The Light that Will Shine Forever

Hello everyone! For starters I should quickly explain that I am not Julie. I am her son, Alex, and I wanted to give an update on her blog. I also apologize for the length, a lot to share!

I asked her awhile ago why she has not posted anything in a long time and she responded by telling me she is too tired, but God is still giving her guidance and she has drafted posts. I could understand why she would not want to dedicate a lot of effort to her blog, giving the treatments she was undergoing and just battling cancer itself. Her posts clearly depict the battle with cancer she faces. Her posts, however, do not give an overall view of my mother. I believe there are so many other battles she fought besides cancer and depression.

She fought a major battle with borderline tendencies. I am so grateful she won that battle, as suicide is common with borderline.

Mom also battled poor relationships. Significant others were just the surface of the many relationships my mom battled through, but she won each one of them. Repairing broken relationships, and forgiving all.

She battled being virtually a single parent. (Side bit, in no way is my father a bad father, he is an amazing father and I treasure our relationship as much as mine and mom’s, but that does not mean that he is without faults)

She always had her focus on me. I will never forget the day she told me she was depressed and contemplated suicide a few years ago. I had come home from college and she explained it to me. I shared with her the depression I felt around the same time. My step-father had a bunch of knives upstairs in our home. I remember one night after a particularly miserable day, I sat at the top of the stairs with one of the knives that had seemed to be calling to me for the past few days. I remember holding against neck, and then a thought came:”What is mom going to do to when she sees her only child dead, laying upstairs?” I quickly put the knife away and went to bed, happy to live on knowing mom is with me.

She saved my life that night, and I told her this. She told me how I saved her from suicide by being her focus and when she would get depressed she would think of me. We made a pact that night, neither one of us was allowed to commit suicide or the other would too. I remember the feeling of finally having something to live for, that being mom. She was now MY focus. I promised myself I would keep my mom alive forever, regardless of the obstacle. Unfortunately, I was naïve and that promise was eventually broken.

Mom passed away early yesterday morning around 4 a.m. and lost her one and only battle, cancer.

I am thankful beyond words to be her son, and to have such a wonderful, courageous, strong, and amazing person to raise me. She will always be with me, in my heart, in my soul, and in my thoughts. I know she touched each one of her readers at least once with a post.

There was nothing I physically wanted from my mom. I did not want money, or her jewelry or anything like that, I wanted something else, something more memorable to me, something I can build and share her legacy. I wanted a way to share her story, her battles, and her amazing victories. I wanted this blog.

Although I am nowhere near as prolific writer as mom (She disagreed and said I’d be a great writer, she always encouraged me), I plan on keeping this blog alive in memory of her and will continue to publish her stories and battles, and some of my own observations of her and those battles. I hope one day the world will know what a truly amazing person my mother was. This is my way of keeping that broken promise, by keeping my mother alive forever through this blog.

I love you mom, and I know you are with God in the heaven you envisioned smiling down upon us all and you will forever and ever be remembered. I love you mom, and you’ll always be my snuggle bug. 

John 11:23-26- Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

Life Not Empty

More peoplemore-1

More giving of love

More taking of love

More conversations, less silence

More smiles

More contentment

More relaxation

More peacemore-1

More purpose

More warm, less cold

More companionship

More plans

More dreams

More fun

More life

More joy

More hands to holdmore-1

More fulfillment

More serving

More sacrifices

More laughter

 

More God

Psalm 90:12 – Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Fifty-Five Gifts

girl braveI haven’t had a chemo treatment since August 16th. Earlier this week, I found out that a few of my lymph nodes have started to increase in size again. I will start back with chemo next week. During my chemo vacation, my blood counts have been great and my CEA number has dropped. I was growing more and more optimistic and hoped for a longer break. I am disappointed.

Since my last chemo treatment, God gave me 55 gifts. Fifty-five days of feeling free. I let myself imagine life without cancer and I truly lived. I felt the sun on my face and I walked in the rain. I watched beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I stopped and looked people in the eye and really listened to them. I spent time with friends and family. I laughed, a lot.

The status of my physical health moved to the back burner. People around me stopped asking how I felt or telling me not to overdo it. I enjoyed not thinking about how I was going to feel the next day because I knew I would feel good. I grew stronger, my brain was quicker and I began to feel like me again. The old Julie with the dry, sarcastic sense of humor was welcomed back.

The news of more chemo has made me sad. I want to be free from the chains that come with cancer treatment.  I feel like I was let out to play, but now I have to go back inside. I’m a little shaken and I have cried a few times these past few days. But, I feel God all around me. He whispers to me that He is near and will never leave me.  

I’m thankful for the 55 gifts. I lovingly embraced each one. There are no promises that life will be easy and I accept that this is the path I’m on. There is no point in asking why because God is in control. He knows I can handle it. And, He’s given me another opportunity to share my faith. I will let His light shine through me and I will continue to tell my story

I will take up this battle again. He will give me the strength, tenacity, courage or whatever I need. God is bigger than cancer and I have Him on my side. I win regardless of what happens. 

I am not afraid, I have nothing to be afraid of.

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Charles, The Contractor

charles-paintFor the past few months my husband and I have worked (and worked and worked) to get our house ready to sell. We were getting to the bottom of the list of things to do. The grand finale was getting the master bath redone and completing paint projects around the house.

After getting quotes and talking with contractors, we had a plan and were ready to get going. The first day of work began with excitement. We’re getting started! Everything is going to be beautiful! Home remodeling is fun! The day ended with plastic covering everything, brown paper on all the floors and my bathroom inoperative. My excitement had turned into dread. As I brushed my teeth in the kitchen sink, I had a hard time envisioning how my house could ever be beautiful.

