Monday, February 18, 2013

Finding My New Normal

   The first month and a half of this new year has been kind of weird for me. I was officially retired on January 1st after working for twenty-eight years in the public school system. While parent/teacher conferences were being held during the last few weeks, I stayed home and read or had dinner with my nephews. While my friends made lesson plans and tried to prepare their students to be the best they can be, I prayed, went to chemo, put up new curtains, read, shopped, took lots of medication and hung out with friends. In one more week I'll be starting the maintenance phase of my treatment for leukemia which involves cycling through oral chemo for two years. I'm really trying to find my "new normal."
   After being diagnosed and landing in the hospital for four weeks, I understood that I needed to concentrate on getting well. At the time I thought that meant treatment and being well enough to start back to school and working for Weight Watchers in January. I misunderstood.
    I feel like I'm in a type of uncontrollable movement forward, instead of a normal acceleration.This is not a good feeling for a planner who likes to be in control. But really, what is normal? My "use to be normal" can kind of be summed up in a quote from Ellen Goodman- "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it." Looking back on that, I'm not so sure I needed to be happy about that kind of normal.
   In the past few days' devotions from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young have been very encouraging and have really addressed some of my feelings. Hear are some of the most meaningful passages from the past couple of weeks:
Accept yourself and your circumstances just as they are, remembering that I am sovereign over everything.  Do not wear yourself out with analyzing and planning...let thankfulness and trust be your guides through the day...You will never run out of things to worry about, but you can choose to trust Me no matter what...Come to Me for rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone weary.  Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life...My Peace stands out in sharp contrast to your circumstances...Thank me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells...
    Wow! I so needed to hear all of that right now. From yesterday's reading in Jesus Calling I needed to hear this wisdom:
Do not fear change, for I am making you a new creation...When you cling to old ways and sameness, you resist My work within you, I want you to embrace all that I am doing in your life, finding your security in Me alone...Don't try to force-fit today into yesterday's mold.
    Here are some of the scriptures I read:  (Just click on the scripture and it will take you to the link)  Psalm 46:1-3,John 14:27, Romans 8:28, Psalm 42 11, Isaiah 30:15, II Corinthians 12:9, Zephaniah 3:17, and Psalm 73:23-26.
   So I still am not sure what normal is exactly. I am sure that God has a purpose and a plan for me. My friend, Pastor Luke, in one of his Facebook posts said, "Don't retire, refire!" I'm going to take his advice. I'm going to see where God is working and join Him in His Kingdom work...whatever that may look like...and whatever I do, do it to the glory of God! (Colossians 3:17) Excited about the journey to my "new normal!"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sarah's Daughters

   I've been reading a lot lately, more than usual. Some books I read through and think of as kind of a once a week TV show...a way to pass the time. Some books, however, I read and they have a profound effect on me. In spite of the "chemo brain," I remember something and it won't let me go. This happened when I read Betrayed CoverJeanette Windle's book Betrayed. It is definitely a thriller. I had a hard time putting it down. Two sisters, one working on behalf non-profits for children and one working for a wildlife rescue, cross paths in Guatemala. It's hard to tell who to trust in the midst of government corruption and past secrets surrounding the sisters' parent's deaths. Windle's experience growing up in the mountains of Columbia to missionary parents has brought realism to the writing. I'm looking forward to reading more of Windle's work and starting her newly released Congo Dawn.
   The part of the book I just couldn't forget was the missionary at the orphanage and her advice to live as "Sarah's daughters." I have been studying the Bible for years, but have never come across this term/idea. (I'm also constantly learning that the more I learn about the Bible, the more I don't know!) With the author's permission (Thanks, Jeanette!), I'm posting an explanation taken from a conversation the missionary has with one of the sisters who is trying to decide what to believe and do:
You see, we keep thinking that if we can just figure out how to manipulate the sistuation, if we can read the future and make the right decisions, we can make things turn out the way we want them.  The problem is, we don't know all the facts, and we can't read the future nor are we called to.   All you and I are called to do in any situation is to be Sarah's dauhters. Do what is right. Do not give way to fear.  If you just do that, believe me, the heavenly Father, your sister loved to sing about will take care of the outcome, just as He did for Sarah. It might not be the outcome we planned, but it'll be the right one.
    The concept of being Sarah's daughters comes from I Peter 3:6. When talking about Sarah, the verse says, " You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."  Remembering to do what is right and not give way to fear is something that needs to become second nature to us all.
    Now if you're like me and have studied some about Sarah, you may be saying, "Hey, wait a minute. Sarah didn't always do what was right." The book addressed that, too. The missionary goes on to say, "It's when we forget- or figure the end justifies the means to get what we want- that we really mess things up." This was also demonstrated by Sarah when she was promised a child by God, but didn't wait for His timing. (See Genesis 16) Sarah's choice to do things on her own continues to affect the world today.
   Yes the book Betrayed is realistic fiction, but it does a great job of portraying how Biblical truth is woven into the fabric of our lives. Conclusion: Even though my mom's name was Shirley, I also want to live as one of Sarah's daughters.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Note Taker...HOPE

   While looking up scripture during my devotion time, I came across some notes I'd taken in bright orange highlighter.  I know some would be appalled at me writing in my Bible; I've used colored pencils, pens, pencils and highlighters. You see, I use to take notes on bulletins and in notebooks, but came to realize I never really went back to read those notes or couldn't find what I was looking for when I wanted to reread the notes. That's why I started taking notes in my Bible.
  What I came across was concerning HOPE. (Hope is the word God gave me for this year.) My notes were written in spaces on the pages containing Psalms 42 and 43. I think they were in a sermon Pastor Casey gave...not sure when. Here they are:
Despair is our recognition of our human condition. It drives us back to God. HOPE is God's recognition of our human condition and His response. Despair and HOPE occur simultaneously. Romans 8:8-25
   I also have verses 5 and 14 in Psalm 42 and verse 5 in Psalm 43 underlined. All are identical: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God." (NIV)
   I needed a little boost in the hope department. I was excited to find out my cancer is in remission. A little voice in the back of my mind said, "That just means you don't have symptoms; it could still pop up again." First I had to take my thoughts captive an place them under God's authority (II Corinthians 10:5). "So what if it does?" I thought, "Circumstances do not define me!" Then I was reminded that my hope is not wishful thinking. My HOPE is God's response to my human condition...that response is Jesus! My HOPE is real, unshakable and eternal.
   So glad I took those notes in my Bible! I came across them when I needed them. Think I'll continue to write in my Bible!