Family, Friends, Faith

This has been a week of formally being thankful. I’ve seen so many thankful and grateful postings. I’ve heard people speak about gratitude and I’ve seen so many sharing their thankful lists. I don’t want the weekend to end without my own voice joining in with the others about the many things for which to be thankful!

1546363_10152035273148813_1391714057_nFamily. I am so thankful for all my family. Along with wonderful children and their spouses who we claim as ours as well, we have our parents and siblings and aunts, uncles, and cousins, etc. All of these people are part of our story and we are thankful for them.

 

Friends. I have been overwhelmed with the recent reminder of the many friends in our lives. You have come to our aid by taking Bud and his medical needs to God, by taking care of our dogs, by sending simple texts that say “Good morning friend. Just wanted to say I was thinking of you . . .,” by driving our trash to the transfer station, by offering a lunch out, by sending cards—so many cards of encouragement, by your special little gifts.

Faith. Some people do not claim a faith. In fact, some people consider it a crutch. If that is the case, then I’ll just admit it–I’m lame. Without faith to depend upon, life would be so bleak. The New Century Bible says it like this “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I hope for a day without pain, sorrow, tears. Faith allows me to be sure that this day will come.

I hope for a time when I will be with Jesus. Faith means that at some point I will experience this blessed event.

I hope for a life free of fear, anxiety, and condemnation; a life of beauty, love, and peace. My faith assures me that this desire will be fulfilled.

All these things that I hope for are clearly offered in God’s Word. I know that these events and qualities will one day be mine. I’ve never seen anyone attain these things but I don’t have to see it to believe it.

I hope for comfort from God Himself, who loves me and promises to never leave me or forsake me. My faith tells my hurting soul that the help I have each day, the balm that heals my heart, the hand that lifts me up are all from Him.

But this is about gratitude.

So I am thankful for that day without pain, sorrow, tears. I am grateful that one day I will be with Jesus. I am thankful that He takes the fear, anxiety, and condemnation and trades it for beauty, love and peace. I am thankful for the help that I have each day as my friends pray for me, for the balm that heals my heart when I read words of encouragement that you have taken time to write, and for the hands that lift me up by praying for me. For this is the evidence that God Himself, who has promised to never leave me or forsake me, is comforting me.

Family, friends, and a crutch. I am deeply thankful.

gratitude

Fight Like a Girl

FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!

This is the caption on my cousin, Sherri’s facebook image today. Sherri is a vibrant sherriChristian with one daughter, Kylee, who attends Cedarville University. Sherri teaches at Ironton High School in Ohio. Her mother is my Aunt Judy, who I wrote about yesterday.

Sherri’s Facebook posting this morning:

“I know I have lots of people praying for me – especially today since my last post indicated I’d be having another gamma knife procedure today, but things have changed yet again. My doctors found more lesions in the dura lining of my brain, and because of this, whole brain radiation is necessary. I went through the simulation and had a mask made on Monday and began treatment yesterday. I’ll have ten treatments total with Thanksgiving day & weekends off, so I’ll be in Columbus a lot. I’ve truly struggled this past week wallowing in negativity and self-pity. This morning, although I’ve slept very little, I feel energized and ready for this next battle in the war. I just ask that you pray my doctors are given wisdom, that I’m given strength, joy and peace, that Kylee is given assurance, and that my family is given resilience. I know I serve a mighty God who gives me hope and a future (Jer. 29:11), and He has a plan in all of this. I will trust Him and take joy in my future! This is an uphill battle, I know, but I’m ready. BRING IT ON!!!!!”

As you can surmise, she has been at this for a very long time. We have been praying for her and have seen God do wonderful things. It appears that this is another season of escalation for Sherri.

As Sherri continues on with her battle, my prayer for her is rest. For even in conflict the warrior must experience two types of rest – stillness of body and of mind. Her body has experienced a bit of rest these past few months, now it is being called into action for the next battle. And as she enters the battle, she is being called to the other rest, peace. When the battle rages the hardest is when peace can reign most supreme for the child of God.

Jesus offers Himself as the source of our peace:

“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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

He promises rest for those who come to Him. In our weariness, He wants us to observe and learn. This Master Teacher, who is so humble and so gentle, will show us that rest is possible. It is possible because of Him.

He has all authority to settle our hearts in peace. He can offer this peace because He is the very Prince of Peace:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

I also pray that Sherri will know His presence. That she will be assured that He will never leave her; He will always be with her and He will show her the way.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

Though these are my prayers for her, they are, rather, continued prayers. Because, you see she has been fighting like a girl. She has been shining the love of God through the entire process. She has been aware of His working in and through her. She has been faithful to Him.

She does fight like a girl.

She fights like a girl on her knees.

When the plan is not coming together.

