The Look in Her Eyes

I recognized the look in my friend’s eyes. I could see beyond her smile and her hugs. Deep inside, I saw fear. Fear of the unknown she is facing, and the new path she’s now walking. You see, my friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
I could see beyond her brave face, because I’ve been down that road myself…twice.

Our small group gathered around her and her family the night before her first chemo treatment, to pray for her. She was strong, and her faith was evident, but I think only someone who’s walked in similar shoes could see that particular look in her eyes – overwhelmed, fearful, but trusting, because it’s times like these where you need to trust God more than ever.

When you’re told you have cancer, before you can even comprehend those words, you’re suddenly whisked off for a battery of consultations, tests and scheduling.

Cancer barely penetrates your mind, yet it’s looming over everything you do from that moment forward. Your world has shifted upside down, and you’ve stepped on the roller coaster. And it can be quite the ride.
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Here is a picture of my husband and me where I can see “that look” in my own eyes. This was taken on a Sunday, on my birthday. We were having a great day, enjoy the celebration with friends. But the Friday before, I had been diagnosed with my second bout of cancer, and the next day, a new round of tests, doctors, and mapping out treatment plans was beginning. So, as I turned another year older, I knew that year was going to be challenging, and scary, yet I had my husband right by my side and my faith to guide me. But I still had that fearful look of not knowing quite what to expect, trying to hang on to faith, while facing an unknown, frightening path.

It’s the look I saw in my friend’s eyes the night we prayed for her.

While I’ve walked in similar shoes as my friend, her journey will be different. Everyone’s is. But I will walk beside her, and pray for her and her husband and family.

That’s all I can do, and trust that God will hold her like He’s held me.

Smacked!

A couple of weeks ago, I was smacked in the face. Not literally. Despite my recent stings and falls, this was figurative smack in the face.

Have you ever been droning along with life and something just wakes you up and causes you to rethink nearly everything? Or at least inspires you to move forward? That’s what happened with me.

I heard two words that are so simple yet have impacted me deeply. They are: Take Action.

Pretty basic words, but when you think about them, they can inspire your entire life. These two words are my new mantra. Take Action.

Regardless of your dreams, goals, calling, diet plans, whatever, the only way to achieve any of them is to Take Action. Otherwise, you’re dreaming and planning, but not DOING. If you don’t take action, you’re not doing anything to accomplish your goals.

I have several things I want to accomplish including writing and finishing my novel, writing devotional pieces, and managing my health better. You know the old stand-bys of eat better, exercise, lose weight. I also want to grow deeper in my faith and have a stronger prayer life.

None of these can be accomplished unless I take action. Otherwise, I’m only complaining that I need to lose weight or bemoaning that I don’t have time to write or pray or whatever.

The solution is simple: Take Action.

Those two words resonate in my life all the way to my core.

What about you? Do you have something you in which you need to take action? Do you have a mantra that smacked you in the face and encouraged you? Please share.

In other words: Take Action.

A New Perspective on “One Word” for the Year

If you’re like me, you know several people who choose “one word” for the year and try to live by that word. I’ve done it myself. Many are talking about it now as we’re preparing to go into the new year.
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This has got me thinking (always a dangerous thing! :)) There’s a song out now that keeps echoing in my head:

“When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus. There’s power in the name….”

Last year, my word was “shine.” I wanted to shine Christ through me and shine in all I did, I wanted to make sure my focus was on Him.

And every time I felt like I was failing, or when I was having a bad day, I would pray. And the first word out of my mouth was “Jesus.”

I had already picked out my word for 2015, which was “time.” You know, time for God, time for others, better time management at work. You get the idea. The thing is, none of that can be accomplished without Jesus first.

While it’s great to ponder whatever word is on your heart for the new year, or if you don’t utilize “one word”, let’s not forget to name the most important: Jesus. Nothing we want to accomplish in the new year can be done without Him.

So perhaps, every year, every month, every day, we already know what our “one word” should be: Jesus.

Wishing you many blessings for 2015.

Stay focused on the one who saved us.

Being There

As I write this, the world is talking about the shocking passing of Robin Williams. As the TV talking heads are going through his television and movie credits, I realize how many of his movies I’ve seen… and loved.  It is incredibly sad to lose such a great talent.

