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

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.

The Truth About Sex

I slept in this morning until around 5:30. I woke up with a song called, “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Peppa from 1990, playing in my head. As I listened to the song this morning I thought it was hilarious that a line in the song says it wouldn’t get played on the radio, because of its content. In comparison to the songs now, their song about sex sounds like a baby’s lullaby. It actually has a good message in it.

If you are squeamish or uncomfortable talking about sex, which I don’t think many people are in today’s culture, you can stop reading now and move on with your day. I know my adult daughters stopped reading as soon as they saw the title for this blog post. I’ve always talked to them as openly as I could about sex. But, now that they are adults and I don’t have to filter my word choices as much, they generally run away screaming when the subject comes up. During our last conversation my oldest daughter, Ashley, who is 28 said something like, “Mom, I want to shove something in my ears and vomit right now.” I get it. My mom and my aunts (her sisters) are very transparent about EVERYTHING. Though most of what they say is HILARIOUS, it is still an awkward image of your mom that sends your mind places you NEVER want it to go. Lol. In our family our mothers are superheroes that have achieved a level of holiness that my generation of our family can only hope to achieve some day.

Because I invited Jesus to become my Savior and Lord when I was five, there are many things I didn’t do just because I was told in church it was wrong or it was a sin. Having sex outside of marriage is one of the things I unsuccessfully tried not to do and ended up marrying the young man I got pregnant by at age 18, hoping that would somehow cancel out the sin. I know that sounds crazy now, but it made perfect sense to me 28 years ago! Lol. It wasn’t until I entered my 40’s that I began to ask Jesus questions about sex and try to understand for myself what the Bible actually says about it.

My quest for understanding developed, because I wanted to understand what was “wrong” with me. I have always felt detached when it comes to sex, meaning, to me sex was just sex no matter what you called it. Rather it occurred between a husband and a wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, friends with “benefits,” strangers with nothing else to do… it was all the same in my mind. It was just a physical act with very little meaning. I carried that mindset with me into both of my failed marriages. But, deep down inside I knew my thought process could not be the correct, because God made a distinction and set apart sex within marriage by saying, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral,” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV). And there are a plethora of other scriptures about the dos and don’ts where sex is concerned.

Though separated at the time, I wanted to understand what should have been happening in my marriage bed when my husband and I were together that was not, at least from my perspective. There was something broken on the inside of me that I didn’t understand or know how to fix. I was able to completely detach myself from sex all together in that I could participate in it and be a million miles away from the whole experience. It was no different then any other responsibility I had at the time. I have since discovered there is a tremendous difference between just having sex and what Jesus described to me as, “loving someone with your body.”

Anybody with a penis and a vagina is capable of having sex. Sex just requires body parts. It is mechanical, based on lust and/or basic physical attraction. However, loving someone with your body is something quite different. Yet, people often use the terms “sex” and “making love” interchangeably. Because I have recently become a fan of Bruno Mars’ music I will use two of his older songs as an example. On his Unorthodox Jukebox CD he has a song called, “Locked Out of Heaven” and another called, “Gorilla.” In “Locked Out of Heaven” Bruno is basically singing about how having sex with a particular woman takes him to paradise and makes him feel like he has been locked out of heaven for far too long. One line of the song says, “Swimming in your water is something spiritual. I’m born again every time you spend the night.” (SN: Generally speaking, women talk to each other about sex as much as men do. The only difference is men say stuff like, “Man, I was swimming in her water and it was spiritual” or something more graphic about body parts or their perceived performance. Women tell the truth. Lol. If a woman talking about sex with her friends says, “Girl, he was swimming…” She wouldn’t even have to finish the sentence, before all of the women would tell her either with their facial expressions or words how sorry they were for her. It’s not really a compliment for either person involved. But, it is a cute, catchy song lyric. And the song was a big hit!)

