Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Consider It Pure Joy!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." - James 1:2

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7

It is amazing how much this theme of "have no anxiety at all" comes up for me. I feel that the Lord is protecting me at every turn and encouraging me to remain calm and even happy. I am finally at a point in this journey where I can say that I am not in denial and have accepted the cross and the journey. It took me a while. For weeks I was hoping this was all just a nightmare. I appreciate all of you who have listened to me talk about how I am feeling and what the course of action will be. I think that the more I talk about it the more "normal" it becomes, which allows me to come out of denial.

God continues to shower us with signs of His love through so many of you and even through complete strangers. I would like to share a few of our beautiful moments from the past couple of weeks.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Pete and the boys for lunch at the Mall of GA as they had agreed that they would go with me to have our picture taken with Santa. I was just determined that this was NOT going to be the year that we would stop taking our picture with Santa. Well, God blessed us with a beautiful experience once again. We showed up to have our picture taken around 1 after we had eaten lunch. We were the only people there to meet with Santa. We chose our package of pictures, the least expensive one just so that we would have a nice memory of the time together. When we sat with Santa he was so gracious. He had Paul and me sit on his lap. After the picture he took time to talk with the boys and before he would give us the candy canes he asked, "So, whose birthday do we celebrate on Christmas?" The boys proudly answered, "JESUS!" Then the lady who was running the camera told us that someone had been there earlier and had paid for an extra package of pictures and asked that they give it to someone. They chose us. We were given a much larger package of pictures than the one we had chosen. We were all very touched by this generous act! The whole experience was so much fun and created a beautiful memory for our family!

I have to share what I call a "God incident" with you. On Sunday we went to Mass and sat down to pray and prepare ourselves. A few minutes later Deacon Mike came to me to ask if I would be the lector (read the readings) since the one scheduled had not shown up yet. I never say no to a chance to proclaim God's word. I love doing it! Usually I would have already read the readings for the day during my morning reflection time, but this time I had not yet read the readings. So, I grabbed a missal as I walked to the back of the church so that I could read the readings and prepare to proclaim God's word. As I came to the second reading I was amazed at what had happened. The Holy Spirit had set it up so that I could proclaim the very reading that I often quote and try to live by from Phillipians 4:7, the one I began this blog with a few months ago, my FAVORITE passage! I must say I think I proclaimed the word with much zeal as I was sure God wanted me to be right there at that very moment so that he could use me to touch someone who was feeling anxious. What an honor! I love it when God's hand is so evident in the course of events. I do feel that God was reminding me, in front of my church family, that I needed to cast my anxiety aside and simply trust Him.

It is interesting how with each round of treatment a new twist on anxiety comes into my heart. My next treatment is this Thursday, the 17th. As I have said before, the treatment itself is no big deal. I don't feel a thing except some tiredness as they pump Benadryl through my veins before the actual chemo. The nurses and my guests make the whole experience very nice. It is day 3-10 after treatment that are the hardest, when the side effects and fatigue set in. So, this time those days will be around Christmas. I already warned my family that I may not feel well on Christmas day. But why was I inclined to assume the negative? Yesterday when Paul, our almost 10 year old, asked me, "So, mom are you going to feel well for Christmas?" I instantly realized the need to state the positive and assure him that all would be fine. So, I replied, "YES! I am going to feel great for Christmas." I know better than to dwell on the negative. I know I need to claim the positive outcome! So, it has been claimed. I will definitely feel well for Christmas!

I continue to be so thankful for the amazing support you are all providing through prayers and acts of kindness. This past week I received a gorgeous bouquet of white and red roses from a dear friend, Susan Shaw, to brighten my days and to honor and celebrate our Lady of Guadalupe. What a special treat! Then just yesterday I was "elfed" by a childhood friend, Lisa, and her friend who are going around celebrating Christmas by surprising people with gifts for 12 days. They brought us an amazing poinsettia as well as a package of smores fixings, cookies and even a gift certificate for me to get a facial. Such a generous gesture that brought much joy to our home. Another friend from church, Mary Agnes, sent me a gorgeous quilt with a lovely pattern of purple roses. It is so comforting! We also continue to receive meals from so many of you. You are spoiling us with such healthy and delicious meals! And I love receiving the cards, e-mails, texts and phone calls from so many. It truly is great to know you are all praying for us and thinking about us. We do feel so very loved and supported! I don't know how we would make it through this trial without each of you.

A group of my childhood hispanic friends gave me the amazing gift of their time as we gathered for our first annual reunion dinner. We laughed so hard as we recounted memories of growing up together in our hispanic families. (Most of us grew up in Cuban homes but one grew up in a Bolivian home.) We truly share a sisterhood, a very strong bond that has thankfully lasted over many years of not seeing each other. We decided that we will make this a tradition, to gather for dinner on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year. I cannot even describe the amount of joy I experienced that night laughing and sharing our stories.

Peter and I were given a great honor this past week as we became Godparents for our dear friends David and Christine Roman's son, Dominic. What a joy to be asked to become such a special part of their lives. The Baptism ceremony was beautiful and so meaningful as friends and family joined to pray for Dominic and welcome him into God's family. It was a glorious day!

Yesterday, while meeting with a friend at a local Panera, I ran into another friend's mother, Mrs. Patterson. How beautiful it was to have time to catch up with her. She is the one who recognized me and said, "I have been reading your blog and have been praying for you." WOW! How neat to see that this blog is connecting me to so many who are praying for us. She shared that she is a cancer survivor and assured me that all will be fine. Thank you!

As we get into this last week of preparing for Christmas, the coming of the Savior, I can't help but reflect on the act of waiting. When we wait we must have patience but we may also be excited or even nervous or afraid. In waiting for the coming of Jesus as a baby we typically wait with excitement and we have to teach our kids to be patient as they count down the days. As I wait for this journey through cancer to be complete I am having to exercise much patience and am relying on God and all of you to fill me with peace and happiness, especially on the rough days. Thankfully I am assured that this is just a season in my life. I will survive and be able to look back and reflect on that I have learned through this experience. Mrs. Patterson even shared with me that she has already forgotten how many rounds of chemo she endured. That gave me much hope to know that one day I will even forget some of the details of this journey. But, I do vow not to forget the lessons and how each of you have stepped up to support us through this time.

This Christmas one of the greatest gifts I have already been given is the gift of love, the love that each one of you is demonstrating by praying for us and reaching out to us. I have experienced so much love in the past few months and that is what I will focus on. That is why I will feel just fine on Christmas day!

"May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

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