Cancer Update: Jesus is More Than Enough

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   Twenty-seven days. That’s the number of days since the final radiation treatment for my husband’s prostate cancer. He still isn’t quite ready for a nice rare steak, but that’s getting ahead of my story. It was quite a summer, not an easy one. Yet ironically, this very summer, of all summers, our pastor embarked on a series from Colossians. The theme? Jesus is Better.

     If you haven’t already, you can read here about the rough times of late 2014 and up to now. How we put off the biopsy for months and finally went ahead with it at the same unfortunate time as his massive oral surgery. We knew the mouth issues would be tough for a long while, but had no idea radiation would dwarf that ordeal. How could we know? I’d undergone radiation during my breast cancer eleven years ago, and it was more or less a piece of cake. He, on the other hand, almost immediately, suffered constant stomach upset, no appetite, and almost daily weight loss.

    With no stamina whatsoever, each day he’d manage our business as best he could, then ask to be left alone to rest. As I grieved, I questioned. Why did he resist distractions like a small outing or a walk? Sometimes we left the house. Then a few miles out, he’d turn the car around and head home.

    Each day, though, he’d drive himself the hour to the treatment center, then the hour home. Five days a week. Alone.

    Jesus is More Than Enough

    I entered church the Sunday after his first five days of treatment, and barely acknowledged the theme’s announcement. For the next several weeks, the pain I felt during church trumped my ability to concentrate. I’d sit there and wonder why. Why he only wanted food and laundry needs met. Why he wouldn’t let me comfort him – no holding each other, not even his favorite foot rubs.

    When I did register the theme, Jesus is More Than Enough, my response was hollow. Well, I’m sure that is true in the grand scheme of things. Of course that’s what God says…The screen behind the pastor glowed with the words, but weeks passed before I actually took them in.

    I felt completely abandoned.

   Then I began to dig into Colossians at home. My pastor pointed out how Paul struggled (ch. 1:29 and 2:1) to make the people see “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” I realized that God, through Paul and our pastor, wanted me to ask the question: Is Jesus really more than enough?  Going about the day, I asked, “Is Jesus better than earthly relationships?” I knew I’d have to know, really know, the answer to that someday. But I wasn’t ready to face the question just yet. It blindsided me. I’d read Colossians over and over, and wrestle with God. I’d challenge Him. “Haven’t we already worked this out? Other times of trouble in our relationship sealed the matter, didn’t it? Jesus is enough!”

    But is He More Than Enough?

    In the moments of working alone folding laundry or walking in the neighborhood, I had to face my anger, and this persistent belief that puny me, I, knew better than God what should happen. These unrelenting needs, the friendship and love of a husband who lives in the same house, who surely has many good years left, clashed noisily with the supremacy of Christ. In my head a cacophony of voices screamed against the quiet assurance: No matter what, when all else fails, Jesus will prove to be more than enough. Whether in the resolution of Hubby’s health issues and restoration of our passion.   

        Or in the loss of both.

       To jump off that cliff of trust, find the net solid underneath, then walk in the truth became the challenge of every day. Colossians 1:23 reminded me to continue “in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel…”

        Finally, I had to say, You are not only enough, but more than enough. You know best. You know more. You love me best. You will figure all this out.

     I had to say it over and over again, with thankfulness (Col. 2:6 and 7) as I went about caring for and releasing my Hubby.  

     How often do I have to jump, Lord? Okay, You know that, too.

    So, you might wonder, where are we now, as a couple?

    After the treatments ended, he still felt horrible. Days went by. When we woke up to the usual how are you this mornings, I’d take the temperature of the room, remembering my truth. My barometer still wondered, is the glass half full? Or half empty? Is Jesus really more than enough if my husband stays emotionally gone?

    Twenty-seven days. Not long, really. Twenty-seven days since the last treatment of summer. We made it through. The laundry smells sweeter, food tastes much better. One of these days my babe may even enjoy a steak again. It’s a process. And one we don’t take for granted.

   But he did come back to me. We comfort each other now, laugh more readily. Finally. But my heart’s desire is to live in the Jesus-is-more-than-enough mode. I want it to be my default mode. I want His enoughness to infuse every minute of every day. His enoughness will get me through the next cliff I face – and hopefully I’ll jump a bit quicker into his net.

    Until the day I get to jump right into His arms. Won’t that be grand?

