Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Time For Rest

I've been thinking about rest these last few days. I fear we in the western world have rested too long and too often. Perhaps we are in need of a wake up call.

My pastor husband and our son are in need of some as they return tired from a ministry trip to Guatemala. Mike goes there every four months, trains pastors from five different villages in the tropical jungle of the mountains. He co-labors with Misioneros Sin Fronteras, the ministry arm of our church in Guatemala, lead by Pastor Cristian. He was a Guatemalan native long before he was a pastor on our staff.




The pictures are just like the ones you see on the television commercials that we are all numb to. But I've been in their homes. I have hugged their necks, squeezed their hands in prayer, and given them my cortizone cream before I traveled their dusty village road back to America.

It wasn't just a week-long mission trip to scrapbook when I got home. Rather, it is a relationship, now five years in the making. It's grown and developed as they gain trust, come to Christ, and we grow in love for one another. They have names and siblings. We watch them grow from toddlers to teens. We bring them money from America, training in first aid, stoves with proper ventilation for indoor cooking, and friendship - the lasting kind.


They give, too. They broaden our perspective, they show us what simple faith is supposed to look like, their true dependence on God because there is nothing else. They smile their joy despite their bare feet, itchy lice, and distended bellies filled with parasites. We have much to learn. There is much to do. This Fallen Earth is no place for rest. There will be time for that when there is no more sorrow, and every tear is wiped away.

I feel the urgency when I see my son literally carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. And there are so many ends still in need.


Bibles in their native tongue, translated by Wycliffe translators whom Mike has met and whose story we have read, are delivered and disbursed - one per family. Each bible and family is prayed over by our team. This translator, a man from the village, was spontaneously recruited because he spoke both Spanish and Ke'chi. As he repeats powerful prayers in the ear of his grateful neighbors, he is humbled and moved to tears. He will now be among those that overflow the church, shoulder to shoulder, standing room only, for entire services.






My son, who struggles with consistency in his own bible reading, realizes that these people will not misplace their bible as he sometimes does. He's convicted by their eagerness for it. In the village, it is a most treasured posession, even when illiterate. The parents rely on their children to read it to them, the ones that get a small amount of schooling. Unlike Adrian, they will not forget to read.






These villages are far from civilization and the rule of law. What reigns here is mob rule. Crime is a rare problem, mostly because the villages lynch criminals. Just before our church team visited, this boy was caught breaking into a small store. The village was planning to tie him with ropes, pour gasoline on him and burn him. A death sentence. Pastor Domingo preached to the village the story of the woman caught in adultery, telling his flock we have all robbed God. Who will cast the first stone?

The village laid down their stones and flung forgiveness instead. The boy is now a Christ follower, and Mike and Cristian baptised him in the river with six other new believers. Pastor Domingo wades close by with rolled up pant legs and bowed head in thanksgiving. And so it is, God's law of forgiveness now reigns supreme in the village.




This meal of chicken soup and tortillas was not eaten by our team. It was cooked with unclean water. The same water from baptism, washing clothes, and bathing. They understand that their food makes us sick and know that we won't eat of it. But they are honored that we come, and they have never stopped preparing it for us.


Food they need to feed their families, sacrificed for overfed Americans who were glad to go without for a day. They do not have it to give, yet kill their finest and cook it for us with a heart of thankgiving anyway. God lavishes his grace and we Americans have much to learn. There is much to do, and Fallen Earth is no place for rest.

Mike sits and makes a joke, pretends to eat, but the laughter and friendship and the memories and brotherhood are not a joke...not pretend.

The medical work they did was meager. We had only one nurse with us this time, but the mountain people come even still. Adrian entertained children while they wait. Eager to get in, they steal a peek through the wall (yes, that is an exterior wall of the church building), hoping they will not be turned away . . . . No one is turned away. The prayer is most essential when the medical care is only a drop in the bucket. They depend on the Lord because there is nothing else. And we have much to learn. There is so much to do.






How Great Thou Art was sung that day in three languages (English, Spanish, Ke'cki), Christ crossing every barrier that divides. Humanity is exposed, all are vulnerable and laid bare before one another. Humility is in abundance. The villagers: humble of station, but rich in hard work, generosity, and unbelievable peace in the midst of survival stuggle. The Americans: rich in possessions, humbled by a surprise lesson that Poverty freely gives what money can't buy. A realization that we are all the same - in need of but few earthly comforts, and all desperate for mercy and saving grace.


