Her heart is full of joy with love,
For in the Lord her mind is still.
She has renounced every attachment
And draws abiding joy and strength
From the One within.
She lives not for herself, but lives
To serve the Lord of Love in all,
And swims across the sea of life
Breasting its rough waves joyfully.
-Saint Teresa of Avila
One of my first posts on Facebook after my diagnosis was the poem above by Saint Teresa of Avila. It's beautiful isn't it? I don't even remember how it came to reside in the notes pages in the back of my Bible, but sometime in Jr. High it made its way there. It is an inspiring picture of what a Godly woman looks like in daily living.
Someone must have been praying since my last post "Losing HOPE" because I have been overflowing with joy this past week. There is absolutely nothing that could get me down. It probably helped that I was excitedly awaiting Discipleship Now/Anomaly weekend with the church youth group this weekend.
This past weekend our family hosted 9th grade girls for a retreat at our church. As youth, Brad and I attended an annual church retreat called Discipleship Now, where instead of going to a camp someplace in the woods, we stayed at "host homes" in-town. When we were first married we volunteered as "group leaders" where we would guide the breakout sessions and help connect with the youth in the church. We always said we wanted to have a house big enough to be a host home someday. Since we just moved to the suburbs of Dallas, we finally could be a host home this year!
Speaking @ Anomaly
The youth minister at our church heard us give our testimony to a small group of people one Sunday morning and thought it would fit in with the theme of the weekend. He asked us to speak in front of 200 teens and leaders on Saturday morning of the retreat. We love getting to share what Christ is doing through this trial. It is encouraging to us to be able to remember and say aloud what we know to be true about the God's character.
Our 9th Graders Rock!
We had the most amazing group of girls. They were all very spiritually mature for their age and you could tell they wanted to grow deeper in their walks with Christ. On a less spiritual note, it was a TON of fun hanging out with them. We stayed up late watching Pitch Perfect (it was aca-awesome!), I got to do all of their hair (since I've had none to play with the last six months!), and they played with our kids (potential babysitters??). I felt like I was a kid again, until I had to wake up for church after only a few hours of sleep and I didn't just bounce out of bed as the other girls did. At one point in the weekend we realized I was a freshman in high school the year they were born (2000). I'm officially old, but at least my hip teenage vernacular has been refreshed - I now know what "totes for reals" means. So I've got that going for me.
We made Valentine's Day cards for a nursing home they visited for their service project.
We roasted marshmallows and sang around the campfire:
I was so sad when the weekend was over. I just love having my house full of people! I'm already looking forward to next year!!
To top off this crazy-amazing week, we had the most impactful service this morning. Our Bible Fellowship Group (BFG=small-group at church) leader, Bill, stood in front of the church during both services and read this two page speech about us. (crazy, right???) Then the Pastor spoke a little on prayer/fasting for us on March 12th. The whole church has been challenged to fast for us that day when we are back at MDAnderson getting scans. Then my friend's dad (the friend that had breast cancer when she was 25), prayed for us. Have you ever seen a 2000+ person church do something like that for a single prayer request? I have not.
It was somewhat surreal to be sitting in the pew while Bill read about us and our picture was up on the huge screens at the front - I kept thinking, "Man, I definitely need to pray for that Ashleigh girl they are talking about..." Oh wait, they're talking about me.
On top of all that craziness, we were pulled out of our BFG class to help counsel a couple that was visiting our church. The husband told his wife they should get in the car and he ended up driving to our church. (She didn't know where he was taking her, so she actually still had her house shoes on- how awesome is that?!)
She was diagnosed with breast cancer this past fall, had surgery four weeks ago, and starts chemo in a week. It was a totally a God-thing for them to come to our church and for us get to spend time with them, listening, praying, and sharing what we've learned through this journey. They were struggling with all the same things we have been through - worry and fear about the future, stress on the marriage, depending on our spouse for support instead of Jesus, and pretty much everything else I have shared openly about on this blog.
Let's Wrap It Up Folks
Let's Wrap It Up Folks
God is cool isn't He? He takes this big, ugly, life-threatening cancer and He turns it into something beautiful. How many blessings and miracles did he perform in just this last week? I think there is material for at least a dozen balloons in this last week alone. No wonder it is so easy for me to find joy this week. Look how He is moving. Look at all He is doing to comfort us. Look at the people around us being touched by what should be a terrible thing. That. Is. Jesus.
And that, my friends, is how I can "swim across the sea of life, breasting its rough waves joyfully."