows and eyelashes! 😫 I’m sad about that!

I had my portacath (central venous line) placed on Tuesday just below my right clavicle and it is healing. This will make infusions and blood draws easier.

My bone scan came back all clear! 🎉🎉🎉

The MRI of my breasts showed the tumor has almost doubled in size since they found it. (HER2+ is aggressive). A few other little areas of suspicion could not be found on the follow up ultrasound and so I did not have to be biopsied again. (IF there IS anything there, I’m assured, chemo will knock it out!)

The MRI of my brain is pending (I just did it yesterday) Whole new meaning to “having your head examined!” 🤕

My CT scan showed a couple things, mostly clear:

Possible ovarian cysts (probably no big deal), I am being referred to gynecology next week.

A tiny 5mm nodule on my thyroid (95% of thyroid nodules are benign) I will be having an ultrasound next Tuesday of my thyroid.

Tiny cysts on my liver that weren’t even worth measuring because I’m told they are that common and insignificant.

Oh and my gall bladder is missing!!! 😜😜😜

Yesterday I had a baseline echocardiogram because one side effect of the drug Herceptin, that I will be on for the next year, is cardiac side effects. The echo tech was excellent and thorough and found that I have mild aortic insufficiency (regurgitation). He said it most likely will not effect me being put on chemo and Herceptin because the drug won’t effect that part of my heart. But I imagine that this will mean a cardiac consult and follow up throughout my life, if not future surgery if the condition worsens, which it can over time.

I will wait to get official word from my doctor. Cross that bridge when I come to it. I am asymptomatic at this point and it is mild.

Also, I will be having echocardiograms every 3 months for the entire year I am on Herceptin anyways, so my heart will be very closely monitored. ❤️

Moral of the story: when they start scanning and imaging every inch of your body…they find stuff!!! 😬🙄😉🤔😮

…and I’m no spring chick anymore! 🐥

I also met with one of my care coordinators yesterday for chemo teaching. I have 7 prescribed meds. Two that I have to take the day before chemo, day of and day after. A steroid and an antacid. One is Emla cream (numbing cream) for my port usage. The other 4 are all PRN (as needed) for the expected common side effects of the chemo. Day 2 & 3 after are supposed to be the toughest. Day 7-10 after is when my white count bottoms out and it is most important that I stay away from sick people and crowds. 😷🤒🤧🤮🤢

I was told that it is highly suggested I DO NOT fly ✈️ or go near (uncontrolled) crowded places during the entire 18 weeks. That means my dream trip to NYC at Christmas time will most likely have to be postponed to next year! 😢 That made me super sad! I haven’t cried much throughout all this, but that news required a Kleenex. 😢😢😢

TMI: I was also told this chemo regimen will most likely screw with my cycles if not stop them altogether. Which due to my age could possibly induce early menopause, which could mean the symptoms that come with that also! 😰😰😰

As if 18 weeks of chemo wasn’t enough and all that comes with that, surgery will most likely be in March once my white count has recovered after my final chemo infusion. I haven’t shared this with everyone yet because it’s the part no one likes to talk about or hear about, but I’ve opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction. It is an intense and long surgery, over 10 hours. With a 3 month recovery. But most likely means I won’t have to have radiation and it is my best option to reduce any chances of reoccurrence. I don’t want to do any of this again if possible. And I have researched all the options thoroughly.

It will be a long and trying year!

So this is the plan!

Thank you for walking beside me. Thank you for your prayers, please keep them coming. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻 I will take all prayers but if you want to get specific, I would love for my husband and my family to be lifted up and receive the same peace that God has supernaturally given me. I’d like to keep my hair, my eyebrows and my eyelashes. I’d love to have little to no side effects. I would love to not be in pain throughout the next year! I would love for God to miraculously heal my whole body and “remove this cup from me.” That’s all. 😬

You all have been incredible and I feel the love from all of you. ❤️ God has a plan for good in all of this! I’m part of that good plan! 😊 He is bigger than cancer! He is bigger than side effects! He is big enough! He loves me intimately and He is carrying me through this! I’m peacefully ok. 😇

This life throws curveballs, that is why we need a Savior to depend on and to give us hope in and beyond this life because of all the curveballs and wrenches that change our “perfect” plans. We may make our plans but it is God that directs our steps. Living separated from God is not living at all. Count it all joy! That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but I choose to find the joy in the process. I choose to cling to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith.

