Living under a shadow

I didn’t feel consciously fearful – there was just something there that I was aware of . I felt that I was living under a nameless shadow.

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As many;  of you know I was diagnosed and treated for Breast Cancer a couple of years ago. I now have annual checks to make sure that the cancer has not returned. For most of last year I didn’t give much thought to it but as December arrived I was conscious that I was anticipating the mammogram I would be having in January. It was most definitely on the radar!

In early January I had the routine scan and then the wait for results began.I had no reason to fear; my oncologist had told me that he didn’t expect to see me again  but I can tell you that I was looking to see if that letter was in the post everyday. When it came, it was good news.

I didn’t feel consciously fearful – there was just something there that I was aware of . I felt that I was living under a nameless shadow. I have spoken to others who have had a cancer diagnosis and they all say that you are never the same once you have had cancer, it changes you – because you can’t go back to how it was before.

I suppose my nameless shadow was fear. The thing about fear is that it is irrational, you can’t reason yourself out of it. There is no reason why I should be  more fearful when I have tests  or less fearful when I haven’t – it doesn’t make sense. That’s just the point. Fear doesn’t make sense. It is a slippery thing.

I am sure there are many things that come into our lives that change us forever, things that are painful or difficult,  or leave us with a kind of shadow over us – it’s not just cancer. How do we all walk through it

I often recite to myself: “God loved me yesterday, He loves me today and He loves me tomorrow.” God does not change. Nothing will ever stop Him loving me. He will always be good towards me even when my circumstances are tough, He does not changeFile_000 (21).png

He is with us when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (see my blog here). He never leaves us or forsakes us. His perfect love helps us with our everyday fears.

We are not meant just to cope with difficult things; we are called to be more than conquerors through Him who loved us. That means that these truths are not just to help me cope with the fears surrounding cancer but I actually have the means to rise above it. It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever have cancer again but it does mean that I can live free from fear and the shadow. What does a more than conqueror look like? I think it is someone who although they experience fear, they take courage and press on and live lives to the full believing what their Father says about them. Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear. You can’t be courageous if there is nothing to fear. More than Conquerors are able to live through any difficulty and still experience joy. The promise is that Jesus strengthens us, we can’t do it ourselves but He will.

Just recently a friend of mine went to be with the Lord. She had been ill for several years and in pain for some time but she unfailingly had a smile on her face and she did not complain. She loved and served God with all her heart. She certainly was a More Than Conqueror.

I don’t always live like that, sometimes fear creeps up on me but it is where I am aiming for. I am going to lift my eyes to the hills where my help comes from, take courage in both hands and live the abundant life that my Father has promised me.

How about you? – I’d love to hear from you

 

Photo credits
Shadow landscape pixabay
Text created with wordswag

 

 

 

Everyday Fears

I can’t control what may happen to me and those I love by giving in to fear and anxiety

Everyday I take a tablet, everyday when I take it I am reminded that I had breast cancer a year or so ago (you can read about it here). As I take the tablet all sorts of nasty thoughts come to mind. “Am I really free from cancer?” “Is this tablet really working”or  “Oh no I forgot my tablet, am I going to get cancer again” “Will I get all those side-effects”

In addition to this there are the times when kind-intentioned  people ask me “Are you alright ” with a meaningful look as they don’t want to mention the C-word. However I do know what they are talking about and my brain does a loop, “Am I alright now””Don’t I look alright””Maybe they are seeing something I’m not?”

You don’t have to have had cancer to be assaulted with all sorts of fears throughout the day. As a Mum I find I can be fearful about my kids even though they are now adults.  For example, they may be travelling in a car driven by a new or young driver and I wait to hear that they have arrived safely etc.photo-1467219598992-52591d77fdec

I have learned that I just can’t afford to listen to all these thoughts. If I did my life would be controlled by them. Instead I have decided  to trust in the perfect love of God. I can’t control what may happen to me and those I love by giving in to fear and anxiety but what I know is that God is always good and He will never leave me alone to cope with difficult situations.

I like the way The Message puts 1 Jn. 4:18:

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

The idea that we can take up residence in love rather than fear is helpful. You see I have a choice to make – am I going to listen to those niggling fears and make my home there or am I going to make love my home. I know which I prefer but it is not always so easy.

file_000-17Often we are taken unawares by a fearful thought, then we feed it by allowing it room, going over and over it in our mind, adding to it a number of what ifs (what if the cancer comes back? etc) and before we know it we are overcome with fear and anxiety.

