Friday, September 23, 2016

What Looks Bad Sometimes is Good

The picture above is of a horse I met on my 40-mile bike-ride yesterday. He was very friendly and we had a nice chat about how lucky he was to live right along the bike path. I had the whole day before me since my son and daughter-in-law had to earn a living. I would see them for dinner. In the mean time, I met the sweet horse and got to bike for four hours. There is not much more fun on earth than that!







This is me at the turn-around point, twenty miles out. It was REALLY hard not to keep going further...but it is difficult to gauge when one is half-tired, and if one is MORE than half-tired when one turns back, one will not make it home. I didn't think I was half-tired yet, but decided it might be wise to turn around any way.


So reluctantly, I  turned around. I stopped for lunch at a beautiful park, and finished off my leftover salad from the night before. For the record, salad does not quite cover the caloric needs of a 40-mile bike ride. I could have used an extra double-decker hot fudge brownie icecream sundae...but that was not in my bike pack.









Look closely...in the air above me as I pedaled onward home after my very low calorie lunch: vultures. There were six or seven of them, following and circling above me. This is at the mile 33 mark, and at this point, I realized maybe I WAS more than half-tired at the turn around point. The vultures seemed to think so too.







 Fortunately, most of the end route was downhill, and soon I was back in downtown Richmond with the Lucky Strike chimney of Tobacco Row guiding me back to my hotel.





It was an exquisitely beautiful ride, and I hope to return and do the entire 52- mile Richmond to Williamsburg route one day.








I returned to my hotel room, which had not been cleaned. Really? It was 2 pm, I'd been gone all morning, and it still wasn't cleaned? I shrugged that off, since I was pretty pooped and eager for a warm shower. I cannot have a hot shower because of my newly radiated skin. The doctor said warm is ok. Hot will hurt my skin. Guess what? The shower ONLY came out hot. That would have been but a small problem, except the bathtub wouldn't drain so I was standing in my sweaty, 40-miles of ick washed off hot water.

The remote didn't work, which I'd known the night before. The heat/cooling register didn't work properly either. Half the night I was shivering in arctic cold, and when I tried to set it just a few degrees to 68 degrees, the dusty smelling heat came on!  I was willing to overlook those things initially because of the gorgeous view of the James River out my tenth floor window.  But now, I called the front desk and listed the litany of issues. I was starting to feel sorry for myself.

"Would you like a new room?" the nice man at the front desk asked.

"Will it have as beautiful a view of the James River?"

"Better."

"Then YES!"


This is the view from my new hotel room at the exclusive 'club level' that requires a special card in the elevator to even allow you on that floor.


I was shocked to be given a card that gave me access to ride the elevator to the exclusive 'club' level. Then I entered my room. On the bed was a special packet that said, 'Just for You.'  It was essential oil blends that would help me relax and sleep like a rich person with no worries.

Instead of just a bottle of 'every day shampoo' which is all I had received in my lower level room, my shampoo now now accompanied by 'la la lagoon bath gel.'  On the table by my recliner was a fancy ice bucket. The 'club' level is clearly the place to be.



I think this definitely called for putting on my new cowboy boots.

God was reminding me of a VERY important truth. Sometimes, your world looks like it is falling apart. All the things that are supposed to be happening are not, and you are getting tired, and disappointment sets in with an oppressive heaviness that saps all the joy out of you. Why does everything always go wrong????

And then, all those seemingly terrible things end up promoting some sort of change that puts you in a far better place than you could otherwise have ever dreamed of.

What looks bad is sometimes good. Trust that God sees the bigger picture and the time line stretching far beyond the present circumstances. He could be setting you up for the 'club' level.

and lovely dinner with my son...















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Genesis 50: 19-21

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Incomparable Riches...Do You See Them?


Day one of my victory from cancer treatment adventure.

I arrived safely in Richmond, after rerouting my drive to avoid the turmoil area of Charlotte following the terrible events of rioting right along my route. I prayed for my city as I drove, wondering how anyone hopes to solve anything by looting and attacking innocent businesses and officers.

I checked into the hotel, and within half an hour was out the door on the Richmond Capital Trail bike path. This  paved 52-mile bike path goes from the historic Virginia capital of Williamsburg to the present capital of Richmond. I will not be able to bike the entire path (this trip!) but I will try to do 30 or 40 miles of it today. Yesterday I did 25, some of it in the rain. It was glorious.


