Unconditional…

I woke up this morning thinking about something Chris Rock said during his Netflix comedy special, “Tamborine.” He said, “Only women, children, and dogs are loved unconditionally. A man is only loved under the condition that he provide something.” Now, I am not that person who finds some “deep” meaning in everything or can’t take a joke for what it is, laugh hysterically, and move on. In fact, I can generally find humor in most things. Thank God, I have spent more time laughing than crying throughout my breast cancer journey. But, I am a person who often sees beneath the skin to the heart of a matter and hears between the words or often the silence, the unspoken things. Chris Rock’s statement, spoken in jest and truth, was one such occasion.

As I pondered his words this morning, I immediately thought of my relationship with Jesus. He, unlike anyone I, and possibly, Chris Rock, have ever known loves unconditionally regardless of gender or what you are able to provide. I thought of how all I have ever been able to give to Him is all of my mess and He not only loves me the same, but by some miraculous exchange He takes my mess and gives me His beauty in its place. Simply amazing…

I believe we all at times, men and women, tend to love people based upon what they can provide for us. Be it financially, emotionally, physically…wherever there is a void the person we “love” can fill or provide whatever piece of ourselves we deem to be “missing.” After surviving two failed marriages that left me devastated and broken in ways that I am still discovering, I struggle to not laugh out loud when I hear people say things like, “He (she) is the center of my world” or the famous “He (she) completes me.”

In the heat of battle, during the hardest part of my breast cancer fight, was the loneliest time of my life thus far. I was surrounded by people who loved me, but still longed for that one person that was mine and I was his. The one that I knew no matter how things turned out, no matter what my body looked like on the other side of all of this, he would still be mine, I would be his and he would love me the same until death do us part.

This morning when Chris Rock’s statement came to my mind it made me examine my own heart. I have painfully discovered if your spouse/significant other is the center of your world, your world is subject to collapse. Your center, your core has to be strong enough to handle the weight of your life. It’s unfair to expect a person to handle all of your stuff. If you can’t and you know your mess intimately, how can they? My center is Jesus. No person can “complete” you. They can and should complement who you are as a person, but you are complete in the One for whom you were created (again, Jesus).

When I am found by the man that is willing to ride out this life with me until we are parted by death, I want to be able to love him from a place of wholeness in every way. Only then will I be able to love Him with the unconditional, agape love with which Jesus love me. That is the only love that lasts until death and beyond.

For today, I’m looking forward to seeing the exquisite, jaw-dropping masterpiece Jesus creates out of all the fragmented pieces of my life that look like a bunch of disjointed, misplaced, puzzle pieces to me right now.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A Christmas Story…

I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for the New Year. Mostly, I’ve just been doing some mental housecleaning and actual housecleaning in my bedroom. While cleaning the other day, I came across a gold mine of poems, journals, and all kinds of writings I have written over the years. Many of them, like the poem below, were written prior to the stroke I had in 2011. It was amazing to read the words written by my former self. It was like discovering a new author for the very first time! I think I kind of like her 😊. Anyway, the poem below, “A Christmas Story,” was written almost 10 years ago. I don’t believe anything happens by “coincidence” or by “chance.” I believe I stumbled upon this particular poem at this time quite purposefully, according to God’s timing. So, I thought I would share it with you!

A Christmas Story
‘Twas the night before Christmas and heaven was stirring. The angels were preparing, each one yearning. Could this be the night? Could it possibly be? The night predestined for all to see. There had been no night like this before. They each waited for direction from the Lord.

The Father spoke softly to the Son, “Tonight is the night. It must be done.”

The Son responded with a solemn heart, “Father, this shall be the most difficult part. For they are not ready for My arrival. They still do not see I Am the source of their survival.” (John 8:12)

“My Son, We have done all there is to do. I gave them the best of Me when I gave them You. You have interceded on their behalf. You laid down Your life. You did all that I asked. Tonight is the night You must return.” (John 17)

“But, Father, there are too many lessons they haven’t learned. Still they are filled with hate, lust, and greed. Still, they have no compassion for those in need. Still, they disobey and ignore My Word. They refuse to listen and haven’t heard.” (John 13:34)

Suddenly, there was silence as Gabriel entered in. The Son conceded, “I shall return, again.”

The sights were much different in the earth below. Carolers were caroling, many wishing for snow. Shoppers made their final trips to the mall. Most were wrapping packages, big and small. Others were resting after a long day of work. Some were preparing to rise for church. Many made calls to ones they love. Some gave out kisses. Others gave hugs. Some were in a bar or a hotel room. None were aware the hour was soon.

Though it had been spoken many times before, very few were awaiting the arrival of our Lord. Children were looking for reindeer in the sky, convinced that Santa would soon be passing by. Just before midnight, there came an awesome sound. People came running from all around. All stood in wonder of the sight they saw. Many were in disbelief of it all.

