I’ve been a bit quiet lately. I needed to take a hiatus from writing. I set my book aside and my blog and spent some time living.
In the latter part of June, I packed up my youngest kids for a trip to Virginia, to see my family where we counted the deer at night, puttered around historic towns, and meandered down country roads.
By mid-July, it was off to Muir Beach a bit north of San Francisco, California, where we rented a quaint cottage overlooking the Pacific. Every night we slept with the curtains open and a full moon slipped between the California mountains sprinkling its diamonds over the ocean; yet like clockwork each night the fingers of fog curled around the mountain peaks, before tucking us in a hazy cocoon.
We wore sweatshirts during the day and built fires at night. We listened to the stories of Alcatraz and slopped through bowls of Cioppino, (If you’ve never had it, you have to try it).
We checked the Redwoods off our bucket list…
And our little one Bella hung in there with us like a champ.
Because this guy makes her the toughest five year old around…
Once we returned home we packed my boys up for college. We moved Nick and Christian into their apartment in Tally, where they are attending college. Not wanting their momma to get bored, they left me tons of junk to clear out and rooms to refurnish.
By mid- July, I was itching to paint. I picked up the brush and went to work on a large canvas, I titled “God’s Grace.” I painted my niece Aubri, curled in a nest, while butterflies are creating a blanket over her to keep her warm. I am so happy with this one. Writing is a job for me, while painting is my vacation.
Once the painting was completed—check, and bedrooms done—check, my brother Brandon came for a visit. We took him to the farmhouse and enjoyed a weekend together.
The farm is good for getting dirty and riding ATV’s through the woods.
I thought today, I would get you caught up on where I’ve been and discuss where we’re going. I’d like to change things up a bit on the blog. I want to hear from you. What do you enjoy reading about? I have so many interest such as homesteading, decorating, refurbishing furniture, the cultural climate, history… I would still keep writing what God puts on my heart through it. I’d just like to mix things up a bit. So, what blogs do you enjoy or what would you like to learn? Speak to me privately via email or leave a message here.
The first time I met Pastor Christian Farris, I admit he wasn’t my cup of latte…sort of speak. Where I come from, pastors are a whole different blend altogether. My husband, Jay and I met Christian through dear friends. Since then, our relationship has grown alongside the vegetables, cows, and goats on our friend’s farm in Georgia, where we often come together to rest in creation, lend a hand, share a meal, or attend one of the Bible retreats hosted there. Today, I admit Christian is like drinking coffee without sugar, the more I’m around him the more I savor his pastoral flavor.
Christian Farris is a pastor at Next Level Church in Tampa, Florida. It is a church with multiple ministries, but is known for helping people with addictions and rescuing women from sex trafficking. In the Tampa Bay area, it’s often labeled the “recovery church.”
The church hosts weekly meetings, sponsorships, and mentor programs for those addicted. I set out to interview Christian regarding the things that enslave us verses living in the freedom of the gospel.
TCA: “When did you know you were called to be a pastor?”
CF: “I felt the call on my life as a boy. My father was a pastor of a Baptist church at the time, and I was raised in such a rigid, strict religion that I couldn’t see how I fit into that arena. I left home once I graduated from high school and turned away from God for a short time. I felt I didn’t fit into the mold of what a Christian was supposed to be. At nineteen, I went to Bible college and experienced a paradigm shift. Later, my father, brother, and I along with several others began to examine the first century church and how they operated within the scope of freedom and grace. In Mark 7, Jesus points out man’s tendency to cling to tradition in religion and their love for tradition and rules was stronger than their love for Christ. It wasn’t until we broke out of the rules and regulations of religion did I see my place in the arena God called me to.”
TCA: “How would you describe your congregation?”
CF: “The great thing about my congregation is it’s very diverse socially, economically, and racially. We have wealthy business owners who worship alongside those that ride a bike to church. I see our church as a great example of the first church, members of all sorts of brokenness coming together to worship the one true God.”
