Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If Christ is a Sweathog then call me Mr. Kotter!

Deryl says......I have not posted in a while. I have sat down to write something several times but nothing really came up. I am just not one to force something when I am not feeling inspired. Whenever I write I want there to be something that I find significant and profound. I know that some of what I write will be common knowledge to many who read this but when I write something it is because something has moved me inside and it means something to me. I can only hope that when it means something to me that others receive something worthwhile. That being said I am going to tell you a story about myself. One that brought great fear to Kelley at one point in our life and one that has up to this point brought me to a place that surprises me and I would venture to say Kelley will be quite surprised when she reads this.
Several years back I had become very jaded with the church. I had become weary with pettiness and judgment. The seemingly endless facade of so many people who pretended that they were ok and looked that way from the outside yet I knew were struggling with heartache, addiction, and all manner of sin within. And the gossip chain...I mean the prayer chain was a constant spreading of the dirty laundry of others. I know this sounds grim but this is where I was at the time and all I could see going on.
I had experienced first hand the judgment of others who were afraid for me because I read a book that they did not understand. One they criticized and said was evil yet never read. People even e-mailed me outright lies about the author of the book and what it said. I saw this and thought why do people from the church feel the need to manipulate me with fear if they are so sure of their faith? So I decided to try an experiment. I was going to watch some movies that I was told were evil by the church for my self and judge for myself if they would steal my soul. I had accepted completely everything I was fed by the church without any rational consideration regarding the content of their message. I watched them and saw nothing inherently evil. So I then thought to myself if they have been telling me all these years that Jesus is the only way to heaven yet have lied to me and many others about so many things how can I be sure that they are right about Jesus. If they are so confident that Jesus is the only way why do they feel the need to manipulate others with guilt and fear? So I decided that they weren't right and I was through being a christian. I had had enough personal experience with God to know that God was real. But I questioned the christian path to God because such a large percentage of them seemed to struggle and be unhappy with life.
My next step was to research my new path to God. So I read many, many books about other religions and spiritual philosophies. I read the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, the Four Noble Truths, and many other new age and eastern religion based books. The interesting thing is that I found a lot of wisdom and spiritual truths in those books. And many of those truths impacted my life in a positive way. The interesting thing was that every time I gained a new insight I could recall a similar truth in the bible. I found it almost annoying at times that my mind would always find a parallel truth from the bible of the many spiritual truths I learned in these other books. Now there are some people that read this last paragraph and either feared for my soul or thought I am a blasphemer. For those who fall into that category I hope you will hang on and bear with me through the rest of the story without judgment.
So here I am trying to figure out am I going to be a Buddhist or a Hindu? Or was I going to follow the new age philosophy path to God. I dabbled in eastern meditation. I looked at many different paths and tried to incorporate many of them. And frankly there were moments that I felt God's presence during that time. And I could very well have stayed on one of those paths for many years. And Kelley, devout christian that she is, was beside herself. I am sure she was afraid on so many levels. What does this mean for our marriage? What is he going to try and teach our kids? Fortunately I knew better than to try and teach my kids something I wasn't sure about myself. It was my spiritual experiment and I didn't want to influence them with something that was unstable within me. But Kelley had a real fear that we might not stay married over this.
So one day Kelley convinces me to try this church out. Give Christianity one last chance. Although there had been some nice insights and practical wisdom in my research into other religions. Nothing had really grabbed a hold of me yet so I said why not? So off we go to visit this new church The Community at Lake Ridge. We are sitting and listening to the pastor preach his sermon. And he said something that caught me completely off guard and completely opened my heart and mind to what he was saying. During the delivery of his message he began to recount a marriage counseling session he and his wife had recently been through. As soon as he said that I knew I would be attending this church. A pastor that did not pretend to have it all together, one who relayed his own struggles and faults to his congregation, now this was a guy I could listen to. I began to experience a church that was really authentic in loving people where they were. A church that did not judge anyone that walked in the doors. People that didn't pretend to have it all together but were just honestly trying to live out their faith with others. It was so energizing. I began to realize that perhaps Jesus was the way after all? Or at the very least the best way of all.