The sky opened effortlessly at its seam. This cannot be real. It must be a dream! And then He appeared, in all of His glory – the beginning of the end of the Greatest Story. In the blink of an eye it was complete. The dead in Christ arose from their sleep. Those still alive were caught up with Him, never to see the earth again. The sky grew dark when they were out of sight. The earth was now void of its magnificent light. (I Corinthians 15:50-54)

The heavens rejoiced when the Son returned. Still He wondered had they learned. Those left behind were still in His heart. He said to the Father, “Now it will start. The end is near. Judgment shall reign. I wonder if they know I still love them the same?” (Revelation 19:11-16)

The Father sighed as He listened to His plight, “Merry Christmas, My Son. And to You a good night.”

Though this was just a little Christmas tale, I hope you know Jesus well. For there is a day He will return. I pray your lessons have been learned. The land of man will soon be out of sight. Until then, Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

©2008 by Lisa R. Ransome

Traveling Through Time

I am convinced I am one of the world’s greatest time travelers. On any given day my mind travels anywhere from 10, 20, or sometimes 30 years into the past or I venture off into my mind’s version of a day, week, month, or years that lie ahead. My travels through time are mentally, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting. Most days, I am barely awake in the morning and my feet have just hit the floor when my mind revs up the time machine and off we go!

Revisiting my past almost always leaves me with a feeling of mourning. I mourn the little girl who was molested for a number of years, beginning at age 5. I hurt that the opportunity to grow into her body and discover sexuality naturally was stolen from her. I want to go back and tell the 18 year old teenage mom that she doesn’t have to marry the boy she fornicated with to try to cancel out the sin. Jesus already died for every sin she would ever commit and He still loves her the same. I want to talk to the 21 year old wife and mother of three little girls who feels like she is “less than” in every way and tell her what a great job she is doing. I want to hug and never let go of the 35 year old woman who is in the midst of her second failing marriage, trying to process her father’s death, wondering why he couldn’t have been different so her parents’ marriage, eventual divorce, and her childhood wouldn’t have been so dysfunctional. I want to tell the 40 year old woman who suffered a stroke two months after her 40th birthday, who was never able to return to her job and whose husband divorced her nine months after the stroke, to embrace the new life she was given, because the person she was before the stroke died.

On a good day I can return from my journey into the past reminding myself what Jesus has told me repeatedly, “Take the lessons. Leave the luggage!” I don’t get angry anymore. I don’t cry anymore. It was what it was. And on a really good day I can see how God has used the events of my past to mold, shape, and create who I am now. However, because my mind is the vehicle through which I travel, the only fuel I have available to help transport me into the future is the memories of my past. That being the case, when I arrive in the future the circumstances, relationships, hardships almost mirror my past. In my mind’s version of my future, although I am different, everything around me is not. I am still surrounded by lack, dysfunction, illness, broken relationships…

Lately, most of my time travel excursions have been into the future. I have had long discussions with Jesus reminding Him frequently that when I am finished with all of my cancer treatments and recovery I still have an entire life to rebuild! I’m still discovering who I am, what I am passionate about, and what marketable skills I have now. So, when I travel into the future looking for a new career all I see is an almost 50 year old woman surrounded by people who are younger, smarter, healthier, with their left brain fully in tact. On my lonely days I think about what kind of man I could see myself with, but that quickly spirals into my future self reminding me of my previous failed marriages. Rarely do I actually remain in this moment – my NOW.

Yesterday, just as my mind was fueling up for take off into the future Jesus said, “When you look into a future moment and project into it what is or has been that you perceive as negative in your life you negate My Word, which says all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). How can more of the same be good? Repeating the same lessons over and over again is only good if the purpose of the lesson was not learned the first time. I am not a remedial God. My desire is you take from each experience that which is needed, leave the rest, and move forward. What you call “future” I call “history.” What you call “destiny” I call “predestined.” The only moment we share at the same time is now. It is for this reason I have said worry not about tomorrow for each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). All you have is NOW!”

Jesus’ words helped me see how traveling between the pain of my past and the uncertainty of my future has eclipsed the beauty, joy, and tremendous gift of now. Now is the moment I am learning, growing and maturing in my relationship with Jesus. Now is the moment I am spending time with my grand babies that I was unable to spend with my own children when they were their ages. Now is the moment I am seeing that broken, abused, messed up teenager I once was, by God’s grace, raised three little girls to be the most loving, kind, compassionate, intelligent, beautiful young women I know. Now is the moment I have been given a blank canvas upon which I can create a beautiful tapestry that honors, glorifies, and magnifies Jesus. I just have to park my time machine, steady my feet, and begin to create one breath, one step, one moment, one day at a time.

For today, I will keep Jesus’ words hidden in my heart. On the days my mind tries to fuel up the time machine and delve into the past I will remind myself that I learned my lessons well. There’s no need for repeats. Everything left behind is luggage I need not carry. If the future is the destination of the day I will empty my time machine’s fuel tank with, “But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (I Corinthians 2:9 NKJV).”