Some of us try to numb our fears by turning to food, alcohol or drugs. Some of us try to suppress or control our fears by adopting certain behaviours – being busy all the time, working hard, perfectionism. There can be a kind of unspoken bargaining going on. If I do x, y or z, God won’t punish me with the thing I’m afraid of.

NO! NO! NO! None of these remedies will ever deal with our fears.Take a look at that verse again:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 Jn. 4:18

The remedy for fear is to know God’s love. At its heart the Bible is a love story. It is the story of God’s love for us, not just as a people but as individuals. We can each know the love of God for us in a tangible way, we can experience it. It is not just a part of the theology of who God is or an abstract concept.

God’s love provides a rock beneath my feet, I am secure in His love. This love means that I do not have to give room to fear. Jesus has already paid the penalty for my punishment so I don’t have to fear that either. Paul asks the rhetorical question:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) and goes on to answer himself:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 ….. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

So everyday when I take my anti-cancer tablet I remind myself that none of the things that I worry about can separate me from God’s love. If I make that love my home I have NOTHING to fear and I can live my  life free from anxiety.

How about you?

 

Related Blog: The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Photo Credits:
Fear photo: pixabay
Racing Car: Unsplash
Make Love Your Home created using wordswag

 

 

 

 

 

When the going gets tough

… friends encourage

 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11)

I am not usually prone to fear  but the whole experience of having cancer made me come face to face with some very real fears. Was I going to die? Would I see my sons marry? Would I live to see my grand-children? Would I end my days in a very weakened and sick state as I had seen my father do?

I didn’t lie awake thinking about these questions but they did pop up and surprise me at odd moments during the day. I was managing a whole list of appointments with consultants, GPs, bone-scanners and radiotherapists and in the midst of all this I needed to manage myself; my thoughts and emotions. I say manage because I mean just that. I could so easily have let my emotions run riot but I chose to engage my mind and to recall all that God has said in His word.

I don’t mean that there were not tearful times. At times I felt overwhelmed by everything I was dealing with and just needed to cry. I can remember opening an envelope with eight appointments in it; I felt that my life had been taken over and I was now on a conveyor belt of cancer treatment. There wasn’t room for much else. That felt quite grim.

Once I started my course of twenty-one sessions of daily radiotherapy I spent time in the waiting room everyday with people who were much more ill than I was. The effect of cancer on people’s lives was plain to see. Sickness, weakness, hair loss, frailty. At times I felt like a fraud because I felt so well (what an odd thought!).There were also moments of humour: a man at the water cooler asked a nun who was waiting for treatment if he could get her a drink, she replied “I’ll have a half of Guinness!” Moments like these reminded ourselves of a life outside of the treatment room.

I have already mentioned the gift of The Goodness Bag which helped to sustain me throughout my cancer journey
but there were other gifts. A hug from a friend who came to the door just at the moment when I was really worried about a procedure I was to undergo before my operation; he said “You will be all right”. He didn’t mean I would not have cancer, he was encouraging me that I would be able to go through with the procedure I was dreading. Another friend gave me a framed text which said “Let your faith be bigger than your fears”; I kept this on my File_000 (4)dressing table where it reminded
me every day to draw on my faith in God rather than focus on my fears. Another friend made me a sparkly picture with the words, hope, love, faith, and grace sewn into it. This was on my bedside table, another visual reminder of God’s love for me. Another friend took my dressings off for me when I was left to do it myself and was feeling very emotional. Of course many of my friends were praying for me too.

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If life is tough at the moment I would suggest that you write out some encouraging scriptures and stick them to your mirror, computer screen or wherever you will see them. They will frequently remind you of God’s love and give you hope.

If life isn’t tough at the moment don’t  underestimate the small things you do for your friends when they are having a tough time. Often we can’t imagine how people cope with tough situations. Hugs and words of encouragement, gifts, notes and practical help mean so much to someone who is struggling to get through every day. It can be hard to know what to say but sometimes just doing the normal things you would do rather than concentrating on the problem will be a gift to your friend as it allows them to focus on something other than what they are facing for a little while. Pray for strength for them every day (or when you remember).

The way I coped with having cancer and being treated for it was to constantly remind myself of who God is, what He is like and what He has said. Gifts and encouragements along the way helped me to do just that.

How has someone encouraged you when life was tough?

 

Photo credits:
Trees: pixabay
Other photos belong to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!

Walking through

My Father God loved me yesterday, He loves me today and He will always love me

 

Last year I was treated for Breast Cancer. I had always thought that I could cope with most things but I wasn’t too sure about cancer. It is something I suppose that most of us dread. When it actually came to it I found God to be an “ever present help in time of need”. Ps 46:1 

 After being recalled to the clinic following a mammogram I had more  scans; the doctor told me that there was a lump which, if  cancerous, would be treatable. A nurse explained to us that we would see a consultant for the diagnosis following the results of a biopsy;  she also said that if it was cancerous it would be treatable.

