The Journey reaches men in all different phases of their lives, and it always seems to be perfect timing.  Graham lost his wife 5 months ago, and just when he really needed it, God guided him to The Journey.  So many men in The Journey are hurting, but God is meeting them in their pain and suffering.  Graham is only a few months into it, but God is already blessing him and helping his perspective.  Here is his story:

 

Growing up we did not attend church and the topic of God was never really discussed. Even so, ever since I can remember, I always knew there was a God.  I can clearly remember praying to Him as a child. My parents divorced when I was 7 years old.  It’s one of those life events that rocks your world.  The life I had known instantly changed overnight.  My Dad eventually moved to the opposite coast with his new family and my sisters and I stayed with our mom.  My mom did an amazing job of raising us kids. I can’t even imagine being a single parent and balancing work and home life.  She taught us to be very independent.  We learned to do everything for ourselves including cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.  This was both a blessing and a curse.  It was a blessing, in that we learned early on how to provide for ourselves.  It was a curse, in that I became very independent and did not need anyone else.

 

I think the pain of the divorce and having to take care of myself caused me to turn internally for a place to escape the pain.  In the eighth grade, I began to smoke dope and started to hang out with the wrong crowd.  I abandoned all athletics and began to do questionable things.  Lying and cheating began to become the norm.  By time I entered my freshman year of high school I was getting high almost daily.  Midway through my freshman year we moved from Virginia to California.  The move allowed me to start over and get with a better crowd of people.  I got serious about soccer again and pulled back on the amount of pot I was smoking.  In college, I continued my wayward ways.  I played soccer, joined a fraternity and tried my best to balance sports, school and socializing.  The fraternity provided an environment where partying, girls and living a life to feed your own pleasures was the norm.  I continued to dabble in drugs, bedded every lady I could and lived a life to please myself.

 

While in college, one of the local churches went door to door in my apartment complex. They shared with me the story of Jesus and asked me if I wanted to accept Him as more Lord and savior.  I did, yet continued in my sinning.  About 9 months later, I was at my future in-laws house and The Lord spoke to me.  He said, “You’ve been traveling your own path, I have another path for you to follow.”  At that very moment, I had never felt so convicted yet so loved at the same time.   It was an incredible moment in my life and one I will never forgot. From that day on, He started to radically change my life.   Some traits/ behaviors He waits to deliver His children from, preferring a process rather immediate change and there have been many of those in my life.  However, that day He started a radical change in me.  Instantly, he took away my desire to do drugs, to lie and to cheat.  He changed my heart and I wanted nothing more than to bless Him.

 

The second greatest blessing of my life was the gift of my wife.  She was and still is an amazing example to me of God’s love for me.  I did not deserve her; yet, God in his infinite wisdom brought us together.  Angela and I met in college and dated for 3 years before we were married.  We were married for 19 years.  God truly blessed our marriage.  I can honestly say we had a fairy tale marriage.  She loved me unconditionally. She was a living example of Jesus’s love.  She never judged and was always supportive.  If she disagreed with me, her first response would be to pray and ask God to help her or me.  She made me want to be a better man, to be a blessing to her. One of the gifts of our marriage was that we were two people united with the belief that for us to succeed, we needed to seek God first in our lives, put the other spouse’s needs second and our own needs third.  Our continual prayer was “Lord, mold me into the spouse the other needs me to be.”  When you have two people wanting this in a relationship, it’s a recipe for success.  We were each other’s best friend and there was no other person I wanted to spend my time with.  She was my everything!  God used our marriage to witness to others, and He used us to help other couples just starting out and those having marriage challenges.

 

I’m always amazed when I look back over my life, and I can truly say God has blessed me.  A little over 4 years ago, I had several good years in real estate and was able to build up some savings.  The market was showing signs of slowing down and we sought God for direction.  We began to lift up the idea to Him of moving to Seattle. We thought it would be rewarding to purchase a business that we could run together.  One of those prayers was, “God if you want us to move to Seattle, you’ll help us sell our house.”  Two days later, without it being listed on the market, we received a call from a friend asking if we would sell our home.  It seemed her sister liked the area and she was interested.  They came that afternoon, and it was under contract that day.  So we took it as a sign from God and packed up our life and moved to the Seattle area.