They teach me that rest is something to look forward to. For now, I have been inconvenienced with knowing intimately a third world people. A people whose names I know. Whom I call friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. I am learning that rest is a luxury, indulged in at the expense of another...at least for now.

The rest I choose is the one Christ himself offers. Being weary and heavy-laden are pre-requisite. It involves a yoke that is easy and a burden that's light. But there is a yoke and a burden, to be sure. As long as I have unsaved neighbors and friends, there will be.


And I will not scold when my son falls asleep in church because he has labored hard in a field that is white for harvest. What better way is there to grow tired? What better way to rest? Besides, there'll be time for rest when we get Home.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grace Anyway

The last entry was June 7.

Twenty-one parched days without intentional gratitude. And I count what's dry instead of what's grace, and I am not the better for it. Has there really been nothing to be grateful for since then?

No love in our home, no continued health, no words thundered by the cherished Still Small Voice? No stolen looks, no falling asleep to the sound of Mike's mumbled prayer in the quiet dark over wife, children, home? No childrens' laughter while sharing dishwasher duties? No ice cream cones or swimming after dark with friends? No blackberry picking and no bible reading?

Have I been sleeping? Am I drugged and numbed by overabundance? Am I so spoiled and lazy as to have God's blessings wash through my life unnoticed? Unmerited, yet unnumbered? Unrecognized with thanksgiving?

I busy myself with earthly things of less import, and His blessings overflow my life even still. Grace anyway, always.

In reflection of time spent in a third world region, I am grateful for hot water; access to medical care; the ability to read and write; freedom; God's family ties that bridge nationalities, languages and cultures; a clean and constant food and water supply; a pantry and fridge: two - count them - areas of my home dedicated exclusively to food storage; not knowing what hunger is, not really; shampoo and toothpaste and toilet paper; electricity; chairs and time to sit;

Note to self: Wake up. Count the graces, not the shames. Never stop counting.

Watch, listen, and be astonished by...

~beautiful guitar and cracking, changing teenage voice singing His praise
~godly friends
~red cardinal's visit on window sill as I do dishes
~alarm clock telling me it's time to get up and to the job I am grateful to have
~the book of Jonah and God's mercy of second chances
~parents and children and the opportunity to love selflessly
~family all under one roof again, as we belong
~homesickness and a belated father's day - well worth the wait
~seven years of remission and other testimony telling
~the life and ministry of The Apostle Paul
~seeking with the promise of finding
~spontaneous praise and worship after Sunday evening service, led by the children with a wild heart for their Lord
~that even gratitude comes from Him



gifts #100 - 132 to be grateful for (and make up for lost time), along with many others at a holy experience. Join us and live a life of deliberate thanksgiving.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Way We Honor Dad

Reagan and Mikee poured it on thick and rich. The flattery to coax a yes from two moms worked its magic, and there was a sleepover in their near future. The novelty wore off about 3am though, when a tearful Reagan found Mikee's mom still awake with, "I wanna go home."

Reagan was missing Dad, but coming home wouldn't fix that because he's doing the work of Fallen Earth. Barbara, Mikee's mom, is a nurse - a good one, who can console and have compassion while getting to the end goal, which, in this instance, was a content and sleeping child. I don't know how she did it, but she did.

The next day, we got an invitation to the midnight premiere of Toy Story 3 and another sleepover. The only problem was that this would mean three slumber parties three nights in a row. There is such thing as too much of a good thing.

However, for reasons unknown even to me, I said yes again. Noelle and Reagan were excited...then not sure...excited...but I want to stay home...but let's go...oh, I don't know.... Tiredness was setting in. Missing Dad and Big Brother was taking a toll, and they hadn't been home much in the last two days. So I altered the plan: Movie Only/Sleep in Your Own Bed. They were disappointed-relieved.

When the moviecredits began to roll, they began to beg. We wanna go....let us go...pleeeeeeaaase!!! What were two tired Moms to do at two in the morning? We rushed home for their still-packed overnight bags and off they went with their friend...to the end of the street and back.

Reagan began to feel what she called "that weird feeling" and just knew, even from the start, she couldn't do it. Homesick. For Dad. She needed to stay home, because Dad was not. We were all baffled.