In the song, “Gorilla,” Bruno is again talking about having sex with a particular woman only this time what he describes is what he calls, “Makin’ love like gorillas.” (SN: If I had a spouse and he ever came to me talking about us making love like gorillas I promise you I would contact our cable company provider to have Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Discovery channel… removed from our cable line up IMMEDIATELY. And there would be no more trips to the zoo! 😄 But, to each his own.)

My point is in both songs he seems to be describing the same thing, but calls one act sex and the other making love. To him there may not be a difference. Or there is and he was just doing what he does extremely well, which is just writing some songs that he didn’t intend for people like me to put under a microscope in a blog post. But, I used that example, because until Jesus explained the difference to me I honestly didn’t see one.

Jesus explained to me that since my introduction to sexuality was forced upon me at such a young age, through molestation, I never had the opportunity to naturally discover things about my body, men, and how much I would actually be giving up when I chose to relinquish my virginity. In the King James translation of the Bible when it speaks about a man and a woman having sex it says they “knew each other.” That is actually a perfect description for what Jesus explained to me as “loving someone with your body,” which is set aside for marriage. He said what should happen within a marriage is you should be so connected with your spouse spiritually and know one another so intimately that when you come together as one flesh physically, it should be as natural, comfortable, enjoyable, and pure as a hug and a kiss. It should be a physical expression of the unconditional love you have for one another, forsaking all others, by desiring only to love and know your spouse in this special unique way set aside by God, for marriage.

When He explained it to me that way I knew I had never loved either of my husbands with my body and I can’t say with any measure of certainty that either of them ever loved me with theirs, which is really sad to me. Now that I understand and know better, I can do better. Jesus also told me that each time I had sex before I came to the knowledge of what sex is truly meant to be a spiritual rape occurred. Meaning, each sexual encounter took something from me spiritually that I did not voluntarily give, because from the moment I was molested my ability to make godly decisions about sex was skewed. He said virginity isn’t just a physical purity; it is a spiritual purity as well. Now that I know what is truth the decisions I make regarding sex from this point forward are mine to be held accountable for.

For today, I plan to continue on with what I call my “refurbished virginity.” To say I’ve decided to continue to remain celibate sounds like I just decided to not have sex. But, to me, refurbished virginity is like when you buy something and it is refurbished. You know it has been used before, but all of the broken or messed up stuff has been removed and replaced by brand new parts to make whatever it is in like-new condition. In that way I hold Jesus accountable to His word that says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).” I don’t know that I will ever have the opportunity to experience loving a spouse with my body and he loving me with his. But it is well worth it to me to wait it out on the off chance that it could happen. I value myself, my body, which is God’s temple, and the sacrifice Jesus made for me way too much to give away something, which I now understand is priceless. Cancer really makes you pause and take an introspective look at all areas of your health.

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: My Side of the Bed

I woke up this morning at 4 AM with a song called “My Side of the Bed” by LSG (Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill) playing in my head. I finally gave in and downloaded the song from 1997. At 4 AM my house is so quiet. The only noise I hear is the sound of whatever is in my mind (usually a song or a bunch of words) and cars traveling up and down the street. My bird friend doesn’t even arrive on my windowsill until after 5 AM. It is the time and perfect atmosphere to write out whatever is on my mind or heavy in my heart. I’m beginning to think maybe it isn’t chemo that is waking me up so early each day, but rather my mind and heart seeking an outlet for relief.

My family and I took an overnight road trip to Pittsburgh over the weekend. It is approximately a four hour drive from Maryland to Pittsburgh. We ran into traffic due to construction on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. So the trip took about five hours. I was just a passenger, but by the time we arrived I was exhausted and my whole body was aching. After visiting my nephew who was the reason for the trip, and going out to dinner together, we all crashed at my mom’s house. And I literally crashed on the twin sized bed in the guest room. I quickly fell asleep on the bed just big enough for just me.

