Tuesday, February 19, 2019

To Share an Amazing Story

I want to shout to the rooftops to anyone who will listen! I want you to share this story, read it over and over again. It is my hope that anyone who needs it, will hear it. It is my prayer that you, too, will find this kind of amazing, powerful prayer as a testimony in your own life.

This is a true, recent story about my dear friend, Paula who had gone through what I refer to as Job-sized trials:

          I have a powerful story to share; one that started about thirteen years ago when I moved away from my family and friends to a strange, new place.
           I’d been crying again. It hadn’t been easy leaving behind my elderly parents, grown-up son, brother, and friends. I’d put in a three months notice at the job I’d come to love for twenty-seven years. As dental assistant and office manager in a small town dental office, I knew my patients well—knew their stories, heartbreaks, and triumphs. I had been so fond of the dentist that we felt more like family.
          I sat at the kitchen counter in my new house—the house that belonged to my husband of only a month. He was working, and I scoured the want ads for a job in the dental field with my crumpled tissue in hand. I’d gotten off the phone with my parents, telling them again how much I missed them, but heck, I was only an hour away. Though I knew the visits would be often, it didn’t ease my sadness.
         There weren’t too many jobs in the surrounding area, so I decided to call some of the local offices to see if they might be hiring. The first office I called and explained my situation to a really sweet lady, I felt comforted and at ease immediately. This fast-paced town might not be anything like where I’d grown up, but this woman was genuine and kind. Perhaps there were good people and hopefully a few new friendships to be made at some point.
         The lady, who’d answered the phone at the office I called, said that they might be looking for someone part-time. We chatted for quite a bit, and I found that I really liked this person with the soft voice and calm manner. Though I found a good job shortly after, I tucked the other office into the back of my mind, hoping that perhaps someday I would be able to work with someone who I’d bonded with instantly.
         One day at my new dental job, I had to place a call to a specialist’s office. Imagine my surprise when I heard a familiar voice. The soft-spoken woman I’d talked with answered the phone, and I hadn’t realized it was the office where I’d thought about working.
         It seemed humorous at the time, but we both realized that we had spoken before, and it became a joy to place calls to this other office from time to time to chat with the lady whose name was Paula.
        I grew to like her even more, and when several years went by and our office began to undergo some staff changes, this time Paula was looking for other employment. I immediately put in a good word to our dentist, and we hired her almost instantly.
         I’ve had several amazing friendships in my life. Some of them have been since I was a little girl. Others, I met a little later in my journey. And it would be Paula who ended up becoming almost like a sister to me in my later years. We were so much alike with our talks about faith, family, values, and life. We encouraged one another and laughed about silly things. Work became a pleasure, even on difficult days.
         When several years went by and my parent’s health was failing, Paula became my rock and strength. She listened as I vented, cried, or worried. Because she’d gone through several losses in her life, she had an understanding of the kind of faith that sustains during the darkest times. And when I lost my parents within two years of one another, it was this type of faith that carried me through in a major way.
         About a month ago, Paula began feeling poorly. Her gait became unsteady; she had difficulty catching her breath. She became so concerned one day that she took herself to the emergency room.
Through many tests, the doctors began giving my friend some unsettling news. They discovered a heart valve issue, and scarier still, arteries in her brain that were extremely narrow.
         I visited her one day in the hospital. She had to lie in a darkened room because her head hurt so badly. The doctors had done many tests and she felt worse. But though I sat near her with worry creasing my forehead, Paula piped up, “I will trust God when times are good, and I will trust Him when times are bad.”
         During a series of further testing, when all looked gloomy and it was decided that she might need surgery to place stents, Paula never gave up hope, nor ever stopped praying and believing. She enlisted the prayers of many others, and spoke positively when negativity surrounded her.
         Paula was transferred to another hospital where the findings were quite different. No surgery needed and no serious issues; benign heart valve condition, and blood flow just fine in her arteries.
It was a time of great joy for those of us who loved her. I praised God that miracles occurred. It took a little time, but she began to feel better. None of us questioned the fact that we’d witnessed God’s hand in a mighty way.
         Until Paula had one more test done. She received a call back from a routine mammogram. Any woman who has gone through this knows the sinking feeling, but also the hope that it may be nothing. But when Paula was told that there were findings and a biopsy was next, my heart sank.
God, I prayed. You brought her through so much recently. Why does she have to go through this now?
         Earlier in her life, she’d lost several family members within a short period of time. One of her sisters had breast cancer. Never once through this next chapter unfolding did I see Paula’s demeanor change. Though she said fear challenged her at first, faith stepped in almost immediately. She began speaking out loud that she was healed. She spoke only of her faith in God and believed wholeheartedly that everything would be fine.
          Once again, a few of us who knew about this test began a vigil of prayer. My husband and I prayed out loud every morning for her. I send healing thoughts and pictured her body whole and well. I agreed in prayer with my friend.
         I couldn’t help though that I found myself angry with God a few times. She has twelve-year-old twin boys, Lord. They need her. She has so much to do in this world. Grant her a healing, Lord.
I prayed continually, anytime I thought about her which was quite often as my faith began to increase. 
         And Paula’s faith abounded. I never heard anything but how much she loved God, how she trusted completely in Him, and that she had no fear of bad news.
         Paula said that during the time of waiting for the biopsy, and then waiting for the results, many instances of God’s blessing surrounded her. Several Bible passages spoke directly to her, confirming what she already knew. Never in my life have I met someone with such a beautiful, sincere faith.
Yesterday at work, Paula mentioned that the doctor’s office might call with her results. I must confess that I was a wreck as I tried keeping conversation light, and still kept praying.
Around one o’clock, her cell phone rang, and she picked it up and walked away with it. 
         This is it, I thought. A life changing moment.
         There is nothing more difficult than waiting for news from someone you care about. The seconds tick by into what feels like hours. And when you see that person, you look directly into their face, knowing that the answer will be there.
         Paula walked back into the room with the biggest smile plastered on her face. “I got good news,” she said. “It’s benign.”
         Seven words that felt lighter than air. I immediately hugged her, as we both began crying, laughing, and praising God together. I felt that a weight had been lifted, and I wanted to tell everyone I knew about this miracle woman!
         Has life always been pretty and fair to my friend? No, it certainly hasn’t. There have been times that tested her soul, but even in the darkest times, God’s beacon of light and hope have always been there to carry her through the darkness.
         This writing is to give testimony to the One who matters: Our Heavenly Father. All glory and honor to Him.
         What follows is Paula's direct testimony edited for space:

