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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Cost of Worry

It has been a great week for me. This third round of chemo has gone very well. I was able to get some canning done in my kitchen for the first time. We now have applesauce and green beans to enjoy over the winter months. I am eager to receive chemo this morning. I am hopeful things will go as scheduled, but trust that the Lord knows best. I get to see the oncology Doctor this morning as well.

The sunrise was glorious this morning! Beautiful colors - no clouds just the sun and all it's glory welcoming a new day. Rejoice and be glad for this is the day the Lord has made!

A word about a lesson I am in the process of learning...hope you can learn along side me in this.

Worry. Does it get you anything? Maybe an ulcer, headache, fatigue? I have a lot on my plate right now that causes me to worry. Let me tell you a secret I have been learning over these past four months. I think it is a lesson I will continually be learning this side of glory. I am human after all and a stubborn one at that. It seems that the big lessons in life God wants to teach us keep coming to surface and smack us square in the face and heart. If we don't see it right away it begins to eat away at out hearts. This is not an easy lesson for me. I am self-sufficient. I am confident. Yet I am also weak due to illness and medications. My hope is in Christ - He is my strength. Here is what I am learning: I need to ask for help. Why? Worrying about the things around me that I simply can not change does me no good. I am helpless to change circumstances. But I can change the way I feel about them. I can ask others to help me in my time of need. It boils down simply to pride. Yes I said pride. We all think we are strong in the name of "Christ" to keep a happy face on, but deep down we are sinking. Admitting you need help is the first step. The second is then even more painful - asking a friend or family member to help you. I am so humbled by the overwhelming response of my family, friends, church family and extended community to help me during this season of my life. It is a humbling experience to have people come into your home a fold your socks and under ware -- clean toilets and mop floors. This is what God wants to happen. In the midst of a trial, hardship or illness God wants us to reach out and ask Him first for strength then second He wants us to ask others for help. "For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 When I ask someone to help me, instead of worrying about how I can get my stuff accomplished two blessings occur. In this process I am allowing the Holy Spirit to move in a mighty way in their life. If I continue to keep control of all my stuff I would be missing out on some of the good works God has prepared in advance for me to do as well as others. I have my ways of folding laundry, cleaning floors and cooking meals. But the Lord gently reminds me - does this really matter? "Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life..." Matthew 6:25 I don't want to miss the blessings God has for me during this season. I don't want others to miss the blessings God has for them. I can already name so many huge miracles the Lord has done for myself and my family over these past four months. I am working on building more barns to store the blessings! We are called to live by faith, we are new creations, the old self has been crucified with Christ. We are to consider others better than ourselves. We are to lay our pride down. We are to live a life of love, being imitators of Christ. Here is our opportunity to find out what pleases the Lord. Listen to the Lord -- and when a name of a friend or loved one comes to mind act on it. Don't wait. Follow through by writing the card, making the phone call, make the meal, go and visit. This is truly the blessings God has stored up for those who love him, that He so eagerly wants to pour out! God is truly glorified in this act. I am learning to not be worried or afraid of what others might think. It is not a sign of weakness, but greatness. I don't want to miss this blessings. I am learning to ask more often for the help I need. You never know -- I may be coming to fold your laundry soon!
"Therefore, as we have opportunity let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:10