TCA: “You don’t look like the typical pastor or what most people would imagine a pastor to look like. Do you think this helps people with addictions trust you to help them?”
CF: “I don’t think trust is what I gain right off from my appearance, but I do think people are more intrigued when they find out I’m a pastor. At first they don’t believe it, and then it strikes their curiosity and they want to see what type of pastor I am.”
TCA: “I notice you have what looks like some sort of flag tattooed on your arm. What does it symbolize?”
CF: “The tattoo is of black stripes representing sin fading into the red stripes of Christ’s blood. It was inspired from Isaiah 53:5 ‘…by His stripes we are healed.’ It is by His stripes we have freedom. Hence, why it resembles a flag.”
TCA: “Have you ever personally struggled with addictions?”
CF: “There’s not one person who hasn’t struggled with some sort of addiction. Addictions are not just chemically dependent there are also biological addictions. The biological addictions I’ve struggled with such as the approval of others or lust.”
TCA: “What is different about your addiction program when compared to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous?”
CF: “The first difference is our program is of course Biblically based. It introduces others to Christ. Another pitfall for AA or NA is people aren’t addicted to substances as they’re addicted to self-medicating what they can’t heal. Substances just happens to be the tool by which they choose to self-medicate. This is where AA and NA go wrong, they put all the focus on the whatand very little on thewhy.”
TCA: “You’ve stated in order to overcome any addiction one must change their mindset from I can’tto I chose not to. Can you explain that?”
CF: “There’s a difference between shall notand cannot. God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden “Thou shall not eat.” He didn’t tell them they cannot eat. He warned them of the consequences of eating the fruit and left it open to their free will. When you live in the conflict of can’t, you put yourself into a prison which is in complete violation of free will. What is the purpose of free will? I am free to do what I want to do, but not everything I am free to do is good. If you try to imprison me, my nature is I’m going to try to find a way to escape. You immediately place someone in bondage when you tell them they can’t do something. When you do that you are placing your belief system on them. You want to create an environment to help someone choose what’s best and give them the freedom to choose that best.”
“In Colossians 22, Paul states you cannot add more religion or rules to your life and expect that to help the sin problem. Rules don’t work. Jesus used sheep as an illustration for us and that was no accident, I’ve worked with sheep. My father had a farm with sheep. If you run a barbed wire fence through a sheep’s pasture. The sheep will tear themselves up to get to the other side that has the same grass as the side they are on. Same with us, if we try to imprison ourselves within can’t, we will find a way out and justify sinning to ourselves.”
“When I changed my perspective from I can’t to I choose not to it was life transforming for me and has been for others.
TCA: How can this change of attitude and perspective magnify Christ in us?
CF: “I’m actually living out the call of God on my life as a human. Bondservant is a choice. I’m choosing to place myself under God’s authority, and I’m magnifying the very purpose of the gospel of Christ. The gospel was not to enslave me but to set me free. I’m living out the gospel which is freedom. We magnify Christ through walking in freedom.”
TCA: “Is there a verse you like to refer to on the topic of freedom?”
CF: “Yes, it’s Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (English Standard Version)
Note: Thank you for your patience with me in my infrequent posting this summer. I’ve been enjoying all my kids back in the nest for a bit and recovering from my double mastectomy. Throughout the remainder of the summer, I will be posting articles that I have written for publication a year or more ago. See you with some fresh articles starting this fall.
We’ve had a couple of weeks of very hot, dry days, and like a toddler looking for Santa in the night sky, I’ve looked for storm clouds anticipating our rainy season to start. Rainy season is a blessing in Florida during the summertime. It makes for a cozy afternoon when that shadow settles over my house. I tend to light candles and brew a cup of Joe while trying not to trip over my shivering Poodle-Bichon, Rudy. The rains leave behind a greener garden and cooler sidewalks.
Yesterday, Bella watched her brother Colin dart out to play in the rain with his best friend Deven. She glanced up at me with her look. I nodded. “Go on.”
