A Warrior’s Unexpected “Call to Arms”! (by J. K. Sanchez)

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     The air in the room instantly became thick and hot, her ears hearing only her crashing heart beat; four unexpected words spoken in a sterile environment now bouncing through her head like a ping pong ball – “you have breast cancer”. How she receives, processes and walks through today and the months and years ahead will transform her and impact everyone her life touches.

     The insidious leviathan called “breast cancer” begins to surface, having already begun its rampage within the territory belonging to her. Does she run or fight? Her first responses to this attack are terror, numbness and inability to move. But soon instructions, research and information are received and the sword is offered; now decisions loom. The still surreal question before her – surrender to this monster’s fiery breath or take that sword with both hands, brace her feet and prepare to move forward into the fight of her life?

     This devouring disease looms as a possible destroyer over every woman. There is no discrimination to its destruction – all are at risk. Every year over 200,000 women are faced with this monster’s appearance.   Every year the decision to take up a sword of defense is forced into trembling hands of women of all generations – the single woman, the mother, the career woman, and the retired woman. They all will receive a “call-to-arms” that was never expected. This battle is one that is a life-long sentence! These women may make it through the skirmish, but will live everyday for the rest of their lives with this leviathan and its smoldering breath lurking under the surface; never knowing if it will resurface again.

     Two brave warriors: Cherrie, a vibrant grandmother in her 60’s, and Rachael, a single mother of two in her 30’s, live each day with this lurking monster’s presence, but they walk with positive attitudes of thankfulness. The determination to fight – to lift the heavy sword – is wielded by three powerful words that stand strong within each of them: Faith, Hope and Love – the greatest of these is LOVE.

     Each of my friends and every woman who will encounter, fight, survive or succumb to this insidious disease are already winners, for they have made the stand against it. How the battle is fought is the key – it is the positive attitude within them that knows that they were made for more.

     At 64, the unexpected jolts in Cherrie’s life had adjusted to a soft daily roll. But one morning in March 2011, everything in her life quickly changed. As an exuberant positive person not much could shake her; but as the doctor spoke she barely heard anything past “stage 1a breast cancer”. This was a routine mammogram that now had turned into a tidal wave crashing over her mind. Shock, fear, anger, and tears all flooded unbidden over her, but within minutes the destructive wake stirred a determination as she announced, “Let’s get this taken care of NOW!”

     Her years of experience and research skills immediately kicked into gear. Her first contacts and rapid response came from friends working in the local hospital. They connected her to some of the best cancer specialists and within weeks she was scheduled to have a lumpectomy and begin a regiment of radiation.

     Though her greatest fears were of the cancer spreading or cells being left undetected, she knew her positive attitude had to stay intact.

     Cherrie was overwhelmed with love and support from her daughter, granddaughter and friends; this love became her strength. Shortly after surgery she received a surprise visit from co-workers touting pink roses and champagne to celebrate, cheer her on and stand beside her – just in case she grew tired as she wielded this heavy sword. They were in her corner to fight this fire-breathing leviathan – they knew this red head had enough fire in her to breathe right back at him. Their support, encouragement and love were what helped her through the hardest days. The very best medicine is often found in friends – laughter, love and of course some “furry” snuggles.

     Now 5 years cancer-free, Cherrie knows that love was the reinforcement she needed every day, “To be with those who were positive and loved me unconditionally kept my hope up. ”

     This destructive tsunami hits new women every day, but from one warrior to the next, Cherrie’s advice is “above all else try to remain positive, it is frightening but necessary to be optimistic. Put your trust in your medical team BUT ask questions at every opportunity. If you need help – ask for it! The people who love you sometimes don’t know how to help – so tell them.” And with a smile and some sweet levity Cherrie advises, “be thankful for Lane Bryant push up lingerie – I am!”

     Rachel, a 34 year-old mother of two with no risk factors, was unprepared to hear the results of the recently found rapidly growing and painful lump on her breast. As the doctor diagnosed, “It’s an invasive aggressive cancer”, the words sounded as if a death sentence had just been handed to her – this aggressive cancer could mean less then a year to live. Within weeks, armed with firsthand encouragement and research, she chose her best option for surgery and a double mastectomy, lymph-node removal and implantation of expanders were accomplished.

     Life as she had known it had come to a screeching halt – surgery, weeks of chemo and a myriad of medications took over her life with her biggest fear looming in front of her – her two young sons without a mother.

     Rachel lives a life that is positive – always looking at the best in life and others, so it was time to focus that positive attitude on the fight of her life.

     Family stepped up! With her sister’s ability to research healthy options in every arena and help with her boys, as well as her mother’s strong shoulder and prayer warrior spirit – she found the fuel that helped her make the decisions to fight this leviathan. The onslaught of support through kind words, prayers, and gifts of all types overwhelmed her with love and hope that she would complete this journey.

