Is Assisted Suicide Merciful?

                                                                                      2018-05-11 11.10.09

The year after my sister passed away from breast cancer, my life aligned alongside a woman named Vanessa diagnosed with brain cancer. Walking with Vanessa seemed surreal at times, like a scratched record repeating the same sad phrase over and over. I often wondered why God placed my life on repeat, witnessing the same victories…the same defeats…the same end. Vanessa, like Tricia, lost her faculties one by one, the ability to see, eat, speak, walk, or swallow. Vanessa passed away on August 20, 2018. She was only 34 years old.

            Both women surrendered not only their lives but placed their deaths under God’s authority. I mention these women to establish I do not write this article from a place of ignorance. I’ve gripped gray limp hands and guarded the rise and fall of rattling chests. Not only have I had a backstage pass to cancer’s performance, but I’ve also been dragged to the stage with my own breast cancer diagnosis.

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            The first time I’d heard of Brittany Maynard, I was sitting by my sister in her living room. Tricia had just been put on hospice when in 2014 Maynard became the poster child for Assisted Suicide. We watched her being interviewed on national news. Tricia hit the button on her pain pump while listening to a tearful Brittany explain what she’d envisioned a natural death to entail. She stated she wanted control over her passing, instead of allowing cancer to dictate her end. I swung between heartbreak for Brittany’s condition, sadness for the pain my sister was in, and alarm for the new self-controlled agenda being proposed….legalizing suicide.

            Even in the intense pain Tricia felt, she didn’t like the idea. She pointed to the television. “That’s wrong. She’s giving up. She’s taking her life out of God’s hands,” she said.

            Brittany drove with her family to Oregon where assisted suicide was legal, and on November 1, 2014 took pills to end her life. My sister died soon after on December 19th. Through Brittany, assisted suicide was renamed “Death with Dignity” which sanitized the image of someone dead on the floor next to an empty pill bottle. We must never underestimate the enemy’s ability to apply white-wash.

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In order to understand Assisted Suicide goes against God’s plan, we must first identify the roots feeding it. Fear. One of the main roots of sin is fear because fear is in opposition of faith. Death with Dignity sprouted from fear. The motivations behind the movement are fear of suffering, fear of becoming a burden, and fear of appearances in a natural death.

            Whenever a believer begins to fear, we are stepping out of an alignment of faith and hence not following Christ. Paul writes, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15 English Standard Version) Our Father cares and He has given us the right to call out to Him in our times of trouble including physical illness. Although, He does not give us the right to do with our bodies as we see fit. It is our Father who establishes life within us. Life is a gift. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV)

            Job, who is one of our Biblical examples of remaining faithful throughout suffering wrote: “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (Job 14:5, New Living Translation)

            The message of the gospel is life. Jesus Christ died to give us life. Therefore, Christians are entrusted to be life-protectors, and this should not be viewed as merciless or judgmental. Our faith in God’s sovereignty gives Him the authority over our bodies, lives, and deaths, making Him the decider of our days.

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            Although Death with Dignity sounds merciful it’s not without its own horrors. Through the lens of recent cultural shifts, we can foresee the societal pressure of this movement for those facing terminal illness and advanced years. Theywould be pressured to succumb to assisted suicide or face the scrutiny of being a selfish burden to their loved ones. In time, the culture will no longer see them as viable members of society— only leeches to it.

             Furthermore, the movement claims the dying have no value. The truth is while caring for two dying women, they’ve injected my life with a renewed faith, perseverance, and compassion. We’d jeopardize losing everything the dying could teach us regarding how to live. Vanessa could vouch for this, for it was Tricia’s death and testimony that pointed Vanessa to Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine a hopeless world where patients lose their life to pills instead of keeping their hearts beating for a miracle?

            Before Vanessa died, I asked her if there was anything she wanted people to know. She gathered her thoughts and closed her eyes to form the words from her stubborn lips, “The doctors told me I had two months to live… four months ago,” she said. “They don’t know, only God knows and everyday counts.” She opened her eyes. “I want them to know everyday counts.” How can everyday count to someone who’s lying paralyzed, losing her ability to speak, eat, and see? I admit when she told me this, I didn’t see the power in her statement until after she passed.

            I cannot close without mentioning the death of Jesus Christ. He was shamed, beaten, rejected, stripped naked, and hung on a cross to die. He died without dignity and in extreme pain and agony so we may have an eternal home with Him.