I know you have all been waiting for an UPDATE so here it is....

So after 8 days in the hospital and going through so many tests, needles, medications, and scares, the doctors there could not come up with a diagnosis that explained all of my symptoms. They therefore were unable to provide a course of treatment that could really help. As a natural girl I hated being in the hospital and taking pharmaceutical drugs of any kind. I also shuttered at the thought of stents being placed in my brain and ultimately the doctors agreed that I did not need them at this time.

 It is one month tomorrow that I was admitted to the hospital and I just have to share with you all that I am feeling great! I still have some issues but they are improving every day.

A couple weeks before I went into the hospital, I had had a mammogram that revealed two small areas of concern. I had to go back for an additional mammogram and ultrasound. At this second visit, I was told that what they were seeing was “suspicious of cancer” and I needed to have biopsies. When I first left there, I admit I had a mini meltdown as fear tried to take over. I have lost three siblings and one of them was to breast cancer. This was getting to be too much for me with all that I had just been through. My meltdown only lasted a few minutes and I regained my composure and my usual positive outlook. the next thing I did was claim healing in the name of Jesus. Daily I spoke out loud the scriptures regarding healing. 

Over the next week before my appointment for the biopsies, God gave me peace and I knew that I did not have cancer. I had told only three very close people about what the report from the ultrasound was and I told all three of them. “Don’t worry. I’m just fine. It’s not cancer. I know it”. How did I know? You ask. Well I’ll tell you. A few days after the ultrasound, I went to church and gathered three prayer warriors and told them what was going on and ask for them to pray over me. As the three of them laid hands on me and prayed, I felt the Holy Spirit and knew our prayers were being heard. Inside the sanctuary, the praise and worship team sang through our prayers “Look what the Lord has done
Look what the Lord has done
He healed my body
He touched my mind
He saved me it was just in time
I'm gonna praise His name
Each day He's just the same
Come on and praise Him
Look what the Lord has done”. I felt at that exact moment this was significant. 