I will take it one day at a time because tomorrow has enough worries of its own! I’m standing on His Word!

I’ve overcome tough stuff before and I will again!

Gods got this!

❤️❤️❤️

All for Gods glory!

There is hope beyond this!

I Have Breast Cancer

I am 46 years old, I’m going to be 47 in 11 days. And at 11:11 this morning, September 14th, I received the call confirming what I already suspected, it is cancer. I don’t know a whole lot yet except that the type I have is common and the outlook is promising.

On August 30th I went in for my annual mammogram. The tech spotted something on the scan that she immediately showed the radiologist who then ordered further images localized to a specific area of my left breast (directly over my heart) and then further imaging with an ultrasound. I knew that day what all of this could mean, even before my Doctor gave me the results that afternoon of all the imaging: “highly suggestive of malignancy.”

One week later on September 6th I went back for an ultrasound guided core needle biopsy of the mass found in my left breast and some enlarged lymph nodes in my left axilla. I never felt a lump in my breast. I didn’t know anything was wrong. This was supposed to be routine. This goes to show you just how important it is to get a mammogram done annually. Don’t put it off. Screenings are essential.

After the biopsy I had to wait for results (up to a week is what I was told). It took 8 full days. Not fun!

“Be still and know that I am God.” This was hard, conflicting thoughts and feelings ran through my head every waking moment. I had to work hard to not let my thoughts run away with countless hypotheticals. I spent this “still” time listening to worship music and seeking the Lord for peace and comfort in the process. All the while totally aware of the flood of emotions being held back just below the surface by the hope that this could all be nothing. Not knowing is the hardest thing for me. Even though I know that God has all the details and he holds me in his hands, I just want to know which direction to release my thoughts and emotions in a productive way.

1 in every 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. I am more than a statistic. I am chosen, I am valuable, I am loved. I am forgiven. I am saved. I am redeemed. My name is written in the book of life and my Savior goes to prepare a place for me where a crown of righteousness will be bestowed upon me when that day comes. Everyday of my life is recorded in his book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. This did not sneak up on him or catch him off guard. My citizenship is in heaven and my identity is in him. I rest in that!

As I ask for support and prayers from everyone, I want you all to know my hope is in the Lord and His will for my life. My faith is strong and my confidence is in God alone to see me through to the outcome that brings glory to His name. I ask for prayer for strength and peace, healing and guidance, comfort and joy in the midst of this storm. This not just for me but for my dearest and sweetest friend, my husband and love of my life. Also, for my beloved children and all my family. I pray that they will be given peace from Jesus that surpasses all understanding.

I prayed for a miracle between my mammogram and my biopsy that the mass would be gone and there would be nothing there for them to biopsy. That was not his plan. I believe I will receive my miracle, I just don’t know how that will play out. So I continue forward in the valley with Him at my side, my Shepard, comforting me as we go. He will lead me beside still waters and eventually to my mountaintop moment when the valley will be behind me. As a realist I know that some of us he heals this side of heaven, others he heals through spiritual resurrection in heaven. What is His plan for me?

This I know, whatever his plan for me is, I will trust in him as I pray for the desire of my heart as Jesus did, “that He will take this cup of suffering away from me.” I want to live life long on this earth with my dear sweet husband, my beloved children and grandchildren and my family. I want to be here and I pray the number of my days is oh so much longer than this. I ask that you pray with me and for me. He hears our prayers and is a compassionate and loving God and a good good Father.

Jesus knew in the garden what he was about to face. The unbearable suffering. He knew the outcome was death on the cross, the ultimate sacrifice for us. His whole purpose in coming to this earth in the flesh. Yet He cried out, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

What an incredible example he showed us of steadfast faith in the valley of the shadow of death. His feelings were intense and real and his human desire was to not have to experience the suffering, but his desire to allow Gods will to come to pass above his own flesh was stronger. His suffering and resurrection was necessary for our salvation and resurrection. As believers we are eternally grateful for his obedience unto the cross and also grateful the responsibility for the salvation of all mankind does not rest on our shoulders.

I may not know exactly what lies ahead for me, the extent of the suffering, the outcome of this trial, or the purpose it will serve. But I do know that because of what Jesus did on the cross and because I believe in who he is that my eternal home is in heaven and this life is “but a breath.” I trust Him in his plan for me and in the promises in His Word. He is the Rock on which I stand all other ground is sinking sand. He is my hope, my healer, my strength, my comforter and my guide.