Noelle showed no hint of disappointment when she, too, got out of the car. That's just what good sisters do. They stick with you in the struggle, and never abandon you for a better offer. There is no better offer than family. And home. Noelle is sometimes wise beyond her twelve years. They slept like babies, side by side in their own beds that night. Sisters.

Night three started out with a pool party, snacks, a bible lesson, and lights out at midnight. It was an overnight party for the children's ministry of our church. When Reagan sobbed, "I can't sleep, I wanna come home," into the phone at 12:20, I thought it was a nightmare. I talked her into giving it another try, but by 1:15, Noelle and I were speeding down the interstate headed for Reagan. To bring her home, because Dad was not. It just didn't add up.

I did some of this, too, as a child. I always wanted my mom. There was just this uneasiness with no name whose only antidote was being together. A family. At home. There was a camping trip with Dad and cousins where I dreaded nightfall all day every day, and nightly kept myself awake with the fear that I would be the last to fall asleep...which made me the last to fall asleep. I just - wanted - to go - home.

Reagan got into the car apologizing and assuring me that she could have made it through the night away if Dad were home. It. Made. No. Sense. She was homesick. But only for Dad. Because he wasn't home. And again, the girls climbed in their beds, side by side, all right in the world again (even though Dad wasn't there), and slept.

I figured it out only today, after the sleep fog of midnight had past. Dad's the glue that holds us all together. When he's not here, we're unstuck and could be lost from one another. If he wasn't there, she needed to be, to do the clinging.

Being homesick honors our Father. And Reagan, too, is wise beyond her years.

The One who gave us our name - by sharing His - draws us to Himself. He makes us a family. He is our home. When Abba Father's there, the family bond's intact, and will draw us all together always. A family. At home. When He's there, and we know this, it's okay to be away. Because we won't be lost.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:37-39

Mike, this father's day, we're homesick for you. We miss you. It reminds me of another father's day we celebrated with someone missing - the children. Remember this?




Come home to us soon, Mike. We love you. Happy Father's Day Away.

holy experience

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And Light Flashes

It's dark and cozy-warm under cover. I hear the thunder roll heavy across the sky. The black undersides of my eyelids beckon me back to sleep. But rain pours down unrelenting, and electric razor touches a half-night's stubble. Two men, one grown, one growing, mumble preparation into the house silence. When the zipper whizzes past four corners of the suitcase, I know. These are the sounds of Fallen Earth.

The one where extra water was introduced with divine regret, and now cycles the earth with no permanent place to reside. It evaporates, gathers thick in the blue sky until the weight of it is too heavy and black to be borne, and crashes violent down again with loud cracks and violent streaks. And light flashes. Zigzagging its powerful way down to the ground.

Fallen Earth. The one with Narrow Gate that few will find. The one cursed, that produces only with man's toil, and even then, thistle and thorn. The one that rings with the sound of man's work, the kind that very life itself depends upon. It's strangely different from the happier sound of work's pleasure. The path is narrow and lightly trod because man is distracted now, busy eaking out meager existence by day and night. Walking with God in the cool of evening not even a vague memory, Man the word over is subject to the prince of the power of the air.

So they go. They pack the gospel, the medicine, the friendship into carry-ons and heft the burden over shoulder. They cross time zones and water gulfs in the sleeping hours to bring Hope, Peace, Life. And light flashes. Headlamps burn before the sleepy man and boy behind the three o'clock in the morning dashboard.

And light flashes. Blinks on a radar screen of airplane in air traffic control tower.

Armed with goodbye kisses and warm momma prayers for her boys and the families they travel to, father and son begin their journey to reach Fallen Man that struggle against Fallen Earth, and are far from their God. This work, too, is Fallen Earth's work. In the Garden, all was the right of communion. In the Curse, all is hidden, a mystery, a choice. Christ in you; the hope of glory. And light flashes. The sinful heart bows and the Light of the World sparks fire that changes a life forever.

Soul by soul, village by village, mountain path by rocky tail through Guatemalan jungle, step by step. The work of the Father and the Son done by fathers and sons, daughters and sisters, nine joined by Holy Spirit. And light flashes. A Bride is prepared for Lord Jesus, radiant white.