     With months of pain, medications that made her sick, loss of her hair, setbacks, surgeries and more surgeries, as well as living through months of hormone inhibitors which made her feel dead inside, this young warrior responded, “Giving up was never an option or a thought.  No matter what I am facing and going through, God has given me this life and it is His to give and take away. My goal is love, truth and kindness – even on the hardest days.”

     Now only months since her last medications, she thoughtfully responds, “I am still often tired, but grateful for each day with my sons. I’m lucky to be alive, even though I still have pain and hard days.”

     She thinks often of those who unexpectedly helped her in many of the little everyday ways – providing meals, finances, occupying the boys, and a myriad of thoughtful gestures. She is filled with joy as she sees the example of God’s grace having been walked out in her family – seeing them come together, reconcile differences and support both her and each other has been an unexpected blessing.

       Life is never the same and this battle is never really over. Once you have cancer it is always lurking. The thoughts that ring loud and clear from Rachel are “before this, the world and life felt so big – full of wonder and possibilities. Now I don’t feel that way. Hopes and dreams are simple now, but I have deeper peace and security. I’m able to be more honest and direct. My relationships are all simple because I’m at peace with others and myself. I don’t place expectations on anyone and I allow myself to have weakness and space to rest.”

     Rachel’s thoughts for those beginning and fighting this battle are to walk daily with “Focus- Laser focus! Focus on what is in front of you right now. Whether it is a person, a project, decision, pain, recovery, gift, blessing, sunshine, or storm – all you have is right now. Soak it in. Also, every step is temporary, whether good or bad. Pain comes and goes and healing takes its place.”

     Though cancer takes over every thought in this journey, it is not what defines these women – they have not chosen this battle and have no control as to how, why or when it attacks – but they do have a choice; how they respond to it.

   Loving support and prayer are the covering and glue that seem to hold together as well as strengthen body, mind and spirit while these warriors trudge through this darkness.

     Human beings are able to pick up, move-on and overcome so many horrific obstacles in life because of three seemingly small words: Faith, Hope and Love. Faith that there is a God bigger than all of this, who loves us and is the ultimate one in control; Hope that our life (our story) is not finished yet, and that there is still a promised future waiting for us. And the greatest of these – love. A love that will change, support and bring life, growth and strength to the atmosphere that surrounds us. Love is the adhesive that is the key to any type of recovery.

     Let’s come along side these fighting warriors with faith, hope and love; bringing some small strength to them as they fight this insidious leviathan. For we know not if we may be the next warrior in need of strength to lift the sword in the fight of our life, as its lurking presence may beckon our own unexpected call-to-action.

 

Photo courtesy of : saphatthachat@freedigitalphotos.net
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An Eagle’s Life Lesson

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     The majestic eagle depends on his physical design; strength, speed and and sharp vision, for his survival.  Just as the eagle does, so do we often depend on the “I” of our own abilities.    

     There comes a time to the eagle where a molting process must be faced. This process brings this majestic strong bird to a weakened position. His feathers, strength, vision and ability to fly or hunt are eliminated during this time of preparation for renewal.

     We too, come to this place; where all of what “I” can do and what “I” have done are no longer of value. We then face a choice, a choice of the heart. A choice that requires a willingness to give up all of what “I” can do and trust in what “He” did for us at the cross.

     The eagles too must make a similar choice. Many roll over and die choosing the memory of the “I” of their former majesty. Those who are renewed are those who turn to the sun, rest and wait. They then are restored not to the former majesty but to a stronger and greater one.

     We too can only reach new heights with renewed vision and strength when our eyes are on the “Son” not the “I”. Only then can His plans, purposes and design for our life be renewed.

     Trust that His plans for you are far greater then your “I” plans. So chose today to learn from the renewed eagle. Join me and look to the Son – Rest and Wait! This hard time of “molting” will bring forth the fruit that changes lives; you will come out better then you ever were before.


Isaiah 40:31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (ESV)

Revised excerpt from Winters Rest – J.K. Sanchez “The Choice – To Mount Up With Wings Like Eagles” 2014

A Gorgeous Bouquet Surrounds Us!

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     Recently I was on a hunt for just the right flowers to add into a few new borders in my yard and the Holy Spirit began to highlight my love for flowers.

     I love flowers – they just draw me in. From the tiny to the huge – crocus and grape hyacinths that sprout through the frozen ground in early spring to the huge dinner plate size dahlia’s, that stand in strength and presentation. The beautifully scented – freesia, wisterias and jasmine as well as the ones with no scent or even the adversely scented ones.

     I am continually amazed at the beauty and diversity that God created in such a gorgeous bouquet, all just for us to enjoy.

