Wife and mom are my two most important titles. I’m a Dietitian by training and like to call myself a Battle Strategist because I firmly believe that we are all warriors! I want us to be empowered warriors with the good energy and health needed to fight our daily battles. We can do this Warrior Moms! We have an important job to do!
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The smell of hot, buttered popcorn fills the air. The nice, luxury recliners are ideal in this amazing theater. It’s family movie time and we have decided to see the movie, Overcomer. At first glance, this movie may seem a bit cheesy. The acting is certainly not “up there” with the huge budget films of our day. It is a Christian film and the budget is a lot lower. You sense this. But it’s okay. Because sometimes you are so tired of the junk that you just want to see something uplifting. And uplifting is the perfect word to describe this movie! You think that it is just a cute movie about a young girl who overcomes the adversity in her life and goes on to win the race. But that isn’t it at all. It is about finding your identity in Christ and not allowing yourself to be defined by anything else.
Today it got up to 96 degrees and most would agree….it is hotter than hades here in Texas. We are slowly inching our way towards the Fall season. For most of us, Fall is our favorite! Especially when the weather cooperates. It’s the beginning of the holiday season starting with Halloween. The holiday of masks. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the only day that we walked around with a mask on?? So what’s the deal?? What does a mask and a movie have to do with each other??
I’ve spent an entire career in this health arena. Want to know the main thing I’ve learned? We all walk around wearing masks! We allow ourselves to be defined by something that we are not supposed to be defined by! We put our identity in things that are temporary, that are fleeting.
We are searching. We are hurting. We are desperately looking for our identity. All the while, holding the mask firmly in place that we are coping! That we somehow have it all together!!
Ya’ll…….listen. No one has it all together. We ALL have issues, struggles, fears and failures. I know I’m not the only one that has gotten depressed looking at social media. As a mom, I have struggled greatly with just feeling inadequate!! As a Dietitian and Health Coach, well, my goodness! Don’t even get me started. It feels like I will never measure up to this absolute ridiculous standard of perfect body and perfect health.
Where am I trying to find my identity?? In my role as a mom? What about my success as a business owner?? In the size/shape of my body or my level of health?? The problem with allowing ourselves to be defined by these things is…….What happens when it all falls apart?!? What happens when my kids act foolish and make poor decisions? What happens when I gain weight or get off track with my health journey?? What happens when my business isn’t as successful as I imagined? What then?!?
You know what? I’m tired of wearing a mask and acting like I have it all together. I’m learning to find my identity in the One who created me. The One who loved me enough to die for me. The One who has a plan and a purpose for my life.
Let’s remember that we are worthy because HE is worthy. Our identity must be found in our Creator. We don’t have to be enough because HE is enough. This is a process. A journey. Let’s stick together and encourage each other on this journey! It’s okay to let down the mask! And warriors…..I don’t care how weary you feel right now. It’s a lot easier to fight your battles when you aren’t held back by keeping a mask in place!
And if you need to be encouraged, can I please recommend that you go see the movie, Overcomer? I think you will find that it just nourishes your soul!
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We purchased an older home in Melissa, Texas 9 years ago. Nine years ago, this house needed some work but there was no way we could swing it at that time. Over the years, the little issues turned into larger issues. So we made the decision to do some home renovations and get a lot done in one fell swoop!! Kitchen, Master bathroom, Master bedroom, and some room swaps. Major demo and major reno!!! This meant we needed to be out of the house as much as possible! We moved into a little suite at a farm that was fairly close to our house. This Air BnB happened to be owned by a friend of mine and we fell in love with the animals there! Otis the donkey was my favorite. This donkey was the MOST vocal donkey and cracked me up with his personality. We desperately wanted to be friends with Banjo the pig. Banjo was a bit on the grumpy side but we found that we could win him over with a donut. The one rooster was the most confused rooster. We would never know when this rooster would crow. Maybe at daybreak, maybe at 8am, maybe at 10pm at night. It was pretty funny. After wondering if maybe the rooster’s biorhythms were off (health coach thinking here), I finally determined that this rooster was going to do whatever he dang well pleased and crow whenever he wanted!! LOL
We grouped our summer travel all together to ensure that we were out of the house and out of the way so progress could be made!! I was so overwhelmingly pleased with the crew working on my house and my amazing designer. They worked hard and fast to get a bulk of the work done while we were gone so we could come home and sleep at our house!! Our new house!!! Mid-July and August has been spent putting finishing touches on the house. Decorating. And waiting patiently (who am I kidding?!?), not so patiently for new furniture pieces that had been ordered. Organizing, purging and more decorating. The “honey-do” list is long y’all!!!