The next day I met someone for the first time. He shared with me some testimony of how God saved his life. He mentioned that his favorite book is “Jesus Calling”. I knew I had a copy of this book but hadn’t seen it in a couple of years. I went home and dug it out. I opened it up to a page that I had previously book marked. My eyes grew wide when I read...
“He does not fear bad news, he is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”
psalm 112:7

Wow. I knew this was no coincidence. That scripture was just for me at just the right time. The daily devotional from my church the evening before my biopsy was more confirmation. It was about the lepers receiving healing and then regarding healing today. The gist was that after one receives healing they should then go and have it confirmed by a doctor. This way they can be a living testimony to what God has done. 

So the morning of my biopsy appointment I opened up “Jesus Calling” once again and turned to that day’s entry. Once again it was a message specifically for me on what could have been a very emotional morning.
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you. Peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be trouble and do not be afraid. “

My sister picked me up and drove me to my appointment. I chatted light heartedly on the ride there telling her that I was fine. 

I sat in my gown in the little room waiting to be taken across the hall for the procedure. I recited out loud the scriptures that I believed were presented to me to assure me and to give me peace. I worried more about the procedure itself than I did about the results. In only a few minutes they were ready for me. As they prepped me for the procedure I said to the doctor “I hope you don’t mind if I hum.” He smiled and said “go right ahead.” 

The procedure took awhile but I did hum through most of it. “Look what the Lord has done. He healed my body. He touched my mind...”

When the samples had been collected, and instructions given, I walked out of that place smiling and believing with my whole heart that there was no cancer in my body. I believed that I have work to do here and I have testimony to give.
It only took two days to get the call. I was with my dear friend Karen when my mobile phone rang and I knew it was the call I was waiting for. I excused myself and took the call in private. On the other end I heard the nurse tell me
“It’s benign. You don’t have cancer.”

After thanking her and telling her I already knew it, I laughed and cried at the same time. I thanked God for His goodness and for using strangers and scriptures to let me know even before the procedure was done that I was fine. I then returned to where Karen waited to hear too. I didn’t have to say a thing because the ear to ear grin on my face said it all. But I said it anyway “ I don’t have cancer!” She hugged me and wept because she loves me like a sister. She had been praying without ceasing since this all began. 

As I am writing this I am both laughing and crying once more. I am nobody special. I am a sinner. I fall short a lot. But I do know my God rescued me. I still get to be a momma, a friend, a wife, a sister. I do not have cancer! I am well!! I am a living testimony to the goodness of my Heavenly Father and I can’t wait to tell the world what He has done for me!!

If you are not a believer, and this story has touched you in some way, I pray that you will ask Jesus into your heart from this moment on. He is real, and He is so in love with you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Real Valentine's Day Love

For Valentine's Day I wanted to share something very personal and special. Following are some of the words I found written on the backs of envelopes, cards and scraps of paper from my dad to my mother.

Good morning honey,
Thank you my honey for everything. I love you so much--you are my one love, my only love you'll always be. I want your love and happiness for as long as we both have. You mean the whole world to me. Thank you for sharing beauty and nature and true love. All my love, Rich

Dear Hon, I want to thank you for 30 years of love, patience, and understanding. You've truly lit up my life. I love you more than any words will ever tell. You are really a very special person and I thank God that he sent you to me. I hope for at least another 30 years with you my love. Forever your love, Rich

Things I want you to know:
by Richard Mattia to Eileen Mattia

If I were to do it all over again, I would pick you. You bring more love into the world than anyone I ever knew or know now. You are the most unselfish person in the world. I love you so much that it hurts. I love you because of the way I feel with you--warm, true, heartfelt love. I hope you feel this for me for me also. Love forever, Rich

For Eileen:
You're the one for me, you know
Hate to ever see you go
With you I'd like to always be
I love you truly don't you see.
For if we ever have to part,
I know for sure it would break my heart.
I love you I love you every day
And that's the way it will always stay.
Yours forever Rich

Just a few lines to let you know I'll be thinking about you. I love you truly honey. Have a real nice morning. I'll miss you. Enjoy a cup of coffee for me. See you soon. All my love, Rich

