Cancer: Oh, there is Your Sting

Yesterday I wrote about how I didn’t care about being diagnosed of cancer when I was 22 years old. I was young, unmarried, and could clearly understand Paul’s famous words, “To live is Christ, to die is gain!” Death had little sting, for I felt I had little to lose.

Interestingly enough, my view of death changed dramatically once I relapsed. (Remember, I had been told if my cancer ever came back, I could only have two months to live?)

When I received the news, I was newly married to the man of my dreams. My husband Todd was on a military deployment, and not expected to be home for 3 months. I did the quick math, called him up and basically told him if he wanted to see his wife again (this side of Heaven), he’d need to come home.

All of a sudden, I realized how much I stood to lose if the cancer caused my death.

I was no longer “okay” with dying because I now understood and felt that unconditional love I had only once only dreamed of. I now had an incredible husband whom I loved more than I ever thought I could love another person. I now had a marriage and the life-long partner I wanted to grow old with. My idealistic childhood dreams were coming true, and now my cancer was seen as a threat to those dreams.

I no longer felt peace that Heaven would be better because I was living in a pretty amazing “here and now”. I could not imagine a life without this man (even though in death, I may or may not be aware of the concept of time). The thought that he could re-marry and someone could “take my place” was devastating for me. I didn’t want someone to take my place, I wanted to keep it, hold onto it and protect my place. I fell into fear, anger, and an almost depressed state, believing the cancer could tear me away from this man I so loved, cherished, and adored. Cancer had now become the enemy and death was not something I was okay with. I no longer saw death as something to be gained, but something that would destroy what I thought I wanted more, at least for now.

My view of Heaven didn’t change. I still believed it to be everything I’d read in the Bible. But I became selfish towards death. Again, if it was all the same to God; I preferred to stay on Earth and live out this dream first. I knew I would go to Heaven eventually, so what was the rush? Why hurry?

I had finally bought into society’s view of death and had become fearful of its sting!

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 3 of this series. My 3rd relapse with cancer, and once again another perspective.

Q. Are you fearful of death’s sting? If so, why?

Stay-Cation Day One

Last week I shared with you about my ideas for a STAY-CATION.

With military life being so up in the air (no pun intended), we were able to receive some last minute leave. So, we decided to make the most of it and spend quality time together as a family.

Over the weekend, we came up with about a hundred ideas of what we could do. I got a little out of control! Okay, A LOT of control!

And, we made this STAY-CATION Jar:

DSC_3018Inside this jar are 16 different pieces of paper, each color coded with a specific event.

Each night before we go to bed, all four of us will each choose a different colored piece of paper to decide what we will do the next day. (This gives dad and mom a little chance to plan ahead and adjust if necessary.)

Each day will have one activity from each of the following four groups:

The MAIN Event – This will be the BIG activity of the day.

Something SILLY – This activity will just be something fun to make us laugh.

Special MEAL – This will be an unusual meal of the day (think ice cream for breakfast).

SERVING – This will be a way to do a Random Act of Kindness or to Serve someone else.

Each day this week, I will blog about our adventures (as time and internet access allows), and share our experiences. Our hope is to have a fun week of great family time, filled with quality time, serving others, and lots of laughing.

On tomorrow’s agenda (if the weather allows)…

MAIN: Clearwater Marine Aquarium to meet Winter

SILLY: Water Fight

MEAL: Hot Dogs, Popcorn, and Cotton Candy while watching Angels in the Outfield (I may switch to Candy Apples while watching Snow White because I don’t actually HAVE Angels in the Outfield and did not expect our daughter to draw that one today. We shall see.)

SERVING: Bake brownies for our local Fire Dept.

So, stay tuned! Can’t wait to share our adventures with you this week!!

Q. What creative activities do you share with your family?

10 Must-Have Qualities In Any Marriage

DSC_0747_2_3As Todd and I look forward a few years to military retirement, we’ve been thinking through “what next”?  Where do we go from here, and how do we begin to take the areas we are most passionate about now and find a long-term ministry we can continue in after we’ve retired. As we have talked through this for quite awhile now, we continually come back to Marriage Mentoring. We are passionate about relationships, grief ministries, and marriage. While we certainly do not have all of the answers, and are quite imperfect, God has allowed our family to endure trials which have severely tested our faith and marriage. As we use what we have learned from these trials to encourage couples, we have found a passion in helping others have a great marriage even in the midst of trials.

Here are 10 important qualities we have built our marriage around that have enabled Todd and I to thrive in our marriage despite our tragedies:

1. We both have personal relationships with Jesus Christ and we pray together every day. This is the foundation for our marriage and has given us the greatest strength to walk through our challenging circumstances.