Over time I slowly took steps back towards Christ. I began to see my own judgment. I understood that my judgment of those I considered hyper-religious was no different than their judgment of me or anyone else. I began to see that love was the key of the path to God through Christ. I realized that the moment I considered myself better than them I was moving away from love and away from God. I have been slowly but steadily moving back to Christ. Gaining new insight and understanding to how simple yet profound and powerful the message of Christ is and has always been. The truth is that no matter how christians behave it does not invalidate the pure message of Christ. How well a professed christian follows the path does not weaken Christ's message of love for all. I began to allow myself to accept these truths all over again. Only this time they were mine. They were not spoon fed to me by someone else. I spent hours in prayer and meditation over them and realized them for myself. But there was still something holding me back. I knew I was holding back inside. Maybe I was waiting to see if everything I was witnessing and experiencing could last? Could this be another facade that would eventually give way to the truth that this was just another church?
I began to meditate more and more. As I did I began to experience God in a way that is indescribable. An overwhelming sense of love and gratitude would envelop me during those times. That is the thing about God that we miss so easily, he loves us so much. God is unknowable, unfathomable. We can get glimpses of his nature. Hints of his personality. But these glimpses and hints are profound experiences for us and they are all we can handle at a given moment.
I find it funny how we can argue so much about someone we understand so little. Did you know the ancient Jews thought God was so unknowable that they would not even say his name? What makes us think we know everything? Just a question to ponder.
Even after all of that I was not fully given over to Christ. I still had some judgment within me towards the church. I still saw things that bugged me. For instance, I was frustrated at the constant talk of the word of God. It was not that I did not believe that the bible was inspired by God, I did. I just felt like as a church we spent so much time learning the bible and thinking about the word of God that we left out some other important things. The church was becoming knowledgeable about God but not really knowing him. I believe in the value of bible study. But if it is all in your head and not your heart what value is it? The bible is not God. It points us toward him, but it is not him. Let's put it this way. I could read books about my wife Kelley. I could study and memorize everything that was ever written about her. I could memorize all of it but if I have never met her in person do I really know her? If I met her but all I did was talk and tell her what I need from her do I know her? How do I get to know her? By spending time with her. I talk to her. I listen to her. And I live in her presence. Because I do all these things with Kelley I know her better than anyone else on the planet. She is rooted so deep in my heart that I cannot imagine my life without her. She is in my heart because we have a relationship. A book might help me have a better relationship with her but it cannot be a substitute for the relationship. It is no different with God. So I was letting this hold me back and I am not sure why. But I keep taking steps back to Christ and getting ever closer than before.
You may be reading this and thinking "Deryl I thought this blog was about cancer. What does this have to do with cancer?" And my answer is....probably nothing. But I have said in the past God has used this situation to change me and Kelley. You can see her worry challenge and what a difference it is making in her life and mine too. And since Kelley's diagnosis those baby steps back to Christ have become leaps at times. The thing I have learned about this experience that I have recorded for you is this. You cannot manipulate someone to Christ or back to Christ. The manipulation will only push them away. If someone is truly seeking the truth about God they will find it. We can advise a seeker when they ask but pushing our beliefs on someone will not draw them to Christ. We can offer our own experience with Christ because no one can argue with me about my own personal experience. Most of all we can love them no matter where they are at in their seeking. If they are really seeking and asking for the truth we only need to encourage them in their journey. I went all the way around the world religiously speaking but the truth brought me back to Christ. All the other religions I studied had some wisdom and insight. Some even pointed towards God. But only in Christ did I ever personally experience God and his overwhelming love for me. I hope that you find this encouraging. If you are a seeker I will share Christ's own words with you. "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open. For everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks." Love to you all!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Worry Challenge Day 7