And Light flashes. The Son shines on new heaven and New Earth. All have chosen. All is rightful communion again. And my sleepy eyes yearn for the sights and sounds of New Earth.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Heavy"



Photo Friday - "Heavy"
A watchtower in the Castillo de San Marcos
St. Augustine, Florida

A national monument, this 300 year old bastion was built by Spain to defend her claim in the New Word. The castillo boasts walls that are made of a local limestone called coquina and erected over a 23 year period. Although battle scarred, the castillo was never defeated in battle. It is the oldest masonry work in North America and the only example of bastion fortification. Last year, we walked its stone and breathed its air. My favorite kind of history is the kind you can smell and touch and live.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fish Bait

God lures me from the book of Jonah, and I'm taking the bait, chewing on fresh truth for a spell. I want the hook to lodge deep and remain firm. The flesh bleeds to be sure, but the spirit gets anchored to a lifeline in the hand of God. This is a good thing, so I bite down hard.


If you are one of those certain someones who hasn't gotten as far into Jonah as I have, you know what to do. Check back after we cover Week 3. Bye, now.

I've done it. I've thrown myself into the raging sea of His mercy. First, I went back to his throne, asking, "Did I hear that right?" God remained silent. He said what He meant and He meant what He said. My God is faithful 100%. See, God tries to keep it simple; we make it complex. Mike and I walked and talked and prayed, slept on it a while, and concluded there was nothing left to do but take a deep breath, and jump in.

I've packed up the homeschool books and my stay-at-home-mom status, dusted off my resumé, and am searching for God's appointed fish of a full-time job to swallow me. The storm is financial, and the clouds of doubt still hang overhead. I'm awash in the waves of fear of change, but I know what I heard and I heard what I know; my God is faithful 100%.

I haven't worked full time in fifteen years. It's a terrible time to be looking for work and I don't feel qualified or confident, but that's just the cold belly of the fish -- right where God wants me. I'm praying, like Jonah did in the dark, full of surrender and faith, knowing God will deliver. That's just who He is. It's what He does.

God appointed several things in this bible story: a fish, a vine, a worm, and a wind. God's appointments were for Jonah's benefit. And Nineveh's benefit, too. The fish and the vine were for Jonah's provision and protection. The worm and the wind were appointed to show Jonah (and Nineveh) God's compassion. All four appointments paved the way for Jonah and Nineveh to be delivered from God's wrath to his compassion. (And sometimes we wonder if God's in control.)

The Greek word for appoint is, oddly enough, manah, a close relative to the manna that fed Israel in the desert. This one means to appoint, ordain, destine, number, or muster. And God threads his manah-manna to the end of his line, and waits with reel in hand for his appointed lure to whet my appetite.

It just so happens that I have a hankering for provision, protection and compassion. So if you'll excuse me, I have an "appointment" to get to. It's a lunch engagement with strings attached.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! ~Psalm 34:8

Friday, June 11, 2010

NHL: Birthdays

Six months worth of blood transfusions and chemo injections went without too many hitches, regardless of the fact that those six months were winter months with preschoolers and sickness in the house.

We found ourselves approaching April 2003 with good news and bad. Remission is always good news, but it needed a cherry on top - a bone marrow transplant to make all the poison "stick."

April and May were filled with new doctors from Duke Medical University, extensive tests and plans, and a preparatory large dose of chemo. This blast would completely obliterate every cell in his bone marrow, and was the ultimate demise of Mike's hair. Who would have thought that after fourteen years of marriage there was a place on his body I had not yet seen?

Then, Mike was given something to stimulate growth of a brand spanking new crop of baby stem cells, to be promptly harvested and absconded away to a refrigerator somewhere in the bowels of Duke Med. This was a safe, happy place: far, far away from the just-less-than-lethal doses of chemo that was soon to ravage the rest of Mike's body.

Bone Marrow Transplants are rescue missions. The whole point of BMT is to treat the patient with dangerous doses of chemo that would kill him if it weren't for the infusion of stem cells that rush back into his bone marrow from the bloodstream and help him recover faster than the chemo can kill you.

Yeah. It didn't sound very comforting to us either. But the doctors kept reassuring us that almost killing my husband would insure that he would live. So we placed his life in their hands.

Whover seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. ~Luke 17:33



We received a calendar that looked like something from a NASA space shuttle launch, with days numbered beginning with negative numbers counting down to Day 0 (exactly seven years ago today). Day 0 was the day they reinfused Mike's stem cells, God's DNA factories, back into his bloodstream to save his life.