I love you more each passing day
Let nothing ever take that away
Thank you for your kindness
Thank you for your love
You are Eileen, my mate, my dove.
I want you to be happy, I want you to be gay
For this I'll strive forever, now and every day.
I want to be yours forever
Let nothing change that ever.
For my love is always true,
Don't ever let's be blue.
All my love, Rich

All my love to a really good person. Thank you for showing me many beautiful things and teaching many more practical things along with true love. I'm looking forward to our date for tonight. All my love, Rich

Good morning honey. Many kisses on ya! I'll miss you today. Have a good day. All my love, Rich

Happy Anniversary My Love!!!
Proud to call you my wife
The only love of my life.
We've been through so many things
God's given you angel's wings.
I love you more after 41 years
Hope there are never more tears.
Love you forever,

Good morning beautiful,
Thank you for being so nice. Had a real good day with you yesterday. You really looked gorgeous. Love you. Hope you had a good night's sleep. The pecan loaf was delicious. All my love honey for you. See you soon. Love & kisses, Rich

There was a basket my mother kept near her kitchen table that spilled over with love letters and cards that Dad gave her throughout their marriage. We lost both of our parents in the last two years, and these writings have become a beautiful link to his love for Mom.

Every so often when I visited, Mom pulled a crumpled page out and asked in a shy, giggling, school girl kind of way, “Did you ever see some of the notes your father wrote me?”

In her dementia, Mom didn’t realize that I’d heard the letters read many times. But to her, it was always the first time. It was a way to reignite the passion she and Dad shared, and helped her to see herself as my father always did: as the young beauty he once courted.

Though the ravages of aging were upon her, the thinning, gray hair, bent body, and same sweatshirt stained with jelly from the previous day; inside was the young girl. The one my father loved.

Monday, February 4, 2019

No More Pity Parties

Last week I didn't like myself. I'd snapped angrily at a co-worker. And my boss noticed. It came after feeling pretty down because of another co-worker's absence. You see, the missing employee was one of my best friends. We could count on one another when we could count on nothing else. We shared life stories, God stories, and the love of stories. We had so many similarities, and I thanked God every day for putting this woman in my life. How I missed her.

 Yes, a bigger workload fell on me. I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself. And that was the problem.

Too many times in life, I developed the "I'm sorry for me, boo hoo" routine. Nothing good ever happens to me. Another person always catches a break. I have so much to do. It's only me. I'm the only one that ever works this hard. Yuck.

I had to phone my brother and talk with him. Not only is he a therapist, but he's very close to me, and I felt the need to confess my complaining and whining.

 He did understand, and admitted that he, too, does this same thing. Well, then, perhaps I'm not so evil after all. But I knew that I still had to make a change. I didn't like myself and who I professed to be, versus who I really was.

With prayer, forgiveness, and great advice from my brother, I set out to make changes. Instead of looking at the whole day ahead of me at work like I was the lone climber on a very steep mountain, I calmly began asking others if they would help with certain tasks. Not only were they willing to oblige, but they also became very good at the jobs, and were a great blessing to me. No longer did I feel alone. I had team members who were also going above and beyond. We bonded during a difficult time and not only survived, but thrived.

I think back to the one person in my life who never whined, complained, or played the "poor me" game. That was my father. Life threw many curves his way and he always handled every situation with grace, patience, and tireless understanding. No, he was not perfect, but he was good, truly good. He worked early hours in his years at the postal service, sometimes leaving at 3 a.m. I never heard him say a word of protest about this. Even when he had to leave on snow-covered roads that no plow had yet touched, my father kept his chin and spirits up.

He was a hard worker around the house and in the years that Mom had anxiety and unable to do normal tasks, my father stepped up and went beyond his own duties, but never said a bad word about my mother, or seemed angry to have to pick up the slack.

When his health began to fail, Dad wouldn't stoop to pity and sadness. When asked how he was feeling, he cheerfully answered, "Fine!" And we believed it. This man never had the spotlight of attention, whining, or any type of coddling. He was a hero to our family, a real man's man.

I need to remember this when I feel the assault of a pity party coming on. I need to remember the man who showed our family that true strength comes from quietness, calmness, and sometimes even brokenness. 

God, may all of us in this family take on the traits of Dad. Help us to learn to do our duties without complaint, our responsibilities without anger, and to take what life gives us without regret.