Asking the question, “Where is God?”
Can we find God in the midst of the difficult seasons of our lives?
A conversation with my friend Father Taylor Albright from Trinity Church Tariffville.
Today I had the opportunity to share lunch with a great group of pastors in the Kennett Square Community.
Over lunch, we shared about the past few years and lessons learned while traveling in a most unique season.
Earlier this week Father Richard Rohr shared a meditation that spoke of A Spirituality of Imperfection, Strength in Weakness. His words rang very true and spoke to my experience over the past six years. In the midst of weakness, the Spirit has been strong and I have seen amazing things.
The blessings I have received over the past six years have been there because, not in spite, of my weakness. It feels as if the weaker I become, the stronger the Spirit moves.
In truth, what is happening is I am getting myself out of the way and allowing the Spirit to work freely.
Where I once sought to be in control and portray a sense of strength and power that facade has been removed. Less of me, more of the Spirit.
As the Apostle Paul says, “It is when I am weak that I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
On the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month, I host a small group that meets via ZOOM – Tuesday Night Reflections.
After a time of gathering I present a brief meditation followed by a time of discussion and sharing.
If you want to join in send me a msg and I will get you the ZOOM link.
This past Tuesday I shared about finding strength in weakness.
I shared some “behind the scenes” truths about my journey with a fellow caregiver. Our conversation provided us both a caregiver lesson.
I shared “secrets” of how I REALLY deal with the stress of Dan’s long term illness with a caregiver friend. My friend saw my “game face” and didn’t realize the emotional ups and downs I go through as a caregiver; this formed a caregiver lesson we shared together.
I never want my caregiver journey to end! I learned this caregiver lesson walking alongside my father during the final days of his life.
This caregiver lesson was realized recently with my father’s death.
Dad had struggled with a long-term illness. While visiting my parents regularly to help was exhausting, I wish Dad were still here.
That brought the realization that I want to continue this caregiving journey with my husband forever.
These are my people. They speak my language, feel my pain and we share a common love and struggle.
I had plans for a very productive day but came across this gem that made me stop everything and share.
These people speak my language.
While living in Malden, MA there was a Dunkin Donuts (DD, Dunkin) every couple of miles. I had my favorites and they were regular stops throughout the day.
I worked in a warehouse during my time at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Our team made frequent runs to the DD across the street. I shudder to think how much of my hourly wages were drank away in “large black coffee.”
When we moved to Cortland, NY it was a different story. The nearest DD was in the next town. That meant a twenty-minute drive to DD and a twenty-minute drive back. Culture shock.
My eight years in Springfield, MA was pure joy. When I left the church parking lot there was a DD within half a mile in any direction. Pure joy.
I can feel these people’s pain…they are my people.
— Matt Shearer (@MattWBZ) September 12, 2022
We resumed systemic chemotherapy treatments on July 18th. Here is an update on how things are going. Thank you for your prayers.
One of the things that will trigger our decision to restart chemotherapy is a rise in my CEA. CEA is a blood test that measures active growing cancer. A measurement under five is considered normal. This chart shows what my CEA was doing in early July. You can see that it was within the normal range and then began a slow rise. At some point cancer really started to grow and it took off. It is important to note that CEA does not always serve as a good marker for active, growing cancer. At some point, it may stop being an accurate reflection of what is happening. In my case it has remained a pretty consistent marker of what is going on inside my body.
The highest point is right before we started chemotherapy. The decline in CEA is an indication that the treatment is having some effect on my cancer. It is encouraging to watch the numbers change so dramatically. This is not the reality for many people. I continue to be humbled by the way my body seems to respond to chemotherapy.
A few weeks ago we did some scans. The scans serve as another source of information regarding how the treatment is going. My latest scans showed,
It is important to understand that different techs are measuring these lesions. They do not measure from the same place each time, so it is reasonable to expect a certain amount of discrepancy in their measurements. However, anything that shows decreasing size, or stability is a good sign.
Ever since the hepatic artery infusion pump did damage to the bile ducts in my liver I have been dealing with significant issues in my liver. Every three months I need to have an ERCP where they go in and swipe the stents in my bile ducts to ensure everything can flow clearly. Many people have asked how they accomplish that.
It is an outpatient procedure that uses a scope which goes through my mouth and ends up in my liver. Kind of crazy, huh? Once we get going the whole thing takes about thirty or forty minutes.
What amazes me is how different I feel immediately after the procedure. In the days and weeks leading up to an ERCP my liver is not able to get rid of the waste it normally does. This causes me to be tired and I end up with brain fog. It is hard to do much of anything. There are several symptoms that let me know the stent is getting clogged, and then infected.
Again, we watch the results of a few blood tests to serve as markers. My ALT is one of them.
In the graph on the left you can see my ALT spike. This is one of those times my stents were clogged and infection was raging in my liver. We were able to treat it with antibiotics that time.
I watch these numbers very closely. They, along with how I feel give me an idea of what is going on with my liver.
I am very thankful for all the doctors and nurses who help take care of these things.
Attitude matters. How we treat those with long-term illness shapes their journey. Caregiver lesson; we must remember our words have power.
During a doctor visit gone bad, I was reminded of the lesson that attitudes matter.
A good attitude can build you up and a negative attitude can knock you down.
When already dealing with cancer, Dan benefits from kindness, caring, and compassion; from me as a caregiver and from others in his orbit.
I can learn this from those doing it well but I am also reminded of it when interactions are difficult.
Daniel has been a seeker his entire life, seeking a deeper relationship with Abba Father. He has served as pastor for American Baptist churches in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. His passion is to "help people encounter God in the midst of their everyday lives." He writes with a transparency intended to allow others to see the struggles that lead to healing and life. Daniel currently serves as Spiritual Formation Catalyst for A Place in the Conversation.
Daniel's journey was disrupted when the doctor said, "You have stage IV colon cancer." Questions of "Why" and "If only" crowded his mind. Can one encounter God in the midst of a cancer journey? Join this seeker as he shares the pain and joys of this journey not of his choosing. Daniel's wife, Nancy, joins in sharing some of her thoughts, and feelings as she watches her husband fight his battle.