Those negative days were, well, negative. Six days in-patient -- every other day a lethal chemo day, alternating with one recovery day.

The second chemo day was the worst. The infusion time was four hours and this particular poison causes blood pressure to drop. His lowest reading was 80/12. I kept thinking, 12 is not far from none. The nurse was practically straddling Mike in the bed to monitor his blood pressure.

When your blood pressure is that low, you get the chills: violent, bone-shaking chills (the body's way of trying to warm itself). Without much circulation in his body, he was having trouble staying warm, and cold did not begin to describe it. We wrapped him in warmed blankets, but couldn't give him any meds until his BP was respectable again, which meant 45 minutes of exhausting shakes. Demorol finally put him at rest until the vomiting and diarrhea set in. Then the fever of 102.5 kicked in. When I had to leave him that night, he was still burning up and was asking for prayer. When he said, "The spirit is willing; the flesh is weak," it was the understatement of his born life.

Day 0: June 11, 2003: From my email to friends and family:

Mike is feeling miserable, but they're saying that he's doing great. He was kicked out of the hospital two days ago. In the world of transplant, today is Mike's new birthday - the start of whole new life. So now, apparently Mike has been born, born again, and now, once again. Pray for protection from infection and bleeding - which he is susceptible to right now and could be life threatening...and hum Happy Birthday for us. We'll hear you.



Four days later, Mike recounted the day for himself with sobering clarity:

Day 0: Transplant. This was a tough day; I felt weak, but my stem cells were reinfused. Dawn called it a new birthday; my cells had been replanted to start new life. I heard the words of Jesus anew, "Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom." There is no way to see the kingdom,to work for the kingdom, to do the will of the kingdom, unless there is a change - a reinfusion of life from dead works to serve the living God. One must pass from death into life. There was no other way. One cannot come on his own terms because there is nothing good within man. All his spiritual cells are polluted with sin. He cannot on his own merit gain holiness and the glory of God. He must come through the cross, where the blood of the Lamb is able to transfuse him from death to life. Glory to God for Jesus and his blood.


So happy birthday, Mike, three times over. Every moment since that day seven years ago has been a gift. An unspeakable gift.

Leviticus 17:11 ~ For the life of the flesh is in the blood....



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Decisions Decisions

Some are big, some are small, but life just doesn't move forward without them.

We have to evaluate, access, take stock continually.

I've always thought most women want it all. I think it's possible, too, but usually not all at the same time.

I couldn't build a career and rear my children as a stay at home mom simultaneously.

I couldn't live to the standard that 11 years of higher education (between us) usually affords and spend my days filling sippy cups and cutting crust off PB&Js.

I can't wish for the wisdom that comes with age without embracing the extra pounds, wrinkles, and gray hair.

But I can take Katherine Hepburn's wisdom without the extras. I thought it was a killer line in Love Affair, and I don't usually remember movie lines, except "Nobody puts Baby in the corner!" comes to mind, but I digress.

Today, was a day for decision. It was election day. We Americans want our cake and eat it too, but happiness is not always found in having it all:



"...Are you happy?"


Monday, June 7, 2010

NHL: Be Still

Nine days after being admitted, Mike left the hospital with a few souvenirs: a diagnosis needing confirmation by a second opinion, a port in place for chemotherapy treatments, normal liver function (at least for the moment), and bone-marrow tested and deemed cancer-free.

The cancer still had free reign of his body, and, to make matters worse, Mike was now recovering from a three hour surgery to get a better biopsy and place the port, which wasn't functioning properly. He could be facing more surgery for a port tune-up. I brought a very delicate man home from the hospital.

And it only lasted 48 hours. He went back for 18 more days, 16 of which remained without treatment. God was teaching us to be still.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. ~Psalm 37:3-6 (emphasis mine)


Until now, Mike had not uttered a single complaint. It was remarkable; but he broke the winning streak when we left the children...again. His kidneys and liver were failing again. They simply were no match for baseball-sized and grapefruit-sized tumors, still untreated.

