The word "JOY" abounds at Christmastime.
It's emblazoned on greeting cards and ornaments; written in lights and on iced cookies and cakes. Joy is associated with the announcement of Christ's birth, so it makes sense that we'd find it displayed more this time of year.
"But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." ~ Luke 2:10-11
What is joy?
Someone with a brand new podcast recently interviewed me about the release of Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't. She logically asked me the question, "How could you possibly have joy after being diagnosed with cancer?"
In hindsight, I don't think my answer - which focused on having the peace of Christ - fit what she envisioned my response would be. Sadly, I bombed that interview but learned an important lesson that will help me in future chats with show hosts, and that is: joy means different things to different people. In the future, I think it would be helpful to define joy, even if I'm still learning what it is myself.
When I set out to write JICCI...
...my view of joy wasn't one of slap-happy giddiness. Though there are days that I'm annoyingly kind of like that due to my temperament.
To me, the person who possesses joy is like the Proverbs 31 woman who is clothed with strength and dignity and "can laugh at the days to come" or as the New Living Translation puts it, "laughs without fear of the future." EVEN if your future looks bleak to everyone around you, true joy enables you to face each tomorrow with a humble confidence. It's a peace, it's a joy, that overflows from our hope in Christ. Joy comes from trusting in Christ's goodness, knowing that everything He allows or does on our behalf benefits us in some way. As hard as it is to fathom, that means suffering in this life can bless us.
While looking for a succinct definition of joy, I found this from pastor and author John Piper: "Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world."
That seems straight forward, doesn't it? Actually, there's so much more to it that Piper does an entire video lesson on the definition of joy. He then follows it up with several more videos, one of which addresses the secret of joy in suffering. I'm sharing the first video here should you want to take a gander. Each one is only 10 minutes and worth your time.
I'm still learning about joy - what it means to be joyful when life gets hard. While I'm no expert, one thing I've learned is that genuine Christian joy can't occur without trust in Christ's goodness and love for us and that trust in Christ can't develop apart from Him. If we're not spending time with Him, then we're essentially sowing seeds of doubt. Those seeds eventually produce a message that can push us away from God, leaving us wondering if He ever really loved us in the first place. Despite what Christ's birth and journey to the cross tell us.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of joy. Please help me to experience it in my heart this Christmas season and beyond as I continue to rejoice in you. Amen.
Now, a little "Joy to the World" as you dwell on the meaning of JOY.
I can't believe the last time I blogged was more than two weeks ago.
Well, considering my last couple of weeks, Oh YES...oh, yes, I can.
On the surface, this will appear to be one big whine fest, but please keep reading because my intent is for God's goodness to come shining through the dark clouds that have followed me since I last wrote.
Monday, November 6th, I was trying to complete my work for the following day because I had my annual mammogram scheduled. Mammograms don't take that long, but just in case there was a repeat of last year, requiring a follow-up ultrasound, I wanted to ensure my day was completely open.
I was plugging along when I received a call from the counselor at one of my children's school. I was told that my child (who I won't mention here by name) had written a letter indicating that she didn't want her life to continue and that I needed to come get her as soon as possible. When I got to the school and read what she wrote my heart sank...then broke a little...then sank some more. It caught me off guard because we all had experienced such a nice weekend. Here we are bike riding that Sunday.
This wasn't the first time that my child who suffers from depression had suggested this world would be better without her in it. Having a child who suffers emotionally has got to be the most painful aspect of parenting that could possibly exist and when I'm forced to deal with one of these episodes a huge chunk of my life shuts down. The pain is so great that I don't want to function beyond what is necessary and I worry about what the future may hold in store. Then I ask myself if I truly believe what I wrote in Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't:
"We really can trust the One who put the stars into place and knew us before we were born with our diagnosis. And with tough decisions. And with our treatment. And with their unpleasant side effects. And with our emotions. And with our future. And with our family’s future. We can trust Him with everything, for He’s the Lord of all and is over all..." ~ Ch. 11 in Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't by Kim Tisor
Do I believe that? Do I really? The answer is, I do. I may have to remind myself of those truths, but I honestly believe that God is GOOD and can't be anything other than that and that He loves my daughter and the rest of my family members more than I do.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite." ~ Psalm 147: 3-5
If the Lord has given names to the stars, He certainly knows my daughter by name and has the ability to heal her broken heart and mine. As a matter of fact, He's the only one that has the power to do that. Time may help. Medication may help. Counseling may help. A proper diet may help. Lots of love and understanding may help. But only God has the ability to completely heal our brokenness. I pray that He chooses to do that in my daughter's life.