From the moment I came into being my days, and yours, were numbered, only he knows the number of my months and so I put my hope in him alone. All my life is in His hands. I trust Him. Ultimately, I want my life to bring glory to His Name.

There is hope beyond this…to God alone be the glory!

Getting Vulnerable About Friendship

Here we go! I’m about to get totally real, honest and vulnerable about a topic that has caused some of my deepest hurts and is my most unfulfilled desire on this earth. I hesitate in writing about friendships because honestly it may make me appear desperate, pathetic and a total loser! Ha! But I suspect that there are others out there that have had similar experiences and heart breaks! Losers like me! 😜

I have always wanted a best friend as long as I can remember. I was born number 6 of 7 children and always felt like an outcast. Being one of the youngest in the family meant getting picked on a lot and because I have always had an outspoken personality and an overwhelming sense of justice, as a small child I was a tattle tale. My siblings called me a “nark.” If you remember that term, you are old like me! This made me a less than desirable pesky younger sibling that was left out a lot. I truly felt growing up that nobody in my family really liked me much. So, I was kind of desperate to find a best friend!

In school I tried so hard to find a best friend but it always seemed like everyone already had a best friend or a group of friends and I was just one more in the crowd, nothing special. I was always opinionated and outspoken and often argumentative as a child, not really learning how to control these bold aspects of my personality until later in life. Often times I was described as “always having to be right.” I’m sure this turned many people off. I wasn’t all bad though! I am extremely relational, very social. I have a strong sense of loyalty and caring toward people I love. I’ve always considered myself a good and true friend.

Through my elementary years I had many friendships, but nothing that stuck once moving up to Jr High. Jr High was a nightmare. I tried so hard to make a friendship work with someone who had a close friendship with someone else (since like the third grade or something) and this other friend was having none of that. I tried hard to be nice to that other friend but she made my life miserable through Jr High and did some very cruel and hurtful things to me, that left their scars. In the end, the friendship faded away as we moved into high school. High school was more of the same. I established some deep friendships with a couple of people throughout those 4 years, but they always had other friends and they were older and graduated before me and after graduation they were gone.

I met my best friend in all the world in high school, my husband! I cherish that friendship that we share more than anything, but let’s be real, girlfriend relationships are just different. Men can’t be girls! He knows me better than anyone, he is my biggest supporter and I can talk to him about anything. A spouse being your friend is amazing and beautiful but is very different than having a great girlfriend!

At my wedding, my sisters and sister in laws were my bridesmaids because I just didn’t have any friendships that had lasted through high school. My sisters were never very close to me, one being 8 years older and polar opposite and the other one kind of lost herself around the time I got married and disappeared for many years. I’ve never had a strong “sister” relationship, something else I wish could be different.

Oh, I’ve had many friendships over the years since and met many amazing women. Even a few that really stand out. I have tried so hard to keep up friendships on my end. But eventually it has always felt like I was making all the effort, the calls, the invites and if I stopped then each friend would drift away and not even seem to miss me much. Often times because they had so many other established friendships or their life was busy, or distance was an issue, or it just simply didn’t mean as much to them.

I had a personal breakthrough about 12 years ago and this constant obsession with finding a “best friend” became less important to me. You could say the pursuit had become so important that it became a stumbling block for me in my spiritual pursuit of Jesus. He got my attention one night as I was reading my Bible. It was one of those moments when he spoke clearly to me through His Word. I was reading Revelation 3:20 and the words jumped out at me like he was speaking them directly to me: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

He was speaking to my heart saying to me, Rebecca I want you to pursue me the way you are pursuing friendships. I have been here knocking for so long, when are you going to let me in? When am I going to be enough? When are you going to accept my friendship? I began to cry and I knew that pursuing relationships the way I had been, desperate to find the perfect friend, had always been more important to me than pursuing my Savior. Matthew 6:33 says: Seek first my kingdom and all these things will be added to you.

So I stopped trying so hard to find a “best” friend and began the pursuit of a deeper friendship and more intimate relationship with Jesus. I figured if I stopped focusing on finding a great earthly friend, eventually one would come.

