Friday, May 16, 2014

The Desires of Our Hearts

I love it when I God catches me by surprise and speaks something randomly into my heart. Not audibly, of course. It's that still small voice we believers recognize as the Holy Spirit prompting our thoughts. This happened to me yesterday as I shared the cliff notes to my past and all that God has done for me in the last decade.

I was explaining to someone how I felt in an abusive marriage. I didn't have any hope of an emotionally fulfilling relationship. I was just trying to make it the best it could be and count my blessings instead of focusing on my hardships. I think I was pretty successful at that, since I endured 27 years of abuse. But when I'd feel very low and discouraged, I would remind myself that God was equipping me through suffering to help someone else "down the road."

I was so aware that those who have suffered themselves have the most to offer to another hurting person. I can go back in my mind, to spots in different homes, and visualize where I cried and thought of Romans 8:28 and sincerely told the Lord, "If the only good thing that comes from all this is that I can help someone else later on because I really understand, that will be enough for me." And I truly meant it from my heart.

As I was expressing that to someone yesterday, it was like someone whispered inside my head, "And He will give you the desires of your heart (which I recognized as Scripture). I gave you the desire of your heart." I couldn't remember the entire passage. But I had the feeling at that moment that He was telling me this was a desire that was aligned with His will for me. Not that I was being rewarded for being "good." Just that I was in His will to desire someone else's good through my suffering and everything that was happening now was tied to that desire.

This morning I looked up the passage in Psalm 37:3-5 and read the fuller context...

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.…

When I read it, I saw myself during those years. I did not have that Scripture in mind as I prayed that way. But, in essence, I see now that I was dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness to the Lord. I was committing my way to Him and I was trusting Him even though I so often felt "slayed" by my circumstances.

I can't say that every desire of my heart has been in accordance with God's will or even pleasing to Him, for that matter. But the desires that have been aligned with His Word, I have received.

When I was saying that to God all those many years ago, I never had the slightest idea that I would do more than help a few friends get through difficult circumstances. But God has redeemed my suffering in much greater ways than I even hoped for. God gave me the ability to write and He's given me opportunities to share my testimony with others. He brought me to a community where I've been able to use my influence and abilities to raise awareness and money for the fight against domestic violence. I've been blessed with so many opportunities to connect with others through shared experiences, trials and triumphs.

So many times our desires are for ourselves rather than for others. And God does not promise to grant all our selfish desires. But I believe He longs to grant the desire of our hearts when the desires of our hearts are aligned with His plan and His love for humanity.

I felt compelled to blog about this. If you are going through hard times right now and struggling to imagine how God will bring anything good out of what you're suffering, hold onto the promise of Romans 8:28.

He will do it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thoughts on Books and Moms...

In the last week or so, I have found my thoughts going in the direction of a possible third book. Even though my audience of readers is small and probably always will be small, I love writing. It's not about "selling" books. It never will be. It's about the writing and it's about the readers. My reward is the feedback from readers and the money/awareness I've been able to raise for our Women's Resource Center.

Helping other women and friends to overcome the wounds of domestic abuse and domestic violence in whatever way I can; that is a huge "payoff" for the years I struggled. I must also confess that sharing my own journey has been far more liberating and healing than I expected it to be. So much emotion (some of it I didn't even realize I still carried) was purged as I wrote and rewrote THROUGH MY EYES. I can read it now without any tears. But that in itself was a journey.

There are two subjects my mind keeps wandering toward when I think about another writing project. One is our CLL journey. My husband has "battled" chronic lymphocytic leukemia for seven years now. His mom was diagnosed less than a year after his diagnosis. My dad also had CLL. But all three of these CLLers have had a different CLL journey. My dad was asymptomatic from diagnosis to his recent passing. He is one of "those patients" who lived many years without needing treatment and died with CLL instead of from CLL. He was diagnosed in or around 1997 and died this March from end stage Parkinson's disease. He was diagnosed with both at or around the same time. His CLL diagnosis came out of a routine physical. And I remember being told he had "the good cancer." That's another blog post or book. But in Dad's case, it turned out to be true. He never had anything but an escalating white count. He never got sick. He never had enlarged nodes. He never needed treatment. But in the last 17-18 years of his life, he had other serious medical issues that included triple bypass and Parkinson's. CLL turned out to be the least of his concerns.

My husband's CLL journey has been a different kind. We had a real scare when he failed chemotherapy in 2009/10. His has not been the most aggressive kind of CLL, but it has been nothing like my dad's CLL. If you've read my blog or been my friend, you know John's journey. And I have documented it here on my blog if you want to know more. I won't go down that road in this blog post. But he has been in a nice remission and enjoying good health for four years now on Idelalisib. He was in an early clinical trial and a little pill taken morning and night has controlled his CLL beautifully. It's amazing that this little pill has been able to do for him what chemotherapy could not -- and without all the side effects and toxicity to his body.