 The first few miles of it start off along the James River Canal, and that is really beautiful. That only lasts about three miles and soon, the path meanders along a country road and through fields of corn and other crops.  Portions of the trail are forested, but most of it that I was able to bike yesterday was along quiet rural roads and developments.


 After I turned around (when the rain picked up), I ended up along a section of the canal I had never seen on my previous Richmond trips. Richmond is a city that is doing everything right, in my opinion. They have taken full advantage of the beautiful James River and historic old canal, and built a stunning walkway and bike-path along it, with all kinds of beautiful buildings, restaurants, and river-view apartments and condos. Charlotte - PAY ATTENTION.

Surprisingly, not a single person in my hotel knew about the bike path, or how to get there from the hotel. It was 1 mile away! How could they be sitting on this gold mine and  not even know it exists???

And that got me to thinking about God, and Jesus, and the incredible gift of salvation that we all could access...but so few of us do. We are sitting on a GOLD MINE of joy, mercy, grace, and eternal life...and so many of us don't even attempt to access it.

This breaks my heart.

After my bike ride, I watched the sun set over the James River, as the lights of the city flickered on in the waning light.


Let them see you Lord, I prayed. My city, my friends, my loved ones...don't let them be so close to incomparable riches and not even know it exists. Please Lord. Open their eyes and their hearts to you.









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Matthew 13:15-16 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Let Go -- I Will Catch You


Done! I am done with radiation treatment. One of the other patients gave me a framed painting she had done. She still has several weeks of treatment to go, but she was rejoicing with me for my grand finale. The technicians gave me this certificate pictured above, congratulating me on my 'achievement'.

Achievement?

I lay on a narrow steel table and let them shoot dangerous doses of radiation into my chest. Achievement seems a little over-the-top. Maybe Endurance. Certificate of Endurance would be more appropriate. I endured six weeks of daily radiation, not too terribly the worse for wear. My skin is peeling in a couple of spots, but no open wounds, and not very red anymore. I took two naps over the six-week period, which was the extent of my radiation fatigue.

It seemed like there would be more fanfare and drum rolls in my head with my last treatment session. There was not. Just a vague sense of relief that it was done, and no more terrible things remain for me to 'achieve' or to 'endure', at least for now on this cancer journey.

I chatted with my cousin Carol to let her know I was considering adding a side-trip on my Victory Trip North. If I have the energy, I want to visit her and my other cousins, but I told her I wanted to stay at a hotel near the beach. Could she recommend one? The ocean (all bodies of water, in fact) bring me so much peace. I need peace now. It has been a long six-months since diagnosis, much of it filled with pain, uncertainty, turmoil, and fear. Carol understood exactly what a hotel on the beach meant to me.

Get this. Not only did she recommend one near her, she instantly used points her family had accumulated for a free hotel stay and booked me at a hotel just a mile from the ocean. How blessed I am for the people I am related to!

So I leave this morning for my great Victory Trip. I made it through a terrifying discovery of a lump in my breast, to a more terrifying diagnosis of breast cancer, to the first surgery removing the breast, to the day after surgery having three potentially life threatening blood clots land me in the E.R., to a second surgery to reconstruct the breast, to 6-weeks of radiation with a broken rib from a bad bike accident thrown in to season the calamity...to the grand finale yesterday. It's over. I am done.

I read a study on fear of pain and death by C.S. Lewis that really hit home for me. A brief excerpt highlights the salient point as I look back on the past six months:
Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’
Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.

The most calm and even joy-filled moments over the past six-months have been when I inexplicably relaxed and trusted God that even though this was decidedly NOT a journey I would have chosen to embark upon, if He deemed it necessary, then it would end in GOOD. When I struggled and railed against what was happening, I only made it worse. C.S. Lewis is exactly right. Do I trust God in all things...or only in the pleasant circumstances? If I trust him, let go, knowing He will catch me.

But for now, there is a respite. No more surgeries or invasive procedures. Oh, there is still medicine I start in two weeks and will take for the next five years, and check up visits, and probably more tests along the way to be sure the cancer stays gone. However, all the terrible things I was certain I could not, and would not survive...I did, and they are DONE.

So here I am, about to embark on my Victory Trip. I will visit loved ones, sip wine by the ocean (which is not allowed my cousin warns me but everyone does it anyway....), go on long bike rides on new bike trails, and hike uncharted paths.  I will hug my parents, my sons, my daughter in law, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my cousins. Maybe an aunt or two, as well. I will see the first colors of Autumn sprinkling trees in New England, and breathe deeply (now that my broken rib is healing and I can breathe deeply again) of the cool air sweeping down from Heaven and across the beautiful world God made. (PS- Thank you dear hubby for continuing working so I could do this blessed victory lap.)

