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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moving and Speaking

I sleep one more time here in this house. My home for the last eleven plus years. The first house I bought with Andrew. The first house I bought period. After this time, the next time we sleep, it will be in our new home. Our new home! That thought makes my head spin, but it also excites me. Yes, I'm feeling a tad excited! Once again I am privy to see how things can change so dramatically in just one day.

I have a huge list with lots of additional pages for the things I’m sure I’ve missed! At the very top is getting Internet service! I hope I’m not away for too long… Pray all the transitions as far as running the house go smoothly.

Another big request I have is getting plugged in quickly. I’m hoping that as I dig up my roots in College Station, I can just sink them back down deep into lake soil and become connected to the community real quickly. I am asking the Lord to give us friends immediately that we’ve felt like we’ve known forever. I am just asking for this miracle. I need relationships.

Also, I’ve noticed that my Facebook networked blogs follower widget isn’t taking people to my page when you hit follow this blog… does anyone know how to fix that? Just something not working that’s bothering me. Like my garbage disposal.

Lastly, I’m speaking in Madisonville at the Faith Baptist Church annual mother/daughter banquet next Saturday night, May 8. I would love, love to see any of you locally who can come! Daughters and women of all ages are invited. To see the details go here. To reserve your spot or purchase a ticket call Kelly Smith at the church office 936-348-3993.

A Place to Call Home

By faith. Two words. Many before me. Just read Hebrews 11, “The Hall of Faith.”. It rattles off many men and women before me who have lived by faith. Great icons in the faith that are role models for me, they show me how to walk out this faith I have, how to move forward and well, just move in faith.

Tomorrow! Yes, tomorrow is our designated moving day. The two movers that were supposed to help us Saturday, both said they couldn’t Saturday but they could Friday. How’s that for God-organization? Tomorrow!

I’m sad because I don’t feel like I’ve had time to say goodbye or celebrate what was here. Yes, that makes me sad. All of the conveniences I’ve taken for granted here will be left untouched for yet another day, week or month depending on when I can get back to hug folks. I pray that this summer we can make time to just come back and say goodbye.

This morning the crazy-worry is gone. In the quietness, I just know it will all work out and there is no need to rush through it all yelling like a maniac (I am very capable of that, you know.) because after all, it is just a house. That's what my sweet friend Tara (I'll have to introduce you to her some time.) told me and she's right. It is just a house. I will pack the last boxes, run a few errands, hug the friends that stop by this morning and order tasty take out for dinner.

Tomorrow we will load trucks, pick the children up on the way out of town and sleep in our new home. We will spend the time we have there this weekend unpacking and start our new lives on Monday. We won’t be comfortable. We won’t feel at home yet. We won’t be settled.

And then I think about Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Paul, John the Baptist and even Jesus. Were they settled? Were they comfortable? Did they ever feel at home as they slept at night?

The answer makes me sweat because I spend lots (and lots and lots and lots) of my time trying to make my home a comfortable place for my family, a refuge from the outside world, the place they would most rather be. I’m not saying that’s wrong. I’m just saying maybe I should spend as much time training them for their heaven home. Maybe I should let go of my earth home ideas and follow the footsteps of my ancestors. Yes, I’ll try to keep that in mind as I pack boxes today for my next temporary home. I'll try to keep that in mind next week and the week after when the walls are still bare waiting for paint. I'll try to remember that as I focus on getting my treatments, getting my rest and getting well.

And thank you, Jen for the fun convo that led to these thoughts. And to Marilyn who also has been sending out reminders that "this world is not my home...I'm just a passin' through."

“But they were looking forward to a better home in heaven. That's why God wasn't ashamed for them to call him their God. He even built a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Magnet Giveaway!

Sarah here with an exciting update!


***CONTEST TIME***


Have you wanted a Pray for Lisa Magnet and just haven't gotten around to purchasing one yet? Leave a comment here and we will randomly choose one lucky person to get a magnet FREE! This is a Facebook only contest so be sure to leave your comment on the Facebook page! The winner will be announced Friday at 12:00PM CST!





Sometimes I Just Don’t Understand

Sometimes I just don’t understand why it has to be so hard. I just don’t understand why it has to be so messy. I like neat packages tied with pretty bows. Yet I can never seem to fit all I need to wrap inside the little box I’m given.

I run late. I come unprepared. I never seem to be dressed appropriately or ready to start my work.

But in my weakness He is made strong. He is more than enough.

If you could see my house, you would understand what I mean. Yesterday I thought it was hardly possible to move out Saturday morning. “At least we’ll get a good start,” I thought.

Even this morning God is still providing all we need to make completely moving out on Saturday a reality. Do we have everything we need? No, not yet.

But God has shown me He’s always right on time.

(Never early. Never late. Never ever early but also never ever late.) I know I have enough for today and when tomorrow arrives, it will be taken care of too. I know this because God not only says it, He’s done it again and again right before my very eyes!

It’s hard to live like this. Hard. Super hard. I like pretty packages with colorful bows, the professionally wrapped type. I like notes on a calendar with a time penciled next to each one and a little beep on my cell phone thirty minutes prior reminding me to load the car.

I am living put-one-foot-in-front-of the-other and don’t-forget-to-answer-the-phone-because-it’s-God-delivering-my-need-for-this-very-minute. This life is difficult but it’s certainly exciting. It takes a lot of remembering, reminding and focus. Although, Starbucks and dark chocolate help significantly, I need some coping mechanisms that are easier on my hips! Here’s how I’m doing it.

