Chance encounter or Divine Intervention

When something happens do you chalk it up to chance? We say “What are the chances of that happening to me?” or “I’ve got a pretty good chance of that  happening today.”

Chance, according to Google, is “the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.”

Maybe it’s not our “obvious design” but every occurrence is an ultimate design.

I don’t believe in luck or chance. I believe in divine intervention. Through life’s experiences I have come to believe everything happens for a reason. Even terrible tragedies and loss happen so that we can learn and grow. We are all moving through this life to reach the next life with our Lord Jesus and each step we take is His divine plan.

I was once asked by a teen at a youth ministry meeting “how can it be God’s plan when we have free will”. I reflected for a moment and then attempted to explain it as if your parent was sitting on a roof top watching you drive up. That parent can see all the different paths you can choose to get home and they can see that some of them are not safe. They see the path you are on will be a collision with another car and although they are screaming at the top of their lung for you to turn at the next street you can’t hear or you are choosing not to hear. Then someone steps into the street to cross the road and you slow and avoid two accidents, hitting the walker and the collision that was ahead. God sees all the different paths in front of us, some of the paths lead to Him, some of them do not. As we choose a path, he shifts to other paths and again places paths that lead to Him and paths that don’t. He never tires of leading us on the right path. He is the father in the prodigal son story; waiting, watching and praying for our return through all the free will choices we make.

I know God is omnipotent and omnipresent. I know He places obstacles in my path for His purpose. I have learned to trust in His movements through my life.

His presence was glaringly visible yesterday.

As I sat through a workshop at the beautiful campus of St Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein I sat with and meet six amazing women ministering in the life of the church. Each one had a story to tell of their journey listening to God’s voice in their life. The voice that led them to bible studies, RCIA, serving the poor, sheltering the homeless and the voice that led them into a new family at their parishes. They were enlightening stories of challenges and hope…and of JOY! I love sharing faith with such inspiring, strong women. The six of them sitting with me was God’s divine plan. But that is not the end of the story.

During our last break of the day, one of these women asked me a simple question about my water bottle.

You see, I carry every day a 24 oz Tervis water bottle with a pink ribbon design on it. I have two of them that were given as gifts to me during treatment so that I would always remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A habit I continue everyday. I’m a pretty routine person – each night I place the water bottle without the lid in the freezer half full. In the morning, I fill up the rest of the bottle with cold water…and it keeps cold until about 2:00 pm. (I prefer drinking cold water and ice cubes melt too quickly!) Yesterday was no different. I carried my water bottle into the workshop, little did I know it would spark a connection.

I have learned to not bring up the subject that I am thriving after breast cancer…I’ve seen too many people change their demeanor when they hear that, so I just allow it to come up organically if it is meant to. And yesterday it was meant to…God’s intervention.

This beautiful, kind, gentle woman asked ever so sweetly “pink ribbon…is that you?” I said yes and she said, I need to find one of those bottle for lymphoma, and I responded “you?” as she said “yes”.

My heart fluttered…I knew why I sat at that table, God needed us to meet…what a blessing it turned into.

After the workshop ended, we picked up our conversation. She had lymphoma years ago in her neck, arm pits, chest and abdomen (almost everywhere we have lymph nodes!)…and she bravely fought it into remission. Yet two months ago she explained that it had returned in her neck. She was beginning treatment on Monday. Monday is her mother’s birthday and she is an only child. Her eyes told of her fear of this vicious disease that lies within her. She asked if I would be back at a workshop in October and I said “no, but would see her in November”. Her eyes softened as she said “I’ll be in my month hospital stay in November.” Although the words did not come out of her mouth, I heard her crying for connection. I asked if I could stay in touch with her, which softened both of our faces…there was the connection she was searching for. Maybe it was a relief of someone who understands the fear of cancer or someone to cry with. I am blessed to do both or either.

She gave me her cell and email as we hugged goodbye. I don’t know what plans God has for this relationship, but I do know that He created a connection that I am called to nuture. My thoughts throughout today have been on prayers to releave her anxieties and put her complete trust in the Lord. I texted her today the words I remember a dear friend sent to me before my first treatment: “don’t tell your God how big your mountain is…tell you mountain how big your God is”

God’s Divine Intervention…watch for it…it presents itself in many places throughout your day…see them and embrace them

Divine Intervention

Thank you Lord the the grace of a new friendship during storms in her life. Help the sun and Son to break through her darkness. If I can be a small drop of grace in her life, I am honored to do so. Thank you for the grace of divine intervention in my life and the presence to see your hand within it.

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Conversations with the Almighty

Prayer is simply talking to God.
Prayer can take many shapes. It is just a conversation with God.
No small task here you say…speaking with the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth.
I know many people think, why would he want to talk with me? I’m a sinner, I have done so many things wrong.
But God is merciful and is like your parents…no matter what you do or say, their arms are always open.