A few seconds later, she ran into the house. Her upper lip quivering. “Colin told me I’m not allowed to play in the rain.”
I took her hand and led her back outside. I nudged her into the downpour. She took a few steps out before running back to the cover of the garage.
“What’s wrong?” I said.
“Go. You’ll get used to it.”
Colin, seeing I was encouraging her, ducked into the garage, grabbed her hand, and together they ran across the street to play. He helped her through the rain.
There are times the skies fall out on us, when life begins to feel cold and uncomfortable, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this…a garden needs rain and light to grow. So don’t be scared of the rain, even if you feel your standing in a torrential downpour because you have two survival tools to help you.
The first is a God who sees. Seek God daily and whole heartedly. If you spend time reading the Bible and in prayer God will give you peace, no matter what your circumstances. The other survival tool is the people God has placed into your life to help you through it. Accept the love and help from others.
In the last few months with breast cancer, I’ve felt an outpouring of love from friends, neighbors, and family. Many prayed for us, made us meals for over four weeks (!), a friend sat in the waiting room during my surgery for hours. There were flowers, gifts, cards, and girlfriends willing to rush over and give me a hug whenever I needed it. All of them…all of you… were the weed pickers in my garden. The outpouring of love overrode the fear and sadness that tends to creep up when dealing with cancer.
Experiencing the rainy season alongside Jesus will increase your faith in a good God. As I teach Bella, God is good all the time, in the rain and in the shine.God never wastes a good rainy season in a believer’s life. He allows the rain so He can later produce a harvest.
Paul writes in Hebrews 6:7 and 8, “For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (English Standard Version)
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. We called our friend Richard Case. Richard and his wife Linda have taught Abiding in Christ studies to couples at the farm to help them learn how to hear from God. Richard advised us to immediately go to God and pray for a verse to cling to during this season in our lives. Jay and I were sitting in my office. I spun around and glanced at a verse that I’d posted on my bulletin board a few weeks before. If I know anything about God it’s this, if He keeps putting a verse in your face, you better post it somewhere prominent because in the near future you’re going to need it, if you haven’t needed it already.
You see, God always tills the land ahead of you. He’s churned up the soil ahead of your pain, sorrows, frustrations, even breast cancer. He had already spoken into my spirit for the months ahead, but we did what Richard Case instructed. After, both of us agreed Romans 8:28 was the verse to cling to. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for those who are called according to His purpose.” (ESV)
Throughout those difficult months, Jay began to notice this verse popping up everywhere. He’d say, “There’s our breast cancer verse again.” And each time I felt discouraged or beaten either I’d remember it, or Jay would remind me of it.
What’s your storm today? Do you feel you are being pounded by a hard rain? You have a choice to make, you can either grow a harvest that will grow your faith and one day nourish someone else, or you can grow your thorny weeds. Keep in mind…nobody likes a prickly person.
I’d taken a wrong turn on the way to the farm, and a storm was coming. My best friend KK (Kimberly Williams Standridge) and I were talking, and that overpass came up out of nowhere, I swerved my Discovery into the lane without reading the entire sign that stated this one was leading me in the opposite direction I needed to go. Further down, my gut was telling me I was heading in the wrong direction, but I didn’t listen to it until we were way off track.
I was born with a natural inclination to get lost. Take some advice…If I tell you to go right– just go left. Our trip was delayed, and the dirt roads leading to the farm become very precarious to maneuver after a hard summer rain.
“Sorry, KK.” I said.
“It’s okay Tam-Tam, we’ll get there eventually.”
“Don’t you dare tell Jay (my husband) about this. Oh Lord don’t let him call. He’ll never let me live this one down.”
She laughed. “Oh, I’ll never tell him about this one.”