But through all of this discussion, this man who is being heralded as a comic legend, who entertained millions, has suddenly become very human.  Yes, we tend to put celebrities on a pedestal, forgetting that along with their immense talent, they are human beings, going through this life of ups and downs, marriage, children and everything else.

Obviously, Robin Williams was battling more.  He was always open about substance abuse, but did many of us realize he struggled with depression?  Severe depression.

It’s almost inconceivable that someone who was so loved and admired was in such a dark and lonely place where he was driven to take his own life.  He brought such laughter to everyone else, but couldn’t find the joy for himself. It’s tragic.

I’m almost embarrassed with my last post, when I talk about “wallowing” in my own sadness of recent events in my life.  Thankfully, I haven’t been to the darkest place where I’ve thought of a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  I always knew I’d pull out of this and things would get better.

But I didn’t share with many how sad I was feeling.  I don’t always share, because I don’t want to burden others, I don’t want to come across as a whiner, and I don’t want to be considered a negative person.

Was that mindset preventing me from getting the support and encouragement I needed at the time?  How do you balance reaching out without being a whiner?  How do you invite people in without pushing them away?

Hopefully, more discussion will come from this awful passing of Robin Williams about depression, about how to help others.  One thing I heard this morning was just be there. You may not be able to solve the problem, but you can come along beside someone and just remind them that they mean something to you, that their life has value.

Maybe this is a reminder to all of us to hug your family and friends and say “I love you.”  I hate that we have to be reminded, and that we’re usually reminded when someone else has died. We need make this part of our daily lives.

Life is short.  Reach out to someone.  Touch base.  Just be with someone today and hold their hand, give them a hug…. heck, just smile at someone and wish them a wonderful day.

What a difference we could make if we all did that every day.

The Need for Community

This blog is entitled “Talking Among Friends” for a reason.  I want it to be a safe place to talk about friendships, relationships and life in general.  Originally, this blog started out as “Rebecca’s Journey,” where I wrote about my experience with cancer.Friends Silhouette

After a while, I didn’t want to talk about cancer any more.  Life started again, and I wanted to break away from that dreadful disease.  Relationships are what matter in this life, whether it’s your relationship with God, your family, and your spouse and kids.

Sadly, cancer is still a fact of life for friends around me.  It’s much too prevalent in this world, and I’m sure we all know someone who has had cancer or even passed away from this awful disease.

A friend of mine is recovering now, and has finished all of her treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.  She’s finding her way back.  At a recent gathering of friends, her first in a long time, she said something that struck me.  In the midst of her treatment, all she could do was sleep and focus on getting through it day-by-day. During that time, she said she couldn’t even pray.

For those of us who can’t get through the day without praying, even sending up the so-called “arrow prayers,” then we know what a dark place she was in.

As her friends, we had been rallying around her as best we could, in whatever way we could. Mostly, by prayer, emails and phone calls.

She also said something else.  She said, “Others held me up when I couldn’t.”

Talk about the power of community and friendship!  She could feel our support for her.  When I was fighting cancer, I could also feel the prayers of many.   What a comfort that was and how helpful it was in my own recovery.

Can you imagine not having friends or any type of community around you?

When life throws us curve balls, or when you’re celebrating a joyous occasion, how would it feel to celebrate alone?  Or to face the darkness alone?

We all get busy with our own families and careers, but it is so important to take the time to find that community, that fellowship and friendships in which to share your life.

We all need to make the effort, me included, to reach out more or deepen the friendships with those already in our lives.

What are you doing to take the time for friends? To find that community?

 

Being Vulnerable — It Can Be a Good Thing

Our church just had a ladies retreat weekend. I wasn’t able to go, however, two of the ladies in my life group reported on the retreat.  Sounds like I missed a good one.

The theme was about being vulnerable.  When we’re vulnerable and open to others, we also learn we’re not alone.  We find fellowship, support and encouragement with one another.

Now, this is something that I understand, but I still struggle with.  I’m not always open when I have needs. I’m not one to always request prayers.  I’ll share the joys, but don’t always share the stuff with which I’m really struggling.

This isn’t because my friends won’t be there for me.  I know they would be in a heartbeat!  The few times I have opened up when I’ve needed prayer and support, they’ve been there.

