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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Back

The end of 2011 is near. It has been filled with much excitement and heartache. A year to remember for sure.  Many amazing things have happened.  I thought that it would be good to write down some of the blessings and share them with you.  Our family has been here in Idaho for 6 1/2 years now. We moved here with the hopes of farming and ranching and raising a family.  Our first farm we intended to purchase did not work out.  Needless to say I was 9 months pregnant and we lived with my husbands brother and wife.  This continued post Dustin arriving for four months.  We found the farm we now reside on.  It had a double wide trailer for a home.  It worked for it's purpose and was very comfortable for our family of three.  We had dreams of building a house at some point in the future.  It was my hearts desire and prayer the last 5 years to have a home.  The house that sits on our lane heading back to the trailer sat empty for 1 1/2 years.  It was the original farmhouse on our property.  We would drive by and just not look.  God was working in the background.  He always is!  In January of 2011 we inquired about the house.  We prayed.  The price had been reduced once again.  The bank was working on the deal.  On February 14, 2011 we signed the papers for the house.  This truly was a miracle.  It has been a prayer of mine to have a home for our family - a place for family and friends to gather.  It is at the core of a women's being to have a home and decorate and entertain.  I wanted an oasis for my family.  God saw my heart's desire and granted the request.  His timing was perfect.  Shortly after moving in to the house my health became a huge concern.   On May 13, 2011 I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Two weeks later post surgery, we knew it was stage 111 and chemotherapy was required.  Talk about a bomb shell being dropped.  But, we had a home - a place of rest.  A room for visitors and overnight guests.  A great peace washed over me. Just knowing that we had a home to dwell in and welcome the extra help during my days of recovery was huge. 
My basket of cards!
Dustin at the Tide Pool at Sea World
I had many friends come and prepare the soil in my garden, plant my garden and water my garden.  We had many meals delivered.  I had cleaning angels knock on my door to vacuum, dust, mop floors and do laundry.  I had a roof put on my chicken coop. The blessings kept coming.  My mailbox overflowed with cards, notes and sweet words of encouragement. These literally kept me going day to day moment to moment.  The power of prayer has blessed me greatly.  As I look back, every physical need my family had was met.  In July, our family was able to take a short vacation to San Diego.  We took Dustin to Sea World and enjoyed some much needed family time. 
There have been some long days and nights over the past year. Many trips to the new hospital (great timing on that too!).  I have had countless doctor appointments, many lab draws for blood work and one trip to the ER.  God has proven once again His faithfulness.  We have remained hopeful.  I have completed 10 rounds of chemotherapy.  I have pushed through the nausea, aches, pains and long list of side-effects of the too many to name drugs I am taking.  Most of all we are a family.  Together we have overcome the obstacles in our path.  The Lord has fought for us.  He has made a way.  His power in us carried us through.  He is able to do exceedingly more.  His goodness overwhelms me.  We are a testimony to His faithfulness.  Many would be ruined financially by this ordeal.  Our health insurance is good. Our God is gracious.  He has shown compassion.  Our farm has done well this year.  We have reaped a bountiful harvest and are blessed.  We are grateful, humble and stand in awe.
My longing for heaven increases daily.  When I ponder my earthly trials and so called "suffering" I know that nothing will compare to the glory that awaits me - face to face with my Savior.  It will be worth all the pain and drama of the last year of our lives.This road is worthy, because Jesus paid the ultimate price.  I am strong only because He lives in me.  My joy rests upon relationship with Him.  His Word is alive, it consumes me day and night.  Thankfulness.  Deep eucharisteo has been birthed out of this season.  New levels of spiritual discovery and intamacy with the almighty.  You could say I have tapped into my own
"glory hole."  The gold I have found can not be bought.  It is worth the journey I have taken to find it. The time spent seeking His comfort, mercy and strength is worth the struggle.  I have traded my sorrows, my ashes for beauty.  Only God can create (bara) something out of nothing. He isn't finished.  2012 is a few days a way.  I continue to wait upon Him. I don't know what 2012 holds, but I know that it will be good!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Star to Follow

"Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? God answered our question before we asked it.  So we'd see his answer, he lit the sky with a star.  So we'd hear it, he filled the night with a choir; and so we'd believe it, he did what no man had ever dreamed.  He became flesh and dwelt among us."  Max Lucado

"I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night - but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.  To you the night shines as bright as day.  Darkness and light are the same to you." Psalm 139:11-12 NLT

"For God, who said Let the light shine out of darkness made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus."  2 Corinthians 4:6

"The angel came in the night because that is when lights are best seen and that is when they are most needed.  Stepping from his throne in heaven he removed his robe of light and wrapped himself in skin."  Max Lucado

"We have seen his star in the east and and have come to worship Him." Matthew 2:2

Can something be learned from the wise men?  It is hard to fathom the incarnation of God here on earth.  It is too great to comprehend.  So we have faith and believe in a miracle.  We must learn from the wise men.  They were on a quest, a searching for the Savior.  When they saw the star they were overjoyed.  This calls for a celebration.  When joy wells up you can not keep quiet.  It bursts forth in song.  The angelic choir was ready. They found the baby, the Christ child. This is the response I want to have: humble worship.  They brought gifts from afar.  I have no gifts of gold, frankincense or myrrh to offer.  All he wants is my praise and worship to wonder and marvel in awe.  To sing praises in my Spirit.  I am looking for the Star.  A star to lead me down the path.  Where you go I will follow.