I was once at a presentation and the speaker has a beautiful image of the Prodigal Son. It was the reading at church and after service the mother asked her daughter what do you think about the story of the son that ran away from home and the father that welcomed him back. She beautifully said “that father waited every day at the end of the driveway so of course he was happy when the day came that he saw his son.” We often look at the story from one of the brother’s perspective. But the parent was unfailing in love for his child. He never lost hope and he always stood patiently waiting.

God knows our hearts, he hears our prayers. Each and everyone of us are precious to him, just as each of our children are precious to us. God is our Father, the ultimate parent. He yearns for each of His children to come home to him in prayer. He waits.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them the Our Father. The structure of the prayer is adoration, forgiveness and humility to his will for us. We can use his words or our own, God does not care. He just wants to talk with us.

Find a quiet space, make a sacred ritual.

Each morning I drive to work and treasure the 50 minute drive (or longer in construction season). The time doesn’t bother me because it is sacred time. This is my sacred time. A time of reflection of the blessings in my life. I time to spontaneous talk with God and to pray my rosary and divine chaplet. My fingers naturally find their rhythm in a familiar pattern on a rosary my sister brought home from the Vatican in 1988. Those beads have heard alot of praise, sorrow and petitions. Prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance and protection for my family and friends consume my thoughts. A few minutes is spent talking with my daughter as we both start our day with a commute. My time with God is sprinkled with reminders of who I am praying for…my daughter and son (and now my future daughter-in-law), the blessings of my life.

We can get easily distracted in the world around us, so turn off the radio, tv, music…wherever you are; start with silence. Developing a ritual prayer life takes patience and trust. God is with us, listening, watching and guiding, even when we don’t feel His presence.

Prayer is talking with God. It’s a conversation. prayer
Effective conversations are two ways.
Make sure your prayer time includs listening.
We need to be aware of His presence in our every day.
Listen, watch and you will see Him.
He is present in the pauses throughout the day.
Thank him for all the things that pass your way.
Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the close parking spot or for safe travel.
Say a prayer of gratitude for the ability to speak to loved ones and for the job you have (even if it’s not your dream job).
Say a prayer of petition and bring forth the needs for others and yourself.
God is omnipotent, He can take it all in. He love you so much and is waiting for your return to prayer.

The Almighty Physician

If you have ever faced an illness you understand when I talk about all the physicians necessary to care for you.almightydoctor

Over the past two years I have met with a gynecologist, breast surgeon, radiologists, cardiologist, oncologist, internal medicine, nuclear medicine, dermatologist, otolaryngologist, gastroenterologist, dentist, ophthalmologist, oncology radiologists, generalist, podiatrist, nephrologist and I’m sure I am forgetting someone (sorry). Each of these doctors were wonderful and a specialist in their field. I am so blessed to have the top-notch professional available at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Although they may have helped me along the way, the only true physician I needed was the Almighty Physician.

When I sat back and allowed The Physician to treat me, not only was I treated physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

Now I see the scar that a surgeon left, but The Physician healed.
I have neuropathy in my feet left from treatment, but The Physician knows my pain.
He was there in the surgery, He was there for each appointment, walking right next to me.
He knows what I feel, what I need and what I can carry…and I will continue to trust Him with my life.
He is my constant, always faithful and always present.

Grace embraced through the moments I remember to pause and acknowledge the healing touch of our Lord Jesus.

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do” Luke 5:32

Last Herceptin!

photo (10)Thursday, August 8th is my sister’s birthday.  This year along with the gift I sent her in Colorado I also gave her a better gift. My last day of treatment.  I’m done with surgery, I’m done with Adriamycin, Cytoxan Chemotherapy. I’m done with Taxol Chemotherapy. I’m done with Radiation therapy. I’m now done with a year of Herceptin chemotherapy. It was the last piece in the puzzle and I’m so happy that the last piece of the puzzle is complete!

So August 8th was a true celebration. The only thing that would have made it better was if my daughter, Jaclyn and my sisters could have been here to celebrate with me.

However my husband did an amazing job celebrating with me. He took off work early to go to treatment with me. Even though I’ve been going to treatments alone since finishing Taxol, (Herceptin does not affect my driving), he wanted to go with me. I always become extremely tired after Herceptin. So a restful weekend is always in order.

Kevin and I laughed with the nurses as we all celebrated my final treatment visit. I brought treats as a thank you for being so wonderful! We laughed, hugged and said good-bye. I stopped downstairs to the radiology section to drop treats for those lovely ladies there too. I’ll miss them, but not the treatments. I trust the Lord has removed all the cancer, so visits there will in the future will only be to say hello!  Like my oncologist said last month, “well you’re looking good, and we threw the book at you.” And I smiled and said “thanks, it was a really heavy book.”Candy thank you

Kevin and I left University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross for home. My son was waiting for me to celebrate with my family. Kevin had invited my mom, brothers and their families over for dinner to celebrate. But he had more up his sleeve.

