Independence Day..A Close Look at Freedom and Independence (a revised repost)

When I think of freedom, I think of all the times in my life when I broke away from someone or something that was inflicting or causing me pain. Like cancer, for instance. I fought the cancer battle and a year later, I am currently cancer free! Obtaining that freedom was not easy and it came with a cost, but the joy that freedom brought was worth it all. I guess we wouldn’t call it freedom if it were easy to break the chains that hold us hostage. And I’m quite sure we’ve all had a personal experience of breaking free from someone or some kind of physical or emotional bondage. We love freedom. We fight for it and celebrate it passionately, especially when we are the ones who paid the cost to personally accomplish it. But are we just as passionate and grateful when someone else has paid that cost?

What about Independence? Is that the same as Freedom? We celebrate the 4th of July and call it Independence Day. Freedom and independence. As I think about these two things, I can’t get them out of my head. Does freedom really come from being independent? I guess I’ve always thought it did, but does it? Even as I write this, I am challenged to think in a way that I haven’t thought before. Isn’t it a good thing to be independent? As a Mother, I encourage my children to be independent of me and do more on their own as they get older. This brings more freedom to me, as well as giving them independence. This leads me to believe that freedom comes from being independent. But here’s the game changing question…does it really? Or does real freedom come from the very act of dependence? If you’re not sure, keep reading.

Independence, by definition is “freedom from dependence”. Ok, I get it, but does it really free us to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, self-reliant, self-etc.? Sounds like we’d just end up all by ourselves. Is that really the kind of freedom we want? Not for me. Freedom, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “absence of constraint”.  That sounds good to me. Who wants to be constrained? But too much freedom can’t always be good. Law and order are set in place to prevent chaos. We actually need it.

So, here’s where I’m going with this. Freedom is good. But too much, can lead to chaos. Independence, is good but too much doesn’t always lead to real freedom. In fact, it can often lead to bondage. What?!? How? When we try to be so independent, that we don’t need others or God, it can often lead to isolation, which can lead to loneliness and depression. Isn’t that bondage? So, why do we try so hard to be so independent, that we don’t need anyone or God? Didn’t God make us to be in relationship with Him and with others? I need my family and my friends; and I know I need God more. I didn’t get through my cancer battle alone or by any form of independence, but rather my complete dependence on God, my family and my friends.

So, here’s the oxymoron of this whole point:  Christ died for our freedom. It’s offered to those who accept it, through His death and resurrection. BUT (and here it is…) we cannot have it, unless we give up our independence and are completely and totally dependent on Him. Self-Nothing and God-Everything! That’s real freedom.

I’ll say it again…real freedom comes through our very dependence on God. Wow!

God will give us the kind of freedom that is truly worth the cost and we don’t even have to pay the price. He paid it. We can’t possibly understand just how great that cost was, but if we could, I bet our gratitude and our celebrations would be far greater than fireworks.

Yes, I will celebrate our freedom as a country and remain grateful to those who paid the heavy price to give us the freedom we have as a nation. In addition, I will celebrate the freedom I have personally in Christ and am even more grateful to HIM, for the heavy price He paid to give me that freedom…eternal freedom.

“Apart from me, you can do nothing” John 15:5

“Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecc. 4:9-10

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

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Cancer removed/Hope remains!

Hello family and friends…

Thank you, for the love and prayers you all continue to send my way as well as all who contributed to the GoFundMe account. I cannot thank you enough for how much this has helped our family with all the medical expenses, as well as me being out of work for the last 2 months. I am very grateful to each and every one of you and feel very loved. I am also feeling better and better every day!

img_5315Monday marks the 8th week since my surgery and I have spent that time at home, regaining my strength. It’s been a very slow recovery process, but overall each day is progress. At my 6 week check-up, it was confirmed that I won’t need chemo or radiation at this point and my doctor said I was healing well and she didn’t need to see me again for 6 months! YAY!!

This year has been emotional, to say the least. But through it all, I’ve experienced a closeness with God that I wouldn’t trade for anything. His peace and comfort continue to sustain me, through the valley of the shadow of death and now, as I attempt to climb towards the mountaintops. God was so faithful in these last 6 difficult months of my life. In May, my Mother died from colon cancer. In July, I discovered my own cancer and by August I was preparing for surgery, to have a 2-inch tumor and 8 inches of my colon removed. My life, as I knew it, had drastically changed.

When this all started, I was facing my prognosis and future with a great deal of fear and uncertainty. But as I shifted my focus on God, instead of my circumstances, He became my comforter, my strength, my hope, my hiding place, my Abba Father and my all-in-all! My fear was replaced with peace and my uncertainty replaced with Hope! His Love for me became so personal and real, that nothing else mattered. I’m flooded with gratitude, as I  recover and my soul rejoices for having had the privilege of experiencing God, in such a deep and personal way, through this storm.

