HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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Olympics

Last Friday was a big day for me! It has been a hotly anticipated date for many in the UK with the start of the Olympics but for me it was so much more. Last Friday I completed my chemotherapy!!! Hooray! I could hardly contain myself on Friday morning I was so excited. A friend texted me to say that she prayed my day would be filled with strange joy and it really was! I wasn’t worried about the side effects or going to the hospital or any of it because I knew that a milestone was being passed and a chapter was closing that I wouldn’t miss at all!

Since Friday I have watched far too much Olympics (we have 17 dedicated Olympics channels on our TV! A few too many I think as there is only so much fencing one can watch) and have been frustratedly waiting to feel better so that things can really get going again!

You might think that through this process I would have learnt patience and developed the grace to serenely accept what was happening in my body, but the truth is I haven’t. I still fight tooth and nail against being bedridden and regularly push myself too hard to get up and running quickly. Although I know pushing myself whilst poorly is counterproductive, I still do it as one of my greatest longings is for a normal life. Well, maybe that’s not strictly true, not really a normal life, but rather a life with normal things in it, like cooking dinner and doing the laundry! I long for a life where I can just be myself without anything holding me back and I get so frustrated when I feel like I am just spinning my wheels, wasting time trying to feel better.

This is a real challenge to me as despite feeling like this I don’t want to look back on this season and all that I can say about it is that I spent the whole time waiting for it to be over, to move onto the next thing, for a brighter day. I want to be fully present in each day, to be seeking God and remembering all the good things he has given me. As I seek to do this I am both challenged and encouraged by the truth of Lamentations 3:19-23 which reminds me of God’s presence with me and his mercies that are new every day.

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

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Tombola

On Saturday the family and I went to the garden centre. (I know, very middle aged, but it was raining! πŸ˜‰ ) We had our lunch and had made our purchases and were on our way out when we spotted a charity tombola stall. 3 tickets for Β£1… We had to have a go!

There were other people playing too and one of them won a huge bucket of fish blood and bone plant food!! I seriously hoped I didn’t win one too… Yuk! My mum-in-law played first and won an Emma Bridgwater address book and a book on chauffeurs’ etiquette. Not bad! Joel played and won an embroidered bookmark… Less good. I played and won a brand new massive terracotta plant pot… Awesome! πŸ™‚ Β£3 well spent we felt!

I often think that life seems to be a lot like a tombola. Things happen, good things to “good” people, or good things to “bad” people and the same goes for bad things. There doesn’t seem to be much sense in who gets what circumstances.

Quite a few people have asked me whether I feel angry with God for allowing me to get cancer. The honest answer is no. I have never felt angry with God. I have felt very sad and heartbroken, but never angry. I was thinking about why that is and I think it is because I know that we live in a broken world where there is sickness and suffering and death and things that happen that break God’s heart. I think that my being poorly breaks God’s heart, as do all the horrible things that happen to each one of us. But… I also know that one day everything will be restored. When thinking about this I was reminded if Revelation 21:4 which speaks of this restoration. It says

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

This is such a beautiful image to me and I love that this passage goes on to say that He will make all things new and everything will be restored.

In the meantime, while we wait for this day and as I allow Him, God can use this experience to make something beautiful and I trust that as He does this my life can still glorify Him.


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No Signal

Last night Joel and I were watching TV when the heavens absolutely opened outside and it poured and poured and poured. This was some serious rain. (and it made me rather nervous for our camping trip coming up!) As the rain got particularly hard we lost signal on our TV. We were busy watching the final of a cooking competition that I had been avidly following when the signal went out… (Joel was graciously watching to keep me company as he is not a fan!) It was only when the rain subsided that we got the signal back, first just for a second or two and only the sound or the picture. But eventually the signal was restored and I could continue watching cooking to my heart’s content.

To me this is what life is like sometimes. Sometimes just when you feel you are getting to the good bit then the storms come. Sickness turns up, or a job is lost or a loved one passes away. Struggles and challenges ‘rain’ so hard that you feel like you have lost signal and you might not make it at all.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was absolutely terrified. I wasn’t really scared of the treatment or even of dying particularly. What I was scared of was that I wouldn’t get to see my baby grow up, that I would die and he wouldn’t have a mummy or any memories of me, and that I would leave Joel to raise him on his own. And that absolutely terrified me and broke my heart at the same time.

It felt like the rain was coming so hard that I could barely stand and signal was definitely lost. But God didn’t leave me in this place and as I have journeyed I have known His comfort and in fits and starts my ‘signal’ has been restored.

In this place I have been reminded of Isaiah 43:1-2 which says:

But now, this is what the Lord says –

he who created you, Jacob,

he who formed you, Israel:

β€˜Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For me, this is such a comfort. I know that in everything, through this rainy season, not only am I known to and loved by God but so is my family. He knows what I, my husband and our son need and he will not leave us as we pass through this water and I look forward to the day when my ‘signal’ is restored in full.


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Birthdays

This weekend sees another milestone in our lives, and an exciting one at that! This weekend I will be attending my very first second birthday party (I think since I was two). It is the party of a very special little lad who is the son of two great friends. I cannot wait!

It is funny how life changes as I can’t imagine getting all that excited about going to a children’s birthday party a few years ago! (Although the last children’s party we went to a couple of years back involved a trip to the Early Learning Centre which made Joel more keen than ever before to have children!) But in this season I am really looking forward to celebrating this wonderful little life.