            “Then Jesus told His disciples, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 ESV) Are you willing to follow Christ even if it means dying without dignity?

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            A month before she passed, I laid my head across Vanessa’s chest and sobbed. I couldn’t save either of them. She ran her fingers through my hair. “I will see your sister soon,” she said smiling. I’ve spent over six years watching two incredible women die with courage and integrity. In the end, they were a shell of their former selves, but they were never more beautiful; and I know without a doubt, they stood humbly before their Lord and each heard the words, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”

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Before cancer my sister and her daughter Peyton. 

Join the conversation. What are your thoughts on Assisted Suicide? Please feel free to comment below.

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

When It’s Cancer.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

I stared.

“Do you have any questions?” she said.

“No.”

“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.”

“Okay.”

She rubbed my shoulder. “You’re going to be alright. You’re in good hands.”

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flipping Pages: A glimpse at my week

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Page One: Saturday

This time, I drove Bella into the pasture, so she could see the calves up close. Up ahead, a small black mound nestled in the tall grasses. I stopped the ATV and climbed down. Bella remained behind, while I edged closer through the field of gentle beasts. The momma cow mooed at her babe, but there was no response.

A tiny hand found mine; she’d found her courage. “Momma, you know cows don’t sleep lying down,” Bella said. “Is she dead?”

Her Aunt Tricia.

Her babysitter Vanessa.

Her Ompa (grandfather)

Three deaths crammed in four small years. She’s a seasoned soul.

“I don’t know.” I said. “Come on baby. Get up.”

“Get up girl,” Bella said.

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Page 2:  Monday

After dark, the remnants of Oma’s life in Ocala were in one last car load. She’d sold most of her furniture and walked away from the rest. We unloaded the boxes and stacked them in the room designated to be her office.

“Wow,” Oma said as she walked into her new place in Orlando. “It’s so beautiful!”

New paint… cleaned carpet…furnished…decorated… started with a desire to make all things new for her.

A few minutes later, Bella pulled on my arm. “Oma needs you Momma. Come.”

I heard the unusual sound before entering her bedroom. Her face buried in her son’s chest. “Oh Tammy!” Her arm reached for me too. Her wailing and tears made my heart ache. I realized there’s only One who can make all things new.

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Page 3 Wednesday night:

“Ladies, our two members dealing with brain cancer are unable to join us tonight because they are not feeling well right now. We need to rally around them. One needs help with driving her children to where they need to be. The other needs help with food. I will send out an email tomorrow, letting you guys know the details.”

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Page 4: Thursday morning

“You tested positive for a gene mutation called PALB2,” my gynecologist said. “It creates the rarer type of breast cancer, but it is also the most dangerous—the most invasive. It’s behind the Triple Negative Breast cancer that killed your sister.”

I swallowed. All the years of scolding her for diet soda. It was a gene all along.

“Identifying the gene mutation only raises your chances of getting the cancer by 9 percent, but if you flip over here…” She flipped the page. “It clearly states if a close relative such as your sister had the cancer your chances jump to 58 percent. Then, if there are other members of your family who’s had breast cancer it continues to raise your chances even higher.”

Great-grandmother.

Grandmother.

More recent, great aunt.

The gene slithers down the family tree puddling in me.

“I want you to see a specialist,” the doctor went on. “She’ll monitor you more closely, but she may recommend a full mastectomy. Do you have any questions?’

“What would you do if you were me?” I said.

“I would see the specialist without delay, and I would do whatever it is she recommends.”

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Page 5: Thursday afternoon:

“Knowledge is power,” my dear friend Yvonne said on the phone. She should know, her husband battled his own cancer markers for several years. “But I’ll be honest, the flip side is there’s a heavy burden carrying that knowledge.”

I hung up.

Was it better to know or remain blissfully unaware?

I didn’t know.

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Page 6: Thursday evening:

 

A sweaty, small boy emerges from the gym. I’m waiting outside. He smiles and approaches cautiously.

“Hi Bryson, I’m Tammy. The password is ____. Always ask whoever picks you up for the password okay? If they don’t know it, you do not get in a car with them.”

In the car, I put his address in my phone. The directions appeared, but as I turned onto the road they disappeared. This phone needs to be updated. Tried again, this phone needs to be updated.