1. Remind myself continually of Who God is. He’s always provided for His people and He will provide for me. “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

2. Pray continually. Keeping my needs before my Father keeps me in a joyful state of worship instead of a paralyzing state of worry. “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

3. Spend time in God’s Word each day no matter what. “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.” Matthew 6:33

4. Don’t look past today; it’s hard enough on its own. “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.” Matthew 6:34

5. Look at things from God’s point of view and listen to his voice. “Your words are so choice, so tasty… With your instruction, I understand life.” Psalm 119:104

What are some ways you cope when life is too much to understand or seems like too much to handle?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Out of the Box

*****Moving Update***** The Lord has provided! We have provision to move our furniture. The Lord has provided manpower, trucks and trailers. Please keep praying it all works out wonderfully. Our estimated date of moving is SATURDAY!!***************

Tonight I sprawl exhausted on my unmade bed most of my last 12 years boxed up around me. Emotions tumble inside my head and heart. Does it really all fit in these few boxes?

Except for the four hyperactive, taking-advantage-of-the-boxed turmoil munchkins running through my house in pajamas right now, yes…Or maybe not.

I can’t box the good cry I had last week on my BFF’s shoulder. I can’t box the memories floating between these walls and lingering in my heart from Christmas mornings past, first days of school and that special first homecoming from the birthing room.

I can’t box love and thanksgiving and exclamation I felt over first words, first steps, first tooth lost. I can’t box that special moment when Andrew and I just knew our marriage would make it. We were sitting on the couch in our living room just talking. TV off. Sleeping baby in bassinet.

I can’t box the nursery walls that I stared at for hours on end while rocking a nursing baby. I can’t box the biggest live Christmas tree we ever had or the little boy who proudly picked it from the lot. I can’t box the little bitty chunky toddlers who ran around chasing toys in our hallway.

I can’t box the visitors who graced our front door or the college girls who’ve sat with me, folding my laundry or played hide and seek when I was too tired or sick. I can’t. I wish I could but I can’t.

I can package those memories in my heart, tie them with a pretty bow to unload at a later time. I’ll know just where they are when I need access to them.

I can pray that I live intentionally when I get to my new home. I can pray that I have more to box in my heart than I have to box in my house when I leave there. I pray I can add to my heart quickly. I pray I would choose to add to my heart instead of spending way too much time adding to my house.

Because after all, home is where the heart is.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

Like Water

*****Update: We just found out we can move into our new house starting Friday. Please pray that decisions would come easy and plans would start falling into place.*****

A couple of weeks ago, the Lord made it clear to me that it was okay to grieve. There are feelings I have been holding back. I want to be strong for my children. I want to be strong for those who are helping me through this.

I have set feelings of deep sadness and grief aside because above all I want the Lord to know I am grateful. The miracles of this journey are not lost on me. I am thankful. I truly believe with all my heart I had my surgery because you were praying and I was spared chemo because you were praying. I know I will get moved with everything I need because you are praying.

The great big good in all of this doesn’t negate the dumbness of cancer. Receiving a cancer diagnosis of any type is devastating. Learning to live with a constant reminder that life is very, very fragile is hard. Watching your children struggle with their own fear that their mommy may not always be with them is even harder. Cancer stinks!

There are just some super deep (and some very shallow) feelings of grief and sadness in all of this. For awhile the battle was so fierce. The bad news would come, a hard blow. Then in the very next minute something so good and so big and so awesome would happen, the sad stuff got knocked under the table for a bit. Then the reality of waiting for a doctor’s appointment set in. I no longer had the insurance battle demanding my attention. I no longer had the pressing need for surgery. My body was healing just fine. Life was advancing. The wait was long and my emotions were raw.

When this whole moving thing was piled on top of an already precarious emotional situation, I caved. I needed some days to cry. I'm going to miss this place I've called home for the last twenty years. I've got girlfriends and an incredible church family here. Saying goodbye to all that when I feel I most need it is hard. I needed some minutes to yell, sob and ask questions. Sometimes just getting it all out is as therapeutic as figuring it all out. And mercy, I know I won’t figure all this out this side of heaven!

So I spent some days in solitude. Just thinking. Processing. Praying. I got it out. It felt good. I finally started sleeping well again. Rest can dramatically change a perspective!

Today I’m ready for today. I still can’t think about tomorrow. But then again, we’re not supposed to do that too much are we? Today is my packing day. Some friends are on their way to help me box it up. Sort, sift, share, take, toss.

The Lord is reminding me about my heart as I empty my stuff into boxes, the Lord is talking to me about emptying my heart. Sorting, sifting, keeping, tossing, sharing what's in my heart. Last week He led me to Lamentations. I was just singing the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness over and over so I decided to look it up and see if God was trying to tell me something more.

He led me to Lamentations 2:19: “Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord.” I thought of the many days of holding back I’d had. I was pouring my heart out more like a bottle of sticky syrup than a pitcher of water. I knew that God was telling me in that moment that He was big enough to take it. I could let Him have all my emotions, all my requests and even my questions along with all my prayers and praises. My biggest prayer is still this, "Lord, don't let me waste it."

I will praise Him because He is good. Cancer or no cancer, chemo or not chemo, radiation or no radiation, He is good! He is good! He is good! As I said, His miracles haven’t been lost on me. But the effects of an emotionally draining few months have also taken their toll on my weary body.

Something amazing happens when we pour out our hearts like water. We go from fainting to fulfilled. We go from battle-weary to believing. We got from desperate to dependant on God. Even when we daily remind ourselves of deep truths, we must make time to nurture intimacy with Jesus in order to live in those truths.

Then our pouring out turns back to praise.

“I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:19:20-23

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Last Week I Changed My Mind

Okay. So many different meanings are attached to that word. I say it a million times a day and mean something different each time.

Say it with a big smile and some enthusiasm and it means great. Say it with a deflated voice and downcast eyes and it means pitiful. Say it with confidence when you don’t want to offend somebody and it instantly takes on a double meaning.

It’s become a standard word that I use during this crisis. I’m doing okay is what I tell myself each day. I can tailor my mannerisms to communicate just the spot on the okay scale that I’m currently residing.

