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It’s a word I don’t often use. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I’d heard anyone use it. But that morning, when it was used to explain my husband Rick’s most recent PSA level, I was incredibly thankful for it.

Last Spring, after a routine check-up, Rick received the news that his PSA level was at 36. Normal is 4 or less. That launched a series of exams, tests, and consultations. Then, a pretty aggressive treatment plan was determined. A series of Lupron injections (hormone deprivation), then 22 doses of low radiation, followed by brachytherapy (high dose radiation implant surgery). The implications and side effects were discussed and we began to pray for healing as Rick braced himself for a long 7-10 months.

We will always look back on 2019 as the year that Rick battled his second bout of cancer. We still haven’t forgotten his melanoma diagnosis the summer of 2002. But now, as we approach the end of the first month of the first year of a new decade, we are thankful.

Health is something that we don’t take for granted. We both have auto immune diseases (I have RA and Rick has MS) and so we understand that every day is a gift. God gives and takes away and we both know that although we are moving a bit slower in this season of life than a few decades ago, we could be doing so much worse. Yes, every breath needs to be treasured.

When Rick’s oncologist said he wouldn’t require another Lupron injection my eyes welled up with tears. The side effects from that drug have taken a toll on him and I was ready to fight to keep him from another dose because of that. But I didn’t have to, thank GOD!

So, we will wait. Blood tests every 6 months seem like only a slight inconvenience in order to check levels for any increase in PSA. And we will pray.

If you are a parent you’re familiar with this persistent plea as a tenacious toddler pulls on your pant leg. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t eventually relent and pick the child up.

And what happens after we give in and the child is in our arms? The pleading subsides and the child is happy and comforted. Safe -protected from harm. Embraced in the arms of someone bigger, stronger.

I recently heard a pastor suggest that we visualize ourselves as that child when we raise our hands to worship. I’d never considered that before and I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now. What if I, like that tenacious toddler, consistently begged the God of the universe to “pick me up?” What if my heart and attitude cried out for Him constantly – even when my hands weren’t in the air and I wasn’t in the midst of a weekly worship service?

I believe my life would be transformed.

He would, without a doubt, hear my petition and welcome me in His arms. Although I know He is always with me, the desire to deny myself and be led by Him would sooth any sense of anxiety or temptation of self-reliance.

Take my life Lord…

Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

John 7:37-38

 I don’t really have a New Year’s Eve tradition. I have friends who make it a point to celebrate the new start by being together with family and friends, pushing themselves to stay up until midnight in order to be the very first to offer each other a greeting in the new year. It’s been fun to be a part of those gatherings in the past but lately Rick and I prefer just staying home and off the roads. Add to that the fact that I’m more inclined to rise early and go to bed early and well, this “holiday” just isn’t a big deal for me.

This morning as I read this passage in John, God brought to mind the many people who are truly “thirsty” for more in life. I thought about how the New Year represents a fresh start for millions of people. A quick rise of the glass for a quick “Happy New Year” toast seemingly assumes that every person with a glass in their hand is putting the previous year behind them. The celebratory atmosphere gives the impression that “all is well” and greater things are yet to come. But the reality is that there are hidden hurts and hang-ups that continue to linger no matter how much a person tries to move on with the turning of a calendar page.

I am thankful that no matter what the year has been like, I have hope in Jesus Christ. For me, 2018 has held a lot of change. And it’s brought some significant challenges. As I reflect on all that has encompassed the last twelve months, some of the most emotional memories are of those I am close to experiencing pain. My heart still hurts because I know that there isn’t much more I can do, even to this day, other than to pray. But then maybe that is the BEST thing I can do. So right now, once again as I pray, I add to those prayers a request for myself… that God will keep providing those “nudges” to prayerfully intercede for those whom I love.

My mind drifts back to these verses in John. How many people have I encountered this year who have been literally “dying of thirst?” I want to offer a taste of this living water to them. “God, forgive me for the many missed opportunities I’ve had to offer a drink that would quench this thirst. In addition to helping know how to pray for the hurting, give me boldness and courage to offer hope to those who don’t know You. Amen.”

Another year has come and gone. And similar to years past, a few days of vacation helped to finish up the year and hopefully provide a “reset” before jumping into another annual adventure. It seems as though the list of to-do’s keeps growing instead of shrinking though. Whether it’s email inbox “housecleaning” or organizing the dreaded Tupperware cabinet, the demands of home and ministry seem to be more overwhelming to me this year than ever before.

So what’s a girl to do? Well, I’m certainly NOT going to give in! I may have some moments where I need to escape reality (nothing like a hot bath and a glass of white wine), but then it’s back at it. But it takes a lot more than determination to really make progress. So here’s a list of things I want to remember as 2016 kicks off:

  • Relationships first. Jesus and then others. People before projects.
  • Start with a solid plan. Prioritize. Tackle one thing at a time.
  • Enjoy the journey. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Finally, worship God in all things – tough or not.

Okay, self, let’s go. It’s 2016!

It may have been 25 years ago but I remember the conversation well. The lunch invitation came as a bit of a surprise to begin with since I hadn’t heard from Tom since I’d left the telecom company we’d both worked for months before. He had been released through one of the waves of reductions that were all too familiar in the high-tech industry in the late 80’s. He sounded eager to talk and was willing to make the hour or so drive to where I was now employed to share a quick meal.

