Thursday, June 24, 2010

Courageous Warriors

If anyone knows a little about me they know I'm a tennis fan -- well, more like -- fanatic. My husband refers to himself as a "tennis widower" when the Grand Slams roll around. To all you spouses who complain about being "football widows," you've got nothing compared to my poor hubby when tennis is on! I've been known to rearrange my entire sleep schedule just to watch all the action "live." It's rough when it's the Australian Open.

Wimbledon is going on right now. And like a lot of people, it's difficult not to overlook the event of the last three days at the tournament: the amazing, record-shattering, marathon match between American John Isner and France's Nicolas Mahut. Go to any sports page or and you can see the mind-blowing statistics that have re-written the history books. It's one of those very rare matches when you're sad it's over because they're has to be a winner and a loser. In reality, there were no losers today. Nicolas Mahut has no reason to hang his head. Both Mahut and Isner were warriors, on another level, showing the best of competition, sportsmanship, and courage. It's one of the reasons I like tennis so much. You can leave it all out there on the court, yet you shake hands with your opponent at the end of the day.

Most of us know that you need to be courageous when fighting cancer. Whether you're the patient or the loved one, courage is a must, along with the courage to leave it all in God's hands. And I hope I'm respectful during the battle and once the battle is complete. I hope to be polite, courteous, and respectful of the doctors and nurses, and all those who take part in my care. All the way to the accounting office when there's confusion on a bill -- I hope I don't take my frustrations out on the poor woman calling me when there's been a billing error.

In life, I hope I am courageous -- courageous enough to hang in there when the seas are rough, or courageous enough to go for it and take a chance on my dreams. To train, put in the difficult work, and be gracious no matter what.

Isner and Mahut could've quit on their dreams. Or even quit during this tennis match and the world would've been without this great day in sports. But instead they were their own kind of champion for over 11 hours of unprecedented tennis. No one lost today. Eventually, I hope this match will be a sweet memory for Mahut as I know it will be for Isner. We are all richer for witnessing their drama.

I want to live my life going for my dreams, fighting the hard fight, yet walking away a winner just in the way I've conducted myself and treated those around me. If in my everyday life, through my writing, and having the courage to put it all out there can touch someone because I didn't quit, well, then I know I'm living my life the way God intended.

I want to always be that kind of courageous warrior.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Re-Birthday - A devotional

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 had cancer last year. My diagnosis came two days before my birthday. And does something like that 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.

So, this year’s birthday became 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? Does it reflect Him? 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. Over 25 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.

I remember the day, after I got home from the hospital from having my mastectomy. My husband and I chose to look at my chest together – to look at my scars. I think we were both so worried about how the other one would react, that we didn’t think much about our own reaction!

In the long run, my husband said I was beautiful. He told me that every time he saw those scars, he would be thankful, because it meant that I was still here. My scars are a blessing. They remind us every day how present God is in our life. God is always working through us.

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 next birthday, as I continue my downhill run toward 50, 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.

As I mentioned, my diagnosis came two days before my birthday, which was a Friday. I had already talked with my doctor, and was 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.

Yet, although I was facing a long journey with cancer, and facing 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?