It’s become a standard word that all my family and loved ones use when talking about the future. It’ll be okay. I know they’re saying that I’ll get through this day and there will be more days and one day this will all be behind me. Okay.

It’s become a catch-phrase that I’ve hung my well-being on because I felt like God told me I would be okay. But sometime last week I realized okay had lost its spirited meaning and was actually doing more damage than good to my fragile heart. You see, I don’t want to be okay. I want to be great.

When I first started telling myself everything would be okay, I genuinely felt like things would be good. I could feel hope in those words. But somehow over the last few weeks and months, God’s promises became unattached to them.

My mind became filled with worry, anxiety and frustration and my heart soaked in fear and doubt. I decided I needed to change the thoughts I was thinking. So now instead of telling myself that it’s going to be okay, I choose to say, “Lord, I will trust You.”

I know you’re situation is different than mine but I’m sure you struggle with worry, fear and doubt from time to time too. Here are some of my favorite ways to combat anxiety and uncertainty. Maybe they’ll help you choose to trust Him too.

1.Take every thought captive. We have power over the thoughts we think.

“We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” 2 Corinthians 10:5-6

2. Pray about everything. God cares about the details of our lives and by praying we are admitting things we cannot control or change but God can.

“Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7

3. Remember God’s promises. Our own reasoning is faulty but God’s promises are perfect.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Now it's your turn. What are some ways you cope with a worry-filled heart? What are your favorite trust-promises?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Survival Mode

Have you ever spent time living in a place where you barely make it through each day? The more you get done, the longer the list of things to do gets? I hate survival mode, yet, this is where I’m living. I’m fully here. Period. No denying it. Barely surviving.

Each day I make a list of must-dos for the day. I check them off. The bare minimum gets accomplished. Nothing else.

Laundry has piled up. Grocery shopping is a luxury I gave up January 25. Yes, my day of diagnosis was the last time I set foot in HEB… Scary. The house has sold so no longer is a clean toilet or a vacuumed floor on my list. My list says change insurance, call doctor, pack kitchen, buy tape and mail camp registration. Exciting.

Surviving.

I haven’t been here in this mode for quite some time. I don’t do well here so I try to avoid it. I try to be organized and give myself all the time and space I need to thrive. Sometimes that’s just not possible.

When I got married, I was working long, crazy hours at a demanding job. Our apartment was a mess. I was t.i.r.e.d. So tired. I had no time. I remember longing for a space. You know, a place where I could go away from the craziness to just be alone and to think without distractions. I never learned how to do that before I began having babies.

I had baby one. I was sick, so.very.sick. I was tired, so.very.tired. Then I had babies two and three. I living in survival mode. Even when I had a little space, it just wasn’t enough. I found myself on my face in my bedroom, crying into my carpet fibers. I asked God what it would take for me to feel the space I needed in my life. I asked Him how I could be the wife and mother I longed to be. I asked God how I could meet with Him the way I longed to.

I was at home taking care of babies all day yet, my house was dirty and disorganized. There were days I still couldn't get dinner on the table and my babies were needy. I was needy. That was the day I resigned.

I wrote out a letter of resignation in my journal. I told God I was resigning from my life, my house and my kids. I was taking on a new job. I accepted His offer to manage His life, His house and His kids. I would please Him first.

Then I accepted the second part of His offer to please my husband. I let loose of my priorities, my dreams and my goals. As they fell to the ground, I picked up Andrew’s priorities, Andrew’s dreams and Andrew’s goals. I was scared. I was scared to trust my husband and I was scared to trust my God. But I did. And here I am.

Today even though I’m full force in survival mode once again, I can see how God has brought forth His glory in my life. He took a messy house and gave it order. He took some lousy parents and gave us some pretty great kids. He also took a struggling marriage and made it thrive.

Giving up the things I thought I needed, brought me freedom. God and Andrew have now given almost all of them back but the irony is that I don’t need them anymore. I am free to enjoy them instead of spending all of my energy clutching them tightly.

God did it before; He will do it again. He turned my mess into a message. He will turn this test into my testimony. He is always good. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. These are the thoughts I tell myself as I place checks on my list while staring at my once again dirty and disorganized home. These are promises my heart rests in while mothering my once again really needy children. These are prayers from my heart as I once again set aside mine for Andrew’s priorities. These are the songs I sing to a God who has before and will again take me from surviving to thriving. These are the reminders I focus on as I wait to see when we can move, how long each radiation treatment will last and what my side effects will be.

Today, my thoughts wander. I wonder if I’ll have the time I’m used to once I start radiation. I want to have time to enjoy my family, organize and decorate my new home and continue writing. Yet, I know my first priority needs to be getting well. Fighting well. Taking care of my body.

Why is that so hard for women? Why is that so hard for mommies? The Lord has shown me in all of this that the priority of my children, my husband, my God are all the same. They want to have a healthy mom, wife, servant.

And so I will fight while praying, Lord, don’t let me waste it.

And I will survive.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.’ Psalm 73:26

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Treasures in Darkness

Funny how most people are unpacking from the Safari Through Daniel and here I am packing, packing, packing. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined all that my nomadic journey through the book of Daniel would prepare me for. Ever.

When I committed to this journey, I had no idea where I would be walking. No idea.

But God.

God knew. God knew I would need my safari sisters to hold the flashlight for me as I walked down a dark, dark path. God knew I would need friends to gather around the campfire and pray in the midst of a starless night. God knew I would need someone else to drive the jeep, carry my backpack and holler back to me when there was a bump in the road. God knew I would need sisters to point out the raw beauty of the beasts seen on a wild ride. God knew I would need sisters to hold my hands when I felt fearful from staring the beasts in the eyes. God knew the sisterhood this safari would create.