It was great to see him. He and his wife were doing well. He was ready for the transition even though the timing was not his choice. He sought some advice but made it clear that he really just wanted to encourage me and thank me for my leadership. I was a bit embarrassed but very appreciative. How kind of him to come all this way to tell me that! Our time was comfortable and casual until he asked me a question that really caught me off guard… “Debb, what would you really do if you could do anything at all – if money and other responsibilities were all taken care of?”

First of all, I was only in my early thirties, and I’d already been reasonably successful (at least by the world’s standards), so I hadn’t really ever pondered a question like this before. Rick and I had just bought our first home. Our kindergarten son was enrolled in a good Christian school. Life was moving right along. My career ambition was to start my own company and I had a plan to accomplish that in less than 5 years. Tom pressed in with the question again, maybe because he sensed that my plans were somewhat shallow, or that there was more, I’m really not sure. However, after a few minutes of thought my response to him was, “I’d do something to help teenagers.” Then I went on to explain that it seemed like there just wasn’t enough support for kids during that season of their life. They needed something to draw them away from bad choices that would create baggage for them to carry the rest of their lives. I recalled briefly my own teen years with some regret, wishing I had made some different choices.

Today marks 20 years to saying yes to full-time ministry with Dare 2 Share. I had no idea this ministry even existed when I had lunch with Tom that day. But God obviously had a plan. I have had the privilege of playing a small role, albeit behind the scenes, in the lives of countless teenagers over those years and I’ll never get tired of hearing their stories.

Every once in awhile, I think about that brief encounter with Tom. Not only did God use him to plant a seed for future ministry in my heart, but his gratitude served as a foundation for developing a passion for leadership in my soul. There have been almost 200 co-laborers (not including the hundreds of volunteers) that have served or are still serving with D2S these past two decades. What a blessing to me to have been a part of their lives too! I have served alongside some amazing people that inspire me in so many ways. My life has been forever changed because of their friendship and love. My character has been strengthened because of their commitment to Christ. 

As I mark this milestone, I’m asking myself the question again. “What would you do if…?” And the answer is still the same.

Forced. The word itself can bring to mind some pretty negative mental images. As a kid my little brother really wasn’t very “little.” He was big and he was strong. We were only two years apart and although we are super close now as adults, as kids we were on a mission to kill each other. A vivid memory of mine is locking myself in the upstairs bathroom in order to avoid getting my tail kicked by this guy. Not that I was taunting him at all, of course!

Whether or not my brother was justifiably provoked could certainly be debated, but either way, I still felt forced to spend hours in this small little room, screaming through a locked door.

The bottom line is that no one likes to be coerced into doing something that they don’t want to do.

But sometimes the pressure has a purpose. A friend lovingly confronts your sin and you’re swept into the midst of an intervention. Your spouse grasps your hand as you head into that needed surgical procedure you’ve been putting off forever. Yes, sometimes being forced is exactly what you need.

I’ve had many moments like this in life and in hindsight I’ve always been thankful. However, a recent incident brought more pressure than I can remember ever feeling, and it came from an unusual source – the Holy Spirit.

A true and safe leader is likely one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and by the press of the external situation.”

A.W. Tozer

So, here I sit. Now just three months in to a leadership role I absolutely did not want. It has been the biggest professional challenge I have ever faced – times ten! There are moments when I have called out to God, exclaiming that He must be crazy. But then I remember His distinct, undeniable call and I surrender. I vow to Him that I am here – ready and willing, even if not able. He has carried me through every difficult decision and has filled me up when I have felt more than empty. I have never felt closer to Him than I am now. And for that I am thankful.

It’s Thanksgiving. I’ve been so busy that this year seems to have slipped away without me even noticing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the activity. And I am thankful for the work that I get to do. I believe it matters and I am thrilled to play a small part. My only regret is that I can’t seem to find the discipline to really enjoy all that life offers. No matter how hard I try, I get so easily swept away, moving from one project to the next, fueled by the adrenaline of accomplishment.

So today, in this quiet moment that I somehow found in the midst of preparation for the biggest family gathering of the year, I’m counting my blessings. Literally.

– I’m thankful for a God who sent His Son to save me. I’m thankful to serve and worship Him.
– I’m thankful for this country. No matter what your politics, Americans still live better than the majority of the world.
– I’m thankful for my family. My son and hubby bless me every single day. Whether I’m home or away, they pray for me and support me without ever asking for something in return. My parents, and my brothers and their families bring joy to my life in so many ways. They tolerate my lack of involvement in the normal “girl stuff” and my special sis-in-law, Lynda is always taking up the slack. Mom & Dad would sacrifice a limb if they thought it would help me out. I’m so blessed!
– I’m thankful for my friends. It’s not a giant circle but it is full of some extra, extra special people. They listen and provide advice and encouragement when I need it most. More importantly, they pray for me. Wow!
– I’m thankful for the family at Dare 2 Share. Some amazing friendships have grown out of the last 20 years, enriching my life in remarkable ways. And what a huge privilege it is to serve the Kingdom with great people!

Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for every day! How about you?

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