Unstoppable

I’ll never forget the day I locked my keys in my car at the library. I had just returned my kindergartner’s books, and walked back to my van, only to discover my keys still dangling in the ignition. Not to mention my purse, wallet and cell phone were sitting in plain site on my passenger seat.

Yep.

One of those days.

And for some odd reason, I didn’t have my four children with me. That rarely happens. I walked into the library past the kids’ section to ask the clerk at the help-desk if I could use their phone, you know…to call my husband to bring our spare set of keys. Only, when I picked up the landline, the library calendar of events was flopped open for me to see the words:

          Writers’ group, 2nd and 4th Tuesday nights from 7-9pm

I swallowed the uneasiness building in my throat as I heard the same words often repeated in my mind:

Write the book.

Just so you know, I didn’t write back then.

Not at all.

I was a speaker, not a writer. I was a number crunching budgeter—and words, well, they seemed to get garbled up in my dyslexic mind. So, when I saw the schedule and felt God nudge me to ask more questions to the staff member, my tummy twisted. The librarian chimed away about how this group met every other week to offer feedback on whatever literary piece you felt confident to share.

And that was the problem.

I wasn’t confident.

I hated words and writing and all things that required properly placed commas.

I remember when God first whispered this book-idea after I spoke at a crisis pregnancy center one night. A woman rushed up to me afterwards with eyes wide, and reassured me that people needed to hear the miracles God had allowed in my life, and she was convinced that writing a book would reach a larger audience.

Chuckling, I said that I wasn’t a writer. That’s when she had the nerve to say, “You know, God equips the called.”

Pressing my lips into a lopsided grin, I realized the truth.

It was never really about me,

but what God wanted to do through me.

Deep down inside, I knew this. I knew the Bible story about David and how God equipped him to pummel Goliath with a smooth stone. His confidence surfaced only after his previous successful wrestling endeavors with a bear and lion, which he slayed with his hands. But this was David we’re talking about here, not some 5-foot-vertically-challenged blonde who was made fun of for failing the 4th grade. I had just learned how to babble away on a stage without passing out, and now God (and apparently strangers) were pushing this book idea?

None-the-less, the seed was planted and would not silence until I started meeting weekly with a brave friend who graciously edited my cruddy chapters (God bless you, sweet friend).

All the while, God tethered me to this library where I was forced to make a decision that ultimately changed my life forever.

Are you seeing the baby steps here?

Much like David had to grow in his confidence, so did I. Speaking on a stage led to a stranger nudging me to write, which led to playing around with chapters a friend edited because she saw something I couldn’t, which led me to being trapped in the Royal Palm library where I joined my first writers’ group.

Coincidence? I think not.

Just like it’s no coincidence that you’ve read this

far in the blog post right now.

Do you feel that?

He’s tapping on your shoulder and whispering in your ear about that project He’s told you to undertake.

He wants to use you. He has placed more in you than you will ever realize until you take that first wobbly step. What do you have to lose? You either look back ten years from now and wonder “What if I would have started that company?” or you jump in and run with determination.

I love that God reminds us that,

“Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it,

for the Lord is with you.” 2 Samuel 7:3

Do it.

Now.

Today.

Ok, after you’re done reading a few encouraging words that have reinvigorated me over the years.

Our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, said,

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent (unstoppable).”

Be unstoppable.

My precious friend and pastor’s wife Aimee Nelson once said,

“It’s not about your ability,

it’s about your availability.”

Be available.

The only thing that successful people have going for them is that they refuse to give up.

Refuse to give up.

Don’t quit.

Don’t give in.

After attending a few writer’s conferences, my book was eventually picked up by a traditional publisher, not because of my wicked-wordsmithing, but because of persistence and much prayer.

The funny thing was, the moment this woman suggested I write, I started mentally imagining the book. God used her to plant the seed. Not because I’m anything, but because He is everything.

Man, God loves to use the unusable

because it only points others back to Him.

Here’s one more secret…so listen closely.

If He can use me, a math-loving, dyslexic, 4th grade failure, He can use anyone.

Ask Him what purpose He has for your life, then silently wait for the whisper.

Today, be unstoppable,

be available,

and refuse to give up.

{Are you ready to reach your full potential? Fantastic! Palm Beach Women’s Network is hosting Unearth Your Vision + Mission on Tuesday, February 19, 6:30-9:30 at the artsy Elizabeth Avenue Station!

{Elizabeth Ave Station}
Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, text

This next series features amazing speakers, including my friend Aimee Nelson I quoted above.

Come out.

Lean in.

And never look back.

