Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: In Spirit and in Truth…

I spent the day Monday at an Urgent Care facility. Last week I was prescribed a strong antibiotic for a pretty bad sinus infection. My PCP’s description of it was, “Both of your nasal cavities are completely swollen, there is puss in the left nasal cavity (🤢🤮), and your throat looks awful.” I was to take the industrial strength antibiotic twice a day for seven days. He was certain I would be feeling better within a few days. By the end of the week not only did I not feel better, I felt much worse. I was in bed all weekend and by Monday was so miserable as soon as I got out of bed I got myself together and headed to Urgent Care. There, it was determined not only did the antibiotic fail to clear up the sinus infection, but I also had acute bronchitis. An examination, chest x-ray, breathing treatment, and a few tears later, I was headed home.

On my way home I tried to do the “good Christian” thing and talk myself off of the emotional ledge I was about to jump off of head first into an ocean of hysterical, ‘I AM SICK OF BEING SICK, GOD!’ tears, with snot running down my face, screaming at the top of my lungs. Instead, I told myself, ‘Well Lisa, it’s not breast cancer. This too shall pass.” As I waited at CVS for my prescriptions to be filled two scriptures came to my mind: Psalm 96:9 (NIV) “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness…” and John 4:24 (NIV) “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” As those words filled my mind my heart sank thinking I had disappointed God with my response to yet another illness. Since January I have had an upper respiratory infection, bronchitis, a sinus infection, and several colds. On top of trying regain my energy, appetite, and strength from all of the cancer treatments last year.

When I got home despite my best efforts not to all I could do is cry. My sisters came over for a visit, which was a welcomed interruption to what I’m sure would’ve turned into a ticket-selling worthy pity party. After they left, I took the pharmacy of medicine I take at night, unable to articulate how I felt I just cried until I fell asleep. I woke some time during the night only able to say, ‘Jesus, I just don’t want to be sick anymore. I’m so tired now.’

As I lay in bed looking at the ceiling, still feeling really frustrated and upset, without warning peace and calmness flooded my soul. I again thought of Psalm 96:9 and John 4:24. Admitting to Jesus verbally, out loud, how I felt, I was worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth. I wasn’t pretending. I was worshipping Him as Savior by being honest and knowing He would love me anyway. I was worshipping Him as Healer knowing He has the ability to heal me. I was worshipping His as Lord knowing as tired as I am His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The words I could not speak He heard and fully understood through my tears and silence. It was His all-consuming Presence that pierced through the darkness of my soul, my emotions and ushered me into worship with the words: ‘Jesus, I just don’t want to be sick anymore. I’m so tired now.’

When I woke up Tuesday morning I was still sick of being sick. I still didn’t feel well, but in the midst of all of my crabby, sick, funky mood, ugliness, I was able to get lost in the splendor of Jesus and His holiness. I realized He’s not expecting me to be a perfect ray of sunshine all the time. Sometimes it is RAINING and it is raining HARD! All He’s asking me to do is try to look toward the Rainbow and when I see it sing about it! Shout about it! Dance about! WORSHIP… in Spirit and in TRUTH… in the splendor of HIS holiness… not my own.

For today, I have a lot to sing, shout, dance, and WORSHIP about…despite how I feel!

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: 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 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

Journeying to the Other Side of Breast Cancer: 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.