Sure enough, the sky dropped out. It was a hard rain making it difficult to see. On top of it, MAPS sent us to a long dirt road that looked like it rarely been traveled called JimBob’s Cut Through. This is rural country folks. The mud was about 2 feet thick with deep ditches on both sides. We swerved and slid from one side of the road to the other, barely avoiding the ditch.
“Uh… I’m not liking this,” KK said.
“Trust me. I’m used to it.” I patted the dash of my SUV. “Thank you God for my truck! I’ve traveled these roads by myself in this type of weather to get home, and with cell service that goes in and out, imagine getting stuck out here. Everytime I thank God for this truck.”
“Maybe you should slow down,” KK said. “So you’re not swerving so much.”
“We’ll never get there.” I said. “Just stop talking, so I can concentrate.”
“There’s a car ahead.” KK pointed. I could hear the alarm in her voice.
I slowed down to not swerve into its path. As it passed, it slopped thick mud onto my windshield.
By dusk, we made it to the farmhouse and the rain stopped. By not heeding the signs and listening to my inner voice we’d lost precious time.
As he entered the room, my oncologist glanced down at me, “Why do you look so scared?” he said.
I raised my chin a notch, faking courage. “I’m not scared.”
“You certainly look like you are.” He sat across from me and looked at the papers in his hands. “But I have to say looking over your results, somebody must really be looking out for you up there. You had an aggressive tumor.”
“Wait, but I was told it was slow-growing.” I leaned forward.
“We get such a small sample in the biopsy and in your case the biopsy was not correct. Looking at the whole tumor we could see it was an aggressive, fast-growing cancer, and you see here…,” he pointed to the paper he was holding. “Your tumor’s invasiveness was right at the cut off. If it would have been any larger you would be facing chemo today. Your surgery happened at the nick of time considering how fast it was growing. So, like I said, whoever’s on your team up there, I want him on mine. Now, let’s discuss how we are going to keep this cancer from coming back.”
After my mastectomy, I’d been praying that I would not have to go on tamoxifen. It is a carcinogen that suppresses the hormones and basically would have thrown me into an overnight menopause. I had read about all the side effects, bone aches, depression, hair loss, premature aging, and it can cause uterine cancer- with which, it was suggested I would remove my uterus next year as a preventative measure. I found all this incredulous, and I didn’t want any of it. When the doctor entered the room, I was mentally going over how I was going to argue my points with him.
But, I didn’t have to.
As soon as the word tamoxifen came out of his mouth, I shook my head. “Nope, I don’t want to go on that. Can I be frank with you?”
“Look, I’m going to get spiritual with you. God has been telling me to eat less meat, stop drinking wine with my evening meal, cut back on dairy, and exercise. Several times, I’d written this down, but I ignored His voice. I wanted what I wanted, so I got what I got. But, as soon as I heard my cancer diagnosis, I did cut those things out, and my breast deflated. The night before my surgery I could feel that huge tumor that I couldn’t feel beforehand because I was putting food in me that increased my estrogen levels and made my breast tissue dense. I had no idea those things increased the very thing that was feeding my cancer, and God tried to warn me. So, moving forward, I’m going to exercise, cut way back the things that increase estrogen, and listen and that’s how I’m not going to have cancer again.”
He nodded. “Well, in your case, I think what you are proposing is viable.”
My mouth fell open. I was revved up for a battle. I had spit shined my sword, and he just laid over and played dead.
“Often,” he said. “we have to put patients on medication because they don’t want to do the work. You need to sweat. Get rid of your fat stores.”
Gulp. I hated to sweat.
“Look at wine like a Southern Baptist.”
Gulp. But I am a Southern Baptist.
“Your protein pyramid should be fish first, chicken second, meat last.”
Gulp. We need a fish farm.
I’ve heard people say how unfair it is that I have breast cancer considering my past as if God is unfair and not good, so I want to set the record straight. If I’ve learned anything from breast cancer it’s this…how good God is. God’s a good Papa. He can be trusted with your life. He can be trusted with my future health.