Eight days of waiting ensued, and we were now losing the liver failure battle, too. Mike needed cancer treatment desperately, but we couldn't seem to clear the hurdles that stood in the way. The waiting was literally killing him.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness; I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;therefore I will wait for Him." Lamentations 3:21-24 (emphasis mine)


I prayed these scriptures and begged for open doors before us and that gates would not be shut from Isaiah 45:1-3:


As I followed an ambulance two hours away from my babies for the next ten days, God's choir reassured me from the car stereo speakers:



I continue to count the daily graces He gives....#90 - 99:

~fireflies at dusk
~the cool of the evening
~front porch rocking with friends
~the cool breeze bringing the smell of the grill
~having company
~the neighbor's flowers become mine
~laughing hard and long
~Wii Just Dance with my church girls (who better not put videos on facebook)
~teaching the bible again after a long time
~Really knowing He is God...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Aqua"


Photo Friday - "Aqua"
One of many beautiful doors in the cobblestone streets of the old capitol city of Guatemala, Antigua. November 2008

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beautiful Blooms

My neighbor just retired from teaching government, and she's been hosting parties to celebrate. Then, the afternoon of her last day of school (ever!), she and her Mister high-tailed it to the Florida Keys for some fun. She had beautiful flowers adorning three rooms leftover from her entertaining, and, not wanting them to go to waste, she shared her wealth with me. I'm still learning, and my photographs were more misses than hits, but here's a few of the good ones. Now if I could only capture the fragrance, too....

















Friday, June 4, 2010

NHL: Lessons Begin

Mike looked like the picture of health two weeks before NHL had a whole new meaning, when the church celebrated his birthday. Looks can be deceiving, because Mike was feeling terrible, and the competition going on inside his body rivaled that of the old NHL. The look on our daughter's face mirrored the concern I already felt on the inside, but was doing my best to cover up.



Remembering is a glimpse into the past, looking at the free-fall from the future, where hindsight is 20/20, health has been restored, and lessons aptly learned.

From my first email of 10/9/02 to so many who loved, prayed and supported....

He is in pain, fatigued, and having trouble eating, keeping food down, and sleeping at night. Each day and night seems progressively worse.

We are trusting God to be our tour guide through this valley. We know full well the power of prayer, and covet all the prayer we can get. We have been praying for healing, peace, sleep, strength, and God's glory through it all. He has already begun to use this as an instrument to transform both Mike and me into the image of Christ. Our prayer is that we do not hinder His work in our lives....

The next day, Mike was hospitalized. He had become defenseless in the clutches of a greedy disease. The color of Cuba on his skin had turned to the color of pumpkin from jaundice (from liver failure), and he was showing early signs of dehydration (from kidney failure). My email from that day continued,

They all [the kidney, liver, heart and blood issues] could be as insignificant as signs that his body is under such stress, or it could mean that these areas, too, are cancerous.

Mike's spirit is stayed on Christ -- he's strong while his body appears to be withering before my eyes. But we walk by faith and not by sight. God is sustaining me as well. He is a good God still.

Three days later, the email contained some very good news:

The last two days have held so much for us, I could never tell you every wonderful thing.

On Saturday between noon and dinner time, I watched as Mike came back to me, improving moment by moment before my eyes. Every one of his conditions improved -- victories on every front:
~His calcium level has corrected.
~He was able to move his bowels, and they look normal.
~He was able to eat solid food for the first time in days.
~He started urinating again (coming out of renal failure).
~His urine color lightened from darker than iced tea back to normal.
~He actually sat up, stayed awake, and watched the Miami game on TV.
~He has had no nausea or pain meds since Saturday noon.
~His blood pressure was normal for the first time in two months.
~His night nurse cried with us when she saw the difference in him from her shift Friday night to Saturday night. She said no medication cleared up the color of his urine. There is no explanation for that.
~The GI doctor decided on Saturday afternoon to place a stint in Mike's liver to unblock the bile duct because his bilirubin continued to climb from the normal 0.1 to 8.0. But overnight, his bilirubin dropped from 8.0 to 3.0. The doctor cancelled the procedure, saying he was shocked and amazed and had never seen this before. We told him it was the hand of the Lord moving mightily.
~We had people we had never even met (including two pastors) come in and pray with Mike. They said they just felt led to do it. Another stranger came to pray and left us a check for $100. We had never seen this man before, didn't know who he was, [and have never seen him again].
~When I left him tonight, he was driving his IV pole through the oncology unit praying for fellow patients' healing.