"Because of God's tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace."  Luke 1:78-79

A new favorite worship song by Hillsong: You Are More



Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Story to Ponder

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Can you sense the anticipation growing?  There are two days left till Christmas break and we are 7 days and counting till the big day.  The presents are wrapped, the tree is decorated, the lights are hung and yummy goodies line the counter-top in my kitchen. I love this time of year when we make our home look pretty with Martha Stewart like decorations, we bake like Betty Crocker and we post Christmas photos of our family and friends on the fridge. The music is cued to the holiday music station and my favorite Christmas candle is burning.  Ahh the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas are here.  I want to hit the pause button and savor it all year long.

I was supposed to get chemo treatment last week on Wednesday.  I had it planned out this way so that I could enjoy the days leading up to Christmas better.  It didn't work out that way.  Christmas is still going to happen.  It happens every year on the 25th of December.  I am reminding myself that we can celebrate like this anytime of the year.  I wonder if Mary might have felt the same way.  Her plans to get married somehow interrupted by news heralded by the angel Gabriel: you will be with Child by the Holy Spirit and you shall call Him Jesus.  Talk about a change in plans!  It's Mary's response to the angel that catches my attention.  It strikes a chord in me. She responds, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." Luke 1:38 Mary immediately accepts the news and believes. This is faith in action.  The bells ring loud and the choir sings forth Glory to God in the Highest.  Do I respond this way when my plans don't seem to work out?  I have to admit most times my ways don't work out. I don't respond with a quick yes Lord.  Instead I parade around like a chicken with it's head cut off.  Lovely picture!  It's true that I get upset when my plans seem to fail.  I want to hear those words, "you are highly favored."  I mess it up over and over again.

Mary was betrothed to be married to Joseph.  It was Jewish custom to be pledged or like an engagement period.  In all aspects Joseph and Mary were "married" yet Jewish custom stated that they were to remain pure.  So for Mary to return from Elizabeth's pregnant was a big deal.  She could have been stoned or Joseph could have divorced her.  God had plans for Joseph and Mary.  It was hard.  People talk.  Joseph also had an encounter with an angel.  Joseph also believed and put his faith into action: he obeyed and took Mary as his wife.  He was told not to fear, but it is human nature to be afraid.  Afraid of the future.  I can relate.  Faith conquers all fears.  I think both Mary and Joseph were afraid, yet they were determined to be obedient to what God had told them.  Was it hard for them?  Certainly.  Did they miss their family when they had to travel to Bethlehem for the Census ordered by King Herod.  Did Mary really think her time to deliver was not soon?  Did the travel bring labor?  Many questions I ponder.  Scripture tells us they did not return back to Nazareth but were warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.  More distance between family.  I can imagine on one hand they were both relived to be away from those in Nazareth and the ridicule they must have experienced. New friends and community would not know their circumstances.  Maybe this was God's divine way of protecting their fragile hearts.  God's ways are always best.  I must remind myself of this daily.  I fight to be in control, but then remember His ways I can not fathom.

I was reminded of this once again this morning in church.  Pastor Jackie was reminding us of the Israelites and their captivity to the Babylonians.  They were placed in chains, families torn apart heading for a life of slavery.  Life was not going as planned.  Yet God gave Jeremiah a message for the children of Israel.  He told them, "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 I think this future and a hope means two things.  One, it was the promise of a Messiah to come.  The second was not going to be found here on earth.  It was set in their hearts: eternity.  For the Jew the promised Messiah was to come and set up His kingdom and set them free from captivity.  God was speaking of a heavenly kingdom and freedom from the law and peace with God.  The long walk to Babylon must have been rough.  Where was God? What was He thinking?  This is not the plan!  Yet it was part of God's perfect plan for the children of Israel.  The future and hope was on it's way...all in His time. 

Sweet Mary and Joseph did not plan on a baby prior to starting their marriage.  Yet this was part of God's plan to bring salvation to the world.  A baby changes everything.  So Jesus was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.  A feeding trough. A stark reminder that He is the Bread of Life. The star brightly reflecting the glory of the moment.  What am I reflecting?  Is it this God glory? Or am I too caught up in this Christmas hype to see the miracle before me?  My heart screams out like Mary I am the Lord's servant...I want to make a difference, I want to be a light. In spite of my circumstances and the way plans seem to change like the wind, I must take a stand.  Like Mary I must resolve in my heart that I am the Lord's servant  -- let it be as the Lord has chosen. For I know that the plans God has for me are good and he is building a future for me and that gives my spirit hope for the moment and hope for a bright future in heaven.