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: Jesus and Me

I have never been what I would consider an outdoorsy person. There is nothing appealing to me about camping or other activities that require me to trespass in the natural habitat of bugs, spiders, snakes, and all the other woodland creatures that make the great outdoors their home. However, of late, my stance has begun to shift a bit. I still have no interest in camping, but I have discovered I like hiking. And the highlight of any day for me is a day that I am able to go walking at the beautiful lake pictured above. I try to go as often as I can. The scenery alone is worth it. There is something about walking there that allows me to talk to Jesus and Him to me in a way that I don’t experience anywhere else. It is our “secret” place.

On Friday after I left radiation I felt like I had enough energy to walk around the lake at least once. Once around is about a mile and a half. It was a little chilly, but I had on layers and the sun was shining. Once I started walking I warmed up quickly. As I walked I listened to my “Jesus and Me” Playlist filled with some of my favorite Gospel/Contemporary Christian/Praise and Worship music (there are way too many labels for music now – just my opinion). About half way around the lake I started getting tired. On a good day physically, I try to go around the lake twice. My right leg is still significantly weaker than my left from the stroke I had in 2011. The more tired I got I felt myself beginning to drag my right leg a bit.

For whatever reason I started to get upset that I wouldn’t be able to walk around the lake twice, which snowballed into a full blown meltdown inside with me asking Jesus why everything always had to be so hard for me. I told Him I was tired of being sick. I complained I had forgotten what it feels like to just wake up and not have to have a conversation with my body in order to get out of bed or to be able to go through an entire day without any pain anywhere. I whined I knew all of this had some kind of purpose and I was trying my best to see His plan for me, but I couldn’t. I could see where breast cancer, the stroke, my divorces, being a teenage mom, being molested… have all helped me be an encouragement (I hope) to other people and an overall compassionate person. But, on Friday, walking around the lake, dragging my right leg, aching all over, with my left breast throbbing, I wanted to know, ‘WHAT ABOUT ME!’

I could see no benefit for me out of all that has happened thus far in my life’s journey. Just as I was nearing the entrance of the lake, which would have completed one loop around, my emotional tirade with Jesus was abruptly interrupted by a unique looking, but beautiful dog. She and her owner were walking on the opposite side of the pathway. As we passed each other the dog stopped and made her way near me as if she wanted me to pet her. She was really furry with grey and brown patches all over. I could tell she was an older dog.

Her owner very friendly said, “You can pet her. She won’t bite. She loves walking here. She is 19 years old. She is blind. You see her leg? It wobbles and shakes now. My wife and I found her under our neighbor’s car when she was 3 months old. She has been such a good dog for us.” She stood close to me so I could pet her. I took notice of her right leg shaking. When she and her owner walked away I watched her walk closely behind him. She couldn’t see. So, he lead; she simply followed. They kept pace with each other. She didn’t pull away from him or try to walk ahead of him. Nor did she walk too slowly and lag behind him, even with her wobbly, shaky right leg.

As I turned to continue walking Jesus said, “Lisa, I know you cannot see as I see. I know you often wonder if all you have suffered has any value for you. It does. Just like that dog you just saw, I am asking only that you let Me be your eyes. That you trust Me enough to know that even when you can’t see where I am taking you, you will follow Me anyway, knowing I only want the very best for you. Trust Me enough that even when your body is weary, your legs are weak, and you feel as if you cannot take another step, you know I am a God that can enable you to walk on water if you, but trust Me. You were created not only to be a blessing, but to be blessed. It is out of your blessedness that you are equipped to be a blessing.”

Listening to Jesus talk to me I walked past the entrance and completed a second loop around the lake. I wish I could say His words made everything better and I was suddenly all smiles and giggles inside. That’s not how it is with Him and me. I was comforted by His words. I asked Him to help me trust Him more and promised to do my very best to allow Him to lead, while I simply follow. And of course I apologized profusely for my nasty attitude on such a beautiful day.

One of the many things I love about Jesus is He knows me intimately and doesn’t penalize me for being me. He knows I ask a million questions. He knows He has to reassure me daily, sometimes hourly that He will never leave me and He still loves me. He knows some days the smallest thing can cause a total emotional meltdown (ie: dragging my leg at the lake when I already knew I was tired and weak when I got there). He knows when He asks me to do something I really don’t want to do my first response is generally, ‘Ok, but…’ That’s just Him and me. That’s how our relationship works. I fall more in love with Him everyday and for some reason known only to Him He just keeps loving me just as I am.

For today, I am going to hold on to the image of that beautiful 19 year old, weary, wobbly, blind dog and her owner walking at the lake for as long as I can. Whenever I find myself wondering what’s in it for me in all of this I want to be able to remind myself I am walking out my life’s journey with my very best Friend, a companion who loves me unconditionally, who will never leave or forsake me. One who I can wholeheartedly trust to lead, while I simply follow. It gets no better than that! That really is enough for me.

Until Death Do Us Part…

On Tuesday I attended a funeral of a close family friend. My mom, a Reverend, had the challenging task of officiating and delivering the eulogy. She served in the same capacity three years ago when his wife passed away. She and the deceased had been friends for over 50 years. She is the godmother to their oldest daughter. He and his wife are family to us. Though her heart was heavy, my mom delivered a phenomenal message about family that stayed with me.