I’ll touch more on the amazing house reno is future blog post and include some pics. It is so beautiful. But suffice it to say that my health journey and wellness routines got off track and man, oh man did I feel it!!! My tendency is to feel guilty about getting off track and kinda beat myself up. I mean I’m a Dietitian and Health Coach, for goodness sake!! I know better and this is my business!!! But life happens. We all get off track!! It is what happens AFTER that matters the most. So I’m picking myself up, dusting myself off and focusing on my wellness routine. Feeling guilty and shameful is only going to hold me back. Not help me move forward.
Is this something that you struggle with too? Holding on to past struggles and mistakes, dealing with guilt and shame and just not letting go? Girl, I’ve got you. I get it. So this serves as a reminder for all of us. We gotta LET IT GO so that we can move forward!! (Side note….anyone else singing the song from the Frozen movie?) Let’s sing it together and take it one day at a time. We’ve got this!!
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The constant, never ending striving is just a trap! Just a tap on the phone to open one of my social media apps instantly reminds me that I’m not doing enough, I don’t have enough and I’m not enough. So I work harder and strive even more. Striving and still feeling like I don’t measure up. The cycle continues over and over and over.
Until……..until I pause and take some quiet time and allow God to speak to my heart. Until I remember to stop talking, to stop striving and just be still! Be still in the presence of my Savior and LISTEN!! This is tough for me!! I’m a busy wife, mom and business woman. Every ounce of my human nature says I don’t have time to stop! I don’t have time to pause for quiet time. I think of my sweet mom who is now in Heaven. One of her absolute favorite verses was “Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10” I’m starting to understand why that was one of her favorites. It is such a powerful reminder. However, it can be so very difficult to do!
But when I finally stop and listen, I hear that still, small voice inside me. The gentle, loving voice from the one who created me. You are enough. I created you. I love you. I died on the cross for you. You are enough!! He reminds me that I am enough because HE is enough!
I don’t have to live up to any type of standard or expectation. He loves me right where I am, as I am. All He wants me to do is turn to Him. All the striving in the world just leaves me feeling empty. When I turn to my Heavenly Father and listen to His voice I feel loved and fulfilled.
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I remember sitting by my friend’s side in the chemo infusion room at Baylor Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas. This time it was one of my dearest friends, Becca Masters. She had undergone an extensive surgery after an ovarian cyst was discovered to be cancerous. To ensure that she would not have to face a recurrence of Ovarian Cancer in the future, the doctor had prescribed several rounds of chemotherapy. This treatment would destroy any remaining microscopic cancer cells that were not seen and eliminated during the surgery.
As I sat there, I was reminded once again to just pray over all the details of this treatment. Just as we had been praying over all the details of the surgery. Details. Lots of details.
It is so easy to forget that God cares about every single detail of our life. We serve such a BIG God that we underestimate how He truly cares about every aspect, every detail of His creation. His word reminds us of His love for us. Matthew 10:29 says “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Ya’ll!!!! First of all, there are a lot of birds right??? And in this scripture is reminding us that He notices when a bird falls to the ground and He cares even more for us! Detail!! Secondly, every hair on your head is numbered!! Again, detail that changes daily!! So I point this out to remind us that He not only cares about every detail of us as His children but also to point out that we can PRAY about the details!
So although it was unintentional, the past few blog posts have turned into a cancer series. My hope and prayer is that you have found it practical and helpful. A sweet reader requested that I write about how to pray for someone who has cancer. This is the kindest request. So I’m going to outline how you can pray for someone who is struggling with this huge, overwhelming diagnosis. You will notice that this is detailed. Simply being that we serve a BIG God who cares about every detail of our life, our body and our health. Because we are His creation.
