Remember Not Every Woman is “Happy” on Mother’s Day

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My daughter Kim and I were just on the phone making Mother’s Day plans. As we chatted about what we would do to celebrate her being the mother of my three darling grandchildren, and me being Kim’s mom . . . my mind wandered back to a Mother’s Day twelve years ago that wasn’t so happy for Kim.

In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, Kim shares a painful and heartbreaking Mother’s Day:

Dear God,

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t know if I can handle seeing all those happy moms at church and brunch. I’m trying to focus on my mom and not think about how I’m missing out on being a mommy on yet another Mother’s Day. This year is especially hard since we’ve been trying to be parents for so long and so hard, only to be repeatedly disappointed. At the store looking for a card for my mom, I see the cute cards at the end of the aisle “To Mommy”…oh God, I wish I were someone’s mommy! I look away and continue focusing at the task ahead, getting my mom and mothers-in-law their cards.

Today’s the day, it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t think I can bear it. It’s just begun and already I want this day over. I pull myself out of bed and get ready for church. I’m not looking forward to the sermon about children being a blessing and honoring mothers. God, help me focus on my mom.

We met my parents at church and I put on my happy face, when inside I was crying watching all the mothers with big smiles dressed in pretty spring dresses and children running all around. This was a day of celebration and I just wanted to go back to bed. The pastor started the message with asking all the mothers to stand up. Hundreds of women stood and everyone applauded. I couldn’t take it any longer and sat slouched over in my seat quietly crying. Toby put his arm around me and my mom held my hand, but nothing took away the pain. I barely heard the rest of the message.

After brunch, I came home, collapsed on my bed, and cried myself to sleep where I remained the rest of the day. God, please don’t make me go through another Mother’s Day with this hole in my heart. I want to stand up in church with all those other mothers beaming from ear to ear and have everyone applaud me. God, please let me stand up next year.

Some of you identify with Kim’s cry out to God.

“I hate Mother’s Day!” admitted a dear friend longing for a baby. “You know that women struggling with infertility don’t go to church on Mother’s Day.” Kris agrees, “I was that mom-in-waiting for sixteen years. I stayed away from baby showers, church, and pregnant friends. I didn’t stop praying, but it was the worse pain.”

Lisa concurs, “I am guilty of having skipped church on Mother’s Day a few years before we adopted my son.”

Someone You Know is Struggling with Infertility

Mother’s Day is especially hard for mommies-in-waiting, but for most of these women, every day is hard. With 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility, you are, or know, a woman experiencing this heartache. Often we don’t know what to say to them, so we say nothing, or maybe unintentionally say something that makes them feel worse. Kris says, “We cannot ignore them [women longing for a child]. I know how hard it was for people to talk to me. But I would have loved it if they did.”

Avoidance only adds to these hurting women’s feelings of isolation and loneliness. When you don’t know what to say or do these suggestions might help: “Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do and to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility.”

It breaks my heart to hear that many women say the one place they feel the loneliest is in the church. Doesn’t that break your heart too? Jesus said he came for the sick, and that includes heartsick. The church should be a safe place for the hurting, not a place where they feel shunned or like outcasts.

How does your church comfort mommies-in-waiting on Mother’s Day … and every day?

Mothers of Prodigals

Mothers of prodigals are another group of women who dread Mother’s Day. They may not know where their child is, or know all too well where he or she is, and that breaks a mother’s heart and the heart of God. These moms need comforting, a hug, and assurance that this day is for them too.

Mothers Who Have Lost a Child

A mother who has lost a child, lives with that grief every day, but Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of the precious child they lost. I can’t imagine that pain, but I watched the sadness in my Granny Reed’s eyes that was always there over the murder of my father, her beloved son, a week before his 37th birthday. She had six other living children who she loved dearly, but there was always pain for the one she lost.

Women Who Have Lost Their Mother

Mother’s Day is about celebrating your mom, but there’s a void and ache that never goes away when your mom is no longer living, and Mother’s Day becomes a sad reminder of all the years you celebrated her on Mother’s Day. It can also be a joyous time of remembering, but still there’s no one to buy a card for, give a hug to, and a special gift for the years she devoted to raising you. Even after you become a mom yourself and your children are celebrating you, there’s a generational celebration as you are still somebody’s little girl, just all grown up.

I hope that you will not ignore but love on the mommies-in-waiting, the moms of prodigals, or the moms who have lost a child or their own mom, who may need a shoulder to cry on . . . a prayer . . . an understanding hug this Mother’s Day.

If you’ve been where they’re at, mentor them like only someone who has been in their shoes can. If you haven’t been in their shoes, let them know you can’t possibly understand, but you’re there for them and God is too!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

Lindsey Bell shared another helpful blog post on my website 6 Thing Not to Say to Someone Who is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

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Dear God, Why Can't I Have a Baby coverproddaughterbookcoverjpg1-661x1024

 

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Why Don’t We Ask for Prayer?

I'm not lucky                                            And How Many People Have Prayed For Me!

The day before my mammogram last week, I realized I hadn’t asked anyone to pray for a good result. This wasn’t just a routine mammogram. I’ve had breast cancer three times in 13 years, so I have a MRI or mammogram every six months, and there have been times when it was every three months. It’s been four years since a mammogram showed cancer, so why was I feeling apprehensive?

What Stops Us Asking for Prayer?

Maybe it was because I have a new book releasing in February that I know Satan is not happy about—Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten. We were under such spiritual attack while I was writing it, what would Satan do next to try and stop me from sharing the message of this timely book?

Maybe after so many mammograms and MRI’s over the past thirteen years, I thought surely, people had tired of praying for these tests. After all, I had been cancer-free for four years. How could I ask . . . again . . . when there was no reason to expect the test not to turn out fine?

Maybe I feared that no one would pray.

Maybe I knew so many people who needed prayer more than I did.

Maybe I didn’t want to draw attention to a health weakness.

Maybe I dreaded the question of why I chose the type of treatment I did. That question plants doubts, instead of comfort.

It’s a Privilege to Pray for Each Other

But in the back of my mind was the nagging thought: I was cancer-free for six years before the second recurrence, and only two years between the second and third round with this dreaded disease. So time passing isn’t reassuring to me.

I wrestled all day with whether or not to ask for prayer. I kept dismissing the thought and then the Holy Spirit would prompt me again. That made me wonder, even more, why was the Holy Spirit so persistent that I ask for prayer? What did He know, that I didn’t know?

Finally, at 10:00 that night, I put this prayer request on Facebook and got ready for bed:

I’m having my 6 mo. diagnostic mammogram tomorrow. I’ve wrestled with the Holy Spirit all day about His prompting me to ask my peeps for prayer for a continued “all clear.” So here I am again….asking you to pray with me that it’s the Lord’s will that I will remain cancer-free. Thank you dear ones who see this. Appointment at 10:30 am MT.