Salty Conversation

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Colossians 4: 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. ESV

      Often, the smallest comment can go a long way in helping a friend feel less alone, more normal, and more empowered to love her hubby better.

Here are a few examples of some conversations, seasoned with Salt.

      Head in the Window

    When I was much younger, having a rough time in my love life, my Bible Study leader saw me load up my stroller after a morning class. Her car happened to be parked near me, so she came over to my open window and poked her head in (almost too far for my comfort). With a sparkle and a wink she asked, “Hey, Girl, how’s it goin’?” Glancing back at my year-apart toddlers, she added, “Hey, have you gotten any new ‘nighties’ lately?”

    What!? Did I look deprived, depressed, or debilitated!? I was not particularly happy with her point blank accosting of my love life. I felt a wee bit “buttonholed,” you could say. But I prayed on the way home, asking God why this question bothered me.

    Then I realized it wasn’t the topic. Nor that her words were inappropriate. It was that I inwardly winced at doing the work of forgiving, taking more initiative, and thus improving my marriage relationship. I was put into the position of having to take stock of my attitude. (I had been wearing those Granny Gowns quite often lately…)

    God has used the “head in the window” experience to give me more courage to say something to women, even tho’ I might not say that

     Here are a few more examples of what I mean.

     Sharp-eyed Friend

    My girlfriend came over for lunch and noticed that my bedroom was changed around, spruced up a bit. “Hey, you really fixed up your room! Nice! But what did you do with the TV?”  

    Here was my golden opportunity to reply, “Well, the TV wasn’t much help to our love life, so we took it out. Now we are more “tuned in” to each other at bedtime…”

    Big Tub

     Another time, when some friends showed us around their new home, the bathroom  “centerpiece,” a whirlpool tub, could hardly be ignored. So instead of ignoring it, I said, “Don’t you love the big tub? I hope you guys get good use out of that. Man, we’d sure use it if we had one!!”

    You’re right. She had nothing to say. Quick change of topic. “My, the mashed potatoes are so creamy!” (dinner conversation quote from “While You Were Sleeping.”) But this didn’t spoil the evening. It may have improved the evening for both couples! (Our tub may be smaller, but…)

    Restroom Conversation

    Have you ever overheard a church restroom conversation?  I once heard a woman say to another, “My folks are keeping the kids this weekend, and we’re going to (a romantic place) for his birthday.”

    “Oh, really?”

    “Yup. That’s the only birthday present he wants…. a whole lot of special alone time. And he’s going to get it.”

   The tone I picked up was celebratory and grateful. And, well, I loved overhearing it so much I decided to book a hotel for my husband’s next birthday.

    Our marriages are truly meant to change the world.

    But platitudes don’t work. Pat answers with rote phrases we’ve heard all our lives don’t work, either. People need success stories, or an approach that’s been proven in the here and now, like yesterday. Our complicated, often confusing, up and down love life could actually bless others, simply by our perspective. We are learning and leaning on Christ for help, so we have seeds to sow. Those “salty” out loud seeds may cause a friend to ask,  “How does she have such a good attitude about sex? Hmmm…does God live in even this part of everyday life? Do I really know Him? I guess I should be less selfish in this area…”

   Remember that the value of salt in Bible times wasn’t only for flavoring, but even more for preserving. We are to preserve Truth, and hinder the deterioration of marriage.

    Here’s the Salty Challenge:

1.) LEARN something to improve your own marriage in this area, and then..  

2.) ACT on what you learned.

3.) Then look for an opportunity to SAY something to a friend – appropriately – when the time seems right.

   I can’t tell you how much you girls have encouraged me by your comments!! Have you ever discreetly spoken up on behalf of great love-making in marriage? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

“I Want a Love Like Mom and Dad Have”

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Good, they’re both home.

He parked the pickup behind his parents sedans already in the driveway. I’ll remember the code when I get to the door. With only a two-day break before second semester started, it seemed right to surprise them. Climbing out of the truck, moist grass welcomed his feet. One easy hop took him up the three steps to the door.

Yes! 9158. Music, ever so faint, leaked from inside, hurrying him in. In the quiet front hall, a familiar warmness flowed over him. So good to be home. He hung his coat on the stair rail and headed in the direction his nose usually pointed him. Mom’s famous soup! The almost intoxicating aroma intensified the closer he got to the kitchen. And the music swelled too. They’re home alright.