As Mindy, my sister-in-law, came armed with paper products and flowers, she began preparing veggies, appetizers and desserts. In came Mary and Dominic from Cafe Milan in Frankfort. I have known them for 15 years and they have the best caterers in the area (http://caffemilanfrankfort.com/menu.htm) They brought in more food than my family eats and I started to suspect something was afoot.

Spinach lasagna, chicken pesto, strawberry spinach salad, baked fruit and congratulatory cakes filled my kitchen counter. Then friends started arriving.  I was so thrilled to see so many people who have filled my life the past 18 months celebrating with me!

What an amazing evening!

A warrior cake

Thank you Kevin. And Thank you Lord for bringing me through this journey. I know it will never be completely over, but I have reached to top of the mountain and can see the light streaming on my face from heaven! Every day is grace filled!

Grace embraced through every moment of love I have received and I pray that I can share it forward to others in my life through any challenging valleys they may have to travel, while praising with them for all the wonderful moments of mountaintops!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:7-10 

Prayer

prayer-on-my-kneesPope Francis this past week told the pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio, “learn to pray everyday: this is the way to know Jesus and invite him into your lives“.

If you did not know how to pray before, everyone learns how to when the hear the words “You have cancer.”

No matter where you are or what you are doing, you lift up your prayers to the Lord.

Some may call God by other names, but just as I have many names (Janet, Mom, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, coworker), God has many names. The incredible thing about God is He loves each one of us completely and hears each one of our cries with a merciful heart, through our calling out to him.

Prayer has been a foundation in my life since childhood. I always knew I had a guardian angel watching over me and felt the presence of God with me. I had a sister that passed away at the age of two, just 16 months before I was born and I always pictured she was my guardian angel. Jesus loves the little children, so having her at the feet of Jesus enabled me to focus on goodness and truth as I grew. I was just an ordinary child, the third of six children growing up. Of course we had our share of fights, but we stuck together. My three sisters and two brothers were more important to me than anyone. We were a big gang when we vacationed (usually camping) or spent the summers at the pool, but we were placed on this earth together…to take care and watch out for each other. And we did.

But it was not until I became a mother that my prayer life kicked into the forefront of everyday life. When I discovered I was expecting I began praying daily…and have not stopped every 26 years later. I learned that the Lord guides my marriage, my children and my life. I can communicate with him, I can disagree with him, I can praise him and I can rejoice with him…but I can not control the path he has in store for me. No matter how hard I have tried in the past – and I have tried!

I enjoy experiencing all types of prayers; alone and with others. Bible studies, meditation, spontaneous, retreats, songs, poems, prayers of the church, memorized, adoration, praying with my husband and so many other forms. This foundation that was built over my the course of my life was essential to living through the past year and a half. I prayed for the medical personnel and my family and friends. I prayed that I would be healed so that I am able to show the Lord’s power and glory. I prayed that I would be able to know the grandchildren that He has planned for me (then I switched to praying that my grandchildren will know me too!) I prayed for other cancer patients and those facing life changing illnesses and in a special way for those facing these challenges without the support of family and friends.

Prayer changes everything…because it first changes you.

May you find time today to pray and be changed.

Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer. Romans 12:12

Grace embraced through the growth that I have experienced in times of tribulations and in times of prayer.

Another milestone

Oh the joy The Lord has given me this past year.

A year ago today I had my mastectomy surgery. And so began the hardest summer of my life. The only thing harder than this fight I had in front of me was losing my Dad. But I have survived both challenges.

People say “the Lord only gives you what you can handle”…but He doesn’t ask if I want to handle it! I wanted my Dad with me so often this past year. Lymphoma took him within five months, but I know my Dad was with me every step of this past year. I am filled with joy, because I have a faith that trusts in God’s divine providence. I know I might not be able to handle everything, but God can and I usually need to remember to step aside and allow God’s glory to take hold.

Every treatment, chemo, radiation, therapy, doctors appointments and bad day was in God’s ultimate plan. And it feels so good to know that someone all knowing has my back.

This past year has taught me how precious life is…I always knew it of course, but to be thrust in the middle of a life battle really makes you look differently. It also gives you the ability to not sweat the small stuff.

Every blade of grass has a purpose, every ant a mission. What a wonderful gift to be given…a new pair of eyes to see Gods creation and to contemplate its purpose and mission.

Look at the world differently today. Because we are here today, does not guarantee tomorrow. God gives us so much each and every day…we need to embrace each grace, smile and give love back.

Grace embraced this year through the beautiful creation I have seen with my new eyes e of God!