By the time I turned out the light, thirteen night owl Facebook friends had posted that they were praying. Wow! I slept peacefully.

The next morning, 180 “likes” on my prayer request post and over 70 friends had left a message that they were praying for me. Here were some of the comments:

Praying for you, Janet. Never be afraid of asking for prayer from others.

God will bring you reinforcements when you need them.

Don’t wrestle! Just ask! Praying!

God never tires of our repeated requests. May you sense His presence with you.

Don’t know why you wrestled so much, that’s why you have friends in the Body of Christ for support and encouragement. Of course, I will pray NOW!

Thank you for sharing because I would love to ask the Lord for “the all clear”

That’s the reason I’m on Facebook . . . to pray for others.

Yes, people actually thanked me for asking for prayer and giving them the privilege of praying for me! I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love, caring, concern, and prayer flooding the Holy of Holies on my behalf.

Some FB friends were praying who I don’t know personally, be we’re brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Looking back, I realize I wasn’t only wrestling with the Holy Spirit. There was a spiritual warfare going on. Yes, the Holy Spirit was prompting me to ask for prayer, but Satan was provoking me with all the reasons I shouldn’t ask for prayer. That battle went on in my head and heart all day long, but praise God, the Holy Spirit prevailed.

I knew that I had done the Lord’s bidding when I was scrolling down Facebook “home” on my phone as we headed the hour and a half to town for the test during a terrible rain and windstorm. I came across a friend who hadn’t read my prayer request, but her post that day was simply Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I kept that verse on my phone screen all the way to the mammogram, and I knew it was the Holy Spirit’s way of confirming I had won the spiritual battle. The prayers kept pouring in on my phone and I was at peace. I don’t know how the test would have turned out had my friends not flooded the heavens. Did that change the outcome of the test? I won’t know that until I get to heaven, but what I do know is that I will never hesitate to ask for prayers again, and I hope you won’t either.

When the test turned out “all clear,” I posted this message to all my praying faithful’s:

A BIG cyber hug of gratefulness for the many many many peeps who prayed last night and today for my 6 mo. mammogram and ultrasound. If you didn’t see my message on the post…ALL CLEAR and I didn’t have to have the ultrasound.

As many of you know, I’m a 3x breast cancer survivor, the latest 4 yrs ago, so I have of a mammo or MRI every 6 months for the past 13 yrs, and usually it’s no big deal, but this one did seem big. So I can’t stop thanking God and all of you for petitioning Him for me.

You are all amazing and I pray I’m half the friend to you that you are to me. Please let me pray for you sometime too!

PS I celebrated by going wild at my hair appt!!! I have lots of fun red highlights:) Merry Christmas dear friends.

The praises and “likes” for that message started pouring in and filled my heart with gladness and joy!

When I call on JesusSpiritual Inspirations

Asking for Prayer is a Testimony and a Witness

Someone needed to see the body of Christ respond to my public prayer request. It wasn’t just me who needed confirmation that prayer warriors never tire of praying.

Maybe it was you with an “unspoken” prayer request you need to share with someone.

Maybe it was the many who read my Facebook posts and saw the outpouring of prayers.

Maybe it’s someone reading this article.

Only God knows for sure, but often we have not because we ask not. We’re so sure that things are forgone conclusions, that we don’t bother God with prayer…or “bother” our friends.

My dear friends, many of you have prayer requests, right now! Especially at this time of year. Won’t you share them here so I can pray with you and anyone who is reading this blog can lift your request to the most High.

Three times in thirteen years, we prayed the tests would not reveal breast cancer, but three times, they did. But 35+ times we’ve prayed for those same tests, and it was an “all clear.” I’ll take those odds to my knees any day . . . how about you?

Side Note:

I wrote Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey, while recovering from my first occurrence, I had to write a difficult chapter: “It Could Come Back.” Here’s some of what I wrote when I had no idea that, indeed, cancer would return two more times:

Dear God,

Would everybody be there for me again or be burned out on breast cancer and not able to deal with it anymore? Oh Lord, I cannot imagine how lonely that would be. It was so hard the first time; it must be devastating to relive it. In many ways, cancer is like living with a time bomb. You don’t know if it is defused or if it’s ticking away, ready to catch you off guard and blow your life apart again . . . maybe this time actually taking you to a place of no return. I have to admit these thoughts go through my mind at random times.

Lord, I must put my complete faith and trust in You. I will do everything the doctors tell me to do when they tell me to do it . . . no playing games with this . . . and I pray You continue to protect me and restore me to complete health. However, if there should be a recurrence, I also pray my family and friends would rally back around me, and You would give the doctors the same wisdom and insight You did the first time. Let them catch it early again—breast cancer will not win the battle for my life. Confidently Yours, Janet*

God has answered that prayer through two recurrences, and so I encourage you to ask for prayer and keep on praying for those you know in need of prayer.

*Excerpt from Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer

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Love Your Body–How Cancer Changed My Diet

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Wow, it’s already the last Monday of the month and that means it’s Love Your Body Monday! Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I reviewed what I wrote in Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer regarding the dietary changes we made after my breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiation:

My husband and I joke that my recovery entailed revamping our entire kitchen! I took great delight in learning about juicing and eating raw and organic, which meant I researched and bought a juicer, smoothie maker, high-speed blender, food processor, toaster oven that dehydrates, special containers for ripening and keeping raw fruits and veggies—just for starters. We no longer used the microwave, so I also bought stainless steel pots and pans, and two sets of dishes that were oven proof for heating up leftovers in the toaster oven. Our kids say, “Mom, every time we come you have a new set of dishes!” I thought to myself, Why not? Who knows how many more sets of dishes I will enjoy in my lifetime?

Next, I had fun researching and comparative shopping in health food stores that carried organic foods. This was quite a project as I did comparative shopping, read labels, and learned my way around. Now instead of dreading shopping, it is exciting and fun. I can hardly wait to try a new healthy recipe or a different way of food preparation.

Breast cancer book

*I emphasized in bold the points I am going to talk about here.

So let’s look at some of the changes I made and why I made them.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about eating organic and reading labels, so I’ll refer you to the previous Love Your Body blogs I wrote for more information. Just type in a topic or Love Your Body into “search this blog” or go to the blog archives and the last Monday of each month features a Love Your Body blog post.

Juicing

Currently the focus seems to be on green smoothies, and they’re great as long as you’re not using high fat/high calorie ingredients. Debbie Alsdorf had a recipe for her Morning Green Smoothie in her 90 Days to Physical Renewal blog.

Here’s a simple explanation of the benefits of juicing:

Most people don’t eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables to provide a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, but you can obtain the maximum benefits by juicing them. Much of their nutrients are in the fiber, which the body expels. When we juice fruits and vegetables, these nutrients release from the fiber and we are able to drink highly concentrated nutrients, which enter our bloodstream quickly.