In a single moment, life can change for any one of us. We live each day and plan as though we’ll always have tomorrow, but tomorrow is promised to no man. When we come face-to-face with a potentially life-threatening experience, everything comes to a screeching halt and we are suddenly faced with the possibility of no ‘tomorrow’ at all. It’s a moment we’ll never forget. If we are humble enough, we’ll fall to our knees and ask God to take over the wheel of our lives and if we do, He is faithful to answer. If we don’t, we potentially risk hardening our hearts and blinding our eyes from seeing His presence and provision. I’m so glad that He is persistent and patient with us, because I am prone to wander and likely to fail without Him. I would much rather let God be at the wheel of my life, than me; I have a track-history of crashing.

I’ve been told that I will have to check in with my doctors and monitor things over the next 5 years, but I fall into the 85% success rate of the cancer never returning. I rejoice in this good news. However, my hope is not in the statistics…My Hope remains in Christ!

Lastly, I finally returned back to work last week and it feels so good to be out of the house and reunited with the great people at Akua and all my wonderful clients. I have surely missed you! My schedule will be light, initially. I’m booking appointments for Tuesday’s-Saturday’s, (9:00-4:00). I will start out slow and then fill up the days, as I gain more energy. Since the holidays are fast approaching, I suggest pre-booking to ensure getting in when you want.  Although I continue to have great progress, I still have limits to what I can and cannot do. I’m trying to find my new “normal” and adjust my routine around that, so I really appreciate your patience and understanding. Looking forward to seeing you.

Signing off for now…Much love, hugs & gratitude,

~Danielle

 

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Coping with cancer/Hoping in Christ (Part 9)

Update #9: Recovering and Rejoicing…

I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since my surgery!

I am simply amazed as I look back and beyond grateful as I look forward.

The first week home was incredibly difficult and the pain was something I had to learn how to manage. Eating the right foods was crucial, as my body adapts to processing, digesting and eliminating foods all over again.

The second week, I began to feel stronger, but I had to continue to rest. I couldn’t spend too much time on my feet or sit for too long. The pain and discomfort remained, but less excruciating.

Now, at week three, I still feel like I’m recovering at snail speed, but every day is an improvement from the previous. I am slow at everything and I feel restless, but I’m listening to my body’s limits. For those who know me, know that moving slow is not my favorite thing to do. I try to incorporate a few walks and itty-bitty adventures out of the house as much as I can, without pushing myself.

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Last week, I had my 2 week, post-op doctor visit and the Doc was encouraged by my progress and assured me that, although it seems slow, I am right on track. I see her in 4 more weeks and if at that point I’m still progressing well, then the plan is to follow up every 6 months and do an annual colonoscopy for the next 5 years. Statistically speaking, she said that I fall into an 85% success rate category. This is incredible news!

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I can’t describe my emotions without crying. I am simply amazed at the outcome of this experience. When I was first diagnosed, I was flooded with fear. I could only see the devastation of cancer through my own Mother’s battle and her passing was still so fresh in my heart. It was hard to be optimistic with my own diagnosis. At my Mom’s memorial, I sang Lauren Daigle’s song, “Trust in You”, as a tribute to her and her faith in God, as well as my own faith, even when God doesn’t move the mountains we ask Him to move. Little did I know, that as I boldly professed my faith, cancer was alive and growing inside of me, ready to test my ability to live out my faith. I found out it’s much easier to verbally say “I trust God”, than to authentically trust Him. But when something like this hits you personally, it brings you to a crossroads and you have to chose…will I trust God? No matter what the outcome?

As I have described in previous blog posts, the peace that pushed out my fears was indescribable. The more I surrendered my will over to God, the more peace and comfort I felt. And the more I professed HIS promise, to get me through the storms of life, the more I experienced His presence. I cannot explain this peace or my ability to rest in Him, other than to say that “HIS strength was made perfect in my weakness”.  His love cast out all my fear.

My need for HIM, became so much more important to me than any outcome.

When faced with life-threatening circumstances, I found that focusing on God, and NOT my circumstances, opened the door to a deeper walk with Him and personally experiencing the depths of HIS love, in ways I never fully understood before this storm.

Since being home, I’ve heard news of some of my friends, who are dealing with cancer and have not had the same outcome. Again, I don’t understand God’s ways and I caution those who try to understand them. For God allows the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. He is God. Who am I to question Him. Where was I when He established the Heavens and the Earth?  I do, however, encourage those to cast their cares upon Him, because He cares. He hears our cries and bottles our tears. He is a good and sovereign God. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We may not understand why He allows some to overcome, and others to be overcome by this horrible disease. But I do know that HE CAN BE TRUSTED to walk with us and never leave or forsake us, if we truly seek a relationship with Him.