I’m kicking myself.

“I’ll use my phone,” he said. He becomes my copilot.

Confident for little years, he told me he liked math was a number’s guy–none of my boys liked math. Raised by a single mom who had brain cancer, her tumor now dormant. Wondered if that made children mature faster?

His sister met us in the driveway, handed me a pile of sticky notes. Their mother’s normal thank you. I tend to save them. She wrote, “God is smiling. Psalms 139.” A passage about God knowing us, seeing all, knitting our inward parts in our mother’s womb, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

She didn’t know yet about the gene.

But God did.

 

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Page 7: Thursday night

I shot Bella the look as I held out her pajamas again. She giggled and ignored. Again. Last straw.

“Get your pajamas on now!” I spat at her.

“Hey!” Jay said. “Just calm down. Bella mind your Momma.”

The burden of the knowledge hunched my shoulders. Twisted my insides making me mean.

Later, snuggling in a chair, I opened Bella’s Bible. Adam and Eve were hiding from God. He’d told them they could eat of all the trees in the garden– except that one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Something else had slithered down the tree, something with a voice, and Eve listened. Her bite cursed the world. Why? Why couldn’t you have been satisfied? Why did you have to eat the one God instructed you not to? Why did you want the burden of knowledge? There would be no cancers, no death, no brave boys without fathers.

But…

Then again…

I would have bit the apple too.

Flipping back to page One:

“Momma, go see if the baby calf is dead. We need to do something.” Bella said.

“Hold on. Let’s just watch and see.”

Suddenly, a floppy ear twitched.

A head popped up.

It looked at us.

On shaky legs it wobbled over to its mother dragging a long umbilical cord, before latching on and suckling.

“Awe, she’s so cute,” Bella smiled. “It’s okay Momma!”

Pure joy at the sight of this sticky new life.

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“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold I am making all things new.’” Revelations 21:5a English Standard Version.

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** Name of boy has been changed to insure privacy.

 

 

 

 

A Bike With Fat Tires

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Something happens to me when I hop on my bike and head out for a ride; in my mind, I become a 10 year old. It’s as if I have no fear, and I’m transformed into that dirty, stringy, tow-headed girl who wanted desperately to keep up with the country boys. I probably smell like her too. This morning, I flew through our neighborhood gate right before it closed, jumped a few curbs, and twisted through traffic. Afterwards, as I’m parking my bike I have a conversation in my brain that goes something like this… “that was really stupid, you could’ve hit the gate. Praise God, that driver saw you! Tammy, if you wipe out jumping that curb you’re not going to jump up and yell, “That was radical!” You’re going to lie there crying, “Dial 911!” 

But, then… it’ll happen all over again tomorrow.

I have a hybrid. I love my bike. It has the wider wheels that can get me through packed sand, turf, or city traffic. Last weekend at the farm, I was eyeing my friend Ed Kobel’s bike in his garage. It had extremely wide wheels. I’d never seen a bike like it. 

“That’s the wheels it takes to get down these sandy roads?” I said nodding at the bike. “I’ve been wondering if my bike could handle it.”

“Oh yeah,” Becky, his wife said. “A normal tire can’t make it here. You have to have thick wheels to get through thick sand.” 

Thick wheels to get through thick sand… 

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Appian Way, outside Rome: That cat has no fear.

This morning on my ride I was thinking about fear versus faith. How Satan loves to throw the stick of fear into our spokes knocking us off the course God’s cleared for us. God never leads us to a place of fear. He may ask us to do something that gives us fear, but the feeling of fear and trepidation is never manifested by God. It is propagated by the enemy.  It is the enemy’s way of getting you to doubt the Father. So, if you are feeling fear about something God is leading you to do, don’t let the enemy win. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 English Standard Version.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” How is it God tells us in His Word be anxious for nothing, yet anxiety is now the most common mental illness in the US?

As Christians we are equipped to deal with anxiety and fear. The anxiety or fear I’m referring to is not birthed biologically or traumatically, it is the fear produced by insecurity in who God is, and who you were created to be. If you truly believe God and His word, you won’t let fear rule your life. 

Thick wheels can cut through thick sand. The most important tools we have to combat fear is God’s word and the Holy Spirit. If the word of God is your foundation throughout your life, you will have the ability to glide through whatever season or calling your are in. When the sands of life get thick and you feel fearful of the trail ahead, you have God’s power inside of you to break that debilitating stronghold and pedal forward.

Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV.

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I was a witness to the enemy’s fear tactics when my sister, Tricia was dying of breast cancer. It was around two months before she passed, and I found her sitting up in bed one morning. 

“I know you’re not going to believe me,” she said, “but Satan was whispering to me all night.”

“What were you hearing?” I said, a bit skeptical.

“Sinister laughing. Then he told me that God could’ve healed me, but He didn’t love me enough. He told me the work I did for God won’t matter once I’m gone. He told me my life with cancer was a waste, and never made a difference like I wanted it to. He was constantly repeating, you’re going to die and laughing.” 

She grabbed my hand, her palm was clammy.

“Tammy, I know where I am going. I don’t fear dying because I know I’m going to heaven, but do I have to be terrified in the process? It was so real, I looked over at Thomas to see if he was hearing it too, but he was asleep.” 

The passage in Psalms popped in my head, so I recited it to her. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, as You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. ” (Psalms 23:4 ESV) For the first time in my life, that passage came alive between us. I fully understood God was warning us that Satan was not done with her. It wasn’t enough her body was riddled with pain. He wanted to discourage Tricia even on her death bed. We prayed that God would intercede on her behalf and He would give her peace. The Bible reminded Tricia that God is there with her in that valley, she just needed to grab on to Him. 

Tricia destroyed the bondage of fear with her faith. The next night, Tricia slept with no problem. 

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4 ESV)

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Jay giving me his evil expression. That would be my purse he was holding. (felt I needed to clarify)

 

Looking back now, I think about what the enemy was telling my sister. Her cancer didn’t matter… Her life didn’t make a difference to anyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know her cancer made a difference in the life of my friend Vanessa who died one month ago from brain cancer. Vanessa Raghubir’s decision to follow Christ started by reading Tricia Baines’s story, yet Tricia died not knowing the impact her life and death had on others.

We, as Christians are God’s army. We are all a threat to the enemy. He would love to keep our journey’s stagnant our lives meaningless because we are ill- equipped with skinny tires in thick sand or paralyzed in fear of what’s ahead. Are you going to let him derail you from God’s plan for you? Or are you going to place the thick Word of Truth as your foundation and utilize the Holy Spirit’s power in the pedals?

Is God calling you to speak? Just do it.

Is God calling you to write that book or article? Do it.

Is God calling you to forgive someone? Do it.

Is God calling you to try out that Bible study? Do it.

Whatever God is calling you to do, don’t let fear win. And believe this, whatever God is calling you to do, it will be a success if you get on that bike and pedal. Ride your faith like you’re 10 years old. You’re life will be powerful!

See you on the trails! Until next week…

A Funeral…A Birthday…A Calling

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I skipped writing a blog last week. It was a week meant for quiet, sadness, sprinkled with a bit of joy as well. A dear friend named Vanessa Raghubir passed away from brain cancer. If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know all about her. (You can find multiple stories about her by scrolling down)

My husband and I spoke at her funeral. Jay read scripture and shared personal reflection about Vanessa, and called me up to tell her testimony… Vanessa’s story. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, to be honest, the mere thought made me want to puke my guts out and lay on the podium sobbing. 

I told the story of Vanessa having three altars in her apartment one for the Hindu god, one for the Muslim god, and one with a cross. Vanessa choose Jesus Christ. I explained He was the one God who knew what it was like to feel abandoned as she did. He was the one God who knew what it was like to be beaten, as she did. He was the one God who knew what it was like to face death, as she did. 

He’s the God who knows about all of your heartache too. He knows what it’s like to lose a child. He knows what it’s like to be sad, hungry, rejected, humiliated, poor…the list goes on and on.

I told this story to a room filled with Hindu worshippers, and Muslim men and women wearing burkas -not exactly easy on the nervous system if you know what I mean. A friend in the back told us a few Muslim men moaned when I mentioned the one true God, but everyone was respectful and allowed her wishes. You see, one day Vanessa told me she could see herself telling her testimony from a stage to all her friends and family, but Vanessa lost her voice before she got the chance. I know it was no accident she’d told me her wishes.

 God will ask you to step out of the boat during a hurricane, all it takes for the waters to calm is your feet.

God showed up. I survived without puking my guts up, and her testimony was told.

