By Gina Cook
My name is Gina and what an honor to share my story with you. My prayer is that somewhere along the line of my story, you will feel hope and strength. They same time flies when you are having fun. I would like to say time has flown because my life has been a blast, full of laughter and health, yet looking back it is hard to believe that 7 years ago my life drastically changed and will forever be changed because of that moment where time stood still and life seemed hopeless.
Breast Cancer is no respector of persons, it doesn’t care who you are, where you came from, what color, what age or that you really don’t have time for this horrible disease. But here I was at the age of 31 years old and a mother of two young girls and a few days before my youngest daughter Dakota’s first Birthday, I was daignosed with Stage Three Breast Cancer with the tumor being over 3 Centimeters in size. I remember feeling as if I could not breathe and the sting of death was at my door. The Words “You have Cancer, and it isn’t good” was spoken by the Doctor.
My life that seemed so young and fresh with so much ahead, suddenly seemed dark and hopeless. And here in that moment, a new me emerged. I was a fighter and was not ready to leave this world. I was not ready to leave my daughters and my family behind. My purpose on Earth was not fulfilled and I was ready to put my boxing gloves on and fight this horrible Cancer. My brother in law bought me some red boxing gloves and had all my family sign them for me, and I was ready to fight.
Because of my size tumor and it being in three out of fifteen lymph nodes they removed from my arm, I began chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor. Immediately I began three heavy and hard months of Chemotherapy. Throwing up , so weak that I had to hold on to to anything in sight to make it to my destination. As if the throwing up and exhaustion isn’t enough then you lose your hair. What was once long and brown thick hair went to a short cut and then a week later fell out on my pillow as if to say “I’m leaving you too”..For at those moments when you are lying in your bed trying to sleep, you feel alone , alone with the thoughts of “How will I survive this?” Though family and friends surrounded me through this fight, I was still alone with my thoughts . No one could really know what I was thinking or feeling.
There are so many days it would take all my energy to get out of the bed. I would pray for God to give me the strength so my oldest daughter Macayla , who was six at the time, could see me look normal when she came home from school. The masked smile and “Mommy is fine, just tired” hurt as much as the multiple surgeries that I had including a Masectomy. I didn’t want my girls to lose their mom. I want to see them get ready for prom, celebrate Birthdays and holidays and see them get married one day. Yet through all these feelings, my heart still had a song.
I will forever remember that moment when my oldest daughter Macayla was running in the front yard. it was a beautiful day and she was chasing Butterflies that were all out in our front yard. I sat on the couch that was in front of the glass window and watched her. The words began to come to me and I walked slowly to the stairs. I grasped the stair rail and held on tight with both hands . One step at a time, I kept repeating the words in my head so I could remember it “My butterfly, you fly so high. You fly for me. Everything I am not know, you seem to be. My Butterfly take on the wind, fly so high, but come back again. Thank you for letting me see, myself through you. Your everything to me.”. I made it up the stairs and went into my closet. Knelt down on the floor and with my paper and pen birthed the song out of it’s cocoon “My Butterfly”.
For that moment she was flying for me but I began to see myself emerge from the cocoon and able to fly. Not physically but spiritually. I felt “HOPE”. I began to check my calendar off every day and what would be closer to my chemo and radiation treatments to come to end. My chemo treatments went on for over a year followed by radiation, more surgeries and after cancer treatments. On the weeks I did not have chemo, I would go for short walks with the girls, go to the mall for an hour if just to show my girls I could do it. I enjoyed every minute and second before the dreaded chemo stepped up to the box on my calendar.
I loved being around family and singing with my mom, sister and my brother Kevin who played the drums. It was very rare I would miss a church service. I didn’t want to quit singing because it got me through the pain. I began to write more songs and the healing process began. Soon the day came when I would see that all the fighting, pushing, and determination to beat this would come and I would hear the words “You are Cancer Free”. “Free” How appropriate those words were to me. I made it!!
Then there was my wonderful mom whom I don’t think I could have recovered as quickly, she would stay up at night with me, and rock my youngest daughter Dakota to sleep when I was too sick. My mom was my rock!! Through this I have met amazing people, made bonds that can never be broken and have continued fighting this battle for others. I have confidence like I never have before, I am empowered to bring Joy and life to others. I am involved as a volunteer with Long Leaf Hospice and am an avid Fan of running, and now a Zumba fitness instructor. My story is for everyone to see that though the disease is ugly , there is hope on the horizon, a sunset over the mountain that you climb and along the way I pray you feel the hands of God. For remember when you only saw the footprints, He was carrying you.