As I looked back over my snapshots taken on our safari last night, I realized most of mine required a flash. It seems most of them were shot in the dark. At night. The nights have seemed much longer than the days on this particular journey.

Now, that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing. There might have been a day when a long night was a bad thing but the darkness didn’t camouflage the beauty of this adventure.

Cancer.

It’s an ugly word. I still can’t believe it’s a part of my life. My history. My future. I am so glad my sisters were here to hear it with me. I’m thankful my sisters will hang around to fight it with me. And although I don’t know what the future holds, I know the God who holds it.

God taught me many lessons through Daniel that have just been reiterated by cancer. Choose life, choose trust, choose boldness. Make Daniel choices. Remember God’s plan. Remember God’s purposes. Remember God’s miracles. Honor God no matter what. Remember the lions. Remember the fiery furnace. Remember the cancer.

As I remember the miracles of this journey, I stop to give thanks. All involved would agree my surgery was a miracle. It was a miracle that it took place. It was a miracle that I only had the cancer removed and nothing else. I believe the treatment plan is also a miracle. I have been spared a harsh chemotherapy regimen and will start radiation soon. I think of the fiery furnace. I am thankful, so thankful that not a hair on my head smells like the fire.

This journey has been filled with too many gems to recount. Too many. The trove of treasures I have stashed as souvenirs is priceless. The scrapbook I carry in my trunk is bulging with sweet memories. The scars my body wears from this hard journey will serve as proof that He was with us. Is with me.

Daniel summed it up best at the beginning when he told us what we’d find ahead if we dared to continue. I happen to agree.

Daniel 2:22 says, “You explain deep mysteries, because even the dark is light to you.” It gives me great comfort to know that even the dark road of cancer is light to God. God sees cancer for what it is. That’s why I need to see God.

I’m praying for you too, friend, that as you walk about in your own dark circumstance, you would find God’s riches, secret treasures along the way. As you read the verses below, insert your situation and your name and look for God. Let God reveal himself to you today.

“As I lead Lisa, I will level mountains and break the iron bars on bronze gates of [cancer]. I will give Lisa treasures hidden in dark and secret places. Then Lisa will know that I, the LORD God of Israel, have called Lisa by name.” Isaiah 45:2-3

“He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in [cancer], and light dwells with him.” Daniel 2:22

Monday, April 19, 2010

Friends and Fragrance

Dear Bloggy Friends,

I’m feeling the need to share from my heart with you tonight. Your comments the past few days have touched me deeply. Actually, your comments from the past few months have touched me deeply.

Your love humbles me. Your prayers strengthen me. Your friendship encourages me.

Lately I have been so sad. So sad that I do not know each and every one who leaves a kind word here. I am sad I do not know your header, your children, your favorite things or where you live. I wish I did. I wish I could.

I am sad I do not have enough hours in the day to visit all of your blogs, email you all personally, find you all on Facebook. That makes me sad.

Please do not stop coming here during this time. I need your comments. I need your friendship. I need your encouragement. Mostly, I need your prayers.

I know that one day this will all be behind me. I will have fought cancer. And won. I will have moved. And settled. One day I will visit your blogs. And I will encourage you as you have me.

For now, know you are loved, cherished and prayed for as I read each comment, many of them bringing me to tears.

Tonight, if you are battling cancer, disease, struggles or uncertainty of your own, leave me a comment. I will pray. I want so badly to be the blessing you’ve been to me. I know you have your own struggles and I want to be a part of your miracles as you are a part of mine. When you share your own victory story, I want to stand and say that I helped usher in your miracle through prayer.

I pray each of you knows how special you are. When something is extra special, I keep it. I have a box with comments, emails, cards and notes that you have written me. It is filled to overflowing with your love. I will treasure it for many years to come as I can open it and smell the fragrance of Christ. You all have been not only healing balm to my battered and bruised body and soul, you have been the words of Jesus to my heart.

Be blessed and don’t forget to leave a prayer request. I have so much to share with you. I have news of Friday's appointment, the weekend's retreat, the ending of the safari, the packing ahead of me and the glory that He has revealed. But for now, let’s turn our glad chatter to the One who makes us glad.

Much love and many prayers,

lisa

xoxo

"Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life." 1 Corinthians 2:15



Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Treatment

Doctors have determined that I will benefit from radiation therapy. They have determined there will be a benefit primarily because although I had clear margins, the deep margin (or area next to the chest wall) was immeasurable. There was just a fraction of a millimeter of clear tissue. Because of that, there remains a high possibility that invisible cancer cells were left behind (roots, tentacles, etc. of the tumor). This was a factor that I found highly alarming. I am glad that doctors are concerned about it too.

We prayed that as I went into the appointment, the decision would be clear whether or not to proceed with the radiation treatment. When we met with the chemo doctor, he presented his findings, concerns and opinions. Then he left us to come to our own conclusions about doing chemotherapy or not. We chose not to even though I was still concerned about three things.

The radiation addresses one of those things. The other two things that are concerning to me are the lung nodules and the fact that this cancer was high grade or very aggressive. Doctors will “watch the lungs very carefully at each scan,” their words. High grade just means we watch it and don’t wait to check out symptoms.

When I met with the radiation doctor, there really wasn’t a choice given or a question asked. He explained what would happen, asked me if I had any questions and we set the appointments. I did ask for a little leeway so that I can pack and do the bulk of my treatments after I move to Conroe. He said he thought that was a reasonable request.

Doctors and medical personnel still act amazed when I tell them my date of diagnosis, surgery and treatments. They all say things like how long it has been and that the start of my treatment is still forever away… It begins May 3. Two weeks.

May 3 will be a simulation. May 5 will begin the first of my thirty treatments. Typing that makes my heart beat fast, my palms sweat and my stomach turn.