 

After settling in, we immediately began our search for a business to purchase, but God had other plans.  Within six months of our move, Angela found a lump in her breast. The pathology reports confirmed the biology of the tumor was stage one, triple positive and a 9 out of 9 on the Bloom-Richardson scale.  This meant the cancer was found early, but it was an extremely aggressive type.  Our team of Doctors felt long term diagnosis was good since the cancer was caught early but recommended an aggressive treatment plan due to the tumors biology.   The plan involved almost daily trips to the hospital for a period of year.  We spent the next year and a half in and out of treatment, doctor appointments, labs and various surgeries.  We were thankful that God had provided for us financially so that I could be off work and be a full time caregiver to my wife.  Those treatments took a physical and mental toll on both of us.  The idea of pumping poison into your entire system to kill off cells in one area of the body is like bombing a house because you do not like the wall paper in one room.  It still challenges me to this day.  Yet, my wife continued to radiate love, joy, hope and faith to everyone she came into contact with.

 

Once we completed the treatment, we decided to return to Bakersfield so we could be near Angela’s family.  We were hopeful that the cancer was gone and tried as best we could to move on.  Roughly six months later, Angela started getting bad headaches.  Those headaches continued and within a few weeks she developed other systems.  We went in for an MRI of her brain and were rushed to the local emergency room that afternoon.  That day we were told that she had a brain tumor.  It was a Glioblastoma tumor and not a metastasis of the breast cancer.  They informed us that no one survives this type of cancer, and her life expectancy would be between 3 to 9 months if they immediately performed surgery to remove the pressure.  We had a friend who was a brain surgeon and He called a buddy at USC and got Angela transferred immediately.  We spent the next year going through four different craniotomies, radiation treatments and various chemotherapy treatments.  It did not matter what we tried, for each time the cancer reappeared.  I’ll never forget the day Angela said she had had enough.  I know it was hard for her to share that with me.  We had been through so much together.  I admired her strength and courage.  We went home and began to make preparations with hospice.

 

The three years we spent fighting the cancer were some of the best and worst times of my life.  The best, because I got to spend almost every single minute of every day with my wife.  We were able to go to every single appointment/treatment together.  I can’t tell you how much of a blessing that was for us.  It was the greatest honor of my life to be able to serve my wife in a time when she needed me most.  It was the worst of times, because I can’t adequately put into words the pain associated with seeing someone you love suffer so much.

 

Now, I’ve been a Christian for 21 plus years.  I can honestly say that I’m currently going through the most difficult time of my life.  After 3 years of watching my wife fight for her life, I’m mentally, physically and spiritually depleted.  It’s often difficult to go home to an empty house.  My best friend, lover and soul mate is no longer there.  In essence, I’m learning to live out a new norm.  It is in times like these that you really come to an understanding of your level of faith.  I think you never really know how strong your faith is, until all that you know and hold dear is taken away from you.  I prayed thousands of prayers and so did many others for God to heal my wife.  The scriptures are full of God healing his children and we believed He was going to do the same in our case.  For reasons only He knows, He chose not to do so.  Oftentimes, when something like this happens, the devil will come and attack, putting thoughts in our heads like……..Why didn’t your God heal her?  Was it because you did not have enough faith?  How could a God of love allow her to suffer like that?  Why would a God who loves you take her from you?