I hope to see you there. Let me know if you registered, and I’ll save you a seat next to me. Events with sweet friends are always more enjoyable!}

This article was previously published on the Palm Beach Women’s Network site.

Strength-Giver

Ry_Wedding_reception cropped“How many months have you been in remission?” Bill, my new psychologist asked.

“Three.”

“And how does that make you feel?”

“Good, I guess,” I pulled at the hem of my shirt. “But, I can’t shake
the thought that…it’ll return. I just wanna know…am I cured or not?” My chin trembled and I grabbed a tissue off his side table to dab my nose. “You’d think going through the treatment’s the worse part. It’s not. I mean, it is…but so is that doubt in the back of my mind. That lingering thought that I’m going to die. Sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?”

“I don’t know, I guess because I’m complaining, speaking my fears.”

“And do you think someone in your condition has the right to complain?”
I shrugged.

“What other thoughts or fears do you have?”

“I don’t know,” I crossed my arms.

“What do you hear yourself say?”

My eyes shifted to the ceiling, then around his room. “What do you mean?”

“What else do you tell yourself?”

I hated this. I knew what he meant. “I’m pale, scared, bald, ugly…dumb.
People don’t take me seriously because I look young or say things the
wrong way.”

“Go on.”

“Um…” I played with my dampened tissue. “I’m unorganized, don’t do
enough at home. I’m tired and lazy. The house is a mess. I make
mistakes. My oncologist told me I’d have chemo brain. I didn’t really
know what he meant. Now it’s clear. I forget things, and repeat
myself.”

“And this makes you feel dumb?”

“Everything makes me feel dumb. I made mistakes at work and almost
got fired years ago. I’m a horrible writer. I freeze up when writing a
thank you note. Since treatment, it’s gotten worse. I forget dates,
special events, appointments. The other day I pulled out of my
driveway and turned a corner. Madison’s car seat tilted over. I forgot
to buckle my own child in.” I let out a breath. “Who does that? It’s
kind of funny now, but I felt foolish at the time—especially thinking
what could have happened if we were in an accident.”

“Why do you beat yourself up?”

Hands Of Desperation

“What do you mean?”

“Why do you tell yourself negative things? Do you think other people
make mistakes, like your boss or your husband or your neighbor?”

“I guess. But my mistakes are simple. Things average people wouldn’t do.”

“I see.” He paused. “I am going to disagree. God says you are
beautifully and wonderfully made. And if it makes you feel any better, even Moses felt inept.”

He wrote something on his pad.

“That’s a device of the Enemy, you know? To slip that wedge of doubt into our minds, He accuses us of being worthless, that no one would want to listen to us or use us. You should not think you are the only one. Look how much Moses accomplished, even with a speech impediment and a debilitating fear to confront others.”

He took out a clean sheet of paper and started writing.

“We are going to change your view of yourself. First, tell yourself
‘Stop’ every time a negative thought enters your head. You have a
broken record. Each minor mistake you make your record is there to
remind you. Are you willing to work on a few things?”

I hugged my stomach. “Yes, sir.”

“Great. We will start with daily affirmations. Each morning you will
repeat these things.” He wrote a few more sentences and handed me the
sheet. “Read them out loud, please.”

“I am perfectly happy to be me, for me.”

“I am good enough just as I am, for me.”

“I love and approve of myself, for me.”

“I am a competent worker, for me.” I put the paper in my lap and turned my head.

“Why did you stop?”

“Because it’s hard to read something you don’t believe.”

“Please, keep going.”

“I am a creative, prolific writer, for me.” I sighed.

“I am intelligent, for me.”

“I am organized, for me.”

“I am healed and whole, for me,” my voice broke. I dropped my head and
wiped the sudden tears.

“Why are you crying?”

“It’s hard—I don’t feel these things. I’ve never told anyone my fears
before. It’s embarrassing.”

“There is no need to be embarrassed. I am here to help. But the only
way I can is if you repeat these affirmations for six months.”

“Six months?”

“Yes. Every morning read these five times each while looking at
yourself in the mirror.”

I blinked.

“I know. It seems excessive. Trust me. This is how we change that
broken record. The first week will be difficult. You’ll feel foolish, maybe even laugh as you say it. That’s okay.” He leaned forward on his desk. “Next, I want you to get in the habit of journaling your thoughts daily. Write whatever comes to mind. If it is destructive or private, you can rip out the page or shred it. What is important is to get these feelings out.” He paused. “Then, read your Bible. Even if it’s only one verse. Start somewhere.” He smiled. “Come back and see me in two weeks and tell me how you are feeling. Sound
good?”

I nodded, never knowing I’d only need one more appointment with this
man…that what he was saying was really true: I wasn’t the only person
battling mental bombardment and I just needed to retrain my mind, and
replace my thoughts with living words.