My last treatment is June 15. Our family will find a way to celebrate. Even if it’s a small way, it will be a big celebration! I’m ready to put it behind me. I’m ready to have my first set of clean scans.

I can’t wait to tell you about my weekend but processing it all may take a couple of days… or longer. This weekend was different than others. The Lord really addressed some things that are lingering in my heart, things He knows about, cares about and wants to take from me. Things like weariness, grief and sadness. These emotions are present and real and even in times of great rejoicing and thanksgiving, they linger. In cancer, even the good news can overshadowed by unpredictable emotions and sometimes even the good wears you down physically and emotionally. I spent a bulk of my time sleeping this weekend. I usually don’t do that. I like to visit with people. Talking fills me up but this weekend I went empty and I am coming home empty. Good empty. Waiting for God to fill empty. Ready to be filled with new things empty.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my empty heart but tonight you have your chance. I want to know more about radiation from your perspective. I've heard mainly that's it's "easy" and "a piece of cake." I'm honestly concerned about long term effects. I want to know what I'll look like and the things I can and can't do during treatment. Tell me what you know about radiation. The good. The bad. Everything. Why you did it. Why you didn’t. Anything I should know before, during and after. Articles you think I should read. Long term effects. What my skin will look like when I’m done. I’m a need to know person. I need to know from people like me, what do I expect?

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Psalm 23:5

Friday, April 16, 2010

Retreating and Resting

We are back from the radiation doctor. The visit went well. He said the tumor was too close to the chest wall for his comfort and radiation would be beneficial. I go back May 3 and start May 5. I will give you more details later. We thank you for your prayers.

I am going on a special retreat tonight. This weekend and all the other weekends spent with these ladies make up a large stone in the altar of my heart. This retreat has become a pilgrimage in my life over the last 18 years. This is a place of freedom, refuge and intimacy for me. Last year’s retreat was the beginning walking out this dream of mine. I know it’s no mistake that the retreat is this weekend.

This week has been the hardest week second only to the week of diagnosis. So many ups and downs. I haven’t felt this scattered since finding out I had cancer, a rare and aggressive cancer and that my insurance couldn’t properly treat and wouldn’t allow experts at MD Anderson to treat either. That was a crazy bad week. This week was just crazy. Not all bad but certainly all crazy.

God knew.

He knew I would need a resting place, a shelter from the storm of this week. A shelter for today. It’s no mistake the theme is this:

I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Matthew 11:28

He knew I would need His ever-present help to comfort me after this week. After this day. This retreat is a place He is ever present. Very present.

I can’t wait to refresh, soak and just be. With Him. I hear Him calling me to come away with Him. I am ready, Lord.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Crying Out and Speaking Out

*****UPDATE: My appointment with the radiation oncologist is this morning at 9:15.*****
“I cried out to you, O Lord. I begged the Lord for mercy, saying, “What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me. Help me, O Lord.” Psalm 30:8-10
This has been my prayer since January 25 when I was diagnosed with cancer. Lord, can I tell of your goodness if I’m dead? Save me so that I might tell the world of your great love.
That’s it. I just keep reminding God who He is, what He’s done and what He called me to do long before cancer was a common word in my life. He called me to write of His good deeds in my life. He called me to speak of His redeeming mercy and great love. He called me to share my story.
For years I have asked Him to teach me how to do that. Last year, I finally felt Him moving me forward, felt Him ushering me down a clearer path. There aren’t many things I know about what He’s asking me to do. One thing I do know is that He wants me to attend a conference for Christian writers and speakers called She Speaks.
Each year Proverbs 31 Ministries sponsors this conference and each year they hold a scholarship contest to award some lucky ladies scholarships. Last year was the first year I heard about the scholarship. I entered. I was nervous. But I was obedient. I posted my writing with a hundred or so other nervous women. I didn’t win the scholarship. I was slightly disappointed but knew that I knew that I knew “next” year was the year. Not the year I’d necessarily win the contest but the year that I would go to She Speaks.
Next year is now this year. This year I got cancer. This year everything changed in an instant. Money is tight. Andrew and I agreed last year we would seriously consider me attending She Speaks. This year tuition money dwindled and finally disappeared as we went without a steady job for a few months, visited more doctors than we could ever imagine and paid for a surgery our insurance wouldn’t cover. She Speaks was slowly falling off my radar and I was so sad. My last hope would be the contest.
Contest day came and I posted my entry along with about two hundred other nervous women. This year was different. I knew I would win. I was nervous but confident. You know, there just aren’t that many instances in life when you think you’ve got it but for me, this was one. The winners were posted at 12:00 AM on Good Friday. My name wasn’t there. I cried. Alone in the dark that night, silly, little girl tears fell down my cheeks. Tears that made me feel like I did the day my name wasn’t on the list for fifth grade cheerleader.
I was so disappointed I didn’t win, my good news was overshadowed by discouragement’s dark cloud. I questioned God. I questioned myself. I reasoned God knew what my future held and maybe I wouldn’t physically be able to travel in July. I was still sad.
In the sadness, I realized something. Last year and all the previous years, I wanted to attend She Speaks because I know that this is the place God will show me what my next step is to be. I know He will reveal to me things about my book, my vision, my calling. But on Good Friday as I was driving down Highway 105 on my way home from MD Anderson Cancer Center, I realized I wanted to go this year for another reason too. I wanted to go because it was something to look forward to. The thought of boarding a plane and sitting in a place with others who share my passion excites me. Going to a place where God speaks makes me want to fight. Realizing this dream makes me want to endure treatment with grace and dignity and without giving in to the pain, fatigue or depression that cancer treatment brings. It makes me want to fight hard… and win!
As I shared that with Andrew, we decided then and there I needed to go. We committed to register and make She Speaks a reality for me. We decided as soon as our house sold I would register.
A few days later I received an email. It was a message from Renee Swope of Proverbs 31. She was calling to tell me that she had a scholarship to give away and she was giving it to me! I was stunned. I sat speechless on the phone as tears slipped down my cheeks.
God had heard me. I had heard God. He is allowing me to receive the training I need to preach His name and His message in the form of my story to the world. I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I have to pinch myself each time I think about it and I am grateful beyond words to this ministry and these ladies. God has surely brought the rest of Psalm 80 to pass in my life.
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever! “ Psalm 30:11-12

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Radiation is for the Birds

Another weird day. I’ve been told for six weeks that I would probably need chemo to get rid of the high grade or aggressive cancer in my body. I was ready on Monday to know the plan of attack. I had my dukes up and I was ready to fight.