Fiber and other foods added to smoothies offer a different kind of nutrition because fiber is essential to health, so be sure to continue eating raw fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains in conjunction with fresh juices to gain the maximum amount of nutritional value from what you eat.

Very few people eat sufficient quantities of raw fruits and vegetables. Juicing provides a quick and easy way to increase your consumption of these foods. I have an Omega juicer which allows me to juice wheat grass. Hope I didn’t lose you there…but wheat grass is an amazing source of nutrients and is delicious juiced with an apple and lemon. Even hubby likes it!

I also drink a “green juice” every morning made of greens like wheat grass, Spirulina, barley grass, and chlorella. You can find organic green juice powders that you mix with water or fruit juice in health food stores. I order mine from Purium Health Products. Drink green juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for maximum benefit.

Bountiful Basket Organic

Eating Raw

Cooking fruits and vegetables destroys some of the nutrients and we throw most of the nutrients down the sink when we boil foods. The closer you can eat your food to its natural state, the better. So we eat lots of organic raw fruits and vegetables in salads. I put everything into green salads including all kinds of fruit right along with the tomatoes, mushrooms, and cucumbers! I always get compliments on my salads, which I take to potlucks in case I can’t eat anything else.

If you can’t afford organic, buy a natural veggie wash and wash ALL produce before eating. If you had to pick one item to eat organic, make it strawberries. They are heavily treated with pesticides and absorb it all!

The more plant-based food you eat the better!

We No Longer Use the Microwave

I have not used a microwave for cooking for fourteen years. It’s not because I’m worried about leaking radiation, but just as I mentioned above, heat destroys nutrients and the microwave cooks things at a very high temperature. Also most food products made for the microwave are processed with preservatives.

This was a huge shock to us at first since I actually had two microwaves when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But my husband unplugged the portable one and put it in the trash and we ignored the built in one. So that meant I had to learn how to cook on top of the stove again. I don’t trust any of the nonstick or Teflon pans, so I use stainless steel pots and pans and a toaster oven for broiling, reheating, and making toast.

I also try not to use plastic storage containers, but switched to glass or Pyrex. These can be sanitized and don’t absorb food or odors and go nicely into the toaster oven or conventional oven. Check out some of your plastic containers—they often are stained or melted from being in the microwave or dishwasher. Toss them and replace with glass.

Snacks and Water

I make my own “trail mix” with a variety of organic raw unsalted nuts. I always start with almonds, cashews, and walnuts, and then I might add pistachios, shelled sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, macadamias, or pecans. Sometimes I add dried unsulphured fruit, but usually it’s just a mixture of nuts which I take with me everywhere and keep on my desk in my office!

If you can’t go raw nuts, Dr. Oz says in his book, You On a Diet, that it’s OK to cook them at 275 deg for 9-12 minutes to roast without damaging the good oils and nutrients. Remember that raw nuts have not been processed so keep any extras in the refrigerator or freezer.

I also always have a stainless steel water bottle with me filled with fresh filtered water. I don’t ever remember in my younger days drinking as much water as I do now, but once you start, you’ll find your body craves it. I have a “Contigo” brand water bottle that keeps ice solid and water cold in the heat of summer. Be sure to clean the tubing and mouthpiece on your bottle regularly because mold accumulates in those areas. I found small bottle brushes to get into those little areas in the infant section of Wall-Mart.

I once had someone at church ask me: What’s in your bottle you always have with you?” She looked a little surprised when I said, “Water.”

You’ll need lots of water when you exercise too. Exercise is so important to any healthy eating regime.

Exercise saying

I hope you’ve all had your annual mammogram this year, and if not, make the appointment. Mammograms have saved my life three times and I do believe that the changes we’ve made in our diet have helped me maintain a healthy active quality of life.

How about you? Are you intrigued by any of the changes we made?

Could you live without your microwave?

Willing to try juicing or green juice?

To read any of the past “Love Your Body” blog posts, just type in Love Your Body in the search bar on the right side of the website or go to the last Monday of each month in the archives.

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Someone You Know Has Breast Cancer

Blanket made for me by my daughter-in-law and grandkids for first recurrence.

Blanket made for me by my daughter-in-law and grandkids for first recurrence.

“I’m sorry…but you do have breast cancer.”

Those shocking words crackling through my cell phone rocked my world thirteen years ago. I was running errands…trying to outrun suspected bad news. After the doctor’s parting words, “You’ll be fine,” I fired up the car engine and started driving and dialing. The first person I called, after I told my husband, was my best friend, but she couldn’t comprehend the diagnosis. “A positive biopsy doesn’t mean it’s malignant, does it?” she asked.

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a friend or relative drops the bombshell news that she has breast cancer. Often our natural response is to recoil and retreat. Maybe it’s the fear of facing our own mortality or the time and emotion required if we do get involved. We ease our conscience by thinking: she would rather be alone right now anyway. Or she needs her family at a time like this. Or she has so many friends; I know someone will help her.

We may send a card or make a call offering to help, closing with “I’ll be praying for you,” then on we go about our life while her life crumbles. Yet the Bible clearly tells us to, “Help each other in troubles and problems. This is the kind of law Christ asks us to obey” (Galatians 6:2 NLV).

How can we put that verse into practical terms? What does it truly mean to help each other in troubles and problems? Perhaps you can glean some ideas from the ways my friends and family came along side me during my initial breast cancer journey and two recurrences.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I pray that God will make you aware of the women around you with breast cancer and that you’re getting regular exams yourself!

Helping with the Bad Days

Don’t Just Offer to Help—Do Something Tangible

Most of us find it difficult to receive help; we’re hesitant to impose on others. When asked the generic question, “How can I help you?” our common response is, “I’m fine, but thank you for asking.” Truthfully, we need everything, but we don’t know if the person is offering to mop our floors or pick up our kids from school—both of which we need, but are afraid to ask.

Another well-meaning comment I received was, “Just call me if you need anything.” Now how many women are going to pick up the phone and ask for help, especially if they are not feeling well? Again, we don’t know what the person is willing to do for us, and we don’t want to be a burden.

So instead of offering to help—just jump in and do something. If you know your friend well, you know where she needs help; and even if you don’t know her well, you know where all women need help. If she is in the midst of cancer treatment, she is going to need assistance with every area of her life, especially if she is single. Here are some practical ideas:

  1. Schedule her friends, family, and church to bring meals. Use your lunch break to take her lunch and eat with her.
  2. Offer to drive her to doctor’s appointments or treatments and take notes for her.
  3. Shuttle her kids to and from school or find someone who can.
  4. Sit with her during chemo treatments or accompany her to radiation. Talk, read a book to her, or just hold her hand.
  5. Take her children on a play date or to your house.
  6. Do her laundry.
  7. Do her grocery shopping. If she is too sick to dictate a list, take an inventory of her refrigerator and cupboards and make your own list.
  8. Answer her email.
  9. Bring her a gift that makes her feel feminine.
  10. If she feels like talking, sit and chat with her. When she doesn’t feel like talking, just be a presence in her home so she doesn’t feel alone.
  11. Babysit her kids so she and her husband can have some private time.
  12. Clean her house or pay someone to do it.
  13. Go with her to pick out a wig or prosthesis.
  14. Pick up prescriptions.
  15. Run errands.