I will pray without ceasing. I have so much to be thankful for.

In the middle of my wonderful day yesterday, I got a text from a mom that I had counseled many weeks ago at the abortion center. She chose life that day, but we considered her a 'shaky save'. She told us for now she would not abort. She did agree to let me send her daily Bible verses. I tried to contact her a few times, but she never responded. I was pretty sure she had aborted. Nonetheless, I continued to send her daily Bible verses. If she had aborted, she would need God's comfort more than ever.

The text yesterday said, "Hi Miss Vicky. I decided to keep my baby. It's a girl. I thought you would want to know."

Hope has a way of sticking its head out of the mud and completely transforming what you were certain would never be anything but a dismal, lifeless swamp. God, though not visible, is always present, and where you least expect Him is often where He does His most redemptive work.


Let go, He whispers, Trust me. I will catch you.


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1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

God Always Sends Glimmers of Hope

No mamas that we know of chose life during our time Monday on the sidewalks of the abortion center. This was disheartening as we almost always see some mamas choose life, but God was present as always, if only to weep with us. Even in the despair, God always sends glimmers of hope along the way. Always.

First, a wonderful young lady dropped off some cards with her contact info on it. She will adopt any baby, any race, any time. Mamas or fathers at the abortion center will often yell at us demanding, "Will you adopt my baby if I keep him?" I will instantly pull out the young lady's card and say, "Yes! Come let's make the call and sign the forms."

Next, another woman drove by looking for a medical facility. She was lost. When she saw us sidewalk counselors, she stopped, and leaped out of her car. Her face was so impassioned that I feared I was about to be pounded into the dirt. Instead, she tearfully asked if she could pray for us and with us. She was in complete support of our mission affirming the sanctity of life in this very dark place. She was grateful that God had sent her the wrong way so she would wind up on our street, and could lift us up in prayer.

She prayed fervently and for quite some time. I kept one eye open, scanning for cars that might be entering the center. I am ALL for prayer...don't get me wrong. But as our director pointed out (and I agree) we counselors already pray without ceasing in our hearts. Our job on the sidewalk is to speak for the babies who cannot speak for themselves. Frankly, lots of people will pray (which is critical and necessary)...but not many are willing to speak and confront the mamas who think abortion is the only answer. So I keep public prayer short, and I always step away if a car enters the parking lot to try to actively intercede for the doomed baby. I feel deeply convicted that my role there is to SPEAK.

Nonetheless, I greatly appreciated her passion and prayer. Despite her prayers and the encouragement of the adoptive woman, it was a sad day at the abortion center. It was mobbed; at least fifty babies were to die that day in that single abortion center. What was very disconcerting is we saw at least four or five moms who were visibly pregnant, at least four or five months along. The center is not supposed to do abortions after 19 weeks 6 days gestation, but those mamas looked beyond that stage of pregnancy.

This is a 20-week old baby in utero:


Do you think we should be ripping this child apart limb by limb, puncturing her skull, sucking the brain out, and crushing the skull, all while she is alive...to remove her violently from the womb? That is what happens to a baby this age during an abortion. Should our country or any country allow such a brutal act to a living human being?


I just don't get it. When you see the actual photos of children in the womb, and you know what a violent, painful, barbaric act abortion is...how can anyone support it?

"It's just a clump of cells!" one lady screamed at me yesterday.
"Does a clump of cells have a beating heart?" I asked.
She stormed away.

"I don't believe in God," another woman said to justify her abortion.
"Take God out of the equation then," I said, "Should we have the right to destroy inconvenient, innocent human life?  At what logical point does the baby become human if not at this point in your womb? Does any society that devalues human life thrive?"
She also turned away and entered the clinic.

One couple I stopped yesterday listened to me talk for twenty minutes. Then the nurse came over and talked with them ten more. While I talked, they leafed through our literature looking at the photos of the babies at the different gestational ages. They believed in God. They knew God wouldn't approve and knew abortion was fundamentally wrong.

Then I asked, "What brought you here that made you feel abortion was your only option?"

They both shrugged.
"You don't know?" I asked, incredulous.
They shook their heads.
"You are about to take the life of your own child and you don't even know why?" I said.
Again, downcast eyes...and shrugs.