Christmas time seems to bring to the front of our memory our relationship with Christ. It causes us to wonder at the miracle of the virgin birth.  To marvel in the amazing gift God gave us: his one and only Son, Jesus, Emmanuel God with us. We make time to be with friends and family.  We exchange gifts, food and stories.  This year is different for me.  I have a fresh perspective.  A God-given-glory view.  I want to cherish it and savor this season of Christmas for the year to come.  I have great hope and expectation for the future.  I can only say one thing about it: I know it will be good!
Merry Christmas Friends!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Jonah Moment(s)

It is early this morning of my 10th scheduled round of chemo.  I really don't want to go this morning.  I feel like Jonah.  I know God has said you  have to do this -- finish.  I don't want to.  I have a lot of anxiety you could say.  How does one balance the mixture of emotions at this point in the journey?  On one hand I am extremely thankful and full of joy.  Yet on the other hand I laid awake in bed last night chasing wild thoughts and making up scenarios that most likely won't ever happen.  So draining and such a waste!  Yet I wonder during this Christmas season how many of us have mixed emotions wrapped around our hearts.  How is it humanly possible to truly be in anguish over something or someone and yet have joy?  Paul lets us in on the secret in 2 Corinthians 7:4-7, "I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you.  I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. For when we came into Macedonia, this body of our had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But god, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.  He told us your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever."  Even though Paul so called afflicted he knew joy.  I like that the scripture tells us not only was it physical suffering but mentally that Paul had fear.  I have fear only created by self - a wandering mind.  I can only imagine the horrific things dreamed up in the mind of Paul and the other believers alongside of him.  The Romans were cruel folks.  Those who opposed the Gospel were relentless in their torment.  Yet God comforted them.  I love this concept of a person (Titus) being sent as comforter to encourage Paul during this difficult time.  For me knowing that I am not alone in the battle, that I am covered in many prayers and that my God cares about me gives me great joy.  Sweet joy in the midst of difficult circumstances.  This is what Paul experienced.  This is what I am experiencing. My joy know no bounds!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Waters Rising

I have not been writing much the last few days because I guess you could say I have had writers block.  Not sure what to write.  So at this point I am going to share about my last chemo round.  It was eventful.  Not something I am truly excited about but it did give me a good scare.  Unfortunately during my infusion process I had a serious reaction to the drugs that caused abdominal pain and an anaphylactic reaction.  I was in severe pain for a few hours with stomach cramping.  I also swelled up like a balloon. My hands turned bright red/purple and I was barely able to get my wedding ring off.  I also felt like I had a lump stuck in my throat, making it hard to breathe.   This had the nurses swarming over me like bees.  It is all a bit blurry as to what exactly did happen and why.  The Doctor is not absolutely sure why at this point.  Many factors weigh into determining the exact cause.  Which at this point we may never really know since I had several drugs in my body.  The most likely source was the chemo drug oxaliplatin.  There are a few rare cases of hypersensitivity and idiosyncratic reactions due to this drug.  The interesting case studies about oxaliplatin include a developed hypersenstivity to this drug over time.  In other words over the course of my chemo treatment I have built up a sensitivity to this drug and it finally surfaced it's ugly head.  Other cases state that anywhere between cycles 4 to 8 of chemo these clinical signs were seen.  This was my 9th round of chemo and putting the pieces together from previous chemo rounds points to this same pattern. 
Hypersensitivity reactions are typically immediately seen after administration of drug -
facial edema
bronchospasm
hypotension
tachycardia
pruritis
erythema

fever
chills
abdominal pain
nausea
diarrhea
hypotension
I had several of the above symptoms listed.  The facial edema has been one that has been present increasingly more each chemo treatment.  It seems to be more of a redness in the face and flushing that comes and goes.  This time it decided to stay and get worse.  Because of the allergic reaction my chemo was suspended and I did not receive my normal dosage amount.  I am told that this is no big deal right now.  As for future chemo treatments I don't know about that either. There is much to discuss.  This was a very scary ordeal for me.  My primary oncology doctor was not in town when all of this happened so I will have another follow-up appointment with her on December 14th, which is when I am scheduled to have my 10th round of chemo.(I am hoping for maybe an earlier appointment to discuss options and allow time for prayer.)  Case studies point to a re-occurrence of these clinical symptoms when oxaliplatin is administered again.
The nurses were excellent and moved quickly to make me comfortable and treat the symptoms I had.  If you are allergic to a bee sting and have a reaction to that you know what I am talking about.  If you have been stung once and reacted poorly you avoid getting stung again.  If you do get stung you make sure you have an antihistamine readily available. Great caution and care must be taken.  It is my earnest prayer now that God would grant us and doctors wisdom as we sort all of this out. It gives new meaning to the phrase practicing medicine...I just don't like to be the one they are practicing on! We know that God is faithful and can work out the details of an impossible situation.  Praying for that peace and comfort now. I am so grateful to so many of you for praying for me daily.  One just can't be prepared for something like this.  It gives me great comfort knowing how your prayers cover me.

"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through the deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through the rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." 
Isaiah 43:1-3 NLT


A song we sung in church this morning really ministered to my heart...hope you enjoy it!  When the Waters Rise by Casey Darnell.