Don’t Say, “I’ll Pray For You,” Unless You Mean It

At church a couple came up to greet my husband and me and asked if they could pray for us. That meant so much to me as we wrapped our arms around each other, and there on the church patio, this precious couple prayed for my recovery and Dave’s strength for the journey. When we finished, the wife asked where we needed help. I hesitated because I knew this woman didn’t like to cook, but Dave quickly interjected, “We could use a meal.” She didn’t flinch. She said they would be over the next night with dinner, and they were…and they prayed for us again.

“I’ll pray for you” is said too often with the casualness of “Have a nice day.” But a promise to pray isn’t just a feel good phrase. We are telling someone that we will petition God on her behalf, and we are living falsely if we don’t. I find it’s best to stop in the moment and pray right then. It keeps me honest and blesses the other person.

Helping to Enjoy the Good Days

Be Happy with Her When She’s Happy

Cancer is a grim word. Overnight life becomes serious, tense, and laden with fear. There is very little laughter during those first shocking days following the “dreaded diagnosis.” But life continues and there are going to be good days interspersed with the bad. An insightful friend will capitalize on the moments of reprieve when there is an opportunity to laugh or smile. Be ready, because it may only last a moment, but the break from pain and fear is immeasurable.

If your friend is having an especially good day, avoid topics that you know will bring her down. You aren’t minimizing or making light of the seriousness of the situation, but you are giving her a recess from the intensity. Don’t fake happiness, but take advantage of humorous or lighter moments. Smile. Laugh. Be happy. Don’t let the serious eclipse the humorous.

I remember laughing at myself one day in the shower when I realized that I was so carefully not shaving under my left arm because of the lymph node surgery, that I also wasn’t shaving my left leg. I frequently retold that story so people could laugh with me.

Nurture the Little Girl Inside Her

When I was in the hospital, the nurse in charge of the breast-care unit gave me a white stuffed toy sheep named “Fleece.” Taking Fleece with me everywhere, I held him as a shield in front of my sore breast, tucked him under my arm as an armrest, and snuggled next to him in bed. For six months, I indulged my childish need for security and no one chastised me for it. In fact, they acted like it was normal. And I discovered when I was writing my book, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, that it was normal! One woman who shared her story in the book had a black stuffed sheep named “Lamby” that she cuddled in her hospital bed. Another received a baby-sized pillow, and she recalls, “That pillow became a part of my wardrobe for eighteen months.”

stuffed sheet

Comfort and Security Gifts

  • A stuffed animal, pillow, or quilt.
  • A favorite food.
  • A game she loves to play and play it with her.
  • A movie she loved as a kid and watch it with her.
  • A surprise reunion with childhood friends.
  • A tea party.
  • A fun hat—even if she hasn’t lost her hair, she might not feel like fixing her hair.
  • A new nightgown that buttons down the front.
  • An ice cream cone.
  • A nightlight
  • A copy of  Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer a Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey signed by me to her. Many women tell me it’s as if I’m walking right beside them.

Shower Her with Love

Kay Warren shared with me about her breast cancer experience, “I don’t know how we would have gotten through this difficult time without the outpouring of love and support from so many. I have not felt alone at all…which is such an amazing gift!” And that it is…love is the best gift you can give to your friend suffering with breast cancer. Don’t desert her when she needs you most. Right now, she requires extravagant love, and God will help you when your heart is breaking or it just seems too sad or too hard. John 13:34 tells us to love one another just as God has loved us. God is the author of love and He knows just what your friend needs, and He will show you how to love her when she is feeling unlovable.

Surprise her. What woman doesn’t love an unexpected gift or demonstration of how valuable she is to us? We were in the midst of a messy kitchen remodel when breast cancer assaulted me. Everything in my life seemed out of control. But I felt so loved the day I returned home after the painful needle biopsy and spotted amongst the rubble—gift bags full of treats with balloons attached and a card from two girlfriends assuring me they had been praying during the ordeal.

Ideas For Showering Your Breast Cancer Friend With Love

  • A Spa day at a salon, which treats women with breast cancer.
  • If she wears a hat or scarf, wear one too.
  • Tell her how much you love her and what a great friend she is.
  • Stick with her even when the treatment lingers on. Her biggest fear is that others will not endure the journey.
  • Include her in as many activities as she feels up to.
  • Go to a breast-cancer support group with her.
  • Plan a girls’ day or night out, when she feels up to it.
  • Sit and watch old movies with her—even if she falls asleep.
  • Do her makeup.
  • Pray for and with her.

The Bible assures us in Proverbs 17:17 that “A friend loves at all times.” What a privilege it is to put that verse into practice for your precious friend with breast cancer. You probably won’t be able to do everything I suggest and I hope you have ideas of your own, but as a three-time breast cancer survivor, I assure you there are three things that will endure through the good and the bad times—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer

Article includes excerpts from Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey.

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Help Your Friend With Breast Cancer Make It Through the Bad Days and Enjoy The Good Days

writingIMG_3857Signing at ExpressionsEagle-Walk1-300x225Grace Grace and me at signing

In loving memory of my “Grace Abounds”

October ushers in fall with thoughts of pumpkin pie and harvest colors, but for many women like myself, it’s also a reminder that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2002, with recurrences in 2008 and 2011. So for me, and my breast cancer sisters, we’re also thinking pink. BTW pink and brown are great color combinations.

I found purpose in the pain of my first diagnosis by writing the book I wished I had going through my own journey, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey The hardest chapter to write was “It Could Come Back.” But come back it did come, twice! Any fears I had that my friends and family couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go through this ordeal with me again, were unfounded as they rallied around me each time with love, caring, support and most importantly, prayer.

In the following post, I have suggestions for how you can do the same for the breast cancer friend or family member or neighbor, or fellow employee, or acquaintance you barely know. Because with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer . . . you know a woman who has cried out in anguish, “Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer!”

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“I’m sorry…but you do have breast cancer.”

Those shocking words crackling through my cell phone rocked my world eleven years ago. I was running errands…trying to outrun suspected bad news. After the doctor’s parting words, “You’ll be fine,” I fired up the car engine and started driving and dialing. The first person I called, after I told my husband, was my best friend, but she couldn’t comprehend the diagnosis. “A positive biopsy doesn’t mean it’s malignant, does it?” she asked.