Now I know it would be perfect if my story was such that as I grew spiritually, God brought that girlfriend I’d always wanted into my life. Well that isn’t my story. I have Jesus and I have my husband and honestly if that is all I ever have on this earth it will be enough. I am truly blessed. I know that!

But, a girl still wants her girlfriends! It’s just a regret I suppose, that none of the girlfriend relationships throughout my lifetime have stuck! I know comparison is a bad idea, but I see so many ladies out there with close friendships that have lasted through the years, girlfriends who are in touch all the time, part of each other’s lives, raising their families together, celebrating special occasions together and I can’t help but wish that I had that! I don’t obsess over it, but it’s something I wish I had. Growing closer to God didn’t just take away that desire of my heart. It just made it less of a priority over my relationship with God.

Most days, all I need is my husband and my family and that is more than enough! I know how lucky I am, how blessed my life is, don’t get me wrong. I also know this is exactly why we should never compare, because maybe others have great girlfriends but not such a great marriage or other problems in their life that I haven’t had to deal with. I love my life and wouldn’t trade with anyone else.

But some days I get lonely, my husband is busy working much of the time and my kids are mostly grown and off doing their own things and then it hits me. Nobody, fills that “girlfriend gap.” Nobody that, we-know-everything-about-each-other-and-love-being-part-of-each-other’s-lives. That girlfriend who pursues me as much as I pursue her. Back and forth, give and take. Someone who would feel my absence if I disappeared for awhile. Someone who would check in on me if they hadn’t heard from me for a few days or weeks. Someone who even if I moved away, I couldn’t be replaced and we would be on the phone all the time, keeping up with each other’s lives and families and special occasions.

I’ve never had that.

My husband, who doesn’t even care about this kind of stuff, has a best friend that he has had since high school. They work together now so they see each other almost everyday. But after all these years, it stuck! And they would do anything for each other!

Does this make me desperate, pathetic and a loser? No, I don’t believe that. I do believe I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I also believe that some of those friendships out there on social media and such aren’t as wonderful as my mind has made them out to be. I also know everyone is very different, and not everyone feels the way I do about friendship. To some, friendships come easily, they have more friends than they know what to do with and keeping up with them all can be overwhelming. To others, having lots of acquaintances and no “best” friend is the way they like it. Some have friends for seasons, whoever meets their needs for that time in their life is who they invest in. Some just don’t value close friendships.

But I have always longed for a deep friendship that withstands the test of time, not fair-weathered, not temporary, not drowned out by a zillion other friends. Loyal, meaningful, caring, honest and true, that is what I have always had to offer and have always longed for and after 47 years of life, I’m still missing.

So some days I feel more lonely than others and get to feeling sorry for myself. It makes me sad not having a close friendship. I find myself calling people randomly trying to find someone who can take the time to chat. Usually it’s different people depending on who I can get ahold of like my mom, sister in laws, an adult daughter, or whoever might be available from their busy lives. Nobody consistent. Its hard when the people in your life aren’t necessarily as relational as you or have their own friends, or are in a totally different age bracket and stage of life than you. It’s also hard to have deep, meaningful conversations with people who aren’t consistently part of your life, so the conversations are more about playing catch up about what’s going on in life. Other days I put messages out on FB asking if anyone might like to meet for lunch, just to see who might care enough or be interested enough to respond. The results of that are often disappointing. People are just so unavailable or live to far away. So usually I gather my resolve and go back to being content with my circumstances, realizing again all the wonderful things I do have. I know it’s better to keep my thoughts filled with my blessings as opposed to focusing on what I don’t have and may never have.

So if you have those kinds of friendships, hold on to them! They are precious and something not everyone is fortunate enough to have. Someone who knows all about you and you all about them. Someone who can’t go a week without texting or talking. Someone who can’t let your birthday go by without taking you to lunch or celebrating with you and making you feel special by more than just a well wish on FB. Someone who knows everything that’s going on with your kids and you theirs. Someone who shares their life with you and makes you feel like if you were gone you would be sincerely missed. Someone who you can chat with about all those things husbands don’t really enjoy chatting about. If you have that, someone you call a “best” friend, then treasure it! Your lucky!

If you don’t, like me, then focus on all the good gifts and blessings you do have! I mean seriously, nobody can have it all! As for me, what I do have is pretty great! I give all glory to God for the gifts he has given me and even the ones he has withheld for my growth and my own good. There is hope beyond this!

Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers. Proverbs 18:24 (GNT)

29 Years

I find myself sitting here reflecting on our marriage. This coming Sunday, March 4th, is our 29th wedding anniversary and I’m feeling very sentimental. As has become our custom the last several years, we always take a trip for our anniversary, and this year is no different! On Saturday we leave for Mammoth, somewhere neither of us has ever been, for a snowy, wintery get away for 4 dreamy nights!!! We are both so excited and can’t wait for the trip! We have ordered snow boots, thermal underwear, warm socks, winter coats and snow chains for the Jeep just in case! We are ready!!!

That isn’t what I’m thinking about though! All I can think about is how eternally grateful I am for my husband and how in love with him I am. He is my absolute best friend. He cherishes me and loves me so completely. He spoils me and treats me like a queen. He constantly shows me his adoration and the depth of his affection. We just love to be together, it doesn’t even matter what we are doing. Our life and marriage are so full and so abundant and so wonderful. I never dreamed it could be this good. And it just keeps getting better and better!

My reflections are also on how far we’ve come, because it wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies! We’ve lived a lot of years together and been through some of the toughest of times. We’ve experienced heartbreaks and trauma and disappointments and devastations beyond what others have had to go through. Then again, not nearly as bad as what some may experience. We do still have each other. We are grateful for every valley that grew and stretched us in ways we never expected and gave us the strength and the perseverance to climb to the mountaintops where the view is so much better and richer than the mountaintop before it. Ultimately, we give all credit and glory to God for taking these “two kids in love” (without a clue), and bringing us through each moment of each day that led us to where we are. Still together after all these years. Still in love and so much wiser and stronger and full of faith as we go.

I feel so incredibly blessed and undeservedly so for having so many of my dreams come true. Being able to retire early and enjoy my life and family so much more, has been the cherry on top of it all. I am so very thankful.

There is a song by Travis Tritt that my husband put on a custom CD for me so many years ago called Best of Intentions. I used to listen to the song and understand how much he saw himself in those lyrics, knowing how badly he wanted to give me the whole world. I was so proud of his heart toward me and knew he would give it all to me if he could.

The Lord has been very good to us and life has worked out so many kinks. He has worked so hard to “build me my castle.” Now I sit and ponder as we are about to embark on our 30th year of marriage and I think about those lyrics knowing he so proudly is giving me all those things his heart desired to give me and fulfill all those promises that were his best intentions. I know I could never “find devotion more true,” than his!

I love you Daniel Padilla. I loved you then, love you still, I always have and always will. Happy 29th wedding anniversary, babe. I love you to the moon and back. You are my most favorite. Thank you for loving me so well. To God be the glory.

Best Of Intentions by Travis Tritt:

I had big plans for our future

Said I’d give you the whole world somehow

I tried makin’ good on that promise

Thought I’d be so much further by now

Never could build you a castle

Even though you’re the queen of my heart

But I’ve had the best of intentions from the start

Now some people think I’m a loser

‘Cause I seldom get things right

But you make me feel like a winner

When you wrap me in your arms so tight

Please tell me you will remember

No matter how much I do wrong

That I had the best of intentions all along

I gave you a ring

And I promised you things

I always thought we’d do

But my best-laid plans

Slipped right through my hands

To show my love for you

And if you could read my heart

Then you’d know without exception

It was all with the best of intentions

So here I am asking forgiveness

And praying that you’ll understand

Don’t think I take you for granted

Girl, I know just how lucky I am

Though you deserve so much better

You won’t find devotion more true

‘Cause I’ve had the best of intentions

Girl, I’ve had the best of intentions

Yes, I’ve had the best of intentions loving you

Are We Listening?

When I started this blog back in September, I was on fire, writing three blog posts right out of the gate. I figured I would write at least 1 or 2 a month on average. Now, more than 6 weeks have passed since my last post. I’ve had multiple birthdays in that time, mine and my husbands included. I went on 2 trips, one incredibly fun get-away with my husband to San Francisco and a full and quick trip to Texas for my dads 80th birthday! I also battled a 3 week long sinus infection and have had other family things pop up, including having my grandkids for 4 nights! Life happened! It’s been a fun and busy season and I have had many blog post ideas in that time but never found the right time to sit down and write.

Today, God has placed something on my heart to write about, so I’m making time. I have a great burden on my heart for our nation. I have never been much into politics or news of the day, etc. That is, until the elections last year. God began stirring interest in me through prophecies I read in regard to the election and 2017 in general. I began following and watching and I began to see God move in a way I had never seen before.

