How Fear Can Paralyze You

Hi! It’s me. Long time, no see. I’ve been absent for nearly a year, and even before that, my posts were irratic at best. I’m not proud of that and there’s really no excuse for it. You were never far from my mind and I have a whole notebook full of blog ideas written down to prove it.

I could tell you that LIFE happened, but so what? Everybody’s life is happening all the time. I could tell you I was taking a sabbatical — that sounds as if I’ve been soul-searching and dedicated to the writing process. I could hint that I was working to be a better me (and I have been). I could mention a tragic thing that’s happened in my family and you all would completely understand why this blog might not have been my number one priority. I could give you several reasons for my absence, all having an official “sound” to them. I could even (dare I say it?) lie.

But that wouldn’t fit the purpose of this blog, nor would it be fair to those who patiently waited for me to come back (or forgot that you were subscribed to this blog and didn’t miss me at all). I want to tell you the absolute truth…and this is going to be embarrassing and painful for me. I’m afraid and the fear has paralyzed me for a long time.

Spiritually, I am closer to God than I’ve ever been. There are so many things to share with you that I found empowering in my time away. Each moment made me a much better wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. I will eventually share those amazing insights with you. I promise.

Why didn’t I just sit and share these things with you then? I was scared someone would ask me about my way of eating (woe, for short — which by the way is still carb cycling and it’s still working) and my weight loss. The question I dreaded answering the most was this: did you meet your goal weight? 

No. That is the truth in a nutshell.

In 2013, I got close…so close I could see the finish line. And then I gave up. I blew it. And the truth is, I don’t know why. Every ounce that I lost, I gained back plus more. I packed away my nutrition books. I stopped doing research. I just decided it wasn’t worth the effort and I was sorry I ever mentioned it in this forum. People were still reading this blog, especially the posts on nutrition and weight loss. They left wonderful comments. Someone even asked if this blog was still active.

In all honesty, I was prepared to be unhealthy for the rest of my life. I just didn’t care anymore…until my doctor shared blood work results with me that shook the foundation of my world. I was in a health crisis: cholesterol was awful (not enough of the good kind, way too much of the bad), I was pre-diabetic (and probably should have been classified as Type II), my blood pressure was way too high (and I was already on medication), my chronic pain raged, and I was at the second highest weight of my whole life (226 pounds). I was an emotional and physical wreck. Dr. Anderson asked me two questions that saved my life,”Do you want to lose the weight and work on these numbers or do you want me to put you on medication? Don’t you want to live a long, happy life and watch your granddaughter grow up?”

Just so you know what me at 226 pounds looks like, here I am:

446

So in the summer of 2015, I chose to work on my weight and cholesterol through diet. I knew what worked. I’d done it before. Could I do it again? I remember telling my husband, Kelly, that I had yoyo dieted so much in my life, I should have “Duncan” tattoed on my hip!

When I had my check-up in September 2015, I weighed 211 and that was enough to get a second chance. The journey started out rough and along the way, there have been extreme highs and lows…and a lot of middle of the road days where I just keep plugging away. I just want to tell you that it’s gotten a lot better. Have I reached my goal weight? Not yet, but I’m getting there!

To be continued…

shr

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Fighting Fear with Faith and Hope

Bone.  Marrow.  Biopsy.

Three words I hoped I’d never hear again.  But that’s where we were on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at the UNC Cancer Hospital when Kelly’s blood work numbers came back askew.   Not all the numbers were bad.  In fact, all the numbers were in the normal range — except for the one number that really counts, his absolute neutrophils.  Neutrophils are white blood cells that fight off infection.  Kelly’s neutrophil number was 1, meaning he had about 1,000 of those cells to fight off infection in his body.  That’s a problem because normal absolute neutrophils will range from 1.8 to 7.7.  In July, his absolute neutrophil number was 4.2 — the best it’s been since he went into remission.  When he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, his neutrophil number was 0.

Neutrophils.jpgNeutrophils (The most abundant white blood cells in most mammals.)

Image Source:  www.wikipedia.com

When we were discussing options, Dr. Foster looked at Kelly and said, “Another bone marrow biopsy is an option.  I know a biopsy is uncomfortable.”

Uncomfortable,” Kelly replied wryly.  “Is when your underwear rides up.  Bone marrow biopsies are excruciating.  But it’s the only way we’ll know for sure what’s going on, so let’s do it.”