When the plan is not coming together.  That is a hard concept to explore. We all make plans and we have our preferences of how we want things to go, and we base our plans on our preferences. We also base our expectations on our preferred plan.

This posting is not about Bud, but about my aunt.

I have a wonderful aunt, Judy. I have admired her and her family for my whole life. Whenever we would visit she was so welcoming. She always talked to me in a “grown-up” way. I truly loved observing her with her husband, Elwin. They have always seemed like a great match. I have lately learned that she has some “snark” as well. I would have never guessed it, but I suppose we all need some of that to get through life on this earth.Judy

My dear Aunt Judy has pancreatic cancer. I know that people the country over are praying for her. I would ask you to remember her as well. My heart is so sad that I haven’t known her better. But what I do know is this: she loves her family. She and Elwin have three grown children and several grandchildren. And they have taught that family how to love one another.

Isn’t that the main thing? We can get so caught up in chasing after stuff that we lose sight of the main thing. They stayed in one area and rarely moved. I can remember visiting them in one house all through my growing up years. After Elwin retired (?) they built a lovely house way out in the country and that is where they now live. I admire that they understood the value of belonging to a place, and they gave that sense of belonging to their children.

As I keep track of Judy’s struggles, I think of things that I would like to know, to do. Mostly, I just want to say, “I love you. Thank you for being such a great role model for me. I watched you even through our sporadic visits and I saw a woman who worked hard to grow her family in the important things. I see a woman who loves her husband and her family. I appreciate that you have spent your life serving and helping each one of them.”

I remember one summer thinking how selfless she was. She had just redecorated her bedroom and she actually considered my uncle’s taste when she chose the color. The room was very masculine. At that point in my growing up years, I just did not get it that she would lay aside her preference for his and actually choose a brown bedroom!

My Aunt Judy had plans to grow old with her husband; to watch her grandchildren grow up and marry; to not be beaten down by pancreatic cancer. But her plan is not coming together. Even when our plan does not come together, God is there, and all the more.

What I have learned recently is this … God wants us to be in Heaven with Him a whole lot more than we want to be there. We forget that we are spiritual beings on a journey home. God has waited these sixty plus years for Judy to live her life on earth and He has waited patiently. He knows that she will be with Him someday. And He knows that the “someday” is coming much sooner than she would have planned. The time He has had to wait for her companionship has been a gift to her and a sacrifice for Him. Even though “time” has a different meaning for Him, there has been a space of it where Judy has not been with Him.

And still He waits. I am so thankful for the time that her family still has with her, to love her and to show her that love. I know that God is hurting for her sweet family and for the loss that they will one day face—He is the God of compassion. He is moved by our pain.

I will continue to pray for my aunt. I know that her journey is so hard right now. I will pray for my uncle. His great love for Judy is so evident. His sorrow and pain in walking this path beside her, instead of for her, is heart breaking to observe. I will pray for my cousins and their children. That God loves each one of them is no mystery.

As Judy moves along her journey, I pray that she continues to point them all to love: her love for them as his wife, their mom, their grandmother; her love for the Lord who she invited into her life years ago; God’s love for her as He waits to enfold her in His tender embrace; ultimately God’s love for each one of her family.

When plans don’t come together, God is there, and all the more.

Privileged to Witness

Wednesday, I posted information about Bud’s CT Scan in the Facebook page, Mercies in Disguise:

Bud had a CT Scan yesterday, which will act as a baseline for the clinical trial. Dr. indicates that there has been no visible change in the tumor in his lung — stable for two months. This is a praise that it has not grown.

Randomization was completed. Bud is in the more aggressive protocol! Also a praise. Drug therapy starts on Friday.”

Praying for something fervently requires transparency. Asking for a myriad of friends to pray for something also requires transparency … and vulnerability.

When you put something out there that you want really badly, you are opening yourself up to evaluation and opinion. You’re also opening yourself up for the world to watch your response.

But more importantly, you are opening yourself up to God. He is a good Father and the Good Shepherd. We have our desires and He Invites us to ask; He wants us to pray believing that He is able. So we prayed continually to be in the more aggressive arm of the clinical trial knowing that He is able to put Bud’s name there. They called it “randomization.” But God doesn’t do random. His plan is specific and detailed. I am so thankful that I do not serve the god of random. That would be a belief system of utter chaos.

But what if Bud had not gotten the more aggressive group? That was a question we had to address as well. Even when you pray knowing that God is able, that does not mean that God will. And then you have to look at the emotions that could arise from that knowledge… perhaps disappointment? We certainly did not want to be disappointed by God and His choice. We know that God’s decisions for us are the best ones. And we absolutely did not want to be disappointed in God.

As we told God what we wanted, with our limited understanding, we also gave it over to His will. After all only He knows if it is a good thing for Bud to undergo the more rigorous plan. It seems like a good approach, but what if the two drugs working together do more harm than good? What if his body has a reaction to the infusion and creates immediate life threatening conditions? These were questions to which only God would know the answer.