Kelley says..........

I am just amazed at what this challenge is doing in my life. I have realized that my thoughts were consumed with thoughts about the future and a whole lot of things that don't matter. I have found that I don't even need my "worry time"!! WOW! This is so huge. On the first day I made a list of things that I was worried about and I have not pulled that list out of my purse once! I have been living in PEACE. 

I am finding that since my mind isn't consumed with a bunch of worrisome thoughts, I am praying more than I have ever prayed. There is plenty of space now to really hear from God. I have had so many creative ideas and thoughts about my future that are awesome and so inspiring. I'm excited about the future. I'm sleeping soundly. I've been walking and training for my upcoming Susan G. Komen 3 Day every single day and I feel great!

I believe 100% that all of this is because I have cleared my mind. I believe that I am open and ready to receive all that God has in store for me now. And I also believe that by worrying and having all my thoughts filled with doubt and unbelief that I had been blocking so much that God had in store for me. I'll blog more later on this but God is doing some amazing things in my life. I'm very excited about it!

If you are doing this challenge with me, I'd love to hear what all God is showing you too!! And if you aren't doing it, why not???!!!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Worry Challenge Day 4

Kelley says...............

Well, so far I think the challenge is going very well. The first day started out and I realized that I worry about entirely too much stuff. But the majority of it was all things in the future. As I was catching myself worrying I just decided to write it all down and make a list then pull out that list during my "worry time". Turns out, I got too busy and still haven't pulled out that list.

That same night, I woke up every hour worrying. The next morning it was pretty rough but I was able to pull myself out of it pretty quickly. Then yesterday morning I found myself worrying upon waking up. So I just decided to make my worry time in the morning because that is when I have my prayer time and devotion time. And today has gone very well. I worked all day which probably kept me distracted from worrying which is good. But overall, this has been a great day and I think things are going very well. I am realizing how much stuff I worry about that shouldn't even be a worry. So progress is definitely being made!! 


Monday, August 23, 2010

30 Day Worry Challenge

Kelley says.......

Last week I had those couple of days where I was just not feeling like myself. On Friday when I went to go get my counts checked I was just in a really great mood that day. I was walking into the building and I just said to myself "What do I want to attract to myself today?" I immediately said MONEY. I looked on the ground and the thought came to me that I could find a dollar bill on the ground. So I said in my head specifically that I did not want to find a dollar, that I wanted to attract to myself a significant amount of money. Deryl called me and I told him all about it. Well, the very next day we got a totally unexpected refund check for over $300.00. I had been really concerned that I might have a blow out because my tires are so worn. So, we were able to go get two new tires put on my car!!!!

The interesting thing about all of this is that when I have started to worry about money, I have just told myself that we will have whatever we need when we need it. I have also felt like God is calling me to do something. So, today me and a friend are starting a 30 Challenge. For 30 days we are going to "choose" not to worry. If we find ourselves worrying, we have set aside 30 minutes each day to allow ourselves to worry. So if it isn't our worry time then we will write it down and worry about it later. Every day I am going to journal and keep up with how it is going and what God shows me throughout the next 30 days. I'm excited and scared all at the same time! But I know this is what God is calling me to do. Will you join me?

Philippians 4:6-7
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. If you do this, you will experience God's peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The New Normal

Kelley says............

I have just been in the strangest state of mind for the last two days. I know I need to cut myself some slack. It has been pretty consistent about 5 or so days after each treatment I am just not myself emotionally or otherwise. I think as I get closer to the end of my treatment and I realize that the same problems I had before being diagnosed are still problems and issues waiting to be figured out and handled just seems so overwhelming. I just can't believe that next month is September and before you know it, Christmas will have passed and we'll be onto a new year.

I've done so good lately and been in such a wonderful state of mind that it bothers me to be back in somewhat of an emotional upheaval. And I must admit that as more and more people, even strangers are reading our blog now I find myself wanting to hold back because I want this to be a place of inspiration. But one thing I am is very raw, real and honest. I just can't be any other way. What you see is just what you get. I want people to get that as people, we just aren't perfect and never will be. And anyone who you wish you could be like or have what they have, have their own mess of problems that you don't even know about. 

