Posted in Writing

Rainy Seasons

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Welcome to our Orlando garden.

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.

“It’s cold!”

“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.

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This is our Orlando garden that wraps around our home.

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.

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This is our spring sister in our garden. We have a sister representing each of the seasons.

 

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.

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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.

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This is Winter Sister

My advice? Don’t waste a good rain.

Till we meet again under sunnier circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

Riding Currents

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Momma and Daddy’s house in Virginia.

 

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.

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Daddy on his small boat fishing with my husband Jay.

 

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.

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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.

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My son Nick thought it’d be funny to fish in the water fountain at the Millenia Mall. He told the security guard he had to catch a fish for his Momma’s supper. The guard said, “Son, your Momma’s gonna go hungry tonight, reel it in.”

 

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

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After surgery, I look like a puffer fish.

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.

Until we chat again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cancer, Christian, Writing

Funny Thing About Breasts

 

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Tricia doing the white man overbite.

 

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?”

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Our brother Brandon, myself, Tricia, and our cousin Linda (kneeling)

 

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.”

I nodded.

“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.

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Tricia, me, and our cousin Linda. 

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.”

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Tricia, Linda, and I.

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.

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Me, cousin Lisa, and Tricia

 

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.

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Me, Momma, Brandon, and Tricia.

 

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

When Consumerism and Perfectionism Rob Your Spiritualism.

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Bella exhausted after watching Momma decorate the farmhouse.

I unloaded my fresh 2×4’s and sanded wood slabs out of the back of my truck and laid them on the garage floor. Like Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper  handing off an assignment to Chip, I sketched my design and pushed it into my son, Christian’s hands.

His brows raised. “Momma really? I mean this is not going to look like a barn in Bethlehem.”

“Of course, it will. I’ll dirty it up when you’re done with some paint. I want a manger scene that’s going to be bigger and better than anything you can buy in the stores. We’re going to show people the real meaning of Christmas.” I patted him on the back. “Get to it. I have dinner to cook.”

The next day, my husband Jay and Christian unloaded old pieces of rotten wood and branches they’d collected from the dumping spot in the woods, out of the back of Christian’s jeep. They cut the branches to size, buried them into the front yard and laid a rotten piece of wood on top and against the back. Inside, they sprinkled hay, made a manger box by leaning rotten scraps against one another, and tossed in some lights. The whole process took less than an hour.

Several neighbors walked by, “That’s the best manger scene I’ve seen.” One of them said.

Another, “I can’t wait to see it when the baby’s in there.”

(The baby will be added tomorrow night (Christmas Eve).)

Our manger scene was made from trash.

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Our precious Oma watching Ompa being laid to rest.

 

In the midst of the Christmas season, we buried our Ompa (Jay’s father). I watched as the men folded the linens in over his face and closed his casket. It reminded me of a day I wandered around his art studio, fingering the brushes, rubbing my hand along the wood easels, while he worked on a painting. His studio was my favorite room in their home. It was where the magic happened.

“Dad, when did you know you were an artist?” I said.

He chuckled. “When I asked God to make me one.” He dipped his brush in the cleaner and spun around in his chair. “I had a friend in New York, who was a great artist. He was so, so talented. He could paint anything. He died young. I stood by his casket at his funeral and prayed that God wouldn’t allow his talent to die with him. I pleaded God would give his talent to me.”

I put my hands on my hips. “Wait. You knew right then you would be a painter?”

“After his funeral, I went out and bought some paints and supplies. That’s faith daughter. The willingness to find out.”

A few days later, I asked God to teach me to paint. I bought the supplies and painted a portrait of a friend’s dog. It still hangs in his office today. We both started with a prayer and a step forward.

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Bella watching the sparkling snow fall on baby Jesus.

I was anxiety- ridden yesterday getting Bella and I dressed for her Christmas pageant. “The note says wear your Sunday best. This is your Sunday best Bella.”

“Humph! But it’s scratchy Momma,” she said. “And I’ve got blisters, I can’t wear those shoes.”

Three minutes late, –for the teacher’s reminder stated students had to be dropped off at 4:30 sharp! — I ran in skinny heels sinking into soft earth, dragging my Bella—wearing a red cotton dress and red cowgirl boots into her classroom. Whew!

 

But then sitting in a pew…within my messy swirling storm of consumerism and perfectionism that has taken over my spiritualism, I was reminded there’s Jesus. Bella the only angel with red cowboy boots, belted out her songs about her Lord being born in a stable, and I forgot about the mud sticking to my skinny heels, or the wasted fresh wood lying across my garage floor, or the sadness I felt watching the coffin door close over her Ompa.

 

I’ve thought about how hard we make our acts of faith, when really all God wants is our heart’s devotion. All He wants is men fist pumping over their rotten barn made from trash, a whispered prayer over a willing brush on a canvas, a little angel in cowgirl boots singing her heart out, and a stressed-out Momma melting into Him in a pew.

Remember His yolk is light… Put your feet up and spend time in His presence.

 

When we’re  finding our spiritualism being robbed by our consumerism and perfectionism this Christmas, we must take time to remember our Lord’s imperfect birth will be the only perfect thing about Christmas, and His perfect gift of salvation is free to all.