I want to dedicate this to my daughters Macayla and Dakota who are my Butterflies and will carry on the legacy of giving back and inspire others. They dance for me and continue to amaze me every day!
Hope lives !!
For booking Gina Cook as your guest speaker/singer at your event contact her on facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org. myspace/ginacookmusic
Gina’s picture courtesy of “Dawn and Company Portrait”
Thanks Gina for your bravery and sharing with us
Hebrews 11:1 Tells us that faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (NLT)
Basically, faith is belief that is not based on proof. In other words, we don’t need to see something in order for us to believe that it is there. But faith isn’t based on the absence of proof. It is based on previous experiences or testimonials from those we trust. It is a knowledge based not on evidence but on witness within our Spirits.
Faith requires trust. If you hear a testimony from someone you trust about something, you believe what they are saying even though you haven’t experienced it for yourself.
In Hebrews chapter 11, we are given several examples of biblical personalities who exercise faith. My favorite is Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son in response to God’s test. He had faith that God who promised him this son (and many other things through him) could raise the boy up again or in some other way fulfill him promise to him. (Hebrews 11:17) Talk about blind faith.
Believing in God requires a tremendous amount of faith. Believing that the earth was created by this same God; yet another vast amount faith is required. But God doesn’t leave us on our own with this one. He knows that our human nature will require a bit of help, so he gives us that by proving His existence with his presence in our lives, His solutions to our circumstances and His Spirit bearing witness with ours.
Faith is believing in the seemingly impossible but upon closer examination, you’ll see that your faith in God makes perfect sense really. It makes less sense not to believe.
Joana Melisia James is a young Christian author from the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Her work includes the two-part series “Alana & Alyssa’s Secret: Rise from the Ashes”, a Christian Thriller “Nightmare at Emerald High” and her latest devotional series Soul Food, with book one, “From Redemption to Maturity” currently available.
Joana is multi-talented. She has been a dancer for over ten years and a singer for most of her life. She is an Information Technology Professional but her passion is writing. She spends most of her free time relaxing with her kindle or in front of the computer screen.
Joana has plans to release several other titles in the coming months, including her newest project, a three part series called “Her Cross to Bear”.
You can grab a copy of the Joana’s Devotional “From Redemption to Maturity” for kindle today for free.
Mental Health is one controversial subject in religious circles. Emotional disturbances are not necessarily visible and therefore sometimes not viewed as real health problems and the treatment of there or lack of thereof is not always addressed appropriately.
Emotional conditions are usually viewed in religious settings as a lack of faith, a lack of prayer or lack of surrendering to God. I don’t discount that there are times were a believer’s struggle are due to those things, but as with physical healing, I wouldn’t recommend a cancer patient to stop or not engage in treatment; I wouldn’t discourage someone struggling emotionally to do the same. Matthew 4:23 (MSG) states, “People brought anybody with an ailment, whether mental, emotional, or physical. Jesus healed them one and all”; which tells me that in God’s eyes they were all the same.
I think that sometimes believers fail to educate themselves in the nature of mental health conditions. A high percentage of mental health conditions are biological in nature. Just like diabetes, they are due to a chemical imbalance in the body, in this case; the brain, which is as much as an organ as the pancreas is. Just like diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, most mental health conditions have a pre-disposition genetic component. It is true that a pre-disposition doesn’t mean that it will happen, just that the chances are higher. This has been proven with alcoholism and depression.
Can God heal people from these conditions? Absolutely, however that doesn’t mean that these struggles are not as real as physical ailments and they should be treated as such.
Some churches have a more open minded approach to these issues and have counseling programs available to their parishioners. There are many Christian programs (like Celebrate Recovery) and counselors out there that can not only understand the condition but also provide the spiritual support to the person dealing with these struggles.
In my opinion there are three major mental health conditions that are majorly misunderstood within the faith community. Those are: depression, anxiety and addictions. Absolutely keeping God first in anything in our lives is a most. At the same time if you or a loved one is struggling with emotional conditions do not be ashamed to seek professional help, or to encourage and support a loved one to seek it.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another
and pray for one another,
that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person
has great power as it is working.
