Anna Cancer Update: On Hope and Suffering

It was late fall 2017 that we last titled a blog post: “Anna Update.” For months there just wasn’t much to report. Anna was feeling good and we were encouraged by her progress. Her December scan showed that her tumor and lymph node activity was the same as the previous scan at the end of the summer. It wasn’t until her scan in early May that we received new news. The news was such that a blog post was the last thing on our minds. The news was that the tumor had grown in size and beyond the original location of the body. After we gathered ourselves and considered viable next steps, we decided together for Anna to begin a 3-6 month regimen of chemotherapy. We are 5 treatments in, and are just now beginning to catch our breath.

I looked back at that last “Anna Update” post and the subject was Waiting and Hoping. Turns out we may not be very good at either. We thought we had learned a few things over the years about waiting and hoping, and perhaps we have, but we know very little about how to actually do it. How do you wait and hope? There is a section of Romans 5 on hope that I have not ever liked,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:1-5a)”

The part I don’t like is suffering. Paul says that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Anna and I want to learn to hope but we don’t want to suffer. Who does?!

Suffering isn’t a popular word in our culture. According to Dan Bruner, “Becoming Christ-like will involve suffering. Suffering is what causes us to trace our lives after the example of the suffering King. Suffering is not about pain. Suffering is about giving up and losing control.” Maybe that is what it means to wait and hope. Maybe it’s about embracing suffering, releasing control. And perhaps that is why Paul mentions suffering as the precursor to endurance, character and hope. We want all of those things, but we pushback against the suffering.

So, as I mentioned, we are just now beginning to catch our breath. We don’t know what the days and weeks ahead hold, but we are certain that God is with us in the suffering, in the hoping. The learning process this past year since Anna’s diagnosis has been so valuable for us. We have asked God from the beginning to direct our steps, and to specifically show us the next step along the way. This has been a source of comfort as He has answered that prayer over and over this past year. We see this current treatment as the next step of trusting God in the process.

It’s almost hard to type because it doesn’t make sense on paper, but we are finding ourselves more and more grateful – grateful for the suffering; grateful for the hope that we have in Jesus. And, grateful for the many friends and family who are with us. We have been overwhelmed at the care and support of so many who love us. We are not in this alone, not by a long shot!

Thanks be to God!

Hearing the Voice of God

After a number of years of spending daily time alone with God, I have realized that perhaps the most significant thing we can do in our time with Him is listen to His voice. You may be thinking, What? Come on now, Shawn. How do you do that? What does that even mean? I hear you. Developing the discipline of listening for God’s voice did not come easily for me. In fact, in the early days I would get distracted by a thousand different things in one sitting. I was annoyed, impatient, and constantly looked at my watch to see when the pain was going to end. Yet slowly, over time, as I continued to return to this place of listening, I began to hear the voice of God.

Now, it wasn’t an audible, booming voice that shot down from Heaven. Sometimes it was simply through Scripture, a passage in a book I was reading, or journaling. Other times it was through the still calmness that overcame me in the moment. But surely and incrementally, over the past 17 years of consistently showing up to listen each morning, God has given me the ability to hear Him. He gives direction for my day, wisdom in decisions, discernment in the moment, and assurance that I am His son. And more than anything, His quiet whisper assures me that I am loved.

Give it a try. Do you best sometime in the next few days to sit with God. Maybe just repeat a verse in your head to get the time started like, “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want.” (Ps 23) Pay attention to your breathing. Breathe in calmness and peace, breathe out worry and fear. Allow yourself to just be.

Belief On Ramp #4: Identity Statement

In this exercise, revisit the lies you realize you have believed about yourself. For some, this may mean you are recognizing for the first time that those voices in your head telling you that you are less than, not enough, imperfect, unworthy, etc., are not true, and are in fact, flat-out lies! Whatever those lies are, identify them and jot them down.

In addition, write down specific negative words or phrases that come to mind about yourself (such as for me, things like “I am a boy, not a man”). Then write down the opposite of those words. That is often where the truth is revealed about who we really are!

This is my personal identity statement that I have been reading each morning for the past 12 years:

My name is Shawn Raymond Petree, Beloved, I am loved.

I am Your chosen son. I am family.

Your Spirit is in me. Jesus is formed (and is forming) in me.

I am an heir of Your Kingdom, a prince, a saint. I chose joy today!

I am a strong, confident, warm, truthful, assertive,

creative, courageous man; a warrior.

Husband to a beautiful, godly wife.

Father to three provided children.

Friend to many.

I am loved.

Lent: Lies Exposed

“…I realized there were three core lies I’d believed most of my life.