It had only been a week since that fateful phone call. Three days were down out of 31 in the hospital. There had been a biopsy, yet we wouldn't have a firm diagnosis until more than a month after the word lymphoma first escaped the doctor's lips. There was on-again-off-again liver failure, and endless waiting for insurance company decisions, a transport ambulance, and a free bed in the oncology unit at Medical University of South Carolina. We waited for liver enzymes to recover so we could begin chemo and for the day we would be reunited with our children, who had been pretty much abandoned, and were staying with anyone and everyone who was remotely willing to keep them for us. When accompanied by the crushing need to move forward, the waiting was tedious.

But God is never desperate or in a hurry. When your world goes crazy, He is constant and steady at His work, creating in us a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. The medical details I've had to look back up, but the teaching God etched on my heart is still freshly known -- because these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is Love.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jeff...

I think of you so often
and miss you always


especially today.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Not the National Hockey League

I just finished speaking when the emergency call came through. I left the conference immediately to get back home to Mike. He had been taking care of our three children, ages two, three, and six, all weekend. It was a pretty tall order for a man who had begun to have trouble taking care of even himself.

God had given me the message a month or so before the women's conference. It was a recipe of sorts for a holy bride. (A bit corny, I agree, but I just speak what God gives me.) Take one harlot, cover with the blood of Christ, bake in the oven of trial and some other recipe details I don't really remember anymore.

What I do remember eight and a half years later is that God gave me that message as a warning. God was preheating the oven, and I was still unaware. I distinctly remember using the sample scenario of a refining trial, "When the phone rings and the doctor says, 'It's cancer,'...."

I arrived home, heavy with helpless concern, to a husband at wit's end, nearing the limit of his physical ability to function normally, and totally inadequate as a Dad solely in charge of his three exuberant rug rats.

He was struggling through days one at a time. Nights, too. Specialists had already spent six weeks looking for the culprit and coming up empty. What is it that causes night sweats, rapid weight loss, a ferocious cough, sluggish bowels, food to get stuck in your esophagus, and a type A personality to resort to daytime television?

The gastroenterologist finally found the answer to our million dollar question -- lymphoma. One phone call to a very sick man who was home alone with the very words of my sample scenario of a refining trial. I'll never forget the moment that NHL no longer meant National Hockey League and would forever-after mean Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Before we could get through the two weeks of tests that were scheduled, Mike's body began to succumb to the tumors that took two solid months of feeling progressively sicker to find. His body could do no more. Liver failure led to kidney failure, which led to a heart murmur and irregular palpitations and a calcium release from his bone marrow into his blood (which might bring osteoporosis to a 37 year old man). The dominoes were falling, and the doctors scrambled to play catch up as quickly as hospital-possible. After all, cancer had stopped being a silent killer some two months ago and was now loudly chanting victory. It was a fairly impressive head start by a formidable foe.

Mike, who lay dying in a hospital bed, was branded by pen to medical chart: NHL. Those three little letters pushed me over the proverbial cliff, and it was a five week long free-fall. No bottom, no bearings, no rest, and no catching your breath. It took five excruciating weeks to stem all the vital organ failure and complete the tests to determine an exact diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan.

There was so much fear, but, unbelievably, there was also peace. Admittedly, it was a meager amount in the deepest recesses of my soul. It was hard to focus on mustard-seed-size peace when the world had just been pulled from under my feet, cancer screaming for attention. When I did find the strength to look up, I saw a parachute above me. The underside looked suspiciously like the hollowed, hallowed palm of God.

It was a welcome sight, even though I still didn't know if Mike would survive, my new million dollar question. There was relief even though the breath of God was whispering close the question that reverberates still: "Do you love me more than this life?" It's funny how comforting a talking parachute can be when you're falling from the edge of the world you've always known, even when it's asking you very scary questions. I guess a girl takes what comfort she can get when she's baking in the oven of fiery trial.

I developed a desperate need to know two things: "How will this end?" and "When will this be over?" Time taught me that I will never know those answers. When you're surviving cancer, you never get to quit and you never really know. Instead of answers, you get a roller coaster ride through long treatment, a bond to doctors who willingly fight for your life by your side, and lessons in trusting the One who knows it all.

Mike, understandably, doesn't like to remember the torture of cancer or its treatment, but I never want to forget. God was so good, so faithful, so merciful. And every June, I remember... and celebrate.


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