With all of that said, God knows me. He knows I don’t listen and I’m stubborn. That I try to go my own way at times. He knew when He impressed upon me that these things were affecting my health, I’d think, but I’m drinking with self-control clearly within my freedom in Christ, I’m eating organic beef, I tore my rotator cuff when I was exercising. He knew I’d ignore the sign and take my own route. He also knew it would become a small part of my story, and my story would speak truth into someone else.
Are you feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit? Does He want you to trust Him with your life? Does He want you to accept Him as your Heavenly Papa? Is He trying to pry something out of your hands? Food? Shopping? Gossiping? Fear? Guilt? Anger? Are you falling into disobedience by not listening? Are you heading into your own storm and long muddy roads by not heeding the signs?
I watched the boat putter away and slip under the James River bridge, leaving me behind.
“Daddy!” I said. “You forgot something!” I waved bobbing up and down in his wake.
He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Put your feet up in front of you and ride the current. You’ll reach me in no time.”
Fishing was a large part of our family culture, starting all the way back to Momma and Daddy’s first date, when he took her fishing on his john boat; but my early teen years I found ways to buck the family culture as I balanced on the shifting soap box of finding myself. Finding myself meant sticking my chin up a notch while I explained why my barbie’s head was shaved and she wore GI Joe’s camouflage “She’s in the Army of course. Women can serve in the army if they want to.”
Daddy often chuckled and shook his head. “You know I tried to raise her right, but I don’t what’s happened.”
With regards to fishing, I woke up one morning and decided, fish have feelings too, so while my family threw out their lines and rolled their eyes at me…again, I dove off the bow of the boat and swam with my new friends.
The current was strong that day. I had to swim far off from the boat in order to not be pulled into it and Dad was having a hard time keeping the boat off the bridge. He decided it was better to move to the other side, only, he forgot me in the process.
I laid on my back and put my feet up to ride the current. In case I hit the bridge the barnacles would hurt my feet not my head. Sure enough, I was swept under the bridge’s shadow while the sound of vehicles hitting the bridge’s grid echoed above. Before long I was spit out the other side back into the sun. I flipped over on my belly to swim the rest of the way to the boat, but felt my arms stinging and wrapped up in slime. It didn’t take long to realize my body had landed on a five-foot jelly fish colony. My brother Brandon swam over to me to see what was causing me to splash and scream.
“Roll off Tammy,” he said. “You have to roll off of it.”
I rolled over several times and freed myself of the stinging tangle. By the time I climbed up the ladder my body was covered in red patches. By sunset, I’d picked up a rod and cast out my bait.
Currents can pull at your mind too. It’s our human nature for our thoughts to ride the river of fear, guilt, vanity etc, until we find ourselves in an uncomfortable stinging mess. My doctor told me breast cancer is much more than a physical disease, it can become a disease of the mind if we allow it to.
The worst part breast cancer has played on my mind has been guilt. My sister wasn’t pushed to the front of the line when she needed surgery. In fact, her surgeon scheduled hers outside the safe zone. My sister didn’t have a slow growing cancer like I had. She didn’t have the option to forgo chemo and radiation. Her cancer invaded her lymph nodes, whereas mine didn’t.
As my family celebrated each good report, and the fact that my surgery was bumped to the 11thof this month, I felt I was drowning from the current of survivor’s guilt. Until one afternoon, my best friend KK and I were talking on the phone and it all came pouring out. I sobbed how unfair it was that I got such a good cancer, while my sister didn’t. How I had access to wealthy friends who knew the best of the best when it came to doctors.
“It’s so unfair. Tricia didn’t have a chance. She didn’t have all these blessings. Who am I to have this?”
“You’re looking at this through your humanness,” KK said. “God doesn’t love you anymore than He did Tricia. God brought Tricia home to be with Him sooner. Tricia’s journey is just different from yours. You still have work to do. You must remember “to die is to gain.” (Philippians 1:21b) You must remember “to be absent from the body is to be with Christ.” (II Corinthians 5:8) If Tricia could see your diagnosis, she may think you got the bad end of the stick.”