Lord, have mercy. 

"Please come look at your baby on the ultrasound," I urged, "Let us tell you how we can help."
"No, I'm ok, " said the woman, then told the boyfriend, "Let's go."
They drove into the abortion center lot, overflowing with cars on their appointment with death.



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Today is my LAST radiation treatment. ALL the invasive, frightening cancer treatments now come to an end today. I survived. I feel great. I am so grateful! Tomorrow, I leave on my victory journey, visiting my children along the way and then my parents. Maybe I will sneak in a side-trip to cousins if my energy holds out. It has been a long, hard road from diagnosis six months ago, but God ALWAYS sends glimmers of hope along the way. Always.
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Jeremiah 8:6
I have listened to them very carefully, but they do not speak honestly. None of them regrets the evil he has done. None of them says, "I have done wrong!" All of them persist in their own wayward course like a horse charging recklessly into battle.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Exquisite Loveliness - Proof of God's Care

On my bike-ride yesterday, the fields lining the bike path were totally awash in beautiful yellow blooms. Yellow is the happiest color. How lavish a gift of joy God had spread across my journey! He has sprinkled beauty and delight all around -- verdant fields of wildflowers to perfume the way as we travel the bumpy trail. The road is often deeply rutted, sometimes we stumble...or worse (don't remind me as I clutch my broken rib), and yet, the flowers wave their yellow hats with a message of hope.

No one creates a world of such exquisite loveliness unless those who inhabit that world are deeply loved. The flowers proclaim the adoration of God and encourage me to stay the course. He is leading me Home in a profusion of blessings.



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Psalm 26:3

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Declaring God's Glory

My van is loaded with 250 or so works of art, spanning forty years of my creative output in preparation of my trip to NY where Bostwick Auction will auction them all to prospective buyers. (I will keep you updated on auction info. Anyone can bid online/phone-in! I imagine they will be very affordable.)

I have always been a prolific artist. I am, and was, always drawing. I once had an art friend who was a college professor of art. She told me that I didn't need to be drawing to prove to myself I was an artist.
"Being an artist is in your very DNA," she told me. "It is a part of your soul. Everything you do, you do as an artist."

True or not, I found that very comforting. I am an artist...even when I am not creating art.

I also find it very applicable to the spiritual life. Once we know Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, everything we do and everything we are contains the essence of God. We are Christ-bearers. Now, we are still capable of sin, and God does not sin, but the very core of who we are is God's creation, loved by Him, and created for His good purposes. Just as all creation declares the glory of God, our being does as well!

Isn't that wonderful!!??
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1 Corinthians 10:31 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Even THEN, God Loved Me

Stairway to Heaven, watercolor
My attic is growing art. It can be the only explanation. I found this art work, and a whole batch of others. That brings my pile of art going to NY for auction to 270 pieces. I won't get much per piece, but the sheer volume ought to earn me gas money for the trip. Hopefully, it will bring many people joy.

Any way, this painting surprises me. I was newly married, with no kids, and not a Christian, yet the painting depicts me on a stairway to heaven. There is a mother and child in the lower portion. Strange. At at this stage of my life, I still thought I hated kids and certainly didn't want any.

Dogs and horses have always reigned strongly as my favorite creatures, so it is not surprising they are heading to Heaven with me. Then there are three trees, with the one larger tree in the middle. I am certain that is my subconscious mind depicting the crucifixion, with Jesus between the two thieves.

It is a prophetic painting. Six years later, I would come to know the Lord. That same year of my salvation, I had my son Anders, and realized I LOVED being a mother beyond anything else I had done or could do on earth. Not only did I discover I LIKED kids, I became an Occupational Therapist whose entire career focused on helping children. Later, I became an art teacher to children, and formed a whole bunch of clubs in my home for children. Now, I am a sidewalk counselor at an abortion center urging mamas to save their babies. I feel a deep love for those children, and even those tortured mamas.

How did my hand know to produce all this that was yet to be in my future?

This painting reminds me that even when I didn't know God at all, He knew me. Despite my terrible sins and rejection of God and His commands, He loved me even then, pursued me even then. I was so wretched, and so filthy...like the city in my painting above that I appear to be escaping. Even then, God was leading me to a place of life, where my lungs could fill not with the smog and corruption of the world, but with the Holy Spirit. He knew the plans He had for me, and was faithful to complete them.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I took the first step on that stairway when I put my trust in Him.
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Jeremiah 29:11 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.