You’re just too good to be true….Can’t take my eyes off of you.

You feel like heaven to touch, I want to hold you so much,

You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you.”

The moment seemed sacred, them not knowing he stood watching. His dad swayed his mom to the song as if nothing else existed. She smiled up at him, totally engrossed in his embrace, until he twirled her around and she caught sight of her youngest son in the doorway.

“Uh, hi, Dad, Mom… sorry to barge in, but it is only five, and I didn’t think I’d be… but, dang it, you told me last year to start knocking… I’m sorry… I forgot.”

“Hey, hey, Bud, no problem!” John hugged his boy and then dropped into the closest chair, grinning. “We’re decent, aren’t we? Good to see you, Son! Come on in, sit down…what brings you all the way from Virginia?”

As the three chatted about “the latest” in the tiny den by the kitchen, Jay soaked in his surroundings. This was the life he left behind almost four years ago. Why would he just now see it? They’d always shown love for each other. So why the lump in his throat just now? Could it be the non-breakup, break up he’d just been texted last week? Could it be the series of divorces he’d heard about lately? Or maybe he’d talked to enough girls now- dated enough- to find only a few who said their parents truly liked each other.

“Mom, Dad, I hope I have a marriage like yours. You guys make it look easy to be happy…”

Can there be a higher compliment than this? One of my sixty-something friends shared this story while we chatted over coffee. Her son had toasted a similar version at their 40th wedding anniversary party. Then she said this:

“Our kids are jealous of us. They see us kiss in the kitchen, dance in every room, and laugh wherever we are. They wonder out loud when will it be their turn!”

Growing older isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. But it happens to most of us. And it presents a double challenge. Is my purpose in life bigger than my age, and am I in love with my mate?

Do you have that marriage? Did your parents have that marriage? Who do you know with that marriage? I can’t wait to hear about it!

Talking ‘Bout “My Girl”

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day.

When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May…

My girl, (my girl), talkin’ ‘bout my girl…”  -The Temptations

Such a simple thing. Hubby comes into the kitchen, brushes past me, and without eye contact or emotion says,  “You are one hard-working girl.” Not a hard-working lady. Or hard-working woman. Or even hard-working chick.

Before our marriage, during his career as a professional musician, my husband played that song hundreds of times- often several times in a night. The crowds loved “My Girl” then and the world loves it still. But, why did it pop into my head today as if for the first time? I realized that in thirty-nine years, (That’s how long we’ve been married.) he’s never referred to me gender-wise with any other term. Of course, I’m also those genderless names of Honey, Sweetheart, and Love. But mostly, I am “his girl.”

He would even tell the kids, “Don’t you cross my girl. She’s your mother and my wife.”

As I thought about his consistent use of the tag, I wondered if it’s made a difference over the years. What if he’d used just the other terms of endearment? Or called me by my name or “The Mrs.” These questions brought up a distant memory from VBS teaching days (my mid-forties) when a misbehaving six year-old referred to me as “you old lady.” I immediately burst out laughing, it sounded so crazy. Seems I have been affected by my husband’s pet word, for a long time. But how?

Self-Esteem

Since reality says I’m way past girlhood, being called Girl has affected my self-esteem. I don’t mean self-worth. I find my worth in God’s view of me. But when women pass the girl stage of life, they may tend to feel “past their prime.” The term “Girl” evokes a sense of freshness, radiance, and warmth. When he calls me that, I feel all those things, even if only for a moment.

Attraction

“My Girl” speaks of security and belonging. His “Come here, Girl,” sounds more alluring than “Come here, Woman,” or Lady or Chick. Now I admit there are times when the latter references might “stir things up” a bit quicker. But normally, when he draws me into his arms with this playful name, I want to move toward him. I think it’s because I sense he wants me for me. Not for what I have to give him.

Sense of Aging

As hard as it is to admit, I feel more like a girl because that’s exactly how he sees me. Always has. Here I am in my sixties, but besides having (a bit) less agility, the mirror is the sole conspirator against my sense of “girlness.” Denial? Self-trickery? Maybe.

However, doesn’t love see everything in its best light?