A woman approached me after the funeral, she was co-worker of Vanessa’s at the bank. She told me how happy she was to hear her story.

“I tried to lead Vanessa to the Lord,” she said as her eyes teared. “I kept telling her she needed to choose Jesus Christ, but she brushed me off. She told me she’d think about it. I came here thinking she never made the choice. I’m so glad she found you.”

“I only planted a seed, just as you did,” I said. The truth is this. It was God Vanessa found. God wants us to find Him so badly. He will place people in your path to point the Way. 

“for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you…” I Chronicles 28:9b English Standard Version

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When I think of Vanessa’s life and my own, Proverbs 16:9 comes to mind: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  

I shared a somewhat embarrassing story at Vanessa’s funeral. A story I’ve kept close to my chest all this time.

About a month before my sister, Tricia passed, she had her son help her into the kitchen where Mom, Dad, her husband, and children were. She walked over to Momma, kissed her on the mouth and said, “Momma, I want to go home.” 

“You are home, sweetheart,” Momma said.

“No! Home Home!” 

“You’re ready to go to heaven?” Momma said.

Tricia turned and walked over to Daddy.

“Daddy, I want to go home!” She said.

Realizing by now what she was asking, Daddy nodded. “Okay, you go on now.”

She turned to her husband Thomas and said the same thing. She told everyone individually her intention. She wanted their permission to go.

Of course, we all assumed she would go just like that. So, I stayed awake that night, looking for some sign and praying God would allow her to pass by my room in Orlando. (She lived in Virginia) That night, Jay fell asleep on the sofa, and I kept the tv off for I wanted to be ultra- aware for I just knew I was going to see something in my room change the moment she took her last breath.

Around 2am there was a light in my room. I jumped up in bed. My eyes darted around searching every dark corner for her, but she wasn’t there.

Instead, it was my phone.

I had a private message on Facebook. The words were jumbled, but I’m going to take the liberty in writing them clearly below.

“You don’t know me, but my name is Vanessa. I know Jay from the bank. I’m in the hospital, I had a brain cancer tumor removed. I’ve been reading your sister’s story. Thank you for writing it.” 

That was my first contact with Vanessa. You see, God wasn’t going to send me my sister. He was going to send me someone He desired to make my eternal sister.  

I’ve spent this week, looking backwards and forwards, wowed by the steps God lit up in our lives and how our paths intertwined, connecting us for eternity.  I celebrated my 49th birthday, with Vanessa’s family instead of my own. It was the day she was cremated. Before we left to go to the cremation ceremony, I found a new laptop sitting on my bathroom counter. I’m so thankful God gave me a man who holds my hand through my dreams. 

Before Vanessa lost her voice, she asked me to write her story when I finished my sister’s memoir. One day, while sitting at the foot of Vanessa’s bed, I told her. “I know you want me to write your story, but my sister’s story is incomplete without you. You’re her ending.” Vanessa seemed happy to hear that.

Take some time to think about your steps. Has God been trying to get your attention? Lead you to Him? Has He called you onto a stormy sea?  Has He put you on a path you didn’t expect? Or is He giving you an assignment?

Next week, I will share what we can all learn from a dying girl from Guyana. I hope you’ll keep a watch out.

Until next time…

Today: August 20, 2018

 

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Today, at 8:30am, Bella started Pre-K4. She was nervous and had a fluttery stomach, but once we arrived and walked into the classroom, she ran over to the puzzle table and dove in. “Bye Momma!” she said waving me off. Today, she passed a milestone. Today, she seemed to grow a foot…a year… and a whole lot of independence.

 

Today around noon,  I visited my friend Vanessa who’s been suffering from brain cancer. You can find her story “Naked and Picking Weeds 1, 2, and 3 by scrolling below) Today, her breathing was different than the last time I saw her, I held her tiny hand, her princess hand I like to call it, her fingers didn’t curl around mine like they did last week. Today, she didn’t pull me back when I tried to let her go. Today, she didn’t blow kisses at me as I headed out the door.

Today, I leaned over her, “I love you,” I said. “You have a great adventure ahead of you. You’re about to meet your Heavenly Father and He has something amazing in store for you. I just know it!”

Today, I witnessed a mother’s touch, calming the breath of a dying child. It was beautiful.