During the viewing, which preceded the actual Homegoing Service (that’s what us Jesus Followers say instead of funeral), a slide show of family pictures played continuously on a large screen. The pictures spanned the entire 50 years my mom had known him and his wife. I remembered some of the pictures from when their daughters, my sisters, and I were kids. As I looked at each picture I saw a beautiful life, well lived, full of love, laughter and I’m sure a lot of mountains to climb and valley experiences too. But, they made it to the destination that not many in my family ever have. They made it “until death do us part.” And as sad as I was that his daughters now had to face a life without either of their parents, I was just as happy that he and the love of his life were together again.

For the better part of this week I haven’t been able to get the images I saw out of my mind. In my family divorce is like a plague. My mother is one of six children, five girls and one boy. All of their marriages ended in divorce except one. My mom’s twin sister and her husband will be married 50 years next year. My dad was an only child. So, with the exception of one of us, all of my first cousins, my siblings, and me are all the product of divorce. And out of all of us that have been married, there is only one that remains married to his first and only wife. I believe I may be the winner of the bunch, having been divorced twice.

After attending the Homegoing Service on Tuesday, one of my daughters and I were talking about my aunt and uncle celebrating 50 years of marriage next year. She asked me if I thought it was possible to be married for 50 years without anyone cheating, abuse, separation or any of the dysfunctional things she has witnessed in the marriages in my family, including my own. I told her I believe no marriage is without its troubles. However, I definitely believe it is possible to remain married for 50 years or more without the types of things she has witnessed occurring.

That night, my heart was so heavy. I found myself in my own way repeating my daughter’s question to God. I thought about the heartbreak I felt when my husband of 15 years filed for divorce. For me, in my mind, it was my second failed attempt at marriage. My first attempt was at age 19 when I married my high school sweetheart. That marriage quickly imploded and ended after five years. I married my second husband when I was 25 and if I am honest with myself I would have to admit we probably should’ve always just been friends. Neither of us were equipped to be husband and wife. Still, like my daughter, I wanted to know if it was even possible for me to make it to “until death do us part” with someone.

As recently as the beginning of this year the thought of being in a relationship and most definitely being married again really creeped me out! I cringed at the thought of it. I told God I didn’t think I could ever give that much of myself to anyone again. But, when I posed my daughter’s question to Him from my heart He replied, “There are no impossibilities in Me. Your options are limitless. The brokenness you have witnessed and experienced in your past does not have to be your or your daughter’s future outcome. You take the lessons and leave the luggage. Allow Me to be the Gatekeeper of your heart. I will govern who enters in. When the right one, one who is willing to remain until death, and be the recipient of the well-spring of unconditional love that flows freely from your heart, presents himself, your heart will know.”

When I think of my marriages, I am finally at a place of peace. I wasn’t a perfect wife, but I loved as perfectly as I could and gave to both of those men the very best I had to give. I walked away from my first marriage with three beautiful daughters that raised me to be a pretty good mom. From my second marriage I walked away with a much closer relationship with Jesus and wisdom that is priceless!

Breast cancer has afforded me the opportunity to examine areas of my heart and mind that I probably would have left untouched for as long as I could, because the pain of working out my total healing has been far greater than I thought I could handle. But as always, God has remained faithful to His word: 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

For today, I don’t know what my future holds as far as a romantic relationship. Right now breast cancer is all I can handle. And if I were a guy, I definitely wouldn’t be scoping out the hot chick fighting breast cancer (Lol). But, seeing the timeline of pictures from the beautiful life our family friends shared together allowed me to see until death do us part is possible and sparked a hope and desire in my heart to have that not just for myself, but for all the generations of my family behind mine.

I discovered I have been married twice, but have yet to experience an actual marriage – two people who honor, love, and respect one another, joined in oneness, desiring to exemplify through their union how Christ loves His Body, the Church. Should the man that is willing to hang in there with me until death find his way to me and my heart recognizes him, he will have won the best version of me! Those other two were my practice husbands. The third time’s the charm! Lol.

Debt Free

Several weeks ago I told my sister, Leslie, it felt good to finally be debt free. She quickly responded, “It must be nice. I feel like I owe everybody!” I knew she thought I was speaking about my financial situation and corrected her by saying, “No, with the mounting medical bills I have I’m sure I owe just as much as you do.” That day, I was speaking about how good it felt to not feel as if I owed any person anything. And I still wasn’t talking about money.

Last night I went to bed kind of early, but found myself sitting up until about 1AM just listening to music. I reflected on what my life used to feel like. Before cancer, my entire adult life, and probably before then, I always felt like I owed someone something. I had my oldest daughter, Ashley, when I was 18. She came barreling into the world in grand fashion, with lots of fanfare, not quite two months premature, via emergency c-section, weighing just over three pounds.

Before I had Ashley I had never even seen a premature baby before. She was by far the cutest little one I had ever laid eyes on and she was mine. I was really sick and unable to go to the neonatal unit to see her until she was three days old. But, the nurses brought me Polaroid pictures of her everyday (this was 1989 and Polaroid was a type of camera that printed instant pictures for those of you that may be reading this and are too young to know what that is. Lol).