I think my issue is that I don’t want to come across whiny or negative.  Do you have people in your life that when you see their name come up on your caller ID, you almost dread talking with them. It’s going to be something negative — because that’s just their personality.  Then sometimes you end up ducking their calls.

I don’t want to be that person, the one who is avoided.  Generally, I’m a very positive person and try to look at the bright side of life (to use a cliche).  But I’m also sensitive.  It’s hard to be open and vulnerable, because you don’t want to get stomped on either.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman at the gym, who truly was trying to be encouraging, said something about me needing cuter workout clothes.  What was something that was meant to encourage me in my workouts, only hit a sensitive spot of my weight.  Now I’ve lost 75 pounds, and I feel good.  And I definitely don’t go to the gym to impress anybody else.  But for some reason, her words just hit a mark.  Stupid, huh?

But things like that shouldn’t prevent from opening up to my friends, to those who care about me.  When we open up, we learn that we’re not alone in this life and that others are going through the same things we are.  We really can share together and learn from our various experiences.

One thing to remember though, is that why you’re asking for prayer from someone and sharing your story, take the time to listen to them and let them share with you.  Let’s be there for each other.

Being vulnerable isn’t one-sided.

What are your thoughts on being vulnerable?  Opening up or trusting another? Is it easy or difficult for you to do?

 

My Re-Birthday


My birthday is coming up this week… and it’s one of those BIG birthdays. A milestone.
Whether we like it or not, birthdays keep coming. How do you celebrate your birthday?  Do you dread it – knowing there are a few more wrinkles or more gray hair? Do you just feel “old?”  Or do you say, “Thank you, God. Thank you for my time here, serving you.” 
I am a 2-time cancer survivor. My last diagnosis four years ago came two days before my birthday.  And let me tell you, something like that does change your perspective about your birthday! Suddenly my age didn’t matter. In fact, on my birthday, I didn’t think about the number, about how old I was turning.  What originally had been “uh oh, I’m making the turn for the downhill slide toward 50”, very quickly became “I’m too young.”  I’m too young to be faced with another bout of cancer that could kill me. There’s so much more I had left to do.
Since then, my birthdays have become my “re-birthday.”  A time to re-dedicate myself to Christ. A time to say: “Am I doing what God wants me to do here on earth? Am I dedicating myself to God in my everyday life, in how I live my life? Is His light shining through me?”
Hebrews, Chapter 12, verse 2 says very simply: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”
But we know we’re all sinners.  There are days when we fall short.  Yet as Christians, we know if we ask, God will forgive us and wipe the slate clean.  Does that mean there aren’t any consequences for our actions?  No. We know better than that. Sometimes what we do can leave scars.
Now, I’m real familiar with scars. Almost 30 years ago, I was in a motorcycle accident.   
Riding on the back of my then-boyfriend’s bike on a wonderful summer day.  A pick-up truck turned in front of us and we had nowhere to go.  We slid sideways into the truck.
I had a compound fracture of my right femur and ended up having four operations on my leg. As you can imagine, that left a scar—quite a long one – that goes from my knee all the way up to the top of my leg.  My husband calls it my zipper.
Now, I have more scars across my chest.  There are two ways you can look at scars. It’s easy to look at scars and believe they’re ugly and disfiguring.  With scars, you know you’ll never look the same way again as you did before.

Or you can look at scars as a sign of strength and survival, as God’s blessing.  You may ask yourself “What? Scars as a blessing? After the trauma that caused them?”
Yes, scars are a blessing.  My scars tell me that I’m still here. That God carried me through those surgeries, and that He has work for me to do here on earth. 
 
