on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7
Before you go in for surgery, you have to remove most of the things that you hide behind: make-up, skin cream, deodorant, lip gloss, jewellery, nail varnish. Even most of your clothes: instead you get to wear a huge trendy NHS gown that opens at the back, and some ultra-tight green anti-DVT socks.
It’s a weird feeling because it makes you feel quite exposed; and I’m not a high-maintenance person who wears nail varnish or loads of make-up.
It makes me think of how God sees us: not as surgery patients but without all the stuff that we hide behind. We all show a certain face to other people; that may be businessperson, earth mother, geek or socialite. We may want others to see us a certain way. We show only our good sides and try to hide our faults. But God sees us for who we really are. He knows all about our past and he sees our every thought. We can’t fool him.
And that’s ok. He made us, after all. And he loves us no matter what we’ve done or who we are.
As I went into surgery yesterday, I felt completely at peace. Firstly, because I trust my surgical team; but mostly because I trust God. That doesn’t mean that I never get worried about anything, in fact I can get anxious over even small things. But I do try to remind myself that God is always in control, no matter how bleak the circumstances.
He has a good plan for my life. Events like surgery, trying to conceive and childbirth, remind me that really we have very little control over our lives. Yes we can make decisions, and there will be consequences, but actually we do not control our destiny when it comes to life and death. Sometimes our health will let us down; sometimes our friends and family will let us down; sometimes we will disappoint ourselves. Yet God is there with us, every step of the way.
My surgery went well and I feel surprisingly good. Hopefully I won’t need a major operation for a few years, although there are risks (like leakage) with implants. I am going to be discharged to go home soon. ☺ I won’t be able to vacuum or lift a laundry basket for a few weeks though, which is a shame.
Thanks to everyone for their thoughts, prayers and messages. Thanks to Mike for being the best husband, and to our parents for babysitting and all your help. And thank you to my doctors and nurses, and the caterers and cleaner too. They work so hard and are always friendly. I am so grateful to them all.
I had a dream last night that I have had before, years ago.
I was looking at myself, feeling disappointed in what I looked like.Then I looked into a mirror and realised that in reality, I actually looked completely different. Almost unrecognisable as the same person.
I knew that the mirror was showing the truth, who I really was. My perception of myself had been wrong. It was only when I looked into the mirror that I realised I had been seeing lies. I had believed the lies until confronted with the undeniable reality.
I believe that there is someone who will read this who has been listening to lies about themself. Maybe others have been telling you lies, or perhaps you have listened to the untruth in your own head for too long.
I just want to say that the truth will set you free. Stop listening to the fiction, and see the reality of who you are.
He said to the Jews who believed,”If you keep and obey my Word, then you are my followers for sure. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
I didn’t want to get up this morning. I was tired and my brain fuzzy, in the increasingly familiar hay fever way.
As I waited for the bath to run, I read a bit from the Bible, like normal. Today it was John 10.
I am the gate; all who enter through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
(John 10: 9-10)
Instantly my head felt clear and alert. I suddenly could understand much more clearly what Jesus is saying to us; not just intellectually, but spiritually too.
Jesus’ plan for us is to have life, and life to the full. The enemy (thief) wants to steal, kill or destroy that life which God has given us. There is a battle for our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits.
If we allow illness, bad relationships, past pain or fear to rule our lives then we are allowing some victory to the enemy; who, let’s be clear, is not a cute cartoon devil who pokes people with his trident, as our culture would have us believe.
I had cancer last year. I had chemo, surgery and then radiotherapy. Thanks to God and the medical profession, it is gone. It is my past. Yes, it has changed me physically, shaped my story and its after-effects will be felt for some time; but it does not have a hold over me. I will not let cancer dictate my future.
I have come to realise that many people who have had cancer and are now better, can struggle with a terrible fear of the cancer returning. Logically, this does make sense, because sometimes cancers do return. So I sympathise with them, because it is a horrible, life-altering or destroying disease.
But for myself, there is no fear of this cancer, or any other cancer. That does not mean that I am going to take up smoking or sunbeds, because of course we should all live reasonably healthily. But, the best explanation that I can think of for this is that God has set me free from fear of cancer. I know that he does not want me to live a fearful life, one where I worry about big or small bad things happening to me. I know this because he tells us not to be anxious so many times in the Bible. And because he loves me.
Someone at church told me that the enemy tried to destroy me with cancer, but he failed. God has the victory. Yes, this makes sense. God has a plan for my life, and he wanted me to win this battle. He knew that I would. I trusted him to fight it with me.
Jesus came to give me life to the full, so I am going to enjoy it.
He never promised us an easy life, far from it. He is the good Shepherd though, and he chose to lay down his life for us. To believers he speaks freedom not just from illness, but from the fear of illness. Freedom from the past, as well as from the mental or spiritual hold that past pain can hold over us. Claim that freedom, it’s a gift.
(Note: I know that one day I will die of something. But that is also OK, because I know where I am going.)