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a friend or relative drops the bombshell news that she has breast cancer. Often our natural response is to recoil and retreat. Maybe it’s the fear of facing our own mortality or the time and emotion required if we do get involved. We ease our conscience by thinking: she would rather be alone right now anyway. Or she needs her family at a time like this. Or she has so many friends; I know someone will help her.

We may send a card or make a call offering to help, closing with “I’ll be praying for you,” then on we go about our life while her life crumbles. Yet the Bible clearly tells us to, “Help each other in troubles and problems. This is the kind of law Christ asks us to obey” (Galatians 6:2 NLV).

How can we put that verse into practical terms? What does it truly mean to help each other in troubles and problems? Perhaps you can glean some ideas from the ways my friends and family came along side me during my initial breast cancer journey and two recurrences.

Helping Her with the Bad Days

 

Don’t Just Offer to Help—Do Something Tangible

Most of us find it difficult to receive help; we are hesitant to impose on others. When asked the generic question, “How can I help you?” our common response is, “I’m fine, but thank you for asking.” Truthfully, we need everything, but we don’t know if the person is offering to mop our floors or pick up our kids from school—both of which we need, but are afraid to ask.

Another well-meaning comment I received was, “Just call me if you need anything.” Now how many women are going to pick up the phone and ask for help, especially if they are not feeling well? Again, we don’t know what the person is willing to do for us, and we don’t want to be a burden.

So instead of offering to help—just jump in and do something. If you know your friend well, you know where she needs help; and even if you don’t know her well, you know where all women need help. If she is in the midst of cancer treatment, she is going to need assistance with every area of her life, especially if she is single. Here are some practical ideas:

  1. Schedule her friends, family, and church to bring meals. Use your lunch break to take her lunch and eat with her.
  2. Offer to drive her to doctor’s appointments or treatments and take notes for her.
  3. Shuttle her kids to and from school or find someone who can.
  4. Sit with her during chemo treatments or accompany her to radiation. Talk, read a book to her, or just hold her hand.
  5. Take her children on a play date or to your house.
  6. Do her laundry.
  7. Do her grocery shopping. If she is too sick to dictate a list, take an inventory of her refrigerator and cupboards and make your own list.
  8. Answer her email.
  9. Bring her a gift that makes her feel feminine.
  10. If she feels like talking, sit and chat with her. When she doesn’t feel like talking, just be a presence in her home so she doesn’t feel alone.
  11. Babysit her kids so she and her husband can have some private time.
  12. Clean her house or pay someone to do it.
  13. Go with her to pick out a wig or prosthesis.
  14. Pick up prescriptions.
  15. Run errands.

My first surgery and treatment extended over the Christmas holidays, and we had six grandchildren at that time. I had bought their presents already but couldn’t imagine wrapping them. So my friend took all the presents home and wrapped them, as well as organizing other friends to deliver meals for three months. During my recuperation, she sat on my bed with my laptop, read my emails to me, and then sent my dictated answers. Later, she accompanied me to radiation, fixed my hair when I had a frozen shoulder, and stuck beside me through the entire cancer ordeal, even though she admits that her first reaction to my phone call on that dreaded diagnosis day was, “Lord, I don’t want to do this.” God assured her that she could do it, and she did.

Don’t Say, “I’ll Pray For You,” Unless You Mean It

At church a couple came up to greet my husband and me and asked if they could pray for us. That meant so much to me as we wrapped our arms around each other, and there on the church patio, this precious couple prayed for my recovery and Dave’s strength for the journey. When we finished, the wife asked where we needed help. I hesitated because I knew this woman didn’t like to cook, but Dave quickly interjected, “We could use a meal.” She didn’t flinch. She said they would be over the next night with dinner, and they were…and they prayed for us again.

“I’ll pray for you” is said too often with the casualness of “Have a nice day.” But a promise to pray isn’t just a feel good phrase. We are telling someone that we will petition God on her behalf, and we are living falsely if we don’t. I find it’s best to stop in the moment and pray right then. It keeps me honest and blesses the other person.

Helping Her Enjoy the Good Days

 

Be Happy with Her When She’s Happy

Cancer is a grim word. Overnight life becomes serious, tense, and laden with fear. There is very little laughter during those first shocking days following the “dreaded diagnosis.” But life continues and there are going to be good days interspersed with the bad. An insightful friend will capitalize on the moments of reprieve when there is an opportunity to laugh or smile. Be ready, because it may only last a moment, but the break from pain and fear is immeasurable.

If your friend is having an especially good day, avoid topics that you know will bring her down. You aren’t minimizing or making light of the seriousness of the situation, but you are giving her a recess from the intensity. Don’t fake happiness, but take advantage of humorous or lighter moments. Smile. Laugh. Be happy. Don’t let the serious eclipse the humorous.

I remember laughing at myself one day in the shower when I realized that I was so carefully not shaving under my left arm because of the lymph node surgery, that I also wasn’t shaving my left leg. I frequently retold that story so people could laugh with me.

Nurture the Little Girl Inside Her

When I was in the hospital, the nurse in charge of the breast-care unit gave me a white stuffed toy sheep named “Fleece.” Taking Fleece with me everywhere, I held him as a shield in front of my sore breast, tucked him under my arm as an armrest, and snuggled next to him in bed. For six months, I indulged my childish need for security and no one chastised me for it. In fact, they acted like it was normal. And I discovered when I was writing my book, Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer, that it was normal! One woman who shared her story in the book had a black stuffed sheep named “Lamby” that she cuddled in her hospital bed. Another received a baby-sized pillow, and she recalls, “That pillow became a part of my wardrobe for eighteen months.”

Comfort and Security Gifts

  • A stuffed animal, pillow, or quilt.
  • A favorite food.
  • A game she loves to play and play it with her.
  • A movie she loved as a kid and watch it with her.
  • A surprise reunion with childhood friends.
  • A tea party.
  • A fun hat—even if she hasn’t lost her hair, she might not feel like fixing her hair.
  • A new nightgown that buttons down the front.
  • An ice cream cone.
  • A nightlight.

Shower Her with Love

Kay Warren shared with me about her breast cancer experience, “I don’t know how we would have gotten through this difficult time without the outpouring of love and support from so many. I have not felt alone at all…which is such an amazing gift!” And that it is…love is the best gift you can give to your friend suffering with breast cancer. Don’t desert her when she needs you most. Right now, she requires extravagant love, and God will help you when your heart is breaking or it just seems too sad or too hard. John 13:34 tells us to love one another just as God has loved us. God is the author of love and He knows just what your friend needs, and He will show you how to love her when she is feeling unlovable.

Surprise her. What woman doesn’t love an unexpected gift or demonstration of how valuable she is to us? We were in the midst of a messy kitchen remodel when breast cancer assaulted me. Everything in my life seemed out of control. But I felt so loved the day I returned home after the painful needle biopsy and spotted amongst the rubble—gift bags full of treats with balloons attached and a card from two girlfriends assuring me they had been praying during the ordeal.