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No Bad Hair Days


So the time had arrived for the head shaving event. I suppose most cancer patients have to make the decision at some point. For me it was several factors that contributed to going bald. Many of the chemo drugs cause hair thinning. This was the case for me. I have been blessed with lots of hair-- thick hair. So I thought well just wait and see what happens. As round three of chemo finished up I could tell the hair issue was going to plague me. It's not that my hair really looked bad, it was just the sheer fact that my hair was shedding like a bad dog all over the place. This is a very emotional thing. I had to make a decision. I could look at my hair falling out everyday and get a bit frustrated and even sad or I could take control of the situation and put an end to the negative feelings. So one morning I woke up and just new it was time. There are not many things I am able to be in control of. My feelings are one I can control. I can choose to be happy with hair or without. But as you see your hair on the pillow every morning and all over the bathroom floor it eats away at you. It is easier to look at the giant and say --I have power over you -- you can't scare me! Just like David facing Goliath with a few smooth stones and the Lord of Heavens army on his side. So a sweet friend of my mine named Jeanie came over and shaved my head that day. Jeanie is also a kindred sister fighting her own battle of cancer. So amazing how the Lord has crossed our paths. It is very encouraging to have a dear friend share these special moments together. I feel great now. The hair is gone. So now I don't have to worry about bad hair days, washing my hair, brushing my hair etc. Now it is just deciding between a hat, scarf or a wig...decisions, decisions, decisions...My family has adjusted to the new me. Dustin at first was very adamant that I not shave my head. He kept saying, "Mommy do not brush your hair, do not wash your hair, just wear a hat and it won't fall out anymore! " Now he says I have a fuzzy caterpillar for hair. So precious!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spirit vs. Flesh

So the last few days have consisted of sleeping. Yep, sleeping. I guess that is the body's way of saying rest flesh! I am thankful that sleep has come easy and most days and nights are a blur now. I am wrestling with my spirit's desire to be active, social and in fellowship with friends and family. I do miss getting out and about. Due to my low levels of WBC and just recuperating from round 3 of chemo I have kept myself at bay from activities. This is not easy for me. I so desperately want to be with my friends at church and other social gatherings. I know God is close by and He loves me and hears my prayers. It is amazing! Yet the battle within rages on: spirit vs. flesh. So this has forced me to look further into this delima of mine. Although I am facing a battle that is physical -- the effects of toxic chemo poison in my body, I face another battle. The spiritual. The one that is not against flesh and blood. The one fought in the heavenly realms.

"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Wh0 will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Romans 7:13-25

To understand what I am going to write it imperative we are all on the same page. So for my greek minded friends and hermaneutaical experts here is my attempt at Biblical exposition. I am by no means an "expert" just a student seeking the truth...

It seems that I am faced more often than not - with choices. I can choose to be controlled by the law (flesh) or the law of the Spirit. If I set my mind on what the Spirit desires then peace abounds, but if my mind is set apart from the Spirit then chaos ensues. I can live in the Spirit or not. The choice is mine. The perplexity of this deepens as I ponder the wonder of how Christ set me free from the law of sin and death. The answer is contained in the cross. Here I find the Spirit of Sonship, a loving Father, privilege to be called a child of the King and co-heir of Christ. The chains are gone! I have been set free! With all these glorious benefits I get something else --the privilege of sharing in his sufferings so that I may share in his glory. So now it is making sense to me. The battle I face both in the physical and spiritual is for His glory. My present sufferings are not worth comparing to what is to come (future, as in heaven) but, what He is doing right now in me. What He is revealing to me now as I fight this battle before me. He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and equipped me to fight (Ephesians 6:10-18). So why do I find myself struggling? I must be continually filled with the Spirit in order to live in the Spirit. This requires work. (Galatians 5:16-18) This is not easy when the body (flesh) is not willing or when the Spirit wants to run and hide. According the Beth More, "The more we are filled with the Spirit, the more faith we can possess." I like that! I could use some more faith...without faith it is impossible to please God. I can ask God to increase my faith and confess my unbelief only to have Him grow my faith and stretch me even further. So I find myself on the doorstep of His courts. Thanking Him for the faith He has given me thus far and asking for an increase to make it even farther.
"Open the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord." Psalm 118:19