So if the Son sets you free you, will be free indeed.
I seem to spend half my life trying not to offend people, and the other half exaggerating. I am growing tired of people-pleasing tbh (must be getting old.) So hopefully I will offend some people today, but in a good way. ☺
I believe that if a believer sees sin in another Christian, and they are in a good, trusting relationship (and/or a leader) then they should be free to challenge (not condemn) their friend on it. So that is what I am attempting to do here. (Please don’t judge me too harshly if I get it wrong.) Note that it must be done out of true love and concern, out of wanting the best for that person; not out of a sense of ‘I am better than you and if you don’t live exactly like me in every way, then you are obviously wrong. And get a haircut for goodness sake.’
I know a small handful of people who do actually get this right, so it is possible. It’s a gift like a rare gem, shiny and pointing to Jesus’ love for all of us.
Those who hear gossip about someone else and decide to put them in their place with self-righteous indignation, need not apply. Nor am I talking about a believer telling a non-Christian off for not being good enough. Seriously, read the gospel.
Sin is bad because it separates us from God, which is a terrible thing (for us, because God is our loving Father who made us to be in a loving relationship with him. He wants only the best for us and sin is the worst thing.) It leads to death (Romans 6:23). Also it hurts ourselves and often, other (innocent) people. So sin is bad. The Bible is really clear on what sin is so I am not going to go into that too much.
The huge problem that I have noticed in the church, is that many are so focused on their sins, or, more often, other people’s sins that they are completely missing the picture on what salvation truly is and what the actual point of this life on Earth is. You are so busy watching for the roots that may trip us up, that you forget to look up to see the beautiful trees. You are so bent over, examining and judging the detail of how sinful other people are that you are in danger of tripping up and falling flat on your judgy-pants arse.
And yes, I have been guilty of this myself. If I have judged you I am so sorry.
Jesus gets angry a few times in the Bible. Mostly it is about religious people who pretend to be all holier than yow, when he and they well know that believers are no better than anyone else. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. He didn’t die for us because we are clever or dress nicely or because we are somehow more deserving than the average non-Christian. He died for us because he loves us. While we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8).
So we have absolutely no right to go around thinking how sorted we are because we have faith. We have no right to sniff at the mistakes of others in a self-righteous and proud way, as though we have never done anything wrong in our lives.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
For many Christians, rather than loving people like God tells you to, you are actually saying:
“Hi, welcome. This is the way to God. Oh sorry, how awkward, you just aren’t good enough for Jesus like I am! Lol. Get lost.”
Instead of loving the lost like Jesus does, many of us are casting them out because of our judgementalism, ego, and inability to truly love people who we are not comfortable with. No wonder people lose their faith, after constantly being told how useless they are and how much they have to change to fit in.
No wonder people are too afraid to go to a church service, worried about what believers will think of them. Or thinking that they are not good enough to be loved by God, because all they see of Christianity is rules.
No wonder many Christians are too scared to open up to their friends when they are struggling with their finances or marriage or kids, dreading that they will be judged and found wanting by other Christians. What they need is love and support and just some good old-fashioned kindness.
This life is not about sin, it’s about God and how much he loves us! Matthew 22:37-39 tells us that we are called to love God first, and others as much as ourselves. We are not called to appoint ourselves as judge and jury over all creation.
Sin is bad and we are told not to take God’s grace for granted, but:
If you inject heroin, God loves you.
If you are having an affair, God loves you.
If you eat too much and then make yourself sick, God loves you.
If you are a Christian who struggles with judgementalism, God loves you.
Whoever you are and whatever you have done, God loves you more than you know.
I am not sorted either, but I am going to take my judgy pants off and endeavour to judge less and love more. I am even going to try not to judge the judgers, because that would make me a hypocrite.
I know I won’t get it right all the time, but that’s OK because God loves me more than I can get my head around, and will help me.
Lord, please help me to love others with your grace and compassion. Help me to see people with your eyes. Please help me to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Amen.
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:2 ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them…
13 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
15 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
I haven’t written a blog post in a while, mostly because normal life is tiring! It’s over a month now since radiotherapy finished, and I am enjoying being an ‘average’ human again.
I had a hospital appointment today and realised that I hadn’t been to my local hospital all year! Mad. Of course, I have earned many frequent flier miles at the Oxford one in 2016.
I was diagnosed soon after Easter last year, and the anniversary is fast approaching. We are going on a little family holiday soon, partly to celebrate the end of active treatment, and partly to treat the kids, who have not had an easy 12 months.
It’s my birthday next week. I have always loved birthdays, but I’ve never before been so happy about getting older. 😊
A couple of weeks after I finished the rads, two nasty red lines appeared on my collarbone. I thought it looked bad, but actually I got off lightly. Radiotherapy can cause permanent skin damage, such as burns and painful welts. If you don’t believe me, do a Google image search. But not right after a meal.
I have been warned that I may get more skin damage in the next few months, but I think it’ll be fine.