I went from being a skeptic as to whether a man like Donald Trump could actually win and then lead this country, but terrified of the alternative as many Christians were, to believing wholeheartedly that God was about to cause a great upset within the election itself. What everyone thought was impossible was about to happen on election night. I believed he would win! I actually feel that God revealed that to me through many confirmations.  As my husband can attest to, I was completely confident the last week or so before election night. I had no clue how it would turn out exactly, but I believed in my Spirit that God had ordained it and that it was going to happen. Also, I knew that if God chose Trump as an instrument for His purposes in this country, I could trust that and stand behind it, come what may!

I have become an avid follower of the news and all that is happening in our country. Mostly because I am excited to see what God is going to do. I know and trust He has a plan and I don’t want to miss it as it plays out! I have watched the good, the bad and the ugly in this nation unfold. Within politics, media, Hollywood, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc. I have witnessed the division, hate, protests, and violence; but then also, genuine love and the best of mankind and patriotism like never before. I have been compelled to pray for this nation and it’s people and also the world like never before. I pray that hearts would be softened, and minds would be changed so that a turning to God, and a revival would happen like never before. This is imperative.

This last week I read the book The Paradigm by Jonathan Cahn, also the author of The Harbinger. I was blown away by the details and events in the book, the latest prophetic revealing of mysteries revealed to Rabbi Cahn. The revelation of modern time happenings corresponding with a template laid out 2500 years ago in ancient Israel. You can’t make this stuff up. The impossibilities of the past playing itself out in the exact same paradigm in our modern times and with our modern leaders, it’s simply put, mind blowing!!! God is sovereign! He is in all the details! I recommend everyone read this book. Everyone!

After finishing the book I read 1 & 2 Kings. I wanted to read the historical evidence of ancient Israel for myself. As I was reading, God showed me even more signs of our times. I want to share that and what I believe He is saying to us through the prophet Elijah’s encounter with Gods presence in 1 Kings 19.

+++Small spoiler alert. In a chapter of The Paradigm, the author correlates us, the church, as the modern day antitype of Elijah. He explains in detail how this can be. The responsibility to carry the Word of God to others in this modern age is not on one man or prophet but on every believer in which the Holy Spirit resides.

While I was personally reading about Elijah’s encounter with the presence of God in 1 Kings, I came across another striking correlation to modern day events within his story. Read the following passage:

1 Kings 19:11-13 New International Version (NIV)

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Does this sound familiar to what has happened in the last 3 months? First the hurricanes came (the wind), then the earthquakes came, then the fires came! But God was not in those signs according to scripture. Where was God? God was in the gentle whisper that came after all the noise and distractions.

The Holy Spirit (God), resides in the hearts of believers. We have the honor through faith in Jesus, since the time of the cross, to walk and dwell in the presence of the One true God. Just as God was in the gentle whisper directing Elijah where to go and what to do, encouraging Elijah not to give up, reassuring Elijah that he is not alone and revealing to Elijah the remnant of followers that exist even when it seemed like darkness was winning, and evil was prevailing. He is also directing us, encouraging us, reassuring us, and revealing to us through the power of His Holy Spirit. But are we listening? Or are we more caught up in the noise and distractions where God can not be found.

God uses unlikely people throughout the Bible to bring about His will, His plans and His purposes. He will continue to do so. It may not always happen perfectly, it most certainly will not, because humans are involved. It may not always happen the way we think it should. We may even be shocked at the ways and the means in which he works out His plans. But He is clear that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.

It is clear that the source of the division in this country is not about race, religion, politics, media, climate change or Donad Trump. (This is just noise and distraction.) The source of the division is a spiritual battle that rages between light and darkness, between Gods ways and Satan’s failing plans. Yes, even when it looks like darkness has an upper hand in our culture, we know the end of the story. EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

The following is an excerpt from The Paradigm:

“A political answer can not solve a spiritual problem. But it can open a window through which the answer can come. On the other hand, a political turning without a corresponding spiritual turning will end up in failure and calamity. As for the desire to make America great again, the only way to make America great again is for America to return to the God who made America great in the first place. The answer is in repentance, return, and revival.  …The time is late. The window is temporary. We must not waste it.”