Ideas For Showering Your Breast Cancer Friend With Love

  • A Spa day at a salon, which treats women with breast cancer.
  • If she wears a hat or scarf, wear one too.
  • Tell her how much you love her and what a great friend she is.
  • Stick with her even when the treatment lingers on. Her biggest fear is that others will not endure the journey.
  • Include her in as many activities as she feels up to.
  • Go to a breast-cancer support group with her.
  • Plan a girls’ day or night out, when she feels up to it.
  • Sit and watch old movies with her—even if she falls asleep.
  • Do her makeup.
  • Pray for and with her.

The Bible assures us in Proverbs 17:17 that “A friend loves at all times.” What a privilege it is to put that verse into practice for your precious friend with breast cancer. You probably won’t be able to do everything I suggest and I hope you have ideas of your own, but as a three-time breast cancer survivor, I assure you there are three things that will endure through the good and the bad times—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

The Top Thirteen Things to Do or Say and NOT to Do or Say to Someone with Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Support

Article includes excerpts from Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey.

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we have further reduced the price of Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer at our website shop for the month of October. I will sign and personalize each book.

 Breast cancer book

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Think Pink, But Be Wise

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Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Eagle Idaho (American Cancer Society)

This month, along with fall colors, you’ll also see pink splashed across newspapers, blog sites, magazines, kitchen appliances, cars, mayonnaise jars . . . as marketers and opportunists try to take advantage of our compassionate desire to help find a cure for breast cancer during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But beware: everything colored pink is not black and white. I have some tips on helping you determine a legitimate pink investment versus a pink opportunist.

While taking my early morning walk and praying for what I should write this month on breast cancer, I felt the Lord prompting me with the title of this blog. At the bottom of our road is a row of newspaper holders, and I finish my walk by getting our paper. I laughed aloud when I saw the color pink filling all the newspaper receptacles. The entire Idaho Statesman newspaper was pink!

“Even the sports page is pink!” my husband exclaimed. A front-page article jumped out at me: “Make Your Donation with Care: That Pink Ribbon Might be Lying; Find the Truth about Breast Cancer Giving.” I knew God was confirming that He did want me to warn about the dangers of scammers hitching up to the October pink bandwagon.

Make Your Financial Donations with Care

“Being a donor is a huge responsibility,” said Lynn Hoffmann, executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. “I think it’s too often that donors do just give because they want to do something, but if they don’t do their homework, those dollars may not go where they want them to go” (Idaho Statesman). If you’re going to make a donation, do a thorough investigation of where the money will be going. Ask some basic questions:

  • How much of what I’m giving goes toward the charitable purpose and what is that purpose?
  • Is this a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization?
  • How much of a donation goes for administration, fundraising, and to the core mission?
  • Is the organization truly nonprofit and tax-exempt?
  • What are the executive’s salaries?

Question Solicitors

I receive frequent solicitation calls asking for donations to fund breast cancer research or to help breast cancer patients. I always tell them I am a three-time breast cancer survivor and wait to see their response. One sweet woman said, “God bless you and I’ll pray for your future health. We won’t call you again.” But others keep trying to get my money, and that’s when the red flag goes up. Be skeptical of any pushy solicitors.

Ask:

  • the name of the charity, website, phone number, and address, and tell then you will investigate and they can call back.
  • if the caller is an employee, a volunteer, or a telemarketer, whose company might be the ones banking the donations.

Research Online

Many websites and organizations collect and publish information on nonprofits:

  • GuideStar.org collects tax documents on federally registered nonprofits.
  • ProPublica is an investigative journalism nonprofit group with an easy to search database at projects.propublica.org/.nonprofits.
  • CharityNavigatigator.org rates some nonprofits.

Do some investigating yourself. The foundation or nonprofit asking for a donation should have a website: do they post annual reports? Who are their affiliates or partners?

My husband and I do not want our money going to any organization that supports, funds, affiliates with, or sponsors something we don’t agree with or support. For example, we stopped supporting Susan G. Komen several years ago when we learned that they fund Planned Parenthood. For several years before knowing this, I walked in the Komen races, wore their T-shirts, enjoyed the camaraderie of doing an event with other breast cancer survivors, and have Komen listed under National Contacts in the Sanity Tools of Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer. However, I had not done my homework.

Buyer Beware

KUOW.org points out:

“Susan G. Komen for the Cure is one of the largest breast cancer charities in the world. It partners with corporations to brand pink ribbon product lines for the month of October: pink Purina pet food, pink Yoplait yogurt, and pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, to name a few.”

When purchasing merchandise with a pink ribbon, ask the merchant: Are you donating any portion of the sale, and if so, to what organization?

I saw an advertisement for a pink/pink ribbon decorated Swifter WetJet with a “Cleaning For A Reason” slogan. They also gave a website www.cleaningforareason.org. At their website, I saw that they had a non-profit foundation and donations go to providing cleaning services for cancer patients. There were testimonials and contact information for further questions. I had no idea this service was available, and it looks like a good one.

But money spent to purchase a pink/pink ribbon Swifter WetJet is not going to the foundation; it’s going to Swifter and the merchant. So if I want a pink Swifter WetJet great; but if I want to donate to cleaning services for breast cancer women, I need to donate to their foundation.

Per Dr. Samantha King, director of Queen’s University school of kinesiology and health studies and the author of Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy: Companies who use the Komen name pay Komen up front for the right to put Komen’s pink ribbon and name on their products. So your purchase doesn’t make any difference, nor does a portion of your purchase go straight to Komen. Money has already exchanged between Komen and the business. You can hear an interview with Dr. King at KUOW.org, and Google her name to read more of her comments on “pinkwashing.”

Sadly, there is a rampant marketing ploy of “pinkwashing”—raising the price of a pink or pink ribbon product. The assumption of the consumer is that the extra cost goes directly to fund a breast cancer foundation, but in most cases, it’s just making extra money for the business. If you know this and just want to wear pink, like I do for awareness purposes, that’s fine—but realize that’s what you’re paying for.

Everyone should eat healthy, especially women fighting breast cancer, so beware of foods packaged with a pink ribbon that wouldn’t be good for them (or you). Here are a few I’ve seen who will try to use the pink ribbon to get your emotional purchase:

Sugar—cancer loves sugar

Candy—sugar

Soft drinks—not good for anyone to drink

KFC—really?

I’ve Been Fooled Too

When first diagnosed with breast cancer, I vowed I would not wear pink or a pink ribbon because I didn’t want breast cancer to be my identity. But I soon realized it was my testimony to God’s faithfulness and something I couldn’t deny. So today, as a survivor, pink is my favorite color and I’m proud to wear clothing and jewelry with a pink ribbon—the universally understood breast cancer insignia.

I’m not picking on Komen, or promoting any organization, I just want you to be sure your money and donations are going where you think they are going.