First, I realized that, for a long time, I had been believing the lie that at some point everyone was going to leave and I would be left alone. Because of my past, I was living my adult life as if the story of my upbringing was going to be replayed over and over. Put simply: it was the fear of abandonment that came into the light.

The second lie that surfaced surprised me a bit. I was living a strange lie that I was a boy, not a man. That may sound a bit odd so let me unpack it. A boy looks for safety and security, expecting others to create it. A man creates safety and security and invites others into it. I didn’t feel like I could handle many of the situations I encountered on a day-to-day basis. When I met these situations I felt like a boy, ill equipped to handle what was in front of me.

The final lie was exposed as I sat on the bluff overlooking Guemes Channel. Enjoying the serenity of that beautiful vista, I realized there was a deep conviction that I wouldn’t ever be fully free or at peace. The line of thinking I’d been caught up in was that my life could only be “okay.” There was something in me that believed I could only manage the fear, anxiety, and depression that shook me at times. In my mind, a life at peace with God and others, even with myself, was not attainable.” (Chapter 3 Am I Loved?)

A Picture of Love

I saw a picture of love over the weekend and didn’t even fully realize it until later. Friday night Anna, our three kids and I gathered in the family room for our annual tradition of decorating the tree together. Some friends of ours passed on wonderful advise to us in our first year of marriage. They encouraged us to collect ornaments from places we visit and special memories we make together as a couple and we have continued this tradition with our children. So each year we decorate together and relive some of the memories. It is always a highlight as we begin the Advent season!

Before we began decorating, I read a page out of our daily reading from Advent and Christmas. As I started reading Elijah, our 10-year old, saddled up next to me on the couch and followed along on the page. I noticed that he would look at me, then at the words, paying attention to what his father was doing. When it came to the scripture reading he enthusiastically asked, “Can I read that part Dad?” And so he read:

“And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5:14-18)

Those were not the easiest words to get through for a 10 year-old, but the moment was heartening and instructive. Through reflecting on that moment with my son, I realize that I got a picture of God the Father with me, his son. In my growing relationship with God I find myself more and more sitting very close to him, doing my best to listen. Then like Elijah I often ask a question. I guess in a symbolic way you could say that I look at God the Father and read along over his shoulder. At some point I often ask to “read” and fumble my way through.

I wonder if God the Father sits with me in silence and enjoys watching me learn, doing  my best to emulate Him. I enjoyed that moment with Elijah so much, and I also know that God’s love for me far outweighs my love for my son.

A week into Advent I find myself very grateful for a God who is Father to us all, whether we know it or not.

#amiloved

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Anna Update/ Shawn Book Release

For the past 10 years I have primarily used this blog as a place to write, an avenue to process what I am learning about who God is and who I am. For the past 6 months I have blogged about Anna’s cancer and how our family is walking through this season of life. Today, I would like to update you on both fronts:

Anna update

It’s been seven months since Anna and I heard those dreaded words from the doctor, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.” We have experienced every emotion multiple times over since that surreal moment. Anna continues to feel pretty good physically, and we remain hopeful that she is slowly healing from cancer. It is still scary, surreal, and often very difficult for Anna, our kids and me.

Shawn book release

As you may know, for the past 3 years I have been working on a book titled, Am I Loved? Literally, one hour before that moment in the doctor’s office seven months ago, I was on the phone with the editor finalizing a chapter titled, Redefining Belief. Little did we know that our own belief was being redefined as we received Anna’s diagnosis.

During the past seven months we have believed more than ever that we are loved by God. Anna and I desire many others to learn to believe this truth as well. That’s why I have continued with the book project, even in the midst of this crazy season of life. I am pleased to announce the launch of the website along with the book, Am I Loved? for pre-sale on Amazon today!

In Matthew 25:27 Jesus says this about himself, “Just as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.” (Matthew 25:27) Anna and I have been set free, totally free, over the years through learning to believe the truth that we are loved by God. We desire to continue to partner with Jesus in his mission to “set many others free.”

Anna and I would love to have you joining us in this work of Jesus to set many other people free. This includes participating with God in Him setting each of us free, and helping others do the same. Am I Loved? has the capacity to be more than a book. It is the central message of God! You and I are loved!

Would you join this movement with us and dare to believe together that we are all loved by God? Way to join us:

  1. Pre-order the e-book (paperback release January 9th)
  2. Click here to read Chapter 1
  3. Recommend this book to others
  4. Visit AMILOVED.org

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Thanks for your continued prayers and for being in this belief journey with us. We truly do believe that God can do this, whatever His version of this is with Anna’s healing, and with each of us joining Him in setting many others free.

#amiloved