So, this past Monday, two years, ten months, and 27 days from the first time he had a bone marrow biopsy, he lay on a gurney at the UNC Cancer Hospital having his sixth one.  He was face down, waiting patiently while Dr. Van (his other cancer doctor) was preparing the site where the needle would be inserted.  I was holding his hand and it just didn’t seem like it was enough, so I got on my knees by the gurney and laid my head next to his so that we could be face to face.

Image Source:  www.riversideonline.com

We prayed.  We cried.  He gasped in pain as they numbed his hip.  Silent tears rolled down his cheeks as Dr. Van used three separate vials to aspirate marrow samples.

Image Source:  www.bing.com

It’s hard to watch the man who is your earthy rock go through so much pain.  It makes you feel so small.  And I remembered several scriptures and began to pray them:

 All you who put your hope in the Lord be strong and brave.  (Psalm 31:24, NCV)

Always respect the Lord.  Then you will have hope for the future, and your wishes will come true. (Proverbs 23:17b-18, NCV)

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.  (Roman 12:12, NCV)

When I had no more words, I sang.

I sang “How Great is Our God*” by Chris Tomlin.

I sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness*.”

I sang “He is with Us*,” by Love and the Outcome.

I sang “Amazing Grace*,” which led into “Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone*,” by Chris Tomlin.

We were holding each other’s hands so tightly that our fingers were white.  So I poured out my tears, a language that only God truly understands.  And in near silence, Dr. Van continued to work.

Image Source:  www.bing.com

And Kelly broke the silence, not with a gasp of pain, but with these prayerful words, sung so softly that I might have missed it if I hadn’t been so close to him:

In seasons of despair and grief, my soul has often found relief… I’ll cast on Him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.*”

Almost immediately, Dr. Van said, “There is power in the Blood.  And I know that you both know that God has this — either way.”

I usually write something about weight loss on Wednesday — physical weight loss.  Today’s post is about losing the weight of a spiritual burden.  I took a great deal of fear with me into that procedure room, but I came out feeling light and full of hope.

What will the biopsy show?  We don’t know.  But we know God’s got this — either way.

*To listen to each song, just click on the title.  “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is sung by George Beverly Shea, who for years was the voice of the music at all the Billy Graham Crusades.  Kelly loves Billy Graham and loved to hear GBS sing.

shr

Friday Five: Quotations and Affirmations 2

I thought I’d share something from my quotations collection for today’s post. If there are themes for these quotes, they have to be strength and courage to make choices. Some have a Biblical connotation, while others are about life in general. A couple of these quotes are from women who have proven to be strong themselves. I hope that you will find something that strikes a chord of strength in you, whether you’re a man or a woman.

1. “A man has to want to be in a relationship with me. I don’t want a man to be with me just because it’s convenient — I am not a 7-11!” (The source for this is unknown, but I’ve heard variations of this on at least two television shows and a movie.)

Image Credit: www.pittsburghgives.org

2. “You’ve got to make the choice to rejoice!” (Source Unknown)

Image Credit. www.marcreck.com

3. “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Eleanor Roosevelt (Image Credit: www.thespeeches.com)

4. “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” (Mother Teresa)

Mother Teresa (Image Credit: www.excerptsoffinri.com)

5. “It’s our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter Series)

J. K. Rowling (Image Credit: http://sharequotes.us/j.k.-rowling-biography.html)

My challenge to you:

Find a scripture that illustrates one or more of the quotes. For example, the Mother Teresa quote reminds of this verse:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34 (NLT)

I’m praying for all of my followersand fellow bloggers this weekend. It’s something I feel led to do. If you have a specific prayer requests, post it in the comments or send it to me privately at lbtk1@aol.com

Have a blessed weekend!

shr

How Can I Keep from Singing: Never Once

Fear.  That’s what I lived with last week.  A fear that that shook me to the core.  And Satan had a field day.

Image Credit: www.mariaerving.com

It started on Tuesday with Kelly’s visit to the orthopedic surgeon.  Since going through chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) last year and being in remission for almost a year, he has suffered unexplained pain in his ankles, knees, and left shoulder.  The news from the doctor wasn’t bad in and of itself — a partial tear in the muscle in his shoulder, a tear in the labrum, and signs of arthritis which are a little advanced for a man of fifty.  Dr. Newman feels like physical therapy will be of great help in managing the pain and he didn’t recommend surgery.  Our question was, could Kelly return to work in law enforcement and be able to pass the Police Officer‘s Physical Assessment Test (POPAT) that is required by NCSU Campus Police policy?  Dr. Newman said not immediately, but in time perhaps Kelly could go back.  He wants to check on the problems that Kelly is having with other joints.  It’s a wait-and-see kind of thing.

