Devotionals, Writer's Spot

Secrets to Thriving By Elaine Mahaffey

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Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ Matthew 1:23

Immanuel…God with us. This four syllable biblical word describing the baby Jesus is a staple for Christmas carols, sermons, and cards. I have probably heard the word Immanuel numerous times every Christmas season of my life, yet until recently I have probably not understood it’s depth of meaning.
​Somehow grasping for hope causes us to search for meaning…the meaning of life, the meaning of death. In the midst of Stage IV metastatic carcinoma, what does “God with me” mean? As a Christ-follower, faith assures me that He is WITH me, in the good times and the bad times, in sickness and in health, in celebration and in defeat. But exactly what does WITH mean? Perhaps the WITH of God explains the peace I have felt in the midst of cancer treatment. Or does the WITH of God answer the unexplainable joy, or the unwavering hope that God is in control of my life? His WITH for me means His very nature permeates my thoughts and reactions when I am scared of hearing scan results, or when the pain of the tumor in my leg reminds me that I am living with cancer. The “with” of God enables me to not only survive this time of my life, but even to thrive during this time.
​God often reminds me that He is Immanuel to me. He is with me and is in control of everything. Ten years ago, I received a Christmas cactus as a gift. I parked it in our master bathroom where I would remember to water it (even cacti need some water!). The cactus sits all year looking rather nondescript. In fact, it’s rather ugly. But every year in late November or early December, beautiful amazing red flowers appear.

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I remember four years ago when I was going through my first breast cancer. I glanced at the beautiful cactus one day and made the comment to Bob, “How does that plant know it is December!” Immediately the Lord reminded me that He is Sovereign over everything. He tells the Christmas cactus that it’s time to bloom! So why would I have to worry about ANYTHING.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
​​​​​​Matthew 6:25-34
I can thrive in the cancer battle because He is Sovereign Immanuel. The “with” of God knows and orchestrates every day of my life.
​I also thrive because of encouragement of family, friends, and even those people I hardly know. Encouragement is powerful and fuels strength to fight. It comes in many forms…through cards, promises of prayers being offered, surprise gifts of blouses that will fit my arm plagued with lymphedema, or even through my grandchildren. Every now and then God surprises me with unexpected encouragement. I smile as I think of a recent gift:
My morning began as usual. On Tuesday mornings Tucker arrives around 8:30 and then we head out to Ladies Bible Study around 9:15. This morning was like any other…nothing out of the ordinary. Until I changed his diaper. As I leaned over him to complete the task, Tucker looked up at me, and in his innocent, charming toddler voice, said, “Grammy, you look like a princess!”
You can imagine how shocked I was to hear those words. In these cancer-laden, chemo-driven days, I often don’t feel like a princess. I limp. I have one arm almost twice the size of the other. I have gained weight due to steroid infusions and increased appetite. My “princess” days seem to be over. One of my fears in my reoccurrence of cancer has been that my grandchildren may not remember their Grammy as vibrant and full of life, but chemo-destroyed, old, sickly. I try as hard as possible to seem as normal as possible in the abnormal.
Tucker made my day that day. I realize that the comment was probably spurred on by the “princess-type” sleeves of my new blouse, but I can always fantasize that he really saw his grandmother with the blind eyes of love and not the clouded eyes of the world.
​​“…but let us encourage one another…” 1 Thessalonians 4:18
That we would all live this way.
​​Encouragement feeds thriving.
To more than survive in life’s most difficult challenges, I believe we must experience the “with of God,” being thankful for any encouragement He sends our way. People encourage me, but the Word of God, His Son Who made His dwelling among us, and the Holy Spirit encourage me even more. I could not live in peace, joy, and hope without this assurance. I love the theme for our upcoming women’s renewal event. I hope I am living testimony to the truth of God’s Word:
God has made known to us the secret to THRIVING… “That secret truth, which is for all people, is that Christ lives in you, the hope of glory.”​​Colossians 1:27
I want to thrive in the midst of cancer…not just survive…that He may be glorified!

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Elaine Mahaffey

A previous and most excellent post by Elaine about her diagnosis of bone cancer: When What’s New is Hard 

Click here to find out more about THRIVE:Gathering 2016 where Elaine has been a featured speaker.

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What’s New? Part 3 -When “What’s New” is hard.

 Look! I am about to do a new thing! Now it sprouts! Do you not perceive it?

Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 (LEB) image

What do you do when the new in life is the hard. It’s not an exciting new adventure or giddy butterflies in your stomach moment. It’s gut wrenching, head spinning and faith clinging, clinging, clinging. How do you respond to this “new thing”  in your life situation that feels like it is stealing from your life?