The first photo is when my burns appeared, a couple of weeks post-radiation (21 Feb) . This is when I decided to pray specifically for my skin to heal. The next photo was taken two days later. The third is from today (16 days after the original photo.) It doesn’t hurt at all now.
I have always hated doing the washing. The thanklessness, meaningless, never-endingness of it all. The lanundry basket that never empties, even when you have just crammed the machine full with another load. The folding and putting away. The emptying of the machine. The eternal cycle of drudgery. If I could be spared one thing in this life, oh let it be washing clothes.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Emma prayed for me the prayer from Numbers that asks God to bless us:
24 ‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
I appreciated being prayed for, but wondered exactly what it felt like for God to ‘make his face shine on you.’
Now I know.
I finished radiotherapy on Friday 5 February. And with that, active treatment for the cancer. Yay! The radiotherapy took place every week day for five weeks and involved a 2-hour round trip after work. It was so draining, not only physically but emotionally. It didn’t leave much time for socialising or fun or even normal family life. Thankfully, my lovely church made us a hot dinner (or take-away) every weekday evening for those five weeks. Such an amazing group of people. It really helped.
But Mike and I still found the rads much harder work than expected.
This Monday was the first week day post-rads. It was a normal day. The first normal day in a very long time.
So, I had time to do a load of washing. At first it was the same as always. But when I was hanging the clean clothes up to dry, I realised something: I was enjoying myself. As I hung up Connor’s Spongebob Squarepants socks, I was aware that I was actually grateful that I could do the washing. I wasn’t too tired or ill. My arms didn’t hurt from surgery. I wasn’t stressing or rushing, worrying about fitting all the housework in. I was just doing the washing, and it was good.
It was as though the clouds suddenly parted and a beam of sunlight landed on me and the wet clothes. I didn’t hear birdsong, but there should have been some. This is what it feels like to have God’s face shine upon you. The joy. The awesomeness of simply being alive.
For people who have never been seriously ill or disabled or poor, I guess you don’t really understand how this feels. So, I am a bit sorry for you. When everything has always been easy, it’s too easy to take the little things for granted. Those who moan a lot often have the least to moan about.
I am grateful for: life, health, socks.
Thank you God for turning your face towards me.
PS: I am sure that by next week, I will hate doing the washing again.
I was reminded by someone today that my identity is not a ‘cancer sufferer’ or even a ‘cancer survivor’. My identity is in Christ. This may be mostly a cancer blog at the moment, and cancer might be a big part of my life right now; but I am always, first and last, a Christian. It is the most important thing about me, and that will not change, no matter how ill or well I am.
If you are a Christian and feel that you are defined by your illness or unhappy childhood or current circumstances, remember that God is the most important thing in your life. His name is bigger and more important than any other name. Jesus is bigger than debt. Bigger than illness. Bigger than divorce. Bigger than family. If you would like me to pray for you, message me or ask in person and I will be happy to.
I became one of those ‘born again’ Christians when I was 11 years old, but I have always known that God is real, and that he loves me. Christians use the word ‘testimony’ when talking about their story, and specifically their story regards God. It’s often about how they became born again; and also what God has done in their life.
My testimony isn’t an exciting one – I grew up in a Christian home – but, it’s still important. You may not think that your testimony is very exciting (or maybe it is) but it is important. Don’t forget to tell people your God story – everyone loves stories.
Darrell Tunningley (former drug dealer and car thief who became a Christian in prison) visited our church today and told us his testimony. He attended an Alpha course in the prison, lead by two ancient nuns and a vicar. The reason that he went to the Alpha course was the offer of free biscuits. The most powerful thing about the Alpha Course was not the intellectual debates or the impressive theological knowledge of the nuns. It was their love. They loved him with God’s love: not a romantic, or namby-pamby fake thing, or even maternal love. It was with God’s love. I do not think that Darrell would have ever got more from the Alpha course than free snacks, if the people leading it had approached him by thinking that they could argue him and the other prisoners into salvation. Or if they gave him a nice hot meal or new socks and a leaflet about Jesus, but didn’t actually care about him as a person. You can’t argue with love.
I guess that’s why God tells us to love him first; and next, to love other people. It’s vital.
This is a video where Darrell talks about how he was saved by God – literally saved from a certain violent or drug-induced early death.
If you stuggle to love other people (especially the annoying ones or different ones or stuggling ones) then ask God to help you love people with his love. It does work – I know because I have tried it. With certain people, you may need to ask God more than once.
Christian, if you are still alive, no matter how old or ill or useless you feel – then it is because God still wants you to do stuff for him – if you’re not sure what, it probably involves loving your neighbours, colleagues, friends and anyone you meet. And loving him first, don’t forget that.
And if you are not a Christian or don’t know what you believe, then I know that God has a plan for you too. He loved you from before you were even born and he’s calling your name. Please give him a chance- ask him to talk to you.
I read this in my Bible this morning before church:
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.