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Today at 4:30 my doorbell rang. I received a surprise package in the mail. My editor at She Leads Daily decided to print last month’s magazine that included an article about my painting. I hollered before texting my family and showing my boys. “My writing and art is in a print magazine!”  Today, I crossed milestone.

Today at 4:51pm, just twenty-one minutes later, Vanessa took her last breath. She passed away. Today she crossed over. Today, Vanessa can see, run, talk, laugh, breath, and eat. She is meeting the Father who’s watched over her.  She is meeting Jesus whom she gave her life to, not too long ago.

On one of my visits, I laid my head across Vanessa’s chest and she stroked my hair. “I’m going to meet Tricia soon,” she said. (My sister Tricia died of breast cancer.)

Today, Vanessa met her sister.

Today,  I’ve swayed between shock, joy, incredible sadness, love, and peace. Today I experienced an abundant life.

Today, I ask anyone reading this to say a prayer for Vanessa’s Momma Joan, and her family and friends as they mourn her passing.

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Goodbye my sweet Vanessa. I love you.

Tonight, I know we’ll meet again.

When Too Much Gets to be Too Much!

 

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There are seasons when life becomes filled with too much. Too much stress, too much sorrow… too much work…just plain too much. That has been my season this summer. I’ve had a summer of too much illness, not my own (thank you Jesus), but in the ones I love. My summer started with my friend Vanessa who’s battling brain cancer (you can see her story starting here: Half Naked and Picking Weeds) and took a turn for the worse in May. I left Vanessa’s hospital bedside and flew to Virginia in June to take care of my mother as she underwent kidney stone surgery, while there Daddy became sick. After they recovered, I returned to Vanessa’s hospital room. In July, another dear friend of mine contracted a terrible infection in her knee that could have been fatal. It was off to Tampa to visit her in the hospital. She is still at home with a port in her chest administering daily antibiotics. In July, we almost lost Jay’s father, and drove up to Ocala to visit him in the hospital. After, my son Christian began suffering from a bleeding throat and had to have a tonsillectomy. He’s still recovering today. Last Wednesday, we drove to Tampa to be with Vanessa during her MRI consult. After receiving great news in June that her cancer had almost disappeared, we heard terrible news that it was not only back but spreading rapidly. The doctor told her without chemo she had two months with chemo, she’d have sickness and maybe four. It was all just too much!

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“I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special.” Steel Magnolias

  I’ll admit it, on the drive home,I was bit testy with God. I sobbed until my eyes swelled shut, and told my husband I was darn mad. I wanted to know why God allowed us to get so excited over great news to only crush us with terrible a month later. I suppose I’ll never understand all of that. Maybe, it’s not my place to.

 

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            You know when your Momma tells you to “settle down.” Today, I’ve settled down. I have to accept God’s sovereignty in the lives of those I love, and I’ve decided to truly surrender your life to God means to surrender your loved ones, hopes, dreams for your future, health, and even your anger to the One who holds it all in His hands. Besides, everything that happens to us first slips through His perfect fingers anyway. And His hands… that’s a good place to put the too much too. So, when you feel like you’re going through “too much,” place it in the hands of the God who loves you so much. That’s it for today. A little sad and tired to write more. Have a great weekend!

When Being Still Seems Impossible!

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“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalms 46:10 English Standard Version.

In 2015, I wrote about a citrus tree I’d planted in my small garden. (You can find the story here https://tammycarteradams.com/2015/08/28/far-reaching-branches/) My husband, Jay told me it would never produce fruit in such a small space in our garden.

            I am happy to announce…he was wrong! Fist pump!

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“Give me some dap!”

 

There are huge uh… fruit of some sort growing all over it. I believe it’s grapefruit, but I won’t know until the day it ripens, which for weeks I’ve been monitoring its progress.

            “How’s the fruit?” Jay says when I walk in the door from the garden for the umpteenth time.

            “Still green.”

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The Mystery Fruit

            After several months of this, I contacted a specialist on all matters of the universe, Dr. Goggle and found it takes 11 months for grapefruit to ripen on the vine. ELEVEN MONTHS!  I mean goodness gracious, I could die of scurvy before this fruit ripens! Kudos to the citrus farmers out there, I crown you Saints of Patience.

            Blessings follow patience I suppose. If you’ve read my previous posts titled Half -Naked and Picking Weeds Part 1-3 (You can find part 1 here: https://tammycarteradams.com/2018/05/22/half-naked-and-picking-weeds/), you’re familiar with my friend Vanessa and her battle with brain cancer. She’s being blessed for her patience.