When I finally got to a medical oncologist’s office at MD Anderson, after months of fighting insurance and weeks of waiting, I was told that medically nothing else could be done to increase my odds. I was told my odds, in his opinion (and he does have a very well respected opinion) were very good. We were both in agreement that the odds were certainly not good enough, certainly not acceptable, but for cancer they were unquestionably good. He went so far as to say he didn’t think I’d need any further treatment at all. Ultimately radiation would be the surgeon’s call but he didn’t think I needed it and the surgeon had already said she didn’t think I needed it.

He spent lots of time telling me that I’m at a good point. Cancer patients all want to be at the point where their treatment is finished. I had gotten there quicker than lots, he said. Instead of a nasty fight, the good doc told me I needed to put away my fight and make peace. Learn to live in the uncertainty is what he said.

Yesterday I replayed his words in my head. Again and again and again. I made peace with those words. I began to realize just how God’s hand is surely on me because I don’t have to go through the horrors of chemo. I just began to see with a tad bit of clarity and to relish this spot ever so slightly. I refused to go through what ifs and very timidly began to set some goals in my mind.

I’ll run my marathon this summer.

I’ll make sure we find a way to get that boat and actually enjoy the lake where we are making our home.

I’ll wear my hair really poofy for a few days, be proud I get to keep it and thank God for it.

Okay maybe poofy hair wasn’t a goal but it sounds like a fun way to appreciate hair, huh?

First thing this morning, my phone rang. It was the nurse practitioner calling to say that surprisingly the radiation oncologist the surgeon had consulted with thought I would benefit from radiation. I’m thankful for a speedy answer. I’m thankful for a speedy appointment (she’s trying to work me in on Friday). I’m just a little unused to the idea of radiation. I was making peace. I had started to live in the calm after the storm. Tonight I'm preparing for that fight.

Monday I was ready to hear radiation. Tuesday I was thankful I didn’t hear it. Wednesday I heard radiation.

My mind and emotions begin reeling again. Tears fall again. Anger surfaces again. Again, my husband points me north. He says I should be glad something more can be done. I’m trying. I really am.

I was reminded of something this morning. And then I was reminded of this truth over and over again today. God knows. He has not forgotten a single detail of my life. Or yours. God is completely able to handle all of my fears. And yours. All of my questions. And yours. And all of my needs. And yours.

Last week when I was vacuuming my closet, the vacuum sucked up a pair of my favorite comfy sweat pants. These pants have big silver beads at the end of the ties in the waistband so that the string doesn’t get lost inside. The vacuum stole one. I was upset but trying not to sweat it. I took the tube out of the vacuum and even emptied the bag. I searched in vain for about five or ten minutes quickly abandoning my search to attend to things that really matter.

Yesterday when I was cleaning out my closet, I found that big silver bead. I laughed out loud. I almost cried. Actually, I think a few tears escaped. I knew God was telling me He was in my cancer plan just as He is in every little detail of my life. My mind immediately went to the sparrows. I’m so glad I serve a God who doesn’t just have a plan for my cancer, He even has a plan for my closet! I serve a God who’s in the details.

“What's the price of a pet [sparrow]? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million [sparrows].” Matthew 10:29-31

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Storm and the Stop

The last few days have carried some crazy thoughts. I’m guessing I’ll just have some moments of crazy thinking for awhile as I experience a landslide of emotion out of the blue or a fit of crying for seemingly no reason.

I keep telling people that receiving a cancer diagnosis is much like I imagine going to war would be. The soldier is thrown into a battlefield in a life or death situation. He sees death and dying all around and still has the incredible adrenalin fueled ability to make life and death decisions well. Then, just because he’s back home all safe and sound doesn’t mean he can’t still hear the cannons or feel the fear. (I think the experts call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.)

I keep reading that after time passes and cancer doesn’t make an appearance, patients survivors actually forget all about cancer until the time surrounding their scans. And then they actually forget it’s time for their scans. And so life continues.

I’m ready to forget.

Yet in forgetting there lies danger. I don’t want to forget to grab every single opportunity life throws at me. I don’t want to forget to take a step closer to my dreams each day. I don’t want to take life or any of its relationships for granted. Ever again. I want cancer to change my quality of life. For the better.

Yet still, I want to forget.

When I get a thank you note from my child saying she's so glad my hair is on and my cancer’s gone, it makes me want cancer to go away. How dare cancer make my children grow up too fast. Make me forget, please. But, help me remember too.

And so I wonder if I will forget.

I want to forget.

All of these conflicting emotions course through my body. My emotions raw, my muscles tense, I wonder if I even can forget. I don’t think it’s possible yet I know that I’m no different from the others I’ve met. There will be days I forget. Eventually.

Today I spent a great portion of my day being angry. I got angry at cancer today. Angry that it’s taking up so much of my precious brain space. Angry that it’s monopolizing so much of my thought processes. Angry that it’s consuming the precious minutes that make up my treasured days. I got angry that cancer has invaded my life and is now part of my future. Even if it’s a just a little part that gets scans every once in awhile. It’s there. My history.Threatening. Hovering. That makes me angry today. Sorry, if that’s offensive to you. It just does.

