Taking the Muddy Route

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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.

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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.”

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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?”

He nodded.

“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.

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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.

Is it?

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?

Learn from my mistake…don’t lose precious time.

Good Good Father by Sarah Reeves. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Reaching Branches

There is a citrus tree in my garden, although one would never know, for it has yet to produce a single piece of fruit. One day feeling green, I stuck the roots in a hole and filled in the dirt around the base. Standing back, I wiped the soil on my jeans, and admired my twig, before walking away. That is the extent of the care I’ve given my fruit tree.
“Baby, you do realize you’ve placed a citrus tree in a small corner of the garden. It needs light and space to grow.” My husband said, six months later.
I called the neighbors attempting to find new parents for my tree.
“It’s a good little tree. Won’t be a nuisance whatsoever. All it needs is a yard with plenty of sunshine. It will give you plenty of citrus fruit.” I said.
“What kind of citrus?” A neighbor asked.
“Um…I don’t know. The citrusy kind I guess.”
There were no takers.
Two years later, it grows wildly it’s many limbs spiral over the pavers and back again. I imagine it’s stretching it’s arms out, in attempt to wiggle out of it’s small space, but it’s produced no fruit, for all of it’s energy has gone into the limbs…into the reaching.
Jesus used an illustration of the grape vine when teaching the disciples. In John 15 he said, “I am the true grapevine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (NLT verse 1-3)
“Yes, I am the vine you are the branches. Those who remain (abide) in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain (abide) in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” (NLT vs 5-6)
There is no real spiritual fruit in your life apart from Jesus.
The vine feeds the branches, and God the gardener takes care to cut off branches that are not producing.
Looking back, there have been times in my life where my branches sprawled all over, I’ve had my attention reaching out to perform good deeds, buying the latest, and performing for the approval of man. I’ve scattered my attention so broadly, I’ve neglected my personal walk with Jesus. Today, I wonder if any of those deeds produced fruit at all.
Multiple times, God has walked the garden of my marriage and chopped away things that produce void. He has taken away relationships that drove us towards materialism. He removed things that have kept us from depending on Him as a couple. With those vast branches detached our limbs point upward, and our hearts yearn for a smaller life…a simpler life. Little by little…chunk by chunk…He cut away the weight that tore our attention away from our vine Jesus.
Our branches unburdened by the useless weight of this world feel true freedom to grow fruit.

True freedom is found only in the will of our Lord.
I walked through the garden this morning, and found my landscapers felt pity on me and cut back my fruit tree. A beam of sunshine shot through the shadows and flittered over it’s crown. We will see if fruit can grow in small spaces.
I think it can.

Personal Application: Are you finding your limbs spreading out over the earth reaching for empty activities, materials, or destructive relationships? A fulfilled, meaningful life is a life attached to the true vine Jesus Christ. If you haven’t accepted Christ, you haven’t experienced true freedom. Today ask Christ to take your life and fill it with Him. Know that Jesus died for you… YOU…no matter what you’ve done…no matter who you are… He loves you, He knows you, and He wants you. He wants to attach you to Him and give you a fuller life, a life filled with promise, hope, and a purpose.