Golden Treasure Box

“Before you leave, I want to you to pick out of the treasure box.” He pointed to a gold container on the table beside me. “These slips of paper are God’s promises for you. His Word was written to guide us.”

I pulled out a verse. “I can do all things through Christ who gives  me strength.”

“Perfect. He is the Strength-Giver, isn’t He?”

~~~~

I struggled with whether or not to include this chapter in the book. In the end, it was cut, but there was still a valuable lesson that I needed to remember. I can’t do life alone; not on my own strength, and I certainly needed to rewire my negative thoughts. Maybe that’s why God tells us to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up,” (Hebrews 12:1).

The sin (fear) that entangled my mind was a very human reaction. I obsessed and worried my days away. Looking back on this chapter of my life, I wish I could whisper in this young girl’s ear, “Life gets better. I promise. God will use this pain to reach others.” But at the time, I certainly didn’t see any hope.

Praise God for His word, and the ability to rewire negative thoughts with positive ones, and for sending people into my life to speak encouragement when I was so fearful of opening up.

 

Slog Away, Sweet Friends.

Just walk.

Or Slog (AKA: Slow jog).

1 mile. One foot in front of the other at whatever pace feels right. It will only take you 14 minutes. You’re worth that.

Just do it.

Today.

Because if you can, consider this a gift. One day our bodies will wane. One day resting will seem more redeeming than running. So start small and don’t give up.

Listen to “Light Shine Bright,” TobyMac.

Or “Won’t Turn Back,” NEEDTOBREATHE.

Or maybe you can reply and share your favorite get-your-blood-pumping song that motivates your fancy-pants to move.

I’d love that. ; )

24 hours, remember.

Time is a gift you’ll never get back. With so many items on our to-do list, we’ll need an increase in energy. I’ve found that my momentum slips away when I’m stagnant, and I’m assuming each one of us want to make 2019 our best year yet!

Let’s promise together to intentionally pursue the things that improve our health, bring us joy, and release His peace. My hope and prayer for 2019 is to post more encouraging messages to lift our spirit.

I need that.

I’m thinking you may, too.

For me, moving is the number one thing that kickstarts my creative juices and when God inspires me with writing ideas the most. Let’s start this year with movement. Here are the other reasons I slog:

Increases bone mass

Increases energy

Defeats depression

Burns calories

Me time

Fresh air

Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke

Because I can. There’s no excuse.

Move. Hold tight for the ride. Maybe even message me back if you got out today.

Here’s to 2019!

Much love,

Dabney


“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,” ~Hebrews 12:1-2a NIV

PS Another New Year’s resolution I’d like to tackle is updating my blog (it’s about time, right?). Does anyone have experience using WIX? Or WordPress? If so, which do you prefer?

PSS Please, please, please (do you hear me begging here?;) share your favorite uplifting music! I’m always looking for a happy song to play!

The Choice

{Previously published on Palm Beach Women’s Network website}

There’s something you need to know about me.

I’m that sick girl.

You know, the one always battling an illness.

And when I say sick girl, I mean the kind who fought cancer twice by the age of 26, the first time while pregnant. The laundry list of my ailments is long—10 life-threatening illnesses, four near-death experiences over the course of 20 years—long. But my most recent medical oddity was when I grew a round knot the size of an extra-large egg out of the center of my chest.

Really?

I can’t make this stuff up.

Praise God my hard lump was only a cyst. But in the middle of my chest?

My illnesses are not a trophy I hold high for the world to see, but one I desperately desire to hide from, because I’ve always wanted to be the normal girl. (Ha! I just laughed a little after typing that last sentence.)

You see, one of the most profound quotes I read after battling an illness was by a Hospice nurse who said,

“Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

~Bronnie Ware

“Oh,” was the only word I sighed out after contemplating this semi-truth.

Because there was a time when I wanted to temporarily transfer my pain with a simple

handshake and tell those complaining about their job or their marriage or whatever non-health related struggle they were facing that, “If you can somewhat jog without gasping and never have felt a day of debilitating bed-ridden fatigue, you have nothing to complain about.”

But I couldn’t.

Typically, non-sick people don’t understand their gift of health until they no longer have it.

I surely didn’t. At least, that was the way the 25-year-old me felt. It has taken many years, but I’m still learning that what I can do after facing so many sicknesses is empathize with others crawling through an illness, and maybe help alter their perspectives a tad.

I get it.

Sickness is a stinky place to be…until the day you realize it isn’t.

There is a different type of freedom that surfaces the day you understand that your life really

isn’t yours…regardless of how rotten you feel. That each day you wake, you have a choice to