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" Hebrews 11:1

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Surprise Visit



I am learning to role with the changes that fall upon my path these days. Last week was hard to swallow in the sense that I had to wait to see if the WBC would return to a higher level. I was disappointed initially but then remembered God's word...my ways are not your ways...My plans are better. Then I was thinking to myself and realized that we have family in town I will get to enjoy visiting with them more and eating! What could be better. Having Duane and Karen Luehrs around for the week was fabulous. I was able to rest (a little) in between shopping and playing my guitar (thanks Duane!).
I also have on my calender a speaking engagement for a women's retreat the second weekend in September (9-11) for Stonecroft Ministries. This is something that I was asked to do back in December 2010. Of course the ladies are all aware of my health situation and are praying earnestly for my ability to be present. Having my chemo treatment week changed puts the retreat on an "off" week of chemo. This is a huge answer to prayer! God works in wondrous ways. It looks like I will be able to go and speak at the retreat! So at this point in the week I am feeling high and up on the clouds, thanking God for His amazing way of turning not so good news into great news. As if it couldn't get any better...my phone rings. It is Dave Fabarez, my youth pastor during High School days in San Diego. He and his wife just happen to be in Boise, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and want to stop by. WOW! So for 2 hours they are sitting in my house just visiting. What a nice surprise! In the midst of overcoming low WBC, GI issues and no appetite the Lord in His great mercy and compassion took notice of my situation and blessed me. He brought me comfort with family and friends. People who care about me and are fun to be around. It's all a matter of perspective. I am choosing to find things around me to be thankful for and celebrate them when they cross my path. God desires to give good gifts to his children. He delivers on His promise!
"How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city." Psalm 31:19-21

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quick Update

Just wanted to let you all know that I did receive Chemo round 3 on Tuesday (15th). I am at home resting now. Had a good visit with the oncology doctor and hope to continue moving forward with treatments. Lot's to share with you all...random thoughts jotted down in the margins of my Bible and journal. Working on compiling more to share. I just need to rest now and collect my thoughts. Thank you all much for your concerns, prayers and words of encouragement.

Psalm 34: 15-22 Read this if you get a free moment.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Good News

I am happy to report that my WBC count was up today! Doing the praise dance for sure! I did get another injection of the neupogen and will wait until Tuesday (August 16th) for another lab draw. I will also get to see the Oncology Doctor and hopefully get round 3 of Chemo. I am feeling great and my appetite has increased. It is a good thing since we have family in town and I have been able to join them for meals. One thing is certain - you don't want to miss a meal in the Luehrs family when family from out of town comes to visit! Tonight was BBQ salmon, rice, brocolli and fruit salad. Yummy to my hungry tummy! I am still eating very carefully to help encourage things in the GI deaprtment to keep moving. So far keeping away from raw vegatables and roughage (red meat, salads etc.) is working. I am more tired than "normal" but I figure that is to be expected. Looking forward to a relaxing weekend filled with food and family...does it get any better than that?
"Oh how great is Your goodness. Which You have laid up for those who fear you, which You have prepaered for those who trust in You." Psalm 31:19
"No eye has seen no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." Isaiah 64:4

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Statement of Faith

God is who He says He is
God can do what He says he can do
I am who God says I am
I can do all things through Christ
God's word is alive and active in me

I begin Round 3 of Chemo today. Trusting in a loving Father. Resting in Him who is able to sustain me. Submitting to His will, not my own.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Silence