When I was finally able to be wheeled down to see her and hold her for the very first time I did not want to let her go. This beautiful little person, that looked as if she could fit in the palm of both of my hands, had actually come out of my body. She didn’t ask to be my daughter. God chose to spare her life and mine and gave me the gift of being her mom. From that moment on I was indebted to her. I owed her the very best of me.

By age 21, my debts grew exponentially. I was married to Ashley’s father, my high school sweetheart, and had two more daughters, also born prematurely. And so began my adventure into womanhood. During the 25 years that followed, I was a Mrs. twice, I’m still a mom, and am now the proudest nana on the planet! And throughout all of those years I felt I owed each of my husbands, my daughters, and even our dogs, the very best of me. So, I did all I could to be any and every thing I thought they needed me to be. I cooked, cleaned, listened, encouraged, chauffeured… all of the normal mom and wife responsibilities. When both of my marriages ended in divorce and my daughters as young adults spoke of the areas of dysfunction in our lives when they were younger, I rehearsed in my mind for hours at a time all the ways I missed the mark. If I had only done this or that better.

This morning I realize I received a gift that maybe only having breast cancer could give me. When I had the stroke, my time was spent rehabbing, trying to help my two daughters who were still in college with all they needed, and I took in my “adopted” daughter and her brand new baby boy to help take care of them while she tried to finish college. Breast cancer, immobilized me immediately! I could not think of or do anything for anyone, but me. And the more I have thought about me throughout this process, I realized all of that time I was trying to give everyone else something I never had to give in the first place.

I never had the opportunity to discover who the best me is. I have stumbled around my entire adult life doing what I thought was best for others, never taking into account what was best for me. I will be the first to admit I was not the best wife, but I gave the best I had to give. I was not the best mother, but I was the best example of womanhood I knew how to be for my girls and I tried to show them how much I loved them in every way I could. I do think I was probably an exceptional dog owner. At least our dogs, who acted more like people than animals, seemed to think so. Lol.

Having all of this time on my hands and all of the places your minds goes when you have cancer, allowed me to recognize I have finally become debt free. I have forgiven and asked for forgiveness from everyone I needed to, including myself. I’ve revisited areas of my life that still “stung” when I thought about them and allowed Jesus to help me see those things through His eyes so they don’t hurt anymore. I know my marriages didn’t fail, because of something I did “wrong” or should’ve done better. And I know my daughters know I have and always will love them unconditionally.

For today, I am so grateful I understand Jesus paid my greatest debt fore me. The only debt I owe, as I continue to discover the best me, which is found in Jesus alone, is to offer my body as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God, which is my reasonable service, my true and proper worship (Romans 12:1 NKJV & NIV).

There Is Rest For The Weary

I am amazed by they way God speaks to me in any way He must in order to remind me I am never out of His sight or His reach. I am forever in His divine care.  This morning Facebook shared with me the following, much needed memory from April 7, 2015:

In a vision, I saw myself standing shoulder to shoulder on the top of a High Mountain Peak with The Lord. We stood looking over the land, which appeared to be a huge valley, below. The Lord stood with His hands behind His back. I stood with my arms at my sides wondering what we were looking at. From my limited eyesight I saw nothing with clarity. It was a bird’s eye view similar to that of looking at the earth from an airplane window. However, The Lord’s view was much clearer than mine. I could tell He could see more just by the look in His eyes as He gazed into the earth below. I didn’t ask any questions, but He offered, “Many of My people have felt as if they were alone in a chasm of despair. Theirs has been a monumental valley experience. They neglected to simply look up. Here I stand atop the Mountain Peak bidding all who are weary and heavy laden to come that I may give them the rest they so desperately seek. The valley is not a place of habitation. It is merely a pass-through. In order to ascend from the valley one must be willing to climb. When you reach the high place, the mountaintop, the things of the valley are no longer an intimate part of your existence. They can only vaguely be seen. However, the lessons learned, the skills developed, the character established remain with you always. The valley experience is never meant to destroy you, neither is the climb to the mountaintop. In all things, be it peaks or valleys, the experience is only to draw you nearer to Me. That we may stand together shoulder to shoulder as kindred, carrying out the will of the Father who sent Me, in the power of the Holy Spirit whom I left with you. Do not settle in the valley. Do not fear the climb. Come up higher that My perfect will may be established in you and through you for such a time as this.”

For today, my hope rests in the truth of God’s Word. In Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV), Jesus invites all of us who have been traveling through our valley experiences and have grown weary to, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I’m just going to keep climbing, while I rest.

The Leaning Tower of Lisa

Last night my oldest daughter, Ashley, sent me some pictures of her dad, who passed away 15 years ago. My response to her text message was: ‘WOW!! Be still my heart… I remember that young man. I was so in love with him! Well, as much as you can be in love at 14!’ Seeing the pictures of him sent my mind on a rare journey back to my high school days.