wallow (and there will be days like this), or seek God’s goodness that He desires to show

you, because you’ll never have this day again with your spouse, your children, your parents,

or your friends.

What if you woke today and knew you only had 24 hours left to live?

Would this change your thoughts, reactions, and how you spend your time?

I may always be that professional patient, but each morning when I wake, I have to choose how to live for that day. Whether I’m a seeker of joy, or grumbling in grief…I decide.

We all do.

Who I have believed that I am for so long has only been a tool He has wanted to use. Because the truth is, if I wasn’t diagnosed with a football-sized tumor in my chest with my first baby, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

My sicknesses saved my marriage by softening my stubborn heart.

My sickness opened my eyes to adoption, because If I wasn’t told I couldn’t have more children after the months of chemotherapy made me infertile, I never would have adopted a daughter from China. And if my sickness wouldn’t have made me so fatigued, I never would have stayed home with my kiddos and homeschooled them.

Never. Ever.

This life wasn’t a path I picked, but one I’m now so thankful I’ve walked along. I just wish I

would have walk along it more cheerfully.

It’s amazing how sickness can make you spiritually well. It humbles your heart, drives you to

your knees, and teaches you how to fully lean on Him (Proverbs 3:5-6), because the ultimate

truth is our days are numbered (Psalm 136:16).

We choose daily to either run this race of life with perseverance, or run our mouth, complaining our time away.

What if that hardship you’re facing was the catalyst that leads to ultimate healing?

Huh?

I think I’d like to alter Bonnie’s quote above:

“Sickness brings a freedom very few realize, until they walk through it.

It’s the freedom to look at life through God’s eyes, choosing what to do with the

limited time we have left.”

What will you do with the next 24 hours?

The choice is yours.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-3a (NIV)

So Long, Pedro.

(I apologize ahead of time for the icky pictures of my radiation-wrinkled upper chest, but merely describing this thing wouldn’t make as much sense. And yes…I did circle my bump with a pen to see if it was growing in size each day.)

Meet Pedro.

Yes, we’ve named him.

We kind of had to. The alternative would have been a weeping mom for weeks while we figured out why a golf ball-sized bump emerged from my upper sternum. I’m not going to lie, this growth was freaky-weird, which pretty much explains my medical journey for the last 20 years, so I guess this means I shouldn’t be shocked by now, right?

Pedro popped up on a Friday, the day after I played volleyball for 10 minutes with my 15-year-old daughter.

(Can I just admit…I’m out of shape, ya’ll? I haven’t huffed that hard in years from chasing so many missed balls.)

In case you didn’t know, I have wires that protrude a tad from the center of my chest from where my heart surgeon sutured my ribcage back together after my aortic valve was replaced. Since then, I’ve always had a teeny bump that juts out from the wire. On Friday, August 30, 2018 a round bubble formed over this pointy nub, and by Sunday, the bump had morphed into the size of a golf ball. This was when I became a tad worried, but not worried enough to run to the ER like any other sane person.

I mean, the bump didn’t hurt and I was already creating my Dabney-isms for why it had appeared:

  1. The wire broke
  2. I fractured a rib in the center of my chest from the amazing volleyball moves I placed on my teen
  3. Maybe my body was creating a barrier around the wire from all the agitation?

But there was no pain, and I hate the doctor’s office. If I could finagle a way to avoid such a place, I would. Instead, I decided to call my cardiologist the following week…you know, just to keep him in the loop. And that’s when his office insisted I visit the following Thursday.

My cardiologist quizzically examined me. “It’s too hard to aspirate the growth,” he gently pushed against it. “I recommend a CT scan.”

“No, please,” I begged. “I just had one three months ago from a weird pain I was having, and it ended up being nothing.”

“The only way I can properly diagnose you is with a CT.”

I bit the inside of my cheek. “Ok,” I relented.

For seven days I examined this oddity, praying this thing would shrink, and I could cancel my test.

That didn’t happen.

After my CT, my cardiologist concluded, “It’s a cyst. We can do one of two things. Drain it, or wait it out…”

Before he could finish, I blurted, “I’ll wait! Pedro can shrink on his own. I don’t need another needle sticking me.”

He looked at me funny.

“Oh,” I pointed to the bump. “My kids named it Pedro,” I snickered. “Sometimes you have to laugh or you’ll waste your days crying out of fear. We chose laughter this time. It’s supposed to be the best medicine.”

I drove home that day with many things on my mind. I’m honestly not trying to sound foolish, I realize that Pedro could have been a tumor. This made sense. He was in the middle of my chest right above where my mass had grown 20 years ago, but the old Dabney keeps learning new truths with each medical hiccup. This was the first time in a long time where I didn’t freak out over a medical issue, especially since I could visibly see this one. All the others were merely something I felt.