I have been thinking about what to get him for his birthday for ages and finally settled on a gift only to discover whilst at their house today that he already had something very similar. I was mildly gutted but not too heartbroken as I means I get to go shopping for toys again. πŸ™‚ I am excited about baking the number 2 shaped cookies for the children to decorate and for seeing the excitement on this little chap’s face when he sees his friends and his presents. I am excited that before too long it will also be my little one’s turn to celebrate his birthday.

One of the best bits about a birthday party is the moment when the cake comes out with the candles lit and everyone sings happy birthday. It is so lovely to see the sheer delight on the child’s face (adults are less fun as they usually just look awkward) and everyone in the room gets to sing to the child and delight in them and their happiness. And then you get to cheer for them! How wonderful!

That moment of joyful singing and cheering reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17 which says:

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.

He will take great delight in you;

in his love he will no longer rebuke you,but will rejoice over you with singing.

To me this is such a beautiful image of God, His love for us and how precious He thinks we are. He celebrates us, sings over us and cheers for us each step of the way, every day! For me that image just makes me smile and reminds me what an amazing God I worship!


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Show me the Monet

This week I discovered a new daytime TV show called Show Me the Monet (BBC 2 every day at 3pm). It is fantastic and is already my new favourite show! The premise of the show is that people bring a piece of art that they have created to three art critics for judging. The critics then pick what they think are the best pieces and these are put into an exhibition in London.

I know it sounds a bit dull, but it is really fascinating. The diversity of media and subject matter is astonishing and I love to hear the artists’ stories. Many of the pieces are just beautiful and the stories so moving.

A few of the artists (many of whom just do art on the side rather than for their jobs) have spoken of an actual need that is in them to create something and this is something that I can really identify with. I have always loved art, craft and music but since beginning on this cancer journey I feel the need to create something beautiful is stronger than ever in me.

I have been thinking about why this need is so strong in me and I have realised that it is because creating things is part of my DNA. It is how I have been made. For me, one of the times when I come most alive is when I make things and there is freedom and joy in that place.

I had never really thought of craft as being a particularly spiritual activity until a couple of months ago when chatting with my mum-in-law. She said something along the lines of that when you do the things that God has put in you that make you come alive, then that is an act of worship to Him. That really resounded with me and I guess explains why I feel such freedom when playing the piano or baking a cake (as weird as that sounds)… When thinking of this I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 3:17 which says, β€œWhere the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

I am not for a second saying that craft should be my only expression of worship (how peculiar that would be!) but rather that we shouldn’t discount the things that make us come alive as being unimportant or insignificant on our spiritual journeys. They form an important aspect of whole-life worship and a reminder that God is with us in our every day.Image

(I got this image from a pretty cool blog – http://typographicverses.com – check it out!)


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Little man is five months

Yesterday my little boy turned five months old! The day was marked by much playing in his play gym, bouncing in his doorway bouncer and trying to get him to roll over again following his first roll on Sunday (it hasn’t happened again yet despite our best efforts!)

These last five months have undoubtedly been the most topsy turvy of my life but thinking about him and the incredible blessing that he is to us reminded me to stop and be thankful. I am so thankful for everything about him, from his fluffy hair and cheeky smile to the way he squeals with delight when you talk to him.

Often when things are tough it can be easy to let our struggles fill up our windshield and that is all that we see. I know in my own life it is easy to become overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control that I sometimes just feel like giving up. Sometimes everything just feels too hard!

But… I know in my head and am learning in my heart that it is so important to develop a thankful heart that is able to rejoice in spite of circumstances. Having a thankful heart is not saying that one’s pain doesn’t matter or that it is somehow not important, but rather it is allowing things to remain in a healthy perspective. Pain is not all there is to life. I am still blessed. I still have plenty to be thankful for. I will not allow my own heart to be robbed of joy because of my circumstances.

I do not know what is around the corner, but right here and now I am blessed and I can be thankful.

Today, as with every other day, my little lad reminds me of how blessed I am. Happy 5/12ths for yesterday super sausage! (Here is a picture of him celebrating his 5/12th birthday! I hope it makes you smile!)


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Life in a waiting room

I seem to spend a lot of my time sitting in hospital waiting rooms these days (all I can say is thank goodness for the iPad and its games to while away the hours). Waiting rooms are funny places, no one wants to be there but no one has a choice. Life is on hold and yet life can change completely from when you walk into the waiting room to when you walk out.

I will never forget the day my cancer was diagnosed. We were on holiday in South Africa for my lovely sister’s wedding. The day of my diagnosis was sunny and warm and I waved Joel off as he was spending the day sightseeing with his Mum who was also visiting for the wedding. We thought I was just having some more routine tests. When he came to fetch me from the hospital later that afternoon everything had changed and our lives would never be the same again.

And so my treatment began as did the waiting… Waiting for tests… Waiting to see how I would respond to treatment… Waiting for me to recover from each bout of chemo… In a few weeks, waiting for the surgery etc etc… And hopefully waiting for the day when I will be given the all clear…

This waiting game is difficult in a culture where everything is instant and just waiting for a website to upload can be a frustrating experience.

So where does waiting fit into the whole picture? Where is God in my waiting?

One of my favourite Psalms is Psalm 40, the scripture we chose for our wedding. Psalm 40:1-3 says…

1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

And this is a truth I can stand on. God is with me as I wait. He hears my cry and he sets my feet on the rock. Even when I feel I am sinking, He is there. I am slowly learning not to be afraid to wait. I am learning to keep moving forward but when that even seems impossible just to stand firm and to wait for Him. And through this all I trust that He is doing a new thing in me and I look forward to the new song I know He will give me.