I was by no stretch of the imagination among the popular or well known girls for one reason or another in high school. I was the girl who came and went without any fanfare, mostly unnoticed. And that suit me just fine. I’ve never been a spotlight, center stage, everybody-look-at-me kind of person. I guess that is one of the reasons joining the rest of the free world on Social Media has been such a struggle for me. I always thought my desire to fade into the background as much as possible was just part of my personality. But as Jesus and I strolled back down memory lane I was able to see teenaged me differently.

I have been a Jesus lover since I was five years old. I distinctly remember responding to the alter call that invited me to accept the free gift of salvation. I didn’t know or understand what salvation really meant. I just knew I loved Jesus and I believed He was the Son of God, born through a virgin, was crucified, died, and raised to life on the third day just like the pastor preached. If asking Him to live in my heart and being baptized meant He would not only be with me always, but one day He would come take me from this crazy place I was all in! I was also five when I began being molested.

According to Wikipedia, Italy’s Tower of Pisa’s “tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.”

My fifth year of life began the pouring of a foundation that was inadequate and too soft on one side to properly support the weight of the abuse I was suffering. As a result I began to tilt. On the one side, I absolutely loved Jesus and tried to believe He loved me, but on the other side I just could not understand how this One that I loved so much who was powerful enough walk out of a tomb did not prevent or stop what was happening to me. As my life progressed I became a “tower” of strength for anyone who needed a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, someone to just listen or pray for them… anything anyone needed, just ask me. I guess I figured since Jesus wasn’t able to be who He said and I believed He was for me, I would try to be Him for anyone who needed Him as much as I did. I was just going to ride out the turmoil in my life that seemed to be never-ending until I died or Jesus returned, whichever came first. In either case, I would finally be free to LIVE!

What I have considered just “existing” most of my life really has been living all a long. Jesus and I have lived through molestation, a broken family, having three beautiful daughters by age 21, abuse, abandonment, more surgeries than I can count, and we’re steadily moving forward in our breast cancer journey. Though I haven’t been a fan of the tools He has used, the cancer hammer has helped me see how much construction Jesus has done to level out the foundation of my heart that began 41 years ago. Never did I imagine He would use the very thing that I thought compromised the foundation of who He created me to be so much that I was unrepairable, to ultimately stabilize all of the construction he has done on my heart.

This morning I am able to see how without being molested, all of the poor choices and painful things that have occurred over the course of my living thus far, you end up with a different me. I don’t know that I would be as compassionate as I am now or love so fiercely and unconditionally. I’m not sure I would have a passion for teenage moms, women’s issues, and young people in general. Though I can’t say that my tilt is completely level just yet, I am still actively under construction. Well, probably more like deconstruction and reconstruction. In the areas where I still lean, I know Jesus is holding me up, because Proverbs 18:10 (NIV) promises, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.”

There is a tremendous difference between being childish and child-like. For today, I am thanking Jesus that with all the work He has and continues to do on me He has helped me keep my child-like heart. Although I am excitedly looking forward to His return, I am just as excited to live out my life with Him right here on earth until he does.

(SN: Every since I typed the words “back down memory lane” in the second paragraph I have not been able to get Minnie Ripperton’s song, “Memory Lane” out of my head. I have already downloaded it and listened to it on repeat twice! If you are too young to know who she is or the song, she is Mya Rudolph’s (the actress and comedienne) mother and a fellow breast cancer warrior. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 1976, at age 28. The cancer had already spread to her lymphatic system and she was given six months to live. She died three years later. If you’ve never heard her voice. You don’t know what you are missing! She’s definitely worth checking out. You’ve probably already heard some version of her song “Lovin’ You.” It’s been sampled a lot.)

Good To Be Alive…

I clearly remember a day a few years ago when I was still recovering from a stroke, I was in my bedroom really upset, crying, and praying. No one was home, but me. The more I cried the louder the volume of my “prayer” grew (it was really me having a temper tantrum, letting God know how totally displeased I was with how He was handling my life). That day I was so angry with God. I just did not understand what He was doing or why He had permitted so much pain and suffering in my life. Admittedly, some of the heartbreak and heartache I had suffered to that point was the byproduct of my own poor choices. But, the things that hurt the most that turned my life upside down I didn’t choose. I didn’t choose childhood molestation for myself, I didn’t choose to witness the things I saw in my parents’ dysfunctional marriage and ultimate divorce, I didn’t choose abuse and abandonment, I didn’t choose divorce in my 15-year marriage, and I certainly didn’t choose to have a stroke at age 40. At one point in my prayer/tantrum I remember screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘Why didn’t You just let me die!’ Of course there was no response from heaven at that moment, which exasperated me even more. So, I REALLY started crying then. I mean the uncontrollable, inconsolable kind of crying where snot is all over your face, your shirt is soaked in the front, and when you are finished you have a headache and are so tired all you can do is go to sleep.

When I woke up the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, with no response, I finally accepted God was not the least bit moved by my temper tantrum and to drive the point home He kept waking me up day after day with no response to my inquiry about my sufferings. At least not in a way that I recognized back then. So, I did what I have always done when any kind of pain or adversity came my way, I just kept going.