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Bella staring out the hospital window.

            Since Half- Naked and Picking Weeds was posted, I’ve been sitting with Vanessa in her apartment while she tells me her life story. Her apartment is dark, because her eyes hurt, and I squat at the foot of her bed with pen and notebook. Somehow, we work through her sentences one by one, word by word, and I’m able to understand. (The brain tumor has affected her communication skills.)

            These past weeks, her head has been hot to the touch. So much so, one day I placed a cold cloth on it after rubbing it with oil. There was a bump rising up on her skull, along with the anxiety in my gut. Time was running out…or so I thought.

            Her mother Joan came into the room, “No Tammy take that cloth off. Jesus is using heat to heal my daughter.” I removed the cloth, remembering my sister’s hyperthermia treatment in Germany, where a doctor heated her body up and iced her brain to fight breast cancer. How ironic, Vanessa’s brain was heating up now on its own.

            Last week, my husband and I met Vanessa at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. While we waited for her MRI consult, Vanessa wrung her hands, I reached over and squeezed them in her lap.

            “Oh my gosh, I’m just so anxious,” she said.

            I touched her head. “You know it’s weird, but your head’s not hot and that bump has gone down. You look good and sound better since the last time I saw you.”

            “I know. I feel great,” Vanessa said.

            Finally, we were called back to speak with the doctor. The doctor turned from the monitor and asked her, “Are you sure you haven’t received any other treatment?”

            “No,” Vanessa shook her head. “I’ve been on hospice.”

            “Well, this is incredible. You only have one tiny spot of cancer left. Here,” She pointed to the monitor, “at the base of your brain. You can see, the swelling and the tumor have all shrunk. I suggest you get off hospice and start getting some physical therapy right away.”

            Vanessa laughed. Her mother cried. I sat speechless by it all. (Speechless is a word rarely prescribed to me.)

            You see, I’ve struggled with this whole cancer thing since my sister’s diagnoses. I’ve been asking God if He ever heals miraculously in the USA. I’ve read of many healings in developing countries where there is no medicine. Although, I’ve prayed for a miracle, I admit my faith is weak when it comes to healing. Sometimes, hopes hurt, and when they’re dashed to bits it takes time to recover. So, we build a wall around hopes and tread the perimeter with caution.

            I can’t imagine I’m the only one who feels this way.

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My sister’s daughter Peyton.

            Around two months ago, Vanessa was given two months to live. Her tumor grew and swelled her brain to a point where she wasn’t conscious. Two hospitals washed their hands of her and sent her home to be on Hospice, but God had a plan. The miracle comes when there is no other option.

            After her MRI, I sped a squealing Vanessa zig-zag down the hallway to the check out. Behind the check-out desk there was a sign on the wall. The sign was incomplete, but I knew it was meant to be noticed.2018-06-26_17.00.01

            “Vanessa, look what that sign says.” I whispered in her ear. “It says, Be still.”

            She nodded. “Be still and know that I am God,” she said.

            Perhaps, that’s why God allowed my tree to produce something to teach me to be still while He brings uh… something to a ripened state. Hmm…Maybe that’s why He’s brought me Vanessa. So, I’ll just wait…and continue praying….and maybe wiggle in my seat a bit.

            Perhaps you’d like to share how you struggle with being still, being patient, and letting God. Until next week…

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Half-Naked and Picking Weeds part 2

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I can remember it like it was yesterday. Tricia, my sister, and I were sitting on the veranda watching the sun go down at my Orlando home. I was going over the plan to send her to Germany for breast cancer treatment. I would keep Peyton with me, so she could finish the school year, while her and Thomas would travel back and forth to Europe. She would be receiving hyperthermia, a treatment that is now in its experimental phase here in the states.

            “I feel good about this one,” I said, for this was our third hospital…third attempt to fix this and my anxiety was heightened by the cancerous sores spreading over her abdomen and back.

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            She glanced at me across the table. “Tammy, if God doesn’t heal me in this life, He will heal me in the next,” she said. “Besides, if my cancer reaches one person for Christ, all this is worth it.”

            And there it was suspended in her prophetic words. Although, I was too preoccupied at the time to recognize it for what it was…Purpose.