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Genesis 1:29-31

A beautiful day…a lovely walk…

Last Sunday our house woke up to a cool brisk morning air and to a determination to reach out to others in support. It was the morning of the Chicago Marathon but I had a marathon of my own.

The Cancer Support Center in Homewood and Mokena has given me, and so many others, resources and encouragement. I wanted to complete their Walk for Hope. The Walk for Hope was a 1, 3, and 5 mile walk through lovely downtown Homewood. Now I knew I could do the 1 mile. Kevin and I have been walking our circle neighborhood mile all summer, sometimes a mile and a half. I’ve only done 2 miles once since my surgery, so I was hesitate about the 3 mile walk. Also the previous Sunday, I chose to wear new shoes to work. Walking from church to the school and back several times created four blisters on the back of my feet. I have been wearing sandals all week to allow them to heal before the walk. But since my platelets are low, it seems like my blood was not clotting as easily and therefore the blisters did not seem to heal as quickly. Or was it just my impatience? I tried my gym shoes on Friday and they rubbed right on the blisters,” just keep praying, Janet”.

But God knows my heart, He would overcome any obstacles for His glory and I knew that. Some people were concerned the day might be too cold for me or it would be too long for me, but I trusted and released the day into Gods hands. I’ll stop at one mile if I need to and would not attempt the walk at all if it was raining or no sun and too cold. But I trusted.

And He always prevails! Sunday morning was brisk, but the four of us bundled up with scarves and hats. I was most concerned about my neck and the cold. My long hair usually kept my neck warm and I did not want to be chilled because my hat and fleece did not do the job as well.  So I grabbed a winter scarf, which may have been too much, but nothing was not a choice for “bald-headed” me.

Saturday, my sister-in-law called to say she had seen the walk at the Cancer Support website and was walking in my honor. Jaclyn told her we were going too and would meet up in the morning!

So off Kevin, Jaclyn, Zachary and I went. Oh yeah, Jaclyn’s is home this week for her school fall break! The perks of being a teacher!

There were so many people filling the Irwin Center grassy area, close to a thousand people came out in support of this organizations and someone they love. I received my first survivors recognition and a beautiful necklace that shouts “Spirit, Strength, Hope, Courage”. Amazing experience! I filled out my walkers name tag, I walk for “a cure”. And turned around to read the others. Tears flowed to my eyes as I read …I walk for “my beautiful Momma; my wife, the love of my life; my courageous mom; my little sister; my loving sister-in-law”. We asked someone to snap our picture together, as you can see here. Don explained that his fanny pack was not a purse, it was European (for all you Seinfield fans)! It was the joking point of the day! Of course Jaclyn uploaded the pic to Facebook and we saw that my nephew in Denver posted a pic for a Strides against Cancer walk he was participating in for his stepmother’s three-year survival and ME! Another beautiful surprise! I am so blessed!

As we walked, Kevin offered to complete the one mile with me as everyone else finished the three-mile, but God had other plans. The day was beautiful, the conversations we were having were wonderful and the time passed easily. At the one mile turn, I felt great, my heels were not hurting and my stamina was good. And Mindy and I were talking about the great restaurants in Homewood, so I pushed forward.

Seeing that we were walking down Dixie Highway for about 3/4 of a mile, I figured I can always turn back if the walk became too much. As we walked we rotated, I had a great conversation with Mindy, although we laughed at how hungry we were getting talking about restaurants for half an hour…but now I have a new repertoire of establishments to try. Don and I talked of family, friends and work, catching up on each others lives. I spent time in the sun and fresh air with my amazing adult children and husband laughing. I made the three miles easily and with a huge smile on my face! The Lord’s plan worked out perfectly, as always.

After hitting the local Blueberry Hill for breakfast/lunch together, we went home. Well the beautiful morning ended with an afternoon on the couch. My feet were okay, but the walk and fresh air took it out of me, in a good way. My spirits were on a high all day!

My stamina was something to be desired, long gone is the woman who ran 3-5 miles. The knees are older and the body more resistant. But friends who ran the marathon are my inspiration too, I refuse to let this diagnosis determine what I am capable of.

The extra fifteen pounds which chemo, steroids and recovery has added to my body will be shed. A healthy, active lifestyle is around the corner. When the final round of chemo ends, God willing, on October 18, a new chapter begins.

I know, I know, I still have treatments through August 2013, but my hair should start growing and my blood should start rebuilding its strength back and I will begin to strive once again. Fatigue will continue through the next ten months, but my spirit can’t be squashed!

So congratulations to the Chicago marathon athletes, what an amazing achievement. And a heartfelt thanks to my family for helping me with my three-mile achievement!

‘Do not fear, for I am with you;  Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

Grace embraced through the amazing survivors and supporters that shared a beautiful day celebrating life and the work of the Cancer Support Center. And in a special way through my brother and sister-in-law, my children and my husband supporting and uplifting me all morning!