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S is for Stay in the Present

(Part 4 )

Stay in the Present by listing his Presents 

Counting your blessings is nothing new.  And yet there is still much written and said about the truth that being thankful helps bring peace of mind.

A beautifully written book on this subject is Ann Voskamp’s , One Thousand Gifts where she shares her quest to discover a way of living life fully alive in the present and experiencing the constant presence of God.

1000 gifts Choosing To Rise: Stay in the PresentHer book extrapolates on how she found such living possible not just by counting her blessings, but by learning how to SEE and experience each and every blessing as God’s gift of grace.

I know how hard it is.  I know we already have a 100 things running through our heads under normal circumstances, then add a crisis or constant struggle to that and it’s easy to have your head spin right off your shoulders- about what needs to be done, what should have been done, what happens if this?  What happens if that?

It may be plans that didn’t go your way or  an unexpected diagnosis that prompt you to stress about the future or perhaps it’s past regrets or hurtful memories that would have you stuck in  anguished thoughts of what was?  This looking back and focusing forward takes your eyes off of Jesus and the “right now” He has for you. 

Living in the present – focusing on right now- what you can handle and take care of right now and leaving the  “should haves” and the “what if’s” at God feet gives you breathing room to look around and actually experience and enjoy the right now of your life and for me- to be very thankful for it.

This is what I learned to do when anguish would creep into my life and I needed a “tool” to keep me focused in the present.

The Tool- Actively look for and list my blessings.

I learned and used this “tool” when it came to what I call the  “next step in my breast cancer fight in the summer of 2010- the next step that I tried so hard to avoid.

You see my plan was to cut the cancer away pieces at a time.  One, two lumpectomies.  Still the presence of cancer.

My plan was to give it time while I go through chemotherapy- understanding that the chemotherapy would not kill off the “stage 0 cancer still in my breast” but was to catch any cancer cells that may have spread from my lymph nodes to other parts of my body.

Still My plan was to pray away the rest of the “stage 0 “ cancer in my right breast, And have “enough faith” so that I could have this wonderful testimony of God- that my cancer would be gone after I was finished with chemo even after the doctors said it would not. A miracle- that was my plan.

 So onto my second lumpectomy after 4 months of chemo and I’m ready to sing Halleluiah- look what my God has done!

But it was still there.  Cutting more away of my right breast and the cancer was still there.

My plan was over.

I was so sad.

You see I thought my plan was God’s plan too.

I didn’t feel like He let me down, I just knew I was wrong. 

He said - No, not this way.  I will heal you, but not this way- another way.

So we set a date for my mastectomy.  And I sat on my back porch full of beautiful potted flowers with my bible and devotionals surrounding me  and I wept and I wept and I wept.

Not my plan. More surgery- the surgery I never wanted.

Who ever does?  We women who have our breasts cut off to save our lives- who ever wants this surgery? 

I just thought… I thought… I prayed…. It would be different for me.  Yes, I had been so strong and hopeful- Throughout my battle. But now -  now I cried and cried and wondered how I would get my hope back.

At this time I remember receiving yet another little package of gifts from my dear friend Karen and this one included The Blessing Book.

blessing book Choosing To Rise: Stay in the Present

I have to admit, by the title, I thought I was going to be another one of the “soft and cuddling” count your blessings and feel good books- but I was so wrong.  I read through it all and I felt like it gave me something solid, something biblically solid I could do to lift my head from my circumstances back to God’s faithfulness, peace and joy- and hope.

One of the first things I did was REMEMBER and  make a list of God’s miracles, his blessings and faithfulness to me over the years and over those days of feeling such anguish and even in those minutes of feeling the anguish.

And my head, my eyes, my soul lifted off my circumstances that I didn’t like or want and was renewed with the knowledge of how big God is, how He never changes, how HE is never wrong, He has always been with me and always will be with me , wherever this cancer journey takes me- none of that changes.

You know what this remembering and  listing  of God’s great deeds and blessing does?

It brings you to a place of praise and thanksgiving.

Now through my tears I could praise God as I remembered and reflected on His character, his power and his blessings- His good and wonderful deeds for his people.

And as I praised him and I thanked him for the every blessing I was writing down on my list:

  • My cancer was caught early (by a mammogram!)
  • Excellent care by doctors
  • Excellent health insurance friends and neighbors filling my home and heart with love with their meals, cards, flowers
  • My sons who come to check on me crying on the porch who kiss the top of my head and make me laugh
  • My mother who tells me she’s my biggest fan, my biggest supporter who loves me so
  • My husband who’s been nothing but steadfast and unwavering  in his love, care and support of me- in fact our relationship, our communication having grown better and closer through of it
  • The prayers- I can’t begin to count the number of people, churches and groups of people praying for me- I call them “the layers and layers of prayers” from so many wonderful, faithful and loving people
  • My sweet, sister friends who loved and love on me with their prayers, cards, emails, fb posts, visits, poems….
  • God’s protection over my health and immune system as I went through chemo- never once did I even catch a cold
  • My strength that came back so I could hike to the top of Half Dome and enjoy vacations with my family ….

And my list went on and on….

And so my praise to God went on and on until my tears of sadness and grief turned to tears due to a heart full of thanksgiving and love and awe for our, for my amazing God.

I have another little trick- a strategy I use when stress tries to steal my day, my moments or fear tries to erode my peace.  It’s a Biblically sound stress reducing strategy and it comes from  Phil 4:8 -

“Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.  “  

This is what I try to do- I choose to do -  look for God everywhere, especially in moments of anxiousness or days of pain.  I’m looking for beauty- consciously being aware (present) in what I see, hear, smell that is beautiful and praiseworthy.

When waiting in a doctor’s waiting room – going in for results or receiving chemo- I’m looking for beauty- for all the little and big ways God is smiling on me.  I see it in the way a son walks his ailing and frail mother into the room, I see it in the warm smile of the nurse who sits at the reception desk in the chemo room, I see it in my nurses eyes when they ask me how I am.

And I continued on with this practice of Staying in the Present by listing his Presents, while recovering from the broken pelvis during the summer of 2011 and trying not to feel broken and defeated with more surgery and cancer treatments ahead of me.  I would write:

  • Thank you Lord that I’m out of bed.
  • Thank you Lord that my pain is subsiding.
  • Thank you Lord that my mother is here to take care of me.
  • Thank you Lord AGAIN- for the love that is poured out to me through my family and friends
  • Thank you Lord that this wheel chair is temporary and not permanent.
  • Thank you Lord that I did not maim or kill someone with my bad left turn.
  • Thank you Lord that I am alive in this very moment to experience your beauty and be in your presence.

 Now this was a routine of mine for days- this remember and listing was something I practiced- I choose to do.

So you see  my sadness and confusion didn’t transform back to peace and hope immediately.

This Remembering and Listing, like so many other “strategies” are choices we need to make over and over throughout our journeys.

 

In Service & Hope,

Karen

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