And there it was…she threw me a lifesaver…truth.
Today, I was working on my Gospel of Mark Bible study and the writer Lisa Harper pointed out Peter. When Jesus explained to the disciples what He was about to be arrested and killed, Peter pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him for thinking such things. But Jesus flipped the table on him by stating, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
What current have you been riding lately? What human thoughts are stinging your mind? Fear? There’s a lifesaver for that:
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.”
Guilt? Let me throw you some truth.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 NIV
Feeling unloved? Climb aboard.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV
Fight that current, don’t allow your human thoughts speak louder than your Holy Spirit. Here are some other truths about our thoughts…
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7a KJV
“…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 ESV
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” II Corinthians 10:5 ESV
A little update: I’ve had my double mastectomy and upon my request the plastic surgeon put in small implants so I could get it all done at one time and not face another surgery. I am hurting and tired but doing well. Thank you for the outpouring of love and prayers you have showered on me. I’m so blessed. I thank my Heavenly Papa for all of you.
Today, I couldn’t help but remember my breasts beginnings. I don’t know if I fall into the minority here, but as a girl I didn’t want them poking their way into my life. Growing up, since we didn’t have air condition and lived in the country, Momma let Tricia (my little sister) and I work the garden wearing only our under pants. Our backs turned a dark mahogany and our hair a light blonde, and we loved to show our Granny the only place the sun didn’t brown. She’d laugh so hard she had to wipe her eyes. Then we’d run to Paw Paw and threaten him with our full moons, but he claimed his eyesight was already dim and our butts would make him go blind.
One evening, while picking vegetables Momma stood up to stretch and glanced in my direction. She placed her hands on my shoulders and peered at my chest.
“What’s wrong?” I said, brushing my midsection, thinking I had a beetle on me.
“Tammy, you’re budding,” she said as if she were surprised. I didn’t have a clue what budding meant. “Momma, come look Tammy’s budding.”
Granny examined at my chest. “You’re right they’re coming in.” I glanced down to see what they were looking at and didn’t see anything.
“It’s time you start wearing a shirt in the yard,” Momma said.
“But it’s hot!” I said, frantic my nude independence was being stolen from me.
“Priscilla, you should get her a training bra too,” Granny said.
Bra? This was going way too far. Why don’t you just put me in a wool straight jacket.
“We’ll start with a shirt,” Momma said. “I don’t want your brother’s friends riding by here on their bikes getting a peep show.”
“What about Tricia?” I pointed to her. “She needs to wear a shirt too.”
“She will when she starts to bud.”
“Am I budding? I want to bud.” Tricia said smiling. “When can I get a training bra?”
The next year, Timmy moved down the street. I stopped wearing baseball caps and brushed the tangles out of my long hair. When I saw him in the yard, I slathered on the candy scented lip gloss and found some reason to talk to him. One afternoon, I wore my green, strapless, terry cloth jumper (Remember those from the eighties?). Timmy tossed the football to Brandon and meandered over.
“Are your sister’s coming over to play basketball?” I said tilting my head the way Daisy from Dukes of Hazards did. He smiled and reached out to touch the ribbon of my jumper, but somehow his finger became stuck in the bow and he snatched his hand back quick. Immediately, the top fell down and my new breasts met the late afternoon breeze. It was slow motion horror. His eyes planted and I screamed before sprinting to the woods.
Tricia found me in our fort sobbing. “What happened?” She said kneeling down in front of me.
I pointed in the direction of their football game. “He saw…” I choked on the words. “He saw my BOOBIES!”
“Who?” she said. “Brandon?”
“No! Timmy!” I said.
“I’ll get Momma. She’ll know what to do.” Tricia sprinted to the house before I could stop her.
