Friday, June 21, 2013

What Fills Your Cup?

Recently I was asked to speak at a church in a little place called Plumfield IL. This church amazes me. Its in the smallest little area but the faith of these people are so big. It was an honor to be asked to come and speak at their ladies brunch this spring. Their theme was "What Fills Your Cup?". Now as a breast cancer survivor this theme made me giggle. Ok not giggle...I laughed hysterically. I have always said that if I were to write a book someday the name of it would be something about having cups that overflow! It was great to see old friends and meet new ones as well. Not to mention the surprise that one of my favorite Aunts showed up!

Once I got past the hilarious theme...(I realize that most minds don't go there but for survivors we can pretty much relate anything back to boobs)...I settled in to find a scripture. It didn't take long before I knew that Romans 15:13 would be the heart of my talk that day. After sharing the about my diagnosis and treatment with them I shared with them what filled my cup.The following is what I shared with this amazing group of women who blessed me beyond words that day.

May the God of hope fill you with 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

My cup is full of Joy!
Choose Your Attitude
I'm a firm believer that you have the ability to choose your attitude. I tend to be a really positive person. In fact there are times I have been accused of being obnoxiously positive. There are a lot of things that we don’t have control over but our attitude is one of them. With each circumstance that comes our way we can choose our attitude. When I was first diagnosed I knew that I had two options. I could either choose to be miserable, see it as a punishment from God, and think of all the things that cancer would control in my life or I could choose to see it as a gift from God. I could choose to be thankful for this journey He sent me on and seek ways to use it to glorify God’s Kingdom.

Chosen for Cancer?
From the very beginning of this journey I have said that I felt that my cancer was designed by God. That I felt this was given by God and that I was honored that He choose me.  That He felt I would good enough and strong enough to handle this. John 15:16 says "You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you." When I was first diagnosed I told many people this. Honestly while I truly believed this I thought I was the only person who felt this way. Then I heard Joni Erikson Tadda say the same thing either on her blog or a PBS special. Thanks to Chemo Brain (yes thats a real thing) I can't really remember where I heard her say it but it resonated with me. If you don’t know Joni she is an incredible women who was paralyzed as a young women in a diving accident but choose to use that as a gift from God and she has made a world wide ministry out of it. Look up Joni and Friends sometime and learn more about her ministry and her story. What many people don't realize is that she is also a breast cancer survivor. She was still in treatment when I was diagnosed. I wrote her and told her how happy I was to hear that someone else felt the same way I did. That I was honored to have been chosen by God for this. She wrote me a lovely letter and sent me a book as well as an article. The Article was entitled  Don’t waste your Cancer by John Piper. in it he says that...
"You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God. It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it."
This is just one of the many things that John Piper writes in this article. To this day I keep a copy or two in my purse. I knew that this was a gift from God and I decided from the beginning that I would choose my attitude and that I would see this as a gift and make sure I didn't waste it.

Consider it Pure Joy
Not only does the Bible tell us that trouble will come and that we will be ok.  It says we need to be Joyful about it. James chapter 1 tells us to...“Consider it Pure Joy my sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.” Its so funny how God puts the right people in your life at the right time.There are so many people through my life that held a great influence on me and got me to where I am today. One of those people that made a huge impact in my life growing up was a man by the name of Judd Weece. While I was living in Eminence Mo he was my youth minister for a while. The Weece family leave a legacy everywhere they go.  Judd taught us over and over from the book of James. He was so passionate about the book of James. I’m sure at some point we must have studied something other than that book but the majority of our lessons were from there. He started a challenge for our class to memorize the first chapter. We all did it. Then he said ok now chapter two. A few of us did it. He kept raising the bar until I had memorized the entire book.  I can’t thank him enough for this because the book of James was a big encouragement for me during and got me through some really low times in my life and cancer is no exception. This is part of the reason I choose to celebrate even the trials life brings and to find Joy in them. Oddly enough at the same time I was learning from Judd my husband was in the youth group of his brother Joe several hours away. God was preparing us even back then.

Shawn and I were not sure if I would survive or for how long. Inflammatory Breast Cancer is an aggressive cancer and everything we had read was that IF I made it through treatments it would likely come right back. I’m not going to tell you we were not upset and that we didn’t cry. That would be a lie. What I will tell you is that there in Joy in our trials. Sometimes we have to look pretty hard to find it. Sometimes we even help create joy. I knew I would be spending a lot of time indoors so we decided to paint our living room BRIGHT yellow.  You can't look at those walls and not feel the SON brightening your days.We also found fun ways to celebrate the difficult things like having the girls cut my hair, going to hooters the weekend before my surgery and the countless boob humor throughout treatment. We made sure that each week we found ways to laugh even if it meant breaking out our favorite comedies that we knew would make us laugh. For the record RV is one that we watched more than a dozen times (yes we tend to think poop humor is hilarious as well)

My cup is full of Peace!
There are days where laughter is just too hard and when you reach one of those times where you just don't see the Joy you must find Peace in those moments.There is no way I can stand here and tell you that everything was always happy and joyful. There were days that I struggled even to get out of bed. On those days I found peace and comfort in the scriptures. Here are few of them:

Psalm 29:11 "The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace."
John 16:33 "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.”