Life can be really, really hard. And we have to think back on how we got to where we are right now. Everything does turn out okay or you wouldn't be here right now! I have to keep telling myself that. I know something that I have been catching myself doing is projecting things into the future. I have to make a conscious effort to focus on "right now". Right now I am alive, I am getting better, I have a wonderful husband and family, I am going to live, it actually rained today and might be a little bit cooler now! So many things to be thankful for. 

I think the enemy wants nothing more than for us to be caught up in the past or worrying ourselves sick about the future. All the while we miss what we have right in front of us. One thing I know for sure is that even on the really bad days when it seems like you are barely keeping it all together, just keep pressing on because they never last too long. They might seem like forever while you are going through it but before you know it, you'll be back to normal. 

I do wonder what my new normal is going to be like. It is kind of scary and yet kind of exciting all at the same time. I want so much for my new life. I want to make a difference in the lives of other women struggling with breast cancer. I want God to show me which direction to take. I know God saved my life because he has big plans for me. I'm just ready for some of those things to start being revealed to me.

Thanks for reading all my ramblings of today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The mind

Kelley says............

It is amazing to me how our minds work. How we can go from feeling on top of the world to doubting everything we see. To go from believing absolutely everything in your life is going to work out to not seeing any possible way that it can. I guess this is why the word says to renew your mind. Which tells me that it can be done. But how it just comes out of no where is what can be so annoying. 

Am I alone or does anyone else feel this way? I think that what has brought this on today in my life is that the girls start school next week. Since April I have been going to doctors appointments and dealing with all this stuff going on in my life. The entire summer has been spent doing this. Now it has already flown by and they will be off to middle school and high school. I still can't even believe it. 

I think another part of what is going on is that I only have one treatment left. While this is very exciting for me I think what in the world will I do when I don't have weekly doctor appointments? When I'm not being watched on a regular basis to make sure I am okay. It is really a strange feeling. Then thinking about having to get my final reconstruction surgery and recover from all that. I guess I just don't have any idea what my new "normal" is going to really look like. 

My life has taken so many turns and it seems that there are so many opportunities but I just don't know which one to grab hold of. But I am confident that God will open the doors that need to be opened and close the ones that need to be closed.

I am so thankful for blogging. It is really good to get it out, I am already feeling better. I would love some feedback to know if you go through these days too. The crazy thing is that they usually come after having some really, really good days and then BAM, there they are. So let me know your thoughts!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Overcoming Fear

Deryl says........Kelley got her latest chemo treatment Friday. It went well and she only got stuck once when getting her blood drawn and once when they put the I.V. in. So we want to thank you for all of your prayers.
I have gone back and read some of the older posts we wrote when we started the blog. I read what I wrote and it feels as if it was written by another person. The hardest part of all of this was the initial diagnosis and then waiting period until we were able to start treatment. I was wondering why that part was the hardest for both of us and it hit me. We had this expectation of how life should be or how we wanted it to be. When we were diagnosed our expectations and desires vanished before us. I think our fear, anger, and depression stemmed from the fact that we were mentally and emotionally attached to living life a certain way. Things like not dealing with life and death illness at 40, Kelley losing her breasts, or her hair. Once I got past the fear of losing Kelley my biggest fear was how Kelley would react to losing her breasts and hair. When she was diagnosed she told me her biggest fear was losing her hair even more than her breasts. But I look back now and we spent a lot of emotionally energy fearing things that didn't happen and fearing things that did happen. But fearing them didn't change the outcome. What is really funny is that fearing those things were actually much worse than the actual events.  I mean she is modeling for websites bald now. How is that for overcoming fear.
The point I am trying to make is that if we could let go of the things we think we cannot live without we would be a lot more free and fearless.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Counts & Prayer

Kelley says..............

Well, this week I have felt really, really good and have gotten a lot of work done. The taste in my mouth is SO much better now. BUT, I have my next chemo on Friday, August 13th. Yep, Friday the 13th. Good thing I'm not superstitious. Also, my counts are usually down 7 days after treatment and then they start to go up. But the last time they went down two weeks in a row. 