You have to make your own decisions, and I would love to hear some organizations and foundations that you have researched—viable candidates for us to support in the fight against breast cancer. I think we have achieved awareness, what we haven’t achieved is a cure. I feel the answer is preventive research: why is breast cancer so prevalent and what can we do to protect ourselves against this dreaded disease? That’s where I’ll put my money. How about you? What are your thoughts?

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Note: About His Work Ministries is not a non-profit, tax-exempt foundation and we do not solicit or receive donations.

Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey is the book I wrote to walk alongside my breast cancer sisters.

Breast cancer book


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Mother’s Day: Happy or Hurting

“I hate Mother’s Day!” said my dear friend who is longing for a baby. “You know that women struggling with infertility don’t go to church on Mother’s Day.” Kris agrees, “I was that mom-in-waiting for 16 years; I stayed away from baby showers, church, and friends who would get pregnant. I didn’t stop praying, but it WAS the worse pain.” Lisa concurs, “I am guilty of having skipped church a few years before we adopted my son.”

In my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, my own daughter wrote about her painful Mother’s Day experience:

Dear God,

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t know if I can handle seeing all those happy moms at church and brunch. I’m trying to focus on my mom and not think about how I’m missing out on being a mommy on yet another Mother’s Day. This year is especially hard since we’ve been trying to be parents for so long and so hard, only to be repeatedly disappointed. At the store looking for a card for my mom, I see the cute cards at the end of the aisle “To Mommy”…oh God, I wish I were someone’s mommy! I look away and continue focusing at the task ahead, getting my mom and mothers-in-law their cards.

Today’s the day, it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t think I can bear it. It’s just begun and already I want this day over. I pull myself out of bed and get ready for church. I’m not looking forward to the sermon about children being a blessing and honoring mothers. God, help me focus on my mom.

We met my parents at church and I put on my happy face, when inside I was crying watching all the mothers with big smiles dressed in pretty spring dresses and children running all around. This was a day of celebration and I just wanted to go back to bed. The pastor started the message with asking all the mothers to stand up. Hundreds of women stood and everyone applauded. I couldn’t take it any longer and sat slouched over in my seat quietly crying. Toby put his arm around me and my mom held my hand, but nothing took away the pain. I barely heard the rest of the message.

After brunch, I came home, collapsed on my bed, and cried myself to sleep where I remained the rest of the day. God, please don’t make me go through another Mother’s Day with this hole in my heart. I want to stand up in church with all those other mothers beaming from ear to ear and have everyone applaud me. God, please let me stand up next year.

Mother’s Day is especially hard for mommies-in-waiting, but for most of these women, every day is hard. With 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility, you are, or know, a woman experiencing this heartache. Often we don’t know what to say to them, so we say nothing, or maybe unintentionally say something that makes them feel worse. Kris, who I mentioned in the opening paragraph, says, “We cannot ignore them [women longing for a child]. I know how hard it was for people to talk to me. But I would have loved it if they did.”

In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, I offer tools to help you know the “Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do And To Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility.” This list is also on the Infertility Support page on my website.

When I was writing the book, women often told me that the place they felt the loneliest was the church. That breaks my heart.  Jesus said he came for the sick, and that includes heartsick. The church should be a safe place for the hurting, not a place where they feel shunned or outcast.  How does your church comfort mommies-in-waiting on Mother’s Day and every day?

Mothers of Prodigals

Another group of women who will be hurting on Mother’s Day are the mothers of prodigals. They may not even know where there child is, or know all too well where they are and what they are doing that breaks a mother’s heart and the heart of God. These moms also need comforting, a hug, a reminder that this day is for them too and they are not forgotten or ignored.

I was that hurting mom and in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, I tell the story of praying daily that my daughter would find her way back to God, and six years later, she did. This Mother’s Day weekend she and I will be sharing our story at a Mother/Daughter tea. I’ve had a vision of us doing this for many years and prayed expectantly that God would bring my dream to life, and He has.

And Kim who was that heartsick mommy-in-waiting on Mother’s Day is now blessed with a family, but when we speak to the women God brings to this Mother’s Day Tea, neither of us will ever forget what it felt like to be hurting on Mother’s Day. We will speak with caring and compassion a comforting message of hope in God’s plan and timing. We won’t ignore these women, we will love on them!

I hope that you will do the same for the mommies-in-waiting, the moms of prodigals, or the moms who have lost a daughter or a son who may need a shoulder to cry on . . . a prayer . . . an understanding hug. If you’ve been where they’re at, mentor them like only someone who has been in their shoes can. If you haven’t been in their shoes, just let them know you can’t possibly understand, but you’re there for them and God is too!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

NOTE: Besides not knowing what to say, many of us don’t know what to give a mommy-in-waiting or a mom of a prodigal, and so we usually give them nothing. The books I have written for these women are full of hope and encouragement from the voices of other women who have walked the same journey, as well as from God’s Love Letter.  So for the month of May I’m running a sale on my website for Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. Another helpful book might be Face-to-Face with Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah: Pleading with God. I will sign and personalize each book.

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The Magnet Syndrome!

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My retired husband is constantly coming up to me asking, “What are you doing?” He said he can’t stay away—he’s drawn to me like a magnet.—Mariann

Dear God,

When we were first married, Dave literally followed me around the house wanting to do everything with me. He didn’t have any friends or interests beside his job, golf, and me. We quickly remedied that dilemma by finding him friends, serving at church, and starting guitar lessons—the guitar eventually fell by the wayside.

Now that he’s retired and home 24/7, I’m reliving those early years: it seems like every time I turn around, I’m running into him right behind me, or he’s occupying the same space I’m trying to claim. I can’t make a move without him showing up. I try having my “quiet time” outside, only to look up and see him coming out with his Bible ready to settle in across the table from me . . . which would be OK accept he doesn’t read quietly . . . he talks . . . .

I get up early and go for my walk, expecting him to be done in the kitchen when I return. To my chagrin, he doesn’t think about eating breakfast, until I do! If I get my vitamins out of the cupboard, he needs his. Bottles fall and pills fly as we reach around each other trying to grab ours off the shelf.

When I go into the bathroom to put on my makeup and dry my hair, he remembers he needs to shave. Since we only have one sink and mirror, that’s a big problem. Last night, I was trying to take a shower, and he had to go to the bathroom, even though he had just been in there flossing his teeth!

It’s like having a perpetual shadow! Lord, I need some space. Why does everything I do, trigger the exact same response in him? If I change my routine to accommodate him, he changes his routine to match mine—he’s like a magnet. Help! I love my husband, but I’m stumbling over him at every turn.

Crowded, Janet

Mentoring Moment

My friend Anita and I were walking together one morning and I was lamenting about what Dave and I now laughingly call the “Magnet Syndrome.” Anita said she and her husband, Gary, experience the same thing and then she shared the “breakfast dance” they often do in the mornings, just like Dave and me.