I prayed right then God would change me into a forest animal and let me scamper into a hole somewhere. I’ll never flirt with the males, and I’d wear walnut shells on my chest if it doth pleaseth the Lord. I waited to see if He’d answer my prayer, but instead…
“Tammy!” Momma said. “Mrs. Johnson is here. I called her and told her the whole thing!” For some reason, Momma thought this would make things better.
I begged the Lord to reconsider and if He loved me at all to transform me right now!
“Tammy, you can come out the woods now,” Tricia said. “She’s hiding because she’s embarrassed.”
I prayed God would turn Tricia into a rat.
“Now young lady!” Momma said.
I walked out on shaky legs and approached the perv and his mother. My eyes were swollen shut. He looked equally embarrassed.
“Timmy, what do you think you’re doing pulling down this girls top?” Mrs. Johnson said.
I didn’t correct her. Let him squirm. Serves him right seeing my boobies and all.
“I barely touched the ribbon and it just fell. I don’t know what happened,” he said.
“My finger got caught or something.”
Momma glared at him. His mother glared at him. I glared at him– I felt powerful.
“I think an apology is in order,” Mrs. Johnson said.
“I’m sorry Tammy.”
“Let’s keep our hands off my daughter’s clothing,” Momma said.
He agreed before Mrs. Johnson yanked him away, with a warning of what was waiting for him at home.
That night, I pulled Momma into my bedroom and told her I was ready to wear a bra now. I imagined a metal cone variety attached to my body by a chain and lock, that would take a stick of dynamite to open. Without a word, she closed the bedroom door.
“Let me see your breasts,” Momma said.
I’d reached the peak make that peaks of humiliation, but I knew my Momma was not going to spend a dime without proof I needed one. I stared at the ceiling and raised my t-shirt.
“Yep, you’ve bloomed. We’ll get you a bra tomorrow.” She turned for the door. “I wonder if they make them that small.”
Today brought back those same feelings I had as a young girl. Two nurses took nudie pictures of me, turning me this way and that. Meanwhile, my husband busied himself with checking his emails, which was a sign he felt bad for me. I was surprised he didn’t jokingly snap a couple for himself.
Later, my breasts were measured, squeezed on, and placed in two containers while I was slipped into a loud cave and dye was administered through an IV that burned my biopsy sites.
I already feel like they don’t belong to me anymore.
And, I’m okay with that I suppose. I’m praying God saves my life. He doesn’t have to save these.
Today, the nurse asked me if I had a source of joy. I smiled and said I did. I have a God that heals, and God told me He was going to heal me before it was for certain I even had breast cancer. God led me through verses in His word and I journaled page after page of what He was telling me. God is going to heal me.This is going to be cancer. I must pray and believe.As I’ve entered this journey, and each day the news went from bad to worse, I’ve felt Him impress on me, “Do you still believe I’m going to heal you?” And, after I cried a bit, I’d settle down and pray, “Yes, I still believe Lord. I am choosing to believe.”
Believing is a choice.
But, like a wink from heaven, just as I wanted to grow up slow, and Tricia like a typical little sister wanted to steal my air and zoom past me towards the finish line. It seems our cancers are doing that too. The test results came back, and my cancer is not Triple Negative as the doctors suspected. It is hormone-fed and a slower growing cancer than the cancer that took Tricia’s life. I inherited my Granny’s breast cancer instead. The doctors reassure me, I will survive this just as my Granny did– twice.
When I told my boys about the cancer, my eldest Nick hugged me and with a voice that gave way to emotion said, “Momma, you’re always telling other people’s stories. God’s giving you your own story to tell that’s all. This book you’re writing will be way more powerful if you’ve experienced cancer too. It just needed a happy ending, because God doesn’t want it to end on a downer. He’s going to heal you. I know it.”
Those are words I’m hanging my bra on…
And these…I hope you allow the scriptures below to speak truth to a situation you may be going through.
“Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you received it and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24 English Standard Version
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 ESV
“But even the hairs of your head are numbered.” Matthew 10:30 ESV
“’Peace! Be Still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”’ Mark 4: 39b-40 ESV
“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:34 ESV.
Catch ya later…
(Oh and the name of the boy Timmy has been changed because his sister is my friend on Facebook. And to set the record straight it was purely an accident.)
God gives life and creates things to sustain it, while the enemy sets out to destroy it. Throughout creation you can see it. The weed grows in the same soil the seed is planted with one mission to strangle that newborn wheat as it bursts through the soil and finds the light. So, why do I find it ironic that the very breast used to feed and sustain an infant can one day become the haven for a cancerous tumor that sets out to kill its host…It’s happening to me.
I have breast cancer.
To be honest, my internal pendulum is swinging between—this is so surreal—-to of course why shouldn’t I have breast cancer. If you’re a follower of my blog you already know my backstory. My sister died from breast cancer in 2014 and my sister-in -Christ (my daughter Bella’s babysitter) passed away from brain cancer last August. I’m not facing my own diagnosis ignorant of its horrors. Yet, I recognize the timeliness of it as well.
Soon after I found out I had the gene mutation PALB-2, I was sent for a mammogram. The results were inconclusive, and a spot seemed to be on the right side, but due to density I would have to have another mammogram along with an ultrasound.
A week later, during the ultrasound, the technician kept measuring tubular shaped spots on my left side. When she finally finished she stated the doctor needed to discuss the findings and she would be back in ten minutes. I knew something was wrong.
I was tempted to make a run for it but half -naked running down Turkey Lake Road, I’d be arrested. Furthermore, I had no deodorant on, and I don’t like to sweat in the pits. Those minutes ticked by as I kept glancing back at the machine to see the time, but I’d left my readers in the locker.
Finally, the doctor came in, she laid me back down on the table and had me raise my left arm.
After circling the area with that lubricated thingy…“I see it,” she glanced up at the technician. “Great job finding that, it didn’t show up on the mammogram.”
“What didn’t show up?” I said, sitting up on the bed.
She stood in front of me. “We found a tumor on your left side. It is about this big.” She showed me with her fingers an inch. “In my professional opinion it is cancer.”
“Do you have any questions?” she said.
“Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”
“Yes.” I said.
“I don’t think this is life threatening. Your lymph nodes are clean. Are you sure there aren’t any questions?”
“No… I mean yes.”
“We will need your doctor to write up a biopsy order, so we can take a biopsy of the tumor.”
She rubbed my shoulder. “You’re going to be alright. You’re in good hands.”
Days later, the report came back. She wasn’t completely honest, I had not one but two tumors on my left side and calcifications on my right. I underwent two biopsies a few minutes apart. I will not go into detail about the biopsies. You can just imagine a blonde in a slasher movie watching herself being cut and dug into, while about passing out on the table, but by the grace of God I survived.
Unfortunately, both tumors are cancer, and a double mastectomy looms in my near future…hoping very near future, because it is believed they are Triple Negative- the most aggressive type of breast cancer.
Oddly enough, I’m not scared, but if I sound upbeat about it all, don’t let me spout bull on ya’ll. This absolutely sucks!!!—for lack of a better word. No, I’m not totally thrilled God is blessing me with this opportunity to be used for His glory. Personally, I’d rather go be a missionary to the naked tribal peeps in far off jungles of who- knows- where, over this…this terribleness.
Then again, this is where I am, for such a time as this.. I have no choice but to trust my Father knows what He’s doing. As my girlfriend Ruth said, “Papa’s got ya!”I know He’s got me. He’s got these tumors. He’s got His reason. He’s got His plan.
Where are you at today? Sitting with sweaty pits in a waiting room? Lying awake waiting for your prodigal to return home? Placing flowers by a graveside? Laid up in a hospital bed? Clinging to someone who’s already gone? Losing your sanity as you mother your brood? Worried about your finances?
Wherever you are…
Papa’s got you too.
Talk to you soon…
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28