We get up every morning. We can read our bibles. We drive to our jobs and choose to listen to our Christian radio stations and sing out loud along with the music. There’s no problem on telling your co-worker that you will be going to a church service that night or over the weekend. You invite some friends to your house to hold a bible study and praise God. It’s your house and you have a right to do what you want. We can only wish it was like that everywhere in the world.
I’m going to share a story with you that changed my perspective of what it is to really be a Christian. This is the story of a very young woman who recently went into a mission trip and the things she shared opened up my eyes. I asked her to share some of them with you. Do you remember those stories of really dying for Jesus back in the roman days and suffering persecution? Well there are Christians still doing that today in 2012.
“I’m a young, 22 years of age lady that went on her first mission trip to Hong Kong, China this past November. Never in my life did I think it would happen. Never in my life did I get the huge blessings that I received to even go. And never in my life have I left a place and gained such a huge lesson in my spiritual walk.
The purpose of this trip was to carry bibles into mainland China from Hong Kong. I went into the country thinking that my simple yet risky act of bringing bibles into a communist country was going to help make an impact in the lives of the Chinese people, that I could teach them something and walk away knowing that a part of my spiritual check list was marked off. But I was so very wrong. In my two week stay, the people that I came across, the stories that were shared and the country that I got to see, impacted me more that I thought it ever would. I met and listened on the perspective of five different people who shared what it is like to live in China: how it was hard being a Christian in a country that frowned on it and punished those who made it their duty to spread the name of Jesus. We were warned beforehand that we had to be careful in what we say and do. For example, if we wanted to pray in our hotel rooms, it was advised that we should turn the television to the most bearable noise level and pray; this was to keep our prayers muffled from possibility that our hotel could be bugged. We had to be careful of who we talked to, where we read our bibles if needed. And when it time to say grace over our food in public, my Puerto Rican leaders did the praying in Spanish.
After two days in Shenyang and a day and a half in Dandong (which is south of Shenyang and is separated by a river with North Korea) I became spiritually frustrated. I never thought being secretive could be draining to the spirit, but for me it was. My frustration became disappoint, and not on God or the Chinese but on myself. While in my hotel room alone, I took the time to analyze my spiritual life: was I as serious about it as I claimed I was or was I just another hypocrite? What is the level of my faith or relationship with God? Was I or am I willing to take it seriously at all? You see, here in America we have it easy. We can decide what religion we want to believe, what god we want to serve and for some of us, we do our best to freely express our beliefs because we have that right to. Will people like it? Of course not, but the government doesn’t punish us for it. We never stop to think what it would be like in a place like China or North Korea where we have to live in secret for the name of our faith. I saw people in my room back in Hong Kong praying in tongues, filled with the Holy Spirit and reading their bibles like their lives depended on it. What did I do? Text messaged my family and friends back home, listened to my music and fell asleep through a few church services while “praying”. By the time I got back home, I felt ashamed. I felt that the purpose of my being there wasn’t done properly and that I could have done better. The people I shared a room with, were from the mainland. In my eyes they pretty much ousted me in the “who’s more passionate for Jesus?” category if there ever was one.
I’m sharing this to ask, for those of you reading this, to do this one thing: take a look at your faith and your relationship with God. Are you grateful or is it just something you don’t take as seriously as you should? You of all people in this country are blessed with the freedom to believe in Jesus and to be able to share him with others. You are not held captive by fear that someone will kill you because of your faith; you don’t have to hide bibles or become watchful of who you speak with. You are free. With this New Year quickly approaching, make a serious resolution to be appreciative that you are freely a Christian. We need to take our faith just as seriously as our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas. Don’t let the moment of you going into a country that’s in spiritual bondage make you grateful for your freedom. Be grateful now”
As we start this new year, I hope this testimony brings the fire into your life of what it is to live for Christ.
God Bless you!
Note: These pictures were taken from the internet and have no attachment to the story or the people spoken about. If I need to credit someone for the pictures, just message me.
I was reading an article on the magazine “In Touch” the other day. They will have to forgive me because I don’t remember the specific author or the edition of the magazine that I read. The article was talking about how as believers we tend to have unrealistic expectations of what our emotions should be in determined situations. I think the saddest part about it, is that we permeate this culture of unrealistic expectations when we attempt to provide support to someone in distress.