 

Here’s an example of my perfectionism. I think the manger made from trash is the most beautiful part. Those white trees have fallen down in every rain storm and I’ve had to tape one of them back together. Strangely enough, the lean-to manger has withstood the storms. I included one of the songs I’ve listened to this Christmas to help me remember to breathe…Winter Snow by Audrey Assad.

 

 

Posted in Writing

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…

Posted in Writing

When God Stretches Your Heart

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Bella and her cousins who are her stand-in sisters.

 

 

With the boys back in school this week, I’m longing for the smell of fall candles, cooler evenings, and a pot of chili, but we are in our hottest time of the year here in Florida. I wonder if I’m the only woman who gains weight in the summer and loses that weight every fall and winter. I suppose it’s because I tend to hibernate through the hottest months and when that first breeze kisses my cheek, I take a long stretch and become alive again. I’ve told my peoples I’ve decided to become a European. I’ve outfitted my bike with saddle bags, mirrors, head and tail lights, and a cell phone holder. I’ll be the biggest bike nerd in Dr. Phillips. I have a plan to fit exercise into my day, get ready for it… I will bike to the grocery store. Of course, I know this seems a bit counterproductive exercising to get food, but I see it as a way of shooting two chickens with one bullet. Contemplate my brilliance, I can only buy that night’s dinner ingredients, which will keep me from buying anything unnecessary. Save money…loose fat…fetch dinner. I see it as a win-win-win. Make that three chickens. The truth is I’ve been seeing that middle-age monster lurking in the shadows and I know he’s out to get me!

 

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Aubri, Bella and Sunaeya with Sleeping Beauty.

 

 

            There are times our heart needs to get into shape in a spiritual sense as well. When we’ve had an absence of hurt or joy in our lives, our heart can go into a complacent hibernation. Sometimes, this is caused by protecting our heart too much, by tucking it in a dark cave.

             This week, we celebrated my daughter Bella’s fourth birthday. Every year when her birthday rolls in I can’t help but think of my sister Tricia. When I announced I was pregnant with Bella, it didn’t go over so well. We found Tricia an hour later sobbing on her friend’s sofa.

            “I’m so sorry Tammy,” she said. “I’m happy for you and Jay, it’s just this… while you are getting ultrasounds, I’m getting PET scans, while your body is creating life, mine is creating cancer, while you are looking forward to the day you meet your baby, I’m dreading the day I say goodbye to mine. You’re looking forward to the future, while I’m holding on to the past.” It was a painful irony.

 

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Months later, Tricia and her last visit to Florida.

 

 

            The next morning, we stood outside our parent’s home riddled with guilt for the pain we caused the other.

  “I’m sorry about last night,” she said.

 “There’s nothing to be sorry for.” I said. “I would’ve felt the same way. I want you to know I wasn’t trying.”

            “I know God is giving you this baby to… ya know… keep you busy so you’ll keep going when I go.” She smiled and placed her hand on my belly. “You’re already showing.”

            “My body knows what to do by the fourth one,” I said.

            Her eyes met mine. “When she comes, I will go,” she said.

            Although she whispered the words, I jumped back as if she’d punched me. “Wait, No, You don’t know everything Tricia Baines. Besides, I know you’re wrong because Jay only makes boys.”

            She grabbed my arm. “I know okay.”

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August 7, 2014

 

 

            The moment Bella propelled herself into my world, my heart stretched between conflicting emotions of incredible joy and wrenching pain. I smiled through tears at my tiny baby before Tricia’s words flooded my memory, and I let out a sob. Tricia happened to be in a Virginia hospital bed as well that day. True to her prophetic statement, she died around the same time my baby was born, exactly nineteen weeks later.

            After she passed, I kept having these terrible chest pains. Convinced my pregnancy had put a strain on my heart, I underwent an EKG, and a stress test. When the tests results were in, Jay and I sat in the cardiologist’s office for a consult. I knew he was going to tell me I’d need some sort of heart repair, but instead he looked up from his file and said, “Everything looks good. Your hearts in good shape.”

            “No, that doesn’t make sense, my heart hurts.” I said pointing to my chest. “I’m having this sharp stabbing pain.”

            “Have you experienced anything traumatic lately? Have you been under any strain or anxiety?”

            Jay nodded. “Her sister died.”

            “That’s not it!” I said pointing at him. “I’m fine with that. This is physical pain.”

            “That’ll do it to you.” The doctor turned around in his chair dismissing further objections. “Looking over your tests, your heart is great. Our bodies have a way of letting us know when we’ve experienced something difficult.”

 

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Tricia with her children: Caleb, Peyton and Cody.

 

            Every Bella birthday, I celebrate the day my heart stretched and in the looking back, I’ve come to realize a stretched-out heart can only hold more. My larger heart holds more compassion, empathy, and love than it did before, allowing more blood to flow through…more life.  I believe sometimes God lets our heart stretch between pain and joy so we can feel a tiny bit of what He felt as He watched His Son die on the cross. He must have mourned watching the pain and suffering of His Son, all the while feeling great joy for the birth of salvation for mankind.

 

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Newborn Bella flew to Virginia so many times to see Aunt Tricia, she became a frequent flyer.

 

            Has there been a time in your life when your heart stretched? See it as a blessing. Or do you feel your heart has been in a complacent hibernation? Stop protecting it. It needs exercise. Pull it out of the cave.

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Happy Birthday Isabella Fawn Adams!

 

 

Have a great week everyone!

Posted in Cancer, Writing

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!