Here are details that you can pray over. They are not in any particular order and I’m sure that there are some specifics that I have not included on this list.
You may not be in a place where you can provide practical support to a loved one with cancer. But you can always pray. I love that we can pray just like we are having a conversation. No formality required! And I love even more that we can pray about the details!
I hope that you have found this helpful. I would love to hear from you!! What are some of those specifics that you have prayed for your friend with cancer?
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Thinking back to the days when I was driving to Dallas frequently to be by my friend’s side. Manda Maxwell was going through the toughest cancer journey. The doctor visits, chemo infusions, radiation treatments and hospital stays. I was by her side. As her cancer advocate, this is how I could use my past experience to guide her down this difficult road.
But I was truly part of a team. My role was specific cancer support. There were other needs as well. Manda’s friends formed a Fight Club. These friends met very practical needs.
That’s what we will be chatting about today! Last week, we covered
“what to say when your friend has cancer.” This week, we will cover “what to do when you friend has cancer.”
It is a question that I get often….”My friend has cancer, what can I do to help?” Most of us want to do something but we don’t know what to do.
Let me start by telling you that there are many specific needs and many ways for you to be supportive. I’ll tell you some wonderful advice that I was given years ago by a chaplain who was training our cancer ministry team. He stated to NEVER say…..”If there is anything I can do to help, let me know!” He explained that this vague statement was never helpful and most people would never reach out with what they needed. So I will remind you that if you want to help, it is always better to reach out with very specific examples. Remember that your friend is dealing with a state of overwhelm with this diagnosis!!
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind while offering help……..
Going back to my experience with Manda Maxwell, I was so very impressed with how her friends banded together and formed a Fight Club to help with all of her practical and specific needs. Shay, Karla, Sheaffer, Erika, Andrea, Narci, Jeni, Lisa, Meagan and Lori took beautiful care of their friend!!! Here is a highlight list of how they provided specific support…….
As stated, this is just the highlights of what Manda’s Fight Club did for her. Just the highlights!! Her Fight Club communicated with each other over group text to stay organized. They were able to do all this because it wasn’t one person. It was a group!! A group of friends who cared and loved well!! They took care of practical and specific needs for a long time. I always loved hearing Manda talk about her Fight Club.
This beautiful picture breaks me down every time I see it. It is Manda’s Fight Club at her funeral.
The needs are many and the list is long. It is too much for one person to take care of everything for their friend who is facing a cancer journey. However, when a team, a fight club is formed. That makes a difference! There is power in numbers! We all have different gifts, talents and abilities. Can I encourage you to form a Fight Club for your friend?? It is an amazing means of support and a great way to extend our circle of friends while meeting the practical and specific needs of our mutual friend.
So now we have talked about what to say and what to do for our friends that have cancer. I’ve been asked by a reader to write about how to pray for a friend facing a cancer journey. So stay tuned next week for that. Until then, let’s keep loving and encouraging each other well!
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As I have worked alongside cancer patients in my career, I have gotten this question over and over. “My friend was diagnosed with cancer. I want to do something, I want to help! What should I do?” It is such a common question and one that I want to address today!
People have the best of intentions, they really do. But in their earnestness to say something, they typically end up saying the wrong thing!! Here’s some guidelines to consider on what not to say to a friend with cancer.
We have covered what to say and what not to say. Next blog post, we will cover what you can do and practical support that you can give.
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“It’s just not fair! I don’t understand this, God!” My frustrated prayers that I would utter while fighting traffic to make it to Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor Dallas. My sweet friend, Manda Maxwell, was fighting her third cancer battle. Third!!
It all started when she was just 5 years old with a diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma. With her sweet parents by her side, they begged God for her life and she underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy as a child. It worked and prayers were answered! God healed little Manda of Rhabdomyosarcoma! That little girl grew up to be a beautiful woman. She became a teacher and got married. Everything was okay until. Until she fell and broke her leg just a couple of weeks after delivering her first child. This was no ordinary break. It was caused by extreme circumstances. Those circumstances? She had a different sarcoma in the same leg that had received radiation therapy as a child. This is called a radiation induced sarcoma. Medical experts would tell you that this is a possibility but not very common; for cancer treatment to give rise to another cancer. But it had happened. Oncologists determined that in order to save her life, they needed to amputate her leg.