So the question is, how will you respond as a modern day Elijah? How will you respond to the gentle whisper and will you be listening? God is revealing His plan and reassuring you that you are not alone. Now is not the time to give up, now is the time for action. Will you heed the call or will you hide in a cave? God is asking you and me also, “What are you doing here, (your name)?”

To God be the glory

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When God Speaks!

I know all of us would love to have a direct phone line to God, right? Sometimes we really just want concrete answers to our dilemmas. Countless times I have prayed to God, “Lord just tell me what to do and I will do it!” Maybe you can relate. 

I have heard many sermons and teachings on this subject. We hear God through that still small voice, through reading his Word, through other people who God uses to speak wisdom into our circumstances or confirm what we already were thinking. Very rarely do you hear the stories of the audible voice of God, but sometimes we do. I vote for that one!!! Or a billboard would do, a text or an email would be great also!

All joking aside, I have always struggled with hearing God speak and being confident it was really him. Even when I feel so sure that God is directing me, I often later doubt if that was really God? I have had some times in my life when the messages came through so clearly that it left no room for doubt. Usually due to confirmation after confirmation came to me. This is an area in which I still have so much to learn and I deeply desire to recognize Gods voice. But until I get there, he is so gracious to me and doesn’t give up on me after one try. Sometimes I need a proverbial brick wall to fall on me to get my attention. Seriously!

While sitting here having my morning coffee, enjoying the quiet of my house (it wasn’t always that way) and being ever so grateful for the opportunity to be a stay at home wife and mother during this season of my life, God spoke to me. No, not audibly. But I heard him nonetheless. Let me explain. It’s a little lengthy.

For those of you that read my first two blog posts yesterday, you know that I just started this blog and why. I have felt God burning this dream on my heart for some time and though I may have overthought it, put it off longer than necessary, and just been plain scared to try, I finally did it!

Once I figured out how to link my first blog post to social media, the encouragement and responses I received from you, my friends, were amazing. (This is how God speaks to us through others!) I felt built up in my spirit! I felt courage and confidence to keep doing this crazy thing that God has been laying on my heart to do! I no longer feel insecure or stupid for trying something I was so unsure of. Most of the time we look at these moments from an earthly perspective and don’t always see Gods hand in it. We don’t hear his voice of encouragement through the words of others. I didn’t recognize God in the encouragements right away. I just finally got it this morning when he spoke to me again, in another way!

Jesus puts our cotton ears and foggy vision like this:                                                                            For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes–so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. (Matthew 13:15-16)

We all have our moments when we do not see or hear what God is showing us or telling us. This is why we pray for eyes to see, ears to hear and a softened heart to receive and understand his Word. So hopefully we won’t miss the blessing!

So getting back to my morning coffee! I always spend time in the morning reading Gods Word through various sources. (I can talk about this in detail in another blog post) One of those sources is three separate daily devotionals from Pastors I highly regard, they come to my email every morning. (This is one way God speaks to us through his Word and teachings related to scripture.) 

First, I read Greg Laurie’s Harvest Daily Devotional. Here is a small excerpt:

‘Sometimes we understand the circumstances of our lives, and at other times they mystify us. We make our plans, but God always will have His way. There is nothing wrong with making plans for tomorrow, next month, or next year. But just remember, the Lord may change your plans. He, not you, is in control of your life. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course” (Jeremiah 10:23). We are told in Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” And Proverbs 20:24 says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” We call this divine providence.’

Pastor Greg went on to talk about one of the topics I covered in my second blog post about bad experiences and how God works things for our good and quoted the same scripture I quoted, Romans 8:28. At this point I was thinking, “wow that’s really cool.” That is what I just wrote about last night. Furthermore, I felt encouraged and built up in my blogging endeavor from the part about God directing our steps no matter what plans we make, divine providence in action! His timing is always perfect!

Second, I read Christine Caine’s devotional, First Things First. Here is an excerpt from her:

‘Use Your Gifts!                                                       Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms … so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11).’

So I thought well isn’t that even more cool! A devotion about using your gifts to serve others and glorify God in the process! ‘To God be the glory’ is even the statement I make at the end of each blog post and here it is in my scripture for this morning! That is exactly what I want to do with my blog and what I wrote about in my blog posts yesterday! At this point I was seeing a pattern and thinking to myself how awesome God is that the day after taking such a huge step of faith, the Almighty arranged the topics of my devotions to so perfectly suit my situation and encourage me in the process. “You are so good to me that way God!”