My mother-in-law is somewhere in between my dad and my husband as far as her CLL progression. She entered an Idelalisib (formerly known as CAL-101) trial as an older patient having never received treatment for her CLL. John's trial was for patients who had failed or relapsed treatment. They offer new trial drugs to the patients who are in the worst situation first. Marian looked fine, but her platelets were steadily falling and she was becoming anemic. She had a few enlarged nodes as well. But they weren't visible. When her platelets dropped below 100, we started to discuss treatment options because to wait for her to be in a dangerous condition would be foolish. Especially at her age. John was doing so well on CAL-101, she felt that choosing the clinical trial was almost a no-brainer. And it turned out to be a good choice. She is also doing beautifully and still dancing at 81.

Which brings me to the other book that is dancing in my head right now. Tomorrow is Mother's Day and my thoughts this week have been drifting constantly to my mom, obviously, but also the other Mothers in my life. My mom died in 1987, just two weeks after her 49th birthday. I was 28. It's tragic to lose your mom that prematurely. Tragic in so many ways. I will always hate that she didn't get to meet the majority of her grandchildren. Tragic that they missed out on having their Grandma Jane in their lives. She has the most gorgeous (inside and out) granddaughters, whom she would absolutely ADORE and be so proud of! She didn't get to know a single one of them. She had just three grandsons when she died; Danny, Jared and Justin. And they were all just kids. She now has ten grandchildren and six great grandchildren. The family reunion we will have in heaven will be so wonderful. I often find myself thinking about the things I want to tell my mom when I see her again. And I could write a book about those things alone.

However, my thoughts this week have also been focused on two other mothers I have in my life; Marian and Rebecca. John's mom has loved me like one of her own from the first time we met. She is an absolutely lovely person and such an "easy" mother-in-law. Without her, I wouldn't have John. And I'm so grateful for her "middle son." But I'm also thankful for her. Nobody could ever replace my mom in my life. I would have loved to grow into a more mature relationship with my own mother over the last 27 years. But having a mother-in-law who is both a friend and a nurturing mother figure fills a gap in my life that wasn't filled from 1987 to 2003. I was motherless. But because of my surrogate mom, I don't feel motherless anymore. In some ways, I have become more of a typical daughter in that I feel free to argue a point even when I'm wrong and sometimes that "me do it my way" little girl comes out if I imagine I'm doing something differently from the way she would choose to do it. But even that is such a gift. I'm able to be completely myself with Marian. And there is no fear whatsoever of rejection or disapproving consequences. How many daughters-in-law can say that about their mothers-in-law???

My daughter-in-law Rebecca is the other mom in my life who has occupied so many of my thoughts this week. My son hit the jackpot when he married Rebecca. And so did his kids. I am so thankful my son has a spouse and best friend in one person. I'm thankful she has that in him as well. They complement and bring out the best in each other in so many ways. It's wonderful to watch their relationship and their family grow (from the sidelines, as a mother). I feel so blessed to be here to see their happiness and, even more than that, to see them serve God and pursue His calling in their lives as a unit. They are raising sweet, compassionate kids. I see those little hearts developing into caring individuals; each in their own ways. They are all so unique and special. And I thank God all the time for the gift of Rebecca in their lives and in mine. It's a pretty amazing blessing to watch your grandchildren enjoying the world's best mom as their own. And I know this is something not all mothers-in-law can say about their daughters-in-law.

So, you see, I am doubly blessed even though I am without my own natural mother. And I could write a BOOK of my deepest thoughts, emotions and observations to and about each of them -- or one book dedicated to all three. And I just might do it. When my second book on abuse was finished, my editor wrote to me that maybe my next book could be a joyful one -- like the joys of a happy marriage. I don't know how many readers there would be for a whole book filled with my gushing about John and our life together! Of course, there will always be a bit of that in any book I write. ;) But a whole book might be overkill and might have to come with a barf bag. LOL.

I didn't enjoy Mother's Day for at least five years after my mom died. I couldn't look at any Mother's Day card in any store without tears streaming down my face. The loss of a mother is so terribly deep. And I always feel so grateful for friends who have had their moms throughout their lives. I have a friend who is with her 94 year old mother right now, hearing her mom say that the trip they're on is the best of her life. It put a huge smile on my face for both of them. I got to hear words like that from my mother-in-law after our recent ten day cruise together. We had a lot of fun together and sharing a cabin was a breeze. She even made coffee for me every morning. And I stopped by the sports bar and grabbed a glass of wine for her to sip while getting ready for dinner a time or two. We made memories to last the rest of our lives. And I hope to one day do something similar with Rebecca.

I'm thankful that Mother's Day is not a painful day for me anymore. I can remember my mom with smiles and happy tears. And I'll think about all the things I want to tell her until I see her again. I'll always wish we could have had more time. And I'll always grieve the loss of her holding my grandbabies and watching my son, nieces and nephews grow into the beautiful human beings each of them are. But I am focused on my many blessings more than my losses. And I know we are not parted forever.

I love you, Mom. I love you so much. I have so much to tell you when I see you that I might just have to write a book before I get there.

Happy Mother's Day.
Hug your moms. Hug them tight.