Though I have been divorced for six years, and my former husband and I were separated two years before the divorce, for the last eight years when I get into my bed each night I still sleep on my side of the bed (the left side). I never noticed it before. When I returned from Pittsburgh and got into bed I noticed how I felt as if I was lying in the twin sized bed at my mom’s house. There seemed to be an invisible barrier between my side of the bed and the right side where my former husband used to sleep. I purposefully moved my pillows and myself to the middle of the bed and stretched out as much as I could to remind my bed and my body there was only one occupant in it now.

When I woke up this morning with LSG serenading me with the chorus of “My Side of the Bed,” I started thinking about my stance on marriage, dating, and relationships. Once you are divorced for a while people begin to ask when are you going to start dating and/or do you want to get married again. My response has never wavered. The idea of dating, being married again, or dealing with all that comes with being in a relationship really creeps me out. Most people believe I am speaking from a place of bitterness or resentment toward my former husbands. But, that really isn’t the issue at all. While I did experience some hefty bumps and bruises in both of my marriages, I am thankful for those experiences. I’m not bitter or angry. And I still believe with my whole heart marriage, done God’s way, is the BEST example of how He loves us.

My issue with dating, being married again, and relationships is me. I texted my closest friend yesterday and told her that even if I didn’t feel how I feel right now I honestly don’t know if there is a man that I would ever be able trust with my whole self. I think I have had this distrust or leeriness when it comes to men almost my entire life. I don’t believe it is only because of being molested so early in my childhood. I’m sure that’s a large part of it. But, I saw some crazy things in my parents marriage. My dad was one of the most loving, kind, funny, and generous men I knew. That is who I knew him to be as a dad. However, as a husband, he looked very different to me as did many of the men in my family. That helped me learn men were ok until you marry them. After that you better have your guard up at all times to protect yourself from imminent heartbreak. I mastered that skill and was still heartbroken in the end.

So, my trust issue doesn’t have anything to do with my former husbands. I went into those relationships not trusting them with my whole self. So they were already set up to fail. Anything that happened just confirmed that there is no man that I can trust with my whole self. My whole self being, the most intimate part of me. That part of me that only Jesus knows. The part of me that sees what other people don’t see, hears what other people don’t hear, and understands what other people don’t understand. The part of me that would be content to spend the rest of my life just praying for people, giving people hugs, and making people laugh out loud. The part of me that would rather cuddle up with someone I love and do nothing than dress up and go somewhere “fabulous.” The part of me that thinks stars can only be found in the sky and Jesus is the only “celebrity” worthy of all the praise we give people who are just really good at whatever it is they do. The part of me that looks at the world we live in with all of its craziness and still sees the beautiful, visual masterpiece God created, with its array of colors of people, the beauty of nature, and variety of animals… the part of me that makes me, me.

Between the stroke and cancer I have discovered life, with all of its complexities, is pretty simple and basic for me. My default facial expression is a smile. I would rather laugh or cry with you about our similarities instead of argue and debate about our differences so I try discover what those things are with whoever I meet. If I could wrap my arms around the whole world and give it a the biggest, warmest, most loving hug I would (I know it sounds kinda Miss America-speech-cheesy, but I really feel that way 😄). In many ways I am still discovering who “me” is. Most days I feel like an alien or an outsider looking into a really crazy place.

For today, I don’t see myself dating anytime soon. Just working on sleeping in my whole bed and pressing on to the other side of breast cancer is enough for now. But, I guess I will allow Jesus to help me tackle this trust issue so I don’t become one of those women who says, “I don’t need a man. All I need is Jesus.” While that is true, many women say that because they have given up hope that the right man they can trust with their whole selves will find them. When you say, “All I need is Jesus” in that way it is not making a bold profession of faith. It is making Jesus the consolation prize instead of having the man you really want. For me, Jesus is THE Prize so it goes without saying. Should I decide I want to be married again someday, having the right man find me would just be an extension of the gift Jesus already is to me all by Himself.

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).

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.)