Thinking is a good thing. Thinking alone in silence is even better. This is something that I have found to be a necessary refreshing step in the journey we call life. This is no easy feat. The demand of everyday responsibilities and unplanned so-called crisis interrupt daily activities. Carving out time for self is hard. It is not the length of time but the quality of the time spent, pondering, thinking and praying that is so needed for our weary souls, minds and bodies. A lack of intimacy with the Father is at the heart of our embedded troubles. Jesus told us we would have problems in this world, yet we are to take head to his words: "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29 Here is a question posed by Charles Swindoll in his book "Intimacy With the Almighty" -- "Do you want to be profoundly aware of His presence, in touch with Him at the deepest possible level, thinking His thoughts, gleaning His wisdom, and living as close to His heart as is humanly possible, operating your life in the nucleus of His will?" Then we must get serious about pondering His Words to us. We must become intimately engaged with Christ and Christ alone. No program, no Bible study group, no worship experience etc. will give us that which we seek at such a deep level. Pure and simple Bible reading and thinking about what you read -- this leads to wisdom and knowledge about our Father. One of the most difficult yet rewarding aspects of my journey so far has been cultivating absolute silence. Psalm 46:20 states "Be still and know that I am God." I want to share about my experience last Saturday when our family went up to the mountain to cut some fire wood. I went along for the opportunity to take pictures of wild flowers and to go for a walk alone in the forest to ponder, think, pray -- for some silence. I was reading Psalm 62 "Find rest O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him...One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you O Lord, are strong, and that you O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done." I was walking along a steep hillside looking around, praying silently when all of a sudden two young stags appeared right in front of me. I think they scared me as much as I scared them. Yet we all just stood there for a brief moment in time: perfectly still, perfectly silent. It was a moment I won't forget. The words of Psalm 42:1-2 "As the deer pants for stream of water so my soul thirst for you O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." These words come to mind and I was moved to tears as I stood their alone on a hillside with my thoughts. It was if God knew how desperate I was for Him to speak to me, so He sent two deer to cross my path and remind me of His desire for intimacy with me. I sat down and just cried. It was a good cry. I know this may sound weird but trust me something happens deep with in when you can release the burdens. I have many. We all do. I just happen to have cancer -- chemo -- life. Saturday, I felt like I couldn't move forward, I needed His strength. This is why silence is so important to me. With out that time on the mountain alone in silence where I have a come to Jesus time I can not face the "real mountains" set before me. My heart was beating wildly. My thoughts then turned to praising a gigantic God who created the heavens and earth. I felt so small in the midst of big fir trees, mountain tops, flowers and deer. Yet, God sees me and knows my heart. How sweet that silence was.

"The Bible is not an end to itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts." A.W. Tozer

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Anna's Top Ten Simple Pleasures...for the moment.

1. Taking a nap because I want to.
2. Star gazing
3. Dog kisses
4. Hearing my son say I love you mommy
5. Fitting into those skinny jeans
6. Discovering my husband took the trash out with out me asking
7. Gardening
8. Eating food in general
9. Feeling so loved by God, family & friends
10. Going number two! (Yep, I said it)

Feeling much better this morning and hopeful things will stay, shall we say moving! Thank you all so much for lifting me in prayer. It has been a long week -- for sure one to remember God's faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tough Questions

How do you find a balance between being told to be content and thankful with what befalls you and, on the other hand, wanting something to be different than it is -- even wanting something different because it seems the Lord must want it different too?

Anyone want to take a stab at that? (please comment) This is what I am pondering in the midst of waiting for more answers...hoping my body will fight even though it is not functioning at 100%. I have some answers from my GI Doctor visit yesterday. The good news is I do not have pancreatitis. The elevated lipase results were probapblly due to me vomiting and having such severeve stomach pain. This can cause a false or elevated lipase result in blood work. The CT scan did not show any inflamation of the pancreas. It is believed now that I could have a bloackage in the GI tract which is making it difficult for what I eat to exit. There is also a possibility of an infection. We are waiting on a number of lab results that will take a few days. In the mean time I am allowed to eat soft foods. Last night I had tomato soup and some of a vanilla milk shake. Not much is happening...rather frustrating. Lots of rumblings but no results. I am waiting to call the Dr. office this morning. So that is the scoop so far...back to my above question...