Anita also said she had been giving this phenomenon a lot of thought and concluded that the more time you spend together, the more you’re on the same “wave length.” You start thinking alike, your schedules are similar, and your body clocks become synchronized. You’re both hungry simultaneously and sometimes even need to use the bathroom at the same time!

Then she pointed out this is how God intended marriage: husbands and wives become as one. When we each went our separate ways during the day, we had to transition back to being “one” when we saw each other again at night. 24/7 togetherness reflects the oneness of Genesis 2:24—“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Pondering Anita’s words, I realized how right she was. Instead of operating as two separate people in a marriage, 24/7 husbands and wives truly transition into one body—spiritually and physically. Exactly what we all agreed to in our marriage vows when the pastor said, “I present to you Mr. and Mrs. _____________, (fill in your names) united in marriage. What God has joined together, let no man separate.”

*This article contains excerpts from Janet Thompson’s  Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man

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Dear God, He’s Home!

Today, I’m doing the happy dance because tomorrow, March 5, my book Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man releases.This book is the third in the “Dear God” series. The first two are: Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey and Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey. I’ve traveled these three journeys, and my hope is to mentor, bless, and encourage other women who are on the journey now.

Last week, I received the author’s copies of Dear God, He’s Home! and holding your new “baby” never gets old. Today’s blog is part of a two-part post that will introduce you to the heart of the book. Next Monday you will hear from my stay-at-home man.

Photo: Look what was waiting for me when we got home tonight! Another baby birthed LOL:)

The wife of a stay-at-home man is going to talk to God—a lot!

Maybe she’ll write a cathartic letter in her journal: Dear God,. . . . Another wife might begin her pleading or thankful prayers with “Dear God,”. . . . Still other wives in times of desperation or frustration cry out, “Dear God, HE’S HOME!”

The various times my husband has been a “Stay-at-Home Man,” I regularly expressed each of those “Dear Gods,” as do the wives who submitted stories for my book Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man. So if you have a stay-at-home man and he’s driving you crazy, don’t feel guilty if you haven’t always been joyous about this new closeness in your marriage relationship. And don’t feel alone. When I sent out a request for stories of women with a husband home due to retirement, illness, disability, out of work, home office, the military . . . whatever reason…the stories flowed into my inbox and my ears.

With unemployment at an all-time high, baby boomers reaching retirement age by the droves, military pulling out of many areas and returning home, businesses down-sizing or setting up virtual offices in homes, chances are pretty good you either are or know a woman with a stay-at-home man.

Whenever I mention the title of my book, wives smirk with raised eyebrows and knowingly remark, “Boy, do I have a story for you!” “I need this book.” “I know someone who could use this book.” Or “I’m going to need this book soon, write fast!”

Myriad emotions and reactions erupt from both spouses when an otherwise out-of-the-home-every-day husband is suddenly home all day—every day. Many wives have their own label for this occurrence. In Honey, I’m Home for Good!, Mary Ann Cook calls it spouse-in-the-house syndrome.” Then there’s retired-husband syndrome” or military reintegration syndrome.

Every couple’s response to their unique syndrome evolves from how they’ve dealt with previous transitions in their relationship. Couples who stumbled and fumbled without finding workable resolutions in the past, will probably stumble and fumble through this new situation too. However, couples who have successfully developed and implemented coping techniques may be better equipped to adjust to a full time “stay-at-home man.” Even so, unexpected issues can blindside both spouses.

There’s no age qualifier for a husband suddenly being home 24/7. Sometimes it comes as a shock and other times it’s the natural progression of expected retirement or return from deployment. But even when we know it’s coming, the reality of a hubby being home full-time can still be shocking and disarming. A woman recently wrote me:

My dad has just announced that he’ll be retiring the end of March, so I’m excited to read your book and send it along to my mom afterwards. We didn’t handle his retirement from the Marine Corps so well 20 years ago. I was just laughing about it with him on the phone today, but he has better laid plans to transition out this time around.

Planning is essential, if you have that luxury. Each time my husband has been home, it’s always been a surprise and no time to plan. It hit us both hard and we struggled through adapting to the transitions and changes we each experienced.

For Better or For Worse but Not For Lunch

There’s a universal frustration expressed by wives of stay-at-home husbands: He’s invading “my space” and my work load is increasing while his is decreasing. The prospect of fixing lunch every day can push a wife over the top.  John expresses the lament of many wives:

When I retired from the Navy (and was a stay at home retiree) my wife (after a few weeks) said, “I promised for better or worse, but I didn’t promise lunch every day. Go out and get another job. So I did…John

John J. Cline

 John

Not every husband can go out and get another job, at least not right away. Instead of feeling resentful or overwhelmed, we wives need to put into perspective issues like lunch or helping with household duties and discuss with our husbands in the same way we would discuss a major decision or planning a trip—talk it out.

Most husbands were used to eating lunch somewhere —maybe driving up to a takeout window, or sitting in a restaurant and ordering, or going to the lunchroom and eating the lunch we packed. They don’t know how to change that pattern unless we help redirect them to making their own lunches now or going out with the guys. One husband, who went from working in an office to working out of the home, still gets in his car and drives to lunch. It was what he always did and it feels right. I’m sure it feels right to his wife too!

Part 2 of Dear God, He’s Home! to be continued next Monday Morning. Have a great week. I’m going to have fun sharing my book with wives who I hope will be blessed and encouraged in this season of their lives.

We’re Running a Special for the Month of March

At our website store, you can purchase Dear God, He’s Home!  personalized and signed for only $9.99 (regular price $14.99) for the month of March.

If you would like to read the first two chapters go to this snippet.

Next week I’ll have a book trailer to share with you.

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Tips for Having a Spectacular Summer

Often we get so busy having “fun” in the summer months that we take a vacation from God and then wonder why we’re so stressed.

Here are tips for having a spectacular God-filled summer!
1. On Sundays, visit a church in your vacation spot.
2. If a church is not available, have your own family service.
3. Pray before meals, even when you’re in a restaurant.
4. If you’re traveling by car, play Christian Cd’s or a Christian radio station. If you have little ones, play one of their children’s Cd’s and sing along with them.
5. Learn Scripture verses on a long drive.
6. Keep your small group or Bible study going during the summer. You may not have perfect attendance, but God NEVER takes the summer off.
7. Pray together every morning and have a short devotional time before you set off on the day’s adventure.
8. Throughout the day, stop and thank God for the beauty that surrounds you, even if you’re sitting in your backyard.
9. If finances are tight, don’t think you have to take the family on an expensive vacation. Check out all the “free” or minimally priced activities in your community.
10. If your children have a disadvantaged friend, offer to take the child with you when you’re doing something fun.

Remember that our great God is a “year-round” God. He loves to have fun with you, but He’s also a jealous God that doesn’t want us putting fun before Him. If you keep that in mind all summer, you’re going to have the time of your life!

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