Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Open Letter

This morning I stood in church surrounded by people in their Sunday best. This is not just any Sunday. This is the Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  It is the day that we celebrate a living God. (Now if you are not a believer, please don't stop reading, you are part of the reason I have to write! Please read on!) As I stood and sang, a prayer raced through my mind.  Normally I would consider my prayers to be very private and personal, meant for me and God. Normally I wouldn't consider posting them, but as I was flooded with thankfulness, I had a nudging to share. For those of you new to my world, this year I was diagnosed with a rare cancer (I call it a Nuisance and only use the "c" word when I have to be clear to others-- I do not claim it or give it power in my life.)  Because of my journey  I have seen with greater clarity how real and alive He is. He is a God that gives amazing gifts. The gifts I have been given were never intended only for me. They were intended to show that God is real. They were intended to show what He can do and how much He loves His children. The blessings I have been shown are messages to others about what God longs to do for each of us. My brother-in-law, David, told me once that his grandfather always said, "In troubling times God's children have His complete attention." I have found that to be so true. So I share my prayer, not to bring attention to me, but to bring glory to God, because HE is good. I share it that you can experience it, too!

An Open Letter to God

Dear God,
There are some gifts that are so amazing that thank you is insufficient. The words I say to show appreciation on a daily basis to people who are helpful--the waiter, the person that holds the door, the bank teller--seem so underrated when offered to you.  As if the sacrifice of your one and only son was not enough, you daily seek to show me how personally you love me. That has been an amazing experience for me. The gift of Christ is an incredible gift and I hate to confess it, but there are times that I have thought of it almost as a gift for the masses, something you did for all mankind, but for me? Would you have done it for me alone? Through your daily gifts I have learned that the answer to that question is an undeniable yes! How can I know that? How can others believe it? Because I have seen the proof. Just as Mary and John and Peter witnessed the empty tomb, the proof that Christ was alive, I have seen the proof that you are alive in me. God, I am so grateful that although I walk along a dark path, I am not engulfed in the darkness. You have brought light to every day. Though my mind is often filled with frightening thoughts, you take those thoughts captive and allow me to see hope. Though it would be so easy to sink, you make sure that I remain afloat. At just the right time you send people, songs, card, calls to remind me of your love, to remind me you see me. Though my body is under attack,  you have given me strength not only to walk, but to run. This experience has been meant to harm me, but you have used it for good. You are real. You are alive. You are not for the masses, but for the individuals who make up the masses. How sad that it takes me being knocked to my knees to recognize your great, personal love for me. If that is what it takes, then I am grateful.  I know, Father, that "the nuisance" is not from you, because you give perfect gifts, but I know that you use all things for my good. Thank you that when I am knocked down, you lift my chin, look  in my eyes and gently care for me. Thank you for seeing me, for dying for me and for living for me. May I never again take for granted how much YOU love ME. 

(A note to the reader:   Don't wait for a crisis to see God's presence in your life. He daily seeks to get your attention. Watch for him in the sunset tonight. See him in a smile tomorrow. Hear him in the laughter of your children. Feel him when your loved one holds your hand. Recognize him when you are shown exceptional kindness.  Do not believe He doesn't know you individually, for He most certainly does. He created you, loves you and hovers about you even as you read this. Your heart recognizes Him, even though your mind may downplay the logic of Him. He is not logic, so don't attempt to rationalize Him. He is love, be loved by Him. Believe. I am proof He is alive and well.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ever Been to Schlitterbahn?

Have you ever been to Schlitterbahn? It is an awesome water park with slides and rivers full of twists and turns. The first time we took our twin boys, they were about eight years old. As a mom, I was hyper-vigilant about where they were at all times. I knew that once we got onto some of the water rides there would be places where we would be at the mercy of the water. If we got separated, getting back together would be a challenge. I also knew that there were places where the rides would fork and one direction would send you to the river, while the other kept you in the park. As we would climb to the top of the rides, we would have a decision to make about what slide to take, but once we committed to that slide, the rest was beyond our control.