And when I question my anger, I don’t think it’s misplaced. Cancer is yuck. It’s okay to be mad at it! I won’t dwell in the anger. I will wander through my emotions, sifting and sorting the beneficial from the disposable. I will remind myself anger is caused by another emotion… Most likely fear. And I will choose trust. Again and again I will choose trust.

I will rest my thoughts on sweet promises whispered in the howling wind of the storm. I will enjoy the green grass and blooming flowers nourished by the torrential rain. I will soak in the warm and bright sunshine as I remember the roar of the crashing thunder in the thick of the storm's darkness.

And I will give thanks to the God who at the appropriate time commands the storm to stop.

"He rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm." Mark 4:39-40

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

No Chemo Only Waiting

I know you are all anxiously awaiting yesterday’s report. I haven’t really processed this all but here goes.

Dr. Ravi is really nice. And smart. He took time to go into great detail about the science behind my cancer and the science behind the treatment. He showed us the algorithm that all doctors at high volume centers use to determine chemo or no chemo. He let us know, quite nicely, that he doesn’t just use the algorithms, he writes them. The doctor knows the mathematics of cancer. Period. Did I mention he’s smart?

The chemo that is used to treat my type of sarcoma is harsh. The drugs are so harsh they would most likely give me permanent heart and kidney damage and give me a poorer quality of life than trying to manage the cancer if it returns. And on top of all the horrible side effects, the chemo is only 40% effective. In addition to the poor effectiveness, since my cancerous tumor has been removed already there is no way to measure if the chemo is actually working.

The theory behind a harsh chemotherapy treatment is that you try it and if it’s not working (the tumor's not shrinking), you stop the treatment so that it doesn’t damage the body further. This is not an option in my case because the tumor had to be removed to provide a diagnosis. If there was a milder chemo in pill form, he said he would prescribe that. But there's not.

So he worked through the math with us and said that in his opinion, the odds of my cancer returning is only somewhere between 10 – 20%. Not bad odds, I think, considering I was told they were 50/50 or 60/40 in January.

He said if it were his family he were treating, he would recommend no chemo. Too risky.

I’m not sure what I was looking for yesterday because I cried throughout the appointment. I cried all afternoon afterwards and I just wasn’t sure it was the “good news” everybody thought it was. I think I was hoping the doc would say that there’s this magic little white pill that will cure me and give me the greatest odds of surviving with minimal side effects. I really want assurance that I’ll come out of this fire unscathed. But for now, today, I cling to God’s promise to me that I’ll be okay. I choose to trust Him when my only other choice is to worry in fear. I choose to trust.

It was simply just reiterated that there is no cure for sarcoma. This will be with me for the rest of my life. The team will reconvene later this week to discuss radiation therapy. I’m supposed to find out Thursday. (I suspect that means I may know by next week but I’m not holding my breath.) But I’m hoping for none. I’m hoping that I hear what I heard yesterday. We’ve done all we can at this point. Those were not the words I was looking for yesterday but they are good words and today I am making friends with them. I will take them.

I think what I discovered yesterday is that there is a point in cancer when you sit in a doctor’s office and he says that there is no further medical treatment for your cancer. Sometimes people who hear that are really sick and have already tried lots of medical intervention. Sometimes they are just like me, doing pretty well and wanting to make sure they’ve done everything medically possible to fight their cancer. So even when it seems like I haven’t done much, I have to believe we’ve done all we can. Dr. Ravi reassured me that even if I went through chemo, we would be sitting in his office having the same conversation in six months. I am at the point where most patients want to be already.

He reassured me that the most important things I did to live the longest life possible free from cancer were to self-diagnose my lump, get to the doctor early and get the best surgeon possible. Surgery is a valid treatment for cancer and getting the best surgeon you can who knows the most about your cancer can be life-saving. It was for me. Had I waited another month or two to discover the lump, see the doctor or have the surgery, or even if the surgeon had left cancer behind, chemo wouldn’t be optional. Chemo would be my reality. Decreased heart function and kidney damage would be staring me in the face. Early detection saved my life. And the best news is I don’t even need more surgery. I had nothing removed but the cancer!

Dr. Ravi shared wise words with me. He told me he can treat cancer, he can manage any recurrence and he can give me the best quality of life possible but it's up to me to learn to manage the uncertainty and he can't take that away. Ever. Cancer brings uncertainty to the surface and medicine can't take it away. At all.

So for now, I’m hoping to return to MDA every three months for clear scans and get outside the two-year window. Then three, then four, then five. Once I get outside the five-year window my odds drop even lower of it ever returning. I will have annual scans for the rest of my life.

And, yes, we have a contract on our current home. We have inspections today so say a prayer they go smoothly. We are negotiating out our new home in Conroe. It will work, we are just ironing out the details right now. May 13 everything closes. Whew! Four months have changed everything! Almost.

Waiting is my new way of life. Deciding what to do in the wait will be how I live. I’m ready for marathons, moves and whatever else life throws at me!

So today I continue to live just as I have for the last three months. Only better.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

“We're depending on God; he's everything we need.” Psalm 33:20

Monday, April 12, 2010

More to Come: The Plan

***My appointment with my oncologist is at 10:45 this morning in Houston. I will let you all know what the plan is when I know something. Please join me in prayer for wisdom, clarity and answers.***

Can you believe our time traveling through Daniel has come to an end? We just have one more stop on our safari through Daniel and that's one last chat around the campfire to share our favorite memories and sing one more round of Kum-by-ya. I'll surely be singing the loudest and crying the most happy, sad, exhausted and excited tears of all! To see what my safari sisters are saying, simply click on the picture above.