That same night I had picked up my child early from school I had plans to attend a Christian women's event nearly 40 miles away. My heart was so downcast that I thought I should probably just stay home, but then I considered maybe the evening would do my heart good, so I headed out the door into the dark, drizzly night. I looked forward to meeting the speaker who was traveling from MN because she and I had conversed via email several times. Her name is Judy Hehr and she was going to be a guest on my podcast...when I had one. (I stopped recording it about a year ago when I received my breast cancer diagnosis.) Judy appears to be a bit of a firecracker, and like me, has her own radio show, so I knew we'd hit it off in person as well as we had in our email messages.
When I arrived at the church where she was to speak the church was locked up like Houdini before one of his dramatic escapes. Eventually a man exited the church and told me the event had been cancelled due to some transportation issues. Viewing the city streets' Christmas lights abated some of my disappointment as I began my drive home in silence.
Just to quickly let you know how the rest of that week unfolded, Wednesday morning my husband called me at home to let me know that a mutual friend had passed away. I didn't even know she had been ill. Then that afternoon as I drove to pick up my kids from school my car's engine overheated. An oncoming driver flashed his lights at me (I assumed there was a cop up ahead) just before my "Check Gauges" light came on. It then began to flash. Then it changed to "Engine Overheated" as warning sounds started blaring. I managed to call a friend who picked up my kids as I turned the vehicle around. The sounds got louder then my car informed me that it was powering down. I managed to coast within a couple miles of home and walked the rest of the way. That was not the day to leave my warm coat and bra at home.
The chilly air felt good to my lungs as I walked home, wanting to cry but with no tears left to shed. I decided it wasn't the time to cry anyway because I truly had a lot to be thankful for and began mentally listing my blessings. I was thankful that I had made it to the edge of my neighborhood and was no longer on a busy road. I was thankful that my friend answered her phone and could pick up my kids. I was thankful that my legs weren't hurting, because sometimes the Tamoxifen I take for cancer causes a pain deep in my left leg. I was thankful that it wasn't snowing or raining. I was extremely thankful that my car hadn't broken down along the highway the Monday night I traveled to a nearby town to hear the no-show speaker. I was thankful that my daughter seemed to be in a better place emotionally. I was thankful that I didn't have my warm coat afterall because I was starting to heat up while walking home. I still would have liked my bra, but oh well.
I'm not sure why that driver flashed his lights at me. I'm guessing he either saw smoke billowing from my hood or there were flames shooting out the front of my car. Not sure which, but he got my attention.
The following week I had an appointment with my oncologist - nothing new to share there - and my OBGYN. He asked if I had considered having my ovaries removed, since my cancer is estrogen driven. AND if we were going to remove my ovaries then may as well remove the uterus, since Tamoxifen is associated with uterine cancer. He told me to think about it and he would talk to my oncologist. Not sure why, but something about that appointment caused my anxiety to increase over the following week. Perhaps the thought of having to make another decision regarding my health and having another surgery was more than I wanted to deal with considering the previous week.
Then Saturday morning rolled around and my husband told me to get dressed, that he wasn't feeling right and he thought he needed to see a doctor, i.e. a trip to the ER, because he thought he was having a heart attack. I took his blood pressure which was elevated, so I quickly got ready and drove him to the hospital. Thankfully, the EKG indicated his heart was fine. He was told he probably had a virus that was causing his vertigo and nausea. Whew!
Three days later I ran through the drive-thru to pick up something for Randy and our son, who was home sick. As I sat in line my heart was heavy thinking of the weeks' previous events, and how just the day before my dad would have been 74 had complications from surgery not taken him from this life several years ago. My heart ached. And wouldn't you know when I pulled up to pay for my order the cashier told me that the woman in front of me had paid for my order and passed along the message for me to have a good day!? Wow. As I pulled away the tears started falling again, but this time over God's goodness. That message from the woman driving a Kia Soul was like God speaking directly to my soul, letting me know that He's aware of my pain and is with me. The sun suddenly got a little brighter.
In the midst of all this craziness, I was asked to be a regular on a syndicated radio show, was hired to do some radio imaging for a production company, and Joy Is Contagious...Cancer Isn't was released. In all honesty, it was hard to be excited about all the positives on the heels of all the difficulty. But my heart was grateful and remained full of hope.