2. Both of us felt like we were getting the “better end of the deal” on our wedding day. The standards of the man I wanted to marry were crazy high, and yet, my husband surpassed every ideal of what I thought I wanted.

3. We deal with issues when they are small so they do not compile on top of each other or spiral out of control. Do you ever end up fighting with someone, and you aren’t even sure what you are fighting about, because there are so many issues you are frustrated about? This is what we try to avoid.

4. There is a rule: not only is divorce not an option, but the “d-word” will never be discussed in our marriage, in seriousness or in joking!

5. We choose never to talk down to each other, in private or in public, in seriousness, or in joking. This creates a safe environment, knowing we will always do our best to encourage and uplift each other, especially around others.

6. We have a two-strike rule to make sure each other is okay or happy with a decision. For instance, if I am being grumpy and my husband asks if I am okay and I say “yes!”, he will ask one more time, “Are you sure?” Here I have an option – if I say “yes” – I know he will drop the issue and move on and I have lost my opportunity to vent. If I say “no” – I have the opportunity to share why I am grumpy (most of the time, I just need to get over myself).

7. Every day when my husband comes home from work, I stop what I’m doing and we take about 15 minutes to briefly chat about our days. This is (most of the time) a kid-free time where we can catch up with each other and he can re-engage into family life.

8. We do ministry together – sometimes this is in a formal marriage ministry or mentoring setting, other times our ministry is informal, trying to look out for the needs of others.

9. We play together – go on dates, travel, and see new things. Todd is still my best friend, and we look for ways to engage in activities where the other person has a passion. We do our best to make time for our marriage, instead of getting in the pattern and busyness of life. Sometimes this means turning off the TV once the kids go to bed, putting away the computer, having a date night, or laying in bed talking about life.

10. We don’t really fight – of course we disagree and we have our differences. We are two different people. But, we do not yell, scream, throw things, or hit each other. When we have a disagreement, for the most part, we go behind closed doors and deal with the conflict – away from the children, and work it out. Most of the time the conflict has risen out of miscommunication or unmet expectations. After we deal with the conflict, we move on and let it go.

So, how about you friends… Are there areas here you and your spouse do as well? What important qualities have you established your marriage around?

How To Keep Your Rings On

In her own way, my daughter understands divorce.

My just-turned-6-year-old daughter.

The other night as she prayed (quite possibly the longest and funniest prayer I’ve ever heard in my entire life), she prayed that “mommy and daddy would always keep their rings on, so that she will never be alone!”

She thanked God that mommy and daddy love each other (so much) and then prayed that we always would. Took my breath away. Sweet girl.

She’s at that age right now where she’s asking questions about everything she doesn’t understand. Why some kids at school only have a mommy or a daddy. Why not everybody wears rings. Why not every person in this world loves Jesus.

She is a perceptive little girl.

The last few months have kind of rocked my world as I have walked alongside 3 different Christian couples that have divorced, and have helped counsel 2 others who were on the brink of divorce.

It breaks my heart and leaves me confused.

This is not the way that God intended marriages to be.

God desires for us to have marriages that reflect who He is and His unconditional love for us. Marriages that honor, love, respect, and cherish each other. Marriages that are fun, where you laugh and play together. Marriages filled with self-sacrifice, and putting the needs of someone else above your own. GREAT marriages reflecting a GREAT God!

But, we were never meant to do it on our own!

A few years back, Todd and I led a couple of marriage courses by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. If you are a pastor, or are involved in your church, please consider checking out their Marriage Mentoring Program. It is brilliant!

This program is set up for couples to be mentored, regardless of where they are in their marriage.

  • Are you engaged or newly married?
  • Are you going through a crisis? Child-Loss? Illness? Job loss? Major life change?
  • Are you on the brink of divorce?
  • Are you in a marital rough patch and just need someone who understands?
  • Do you have a good marriage that you want to make great?

What makes this program so great is that it takes imperfect couples, with imperfect marriages, who have already experienced a specific season in their marriage, and pairs them up with another couple who is just about to embark upon that same experience. The program builds relationships through a rapport system of understanding what another couple is feeling and the problems they are, or will likely face. There is nothing like gaining wisdom and insight from another couple’s own life and marital experiences.

You can check out this page, to see how it all works!

If I can urge you friends, in any way, be a couple, a community, a church, that looks out for the marriages of those around you. When you engage in Marriage Mentoring, you not only become part of the solution for couples to find a place to heal and to grow, but perhaps, you can also help equip a few more couples to learn how to keep their rings on.