Then I read my third and final devotion. Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope. This is when it was clear, this was God speaking directly to me, confirming that I was obediently pursuing my calling and purpose in this season. His devotion title was Share Your Experiences! The whole devotion was amazing but again here is a small excerpt of the summary:

‘You have experiences in your life that could be barrier-busting, inspirational, and motivational to other people — but only if you’re willing to share them. This is one way you can encourage others and give them hope.’

Yessss! Hope! Inspiration! Motivation! Breaking barriers! This is what I want to do through blogging and sharing my story! 

God you are so good, thank you for speaking so clearly to me, not through one of my devotions but through ALL THREE! I know I can be a little hard headed at times and not recognize you when you speak in every situation. But wow, my eyes are open now! From yesterday’s promptings and encouragement through friends, to today’s confirmations through scripture and teachings on scripture in my devotions. Only you God can orchestrate that kind of perfection. Thank you for loving me so much and reassuring me just when I needed it.

It just blows me away every time I hear him speak so clearly and personally to me! Oh how I love how he loves me. You can not truly encounter Jesus and be left the same!

So friends, I encourage you to ask for those intimate, sweet encounters with our Savior! Ask him to give you ears to hear and eyes to see and a heart that understands. He says you do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:2c) So ask him! He will come through and you will know it! 

To God be the glory!

Learn As You Go

That is what I am doing with this blog! Learning as I go. I spent half the day today wrestling with the computer program that creates this blog. “It’s easy,” they said. “Self-explanatory,” they said. When it comes to figuring out new things on a computer, it is almost never easy for me. In fact it was extremely frustrating and there were several times I was just going to throw in the towel and give up. So you may see things change a lot on my blog until I get things figured out. I will eventually add more pictures and information and develop the format more as I figure out how to do that!
This is the story of my life. Really it should be the story of all of our lives. We learn by doing, by trying, by acting. We make mistakes and we keep trying until we get it right. Sometimes we have to ask for help (like contacting the help chat line), asking someone with more understanding, watching a tutorial or reading instructions. Sometimes we may even get it right the first time. When we do get it right, whether at first or after 50 tries, it builds our confidence to keep going. To persevere!

This is much like the sanctification process. We are all works in progress, learning as we go. Of course we must apply what we learn, making adjustments and modifications along the way to becoming a better version of who God designed us to be. We may learn from those wiser than us when we seek wise council, we hopefully will read life’s instruction manual (the Bible), or hear a message or a sermon that teaches us important lessons. We also learn from life experiences, good and bad. The Bible says problems and trials produce perseverance, which produces character and character produces hope. Hope that doesn’t disappoint us because of Gods love for us (Romans 5:3-5). There is hope beyond this, in the process, in the character shaping, in the persevering! But what usefulness is learning if we don’t apply it? James 1:22 tells us not to merely listen to the Word but to do what it says, otherwise we are deceiving ourselves. What a waste of time that is!

Our stories are the life experiences that make-up who we are now and who we are to become. Sometimes we can even be changed and shaped by other people’s stories. But our stories become chapters and the chapters become a book. Not just any book, but a beautifully crafted masterpiece of our life. A best seller!

How many times have I said, “I wish I had known then what I know now?” “How much easier life would have been.” That’s just it! It was the journey and the process of experiencing life, learning from it and applying what I learned, that got me to a place of understanding. It made me who I am. That is why when you tell your young adult children things you learned from experiences and choices you’ve made, they look at you at times like you haven’t got a clue. They have to experience it for themselves no matter how badly we want them to learn from our experiences. Nobody wants the bad experiences or the trials of life and we certainly avoid them if at all possible. The fact is bad experiences come anyways and the Gods honest truth is that if God promises to take the bad and work it for our good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes, (Romans 8:28), then if we could go back and take away the bad experience we also remove the good God will work out of those circumstances! Often times the good far exceeds the bad. That is a whole other blog topic! 

So hopefully as I blog along. I will learn and apply and create a masterpiece! I will seek advice from those chat room support advisors, from tutorials, from my daughter who is ahead of me in the blogging world and my husband the IT expert. I will learn through trial and error in many cases. But above all, I’m gonna have a lot of fun trying!! I hope you all will be blessed along the way. There is hope beyond this! To God be the glory.