So my prayer request is that my counts are back up on Friday and that I don't have to get a shot to bring them up. The shot is outrageous in cost and I hear it causes a lot of bone pain. I will only have one treatment left after this one, I don't want to get it since I've been fine up until now. Also, PLEASE pray for me that it will only take once to draw blood and to get the IV in!!!! Last week the lady did an awesome job drawing blood. 

Tomorrow I am supposed to get more saline added!! Yeah!! I must admit that it is going to be pretty stinkin' awkward to have bigger boobs every three weeks. But I guess it is just part of this journey. I think it will be just as weird when I go from wearing my scarves to having my hair back. Oh yeah, one more thing, I am supposed to go with another survivor Saturday to a Survivor's luncheon that I am really excited about. Please pray that I am feeling good enough to go!!

Thanks so much for all your prayers!!!!!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saving Starfish

Deryl says..........A lot of interesting things have happened since I last wrote. The most interesting of which has been Kelley's invitation to model and be interviewed for a website dedicated to breast cancer patients and survivors. We are now using one of the pictures on this blog. If you would like to see the rest and the interview got to www.ifightlikeagirl.info. There are pictures and interviews of many different women as well. Of course the best one is Kelley's but I am kind of partial.
One of the concerning things going on is Kelley's white cell count. It is very low right now. And at this time period after the last round of chemo it was back to normal. We are hoping that it will be back up by next Friday. But for the time being she is stuck in the house. Her counts were so low she has almost no defense against infection. So please keep her in your prayers.
Kelley and I have decided to lead a small group at our church. It is something we have done in the past and enjoyed it. I think the difference this time around will be our ability to great straight to the heart of a matter. We realize now that there is only this present moment to work with and if we act like we have all the time in the world we can put off the important until later. Our hope is to help people discover what is holding them back in their life and create some momentum in the right direction. If we have learned anything through this it is that people are what matter most. If you are not helping people what is the point. There are many ways to help people. If you are not the most sociable person you could help clean up a park or paint someone's house. Come up with your own way. The thing is many times we think that if we are not helping on a grand scale it makes no difference. It is easy to support a major cause with a little money. But what about helping an individual or a family. That takes a little more investment from us and can be scary. I remember a story I was told once and it goes like this: There was a man walking down a beach. On this beach thousands of starfish had washed up on shore. These starfish would most certainly die if they did not get back in the water which was impossible for them to do on their own. This man saw a boy walking just ahead of him. The boy was picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the sea. He would throw one, take a few steps, stop and pick up another, and throw it into the sea. The man walked up to the boy and asked him what he was doing. The boy replied "I am saving the starfish." The man then said "There are thousands of starfish on the beach." But the boy just kept picking up starfish and throwing them back into the sea. The man continued "It would take days or even weeks to get them all back to the sea and you cannot possibly make a difference to these thousands of starfish." The boy, without even looking at the man, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea. As he threw that starfish he simply said "It made a difference to that one." Which point of view are we going to hold. I know I have held the man's view for too long. Kelley and I have decided to start helping on a small scale and see what happens. We would like to have an impact on millions but we cannot start there. So please pray for us and the people we are going to help. Life is full of love and goodness. It is just a matter of perception.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Leadership Summit Day 1

Kelley says...............

Today I went to a Leadership Summit. I really didn't know what to expect. Wow. God really showed me how my thinking about my calling has been really limited. My main focus has been that I want to raise awareness about self-breast exams and I had really been feeling like I wanted to focus on young women with Stage 1 breast cancer like myself, the ones who have hope like me. 

The interesting thing is I have been praying for 2 days now for God to reach through me and radically change others. For months, I have been quoting and speaking out Ephesians 3:20 "By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope". So today I feel in my spirit God ask me "What if by helping women find a lump, you help them find ME?" Well duh! Why hadn't I thought of this before? YES! This is the bigger picture. I am so excited about this I am about to jump out of my skin. To think that not only will I help save peoples lives I can actually help them find JESUS! I've never, ever thought of "witnessing" to people and the thought of it scares me to death. But I can do this! 