My dad gave me a wonderful gift in that I can smile, laugh, and joke my way through just about anything no matter what I feel like on the inside. But, as it is with most gifts, used improperly it can be just as much a curse as it is a gift. For me, to keep going meant continuing on with my life as if whatever traumatic event or heartbreak that occurred never happened. I was going, but I wasn’t moving forward or backward for that matter. I was just aimlessly going, hurting, grumbling, and complaining on the inside, much like the children of Israel did on their 40-year journey toward the Promised Land. At some point I think I just decided, it is what it is. I truly loved Jesus with my whole heart and if this was a part of carrying my cross to follow Him (Matt. 16:24-25), so be it.

Another gift I seem to have is the gift of silence. My sisters call me a “vault,” meaning if you tell me something in private you can trust that it will not be repeated. I introduced you to my family in yesterday’s post. NOTHING in my family remains private for longer than a day or two, before whatever has been said or occurred, good or bad, makes its way through the appropriate channels to ensure the whole family is aware. So, to have gained the level of trust among my sisters to be called a vault is a true honor. To my knowledge, there is only one other family vault (Yes, I am talking about you CB).

For most of my adult life my vault-likeness worked both ways. Not only did I guard and not repeat what was told to me, I also very successfully never told anyone anything about me or my life, beyond the regular surface level things. I was considered to be a “private” person. Even so, people (not just my family members) have always seemed to be very comfortable talking to me about the most intimate details of their lives, even when I didn’t reciprocate and share anything about mine.

On January 14th I woke up feeling like I had been running a very long race. I felt tired and winded like I was trying to catch my breath so I could keep going. As I got up to try to push myself to keep going Jesus said to me, “But, can’t you see, Lisa? I took your breath away so you can stop and BREATHE!” That morning, I thanked God that He permitted cancer to trespass in my left breast for a time. It meant I could finally stop for awhile and just breathe; taking one breath, one step, one moment, one day, at a time like He told me after the stroke six years ago.

My granddaughter, Chloe and I have a very special relationship. She was born about a year and a half after the stroke. I was still struggling quite a bit with the aphasia and comprehension. At that time I had to talk myself through the most common tasks like brushing my teeth. I would stand at the sink and say out loud, ‘Ok, I take that thing (my toothbrush), put some of that stuff (toothpaste) on it, turn the knob that has the ‘c’ on it….’ When Chloe was a baby, she and her mom (my oldest daughter Ashley) lived with me for awhile. Where I lived at the time had a huge walk-in closet in my bedroom that became my secret place for just Jesus and me. I went in that closet for hours at a time just talking to Jesus. In there, I read Psalm 27 everyday. It was the only thing I could read that I understood. Once Chloe was born, the Lord told me to have her be my prayer partner in the mornings. So, every morning, Chloe and I either went into our secret place or sat on my bed and prayed.

Chloe is four now and loves to pray, sing worship songs, hear Bible stories over and over again and then retell them to you. She also has this ability to watch the same movie or show umpteen times and enjoy it each time like she is seeing it for the first time. One of those movies is, “The Peanuts Movie.” I have had the privilege of watching that movie with her at least ten times (and I am not exaggerating). After about the third time we watched it together, I let it continue to play through the credits rolling. As the credits rolled a song called, “Good To Be Alive,” by Meghan Trainor began to play. As it played, Chloe and I danced around the living room singing the chorus that says “oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh it feels so good to be alive.” I downloaded the song from Apple Music so it could always be a part of the rotation of songs for the Chloe and Nana dance parties that often take place.

I woke up this morning singing the Meghan Trainor song from “The Peanuts Movie Soundtrack”, until I finally had to put my headphones on and play it. As Meghan and I were singing, I thought about Chloe and could see us dancing and singing around the living room the day we first heard the song. As I was thinking and Meghan was now singing without me, Jesus whispered so softly in my ear, “SHE, among many other reasons, is why I did not let you die.”

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, for today, all I can say is, ‘It feels so good to be alive!’ If you’ve never heard the song it’s definitely worth hearing. I think you will like it.

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: My Date With Bruno Mars

February 2nd will be the 6th anniversary of the stroke I had in 2011, two months after my 40th birthday. Many of you are aware of my stroke story, but for the benefit of those who may be reading this that do not know me personally I figured I would bring you up to speed. The stroke occurred on the left side of my brain, which effected the right side of my body. For a time the weakness on my right side was so prominent I was unable to walk without a cane and could not write or do very much with my right hand. I had very little feeling on the right side of my face and a lopsided smile. I did physical, occupational, and speech and language therapy for almost a year. I still have weakness and less feeling on my right side than my left. I still can’t write very long with my right hand, but I no longer need a cane to walk. I still see a crooked smile when I look in the mirror, but I have more feeling on the right side of my face than I did initially. In fact, most people tell me to look at me they would never know I had a stroke. But, because a stroke is a brain injury, an area people can’t see, they don’t know the lasting affects that still remain.