At the time, I was leading a cancer ministry at First Baptist McKinney. God had guided this ministry and led me to this place where I had been able to help many families as they walked the impossible cancer journey. Because Manda Maxwell and her parents were also church members at First Baptist, I started receiving many calls about this tragic situation. I knew Manda but certainly not well. I did what I could by calling her, offering help and letting her know that I would pray. Honestly the situation seemed overwhelming to say the least. The family did not know me so I figured the phone call would be the extent of my involvement. God had very different plans.
On the morning of Manda’s amputation surgery, I felt God really prompting me to go to the hospital in Dallas. Of course, I did like any other rational human. I argued with God stating that I did not know the family well and it would be an invasion of privacy. The prompting to GO was strong. I resisted and then finally relented thinking I would just sit in the waiting room and pray and maybe that would count as obedience to this crazy prompting.
After securing a friend to take care of my little ones, I headed to Dallas. Upon my arrival, it became apparent how much I was needed. Navigating the health care system is something I am used to. That day is the day that I became Manda’s advocate. I sat with her, encouraged her and communicated with her nurses prior to surgery. At this point, she was only 2-3 weeks postpartum!! And here she is facing a major amputation surgery. Overwhelming would be an understatement! After surgery, I listened as the Oncology surgeon gave the details that would define her upcoming treatment options.
There is no way to describe how difficult and challenging Manda’s case was. We embarked on a journey to determine the best course of action to treat this aggressive cancer. Numerous medical opinions and consults, frantic prayers, considerations of the past treatment she had received certainly complicated matters. And all the while, Manda is coping with the stress and the joy of being a brand new mommy!! I have never seen such a young woman just lean into God like Manda did. It was such a crazy, all consuming, chaotic time. Time was of the essence and treatment decisions needed to be made quickly.
Having a front row seat like this. You see how God just shows up. He truly took care of details and a fight plan was developed. Manda received extensive treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her oncologist was blunt and to the the point. The aggressive treatment was necessary to save her life. This sweet young mom turned into a determined warrior. Because now it was not just herself she was fighting for. She had a little baby boy and she was fighting for her life so she could be a mommy to him.
I saw her sweet parents, Ed and Cindy Davis, with a focus and determination that was unmatched. The love between this family was so evident. And I saw her church family embrace and empower her by providing practical support. It was an awe inspiring sight to see how everyone worked together to help Manda fight.
The treatment was rough and was made more complicated by the fact that it was in Houston and not Dallas. Not to mention the fact that she had an infant. But it worked!! Her cancer went into remission. Many prayers answered!! Manda continued to teach all of us how to have Faith over fear.
I would love to say this is where the story ends; answered prayers, renewed faith, cancer remission. However, the story continued several years later when Manda started experiencing back pain. A trip to the doctor revealed everyone’s worst fears. Scans and biopsy’s confirmed a third sarcoma diagnosis. Such devastating and frustrating news! God how can you allow this to happen?? Hasn’t this family suffered enough?
Facing a third battle with cancer and trying to make treatment decisions based on previous treatment already received. Well, there just aren’t adequate words to describe the feelings, thoughts, emotions and fears. At this point, Manda was a mommy for the second time to a sweet little girl only months old. More chemotherapy, radiation therapy, natural remedies, experimental treatments and clinical trials. This short list doesn’t even come close to what I saw my sweet friend suffer through to fight her cancer. Time and time again, I saw her cling to her Faith with a steadfastness that was unreal. The challenges she faced would weaken even the strongest human. Yet, she decided to put her Faith in her heavenly Father and move forward on His strength. She demonstrated Faith over fear over and over again.