But my sickness is not my god, and it should never be an altar I bow down to.

I can’t anymore.

The alternative is fretting my days away, wasting my time and energy—two things I have very little of.

And, ironically, the day after I had my CT, Pedro started to shrink.

Of course he did.

The Lord is the Lord of my life. He’s the Lord of my health. My marriage. My children. My finances. And even the Lord of how many days I have left on this broken earth.

I can’t change that.

Deep breath out.

I’m not in control. Honestly, this thought is beautifully refreshing.

I have a choice each day. I can make my uncertainties my god, or I can surrender each morning to Him and say, “You are the Lord of my life, God. Whatever you allow, I’ll accept.”

What a freeing feeling releasing control has made. I pray that it will do the same for you, too.

Thank you, Jesus, for reminding me that you are in control.

Not a bump.

Not cancer.

Not my children or spouse.

There’s only one God I need to serve. Halleluiah.

Peace is worth a million bucks, sweet friends. And peace like a river only comes from One source (Isaiah 48:18).

The choice is yours today, even in the midst of seemingly yucky news. Give it to God, and sigh out your release. Handing it over to Him is the most freeing experience.

So long, Pedro.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Anyone Else Feeling the Shove?

{The sunset before the storm}

Recently I heard Jimmy Evans, one of my favorite marriage guru guys, say, “If the devil can’t stop you, He will push you.”

Ugh.

I constantly feel the enemy’s pointy fingers pressing against my back on a daily basis.

Jimmy continued his message with, “You can either pray or worry. If you don’t pray, you will worry.”

Good night. I felt Jimmy’s words were pointed right at me, the wimpy worrier. I do stress myself out—and it drives me nuts.

I know God’s got our current situation—the one where our house sprang major leaks after hurricane Irma pummeled South Florida during the month of September in 2017. We had leaks so bad my hubby staggered buckets and beach towels along our terrazzo floor to prevent our kiddos from slipping. A month or so later around the end of October, our insurance company denied our claim because the inspector said there was “no visible opening” in our roof.

We have a cement roof.

Yep, cement.

Our hurricane inspector actually said, “I wouldn’t rip this roof off, it’s a fortress!”

Mind you, he never stepped foot in our attic to take a look at the water damage underneath our said fortress, but he did shine his handy flashlight into our bathroom closet and pointed out that we had an icky, black mold-ring the size of a chair cushion from where water had dripped away.

{Water-soaked wood}

For months water continued to dribble through our roof each time it rained. That’s when we contacted a mold company who told us, “You know, your insurance should cover this.” Should being the iffy word here, but nonetheless, we’ve played the insurance phone-tag game for months trying to get another inspector to come out and actually walk through our attic and document our mold, since we had found out that the last inspector had never even submitted photos of the mold to our insurance.

Is anyone else’s blood boiling yet?

No?

Just me?

This is the point where my flesh is screaming, where my Jesus-loving nature is being pushed so hard I’m about to lose my witness.

We’re creeping up to five months breathing in mold. I’ve called my insurance company, trying to get them to take another look. Where there’s sitting water, mold grows. We even paid for a mold inspection, and company said they can now detect some in our kitchen.

This isn’t good.

But I can still hear Jimmy’s words, “Dabney, you can either pray or worry. If you don’t pray, you will worry.”

  1. Don’t. Want. To. Worry. Anymore.

Who’s with me? Who’s tired of worrying if their job will come through, if the sickness will heal, if the bills will get paid, if our child will finally pick the right path? If they will ever get married?

If there are any other fellow worriers who want to kick the enemy out of their head, please speak up. I don’t know about you, but when I worry, I stress myself into a mess. That’s when I re-read more notes I’d taken from Jimmy’s message:

“Stress robs the joy of life.”

“Stress causes emotional fatigue.”

“Stress robs your job, your time.”

“Stress causes sickness.”

“If the devil can’t stop you, He’ll push you too fast.”

And I knew that’s exactly what’s been happening. Satan knows if I feel shoved, I’ll stress out and my head will spin, making me one crummy mommy.

But not today. I’m giving God all my stress:

I know my leaky, moldy roof will be fixed.

God’s got this, along with my other worries.

I know our rental house will sell.

God’s got this.

I know we’ll find the perfect duplex to purchase and find solid, long-term renters.

God’s got this.

I know my husband’s crazy, busy job will mellow out, and he’ll finally find a healthy balance.

God’s got this.

And you know what?

He’s got your stressor, too.

Today’s the day we fight back. If two or more walk together, He is there. Who wants to join forces and pray for those pushy fingers of the enemy to fall off your back? I’m planning a military guard against this invasion, one that starts with a circle of my sweet family holding hands, and believing these problems are solved. I’d also covet the prayers of my precious prayer warriors to believe with me that God has this situation covered.