But, we had no time to wait and see.  Kelly’s job had been open at the NCSU Campus Police Department for over eighteen months.  Since this is not an on-the-job injury, the university needed an answer about his future employability.  Kelly had a  decision to make:  return to work by today, April 23rd,  (and be able to pass the POPAT in two weeks’ time) or the university must begin to separate him from employment.  (Which is a fancy way to say “We’re relieving you of your duties.  You no longer have a job.”)

Although Kelly is on extended short-term disability at the present time, it’s a not a guarantee for him after August of this year.  He’s five years away from retiring in law enforcement and after twenty-five years of service to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and NCSU Campus Police, I saw the pain of this realization in his eyes.  And it made me so angry.

Photo Credit:  www.pbase.com

My anger was like a bull fresh out of the gate at the rodeo.  I bounced around the ring, exploding on everybody that came in contact with me.  I had a huge argument with Kelly.  I ignored Claire.  I railed against NCSU and how cruel they were being to a faithful employee who didn’t ask to get sick.  I couldn’t even bring myself to call my parents and explain what was happening because I wasn’t sure that they wouldn’t be caught on the savage horns of this anger that just kept swelling and writhing inside me.  When I sat down to write my posts on Wednesday and Friday, I had nothing.  No good word was sent my way.  It was as if I had never written a single thing in my life.  I was blind with rage and in no condition to share anything with anybody.  God knew this.  In retrospect, it was a good thing that He withheld His words from me.

So, last Friday night, I let God have it with both barrels:

“So, you brought Kelly through the cancer only to send us to financial ruin.  Is that how it is, God?”  I yelled this aloud to an empty living room because no one in my family could stand to be around me.

And God whispered, “For I know the plans I have for you.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

“Do you even care what we’re going through?  Do you not see how much we are hurting?  What is going to happen to us?” I whimpered as the tears began to stain my cheeks.

And God whispered, “I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.”  (Hebrews 13:5b, NLT)

I fell on my knees and raised my hands to the sky, crying, “What am I supposed to do, God?  We’re stretched financially just about as far as we can stretch.  What do you expect me to do?”

And God whispered, “I expect you to do nothing.  I will handle it all.  I’ve told you before:  Trust in [Me] with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek [My] will in all you do, and [I] will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT)*

By this time, I was so weary from the weight of my fear, all I could do was cry.  I cried because there were no words for the pain.

And God whispered, “Come to me, [Sandy] you [are] weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)*

I promise you, I felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit surround me.  It felt like a hug.  The tears subsided and I suddenly felt the shame of losing my faith — of not believing God.  I begged Him for forgiveness and the heavy weight of the fear lifted.  In its place, God gave me this feeling of calm.  Suddenly, I knew that everything was going to be all right.  I can’t tell you how I know this, but as Joyce Meyers loves to say, “I know that I know that I know that I know.”

Joyce Meyer

Photo Credit:  www.pastorsschool.com

I keep a journal for each family member and for my church, community, nation, and world.  It is my habit to find Scripture and write them into a prayer in the notebook of the person for whom I’m praying.  I picked them up and thumbed through them.  Did you know that each Scripture God used to answer me during my little meltdown was Scripture that I had prayed for someone else during the past month?  Now, that’s a “God-incident” if I ever saw one!

Image Credit: http://kristelpaula.tumblr.com

The writer’s block that the fear had created dissipated over the weekend.  God reminded me of Matt Redman‘s “Never Once.”  (I’m pretty sure God wants this to be my theme song for the time being.)  Matt once said that this song came to him spontaneously at a time of great transition for him and his family.  He had just sold his house in Atlanta, Georgia and the entire family was moving to England.  His future was uncertain and yet, the words to this marvelous praise song came to him and he sang them in the middle of a living room devoid of furniture and walls that echoed back the chorus, “You are faithful, God, You are faithful.”  It speak volumes about trusting God in the unknown because He’s been with us through every valley, every stuggle and proven Himself to be faithful in every circumstance.  It describes this season of my life perfectly.