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let you gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

If I am truly thankful and rejoicing, why then would I pray for my circumstances to change? And if I am praying for circumstances to change and for some trial or hardship I am facing to be taken away, then does that no imply a discontent with the way things are? Can I honestly say I am thankful with how things are today? I try to give thanks. But down deep I want things to be different. I pray for it to be different. Giving thanks is different than being thankful. I am certain I have not been very rejoicing. So then the questions start up again...how am I to obey when I am pulled in such opposite directions? The distinction needs to be made between being thankful and giving thanks, between feeling joy and making the determined decision to say I choose to rejoice. I don't think it is possible to feel thankful in the midst of a painful circumstance, but I can make a choice to say I give thanks to God in spite of its difficulty. Feelings are hard to control. The only thing with in me that I am able to control is my will. I am drawn to the story of Jesus in the garden. Jesus prayed -- if it is possible for the cup I am about to take to be removed. I don't think he was very thankful at that moment...something about sweating blood tells me that. He did not want to go to the cross, yet his plea was not my will but yours be done. Here is the answer! In the flesh we will desire things and pray for things that we cannot know whether they are God's will or not. So then when I pray for circumstances to change I must remember to say Lord do your will, not mine. I must also chose to be thankful for his will whatever that is and I must choose to rejoice in how He answers my prayer. Jesus made himself nothing in order to endure the suffering of the cross...He chose to do it out of love. He emptied himself and was obedient to the will of the Father. This is our example...to choose the will of the Father over our own flesh. It is the saying, live in the Spirit -- it's the abundant life. It's what Caleb and Joshua got to experience walking into the Promised Land. Moses didn't get to go. Ahh but I digress...off on a rabbit trail. So much more to write about but for another time. In the end it is about choosing in my will to be thankful even when I don't feel like it. It is choosing to be joyful even when I don't feel like it. In the Spirit I can overcome my flesh. Once we are truly surrendered in our will then that peace that passes all understanding settles upon our weary hearts and minds and we find rest-- true peace.

"We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8: 26-27

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Trip to the ER

Yes I said ER! I have not been up to posting much the last few days since second round of chemo on Wednesday the 27th. I was a bit more prepared for the "normal" chemo side effects this go around. Long story short I have been rather miserable with abdominal pain yesterday and nausea (Sunday) and did what any good patient does, I called the on call Dr. and took their advice. Needless to say my symptoms did not improve. So a trip to the ER was in order. I arrived late in the afternoon around 5:30pm to the ER. After getting the nausea to subside and pain under control the decision was made for a CT scan of the pelvic/abdominal area. I also was told that I had acute pancreatitis & low K (potassium). This also contributed to my severe abdominal pain and throwing up issues. We had to wait for CT results...a frustrating feeling. In the midst of waiting I was thankful to be in a hospital somewhat comfy and cared for. I definitely felt the Peace of Christ. The nurses were great and were very compassionate towards me and my circumstances. It's not easy trying to figure out what is wrong with a person on"normal" terms. As we have learned chemo changes the playing field of all so-called normal triage protocol. Doctors have another level of caution over their decision making when chemotherapy is involved. To be brief on the CT results...since I have had a colenectomy (bowel resection) the possibility of the anastomosis (connection site) of the bowels can have complications. The CT scan showed that the connection site is measuring 15 mm and the two sides connecting on it measure 4 cm. Needless to say their is a blockage/constriction point. The GI system cannot move forward properly as it is. At least this is an answer to some of the pain and discomfort I have been experiencing! The question at the ER was what do we do about this. We determined this is up to the GI specialist and my surgeon. At first they were going to let me go home...then they wanted to keep me overnight. But I think my smile persuaded the ER Dr. to let me go home. I was able to down some potassium pills (huge horse pills) and keep them down. So they let me come home around 12:30 am we left the ER. I am super thankful Daniel took me to the ER. At least now we know what is going on inside my GI system. We would not know this information other than a CT or doing surgery again. Currently I am waiting for the GI specialist to call me back so I can go see them. In the mean time I'm on clear liquids...and hungry! There is a procedure the GI specialist can do to help open the anastomosis site...we are praying this can be done quickly and with out complications. Thank you again for prayers. I will try to keep posting as new information is available. My parents are staying a bit longer to help out with Dustin and the house. So thankful! One day at a time...

A portion from the Message: Matthew 6
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers most of which are never seen don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I am trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative, God provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.