The second thing God showed me today is that I had limited myself to thinking that I wanted to only reach women with my exact story. But he showed me loud and clear that if a person who has cancer at ANY stage who has Jesus, they have hope. Even if they are dying with incurable cancer, they have hope. OMG, again.....DUH! Wow, I can't believe I didn't see this before and feel ashamed for having such limited thinking but so humbled, grateful and so very thankful that God revealed this to me today!! I'm so glad that God's ways are so much higher than ours and that he who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)

Love you all!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lessons Learned

Deryl says.......It has been a full week since I last blogged. It is disappointing because I would like to blog at least twice a week. But life can get in the way of what you want to do. Which is a great lesson I have learned this week. That life isn't just going to give you everything you want without you giving something back. You can wish for something to be so but for it to actually come into being you have to have an intention backed with a plan.
My daughter Heather was a great example of that this past week. She went to church camp, which is out of the ordinary for her. She typically doesn't like crowds and she doesn't like to be away from her mother right now. But she went and it was life changing for her. She came back with so much energy and passion. She intended to have a good time and to learn and she did exactly that. She came back a different person than she was.
Heather has been quite shy for awhile now but she wasn't always that way. When she was little she was a lot like her mother in that she felt her emotions deeply. If she was happy she was the happiest girl in the world. But if she was angry she was so over the top angry that it was difficult to deal with. She had these major temper tantrums that we tried to get her to stop having. So much so that I think at some point we made her feel as if she could not be herself or that her true self was bad. I am not saying we were bad parents. We were doing the best we could at the time and we wanted to do what was best but in retrospect I think we squelched the passion right out of her. Heather agrees with me because we have talked about it. She remembers being confident and able to talk to anyone and wishes she was more like that today. Well, she is closer to that now than before camp.
I think we all need to be a more like little children in some ways. Jesus said we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of God. Little children are authentic with their emotions. They have absolute faith in their beliefs even if they don't know why. They tell you what they want and don't leave you guessing. They believe anything is possible. Then as they grow up  parents, teachers, pastors, etc. teach them they need to be more realistic about life. That they cannot possibly do everything that they want.
I remember once someone asking a little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. The little girl said she wanted to be a veterinarian and the president. As grown ups we think it is really cute and tell her she can be whatever she wants. But the older she gets we may begin to tell her she should focus on one thing because it is unrealistic that she would be able to do both. Then we night encourage her to be a veterinarian because that is a more realistic goal. I mean there has never been a woman president before. But what if someone had said something similar to Barack Obama. Regardless of your political viewpoint the fact that he was elected is a major milestone in American history because he is the first African-American president ever elected. Now that he has done it people we believe it can be done again. But I say why couldn't this little girl become a veterinarian and the president. Who are we to say she couldn't. Just because it has never been done before means nothing.
When we were little children we were completely free and innocent. As adults we should strive to be completely free with wisdom. That is what I want to help Heather and Rachel get back to. I know I took part in taking away their freedom to be themselves and I want to be a part of them getting that freedom back.
Almost all of what you have read in this blog both the good and the bad have been a result of a cancer diagnosis. I don't think Heather would have had the same experience at camp without her mothers cancer diagnosis. I don't think I would have the same vision to see what is really going on without my wife's cancer diagnosis. And I am looking forward to seeing the good that Rachel experiences as well.
Kelley's courage has inspired so many people. She didn't take the easy road. But the biggest inspiration has been for those of us who know her best and see her everyday.
I don't know if I have made any significant point in this post. I just see that everyone in our family has a larger perspective than before. A better perspective than before. Life is good and a gift from God. We have all let others steal our freedom to be our true selves and pursue our true desires on some level or in some area of our life. But once we are adults we have the power to change that. That is the path that we are on as a family. Discovering our true selves and our true passions and putting them into action. Our desire is to have a positive impact on the lives of others. This blog is one of the ways we hope to do this. It didn't start that way. Originally we just wanted to be able to update family and friends about Kelley's treatment but somehow it became something different and much, much better. We feel honored to be used in a way that is a blessing to others and hope that we can continue to be so as long as we possibly can.