I have to admit when I typed the words more to come last week, I was really only thinking of chemo, radiation, no hair and my oncology appointment this morning. The “more” that was stuck in my mind was tied to suffering.

Over the last couple of years, God has taught me this that “Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!” Luke 12:48 The Lord taught me this when the responsibilities and time demands of parenting were overwhelming to me. He asked me if my blessings (children) were worth it, worth all the demands. Undoubtedly, yes they are worth it. All.

Lately, I’ve seen blessings, blessings everywhere. So, it just seemed natural that where blessings increased, suffering would increase. Or so I thought.

The Lord spoke the words, “More to come,” to me over and over again before I began to understand. There really is so much more to come. I finally get it. Let me explain.

Although our Lord suffered greatly, Jesus suffered to the point of death, He only suffered a little while. Then He overcame death and suffering for all time when He rose from the dead. Period. The victory is won.

Just as God revealed a plan to Daniel, He will reveal a plan for me. “But your people will be saved from the trouble, every last one found written in the Book… Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.” Daniel 12:2-3

Do you understand God’s plan? “Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master… Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish!” Romans 6:23 & Ephesians 2:8

Just as God had a plan for his people’s sin, He has a plan for my cancer. Today I will see that plan. I know that plan will involve suffering for a little while just as Jesus suffered for a little while. And then the cancer that threatened to destroy my body will lose its power over me just as sin has lost its power on those who believe.

And all because God had a plan.

“everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name… I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” Acts 10:43 & Revelation 3:5

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Crazy Bad Day





Have you ever had a day that went wrong? We had a day like that this weekend. Almost every second of the day was filled with dumb miscommunication, parenting opportunities (disciplining) and unmet expectations.

Last night, we put the kids to bed at 8:00, went to separate rooms of the house and then I took a sleeping pill and went to sleep. That is not how I wanted yesterday to end! Living this commuting life is hard for us.

I don’t know how others do it with dad working far away or out of town for days at a time. I told Andrew that spending time with him on the weekends and then trying not to be fussy during the week is like reading my Bible on Sunday and trying to remain close to God all week long. It just doesn’t work!

However, yesterday morning I did run my 5K. My family was there at the finish line and that was a moment for me. I did get some bluebonnet pictures. We did accept an offer on our house. And we have submitted one on a house in Conroe.

We continue to wait.

Because there will definitely be more to come.

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Take Two: A Few More






I wanted to share with you some more of Charly's work today. You all must get to know Charly. After she took our photos, my friend Melody called her and this is what happened. Everyone needs to read this... Just click on the link because you won't be the same! And to think, it all happened because Charly obeyed God and called me. This is proof that there is great reward in obedience!

"Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

Friday, April 09, 2010

Picture Perfect






Last October when we decided we were going to sell our house and go, I knew I wanted pictures of my family on the Texas A&M campus. I want them to know that no matter where they end up in this life that the Aggies are a part of their blood. They do bleed maroon!

We were not sure where we would go at that time, just that God was calling us forward. Since then we've explored places all over Florida, Texas and even College Station. Now we know God was preparing us for all of this change and a relocation to Conroe. He is so good to have us prepare our home to sell and place it on the market in October way before the stresses of a cancer diagnosis or a long commute to a new job put pressure on us.

I even emailed a friend asking her to take some pictures of us. She responded that she really wasn't taking pictures any more but gave me someone else to contact. I didn't. I got cancer. I forgot about trying to plan the pictures.

Then Charly called. She's a friend of a friend who's my friend now. She takes pictures and God laid it on her heart to take pictures of my family before I started treatment (and still had hair). As I read her email, I wept. God is so good to me. So very good.

We scheduled the shoot for the next week and I started planning, found clothes for everyone and anxiously awaited the big day. Now you should know that I've never had a photo shoot like this. It all seemed like so much trouble and money is always tight and we have my incredible sister-in-law that is always snapping away at family events so I just never have done the planning. However, I did want pictures on campus this spring. I really did.

The photo shoot was so much fun. I loved every second of it. I loved it way more than most of my family. Seriously, I'm not sure I should've loved it as much as I did. Charly is great! She got to know the kids real quickly and got some good shots of even the most uncooperative children.

Today I'm sharing some of our favorite shots with you and later this weekend I'll share a crazy story about Charly with you... Something awesome that happened because of her kindness to me. It's really cool and you won't want to miss it; I just don't have time to link it all up right now. So for today enjoy Charly's take on God's work!



Thursday, April 08, 2010

My Resting Heartrate

This time of year always finds my heart beating fast. Sports seasons begin to overlap. Everyone is worn out from the demands of homework and early rising. The sunshine beckons us outside in the afternoons instead of tending to the chores that keep us on schedule. We’re just tired. Ready for summer and tired.

At the top of my spring-rapidly-beating-heart list this year is my quickly approaching oncology appointment, impending treatment, sale of our home, relocation to a new one, my husband’s new job, our children's new school and finding a new church. Whew! I can’t make my heart rate slow down and I don’t like that. I wish all the fast beating would burn some calories! But since it doesn’t and it’s not good for me, I need to find some space. A place to go where my heart can slow down and I can breathe deeply.

I know that place is the secret place with Jesus. I just have to remind myself to go there. I want to learn to dwell there. I can find thankfulness in the fast paces when they force me to turn to Jesus.

Last night, my heart rested here:

“Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help!

Listen hard! Open your ears!

Listen to my cries for mercy.

If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,

who would stand a chance?

As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that's why you're worshiped.

I pray to God—my life a prayer— and wait for what he'll say and do.

My life's on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning.

O Lisa, wait and watch for God— with God's arrival comes love, with God's arrival comes generous redemption.

No doubt about it—he'll redeem Lisa, buy back Lisa from captivity to sin…

I've cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother's arms, my soul is a baby content. Wait, Lisa, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!

From Psalm 130-131 The Message