“The Lord is on my side. I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 118:6

God’s on your side. He just said so. ; )

We can either pray, or worry. Today let’s pray so we don’t worry.

Feel my pointy fingers, Satan? They’re pushing right back, Mr. Shovey-man.

(Said with the love and grace of Jesus, of course.)

{We’re not worrying}

“Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Gone

Gone.

That weird pressure in my side dwindled day by day until I woke this morning with no discomfort.

Praise. God!

And can I share one more amazing fact? After I posted my fears last week and asked for prayer, can I just tell you that I felt your prayers?

Seriously.

I wish I could have reached out my hand to one of you and transferred the experience, because I went from extreme heaviness of heart, to this weight falling from my body. Almost like I had purged whatever was bottled inside and handed it over. Mind you, that pain didn’t go right away, only the fear.

That’s amazing.

That’s God.

And I have to believe, that’s how corporate prayer works.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted on Facebook or texted friends or my hubby (my daily wise counsel) for prayer or more specifically my mom (who is my number one prayer warrior!), only to sense that gloominess mellow out. I can’t believe I’m struggling to fully articulate the sensation, but it’s this calming effect that’s so incredibly wonderful and can only be explained by prayer.

How amazing is our God? Today, which just so happens to be my re-birthday (the 17th anniversary of my stem-cell transplant, where they pretty much destroyed every living cell in my body, then rescued me by infusing new, infant cells…in essence, I was given new life or a “re-birth”), I have much to remember and much to thank God for. Even those cruddy experiences, because at some point in life, we all face tough times. I love how God reminds us in Isaiah 43:2 that,

“When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.”

He didn’t say “if”, but “when”. At some point, we all face tough times. And when you do, I’d encourage  you to ask for prayer. Open up. Share your heart with those loved ones you know will pray over you. I received many precious messages of encouragement this last week that filled my heart and soul with peace. Obviously, I realize sickness happens. But you know what, answered prayers happen, too.

That’s what I’m celebrating today.

What about you? Has God answered prayers in your life that we all could benefit from hearing?

 

No Longer Slaves

{This is where I’d like to be right now. Thank you Hanna for sharing this beautiful pic!}

Sadly, the blog post I’d written about, “The Day I Went Crazy” will have to wait a week or two since life has become a funny roller coaster for the last eight days. Just when things seemed to calm down, a scary dip gripped my heart and I’m bracing for dear life.

Or, I was.

It’s hard to embrace peace when you physically feel discomfort in your body. The sensation of a butter knife jammed in my middle left rib mimics a pain I felt 16 years ago when my C had returned. Back then, I was diagnosed with a pleural effusion, where fluid had accumulated around my lungs. Somehow, cancer causes this reaction, almost like your body is telling you something is wrong. So now that this dull pressure has returned, my mind immediately presses rewind and tears pool as I try to write off the oddity.

Mind you, many things can cause this, like:

  1. Remaining fluids from a sickness, like the upper respiratory infection I fought a month ago. My lungs are a mess and may simply require another round of antibiotics to lessen the gathered fluid.
  2. Or, maybe it’s a result of too much salt I take to treat POTS (a condition where I have low blood pressure, and a high heart rate.) Years ago, my cardiologist had suggested I eat olives and pickles to increase my 90/60 blood pressure rate since this is abnormally low. Only, during the hot summer months in South Florida, I need extra salt to keep me from dragging or fainting when my numbers dip. That’s when I stumbled upon SaltStick chews. I’ll blog about this one day, but basically, added salt also increases water retention, which may cause fluid on my lungs. (This is a Dabney-guess, meaning there is little scientific proof to back this theory.)
  3. Lastly, and you probably know where I’m going with this, cancer causes pleural effusions. But then again, so do blood clots (had those), and heart failure (that, too). Could this be the extra fluid on my lungs?

Good night! Where is Dr. House when you need him.

The bottom line is I need a CT scan, but I don’t want a CT scan. Actually, if I could go the rest of my life and never need to squeeze my body through another radioactive tube, I’d be the happiest person alive. My oncologist jokes that I’ve had so many scans, I should be glowing by now (good thing he’s got a sense of humor, right? ; ).

Honestly, as annoying as these tests are, I know the truth. I praise God that we live in a country where testing is readily available.

Jason and Maddie just returned from Haiti where there is essentially little to no medical care. 🙁

So right now, I’m leaning on the Great Physician.

I’m praying.

I’m believing.