But God’s plan was to give Bud the desire that he had voiced so frequently. I was there when the doctor called him. As Bud was listening, suddenly I realized that he was crying. He had just heard the doctor say that he was going into the second, two-drug group of the clinical trial. His body crumpled in gratitude and humility. It was a sacred moment between him and God that I was privileged to witness. As he came to the throne in surrender and thankfulness, there was no disappointment, only total delight in the gift of a loving Father.


On Friday, we went to Wilmot Cancer Center to receive the pill (afatinib) and instructions. The part that I did not understand is that Bud would also get his first infusion the same day! He spent about four hours hooked to the IV to get the infusion. We img_20171117_124133734.jpgwere on our way home by 5:30.

 

November 7 was the last radiation treatment. They said that in ten days to two weeks, he will hit a wall of fatigue. That happened today. He has spent nearly all of today just resting.

 

Rest

Bud has had three radiation days. These included radiating the two spots on his brain and the spot on his spine. He has two spine treatments left. And he has signed up for the clinical trial. Next week we will find out which group of the trial he gets. And on November 17, he will start the treatment; this will give plenty of time for the radiation to leave his body so that it will not interfere with the drugs.

So much has transpired in so few days. I feel like I’ve been through a year’s worth of living. Today I did not go with Bud for his radiation. It seemed like I need some rest.

Bud and I have been reading Max Lucado’s book, “Traveling Light” together. It is a book about Psalm 23. I am reminded of how the path that the sheep take is carefully prepared by a good shepherd. He does not let them travel down questionable or unknown roads. He is there with them, making the way for them. He offers them safe rest in green pastures and beside quiet waters. But he has first located these pastures and made them ready. He has first scouted out the water supply to assure that it is plentiful and calm. He has gone before them.

God always goes before us. He is not taken by surprise by a suddenly steep or daunting path. He has already been there. And He knows how to get us through. He is not unaware of the waterfall nearby; but He knows that the path opens to a wide field with a serene pool. And He places himself between us and the rushing water. He is fully engaged in our care. In all of the circumstances of life, He has gone ahead of us and He has made a way for us.

God’s care does not rely on optimal circumstances. Our rest does not depend on everything being just right. Our rest comes because of God’s diligent work on our behalf. He is always between us and the danger. His great love for us is manifest every day. That we are able to rest at all is evidence of God’s hand of provision and protection. Rest is good; every good gift comes from God.

So, today, I take that rest. I choose to rest in His great love. I believe that He has gone before me and He knows where He is taking me. His great love will bring me safely through the circumstances ahead of me, circumstances great and small.

quiet water

Sloan Kettering

Our visit last week with Dr. Wu was another of those God-moments.

We drove to NYC and entered a different world. Navigating that city is a resume-worthy skill! There are so many people; there is so much activity; their leisurely pace is “fast.” It was just . . . other worldly.

Things slowed significantly after we stepped off the fourth four elevator at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. Noise subsided to nearly nothing, except the honking of horns below us and children playing in the school “yard” across the street. Once we were shown to a patient room, the quiet totally enveloped us and it was welcome.

Once again, God knew what was needed to give us peace in His plan. Dr. Wu is a humble soul who shared with us his expertise, knowledge, and opinions. He answered many questions and answered them well. At one point in the conversation, Bud began to talk about his relationship with God and his hope of heaven. Dr. Wu asked him to clarify something and then simply smiled. “Amen,” he said “I’m a Christian, too.”

And the relationship changed. Instantly we felt an understanding with Dr. Wu. Instantly we felt even more confident in his information as the Holy Spirit confirmed His presence. Dr. Wu did not give us an unrealistic view of the situation. However, he did indicate that he is hopeful for more time than we have thus far been told with regard to this strain of lung cancer.

He said that the timelines that the UR is working with (and other hospitals as well) looks backward on the old data and the old (chemotherapy) treatment. The study of this particular lung cancer (non-small cell adenocarcinoma, EGFR positive) is just emerging, as in about ten years. Dr. Wu indicated that the statistics have not been able to fully write in results of the new targeted drug therapy. And they don’t take into account that the drug therapy is now in the third generation of drugs. He is seeing great success with the drug therapy and is hopeful . . ..

Dr. Wu has confidence in the UR plan and the clinical trial. He indicated that even if Bud doesn’t get the more aggressive arm, that this study is a good thing. Getting the less aggressive arm will still allow Bud the standard of care treatment, which is the treatment that Dr. Wu described as “hopeful.” And being in the study will allow the collection of data to improve the possibilities in future treatments.

So, Dr. Wu was an encouragement about the possibilities. Once again, God placed a relative on our path to encourage and inform. God is good, all the time.

love one another