At the beginning of the project, our contractor Charles, dealt mostly with my husband. I suppose he could sense I was not enjoying myself so he kept his distance. Two weeks have passed, the work is nearly complete and I’m so close to having my bathroom back. I decided that being a contractor doesn’t mean you’re a bad person and I’ve started to talk to Charles more. Yesterday, as I was cleaning the kitchen and he was painting the ceiling, we somehow got on the topic of God.

Charles started to talk about his life. He was a long time abuser of drugs and alcohol. He had stints in rehab, but he came out the same way he went in. Unless he was drinking, he was a mean and angry person. He was one of those people who if you brought up God or church, he wanted no part of it and he ran the other way. One morning, he woke up lying on the kitchen floor after a night of drinking. He heard his daughter come into the kitchen. She leaned over him and asked, “What is wrong with Daddy?” As he lay there listening to his daughter, he thought he could get no lower.

He soon found himself in jail after his fourth DWI. In the past he had prayed and tried to make deals with God like, “God, if you get me out of jail, I’ll stop drinking.” None of those prayers were heartfelt and none were answered. Soon, the visits from his father, his daughter and all other family members and friends ended.  After years of trying to get him to change, they all gave up on him.

He felt broken, alone and deserted. With a humble and sincere heart, he turned to God and asked Him to change him. And just like that, God did. Charles began to read the bible. He continued to pray and ask for God’s guidance. He began to live his life the way God would want him to.

He immediately quit the drugs and alcohol cold turkey. He had no withdrawals and he hasn’t had a craving since. He finally found the best place for rehab and it stuck. He is living proof of God’s handiwork to his family and friends.They cannot believe what a completely different person he is. They call him a miracle.

I’m glad Charles had the courage to speak to me about his life. While I’m brave when it comes to writing, I’m not so brave in person. He showed me how easy it is to speak about our Father and what He has done for us.

And, once again when I least expect it, there is God. I love it when God takes me by surprise like this. It gives me chills. He is real. He is with us.

I Want To Be Like You

pointing-babyBack when I was fighting (and at the time losing) my battle with depression, I didn’t like me. I didn’t want to be me. I thought I was a mistake and forgotten by God. I believed I was unlovable and a failure at life.

There were many people in my life I did want to be. Strong people who spoke their minds. Confident people who always said the right things. Brave people who shared their beliefs, regardless if they would cause controversy. Successful people who worked hard and reaped the benefits. Optimistic people who were not afraid of the future.

Since beating depression, I now know that God doesn’t make mistakes and I am meant to be here. He made me on purpose, just as I am, His beautiful creation. I no longer want to be anyone else, I only want to be like Jesus. But, there are qualities some people have that are like rays of sunshine shining through them.  They have opened up a window to their soul, allowing God’s light to shine through them. They are very special because God chose them, they listened to Him and He is using them to reach others and provide hope.

I know one such person. I worked with her for a while and we got to know each other. She is a positive person who always smiles. She has lots of energy. She speaks openly about her love for God. She’s one of those people who when she walks into a room, others are drawn to her.

After a few years she moved on to another job. She regularly posted on Facebook and I kept up with her there. Last month, we directly communicated with each other for the first time in years. I learned that she is fighting stage 4 thyroid cancer. She has endured surgeries, radiation and many trips to the emergency room. I was shocked. After reading her many posts, I never would have guessed what she was going through. She posts a lot of pictures on Facebook and her beautiful, smiling face is in each one. She posted a selfie while lying in a hospital bed. She was grinning and surrounded by a happy glow. The only reason I knew she was in the hospital is she mentioned it in her comments.

She is the perfect example of how God shines through us. I know she trusts and believes in God. I know she prays regularly and has a close relationship with God. I think many of us know people who shine just a little brighter. They have a different kind of courage and an unshakable faith. I want to spend time with these folks and get to know them better.  I know being around them brings me closer to God.

Acts 13:47 – “The Lord gave us the following order: ‘I have made you a light for the nations so that you would save people all over the world.'”

 

My Heaven

heaven-mountainI have envisioned my heaven. I live in a valley between soaring mountains. The sky is a perfect deep blue and there is always a gentle breeze. All the dogs I’ve had through my life run around me and play.  They are so happy, their wagging tails making me smile. I feel the sun on my face, the breeze in my hair. I am strong and full of peace. I sit on a blanket under huge trees and breathe in the beauty. I see Jesus walking towards me. He sits down beside me. We talk quietly about how happy I am, how thankful I am for what He’s done for me.

Since my cancer diagnosis, I think a lot about death. My thoughts now are very different from those I had when I was struggling with depression. At that time I could not imagine a heaven. No beautiful, happy place was waiting for me. My soul was dark and empty. There was no room in my mind for ideas that were full of light and hope. I believed that death was my only option to escape from the pain.

During this struggle, one of my dogs became very sick and he was suffering. I decided it was best to put him to sleep. In the exam room at the vet’s office, blankets were brought in to make him comfortable. I got down on the floor beside him and held him. The drugs were administered and he quietly slipped away. I cried because I was sad to lose him. I cried because I desperately wanted to go with him. I didn’t want to ever step outside that exam room. I didn’t care what happened after death. I wanted to cease to exist and become nothing.

Now, death doesn’t mean an end or an escape. It means a transition to all the amazing things God has waiting for me. Through my fight with cancer, I have found joy and purpose. I know who I am and why I’m here. I can die knowing I found the courage to listen to the small voice that kept telling me to share my story.  I can die knowing I conquered my biggest fears and I now shout out the secrets I hid from the world.  I can die with the knowledge that those secrets were loving examples of God’s hand in my life.

Today is another page in the story of my wonderful life here on earth. I know this story will end but having a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean I’m going to die sooner than anyone else. Cancer only serves as a constant reminder that there is a timer running.

James 4:14 – How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.