            We will never know how many she reached for Jesus. Tricia and her husband Thomas handed out the gospel message everywhere they went in Europe. Tricia let her bald head and joyous spirit tell the story.

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            But there was the one…the special one…and she wasn’t from Europe. She was an American immigrant from Guyana. A twenty-nine year old, my sister never met. A girl my sister had nothing in common with except one thing…cancer.

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            Vanessa worked at the bank where my husband Jay had his account. He’d gone in one day to make a deposit and mentioned I was writing a blog about my sister’s journey through breast cancer. Vanessa wanted to read it.

            “Send my wife a friend request on Facebook, because I know it posts there. I don’t know how that whole blog thing works,” he’d said.

            Somewhere at the starting line of my sister’s four-year illness, Vanessa’s friend request came and I accepted. I can’t tell you how many times I saw her face pop up on Facebook and couldn’t remember who she was. Nevertheless, I left her there on my friend list.

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            One month before my sister passed, I was nursing my baby Bella in the middle of the night when my phone lit up a private message sent to me on Facebook. The message came jumbled a bit, but I deciphered what she was trying to write. I will take the liberties of writing it clearly below.

            “Hi, you don’t me but I know your husband from the bank. I’m in the hospital, just had a cancerous brain tumor removed. I wanted to thank you for writing your sister’s story. I’ve been reading it. How is she?” (from Vanessa Raghubir)

            Ironically, a month later I posted a blog about a girl with brain cancer who was taking her life via pills. I had no idea when I posted that blog in the morning, my sister would pass that afternoon and due to the controversial topic that blog post was read all over the world. You can find the post Right to Life here:

https://tammycarteradams.com/2014/12/19/the-right-to-life/

            After Tricia passed Vanessa and I communicated via text. She’d shared her heart’s disappointments regarding marriage and children, while I set out to save her by giving her nutritional advice. I look back at those posts and feel ashamed. I was manic to save her as I couldn’t do with my sister, but there are times people don’t need fixing, they just need to be listened to.

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            One day, Vanessa messaged me she was having trouble paying the bills and wanted to know if Jay was hiring. She’d completed treatment but due to being left with a speech impediment, she couldn’t return to her former job. Jay had just started his own development company and couldn’t hire at the time. I told her I’d keep my ears open for an opportunity.

            Soon after, I lifted an iron pan with my bad arm, something tore and I landed on the floor howling.

            “It’s a double rotator cuff tear,” the doctor said. “One tear appears to be very old, I don’t know how you’ve been living with it, and I may not be able to fix that one, but it put a strain on the remaining tendons until another one snapped. You need surgery and I think you should know it’s a painful long recovery.”

            “What?” I said. My eyes widened before landing on my baby girl. He followed my gaze.

            “I know it’s not the best timing for something like this. We can wait, but I don’t recommend it.”

            We scheduled surgery.

            We hired Vanessa.

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            The first morning she arrived Jay asked her to wash my hair. I shot him a look that said, I don’t know this girl, you wash my hair, but he ignored me. Vanessa followed us to our bathroom and while he brushed his teeth, she leaned me over the tub and washed my hair. It was like a weird blind date.

            After she blew it dry using her fingers instead of a brush, which was uh…different…I looked at her reflection in the mirror.

             “I’m sorry,” I said. “I know this is awkward, normally my sister’s here to take care of me in times like this. It’s what we did for each other.” My eyes teared, for my heart felt her loss that day.

            “It’s okay.” Vanessa said smiling. “Your sister brought me to you.”

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It is often said God works in mysterious ways. It is like the seeds growing under the soil, we can’t see the sprouts bursting from the shell, until the healing of time passes, the tears pour, and God mercifully shines His grace on our mournful soul. One dawn when we’ve moved onto plow another plot of land in our lives, we look back and see fresh green shoots popping up, that’ll eventually produce their own fruit.  We’re taken aback by it, because it’s this miracle that we were allowed a small part of or at least to be a witness to.

Vanessa is that to me.

If you would like to donate to Vanessa Raghubir’s Go Fund Me Page, please click on the link below. She is in need of some financial aid. The Go Fund Me page needs to be updated it is from her first diagnoses of brain cancer, but the need is even greater with the second. Thank you and God bless you for helping someone you don’t even know.

https://www.gofundme.com/i3nnns

Part 3 next week…