I have been thinking a lot about that experience today. It is a pretty good illustration of how I feel today as we head back home from MD Anderson. When we climbed to the top of this ride back in January, we had to choose what "slide" to take. We decided that we would go with the one doctors advised. And "itza doozie". We grabbed our floatation devices and got on. Now, three months later, we are on a ride full of dips and turns that we do not control. We underwent major surgery to remove tumors from my chest, we took a steep drop as we discovered in surgery there are many more that could not be reached. We quickly whirled around a curve to begin six rounds of Power Aid (chemo to those who are confused). Our heart rates elevated when we heard the news that we will only have to endure four rounds right now because we are seeing a good response. Then whoosh, today we learned that because of that great response we will  face another swift drop in six weeks to surgically remove anything we can that remains. Following that twisting turn, we will enter a tunnel, that for now,  is too dim to see. Ups, downs, twists, turns, holding our breath, squeezing our eyes shut, sometimes wanting to scream --there is no getting off, no speeding it up, only finishing the ride.

Back to Shlitterbahn. As my little boys would climb to the tops of the watersides sometimes their courage would waiver. They would want to climb back down. Their chins would quiver when they realized there was no turning back now. I would remind them how we had been on other water slides and it had all turned out great. I would recall with them about the experiences where we'd splashed through to the end. I'd take their hand and we'd climb into the inner-tubes together and then we would scream and laugh our way to the bottom. It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 105:5 that says, "Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgements He has pronounced. " When we recalled the wonders we had seen, the future did not seem so scary. As I stand ready for the next twists and turns of this ride,  I remember what God had done so far. He has delivered me through physical trials. He has healed my wounds. He has allowed me to see His love in ways I could not have imagined. He has let me to know the love and comfort of family, friends, and even strangers, in ways that most people never have the privilege of seeing. I will not fear my future. I have such a wealth of evidence from my past that I will be okay. I am grabbing my inner-tube and screaming and laughing my way through this ride! I will remember the wonders He has done and watch for the next miracle that lies around the corner! Viva La Schlitterbahn!!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


"In the happy moments, praise God. In the difficult moments, seek God. In the quiet moments, trust God. In every moment, thank God." 

We are at MD Anderson this week checking on the progress of my treatment. On days like these you experience such a variety of moments. There is a lot of waiting, a lot of wondering, and a lot of talking to God.  I awoke this morning before the sun could peek through the curtains. In those quiet moments I prayed that regardless of what the day held I would have evidence that God was with me. I prayed for sight to see evidence of His work even when it didn't seem visible to the human eye. I prayed for strength to trust even if the path seemed uncertain. God was eager to show off.

 As I was called back to my first appointment, the technician commented on the cross ring I wear. I told her it was a reminder to me that God was always with me. For the next 30 minutes she spoke to me of God and faith and healing. She told me how God works miracles and examples of how she has seen that happen. She sat knee to knee with me and looked me in the eyes intently as she told me stories of what she had seen God do. Each new message began with, "I have a beautiful story of..." . It was as if she was reaching into a bag and drawing out a precious gift she wanted to unwrap and share with me. I received such evidence that God was with me. God answers prayer.

As we waited for our next appointment, we sat in the cafeteria of this immense hospital. I saw hundreds of people who are in various states of crisis and illness. There are medical needs, financial needs and huge spiritual needs. In these difficult moments, how do we trust there are enough miracles to go around? What separates my prayers from theirs? As I pondered that it occurred to me that with a limited, finite God this would be a crap shoot. We would all be competing against one another for a limited number of miracles. An answer to my prayer might mean there wasn't enough left miracle left for the person at the next table. But my God is not limited or finite. He has enough power to meet every need and still have plenty left over. In these difficult moments He calls me to seek Him and when I do, I will find him. He is faithful. God answers prayers.

As we arrived for our final appointment of the day, we received summaries of the tests that had been performed to assess the progress of my treatment. Lab work-- great! Pulmonary function--great! Tumors--significantly decreased after only two treatments! Want to talk about happy moments? That type of news will make you happy! Praise God!!!  God answers prayers!

"In the happy moments, praise God. In the difficult moments, seek God. In the quiet moments, trust God. In every moment, thank God."  Each new day has a variety of moments. Some will be happy, some will be hard.  Some will be joyful and some will seem frighteningly silent. Know that God is in every moment, but also know that our response may be what allows us to see him --or not. The sun may be shining brilliantly, but if we don't open our eyes we can miss the brilliance of it. Spiritually speaking, The Son may be shining brilliantly, but if we don't open our eyes we may miss the brilliance of Him.  Praise Him. Seek him. Trust Him. Thank Him. God answers prayer. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hope Deferred---But Not for Long!