I’m guilty of telling someone one that they are not trusting God on a situation, because they are exhibiting anxiety or distress and I know I’m wrong for that. I also know that I’ve accused myself of not being submitted enough to God for experiencing things like: fear, anger, sadness, anxiety.
There’s this wrong perception that if you’re a believer everything in your life has to be going absolutely perfect. We forget to read that part of the Bible that says, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Who can forget the scene where Jesus kicked everyone out of the temple? He was angry. The Word says, “be angry but do not sin”…it doesn’t say you’re not allowed to be angry.
Where do we even get these ideas that because we believe we’re going to be walking in clouds, our children will be perfect, and our relationships will be perfect? Yes, we have deceived ourselves.
The interesting thing that we missed, that was addressed in the article was that we are made as God’s image; this means every emotion that we have, he has and made for us. It’s what we do with our emotions that could either edify us or destroy us. If we use our emotions and turn them into prayers, instead of complaints, and remember that the test is only the beginning of the testimony; we would see our life with different eyes.
I had a situation this week, where everything that could go wrong, went wrong. At the end of the day, I was tired, frustrated, overwhelmed. I kept praying God’s peace. I surrounded myself with my accountability support people. I finally came to the conclusion that this was the test becoming a testimony. The testimony is that every single thing that looked impossible on Monday was resolved without my intervention and in ways that only God could have shown himself. The fact that I cried and was frustrated doesn’t mean that I didn’t know that God had it in his hand and was going to deal with it. I didn’t’ doubt it for a minute. I just had a bulk of emotions; I recognized them as such and treated them as such.
Sometimes we lose focus that not only the lost souls struggles, but our fellow believers have struggles too, and how can we be of help when instead of mercy, we hand out judgment.
Faith, Fun & Food BlogParty
Powered by Linky Tools
Clickhere to see another blog in the Faith, Fun, & Food BlogParty!
Sometimes we confuse freedom with debauchery. We tell ourselves and others that we have the right to do as we please and as we want. The truth is that our Creator gave use freedom of choice, therefore in theory it is true, but when we exercise that freedom, do we do it in a way that is beneficial to us, or we do the first thing that feels good?
For the enemies of freedom, taking control and restraint is not the way to go. The consensus on that side is that there is no happiness in self-control and discipline, but in hindsight the lack of these usually brings us devastating consequences. Let’s just look at some brief examples of how these things can affect our lives.
I should be the last one to talk about this subject as I love to eat. Why do we have places that promote all you can eat? To survive we should not eat all we can eat. We can exercise the freedom of taking care of our bodies and eat healthy with using judgment into when and how much of little unhealthy things we consume. The reality is that not exercising self-control and discipline brings obesity, diseases and shortens our lifespan. If we shorten our lives we will miss on the blessings laid out for us, but also we would be in disobedience of fulfilling God’s purposes in our lives.
Have you ever heard someone say, I have the right to sleep with whomever I desire? Others say that they need to try until they find someone compatible in that area. Others excuse themselves because their marriages are not satisfying. Our creator calls us to purity in our intimate relations. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12” What some of those people forget is that our neighbor is our brother or sister and that we are to respect and see about them like if they were our family members. What comes out of promiscuity? Disease, emotional damage. This information is not only spiritually based. Read this scientific article on the consequences of promiscuity http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/she/she_29promiscuity.html
Drugs (legal or illegal)
Yes, there are legal drugs. Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and prescription medications are some of the things that are at he reach of anyone, including believers. Illegal drugs have the society connotation of them not being allowed. How about those legal substances? Have you thought if you are a user or abuser of these substances? What are they doing in your life? Are you trying to not face some part of your life? ”Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” 1Corinthians 6:19 NIV
After a difficult day of work, we get to our homes and want to block our worlds out. All of the sudden we get consumed by mindless entertainment like our computers, television, and music; before we realize it we’re too tired to talk to God. He who gave us the 24 hours we just spent and the possibility to wake up the next day doesn’t get from us even praise. We usually say we don’t have time to do lots of things like exercise, volunteer, help others. Do you a favor? Just for this week, write down in a piece of paper the hours that you spend in front of the computer, video games or the television. Think how many nights you have deprived yourself from rest just to feed your flesh with enjoyment.