But if this pressure doesn’t go away by next Wednesday (August 9, 2017), I’m scheduling a scan or I’ll drive myself batty. Ok. And my husband and family and girlfriends, too. 😉

Last Wednesday this pain began, and the good news is that each day the intensity has lessened.

That’s good, right?

I’m not going to lie.  Fear steals my joy more than anything else. But not today.

Today matters.

Today I have given it to God, asked friends to pray, and now I’m asking for prayer.

And then I’m letting go.

Each of us gets the same 24 hours, and I’m done wasting time worrying. I’ve fallen for this trap too often.

I’m loving on my kids, and my sweet hubby, and thanking God that I’m still kicking, even if I moan here or there. ; )

Today I’m playing my favorite song, No Longer Slaves and reminding myself not to be anxious about anything, but in everything, pray with a thankful heart and ask God for help. That’s when the peace of God will transcend anything I could ever understand, and His peace will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus (based off of Philippians 4:6&7).

Anyone else need this reminder today? I’d love to pray for you, too. That’s what community is all about!

PS Did I mention that I’ve started writing my 90 Day Devotional for the Newly Diagnosed, From a Professional Patient? Hmmm. Feels like someone doesn’t like this and he’s trying every which way to slow me down. Not today. This just makes me want to write more. Believe more. And fight…more.

 

 

Here She Goes Again

So, last weekend Madison graduated. Now that doesn’t sound like a big deal. Kids graduate every year, and this is exactly what I was thinking until I saw my daughter walk across the stage, and then it hit me.

She shouldn’t be here. I was told to abort her.

(Imagine a crazy lady, weeping and wiping her face. Yep. That was me, and my hubby, too.)

Then during the ceremony they showcased all 300 graduates and their favorite hobby/talent. Madison, the girl so completely humble that the photo she picked to showcase her “talent” across two over-sized projectors, to over 3,000 people was of her bending down to make these sweet kids in Haiti smile. She was the only graduate who didn’t face the camera with perfectly blown-out hair.

And, more tears fell as I realized that she didn’t really care what she looked like. She just wanted to love on these kids. 

All the other students did what I would have done. Picked the best picture of themselves, facing the camera, looking their very best. But not Maddie. Nope. She picked the first photo where you can’t really see her face, or that she isn’t wearing make-up at all.

So what does my teen want for graduation? To go back to Haiti. What teen asks for that? She honestly amazes me and truly asks very little from me.

Honestly.

She’s not that type of kid whose always walking up asking for money to go to the mall (she enjoys scoring a fantastic deal a the local consignment store or Goodwill, even). Just yesterday I gave her a small amount of cash to buy lunch after taking her ACT to celebrate, but she walked in the door and handed me the cash and said she’d make a sandwich.

I can’t make this stuff up. 

So when she asked if I could post something on my blog for her to raise money for Haiti, I of course jumped at the opportunity. Only, it took me a little longer to post since we’ve been away at summer camp for a week (yes, I was the crazy camp counselor, only I ended up super sick with the flu. Not good.). So here I am with a box of tissues beside me trying to frantically fulfill my end of the bargain, especially since she need to raise half of her trip money in two weeks.

Eek.

The only thing different this year is she will be going to Haiti with her dad. Yay. 🙂 She’s excited to have this last trip with him before she goes off to college.

Here are a list of things people could hire her for so she can raise money for her trip.

  1. Create a one-of-a-kind watercolor, similar to what you see here:IMG_5448IMG_5447IMG_5446
  2. Bake a half-dozen chocolate chip cookies. Let me warn you. These are the BEST cookies you will every eat. I’ve now become a cookie snob and can’t even eat them at Chic-fil-a, or those yummy cookie stands in the mall. Promise. You’ll be a believer, too. One day I’ll blog about the recipe.
  3. Decorate for a party. She loves, loves, loves to decorate, and she’s so talented (she obviously did not get this from me. Ha.)

So that’s my once a year ask. I rarely do this because, let’s be honest. It is uncomfortable to ask. But may family and friends always say they want to help, I just have to let them know.

If you’d simply like to donate to her trip, you can click here: Christ Fellowship Missions 

Just make sure you select “Madison Hedegard” or “Jason Hedegard” under “participant” at the top of Christ Fellowship . The cool part about this is every dollar you give is tax-deductible.

Win-win. 🙂

You can also give at her GoFundMe page, if that’s easier. That is also tax-deductible. Click here. 

One more thing. If you think about, will you pray for our health? Half of my family is sick with this bug that is going around. Yucko. 🙁 Also, if you need prayer, please post below in the comment section. I’d be happy to pray for you!

In His hands,

Dabney

 

A Walking Billboard

“For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

—2 Corinthians 4:11-12 (NIV)