     BUT that’s not all. What about the bouquet he has made out of all of us? Just like the flowers he created, each flower being completely different – so are we.   Enjoying the differences in flowers is easy – but when it’s differences in people, we pull away from those who are different. Instead of pulling away, separating and isolating into the “right” groups, He has created us to be a world changing bouquet. Each of us with all of our differing sizes, shapes, and scents complimenting one another.

     Look around – spend time with those who are different from you and you will walk away smiling. Those you think are so different are pretty amazing. We were created to compliment each other – to enjoy the differences of our brothers and sisters and most of all to love each other. Take time to enjoy the human bouquet that surrounds you.

Love – The Medicine that Matters

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     We are made up of billions of microscopic cells. These cells make us who we are but sometimes they get infiltrated, mutate and change. Those changes forever change lives.

     For the last several months I have been writing an article on breast cancer; I have researched, studied and cried profusely over stories of women who have battled this insidious disease. The stories are different, the procedures are different, and the outcomes are different, but three small words seem to jump out of every story – faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these inevitably is love.

     In all of our lives we face life-impacting monsters that threaten to pull us under. During those times these same three words surface and are ultimately what allow us to stand through the storm – and the greatest of these words is love.

     The greatest love ever given was the love poured out on the cross of Jesus Christ – that love was for us and now lives inside our cells. What we do with that love makes everything change. Just like infiltrating mutating cancer cells change lives forever – so much more does the love of Christ infiltrate and mutate our cells into ones that infuse our lives and the very atmosphere around us. Those changes are then transferred to others and bring strength, life and change.

     Every story of struggle and pain is peppered with the only medicine that matters – Love. The simple out-pouring of everyday needs, given out of love is what makes the difference in the midst of the chaos. Those who step up – stand beside, lie beside, cry, laugh and walk through the fire are the ones that bring the medicine that matters. A love that saturates, strengthens, supports and brings relief; coming as unconditional love, surrounding the struggling warrior. Often it is only a hand-full of “love” carriers that stand beside and weather the storm – but that is all that is needed.

     Not many “friends” make it.  Unfortunately those who find themselves in the battle also find that those we thought would always be there for us are often times the first to go. Leaving us alone, hurting, broken and needy, but then just as surprising the unexpected people of love step in.

     Our society has become one of “fixers” – we always have the answer, an opinion, direction and judgments for the one who is struggling. Often because we are uncomfortable – we give out those “fixes” instead of just being there and allowing the love within us to become the salve, which brings strength to rise up.

     Within each of us is housed a quiet simple place where love resides. The noise and craziness of society often drowns it out. It is not hidden there for us but for the broken, hurting and needy. Step out of your comfort zone into a place where you become a dispenser of the greatest medicine ever; allow His love to bring healing, restoration and release into lives that are living in chaos. No opinions, No directions, No judgments – No fixes of any kind – simply love.

     No matter what the outcome – Love truly is the only medicine that matters. It is the only eternal medicine. Allow the cellular level change of His infused love to permeate you and those around you by simply being His love to those your life touches every day.

I Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.   (ESV)
Photo Courtesy of : taoty@freedigitalphotos.net

A Sanctuary Within

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Walking through my yard this morning with birds and butterflies swooping and fluttering by, an unexpected peace settled over me as the word “Sanctuary” dropped into my heart. Thankfulness grew within as I looked at our little paradise – a not so big home and a way to big yard that has matured over our 18 years of care giving.

     Our home has been filled often to the bursting point at family gatherings. Family has been added and grown to include so many who have truly become “family” though not by any reason other then our love for each other.  As well as the times when we have opened our home to house those in need of a place of refuge. We have often questioned – why us? But we too, have matured as the house and yard have. Now, realizing it has been His love that has drawn the broken, needy and just those who needed a little TLC into our home – this sanctuary. We have simply said yes to His request and invited them in and watched as in some small way we have helped to heal, restore and release people onto the next steps in the journey that God has begun for them.

     Our yard with it’s enormity overwhelmed us many times over these years but my vision of what it was to be has slowly evolved as many hours of work have created our little oasis. I researched and chose many plants and flowers that would draw hummingbirds and butterflies – planting and often re-planting. Every year has brought more work; more plants, more flowers and more ways to creatively landscape. By creating less grass to maintain yet producing our slowly materializing park the vision has slowly come to pass. Today, I look out and see a plethora of birds of all species as well as my hummingbird friends who fill the skies throughout the day. And now joining them butterflies swoop in and out to nibble on my flowers. What began 18 years ago has become an amazing sanctuary for birds, butterflies and me! The peace of God surrounds every area we have lovingly created.