 

A part of me is upset with God for not healing my wife.  At times I feel let down.  Another part of me knows He owes me nothing and has given me everything in Jesus.  I know we live in a fallen world and our lives here on earth are but a blink of an eye.  The conclusion is that I do not know why this all has happened.  But, I know God knows. I also know that nothing happens in our life that doesn’t first get sifted through the loving hands of our Father.  He is the only one who can use suffering as a tool for blessing.  So I continue to go to Him and ask Him to heal my brokenness and to use it for His glory.  I trust Him that He will see me through this difficult time.  At the end of the day, He owes me nothing and I owe Him everything.  He sacrificed it all for me on the cross.  God’s word promises that He works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  In faith, I stand on this promise.  Though today I do not see the good yet, I know it is coming!

 

As a result of our suffering, my perspective on life is changing.  Where I used to be so consumed with the cares of this world, I feel God is preparing a more eternal perspective and focus in me.  I’m so thankful to Him that my wife is with Him in paradise.  She is no longer in pain, no longer suffering.  Though it aches beyond words how much I miss her, I’m excited that one day we will be reunited.  I’d like share something I read the other day……”To know that even His most distressing dealings with me are for my deepest spiritual gain, is to be able to say in the midst of bereavement, sorrow, pain and loss, ‘The Lord gave and The Lord has taken away; may the name of The Lord be praised.'”(Job 1:21). See God in all things and know that He causes all things to work for good.

 

I’d like to close by sharing something from Angela, during her breast cancer treatment, she wrote out the following 6 life lessons …..

 

Stress, Sadness, Fear and Depression is a Part of Life.  No matter how much you try, you’re going to feel it.  Don’t feel guilty, or think that you’re somehow flawed, it happens to everyone.  BUT, you don’t have to be ruled by it and be mindful of perpetuating it.  Ask God to give you a virtual “happy place”; a place you put yourself when you feel these emotions.  When I am scared, I picture myself sitting on the lap of Jesus.  All I see is His lap… His brown garment (no idea why it’s brown), bent knees and forearms rested on the arms of His chair.  When I am afraid or losing ground to sadness, I crawl up and find rest.  This may sound wacky but I tell you it works!

 

Don’t Let Anything Steal Your Joy, Your Ability to Laugh and Love. Fight for it! There are things that happen every day designed to steal away a little bit of each.  Don’t let this happen.  Force yourself to find the silver lining. You can make a silly game of it – that’s what we do.  Sometimes it’s a stretch to find the silver lining and you really come up with doozies, but that’s part of the fun.  I’ve found the more you do this exercise the more you train your mind to automatically look for the positive and you block the devil’s pitiful attempts at breaking your spirit.

 

How Many Fingers Do You Have on Your Hand – One or Five? My point is this… you can’t point to other things, people or situations as cause for the place you’re in.  It’s pointless.  You are where you are so suck it up and move on.  God knows where you are and He loves us so much; so honestly, do you think that He wants you in a place of destruction and sorrow? NO! Don’t spend energy applying blame that you could be spending on finding purpose in your situation.  Besides… I think the victim thing is so last year J

 

Use Your Words.  Say thank you, I love you, give compliments, say please, etc.  Words can do great things in the heart of another and we all know how much harm they can do if misused.  Someone once jokingly called me “Psycho” – not a stretch depending on my tennis game or time of month.  That is one word – six letters to be exact – and while it was a joke, it stayed with me for nearly a week. Just think of God’s love we can spread by choosing kind, generous words. Don’t dole them out sparingly… we have an abundance so give the gift of words!

 

Break It Down Into Moments.  In other words, it’s only temporary. What we are feeling or experiencing now isn’t permanent.  I find it helpful to know the inconvenience of what I’m experiencing now won’t last forever.  The discomfort of my oozing boobs is happening in this moment, but how much I ooze will be different tomorrow.  Believe it or not, I’ve never been one for change (I must have been drunk when we moved to Seattle – just kidding); but within this thought pattern, I relish change. I can’t wait for it! Change means progress, whether forwards or backwards, but it’s change nonetheless.

 

How Are You Spending Your Health? Graham stumbled across the following statement that has become our mantra, “People use their health in the pursuit of wealth, and are often forced to use their wealth to regain their health.” Seems so foolish doesn’t it? We’ve done it, but not anymore!

 

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