My 16-year-old walked to the front of her speech class at the State College with her hair tucked up in a scarf, concealing every strand, as she mimicked how I looked some 17 years ago. She shared her story of how my husband and I made the toughest decision to not abort her when I was diagnosed with cancer when I was six weeks pregnant, but instead underwent chemotherapy with her in the womb. For a teen who typically loves public speaking, and effortlessly captivates her audience, this was the first time I heard her say, “Mom, that was uncomfortable. I was the youngest student in the class, I’m homeschooled, and now they know I’m a Christian. Why is sharing our God-story so awkward?” She continued to say she felt judged by her silent, smile-free audience, especially when the next young lady to present encouraged the class to support Planned Parenthood. Her eyes widened as she listened to this opposing presentation.

At that moment, I wanted to bubble wrap my teen and protect her from those unworthy feelings, until she admitted, “But then a handful of students came up after class and said, ‘Wow, that was really cool how you talked about your story and faith and all. We’re glad your mom, you know, listened to God and now you’re here.’”

And that was it.

That was the moment I was reminded of the importance of dying to those uncomfortable feelings and opening our mouths to share the truth and life through our redemption story, even in the difficult times when we think no one is listening, and certainly no one cares. We are much like a walking billboard, advertising how God has delivered us from a sickness, an addiction, maybe a gut-wrenching divorce, or some other heartbreaking experience where it feels like we’re being given over to death and we think no one would want to hear about that, would they?

That’s the beautiful part about becoming a Christian. We’ve all been saved from something. And when we share our story and surrender to God by dying to ourselves, even our fears, that’s how His life is revealed in our bodies, that’s how He brings life out of death.

DIG: What did God reveal to you as you read through this devotional?

DISCOVER: Pray and ask Him how He’d like you to respond.

DO: He loves to redeem our bitter places by shining His hope, by transforming our spiritual death into spiritual life, and then broadcasting it for the world to see. Today, prayerfully consider acting on that whisper you heard, that next step you know you’re supposed to make.

Previously published in Calvary Ft. Lauderdale’s Daily Devo on 04/06/2017.

New Year, New You

img_6545“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

After battling infertility for years, and finally accepting that I was sterile, my husband and I considered adoption. It’s amazing how excited you become about something once all other doors seem

welded shut.img_6749

So there we were, a year into adopting a sweet baby from China when mysteriously I became pregnant. No words can describe the ecstatic momma I morphed into, because God wasn’t blessing us with one baby, He was blessing us with two! Oh, praise Jesus. That is until week seven when all my pregnancy symptoms subsided and my ultrasound confirmed I’d lost the baby.

Understandably, I became that weepy mess of a mom you’d imagine. That was the day Philippians 3:13-14 took on a whole new meaning, especially the “pressing on” part. I had a choice in the months that followed: I could wallow and lament (which, I did at first), or I could follow God’s Word and start “straining toward what [was] ahead, [and] press on toward the goal . . .”

Some days this world tangles my heart so tight from the disappointments that I could easily whimper my time away. Boy, isn’t that what our enemy would love for us to do? Maybe that’s why God reminds us that this isn’t our home. This temporary world takes some pushing, straining, and pressing in order to get through. And the more I look around, the more I realize that I’m not the only one facing bumps. We all are. Praise God we will one day win the prize of heaven, because during this unexpected season of my life, I learned that obsessing over my brokenness wasn’t helping me move forward.

maddie-and-ansley-2Then more craziness happened. Seven months after my miscarriage, we adopted our sweet baby. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as my focused shifted to praise Him for this blessing, He surprised us with another pregnancy.IMG_4935

This is a new year, filled with new experiences. Life may not turn out how we imagine, but the more we focus on Him, the more He blesses us when we least expect it. The biggest challenge we face is keeping our eyes on the goal. This new year are you ready to press on and become a new you?

DIG: Are you facing a painful event you are having a hard time getting past?

DISCOVER: Did the Lord put anything on your heart as you read today’s devotional?

DO: Along this journey in life, it’s amazing to see how God orchestrates our steps. Journal your thoughts a little each day and note what you’re walking through, so that next year you can reread how the Lord showed up and helped you to press on. Maybe He will even clear through some of the distracting fog that clouds your days. Focus on Him. Seek Him. Journal to Him. I promise a year from now it will help to look back and see His mighty hand at work.

asher-and-ansley

Previously published by DailyDevo, Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale, December 31, 2016.