     Paralleling this long-term creation in the natural to my spiritual walk I realized that to truly see and experience the sanctuary that God has created within me and around my life requires TIME. As we continually turn construction over to Him – He digs, plants, moves things in and out – and suddenly His peace is reigning and we begin to SEE the fruit and are blessed to enjoy it. It is always after much has been done and all of the hard work and mess has been cleaned up that the beauty presents itself and fruit is flourishing.

    As we allow the loving hand of Christ to create His sanctuary within us we are allowed the great joy of being part of the same process of creation in others. In love we pour out His healing, His restoration and encourage the release of His children into who He created them to be.

   Our lives then become a place that is filled with love, peace, and refuge, which draws those in to this “God” place of sanctuary.

An Unexpected Interruption

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     I woke up early this morning with plans to get yard work accomplished before the heat of the day moved in but my morning plans were interrupted by an unexpected visit of three of Gods amazing creatures.

     My love and passion for nature often finds me mesmerized by the tiniest flowers that perch on top of weeds, intricate lacy spider webs and the individual trill that each bird makes; as well as the multitude of other beauties I come across. So it isn’t new for me to be aware of the beauty I find in unexpected places. However, this morning I was stunned and found myself literally holding my breath in awe as I watched the most delicate ballet erupt over my flowers.

     First one gorgeous yellow and black butterfly moved in hovering over the flowers and then the dance began. A second and then a third joined in but not just random enjoyment of their floral feast but connecting one to another. Soon they swirled around like synchronized swimmers – looping, diving, and softly fluttering. I could swear I heard music, as I stood totally amazed and engrossed in what I was being allowed to witness.

     I lost track of time as they continued oblivious of my presence. The obvious joy that this dance provided to them was contagious to watch and joy began to stir deep in my spirit as they presented this stunning ballet to their audience of one.

     But soon, as if on cue the dance was over and each butterfly flew off to different flowers leaving me with a sense of profound amazement, honored to have witnessed this intimate dance.

     The morning plans now weren’t important for God’s plan to pour out an unexpected blessing took me to a place of joy unspeakable.

     I began to contemplate what God’s “deep meaning” must be for what I witnessed and experienced today. Then as if in answer to my question laughter began to bubble up inside of me – there was no “deep meaning” it was His simple gift of love – especially for me. WOW – now that truly is a “deep meaning”!

     My day was filled with unimaginable joy because I took the time to stop what I thought needed to be done and participate in what He allowed to float into my day. My friend – don’t miss God’s unexpected interruptions of love by allowing your “to do” list to distract you from the blessings He has planned for you today.

Photo courtesy of : J.K.Sanchez Photography

Fly – Jump – Run! The Gold Medal Awaits You!

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As a mom it’s been my joy to watch my kids play, jump and run – nothing is out of reach. They fall down, we pick them up; they skin a knee, we bandage it; they even break a bone or need a few stitches in the process. But during this time in these little lives we see a freedom that most of us lose – a freedom to believe we can fly, we can reach the stars if we jump high enough, we can run the “fastest” and always WIN.

Let’s consider an Olympic gold medalist. This winner does not get to the winners platform by happenstance – not because another saw a talent, not because of special treatment but because of single focus. The journey began with love and passion – one step, one direction at a time. When this day arrived, the gun went off, the race began and the only focus was forward; there could be nothing but the finish line. Deep down inside the winner will WIN and so faith and focus prevail!

Once the gun went off was there a backward look to evaluate the “near miss”, maybe just a glance to see the cheering crowd, or for sure, to check out how far ahead of the competitors they were?

NEVER ONCE – for looking back for any reason causes distraction and can quickly end the race due to unexpected failure.

Just as in the natural so is our race in the spiritual. We often live our lives looking backwards. We find ourselves living in past hurts, joys, wishful thinking and regrets – all of which cause distractions and derailment of God’s plan in our lives. The faith for the impossible – the faith for tomorrow’s new adventures, and the finish line wins all get sidelined. We have forgotten that we can fly, we can reach the stars and we can run the “fastest” and always WIN.

When you find yourself in this place how do you get back in the race?

Just like the Olympic winner – it takes single focus! Our single focus has to be on the face of Jesus! He is and always is FOR YOU! Just ask – He will restore what has been lost so that just like a child you can jump back up, get back in the race and make it to the finish line a winner. He can restore the belief that you can fly, you can reach the stars and you can run the “fastest” and always WIN.

Don’t look back – look forward to what He has placed within you!  Get up and move one step at a time into His impossible opportunities in your life.  Run, Run, Run like a child again – for then comes the freedom to believe, the freedom to see yourself the winner that you are!

Fly – Jump – Run for the gold medal awaits you!

Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But, one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
Photo courtesy of chrisroll@freedigitalphotos.net