If your husband hasn’t used this reference to you lately, and you haven’t thought of yourself this way, here’s my advice to you:

         Keep the attitude of being your husband’s girlfriend. You are your husband’s lover, wife, and business associate, all in one package. Concentrate more on the girlfriend part, and tell him you love being his girl. Call yourself a girl when referring to yourself. “I am one tired girl!” “This girl really likes you, Mr. Hunk!” You get the idea. Don’t call yourself Old Girl, though. That’s an automatic penalty.

         Finally, think of your grown daughters as your forever girls. My oldest daughter just turned thirty-seven, and she is still my girl. I will always be her mother, and she’s the mother of her own brood. We belong to a sisterhood of girls- for life!

What’s Up?

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A new class! Hillside Fellowship Church in Bulverde, Texas recently began a class called Autumn Women Engaged. For short, A.W.E. We are thrilled to announce both the classes at the church and the local library, along with an important survey. Today I’d like to share a little bit about both.

The reigning mindset of many autumn women regarding marital intimacy is “Been There, Done That, Stashed the T-shirt in a Box in the Garage”, or “I am full of busy days with work, grandkids, and church activities…lived so long without lovemaking, I hardly remember what it was like.”

Our class purpose is to challenge women according to God’s word in Hebrews 6:12 “…..so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

As far as I have studied and read about the metaphor of Christ and the Church, His Bride, lovemaking in marriage doesn’t have a shelf-life. Instead it becomes more and more necessary as the years go by- that is, if we are to keep from killing each other either with kitchen utensils, or boredom. Really, no amount of travel, or material stuff, or grandkids can fill the void of a lifeless marriage.

So, the challenge becomes, if it’s been a long time since you were interested, earnestly ask, “Is this really what God wants?” And then ask, “Is this what Hubby wants, too?” Have you even asked either one? Or do you think you just know?  If he doesn’t seem to care, how does it make you feel? Relieved? Rejected? Or maybe, if the truth were told, his complaint actually is, “It’s been way, way, too long…” And he has more or less given up by default.

Do you have any idea what’s going on out there? Like in other homes of women your age? While most men and women still sleep in the same room at night (I know of many who don’t), they often retire at different times and get up at different times. They have their own side of a huge king-bed and their own regimen of reading, pillow plumping, and drifting off to sleep. Sound like your house? So we have added an important survey to this site. The women involved in A.W.E. would be so grateful if you would go to that page and take the survey. We truly want to know what issues to address in our classes. Link to our survey HERE.

We want to put the left side of the brain into action- the cognitive side, as opposed to the right, creative and emotion-driven side. When it comes to lovemaking we often think that if we’re not in the mood, we are “dead in the water” and nothing is going to happen. Especially if we just don’t want to. We are actually ruled by the “don’t wanna, ain’t gonna, can’t make me” mindset. And if I were to jolt you out of that mindset, I would have to do it on the left side. The side where facts rule, not emotions. So getting the flow of love back into the marriage may have to be considered a mental, emotional, and spiritual discipline. Often we must choose to love a naughty child. God chose to die for us even knowing we have all rejected Him and gone our own way. Can you decide to go to the left side of the brain with me even in this difficult topic?

If so, where would we begin?

Let’s begin by making one basic assumption. Our husbands need respect just as we need love, and respect means many things, sometimes words of admiration or love. But for many respect is spelled s-e-x. If you are willing to accept that premise, even if he shows signs of disinterest**, this class is for you.

Here’s what our classes will be covering. You are invited to read, think, then add your comments.

  1. First, we’ll cover some of the many benefits of this part of marriage- physiological, emotional, and practical- facts we forgot or never knew. Working on the left side of the brain means using my will to “do the right thing;” but I have to be convinced of the facts. We’ll also learn about the Three R’s from the left side.
  2. After accepting the benefits of lovemaking, what comes first, a discussion or “making a move?” You’ll decide which, then, based on the Three R’s we’ll help you plan the discussion. Here is where “priming the pump” gets practical.
  3. Then, how do I “make the move?” This will not be a graphic “how to.” It will be a plan any woman can implement up to the point where a normal husband would gladly take over.

**Some of you suffer with feelings of rejection. I hope to do a series on the problem of a husband’s lack of interest. Right now I can assure you that you must get out of the right side of your brain where anger and pain rule. That is your beginning. We have more to talk about and that’s what our classes will do. We’ll keep a keen eye on what can happen with a new attitude.