We had a different friendship. I had extensive oncology experience and she had a very difficult and challenging cancer diagnosis. Our bond was formed over doctors visits and hospital stays. I was her advocate. She was my inspiration. Somehow, God granted me a front row seat to witness prayers answered and evidence of the cancer retreating. And to provide comfort as it seemed all earthly hope was lost.
When someone is facing the very end of their life, I think it is pretty safe to say that their true colors come out. Obviously she was frustrated but I never saw anger or bitterness for what she was going through. For Manda, her faith in her Almighty God remained firm. She clung to the promises in His word that He would never leave her or forsake her. (Deut 31:6) And she continued to fight! She desperately wanted to remain here on this earth for her husband and kids. I have many beautiful memories of Manda clutching her phone so that could listen to the song, “You make me Brave” by Bethel Music. She would close her eyes and pray and draw strength from above.
The last few days of Manda’s life were spent in the hospital. Desperate searches for additional clinical trials and experimental treatments were not fruitful. Her body was weak and so tired. An oncologist gently told the family that although she had fought hard, the end was near and it was time to simply keep her comfortable. Our focus quickly shifted to pain management and palliative care. Compassionate nurses tended to her as we shifted our prayers to begging God to be merciful and now allowing her to suffer any longer. Witnessing a little boy come up to tell his mama good-bye is something that will be forever etched in my memory.
I was in the room as Manda took her very last breath. I had actually just returned to the room and had my back turned as the nurses checked her vitals. They said my name and told me she was gone. It was very quick and peaceful. We had prayed for exactly this. That her passing would be merciful. As we stood there surrounding her bedside, we noticed how the corners of her mouth had turned up into a small smile. Manda was finally at peace and fully restored in her heavenly home.
On this side of heaven, we will never understand why God took Manda Maxwell at such a young age. She left behind a husband, a son, a daughter, a mom, a dad, brothers, grandparents, family members and many many friends. She impacted thousands of people with her story, her faith and her life. I know that when she was received in Heaven, she heard the words, “well done, my good and faithful servant!”
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You know, sometimes as a mom; you have some good moments. Some moments where you are like, “hey I’m doing alright!” I had one of those moments when my son, JD was about 5 years old. I have always tried to talk to my kids about nutrition and eating healthy. They were beginning to understand the powerful components in fruits and vegetables. So I was a pretty proud mama and dietitian when I was quizzing JD one day and he remembered that blueberries contained antioxidants!!! I mean! That’s a big word for a little kid! He remembered!! Yay!! It’s a mama win!! We went on to discuss the importance of picking colorful foods and how much nutritional value you get from those colorful, real foods!
So you can imagine one day my dismay as I discovered that my son decided to fix his own breakfast. His choice?? A small bowl filled with green sprinkles! Green sprinkles ya’ll!!!! Lord have mercy! His response to my burning question WHY??? Well you said color is important! All I could do is shake my head!! Can anyone say #mamafail ??
The life of a mom is NOT for the weak hearted. I mean there is so much that we need to teach them to prepare them for life. And honestly, when it comes to nutrition; that just takes a back seat. It just feels overwhelming and complicated. On one hand, we know that it is vitally important for them to be healthy and learn healthy living habits early in life. On the other hand, we don't want to be this extremist mom that makes good nutrition seem like it’s no fun!!!
AHHHHHHH!!!!! Anyone else feel me?? As a Dietitian and Wellness Coach, I feel especially guilty! Lol! So obviously I have thought about this A LOT! Here is my family nutrition plan and what I am focusing on.
And I’m going to embrace the mama fail moments and laugh. Life is too short after all! I’m curious, what are some strategies that you have tried to get your family healthier??
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Does God care about our health? Well there’s a question for you! This is a very sensitive and unique topic and one that isn’t discussed very much.
A topic that I’m afraid to even bring up for fear of what others will think. So I address this topic cautiously with a great deal of consideration and prayer. It is too big to fully flesh out in one simple blog post. But I think we can lay a framework here for this huge question.
Does God care about our health?
Honestly, my gut reaction to this question is…of course He does!! Why wouldn’t he care about every detail of His creation. We are His creation. You are no accident. Your life started as a single cell. A single, solitary cell with 46 chromosomes. One cell with enough genetic code to multiply into trillions of cells. One estimate is approximately 37.2 trillion cells! And it all started with one single God ordained cell.
Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart….
We are beautiful, unique creations of God. How often do we take this for granted? The very miracle of life. So the question must be answered in the proper context. Does God care about every detail of our body? Of course. Our body is His creation. So first, we need to recognize our Creator. The One who gave us life. The One who cares about every detail, every aspect of that life including our health.
I think it is interesting that in the Bible, He refers to the body as a temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
There is so much in this verse. But for the purpose of our primary question, I’m going to only focus on one of the aspects. Our Creator is reminding us that our body is a temple and it is not our own. He is encouraging us to honor God with that body!
So a way to honor God is to take care of the body that he is loaning to you. Don’t misunderstand. God doesn’t love you less if you are struggling with being unhealthy. Nothing changes His love for you! NOTHING!!
Being healthy is simply a means to an end. God wants us to be healthy so that we can “go & do” and “love & serve!” We are called to love and serve others! We are called to be focused on others. It is so difficult to “go & do” and “love & serve” when poor health is holding us back! Disease and disastrous health conditions have a tendency to make us focus on self, not on others.
God doesn’t want us to be healthy so we can call attention to ourselves and say “look at me” or “look at what I have accomplished.” He wants us to protect our health so we can simply live out our purpose and do what He has called us to do!
In another blog post, we can further discuss the full implications of disease and how it impacts all aspects of our health including our spiritual health.
My main hesitation in even writing about this subject is because I understand the complexity of the human body and disease. Even more importantly, after working in health care for over two decades; I have noticed the guilt and the shame that often accompanies said disease.
So allow me to end with this. You were created by an all mighty, loving God. He designed this beautifully complex, intricate body. Yes, he does care about your health because He cares about you!
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Sitting in the chemotherapy infusion room of a cancer center. A dear friend beside me getting a chemo treatment. I’ve been here before. For some reason, God has orchestrated my steps to have knowledge and experience in oncology. I’ve worked in Oncology and I’ve volunteered in Oncology. I’ve walked with many friends on their cancer journey. I walked with my mama on her cancer journey.
I’ve seen friends beat cancer and celebrated with them. I’ve been at the beside of many others as they lost their battle but received the gift of eternal life.
I was with my dear friend Manda Maxwell, a young mom of 35 as her body succumbed to her 3rd battle with cancer. And I was there when my sweet mama took her last breath.
But now I find myself tired. A cancer center is a depressing place to be. Looking around, I see fear, anxiety and sadness. Complete honesty…. If there is any place that I question the goodness of God, it is at a cancer center. It is such a horrific and devastating disease. Why does a good, loving God allow this? It is such a huge question. And one that I’m not sure that I’m equipped to adequately answer. But I wanted to give you a brief view of my oncology experiences and how I’ve seen God move in the most difficult of circumstances.
The Bible doesn’t promise us that there will not be suffering in life. John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” His word reminds us that trouble and sufferings are a part of this life on earth and often serve a powerful purpose.
Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
What I cling to are the promises that although we go through difficult times, He never leaves our side. As I went through the horrible experience of losing my mom. I really clung to the verse found in Deuteronomy 31:6……”Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them; for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Now, that is a promise!!! A promise that He will never leave us!! Ever!!
And I will tell you that is exactly what I have seen and experienced in these awful cancer situations. A peace that just doesn’t make human sense. God provided peace. That is why it is a peace that passes understanding. I’ve seen God answer prayers and provide discernment. I’ve seen faith in God grow as friends suffered an incurable disease. A demonstration of faith over fear.
Honestly, the oncology experience and how God has sustained and provided through difficult situations is enough to write a book. I feel inadequate trying to simply sum it up in a short blog post. Cancer just stinks. It doesn’t make sense. All we can do is depend on our Savior to provide His strength and cling to the promise that He never leaves us or forsakes us. And finally, hold firm to the grace that has been given to us. The grace that provides eternal life.
Stay tuned…..I’ll re-visit this difficult topic again. Until then, let’s continue to cling to His promises.