There’s a wonderful old hymn, written in 1922:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will go strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
So, on my upcoming birthday, as I reach my milestone of 50 years old, I’m not going to moan about my gray hair, or the deepening of my crow’s feet.  I want to have a re-birthday. I want it to be a celebration, and a re-dedication of my life to God.  He gave me this life, and I want to use it for His purpose.
I need to remember that God is always there, even through the dark times. As I mentioned, my last diagnosis came two days before my birthday, which was a Friday.  I was at home and grappling with the emotional side of being told I had cancer again.  Then the mail came.   
There was a package from my mother – a birthday present.
With tears still in my eyes from hearing the devastating cancer news, I opened my present.  Inside was a silver necklace. And on it was one word:  BELIEVE.
Mom later told me she doesn’t know why she sent me the necklace.  It had been a gift to her.  But she doesn’t wear silver…ever.  So, it was just sitting in her jewelry box, never to be worn. As my birthday approached, Mom thought she’d send it to me, not knowing it would arrive on such an awful day.
Although I was facing a long journey with cancer, and another birthday, there, in my hands, was a reminder to stay strong and believe.
Believe that God has a plan for your life. Enjoy every moment of getting older.  You can’t go back anyway.  I’m excited to see what God has in store for me.  So, on my birthday, or any day, I want to take time to thank God for my life and to re-dedicate myself to Him.  To really dedicate myself to what His will is for me.  I may show a few battle scars from life, but if my eyes are focused on Him, then His light will shine.  His light is more beautiful than any cosmetic I can apply anyway.  It’s not just a birthday; I want to have a re-birthday — focused on Him — and just BELIEVE.
So, how will you celebrate your next birthday?
 

Idols and Addictions

In talking about relationships, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss our “relationship” with other things, like food, alcohol, television, shopping or any other types of addictions. My church recently had a message about “idols” in our life. Idols that replace God as first in our lives, like money, material possessions and more.

We all struggle with something. There’s some addiction or idol that’s distracting our focus from where it ought to be, on God, and on His plan for our lives. In our efforts to seek comfort, we beat up on ourselves, and then the cycle begins again. Why do you think there are terms like “emotional eating” and “retail therapy?” We’re seeking comfort.

So, how do we get past these idols in our path? It’s very difficult. Very difficult. But you start one day at a time. Try to eat a little less, replace that bad habit with a good habit, live a cash-only life to curb your retail shopping habits, turn off the TV. And don’t forget the power of prayer.

Don’t forget the power of friendships. It’s so hard to open up about some of these issues in our lives. As you know from last Tuesday’s blog post, I have a hard time opening up and choose to remain private. But I know the times when someone opens up to me and shares, then there is a blessing in sharing together, in leaning on one another as we deal with our struggles.

So, while there are times when we are embarrassed, ashamed or angry with ourselves, we need to know we’re not alone. There are others struggling with the same addiction or battling the same idol…

Look around you… it could be a dear friend.

How can we open up and help each other? How can we minister to each other and feel less alone?

Any ideas?

Going Deeper with Friendship

As we take this blog in a new direction by examining relationships, I find myself examining my own relationships. Comments from a couple of friends of mine have really stuck in my head. These people have mentioned offhandedly that I am too private, that I don’t share with them my problems or my worries. I didn’t share with them things I’ve done. One of my friends was surprised to learn that I had a speaking engagement in the months previous to this conversation. That’s pretty minor, yet why wouldn’t I share something like that? It’s exciting!

So that got me thinking, why didn’t I share that with her? Am I too guarded? Do I not open up enough with my friends?

I know I want to have deeper relationships. I think sometimes I hold back because I don’t want to come across as the whiny friend, the desperate friend, the one who always needs something or is always complaining.

Unfortunately I have a friend like this. It got to the point where I dreaded the phone calls from this person because I knew it would be something negative. This is someone I’ve known since high school. But this was also one of my friends who told me that I never shared any problems I had or anything I was going through at the time. She took it as an offense that I wouldn’t open up to her. That has stuck in my brain and really got to me. I don’t consider myself someone who’s not sharing and not open. But in a way, it’s true, although I consider myself a very caring person.

In my small group at church were discussing ways to go deeper in our relationships with each other and how can we really make the group something special and dynamic. So I have an opportunity in front of me to go deeper yet I still feel myself holding back.

I can’t figure out what holds me back from letting people in a little deeper. I have friends that I share things with, but they are few. My husband is my best friend, and he probably knows me better than anyone. But why won’t I go deeper with my other friends, those I care about and want in my life?

Does my “fear” of being too whiny and needy outweigh me “going deeper” with my friends… trusting them? Do I fear rejection? Is the bigger question: am I missing out on more meaningful friendships by holding back?

What advice do you have? What experiences have you had in trusting your friends, and really confiding in them?

I look forward to hearing from you.

(Photo credit: Photos_by_Lis / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND)