Tuesday, December 17, 2013

No Whining

So, somebody said I am basically whining and what I really need to share is all the great things that are happening in our lives. While this somebody could have used nicer language, I get his point.

We are having a blast celebrating the holidays. We make a whole month of it and while it has been more challenging with all the doctor appointments and the financial restrictions we have done some really great things. 

Thanksgiving was especially wonderful. I didn't think I would be up to cooking a big meal and Angeline had to work that day so we did an all together different thing this year. A church in Lexington serves dinner at two of the more swanky restaurants in town to those who are unable to prepare a dinner for themselves. We loved getting to be a part of this. David and Jocelyn can't see inside the dark restaurant so they and River stood outside serving hot chocolate and coffee to people waiting for seating in the restaurant or for the bus to ride home. River who has always been rather shy really came out of his shell for the day and had a blast with Jocelyn inviting people to partake of the free refreshments. Dylin and I were assigned to seat guests as they arrived. It was great to get to chat with people and hear about where they were coming from as we found seating for them. Pierce was grabbed to be a server and, typical of Pierce, found himself in an attempt to be recruited by staff from the swanky restaurant. After this, we were served dinner by Davids brother in law and his family. It was a great day of meeting people and eating good food.

Some friends invited us to join them to perform some musical pieces at a nursing home. I was so proud of Jocelyn who agreed to play publicly for the first time. She did wonderful piano accompaniment for Dylin on the violin. Dylin was very pleased to have the opportunity to share his thousands of hours of practice with others. Everyone else enjoyed chatting with the residents. Our favorite quote of the evening was, of course, shared with David. He said to a sweet lady that he hoped she enjoyed the music. She replied, "I hope I did too."

Everyone has taken their turns out shopping for Christmas. We usually enjoy a lot of making things at home but I just have not gotten it together this year so it has been fun for the kids (who are older now and can go out on their own) to enjoy shopping adventures together. On one of these trips, I was rear ended by a young man who was not paying attention to his driving. I found myself at the side of the road patting his back, telling him it would be alright and praying for him. It was this kids third car accident though so I think his fears about his fathers response might have been valid. None the less, I had to feel sorry for the guy, he was a sweet kid.

We enjoyed our yearly Christmas tree decorating party. This is a day of the year when all my "rules" about healthy eating go out the door. We prepare ridiculously junky food (bacon is always involved), mix a huge batch of punch and stuff ourselves all day while we decorate the tree and house. This sort of kicks off the season.  

Each year I spend a couple hours at the computer looking for free Christmas programs and am usually able to dig up a few. My favorite musical presentation so far this year was presented by the music department at Asbury University. David and I both felt it was not just a performance to enjoy but a time spent in worship together as well.

My, maybe, very most favorite thing we do all year, that has been a tradition for a few years, is also maybe the only thing all year long that makes me really want to go to "the city." This is the outdoor ice skating rink downtown Lexington. My family was concerned about me skating and I probably should not have done it but I could not give it up. It's not that I love ice skating that much, it's the romantic Christmas in the city atmosphere that I love. I did fall (I normally do not), and do have the bruises still to show for it, but it was worth it. River said his favorite part was at the end of the evening when almost everyone had left except for us and all the friends we had invited. David is so wonderful to participate in this every year. He does not really enjoy skating but even less in the dark where he can't see, so he sits with a cup of coffee on a cold bench chatting with whoever sits next to him. This year at least we didn't lose him. I made sure to run across the street and buy his coffee right at the start so that he would not wander off looking for the coffee shop and find himself in the wrong block asking a homeless person for directions. It took Pierce 15 minutes to find him that year. David was (as you might guess) not worried, he is just as happy go lucky blind as he was when he could see. Some things are very challenging and hard for him but chatting with homeless people is not one of them.

We have done several other things and have as many more planned with family and friends. Even when life is hard, it keeps going on in joy. In the midst of all of this, I am struck so deeply this year with more humility than I have known in the past. I naively did my thing for years, not thinking myself better or worse than anyone else, just separate. This year I find myself realizing how much life is experienced in a flow that involves a lot more "others" than I had noticed before. I can be separate or I can recognize that we are all in this thing together. We find our things that we think make us unique, but really we are all in a, much like one another, human condition. Calamity, disease, death come to us all the same as does joy, health and life. When I realize, really realize, that I am created no different as homeschool mom than the homeless guy that gave David directions, then I am humbled and my heart expands in love. I still find myself feeling insecure but I think as I continue to realize how small this world really is, how alike all of us in it really are, I will continue to grow in love that will overcome that insecurity. Like when I'm too tired to cook a big meal but I manage to ignore the pain in my body to walk around a swanky restaurant seating people who can't prepare food for themselves for different reasons and then I accept a big meal being prepared for me and eaten with a big family, instead of having a small meal alone at home. Or like skating when I'm to weak to do it is worth the pain because it is so beautiful on the ice in the Christmasy city lights, maybe I'll find being with others when the risk of the pain of deception, rejection, being misunderstood, etc. are possible is worth it because the relationships formed out of sharing some experiences are so beautiful.

So, our days are very full of great things. Between work, school, radiation, Christmas adventures, (and don't even get me started about the mouse in the house fiasco that happened yesterday) we are very busy making memories and enjoying life and thanking Jesus daily for His joy, peace and strength.

Monday, December 16, 2013

12 Remaining Treatments

After that rough start things have settled into a routine. The first treatment was so long and stressful but the following ones have been easier. The second day, the nurse explained the pattern the machine is using so that I can count it's cycles. This was so very helpful. Since I had no concept of how long it would take at that first treatment it increased all the vulnerability I was feeling being locked in position. The third day I arrived to find that the same lovely nurse had cut some of the mask away so that I can just barely open my eyes and my nose and lips are clear. This was a really tremendous relief from the claustrophobic feeling I had been experiencing. I am so grateful for all the prayers from friends and for the caring staff at my cancer center. Going daily for treatments makes life a little hectic but it is also ticking that number down quickly, already down to 12 from 18. I have begun to feel some of the side effects that will no doubt increase each day (mainly a raw tongue and throat) but I feel like this is all going to be behind me before I know it. Thank you again to my friends for your love and prayers.

Monday, December 9, 2013


For some reason the long blog I wrote and published yesterday disappeared. I don't have it in me to do it again so here is a short version. (Sorry Mike)

Radiation is next. The PET scans revealed that the brightness of the cancer is dimmed. This was the good news the oncologist had given me that I shared on Facebook some weeks back. At later appointments it was explained to me that the size of the tumors while somewhat smaller are still a concern. 

I started radiation today after a very long wait for the doctor to develop a plan that he felt would be efficient at eradicating any remaining cancer cells while trying to minimize damage to other organs and tissue. If the size of the tumors does not shrink with radiation, another biopsy will be ordered to determine if more treatment is necessary.

I am exhausted after treatment today. Mostly emotionally but physically as well.   A mask was made by pressing a hot form down over my face. This mask is used to bolt my head to the radiation table and hold me completely still. Not only does this make me feel very claustrophobic and panicky but being still for so long after months of chemo and a car accident last week made me sore all over (a scared stiff kid rammed into me while looking at his radio - another chance for Jesus to love).  Treatments are longer than they had initially thought they would be. They first told me 20 minutes, then 30 minutes and today was actually more in the range of 45-50 minutes. I am hopeful this will be a little easier each day, that I will become more accustomed to the situation and more relaxed. 

I have another friend who was diagnosed with cancer at an er visit a few weeks ago - very suddenly he found himself in surgery, removing organs and growth from his spine and tubes stuck in here and there and pain and chaos. He shared this week that he noticed the scripture says to praise God IN all things not FOR all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18NLT). David and I have had a lot of practice at that in the past years and the love that grows from the praise is really big and wonderful. The thing about big and wonderful love is that it seems to just ooze out without effort. Today, exhausted from radiation, I mean really exhausted, I was sent to the lab for blood work where a nurse poured her heart out to me. It is so true that when we are weak He is strong. I looked as terrible as I felt and yet after all these months of her drawing blood from me today was the day she felt I was there to love her. When I walked into the lab all I was thinking about was going home and curling up in bed and crying but instead I found myself praising the Lord for His strength and His heart of love for her as she shared her sorrow. I still think cancer is really not fun but I'm so glad to have been in that chair today to tell this woman that she is loved. 

Thank you for your continued prayers. David and I continue to be excited about what the Lord is doing in our lives.

Radiation every weekday morning at 10:45 for about thirty minutes - 17 more treatments ! Looking forward to sharing about cancer in the past tense. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1 KJV)
I was reading in Psalms where this word “Arise” caught my attention and made my heart leap. King David is such a Drama Queen, I got caught up in that drama and felt his intense emotion. I looked up every verse with the word in it. David asked God to Arise. God asks men to arise. Peter told the dead to arise, on and on it goes. After feeling so weary this was a promise moving in me when my emotions had grown weary. God is faithful.
If this experience with cancer is metaphorically like a roller coaster ride I think I'm at full speed now. Before being diagnosed I was so sick with symptoms, then the oncologist loaded me with symptom relieving medications so that I was starting her treatment plan against an illness I no longer felt. The last thing I shared in this blog was the news that after my last treatment and tests the doctor felt the cancer might be refractory and that more treatments were advised by a team of oncologists at UK. The treatments I'm taking now are the same as all along but this last dose seemed to smack me much harder than any previously. The best way I can think to describe how I'm feeling physically is it's like having the flu. Just wiped out, in pain and extremely fatigued. I've spent a lot more time in bed. When I get out and do things the distraction (and Tylenol) gives me strength but then I suddenly crash and the fatigue hits hard. I've had a couple of really rough car rides home. When home I either fall in a fitful sleep or lie awake exhausted but too fatigued and painful for sleep to come. So I'm feeling the illness again or at least feeling the fight. I don't think this is going to be one of those quick carnival rides, more like a theme parks biggest, but even those end fairly quickly.
My last 2 doctors visits brought great news and helpful explanations. The great news was found in an X-ray ordered to determine if I was developing pneumonia which my oncologist thought she heard in a lung. The radiologist report indicated that pneumonia was not present and furthermore the tumors visible on the X-Ray were shrinking. The chemotherapy is working again. ARISE! My weariness had been replaced with anticipation by this command to Arise and anticipation was answered with progress. The doctor explained that while the medicine is working it is also becoming more difficult for my body to tolerate it. At my first two treatments, before receiving it intravenously, an injection of one of the drugs was given in my arm as a precaution to detect an allergic reaction. The second of these injections left a small uncomfortable knot in my arm that has never gone away. In the last weeks that knot has grown larger and a bruise has appeared on the surface of the skin. The doctor said the flu like symptoms, the fatigue and this knot are all the result of my body being subjected repeatedly to the chemotherapy. She explained that a treatment attacks my body which gets busy trying to recover. Before it can fully recover it is attacked with another treatment. The knot is my body developing an allergy to the medication. The increased fatigue is my body not being able to fully recover. White counts are low. They are still rising between treatments but not as high as previously. The result is I feel sick again but the great news is that treatment is working against the cancer and I have only one treatment left.
After that final treatment more tests will be ordered. Hopefully the oncologist will find that the chemo has done its job and I can go to the final stage of treatment which is radiation. If she is not satisfied with the test results she will refer me to another clinic. I am hopeful this won't be necessary.
One other note. The month long break in treatment allowed my hair to start growing back. It's very short but so far is not falling out again. I really hope it will hang on for this one more treatment. It was hard but I finally gave up on those scarves. When totally bald I would not have felt courageous enough but with some short hair I finally worked up the courage to just “be me.” The scarves are hot and I think make me look ill. I get lots of sympathetic looks and opened doors when out in a scarf which I don't get without one. Angeline says she thinks the short hair gives the impression that I'm fighting rather than just being sick. At any rate, I'm glad it's growing and am hoping for a thick head of hair soon.
So thank you again for prayers and words and gifts of support. I'm so grateful for the encouragement I have received from friends and even strangers. I'm sick and I'm tired but thanks to love I'm not sick and tired - at least not too much. I might mention to close family and friends now and then that I'm ready to have this behind me. : ) Somewhere between bulked up courage to walk around with very little hair and whining to my long-suffering sister-in-law on the phone is this balance of emotion where I mostly reside in hope and peace.
Thank you!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Every time I sit to write I'm bombarded with all the other pressing tasks that need to be accomplished at my desk. I am determined to give an update right now.....

I have not begun radiation as was planned. I was geared to face all the dire warnings the radiation oncologist had for me in regard to how difficult radiation would be for me when the oncologist called and changed everything. Some weeks back she had reduced the number of chemo treatments originally prescribed based on the PET Scan results that indicated an excellent response to the treatment. Unfortunately the rapid response slowed as revealed in later PET Scan and she moved me from the category of significant improvement to moderate improvement. She was not sure how to continue treatment because there is controversy as to the protocol in this situation, she was certain she needed to move quickly. She consulted with a doctor at UK who consulted with his colleagues and together they decided to continue 2 more rounds (4 treatments) of the same chemotherapy drugs I have been using. After that she would like me to repeat PET Scan and another biopsy and visit UK to determine the next step which could be either more chemo - different drugs or go on to the radiation. She has emphasized that my cancer is possibly refractory - meaning difficult or impossible to treat.

Frankly, I don't know what to think about all of this. It was very difficult to return to chemo after joyfully finishing my final treatment. I have to be honest and say, even as I left the last treatment I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to expect the most difficult ahead of me, not behind me. I thought after meeting the radiation oncologist that it just meant radiation was going to be tough but as it turns out I have more than just radiation to face yet.  I'm not yet convinced the cancer is "refractory" as she emphasized because she had reduced my treatment plan and then returned to the original. I'm hopeful it just requires what she initially thought it would require. Only time will tell.

Symptoms from treatment continue to fluctuate. Some days are good days and some days not as good. For the most part "not as good" continues to mean fatigue and tired. I have been experiencing a good deal of edema which has caused pain in my joints. The worst in my hands but in my feet, knees, hips as well. I have been encouraged to use pain medicine but I find it virtually useless so don't use it very much at all. Besides the fact that it does not stop the pain it leaves me feeling "yucky" for lack of better description and I don't like the underlying accusation I am made to suffer when trying to fill the prescriptions (the doctor has tried a few different types). Apparently I could make a house payment with the street value of drugs I've got in the other room. As it turns out I'm not a drug addict based on not only the moral conviction I possess but it apparently wouldn't work out for me anyway, the drugs just don't do anything for me. None the less, everyone in the state of KY is officially considered a drug addict and made to suffer the shame and guilt of it when filling a prescription even from the oncologist. But now I'm thinking about politics and that is a whole other can of worms.

In addition to all of this we have been exposed to a virus so the entire family is down for the count. I spent last night watching my fever which was lingering close to the "call the doctor number" they gave me. Tylenol and turning the air conditioning down kept me home all night - I really do not want another hospital stay. We picked this up at a camp we went to last week. It was a family camp we had really wanted to attend but could not because the daily radiation treatments were scheduled. When we received the change in treatment plan we called the camp and they allowed us in late even though registration was closed and they waived the enrollment fee as well. What a blessing. We were all refreshed and filled and exhausted from a great weekend spent with 2,000+ people much like us - conservative, homeschoolers in love with Jesus. It was a fun time and we left with new friends from all over the US, Canada and even one family from Germany. I spent a lot of the time sleeping in our camper but was blessed by the sessions I was able to attend and I am always blessed knowing the kids are enjoying new experiences.

The news from the doctor was a hard blow. I felt discouraged and in need of a reset. The reset came fairly quickly and I'm humbled further at the love of Jesus and family and friends. Right now I'm just drained and don't feel much at all. That is OK. Next week will be all together different again. I was looking forward to hair growing back and energy returning and this battle winding down but I'm refocused on keeping up the fight and hoping for a fabulous outcome. Thank you all for continuing to pray for me and my family. We are growing weary, the prayers and the meals and the cards and gift basket are all so encouraging. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The kids surprised me by having a really hard time with me losing my hair. When I told them it was time to shave it (it was thin, showing bald spots and began to hurt), they all fell apart on me. As I have said before, it is really hard to be a source of grief and worry to my kids. I wore scarves for a few days to get them used to a new look but then after a lot of thought I got an idea and sneaked out of the house Friday morning. I have a friend who is an an artist and is also good at shaving heads - having raised three boys. So, she shaved it for me and painted two lovely large blue eyes on the back of my head. The kids have, as many kids do, joked for years that I must have eyes on the back of my head. So when I got home they saw the front of me and got all glassy eyed and then laughed when I turned around - just as I had hoped. 
Besides the obvious assault on my vanity, there is also the loss of privacy with my new look. Lots of looks and comments as I go about life in public, some stare, some sympathize, kids are the best wide eyed gawkers - none of it offends me. Everyone kind of knows my story now, at least this part of it. I don't want to necessarily be "the bald lady with cancer," I really want to be that lady filled with the Spirit, the loving wife, mom, and friend.....I want my identity to wrapped up in the Lord. The eyes on the back washed away kayaking Sunday, but I will endeavor to keep the smile on my face. I have taught Jocelyn to choose joy even when she has to face hard moments with her vision loss, it's up to me now to practice what I preach. Joy is a choice, a fruit from the Spirit within to receive or reject. It is not dependent on circumstance. Joy is ours to receive with or without good health, wealth, friends or employment, with our without pain, personal offense, realized or missed goals. It is appropriate to grieve, feel sorrow, pain, and even anger but above all joy can bubble to the top promptly. I hope that this lack of locks provides opportunity to share joy with others, not just fleeting happy feelings but joy from the Spirit.

Plasm 5:11 But let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice ; let them ever sing and shout for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirits.

Isaiah 51:11
[The Lord God says} And the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing to Zion; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Luke 6:21 Blessed (happy-full life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, apart from your outward condition - and to be envied) are you who hunger and seek with eager desire now, for you be filled completely satisfied! Blessed (happy - full life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, apart from your outward condition - and to be envied) are you who weep and sob now, for you shall laugh.

I have more thoughts but bald or not the day calls. David has a long list for me today so I must be off as he is calling. One source of joy, it takes no time at all to get ready to go with a bald head, just choose a scarf and go. : ) I didn't know what to do with myself after my first bald shower, I toweled dry, went to the vanity and had nothing left to do - well I did powder my head with my face, just seemed like the thing to do.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sorry I have not shared in so long. There have been several times in our lives that David and I have felt "this is the most stressful time of our lives," we have given up calculating that measurement. Life is stressful, plain and simple. Scripture is pretty clear about this point, just a couple of many examples: Job 5:7 "For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward." And in the New Testament, John 16:33 "In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration;" Fortunately scripture is full of good promises as well. A few verses later in Job 5:11, "So that He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn He lifts to safety." And the entire verse in John says "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! for I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] Amplified Bible

Out of curiosity I google searched "most stressful life circumstances." I thought I would find a check list we could get busy marking. What I found was how blessed we are. We can check quite a few of the things I discovered in the search, but the things that matter the very most to us are good, the things the most difficult for people to handle, we do not deal with. Our business stays steady, we work - hard no doubt but we work. In a time when many peoples businesses are failing, we are working. Our family is strong, we are close, stable, united and full of love. In a time when family is being persecuted, redefined and falling apart we are constantly enjoying one another and growing in mature relationships. None of us are dead, in prison or fighting a major illness, oh wait we have a couple of those illness going on actually.  Great jobs with great people in a great place to live, what more could we ask for? Well, I am selfish enough to ask the Lord for a little less stress, but He is gracious to give me His presence in the midst of what could be a lot worse. I have learned through relationship with Jesus to be selfless enough to defer to a sovereign God in love and peace.

Update on cancer treatment: I have discovered that the last treatments are more difficult than the first treatments. I don't know if this is true for everyone but it is certainly so for me. I was so sick leading up to diagnosis that beginning treatment was a reprieve for me, the doctor prescribed me 13 different medications to help me deal with the illness and it's side effects, it felt good not to feel so bad. Now the chemo is really wearing me out. My white blood cell count is low, my hair is thinning drastically, my energy level is deteriorated, the side effects of chemotherapy are increasing, I feel like I'm fighting an illness again. There is ebb and flow however, most days are ok or good and only some days are hard. I am spoiled with a family that leaves me to sleep as many hours as I need to sleep - they wake me up to feed me then send me back to bed. In my efforts to be honest I feel I should share these hard not so exciting feelings as well as the victories. The reality is, it's hard to have cancer. It's harder to overcome emotionally when weak physically. Life is stressful. The reality also is, love covers all this over like a glaze on a cake sliding and dripping into every crevice and overflowing all around. Life is also wonderful and I'm grateful to be living it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Great news from oncologist today! My body is responding very well to chemo. Tumors have reduced significantly in size and brightness. The cancer is dying faster than anticipated. Reduced the total number of treatments ordered making me now half way done with chemo. Still feels radiation is needed. Also, (drumroll) thyroid function is currently normal!!! Second appointmnet of day was with the surgeon who liked how the new port looks, hugged me and sent me on my way. This is the first week since diagnosis that I had appointments on Monday that did not result in various other appointments throughout the week. Thankful for all who are praying - this is going so well. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Well, bummer.

It's been a crazy week. In addition to complications in my condition the kids were in a car accident. Two of the kids were out together, both are fine after a little spin on slippery 68 near the river crossing. The car is waiting at a shop to be evaluated, not sure what will be involved in it's repair yet.  What can we do but laugh at the added stress in our lives as long as the laughter stops and we all maintain our sanity. If we all just keep laughing madly I'm pretty sure the oncologist would prescribe us all something, she's pretty free with the drugs.

I have continued to struggle with infection at the port location. Today I woke to find a not so pretty picture that led me to call the surgeon who told me to come in right away. That visit resulted in scheduling surgery next week for a new port. As aggravating as it is, I'm just glad to be done with this port and onto a new solution that will hopefully be less troublesome. This complication, I am told by my oncologist, is not normal but is also not surprising. Surgery combined with a weakened immune system from chemotherapy is a perfect set up for this sort of scenario. Hopefully the recently added medications will help my body deal with the new port with a more positive outcome. 

Meanwhile, I really can't complain. I still have not experienced any major side effects from the chemotherapy. I have hair! It's thinner, but it's still there. That's a plus. I am tired, a lot, and fatigued if I do to much. I've experienced a few side effects, some I have already mentioned, others aren't worth mentioning. I know some people are counting on me to share how difficult dealing with cancer is but so far I'm not a good candidate for being that voice. Cancer stinks, no doubt about it. Makes life chaotic and makes me feel like I'm on the last half of my days on this earth rather than the first half like I used to feel but honestly I feel better now than I did for a very long time before being diagnosed. I joked about my oncologist prescribing medications, she does however jokingly refer to herself as "the pill doctor" though. I am on medications for all the symptoms I was suffering before being diagnosed in addition to medicines for the side effects of chemo so I'm really feeling better than I did when I was sick, coughing, itching and miserable. Besides a daily dose of steroids one of my chemo drugs is a steroid so that while I feel fatigued the day of chemo I am actually a bit wired and hyper the days following treatment. It does cause insomnia so I do eventually crash but until that point I am actually a little obnoxious. I've learned I can do things I want to do, it just will cost me something I have to plan on paying each day for the activities I choose to enjoy. Too much is a reality. For all the naysayers out there - I realize I am on treatment 3 of 12 and that harder days may very well be ahead, I also realize that expecting things to get worse is not healthy either so I'm just going one day at a time and praising God for each day of hair on my head and strength in my step. The family is pretty good at giving me reality checks as well. I was all set to go kayaking with the family, just planning our weekend. They all sort of gave me a  "you have to be kidding me" look. Lake kayaking is pretty hard work, I'm still not convinced I couldn't do a little river trip though - it's all downstream afterall. : )

I've been kind of somber spiritually this week. While I'm feeling better physically than I had been "promised" I would feel, there is an extra load on the family. Cancer does not just cost me, the whole family pays. Extra work for everyone, time without mom for young ones, irregular schedule and expectations. Angeline gave up a summer internship in Mexico. I had a hard time letting her do this but also realized she had to do it. Even if I didn't need her, I know she would not want to look back later in life on the summer she went to Mexico while her mom had cancer. Every time one of them asks me how I feel I am both blessed and somewhat burdened. It's hard as mom to watch them suffer. It's my job to protect them not be a source of their sorrow. What a wonderful problem, to be loved by my husband and children to the point of grieving over their grief. I am a really blessed individual. But somber is for a moment and blessing is forever. Tomorrow will hold new thoughts and feelings and in the years to come each family member will have a story of how this season grew and changed them. We are in a world full of sorrows, to be blessed to know comfort and love in the midst of them is a precious gift.

Final random thoughts: Our internet has been intermittent, part of living in the country. That's why the last blog had weird font problems I can't fix yet. Next week, which was again going to be my first quiet week is now also filled with appointments and surgery. David will post updates on Facebook I'm sure. I'm so grateful for family and friends who continue to pray. I appreciate so much the calls, notes and gifts. It's amazing how little things mean so much. This year is the first year we won't be picking strawberries and making jam. The day I was sad about this someone brought me a bowl of delicious fresh picked strawberries. Someone else sent me a nail cream the same day a nail peeled deep and was hurting. These little things just say I love you in such a big encouraging way. Thank you to each one praying, thinking about us and just having encouraging, loving thoughts in our general direction - it's overwhelmingly wonderful. Thank you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

"Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force." - Irving Berlin

I stole this quote from a friends husbands blog. Eight months ago they added to their 9 children another 2 from China. It has been a challenging time for the family. They knew the girls had special needs but did not know the great extent of those needs. For one of the girls it has been eight months of hospital stays, shocking diagnoses, infections, amputation, surgeries, broken bones and requests for, "please pray she makes it through this next life threatening crisis." For the other of the girls it has been a time of finding a family who was willing to get to know her enough to learn, what no one else reported before, that she is severely autistic and has a very unique set of needs to be met. His wife's response to his voicing his exhaustion at what their lives have become was this, "We didn't do this to make our lives easier we did this to give these girls a chance to have a life, to be loved by a family. We did this to obey God's calling." 
One of the ways I keep my attitude up is by being challenged by the crazy wonderful people around me who have great attitudes no matter what comes their way. I have a college friend who has had cancer since just after we started having babies post-college. She has passed all the doomsday dates the oncologists have given her with each new diagnosis. One of the things she told me is that she has never not eaten. That might sound absurd but it's really a tremendous attitude. When you feel very sick, food is just not appealing. She has refused to drink any meal substitutes no matter how nauseas she felt, no matter how many sores filled her mouth which has had all it's taste buds dulled. No matter what, she eats real food. She is in exact contrast to the image I saw of the cancer patients the first time I walked into the cancer center.
These two friends and others with good and not so good attitudes, in addition to the admonishment in scripture, has inspired me to choose a good attitude. So far that has been fairly easy to do since I've experienced just tired and fatigue. I don't confuse bad attitude with I need to go home and rest now. I have observed that those with a good attitude seem to experience a more positive outcome. I have also observed that my oncologist smiling eyes join the smile on her face when she walks in the room to find me smiling. I'm blessed to have the opportunity to bless her with joy when I see her. 
Tomorrow is treatment number three. I think my port looks ok. The infection cleared up after the hospital stay but unfortunately appeared to be returning so I am back on anti-biotic. I was so glad to not have to return to the hospital, just a slew of more tests and scans. Have to see how it goes after treatment tomorrow. Worse case scenario, the current port will be pulled and another implanted under the other collar bone. I hope to avoid this additional surgery and scarring but I will maintain my commitment to not complaining as the doctors go about keeping me living. 
Treatment three was the promised magic number that would bring the side effects. We'll see how it goes. My hair is thinning so I look for the possibility of that exciting development moving along. I've had some mouth sores, fingernail peeling, nausea, bruising, slow healing cuts, etc. which could apparently all increase. Mostly tired and fatigue which will probably continue. So, the plan is, I'll sleep, thank the Lord for the absolutely most wonderful children in the world who keep the house going as if I'm not even needed. And, endeavor to continue to have a good attitude even if I'm tempted not to have one. David has always said, dealing with his blindness, that he can't pity himself too much because there is always someone nearby with a worse problem to keep him in check. For me that someone can easily be him, I get to be better soon but he keeps being blind - I can't really complain about being tired and bald when blind is on the table.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's been a challenging week. After a wonderful weekend including the beautiful wedding of a sweet friend, a movie with David, Angeline and Pierce, and a sweet Mother's Day with extended family I went home last Sunday night feeling pretty good. As I began to wind down and relax I started to notice inflammation and discomfort in my chest. I've been experiencing nighttime inflammation periodically and had discussed it with the oncologist. She adjusted and added some medications the previous week based on educated guesses as to what might be causing the inflammation. In the past, a nights rest has resolved the discomfort. Unfortunately I woke Monday morning with increased discomfort and redness around the port I have had surgically implanted for receiving chemotherapy.

The port is in my chest just below my collar bone. A line from the port runs up under my collar bone and has been inserted into a large vein. The chemo drugs, I'm told, would destroy/harden the small veins in my arms. Additionally one of the drugs is particularly risky to administer in the arm due to it's destructive nature if it leaks onto the skin. The small veins in the arm can blow out and allow the chemo to leak onto the skin. If this were to happen I would be rushed to the emergency room for surgery to cut out ahead of the the flesh eating drug. While the vascular system can "handle" the drugs that the skin cannot, they still take a heavy toll. In fact, my arms at the moment look like I've been in an accident, while trying to run an iv, my veins experienced several "blow outs" which left sore bruised areas on my arms and hands. This happened due to the weakened state of the veins from the one round of chemo.

I scheduled a visit with the oncologist Monday thinking I would be stopping, yet again, afterwards at my pharmacy, this time for antibiotics. Instead she (my oncologist) admitted me to the hospital for two nights to receive iv antibiotics. She was concerned with salvaging the port. Additionally, she ordered an ultrasound of the port area and entire left arm. The ultrasound revealed a blood clot in that port vein. The oncologists answer to my wondering why I experienced this infection and clot was that both are common when receiving chemo. And, the solution and prevention are, of course, more medicines.

I now go to a clinic at the hospital every day for injections in my stomach until the lab is happy with my blood (with the coagulation rate of my blood). Unfortunately the measurement dropped yesterday instead of rising as I need it to do. Once the injections are finished I will continue an oral anticoagulant for a minimum of a year to prevent further clotting. The oral anticoagulant has to be closely monitored which means many trips to the clinic becoming fewer as that medication stabilizes as well.

I'm confident the irony of chemotherapy has not escaped anyone who has experienced it. Chemo is killing me to save me. I'm slowly coming to understanding the process more clearly though I don't think I will ever fully grasp it. The chemo kills all fast growing cells. Apparently, if I understand correctly, while it cannot target cancer sells it does like them the best due to their very fast growing nature. So chemo drugs go after the cancer aggressively but the other fast growing cells in my body take a hit as well - hair, nails, skin, white blood cells, read blood cells, platelets, etc. This results in the variety of side effects including a vulnerability to infection. The goal is to kill the cancer faster than killing the rest of me. This is a battle that is statistically in my favor with the type of cancer I have. I can't help but stop even now and grieve for the many and their families who cannot claim those favorable statistics. Those who are being killed by chemo to die. Cancer is vicious.

But, it is teaching me. I just love the apostle Paul. Besides Jesus it is Paul who I would love to go back in time and spend time with. I cherish his honesty and wisdom. I relish that fact that he says so much but really the same thing over and over. My summary of that one thing would change as much as his words are abundant. For today I would say Paul says you must be killed to be saved. He always points to Jesus.

Romas 6:5 AMP
For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be [one with Him in sharing] His resurrection [by a new life lived for God].

Paul is, in the surrounding passages, addressing sin and grace. Grace is abundant because of our sin. "Should we sin that grace would be more abundant?" Isn't that just like us to ask such a question? Constantly trying to escape surrender to death and indulge in sin we either - Ignore God all together, some going so far as to deny He even exists. Some of us become what I've heard termed "Sunday Christians," referring to those who sit in the pew on Sunday to allegedly insure their eternal soul but live the rest of life openly indulging the flesh. There are those who do what I call, "staying on the cross" and even express misguided pride in their constant state of dying to their sin they are constantly struggling to overcome. These and other similar scenarios are all the same "remaining in sin." Should we remain in sin?

Romans 6:2
Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?

Then why do we remain in sin? This has been my prayer for several years. I came to understand that this Jesus I love died not just so that I would escape eternal damnation but even more specifically so that I would no longer remain in sin which leads to death or even in sin which does not lead to death. Now I arrive in this place many of us who call ourselves followers love to live in. In the sin does not lead to death and then we enjoy grace that abounds abundantly. Our names are written in the book of eternal life, we love Jesus and don't deny Him but we continue to indulge in the flesh, indulge in exerting our own selfish will.

Romans 6:3
Are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might[habitually] live and behave in newness of life. 

We have to be killed to be saved. Not remain in the glory of being killed (staying on the cross in pride) but being raised from the dead and living a new life. Not only escaping eternal damnation but escaping all together the bondage of living in sin. Living in sin is bondage. Whether we are among those who deny God all together, sit in pews Sunday and indulge throughout the week, grieve our constant suffering of sin, or live basking in and yearning a deeper nearness to Jesus while justifying an abounding grace for our sin, we are still missing it. I was missing it. I knew I was missing it. I knew I needed to stop sinning - stop separating myself.

Romans 6:11
Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus.

I have defined sin, while teaching my children, as an acronym - separate in nature. Defining sin as separating ourselves from God. My kids cannot look me in the eye and separate themselves from me. I was remembering with them the other day the moment I saw this struggle come to Pierce's awareness when he was a little guy. Pierce, to this day, surrenders quickly if he finds himself in a moment of conflict or strife. That quick surrender was birthed one moment in the grocery store in my little mans heart.

I don't recall the exact scenario which had something to do with who would be pushing the cart. Pierce was set on ruling me. It was the man thing in him, it was the natural born leader in him, it was the sinful nature in him. That moment was more about ruling me and being ruler of himself than about who would push the cart. There we stood at the carts (with all 5 young kids in tow) in this moment that would forever change him. He would not look at me. He was separating himself from me in order to maintain exerting his own rule. I asked him to look at me. He did not want to. I saw it happening and I remember feeling joy instead of frustration at a conflict in the grocery because I sensed what was about to happen. Pierce loves me. He loves me so much and I knew it then as I know it now. He really wanted to win rule but more than that he loved me. After a few moments of contemplating he looked up into my eyes. Anyone who knows Pierce, knows his amazing joy spreading grin. The moment he looked at me, love took over, he surrendered and grinned and something in him was now aware that he could not rule himself, rule me and love me. He could not separate himself form me to exert his own rule and be untied in the love with me that we treasure and enjoy. He surrendered himself to be united to me. He learned how to be killed to live.

As I have said, cancer is moving something deeper into me that I have understood for a long time but was not owning. We can only teach what we know. I was seeing it way back when Pierce was much shorter than me, but something in me didn't fully take it. River has a harder time with surrender. This reflects me. I am now watching River soften. This also reflects me. He is learning what I had begun to harden in my stubbornness and am finally grasping deeply. My cancerous body is being killed with chemo in order to live and my sinful nature is being killed with surrender to love in order to live in unbroken fellowship with God.

The reward of cancer cells dying with chemo is, I get to keep living. The reward of dying to myself is I get to live in unbroken fellowship with Love. I can't begin to express how sweet both of those things are. Living is good, but living in fellowship with Love is really, really great.

I have a long way to go in this cancer battle. My next treatment is Monday, as long as this port is ready to go. I still have some tenderness at the site and hope it will not interrupt treatment further. It couldn't be helped but I don't like the delay in treatment last week and the sense that comes with it that I am losing ground - the fast growing cancer cells having more time to reproduce. It will be a long day going from chemo at the cancer center which takes 6-7 hours, then across town to the hospitals Coumadin clinic and after that up to another floor for the Lovenox injection. I continue to be grateful for the owning of life I'm gaining. This past week did feel hard though. Long hours in the hospital left me exhausted both physically and emotionally. The good news is, the fruits of the Spirit abounded - patience during my hospital stay. Not that I didn't dart out of there the moment the nurse gave me an out from the pacing I had resorted to. I'm so grateful for all the servants at the different facilitates. Nurses, techs, doctors are amazing individuals. I sat in the car and cried after a Coumadin clinic, Lovenox injection 2 1/2 hour daily marathon. It was a moment of cancer feeling really hard to do. I am so blessed to have a great deal of support. One phone call and I was all better. I know it's going to get harder. I also know my support is going to keep on loving me. And I still feel that really "getting" unbroken fellowship for all eternity is well worth some months of hard.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cancer Courage

Let me just throw right out there in the front that I still don't want to do cancer or its treatment. I'm praising God for his work and struggling with the reality of the process simultaneously. I am hoping to strike a healthy balance between the positive attitude I really do have (the sincere faith in positive process and outcomes both physically and spiritually) and a bit of I just get to gripe because it's not fun to have cancer.

Physically speaking I'm still mostly just tired. I continue to have symptoms of the cancer itself and the Graves and anemia (I don't know who gets credit for which things) but as far as cell destruction from chemo I'm just noticing a few tiny things. My tastebuds are failing me, even a pickle at lunch held no flavor. It's weird. My fingernails are peeling and cuticles are easily finding the corners of things that leave little sore red spots. May be some brain cells going because I keep forgetting "What I walked in here for." So you can sum me up as a lazy bum with no taste in need of a manicure. : )

A sweet friend gave me a bag of her previously used chemo head hats (which she told me to keep as she never wants nor intends to use them again). That bag and shopping for new items to cover the coming shine has caused a great deal more nausea for me than any of the meds have so far. David, though he realizes the baldness is promised, said he is praying perhaps I would somehow escape it. Let me make it clear this prayer is for my benefit not a selfish thing on his part - in fact he jokes that he can't see what I look like anyway (David is also among the suffering of a debilitating disease, he is going blind from cone rod dystrophy). I would be most happy to receive that miracle of hair with chemo in the blood! The friend who gave me the hats is one of the toughest, hardest working most practical persons I have ever known. Servant is her middle name, even this tough cookie who will climb on any roof to hammer on a new one, crawl under any house to dig out a new cellar or take the dirtiest, most difficult chore off anyone's to do list, told me the bald issue was a most difficult part for her. It's just a tough thing to face. 

I know that it's just vanity. I know it's absurd to wish I could have some boils on my toes or something else painful or of suitable to replace severity rather than go bald. I also know I will get used to it. I know my friends who I have seen go bald from chemo were not freakishly ugly faces I protected my eyes from the dreadful appearance of. After the initial surprise they were just beautiful, wonderful them. I know that is how others will see me. I know everyone including complete strangers will know what's going on and have no negative judgment or rejection. I know it will really be fine. I still just can't imagine how I'm going to finish my preparations and look in the mirror and think that I'm all set and ready to go show the world how the mornings ritual turned out. 

I have been asked about whether I want a wig. Maybe I will change my mind but for now it just gives me a notion of itchy claustrophobia. I can imagine my kids horror when their friends see me rubbing a wig back and forth the top of my skull while moaning relief. Or worse, pulling it off to scratch all over and fan the sweat with it then plopping it back on and inquiring if it's straight. For now the plan is hats and scarves. There have been tears and there will no doubt be plenty more as the hair pulls from my head, but then it will be me and then it will grow back. I just have to do it, that's all there is to it.

Here's the good part. I know suffering produces hope. Hebrews 5:1-5 is my promise in this experience. I imagine that Jesus no more relished the auctioning off of his clothes than the crown of thorns when He was begging escape from His coming persecution. While I yearn to possess the humblest of humility, I dread the suffering of losing my pride. And while I know humility is a mysterious creature, (if I think I possess it there is a fundamental flaw - if I claim its there I simultaneously shoo it away) I long to know the fruits of its lingering about me. Pride, in my mind, is much like cancer. I didn't know the mutated cells were growing in me. Eventually, in increasing symptoms, they would reveal their ugly selves. If I ignore the cancer, it will just keep growing and consuming me. The sin of pride is the same way. I might not know its there, but it reveals itself, bit by bit, and unchecked will continue to grow and consume. 

Like symptoms of cancer, however there were symptoms of pride. Scripture exhorts so often to be like little children. Children are not vain. I have such great memories of giggling at my little toddlers running through the house stark naked and completely ignorant of their humility. They learned though, first because it was obviously appropriate to teach them not to run around nude and then life began to teach them which logos should be on their shirts. Laughing at a 15 months old fat thighs is delightful for everyone. Laugh at a 15 years old fat thighs and innocent humility is chased away and replaced with consuming vanity. Unfortunately, this process takes place much younger than 15 years old. Self image begins to form much sooner and not just as potential external vanity, but as an inner value which in naivety is high but in life's school of hard knocks can become low. Be like a little child, the scripture exhorts, because it is then that humility is embraced unaware by the soul unwounded. Don't get me wrong, I'm not expressing pity on my imagined terrible life of hard knocks. I'm just your regular old selfish, dysfunctional American girl. 

While I have this journey of God pursuing me and me Him, there has also been simultaneously this parallel occurrence of hardening taking place. A hardening of the heart that grew with worldly experience. A beautifully manufactured protective covering expertly constructed to protect me from, well, the knocks that were blowing holes in it all the time. I'm confident I never hid myself because of feeling safe and secure but from feeling vulnerable and exposed. While I yearn to die to myself, the world constantly presses me to preserve myself. So, for the most part this protectiveness just seems smart. Who goes to movies to see the superheroes die? I like those heroes because no matter what gets thrown at them they grow miraculously stronger and walk in victory - like gods, I like that. Independent, invulnerable, indestructible gods. I want to be a god. Yep, I admitted it. I want super powers too. I have even told my kids I have super powers, how else would I know, "What they were doing in there." Moohaha. No matter how much I want it though, I am not a god, I am dependent not independent - I am created not Creator. Here is the conflict, how do I be a humble, vulnerable, loving, dependent follower of this God I want to love AND be a humble, naive toddler invulnerable to knocks. Aaaaa, I get cancer. I face death (so, I'm not dying but when the blow of that word hits lets just call the spade the spade - no treatment, no living), I face suffering - the side effects of disease and treatment.

Alright, that was a lot of words that may or may not effectively communicate a train of thought connected to some reality that is actually happening in my life. That reality is that I am learning to die to myself. Learning to give up my godness. To stop protecting and and clinging to me and die so that I may enter into peace with God, rejoicing in His Glory, enjoying His Kingdom love in faith today.

What does that look like? Still watching, but as I've said before I believe it will look more and more like the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control - SUPER POWERS.  Here is that beautiful mystery of Jesus again, by giving up my godness, I do become godlike. Who wants a mean, grouchy, strife filled, impatient, cruel, rough god who throws fits? Umm, apparently I do because when I deny unity with God, embrace separation to exert my own godness, that is just how I act. But, when I die to myself - ta daaaa, not only do I lose fear of knocks and gain childlike humility but I become this really loving, lovable wife, mom, homemaker, daughter, business owner, driver, customer, person in victory. 

And so, I am bracing myself to face baldness with courage. I really, really don't want to lose my hair and eyebrows and eyelashes, BUT all the super heroes give up something for their courage. Something that genuinely hurts and costs. Honestly, it's a small thing to simply accept the gift of grace offered me in Jesus, given through His much greater suffering. It's truly a privilege to even have the option to grab at courage as I learn to die to myself and walk in real super powers. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New Strategies

My first treatment has allotted me to 2 new strategies. The first is, the cancer center saves my life and I show up at the right times for appointments. I think they like that plan as much as I do. My other strategy is to keep switching nurses if I can help it. It seems each time I see a nurse she moves the side effects further out, with some careful maneuvering maybe I can slide right through this easily. My nurse yesterday said it is her experience that the majority of patients begin to experience the more difficult side effects after the third treatment. So far I just feel sleepy.

A lot of people have asked me what treatment looks like and I had wondered this as well. Seeing people devastated by the drugs gives dark images of "what they are doing to them." It is so boringly not gruesome. I sat napping in a comfortable recliner looking out large glass windows over fields of beautiful Kentucky with an iv bag dripping chemicals into my bloodstream, then they sent me home. At this facility a row of these recliners line the outside walls as nurses monitor and switch out bags and visitors chat with their family receiving treatment. The sounds are chatter and iv polls rolling back and forth all day to the atrium for lunch and the bathrooms which are frequently visited due to all the fluids being pushed in with the drugs.

I finally thought to send Jocelyn a picture which calmed her nerves a lot. I think she had gruesome images in her head and was pleased to see that the facility is bright and cheery. She replied that it was much better than she thought and her texts slowed down considerably after seeing the picture. Pierce stopped in briefly, to show support and I think to see what it was all about as well. Really in any experience the not knowing is the hard part, fighting a battle is much more desirable than anticipating it. I snapped a bunch of pictures to bring home for everyone to see.

My heart thoughts today continue along the same themes of peace and rest. 

So much of my life has been spent striving to grow spiritually. My "church journey" is a truly blessed one. I have not always, in my striving and pain, viewed it this way but as I learn to rest hindsight changes continually.

My early church experience gave me a base that would permeate the entire rest of my life - my eternity. I left those youthful years with many insecurities and questions and hurts but with a direction that would never change. Those early years in the chaos of church growth, awareness, ministry goals, leadership skills, outreach potential, etc. that was thoughtfully, lovingly imparted to me - at the bottom of it somewhere lied the true goal - rest. Just recently my youth pastor pulled out of my past and onto my doorstep. What a precious reminder (before this struggle I did not know at the time that I was coming into), that I am loved. Not only do I remember the love he invested in me in my unloveable youth but he chose to come and bless my present as well. He has this way of using approximately 10 words at a time to cut to the the quick of your mistake and/or place you in the bosom of love. 

Next would be the college years where I would begin to come out of the insecurities of youth led into a world of seeking wisdom. I recently attended the funeral of another man who touched my life deeply. This man did not use ten words at a time but hours of words in stretches that felt like moments. From this man I began to see going beyond myself rather than being limited by discovering just the gifts and potentials within. Rather knowing the power of a Holy God that I could embrace and admire and watch do mighty things. What a wonderful time of celebration at his funeral, listening to family and friends rejoice in the life of this man who imparted to countless others the tangible presence of a Holy God. 

Next came marriage and babies. Nothing in all of life undoes anyone more quickly than these family relationships that now are not experienced ignorantly from childlike perspective but wittingly with adult accountability. In marriage we discover if we are liars. 

I have this thing about lying. I hate it. I really, really hate it in all it's forms. Lying is the ultimate insult to God, self and other. To embrace lying is to deny the fabric of exactly what we were created to be in the first place. Created to be united, nakedly exposed with a loving tender Father and then from the context of this joy and exultation to rejoice in that love in relationship as a body before Him. To lie is to simply defile that place that is holy, pure, cherished. That place is in our everyday life and conversations. Nothing hurts more than a lie. It defiles relationship. This theme is raw on my heart as my family was recently deeply wounded by a web of lies like I had never known others could or would administer. I can honestly say if this cancer is going to help me to the bottom of knowing how to to walk out of that memory in true death to self and sacrificial love for the liars I will say it is worth every moment and then some. I know a righteous anger from this hurt now I must come to know a graceful rest and love. 

There was the true confession, now back to the journey. Once marriage and babies started coming, love changed meaning. Suddenly there becomes an internal war, will life be about me and my needs and escaping the work of marriage and parenting or will life be about these unbelievable precious ones that fill me with unfathomable depths of love. Will I be honest or will I be a liar. There are many dynamics that come into play in the family relationship. Some, more all the time, find that the lies of dishonestly clothing/hiding ourselves are too divisive and the marriage falls apart. Some struggle in anger, in disfunction and conflict for years or decades. Some learn to weave a life of allowing the lies by forming habits together that become acceptable with moments of emotion later chosen to be ignored and allegedly forgotten. Some learn to weave a net of deception together as a couple, a family, excusing one another for the sake of peace by joining in a team of deception. And as a society we learn to call it all sorts of things that lead us all to believe the pain of separation is not real, only brief and imagined and there are a great many strategies available to help us move on in health and happiness. It's all the same defiling God, of self and of others - the great thief of rest. 

I remember a day I had a specific epiphany. It was as though all my church experience became symbolized as a totem poll. It could all be piled up on this poll in carvings of books, lectures, studies, training, programs -  ministry. I realized my faith, my true goal would never be obtained by getting to the top of the ministry totem pol. My faith, depth, love, rest would only ever be defined by my relationship with Jesus. Everything changed for me in that moment. I knew that somehow I had to die to myself.  

As I said, I have been so blessed to have been "invested in." Next in my life came a woman who's "big pink book" would change my life. It is affectionately called that because it is a pink covered, 3/4 inch thick 9x13 book that has now been rewritten into smaller chunks and continues to develop as her time and ministry expand. Unbelievably, these words that turned my world inside out and upside down would be ministered to me in a season of being personally discipled by the author. As I share more she will be quoted often, for now I want this to be about the idea of rest and not her so I will continue to be evasive with names. All the words in the big pink book, the weekend conference I listened to her speak, the fellowship in our homes, the phone conversations, the emails were filled with tons and tons of wisdom and words and things that made sense and things that just were good and right. BUT, while I understood, while I could help her in her ministry in small ways in conversations with others, while I knew I was swimming in wisdom as I have said before, I knew I was still not getting it. When I am in her presence, it is not her that I am enjoying, loving, experiencing, receiving from, being with. When I am with her I am with the Lord. She is dead to herself. She has a precious personality, and fun sense of humor and enjoyable countenance and is in and of herself a very desirable friend but it was that something more that I have longed to embrace. With her, there are no lies, no dishonesty, no clothing hiding her true self.

Finally, I am to the verse that opened on my Bible program randomly this morning and spoke all of this to my heart. 

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which He had done; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which He had done.

Yes, this verse and theme have been preached and written about as much or more than any. Somehow my dense self is finally getting it. Be honest. Be naked. Be real. Rest. He made the world, He made Adam and Eve naked and honest before Him fellowshipping in rest. Sin interrupted, we had the whole Old Testament thing of wandering and figuring it out that we are a dishonest people and then came the New Testament and Jesus to lead us back to our naked honest selves. We don't need strategies, helps, hobbies, date nights, books, church, healing prayers, tools, goals, accomplishments, ministries, etc. (understand what I am saying in context - these things all have their appropriate time and place in our lives). The point I'm getting at is that we just need to rest. His work is done, we may rest in naked, honest fellowship with Him and one another. When we choose rest we choose honesty, we choose joy and peace and grace and love. My new strategy, instead of striving, rest!

Monday, April 29, 2013

24 Hours

At this time tomorrow (11:00a.m.) I will be checking into the cancer center for my first chemo treatment. As much as I don't want to go through this experience, I also want to get it started. As Mary Poppins says, "Well begun is half done." 

I have received a revised schedule that was not great news. Fortunately I had warnings from friends who have battled cancer that these changes are par for the course so I was prepared to hear this news. Instead of 4 treatments, I will be receiving 6 rounds of 2 treatments each round. Feels like a lot. If I'm understanding the nurse's explanation correctly, that translates into chemo every other week for the next 6 months. The opposite weeks of treatments will be lab work and screenings/tests. The drugs I am using pose risks to my cardio and pulmonary health in addition to depleting my immune system so the doctor wants to monitor all of me closely. The doctor has not scheduled radiation, I was glad to hear that. She had told me I would be receiving radiation however. I believe she was preparing me based on the large size of the nodules throughout my neck, armpits and chest but if my body responds well to the chemotherapy that additional treatment may become unnecessary. One day at a time.

It turns out Reese Witherspoon works at my cancer center. Just kidding. My education nurse did remind me a lot of a cute, blonde, perky, southern belle she might play in a movie though. She was very sweet and took a lot of time to explain all the details of my treatment plan to me. I especially liked the part at the end when she held a pen and paper in front of me to sign. (As you read these words, picture a perky Reese with that syrupy southern drawl) "This just states that I have reviewed the likely side effects of your chemotherapy drugs, that you agree to treatment and understand all the risks involved," chin drop, soft eyes and meek voice, she continues, "including that you could experience death." What can I do but laugh. My dear lawyer friend reminded me yesterday that clause is written on everything I sign that releases me to do anything - enter an amusement park, ride a horse etc. Really, I'm not afraid of dying, actually did find the comment humorous.

I came across this verse yesterday and more than any so far it connected to something within me. 

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to his [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.

 The truth that God has called me is of course elementary and profound all in one fell swoop. He is God, it is elementary that He would call me because it is His very being to love and include and desire my nearness. That the God of all creation would call me at all, much less His own, call me to His Glory is completely unfathomable, He Is God - what am I but a mere creation in utter dependence of His utter independence. To possess the peace of His love and the obedience of His Will is a perhaps seemingly contradictory but actually completely compatible duo of perfection in Christ. 

Being called to Glory demands an answer. An answer of obedience that is often provoked in suffering, of dying to self that He may do the completing and making me of what I ought to be, establishing  and grounding me. And then, settling me. I love that thought of being settled. My mac dictionary likes the legal definitions of settling a matter but that is not what my heart hears in this verse - though there is plenty of truth to be found there as well. When I look to Webster's 1828 Dictionary, I find this definition: "To place in a permanent condition after wandering or fluctuation." That sounds so sweet to me - no suffering, strife, separation, question, lacking, conflict, incompleteness, no unsettled matters between created and Creator. Miss Witherspoon like nurse can throw out those syrupy words and get my signature on anything she wants if it will settle me after a little while. 

The next verse in 1 Peter is my favorite though. 

11 To Him be the dominion (power, authority, rule) forever and ever. Amen (so be it).

This is what I am finally really getting. It's not about me! I can't say that strongly enough. He Is the Dominion, the Power, the Authority, the Rule, Forever. Frontward, backward, sideways, up, down and every which way. Who am I but the created. The beautiful mystery of Jesus is in getting that it's not about me. It's not about me, it's all about Him. The mystery is that in letting go, really dying to that thing I hold very most precious - me - I lose nothing and gain everything. 

I continue to feel vulnerable, in cancer, in sharing my heart but to be engaged in this most real experience feels incomplete if something doesn't come from it besides me getting better from cancer. In learning to be loved, in illness I hope I am also learning to really love. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Resting, ready.

The afternoon my gp instructed his assistant to schedule me with the oncologist "ASAP" I was asked to stop by the cancer center on my way home to pick up a packet to to prepare me for my first appointment a few days later. "Sure," I said, and thought, "no problem, I'll just swing by on my way home." I pulled into the cancer center parking lot, shut off the car and to my surprise instantly panicked. David said he would run in without me but I declined. I had to go in, just did not want to. This response was nothing but pure selfish. I did not want to walk through those doors and look at the sick people, at what I was about to become. 
I did find sick people in the chairs of the waiting room. I did not see myself joining them however. It was not the pallid skin, scarfed heads or slow walks that was striking to me as I had feared. It was the death of soul emanating  that broke my heart. As I looked around the waiting room, hearing the cheery receptionist talk to David in the background, my thoughts were not of my illness but of grief for so many individuals who seemed to be in this situation where their bodies were finally catching up with the dying their souls had been engaged in for a long time already. 
Fast forward through a few nights with some tears, hopes, fears, assurances, realizations and awake dark hours and you next find me woken one morning by the Lord. Early morning summons are always my favorite. This one was particularly precious. 
I have been swimming in wisdom for decades. If God were an ocean, I stepped in and never stopped aiming out to the deep. The beach has been long gone, I've enjoyed those waters past the horizons end that are so beautiful from the shore to lose your heart in on a morning walk on a vacation beach stroll. Those words poets find that describe that sensation I won't summon, but it's that place, few do not understand, the beauty of the far and wide of that horizon. Iv'e been swimming there with Jesus for as long as I can remember. I've read the Bible umpteen times, read countless books of inspiration and wisdom, structured my life around His Word, raised my children in his truth, lived a life for Jesus, Iv'e loved Him, praised Him, enjoyed Him. Iv'e been swimming in wisdom but have known that while I had (nor wanted) no life jacket or boat on the way there was this aspect of truth that I was enjoying swimming in an endless ocean but somehow not really, truly getting wet.
That morning,when the Lord woke me was the morning I have been longing for. If I may continue the metaphor briefly, it was as though I just stopped swimming, floating, being about in the water. Gently, preciously, beautifully, I drowned in His depths. It's as though I finally understand that thing that has been in my mind, on my heart, known as truth to my soul but just not quite exactly grasped. I died to myself. There are no few words sufficient to describe this change I know. They are all the words of eternity, released in life. Released in Him. 
I do not want cancer. I do not want this port in my chest. I do not want to lose my hair. I do not want to be sick and tired all the time. I do not want chemicals dumped in my veins that will eat my flesh if they touch my skin. I do not want to suffer. I do not want any of the things from the list of miserable side effects the nurse so carefully listed out for me today. I do not want to die. I will however, forever thank God for this cancer experience that saved me. Saved me from the beautiful but just shy of completely lost in Him that it has given me. This cancer that released a love within that transcends all the words and ways that have been "me." I don't know how this will look to others. I think it will look like the fruits of the Spirit without the effort, I hope. I think it will look like compassion and knowing. I think it will look like Jesus. Honestly, I don't care what I look like. Finally, I really know so deeply, eternally, Jesus and Him alive and Him Eternal. I can sit in that waiting room, in a body doing whatever it is going to do while fighting cancer and do so not with the tragic death of soul I saw on that day in the waiting room but rather resurrected in life eternal. 
I love I Am, I love being forever lost in His forever. Resting, ready. 

Hebrew 4:9-16

So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath-rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own. Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell]. For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart  And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, naked and defenseless to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do. Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest Who has [already] ascended and passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith in Him]. For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]. (AMP)