Phil 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  

Finding Peace Through Pain
I read a lot of happy hopeful uplifting scriptures about peace, hope and healing but I also read a lot of scriptures of people going through rough stuff too. I found great peace in knowing that there were many Godly heroes from the Bible that had even greater struggles than I did. And still they were able to find peace and praise God. 

Job 30:16-19 
"And now my life drains out,
   as suffering seizes and grips me hard.
Night gnaws at my bones;
   the pain never lets up.
I am tied hand and foot, my neck in a noose.
   I twist and turn.
Thrown facedown in the muck,
   I'm a muddy mess, inside and out."
You see My story isn’t so much about cancer as it is about being thrown facedown in the muck, about being a muddy mess inside and out. Life is messy and sometimes it makes us tired, sometimes it brings us pain, sometimes we just don’t know how we will make it from one day to the next. 

Psalm 6:2-3
"Can't you see I'm black-and-blue,
      beat up badly in bones and soul?
   God, how long will it take
      for you to let up?"
I remember one of the worst things about having cancer wasn’t the actual cancer and nor was it the Chemo. It was Nulasta. If you mention that word to someone with cancer you will usually hear them groan just at the mention of the word. That first time I was given a full dose I could barely move to crawl to the coffee pot. And for a Beal that is bad. But it was that which was so painful was what kept me well enough to survive. Nulasta made me stay well enough to be able to take my next round of Chemo and to stay well even though I had three girls ages 3 and under. Sometimes painful things are what keep us going and surviving.

Finding Peace Through Tears
Cancer as you can imagine isn’t just a physical problem. It is emotionally exhausting. But again I found peace in the scriptures reading of others including King David who cried out to God in his despair.

Psalm 6:6-7
"I'm tired of all this—so tired. My bed
      has been floating forty days and nights
   On the flood of my tears.
      My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.
   The sockets of my eyes are black holes;
      nearly blind, I squint and grope."

Its important though to remember that no matter how painful life gets. That it is only a small period of time. Eventually it will pass and better things will come along. I love storms. I love everything about them. Sometimes storms can be so ugly and they can cause so much damage. The tornado sirens went off for the first time this year just a couple of days ago. Even though I know what kind of damage they can cause I also know that when the storm is over there is new growth. And even if that storm brings destruction and damage  we will also see communities gathering, supporting and bringing hope and peace to each other. I personally believe that each and every storm brings Joy, Peace and Hope! 

Psalm 30:5
 " The nights of crying your eyes out
      give way to days of laughter." Msg

The NIV says: "Weeping may stay for the night,
   but rejoicing comes in the morning

No matter how rough things get eventually it will pass, life will go on and great things will happen.  There were so many times that I wondered how I would make it through to the next round of treatment. I knew that I would but I knew though that I would only make it through because of God because I was not strong enough to make it on my own.

Finding Peace in Prayer

Its when we are broken the most that we draw the closet to God. The old testament is full of people crying out to God in their darkest of hours. Its during those times that we see the most transformation. We just read several examples of that. In the new testament we see this same thing. We see people in pain both physically and emotionally pouring their hearts out to God. Weeping in pain. John 11:35 says "Jesus Wept!" Yes even Jesus wept.When you are utterly broken and in pain both physically and emotionally prayer becomes so important and it changes how you see prayer.

Prayer is pouring your heart out to God. The good the bad and the ugly. He can take what we have to say.  So many times our prayer time is on schedule and at specific times and we have these words that just come out but we don’t even hear what we are saying half of the time. After this type of pain prayer becomes this living breathing part of your life. God is so ready to hear our pain I think that sometimes we are just fearful to tell him. It is in that pain and sorrow where you find true peace.

My cup is full of Hope!
Hoping for a Cure
There are many scriptures that talk about healing. I certainly hoped I would be healed but I never actually prayed that I would be healed. I realize just how crazy that sounds but its true. While I certainly hoped that I would survive and to this day I hope and pray for a cure for cancer. I spent a lot of time helping spread awareness and raise funds to fight cancer and I know that someday we will. I also realize that sometimes God’s plan is not what we want. Sometimes He needs to use us for difficult things to bring purpose to our lives and so that we can serve Him better. 

John Pipers article addresses this. He says…."You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ."  Shawn and I prayed that if Christ could be better served through my death than through my life that he would give us the grace and the strength to do that. We certainly hopped I would survive but ultimately we were not sure what God wanted. So we prayed simply that we would handle it with grace and with a Godly attitude if my survival was not part of His plan. I had to rely a lot on the latter part of Philippians Chapter 1 in order to keep this attitude.
 “So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately know, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t just me up they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger’ dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose."
 Cancer became my pulpit. There version most of you know is “for me to live is Christ but to die is gain” Cancer has given me a reason to share my journey and my testimony to the world about the ultimate HOPE.

The Ultimate HOPE
I don’t only hope but I’m confidante that someday I will see my savior and He will be proud of what I have done. That He will be pleased not only that I fought like a girl but that took all of my trials and I celebrated them, I found joy in them, I found peace in the mist of those trials and used them to bring hope to a lost and bitter world.

My prayer for each of you reading this is that “The God of hope fill you with 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