The fact that I was blessed with such a wonderful outcome is truly a gift. I did not expect it, nor did I deserve it. But I rejoice in itI also rejoice in having experienced a closeness with God, that I have never had before. It has deepened my faith and my understanding of His great love. I rejoice in having experienced His promise; to be my strength, comfort and hiding place, when I’m in trouble. I rejoice knowing that He is in control of my life, and has a purpose in everything that He allows, good or bad. I rejoice knowing that He can be trusted, no matter what the outcome. I rejoice in WHO HE IS and that I AM HIS.

Thank you for your constant love, support and prayers as I continue to recover and find my physical strength again. I hope to be back to work by mid-October. For all of you who have contributed with meals, groceries, notes, flowers, financial help, visits, calls and prayers…I rejoice in your kindness, thoughtfulness, friendship and love. You have blessed me beyond measure.

~Danielle

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Coping with cancer/Hoping in Christ (part 8)

Update #8: Homeward Bound & Lab Results!
Hello Everyone! 

I write from my hospital bed on the last day of my stay here, at Scripps Green. Tears of joy are rolling down my face as I am given the official news of my lab results. Results came back as “T2”, which simply means… I was only Stage 1; the lymph nodes were clear; and no need for chemo or radiation!  

To God be the glory! 

As most of you know, I had asked for prayer in 3 major areas:  

1. No hysterectomy (that prayer was answered before my surgery). 

2. No colostomy bag (that prayer was answered during my surgery). 

3. And lastly, No cancer in my lymph nodes. (Answered today!)

I must say.. I wasn’t sure how God would answer these prayers, but I trusted Him to get me through it, regardless of the outcome. 

When my Mother passed away in May, some people expressed disappointment in God. Maybe because of the outcome and she had so much faith that she would be physically healed. Personally, I have learned a great lesson in faith through this cancer battle and it is this:

Real faith never puts belief in an outcome. Real faith puts belief in Christ Jesus, who controls the outcome. 

Over and over, in scripture, God promises to be with us; that He will never leave or forsake us; to trust that whatever He is doing in our lives is for our good and His glory. 

He promises to get us through the hard times; not avoid them; 

through the valley of the shadow of death, and not be afraid;

through the waters, He will be with you;

through the rivers, and not be overtaken;.

through the fire, and not be burned;

My faith used to be a mix of believing in an outcome, as well as, believing in HIM who is able. But, I would find myself disappointed when God didn’t answer the prayers I prayed. 

For the first time in my life, right before my diagnosis, I surrendered my will to Him. I surrendered what I wanted for my life to whatever He had for my life. 

And then came…

The test of my faith: my cancer diagnosis.  

So with reckless abandonment, I surrendered all of me; whatever the outcome; I chose to have a different kind of faith. I chose to put my belief in HIM, not the outcome. 

And then came…

Peace that passes ALL understanding; Joy unspeakable; And rest. 

I have found that in order to fully know that God really can do exceedingly more than I could ever hope or imagine, I had to understand just how deep His love is for me. And in order to know the great depths of His love, I had to be rooted and grounded in HIM! (Ephesians 3:17-20)

The outcome no longer matters as much as the relationship I have with Christ. 

I will spend the next 6 weeks at home recovering and I only need to check back with my Doctor every 6 months! Thank you for your love and prayers. 

I am forever grateful for this experience. 

I am forever grateful for all of you, family and friends, for the love you’ve extended to me through your support. 

I am forever grateful for my amazing husband, my strong supportive daughters, my encouraging sisters, my loving Dad and my loyal family who continues to stand by me. 

I am forever grateful to my Abba Daddy, who loves me and calls me his own. 

~Danielle 

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Coping with cancer/Hoping in Christ (Part 7)

Update ##7 (written by Aaron)


What a day. Here’s the recap…

1. All was done laparoscopically. Small incisions, minimally invasive and a faster recovery. Couldn’t have asked for a better outcome

Grade: A+. 

2. No stoma! Doctor said the size and position of the tumor (in addition to young healthy tissue) allowed for a great resection. So, no cholostomy bag. Yay!

Grade: A+

3. Tumor appears to be contained. The doctor said “visually” it did not appear the tumor had breached the wall of the colon. Pathology will hopefully confirm this but so far this “appears” to be the case.

