Monday, November 5, 2018

Where is your joy?

So often I’m asked “How do you do it?” in response to our crazy, chaotic, and seemingly constant medical issues. I usually respond with “It’s all God.”

I mean, life IS hard. I do get weary and exhausted and there are days where I end up sobbing while taking a shower or lay on my bed for a good while to stare at the ceiling, pray, and just breathe... But, I always turn it back to the Lord. I always seek to find strength through Him and continually strive to choose joy as I remind myself that my joy is in Christ alone. It’s not in my circumstances, my kids, my marriage. It’s all in Him. And when I put my hope and joy in Him, it makes it easier to be like “okay. Life is hard, but life is still so good.” And it’s easier to look back and reflect on what all God has done through our circumstances.

You see, 3 years ago, our lives began to fall into a spiral of medical issues. 3 years ago today, Ilana looked up at the ceiling and I just happened to see a large lump on her neck. That lump ended up being thyroid cancer. A very progressed thyroid cancer which ended up in her thyroid, neck muscle, around her trachea, in her lymph nodes and in her vocal chord. 6 months later, I was diagnosed with the same cancer. During this time, Aydan was having more issues with his eye and had to endure surgery #6 and 7. Then not long after, I was diagnosed with a tumor around my optic nerve. 6 weeks of radiation and a craniotomy later resulted in the inability to remove the tumor due to it being too risky (too much blood encapsulated the tumor and removal would cause immediate blindness in that eye).

One of the biggest struggles through all of this was seeing my children suffer. The hardest moment for me with Ilana was when she underwent her radioactive iodine treatment post surgery. She also endured a heartbreaking radiation time period where she had to be secluded from all human contact for 4 whole days. Couldn’t be near any of us. Had to eat alone. Sleep alone. Throw up from the meds, all alone, without her mommy or daddy to comfort her. At just 9 years old. That was the hardest moment for me as a mother. Knowing that my baby was all alone. Hearing her cry out “Mommy! I need you!!!” And knowing I couldn’t be there...

Looking back at those moments, I’m still heartbroken. But. I also rejoice. Because through those moments, my daughter’s faith grew greatly. Her relationship with God was strengthened in such a deep way that I know would not have happened, had she not endured those trials.

Aydan struggles majorly with PTSD from his many surgeries. His retina has detached again and he's facing surgery #8. He's had so many questions regarding God's plan and God's will and why "bad things always happen to our family". While it's difficult to hear his heart cry out in frustration having to deal with all of this, I find joy in the ability to point him to Jesus. We had the opportunity to sit and listen as he poured out his fears, his anxiety, his anger, his hurt. But then we were able to sit and speak truth over him and remind him that because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen. Trials will occur. We don't understand why we seem to have so many lately, but we are confident that God has a plan and a purpose that we can't even comprehend right now. We reminded him that while our life is hard, it could be even worse and for now, we are just thankful for the joy we have in Jesus. We encouraged him that while it's okay to be sad or angry (and that God can take it!), to try to remember what God HAS done. How God has used our family. How God has used HIM. How God has used his trials. And we were able to sit as a family and recall all that God has done...

During those all those trials, our entire family's faith grew and our family was surrounded in prayer by so many friends and family members. I met so many new people that became an encouragement to me. 3 years ago, I never thought about how God would use Ilana's cancer for good. But He DID. Through Ilana's cancer diagnosis, I was connected on Facebook with a sweet, local woman who had gone through thyroid cancer herself many years before that. She became an encouragement for me and sent words of wisdom and prayer... This past summer, Michael lost his job and took the first job he could find. He went from doing quality management/project management in the aviation world to project management in the construction world. It seemed like such an answer to prayer to start a job just a day after he lost his former job. We were shocked when 2 months later, his new job had to lay off some employees, Michael being one of them. We questioned what God's plan was, but never imagined that God had been orchestrating everything from 3 years ago. It just so happened that the day Michael needed to find yet another new job, was the day that my sweet friend, Caryn, was looking for someone who could do project management type work in the commercial construction world and messaged me asking if Michael would be interested. This job wasn't even put "on the market", yet. You see... If I hadn't have met Caryn 3 years ago... If Michael hadn't lost his aviation job and had to jump right into construction... If he hadn't gotten laid off... He never would've had the opportunity to work where he is now. A job that he truly loves. A job that will really become a career. A job where he has a boss who understands Michael's desire to follow God and who loves Jesus herself. It's crazy to think, but if it weren't for Ilana's cancer, Michael would not have the job he has now.

You see, even when life doesn't make sense. Even when it seems as if all sorts of things are going wrong, God is STILL working behind the scenes on your behalf.  What may seem bad aren't always. And what IS bad, He WILL use for good...

Choose joy. Always choose joy. 

Remember that your circumstances do not define your joy. 

Put your hope in Jesus and He becomes your Joy!

This is my prayer and daily reminder for myself as we face the next round of medical issues... Ilana starts seeing her thyroid cancer doctors in Gainesville again (about 3-4 hours away), and has been having other issues in which she'll start seeing some other specialist to try to figure out what's going on - neurologist, GI, immunology/allergist. Poor girl has had countless blood tests to figure out the root of stomach pain, nausea/vomiting, body tremors, and inability to gain weight.  Aydan's retina detached and we are facing another surgery. Along with that he's been having some other issues which require 3 other specialists. I have about 13 appointments over the next few weeks seeing various specialists.

While it seems exhausting, I was reminded of several verses today.

1 Peter 1:6-7

"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."

James 1:2-4

“Consider it an opportunity for great joy, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

If you're going through a rough time - please remember to seek the Lord. Ask him for strength to endure your trials. He WILL give it to you. If there's anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to ask me. If you need prayer, please email me at with your prayer request. Our family would love to pray for you!

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