Image Credit: www.musicaw.com

Over the weekend, I realized that NCSU is only doing what they have to do to run a business (and it is a business that sometimes must function by rules that might seem unfair).  Please don’t start a letter-writing campaign to NCSU — we believe we are fully in God’s will now.   I find a great deal of comfort in the fact that the folks in Human Resources are fully prepared to go to bat for Kelly where his disability is concerned.  In further conversations with the Chief today, Kelly found that if he’s cleared for duty, he can re-apply to work at the university again.

But that may not be God’s plan.  Other people have approached Kelly about possible job openings that are right here in Fayetteville so that he wouldn’t have to make the hour drive to and from Raleigh several days a week.  One of these jobs is law enforcement-related.  Kelly is qualified to do this job and there are people in position to help him get hired, if it’s God’s will.

Image Credit:  http://timbee.tumblr.com

I don’t have any more answers than I did when I went temporarily insane last week.  I just don’t know what’s going to happen.  And that’s okay because my God is faithful and He’s given me His peace over whatever this season in our lives may bring.  I can truly say, “You have brought us thus far, Lord.”

shr

“Never Once” (Matt Redman)  http://youtu.be/e02UNZRsdSQ

*All substitutions in these verses of Scripture are mine.

Related Articles:  “Face Your Fear”  http://morninggloryinspirations.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/face-your-fear/

“Prayer of the Broken Vessel”  http://breadforthebride.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/prayer-of-the-broken-vessel/

“Faithfulness”  http://adamlott2012.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/faithfulness/

“Faithful”  http://legacydevotional.net/2012/04/20/faithful/

How Can I Keep from Singing: Amazing Grace

An open right-hand side page of a book showing four stanzas of Hymn XL, then at page bottom "I. Chronicles. Hymn XLI. Faith's review and expectation. Chap. xvii. 16, 17.", followed by a stanza "Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound) / That sav'd a wretch like me! / I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind, but now I see."

John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” which was printed in the Olney hymnal (pictured above) in 1779.  It speaks of the hope that sinners, regardless of their sins, can be delivered to Eternal Life through the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Newton, himself, grew up with no religious training.  He entered into the Royal Navy and by all accounts was in constant trouble for insubordination.  He left the navy and became a slave trader, an unhappy and lonely individual.  During a horrible storm one night, Newton became so frightened that he called out to God for help.  That was the point of his conversion.  Eventually, he left the sailor’s life behind and began to study theology.  He became a poet and an ordained minister.

Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” from his own, intensely personal experience.  Considering that it’s estimated to be performed some ten million times a year, I think John Newton’s words speak to many Christians who know the depths of their own sin.  It was the first hymn I ever learned to play on the piano and it’s the first hymn to which I memorized all the words.  I especially love the last verse:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright, shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days, to sing God’s praise,

Than when we first begun.

Oh, to sing God’s praises eternally.  I cannot wait until that’s all I have to do.

I married into Scottish heritage and I love to hear “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

shr

“Amazing Grace” (Royal Scots Dragoon Guards)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euWfTiYwRB0&feature=colike

Photo Credit:  www.wikipedia.org

Are You Ready for a Miracle?

 

God’s still doing miracles.  God’s still doing miracles.  God’s still doing miracles. Let Him do a miracle for you.  (Words by Flo Price)

Twenty-five years ago today, we had one of the biggest snowstorms we’ve ever seen in Fayetteville and eastern North Carolina.  On top of two feet of snow, we had about three inches of ice added just for good measure.  Businesses and government offices were closed.  Our school system was closed for nine days.  Lots of folks were without power.  And it was in this wintry world that God brought me to my knees about a situation in which I had purposely and defiantly ignored Him.

Kelly and I had only begun dating in January of 1987.  I gave up choosing dates for myself and God sent a lifelong friend, Kelly, into my world.  Almost immediately, God started showing me that when I followed His will, circumstances were always different, and assuredly, better.  Kelly began courting me — something I’d never experienced before.  He called when he said he would.  When he wasn’t working as a paramedic in Charlotte, NC, he was with me in Fayetteville.  He began to be a part of my life in all the ways that counted — family, friends, and church.