Where is the new creation?  Where are the new compassions?  Why this new thing?

imageMeet my friend, Elaine Mahaffey, and hear her story. Allow her perspective to open your eyes to new ways God loves, heals and creates the new in the midst of the hard.  Many of you have heard Elaine speak at our Out of our Mind women’s events the past 2 January’s. What none of us knew this past January was that a little over 24 hours before Elaine spoke to us about being devoted to the apostles’ teaching, she heard from the doctors that her cancer had returned; this time in her bones. 

 

 

 

When What’s New Is Hard

“The “new” is flooded with His presence, infused with His instruction, and enveloped by His grace.”image

But I’ve been here before! I know what it’s like to hear the “C” word from my doctor. MRIs, CT scans, surgery, radiation…been there, done that. I remember the infusion center, the shock of post-surgery realization, the pain of severe burns from radiation, the celebration of treatment completed. Yes, I know what cancer is like. And now I know what it’s like to have cancer return.

​As I have cried and prayed my way through this recent diagnosis of metastasis, I have asked God what I am to learn from this. With my first cancer experience, I blogged on a Caring Bridge site, but I have struggled to begin a second blog attempt. God’s Word has not changed. Everything I wrote in my first blog is still true today, so what “new” thing am I to learn? What is God teaching me now? I must confess, this new is definitely hard.

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Patience. Perhaps God wants me to slow down, yet I am happiest when I am busy. My “type A” personality has always driven me to thrive on tasks accomplished. Even in the midst of this diagnosis, my mind runs with goals to achieve, closets to clean, books to write. Yet now I wait hours in doctor’s offices and infusion centers for appointments. My time is now subject to the schedules of others…no more “master” of my days. Perhaps I do need to slow down, but God please give me patience!

Humility. Countless friends and acquaintances have sent cards, visited, provided meals, prayed over me and with me, and have been very supportive. I am not used to this. It is perhaps one of the hardest parts of this whole process. Everyone means well and for the most part these interactions are good, but sometimes things are said that I must process with filters. Recently, a good friend asked me, “Elaine, how are you doing? I can’t imagine. What does it feel like to know you are dying?” I know she meant well…I would just rather focus right now on the living. God is God. He knew my date of birth and my date of death before I was even conceived. My life is in His hands, and I rest in that. Peace is knowing that I don’t have to concern myself with my coming and going. He does all things well.

​Trusting God does not mean you cannot cry. Believe me, I have cried with this recent news. I am very human and my emotions are very real. My husband has always been the one who cries more than me, yet together we have “cried a river” (probably an Amazon!) these past few months. I have cried as I shared this news with my associates at work, with dear friends, with people at our church, and even at times with total strangers! I will go along my day thinking I am handling everything well, and then for some odd reason, something will open the floodgates again. I love life, my husband, our children and their spouses, our nine grandchildren, blue sky days, mountains and beaches, and so much more. Yesterday I was reminding myself, “Better to have loved much than to have never loved at all.” I love these people God has placed in my path! And I cry when I am reminded that I am diseased. But – I trust God with everything…my life, my husband, our children and their spouses, our nine grandchildren, the blue sky days, and even the mountains and beaches. He is Sovereign. He is our Provider, our Sustainer, our Rock in times of trial. He is everything to me and I trust Him even in the tears.image

 

Deny yourself…take up your cross…follow me. Our church has focused this Lenten season on this verse Matthew penned years ago through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

​Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

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​As we have worked through this Scripture corporately, I have worked through this privately. What does it mean to deny myself? I must understand that as a Christ follower, every part of me belongs to Christ. My time…my pride…the good days and the difficult ones…the cancer-free days and the cancer-laden days…my life.

​And what does “take up your cross” mean for me? Is my cross cancer? I don’t believe it is. In his book, Experiencing the Cross, Henry Blackaby writes that “Taking up your cross means giving up your rights.” Interesting. I think I understand Blackaby’s perspective a little better in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. Taking up my cross means that I surrender my “right” to orchestrate my life as I desire, but God has every right to take me on the mountaintop or lead me through the valleys. I must surrender to His plan for me, and I choose to do so with the tenacity of embracing the truth of His Word with honesty, transparent with questions, successes and failures. The “new” is flooded with His presence, infused with His instruction, and enveloped by His grace.

​The result: I will follow Him. Even when the new is hard.

Blessings,

Elaine Mahaffey