 Rob and I walked back home through the park, hand in hand,wondering if this was what she said to everyone and if she was preparing us for what she already knew was a diagnosis of cancer. I remember us saying that cancer doesn’t change anything – my Father God loved me yesterday, He loves me today and He will always love me. Cancer is only a word. I can choose not to give it power over me.photo-1418832178871-693e3ab5cdaf

Following the biopsy I was recalled earlier than expected, so I felt that it was not going to be good news. I wasn’t frightened I just had a sense that I would have to walk through this. The day before the appointment I was in a prayer meeting when a friend of mine prophesied over me. Part of the prophetic word was that I would walk through having breast cancer. It was so brave to bring a word like this when others had been praying for healing but I knew it was God speaking.

As Rob and I were given the diagnosis the next day we were both very calm, we had been prepared by our Father. It wasn’t a surprise to us. Both the Doctor and the nurse who were with us questioned whether we understood the diagnosis, I think because we didn’t react with any sort of shock or surprise. Actually we already knew.

There is a tremendous blessing and power in prophetic words. Of course they must always be weighed carefully. This word was in line with what God had already been speaking to us.

It not only prepared us for bad news but it also sustained us. We were encouraged that I would walk through this, I was not going to die, it was going to be ok. We have frequently reminded ourselves of  this . Walking through became the motif for all I went through with my goodness bag in hand. As I underwent difficult procedures, through the operation and recovery period, radiotherapy and even the latest mammogram (all clear) I felt that all I had to do was to keep walking. I was very conscious that if God had said that I would walk through this then I could do just that. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me “(Phil 4:13) I also meditated on the fact that the Lord is with me everywhere I go whether it is the operating theatre or the valley of the shadow of death. (Ps 23)

This word also encouraged us that God knew about us, He was in this with us. It helped us when we prayed every day for healing from cancer. We found it very helpful to pray through scriptures about healing. (A helpful book is Healed of Cancer by Dodie Osteen).

Now that a year has passed since the operation, I am reflecting that of course we are all called to walk through our lives whatever they may bring. Some days we can barely put one foot in front of another, other days we are full of energy and we could climb mountains. We do just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and entrusting ourselves to God. Wherever we find ourselves I am confident that there is one who walks beside us cheering us on as we keep walking.

 

 

The Goodness Bag

Goodness. I will never get anything different from God.

Welcome to the Goodness Bag Blog

At the end of 2014 I was waiting for a  diagnosis following a biopsy, as I prayed with some friends one of them had a picture for me.The picture was of me putting my hand into a lucky dip,  and  that I was dreading what would come out. Would I get the booby prize? Would I get the plastic  toy that no one wants? The lucky dip was in a purple velvet bag and as I dipped my hand into it the Father said that “Everything I give to you is covered in my goodness.”

At Christmas one of those friends gave me the bag  pictured above; it was filled with slips of paper, on each one was printed “Goodness”. Every time I put my hand into the bag it was (and still is) always the same, Goodness. I will never get anything different from God.

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I carried the bag with me as I went for an unpleasant pre-op procedure, as I waited to be called in to the operating room, as I waited for results from lymph nodes, in fact, everywhere I went. When I felt anxious I would put my hand into the bag and take hold of the goodness of God for myself.

Of course I knew that God is love, I knew the Scriptures and the theology. But I actually needed to apply the truth to myself  and not just as an intellectual concept. It’s so easy to give mental assent to the truth but not actually to experience it or enjoy it. Having this bag has helped me to engage and trust in the goodness of God.

It didn’t mean that I didn’t have cancer, it didn’t mean that  I would not experience difficult times . I don’t want to minimise suffering, difficulties and pain because they are real and need to be acknowledged. What I do know is that no matter what my circumstances are, God is always good to me and always for me. His nature does not change. Even when I don’t understand why I am experiencing difficulty, I can hold onto the fact that He is always good. I will not get second best from God, He has already given His very best for me in sending Jesus to die for me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He loves me.The same is true for you.

Now that my treatment is over I no longer carry the bag with me all the time but it is on view in my room so that whenever I see it I am reminded of God’s goodness towards me. I am so thankful for this gift which helped me not only to live through that difficult time but it has lodged the truth in my heart and I live in the good of it every day.

 

I will be sharing more about what I have learned about God and what He has been saying to me in this blog. I hope you will join me as I dip into the Goodness Bag and share what He reveals.