Grade: A+

4. I am bedside writing this quick update. The doctor is very pleased but she did say that this procedure (for Danielle) is comparable to being hit by a truck. She’s so little. Balancing her pain with pain medication has been tricky. She’s had a rough go transitioning out of anesthesia after she got to her room. Said to expect a long night. Please hear above all that our prayers are being heard and answered exceedingly and abundantly. It’s just hard watching. It’s a helpless and agonizing feeling for me. Even as she sleeps, her face is distressed. She is in pain and nothing but time can make this better. Before today, I’ve never thought it was physically possible to hurt seeing someone else in pain. It is. What I would give to trade places with her…

Grade: Incomplete

So I told her I was posting an update. I asked if she’d like me to say anything to all of you. After a brief pause, (and with her eyes closed) this was her response.

Her: My ankles are ringing.

Me: Your ankles?

Her: “nods”

Me: Are ringing?

Her: “nods again”

Me: hmm

Her: Well… I guess they’re vibrating.

Me: *kisses forehead* Goodnight baby, I love you. 

Goodnight from room 381

Love to all,

Aaron

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Coping with cancer/Hoping in Christ (Part 6)

Update #6: August 27, 2016 (Ready, Set…Surgery!)

After a long week of juggling pre-Op appointments, blood-draws, paper-work and finishing the last week of clients at the salon, I’m home resting and preparing for the big day, Monday, August 29th. Surgery starts at 11:00am and is expected to go 3.5 hours. I’ve been told I will most likely be in the hospital 3-5 days, if all goes well.

I’m not sure how I’ll feel immediately after the surgery, so I’ll probably ask my husband, Aaron to log in and give everyone a quick update on Monday evening. I know that many of you are praying and I can’t even tell you how much that means to me. It brings me a lot of comfort and peace knowing that your prayers are being lifted up to the mighty Physician in Heaven on my behalf. I am hopeful and fully confident that God is with me. He has been faithful to hold me close and fill me with a peace, that surpasses all understanding and a joy unspeakable, in such a time as this. I have no words to describe His presence, nor do I have words to appropriately express my gratitude for the love and support that surrounds me, in all of you. Thank you!

Note to my clients: Again, thank you for your loving support during this time. Most of you already know that my good friend and hairdresser, Rebeca (at Akua), will be available to handle your appointments for the next 6-8 weeks. I’ve provided her with access to all my products, color, formulas and notes. She has graciously offered to give back a percentage of her earnings, from you, towards my salon rent while I’m out. I wanted you all to know her sweet and generous heart and how much she wants to help. She is a gift. I hope you all feel comfortable with her over the next couple months. She can be reached at 760-805-5910. I will miss you, but I will be back soon!

This is my prayer…May the God of ALL hope be glorified in me and may you come to know HIM personally.

Hugs and gratitude,

Danielle

 

 

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Coping with cancer/Hoping in Christ (Part 5)

Update #5 (MRI result & scheduled surgery) August 22, 2016

Hello Friends and Family,

What an amazing weekend. God’s presence is truly evident in this journey and I am so grateful for the love that surrounds me. Thank you to all who have shown incredible support through your prayers, donations, messages, etc.

Here’s the latest info…

  • The MRI on Friday revealed a clear separation between the tumor area and the uterus. That means no emergency hysterectomy.. YAY!
  • There are still uncertainties regarding the lymph nodes surrounding the tumor area. We won’t know until after the surgery & biopsy, if I will need chemo/radiation or not.
  • Surgery is scheduled for Monday, August 29th and I will officially be out of work for a couple months in recovery.
  • Please continue to pray that the surgery is successful in removing any and all cancerous areas and that I wake up with no colostomy bag!
  • And continuous prayers for my daughters as they start school and try to carry on with all that is going on. And for my husband, who has been an amazing support, to continue to walk in God’s strength.

God is revealing His deep love for me through this trial, in unbelievable ways. I know there is still a long road ahead of me, but I am so encouraged and my faith in God & HIS faithfulness has deepened. I will most likely use my recovery time at home, to blog this journey in greater detail, but for now, I will say that HIS fingerprints all over this. Many might ask how a loving God allows things like this to happen. Not once, have I felt the need to ask this. Instead, I feel honored and blessed that He chose me to represent His faithfulness, His mercy, His compassion, His goodness and His great LOVE, through this difficult time. He is a good, good Father…that’s who He is. (Listen to the Chris Tomlin song…https://youtu.be/iBmwwwiHrOk)

In closing, I want to share what my sister did for me yesterday. She had a fundraiser at the new Seed Faith Gardens at her store in Solana Beach. I was so touch by all who volunteered, set up, planted, created arrangements, donated succulents & recycled containers and generously supported with your purchase. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! https://www.facebook.com/SeedFaithGardens/

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Also, we had a close friend donate 6Nights/7Days in his BIG BEAR, CA vacation rental. It is still being auctioned off until August 31st. See the links below.
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Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Much love & gratitude,

Danielle

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