I was left with something called aphasia, which makes it challenging for me at times to process what people are saying to me and to find the words I want to say to respond. Often times when people are talking to me it sounds like the teacher’s voice in the Charlie Brown cartoons. It’s just a bunch of noise. Sometime later I am often able to really process what was said. The words just pop up in my brain. It actually comes in handy when someone is talking to me and I really don’t want to hear what they are saying anyway. I am able to just smile and nod my head and catch up later. Before the stroke I was more of a left-brain person. They told me the left brain is responsible for things like: logic, sequencing, math, language, facts, and thinking in words. Since the injury was in the left brain, the right brain did exactly what it was supposed to do and kicked into high gear. The right brain is responsible for things like: creativity, imagination, visualization, feelings, and intuition. Math and numbers make my head hurt now. I am a visual learner now. I think in pictures or images. I cannot multi-task. I have true tunnel vision and can only see and do what needs to be done one piece at a time. And I absolutely love bright colors and all things creative.

I gave all of that background because when my daughters and I were in a pretty bad car accident on December 4, 2016 I suffered a concussion that made me feel like I felt right after the stroke. I couldn’t think clearly, didn’t understand words, was very irritable and emotional. The doctor later told me that was all completely normal for a concussion and I would have to have some time of brain rest: no TV, no computer, no reading, nothing that would require too much thinking. He also told me it may take me a little longer than normal to completely recover from the concussion, because I had a former brain injury. But, he did say I could listen to music, which I still do quite a bit, with my headphones on, lights off, in my bed.

One day my youngest daughter, who also suffered a concussion in the accident, and I were talking and she mentioned she really liked the new Bruno Mars CD. At the time I didn’t even know he had a new CD out. I asked her to play it for me. After hearing the first few lines of the first song, “24K Magic” I immediately said, ‘Nope, don’t like it. You can turn it off.’ Later that week as I was having a few moments of illegal iPad time I stumbled across a clip from Bruno Mars’ interview on 60 Minutes. As I watched and listened I saw a young man with kind eyes, a pleasant smile, and a seemingly humble heart. So, I decided I would give his new CD a fair try. I downloaded it from Apple Music that night and listened with an open mind. I listened to “24K Magic” thinking, ‘Come on Bruno you told us ladies in “Just the Way You Are” if perfect was what we were looking for just stay the same. You called us a “Treasure.” You made our hearts break with your lyrics on “When I Was Your Man”…now, we are pretty girls that are waking up the rocket and bad b*#@hes with ugly a$$ friends. What is THAT about?’ Still, I listened. That was night one.

I didn’t know it had been four years since he put out a CD. So, I figured now, at age 31, this is “grown man” Bruno I was hearing. Night two I listened again and was suddenly hooked on the old school feel of the CD. Despite some of the words that I still can’t get with on “24K Magic”, it is one of my favorite songs on the CD, along with “Versace on the Floor.” In the right setting, (with a husband since I don’t believe in premarital sex or “casual” sex, whatever that means), “Versace on the Floor” is the kind of song I want to hear playing in the background. I’m not married so I listen to it sparingly. But, I have promised my adult daughters that if I ever do remarry they will most definitely come to our home one day or night and hear that song playing behind a closed bedroom door. My middle daughter said knowing this, if I ever remarry she will never again come to my home. I will have to go to her house to see her. LOL! I guess that’s a moot point, though, because right now after being divorced five years, the idea of having to share my space with a man that I would have to see everyday, compromise with and all the other responsibilities that come with being a wife, really creeps me out!

Anyway, my concussed brain has now decided the Bruno Mars “24K Magic” CD is the best! Very often I put on my headphones and escape to the dance floor of my bedroom listening to it. With the aphasia I hear more of the music than I do the words, but I do know every word of “Versace on the Floor” LOL. I was told he performed at the new MGM at National Harbor last month, which made me check his touring schedule to see if he was coming here again. And wouldn’t you know it, he will be here at the Verizon Center on September 29th & 30th. I convinced my older sister to get a ticket to go with me.

Since the breast cancer diagnosis I have been forcing myself to make plans to do all kinds of things. As I keep my eyes on Jesus, I keep seeing beyond the cancer journey and all that it entails. I still remember six years ago lying in a bed in the Stroke Unit of University of Maryland Hospital crying and praying softly, ‘Jesus, what am I supposed to do now?’ He responded just as softly, “You are going to take one breath, one step, one moment, one day at a time, holding on tightly to My hand, with you on My right and Me on your left.”

For today, I have reminded cancer that it is just a name. The name above all names, Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11), already conquered it on my behalf when He was crucified, died, and raised to life from a borrowed tomb three days later (Matt. 27, Matt. 28:1-7). It is by His stripes I am completely healed of ALL manner of sickness and disease (Isaiah 53:5). So, despite what the cancer that is currently trespassing in my body tries to imply, I say in JESUS NAME, I will be well, strong, and cancer-free by September 30th (and yes, I did say it out loud directly to my left breast), because I have a date with Bruno Mars at 8PM at the Verizon Center that I WILL NOT miss. And I intend to dance a hole in the floor! I already feel sorry for the poor people who will have the misfortune of being seated near me! LOL!