Remember that everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12). Let’s use our freedom wisely and follow the teachings of our Lord so that we can enjoy the benefits of the real good life. We have the option and the freedom to say NO to a life of sin and devastation.
I don’t know about you, but on Fridays I feel tired. You start Monday with the energy to take on the week. Each week brings challenges of their own and when it all ends all you want is to rest and have some peace. You don’t want to hear about the bill that is due, the report that needs to be finished, the double game that the children have over the weekend, the grocery shopping, the house cleaning or the car cleaning, all you want to do is rest.
In the times when routine is overwhelming, but also when life gives us unpleasant surprises we want the world to stop for just a minute to help us catch up.
He says in HIS Word in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”
Take five minutes which is the duration of this video to worship the Lord and rest in his peace.
First of all I want to apologize for not writing in the last few days, between Camp Nano and other distractions I have not been able to sit down long enough to concentrate. I’ve been thinking a lot about how sometimes we are affected by issues regardless if they have direct or indirect impact in our lives.
Life is never without challenges, disappointments and painful events, most of them out of our control. The way we react to those events and the way we view those events will determine our behavior and ultimately potential future outcomes.
When something unexpected affects negatively our lives its very common to feel anger, sadness, shock, resentment, disappointment, grief and many other negative feelings. Ephesians 4:26 reads “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” but I know there are wounds that are longer lasting, however once the sun comes back up, it may be time to start our baby steps back on the road of life.
We believe that we have no control over those feelings and that’s not totally true. Yes, those feelings are normal. We should not stuff them or deny them. We should talk about them and process them, the problem arises when we sulk and get stuck on them.
At some point the grieving process of an event runs its course and yes, the timing is different for everyone, but when the grief hinders you from functioning, you’ve gone too long.
That’s why I say that you can ultimately impact your future outcomes, for example…the loss of a relationship may be devastating, but it could open the door to self examination, discovery and the potential of a new, sometimes even better relationship. The loss of a loved one is devastating, but if you have faith that they are in a place of no pain and no sorrow, that will give you hope. The loss of employment or some other financial loss will not be easy to recover until you get back on your feet.
Feel what you need to feel, process what you need to process, but then it’s time to get up and move on. Trust that God will make everything right and that he’s in control. That there’s no evil that will not be avenged and no good deed unrewarded.
Faith will get you through
The first thing I read this morning was about Moses talking to God about why was he the chosen one to free the Israelites from Egypt. He was not thrilled with God choosing him for this mission. I love the book of Exodus and Moses is one of my favorite characters in the Bible, so I can’t deny feeling for Moses on this one…LOL!
In Exodus 3:10-4:13, you can read the conversation where God tells Moses to do. Moses gives God every reason why he’s not the right person for the job. God basically tells him, I created you therefore I’ll equip you and poor Moses comes back with a whine… Why me? Send someone else…
How many times have we been in that situation? God places in your heart to witness to someone and it happens to be someone you don’t like much. Or he calls you to be part of a ministry but that’s not what you like to do. Better yet, just like the parable of the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) where you are asked to leave it all behind and start from scratch. Can you hear that whiney noise in your head yet?
One of the things that I’ve discovered in my life journey is that everything in our lives has a purpose and it becomes useful at different stages. If we believe in a life with purpose then we would need to admit that our missions are handpicked for us.
As I meditate of why Moses would had been the person for the job; not only he was an Israelite which connected him with God’s people, but he had been raised in the palace with Pharaoh. He knew the ins and outs, how things worked. It’s kind of like being bilingual, you’re the perfect person for the job if it involves being in the middle of things that involved both languages or cultures.
But just like Moses we don’t tend to see how we are perfect for the job and its mostly because we don’t want to do the jobs for whatever reason: fear, feelings of inadequacy, out of our comfort zone, disobedience, etc.
I remember a trying time in my life where God placed people who had gone through some of my trials and worse. I remember saying, “it’s not that I’m happy with your suffering, but I’m glad you understand”. Every test in our life is a testimony in the making and it’s a tool in our belt for the next mission. So with that in mind, how will you respond the next time you are called into action?
Could you imagine what would happen if our armed forces or our law enforcement officers declined their missions? Food for thought soldier of God!