The first inkling that I might be falling in love with him caught me completely by surprise at the beginning of February.  My good friend and fellow teacher, Linda Trudeau Wise, and I had many conversations about exactly where this “thing” was headed.  Kelly sent me a bouquet of roses with the sweetest note:  “I’m glad I have an excuse to visit Fayetteville more often.”  I tried to downplay how I was feeling.  Linda jokingly said, “Well if you don’t want him, you can certainly send him my way.”  Immediately, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I thought, Kelly Rosser belongs to me!  This thought was completely out of left field and it scared me.

The wedding of my friends Phyllis and Butch Jasper took place on February 7, 1987.  It was small and intimate. Not only was I the maid of honor, but my mom and I were helping with the reception.  Kelly was my date and my savior that night, making the trek from Hope Mills back to our home to pick up the punch we’d left in the freezer.  My mother watched Kelly pull away from the reception on his mission and whispered, “That boy is falling in love with you — nobody makes a thirty-mile round trip to get punch for nothing.”  He was my “knight in shining armor” that night and I was petrified.

The approaching Valentine’s Day scared me that much more.  He took me out to dinner and gave me the perfect pair of diamond earrings.  I knew in my heart that he was going to tell me that he loved me.  I almost let the words pass his lips…until I said, “I’m just not ready to hear this now.  Maybe sometime in the future, but not now.”  Like the gentleman he was, he smiled and said he understood.

That night, and into the next morning, I could not sleep.  For the first couple of hours, I thought of all the ways I could end the relationship.  Then, God presented me with a thousand reasons why I was ready to love or be loved.  I just couldn’t imagine that this good, wonderful, godly man could be mine.  I certainly didn’t think I deserved such happiness.  All night, God kept showing me Kelly’s face over and over while reminding me of the promises in His Word.

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it — what God has arranged for those who love him.  1 Corinthians 2:9 (The Message)

About four o’clock in the morning, I noticed that it was snowing.  I couldn’t remember ever seeing as much snow and ice fall before.  It encased everything around us and no one was going anywhere.  A certain school teacher wasn’t teaching that day and a certain paramedic in Fayetteville for Valentine’s Day wasn’t driving back to Charlotte.  Amazingly enough, Kelly found a way to drive the five miles between his parents’ house and my parents’ house without finding himself in a ditch.  We watched movies and played games.  We talked about everything we were feeling.  We bonded as a couple and with my family.  It continued to snow and ice sporadically for the next two days.  God used those two days to open my mind and my heart.  I knew that Kelly Rosser was the person God had been preparing for me since the day I was born.

When it stopped snowing and icing, we ventured out into the woods beside my house.  I could hear our footsteps and the creaking of tree limbs as they bent under the weight of frozen precipitation.   There was a silence that crackled with energy.  It was an alabaster world among the pines and live oaks.  He looked at me and said, “I love you.”  His cheeks and nose had turned pink in the cold.

“I love you, too,” I replied.  Tears that I could not cry in the anger of my past burst forth.  And we sealed it with hugs and kisses — red, runny noses and all.  Some people describe moments such as this like “the firing of a huge display of fireworks” or “a hundred marching bands playing Stars and Stripes Forever.”  It was neither for me.  It was a quiet, welcoming of two spirits who’d once been lost but now were found.  It felt like coming home after I’d been away on a long, fruitless journey.  Kelly has been my “home” ever since.

Do I think that God sent the snow and ice just for me?  Maybe.  I don’t know the mind of God,  but I do believe He used the weather conditions as an opportunity to give me another chance to take the gift that He had so lovingly “arranged” for me.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?  To be out of your sight?  If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there!  If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, you’d find me in a minute.  You’re already there waiting!  Psalm 139:7-10 (The Message)

What is God arranging for you that you simply cannot fathom?  Whatever it is, you can bet that He will be relentless until you give in.  Wherever you go, He will follow.  He loves you so much, He will chase you for the rest of your life.  He has a plan for your life that is more spectacular than you can imagine.  He is the God of miracles.  Are you ready for a miracle?  Just believe Him and say, “Yes!”

Photo credit:  flickr.com

Lyric credit:  Flo Price, from the Christmas musical A Miracle Happened at Christmas

Related articles:

How Can I Keep From Singing:  Faithful Friend   http://wp.me/p22liv-1F

Will You Still Believe?   http://faithspeaksinc.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/will-you-believe/

True Love   http://365dailyreadings.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/true-love/

God is BIGhttp://lorischulz.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/god-is-big/