"For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (GNT)
I know this was long and kind of rambling, but I wanted you to know why I've been away. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you'll continue to count your many blessings each day.
A girls’ getaway is what the dental hygienist ordered. Not my hygienist but my sister-in-law, Kym, who has been one for more than 25 years. She insisted that I accompany her and another mutual sister-in-law, Karen, and Karen’s sister, Sue, to Niagara on the Lake in Ontario for a few days of relaxation. She twisted my arm (and paid for my flight) so I went. I'm so glad that I did.
The trip occurred back in July, just 3 months after my exchange surgery to replace my tissue expander with an implant (L girl) and my mastopexy (R girl) a.k.a. lift. In case you're wondering the lift hurt more than the exchange. Humor me and imagine an eraser burn on your bare nipple after accidentally scorching it in a tanning bed. Yeah, it hurt kinda like that.
Hanging and laughing with some wonderful women while sipping fine wine in picturesque vineyards soothed my beaten-down soul. I relished time away where my responsibilities were reduced to eating, sleeping, and taking my Tamoxifen each day. Dressing was probably optional being in Canada, but I managed to put on clothes every. single. day. out of respect for my sistas...and myself...and all the tourists visiting Niagara on the Lake.
One of the most memorable stops was at Two Sisters Vineyard where we toured the grounds with our guide, Paul Newman. Not the original blue-eyed Paul Newman of Butch Cassidy or Creamy Balsamic Salad Dressing fame. Though his returning to the land of the living (did you know he died in 2008?) to haunt women as they meander through the rows of grape vines would be a fantastic plot for a horror flick or Abbot and Costello remake. No, this Paul Newman is Canadian, alive and well, and nearly as charming as the original.
Here's a picture of Two Sisters Vineyard at night that I nabbed from their website. I don't advise touring a vineyard at night because you won't see much. Was that statement too obvious?
Paul taught us so much about wine-making that I’ve forgotten half of what he said. But one aspect of growing the grapes made an indelible mark in my mind. Do you know what determines if a wine is from a good year? If it's a desirable vintage? It has to do with the climate and weather conditions. The best wines are produced from grapes grown and harvested during an extremely dry growing season. Newman explained that vineyard workers don't water the vines because the point is to stress them, so they go deep looking for water. The roots will go 20 to 30 feet deep into the earth in search of moisture, bringing up with them rich minerals and nutrients that positively flavor the grapes…and ultimately the wine.
As he continued, my spirit latched on to the connection between how dry spells perfect grapes and can strengthen our faith, if like the grapes’ roots we go in search of water…living water.
"When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
That passage continues with Jesus telling the Samaritan woman that with living water she'd never thirst again. I've always assumed that the living water was Jesus himself, but that's not quite right. On the website Got Questions, the author stresses that Jesus doesn't say that HE is the living water. To find out what living water is, you have to go further in the book of John where Jesus says to a crowd of worshipers:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." ~ John 7:37-39
Living water is the Holy Spirit that lives and flows within all Christians. Like water itself, the Holy Spirit quenches, He gives life, He penetrates and permeates, He fills voids, He has no physical boundaries, and like children playing with a water hose, He brings joy.
Fighting cancer in the midst of a spiritual drought can ignite a raging wildfire where the flames of worry, anxiety, and fear burn out of control. I personally believe the most effective way to extinguish those flames is to drench ourselves with the power of the Holy Spirit...living water...by seeking Him every day.
"But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD..." ~ Micah 3:8
Seems strange that we would need to seek something (or rather Someone) that resides within us, doesn't it? All I know is that my husband and I can be in the same room and yet on separate planets. Personally, I must make a concerted effort to connect with those closest to me because they're the easiest ones to take for granted. It's no different with the Holy Spirit.
A season of spiritual dryness can be distressing or a blessing, depending on our response to it. We can either wonder where God is and why we're not growing or seek the Lord's Spirit and allow Him to mature us like a fine wine. Amazingly, He can reach and teach us anywhere...even in the middle of a vineyard with dear friends and a guy named Paul.
"If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!" ~ John 14:17 (MSG)
Funny that the title "Author" appears above this description yet I have no idea what to share about myself in this space! How about my first name is Kim. My last name is Tisor. Tisor rhymes with miser, though I try not to be one.
For more information about me, please visit the author page.