Today I was supposed to go in for round 2 of my Power Aid. I steeled my nerve, put on my big girl hair and prepared to face the challenge. It takes a little  (okay, a lot) of nerve to walk into that place, I cannot lie. But I smiled and bantered when they accessed my port. I cheerfully interacted with the nurse as she updated my information, and  then I tearfully listened as the doctor told me my blood counts were too low for me to have my treatment today. The voice in my head (please tell me you have one, too)  began to scream, "Ugh, all that prep for nothing! This delay throws off our MD Anderson appointments! It means I won't be done by the end of May! It means our Spring Break plans are changed---again!  In our old life we were going to Disney World! Those plans shifted to Houston, and now? Who knows. "

I felt frustrated for a little while, but what do you do? You either sit and have a pity party or you pick up and start walking. I walked. Phooey!

We left the office and went to the main hospital to pick up some medical records that I am supposed to take to MD Anderson-- whenever that is. I called and requested them yesterday and after three call transfers, I was helped by a sweet voice identified as Janice.  She told me she'd have them ready, just to call when I was headed her way. So today I called. She gave me careful directions to find her. When we entered her office I told her how much her helpfulness meant to me. We spoke for maybe two minutes, tops. Records in hand, we thanked her and left. Enter God.

On our way home, Rodney and I stopped to get something  to eat. As we entered the restaurant my phone rang. It was the sweet voice, Janice. She asked me if I had a minute to talk. When I said I did and she began to speak. She told me that she just wanted me to know she had felt compelled (God) to tell me she was going to be praying for me. She said she didn't understand it, but sometimes you just meet people that touch you. She said that she had felt that way when she met me today and wanted to commit to pray for me. By this time I was crying and she was, too. How amazing that a total stranger would 1) want to pray for me, 2) call me to tell me about it and 3) cry with me as she told me. It was such affirmation that even on days when I feel let down, God has His eyes on me. Not only that, but He doesn't want it to be a secret. He wants me to know it. The song (based on Romans 8:28) began to play in my head, "He makes all things work together for my good."

Today wasn't what I planned, but it was exactly what God planned. How do I know? He promises that all things work together for good to those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. What else did I learn? That a stranger's voice can make a huge difference in someone's life. How many opportunities have I missed to connect to someone? It doesn't take a lot. I know I will be watching for opportunities in the future!

So what now? I wait a week and let my body strengthen then I suck it up and try again. I reschedule MDA appointments. Maybe this just give more time for a miracle. I enjoy Spring Break at home with my family. I avoid sick people like the plague. I spend time being grateful that they are changing all my nausea meds for a better round 2.  I look for chances to be a Janice to someone. You be looking, too! Okay? I want to hear about it when you get your chance!!

Keep marching!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

If I have learned one thing lately it is this, you don't always get to choose what happens to you in life, but you do get to choose how you respond to it.

When I started my Power Aid (aka chemo, to those of you who haven't read my blog before) I was told I should expect to lose my hair on the 14th day of treatment. Now if you know anything about me, you know I like my hair! Big hair! Maybe it is the Texan in me, maybe I just have good taste (wink, wink), but I like hair. I tease it, spray it, throw it over my shoulder. It makes me happy. It is my friend and part of my persona! I began to beg God to spare my hair. I prayed and bargained. I told him all the ways I would give Him the glory if I could just keep it, but on day 13 I rubbed my fingers through my long locks only to find them no longer on my head, but in my hands. All I could think was, "Hair today, gone tomorrow." (Seriously, that is what I thought--sometimes I scare myself.)

Now just so you know, God didn't fail me or ignore my prayer. He knows how I feel about my hair. He gave it to me. He isn't the one taking it away, but He is the one that will use it to help me see beyond my follicles.  There have been so many times in the last four months that I have thought, "__________ is the worst possible thing that could happen to me."  Over and over God has used ____________ to change my perspective. He is faithful even when times are hard.

Since the first time the "C" word was mentioned back in November, I have wondered how I would face the "bald" truth. Would I be embarrassed? Sad? Crushed? How would my boys feel to be the only 6th graders with a bald mom? Here's what I realized-- the answers to all those questions hinged on one thing. Me. I didn't choose this, but by golly, I would choose how it would happen and how we dealt with it. Weeks ago I decided that this would go down on my terms and would serve a purpose---and there would be cake! I made some proclamations.

Proclamation One- Good would come from this! If it had to lose my hair, it wouldn't be on my pillow, floor or in my trash can! My loss would be someone else's gain. I decided to cut my hair before it became unusable and donate them to Beautiful Lengths.  Pantene works with the American Cancer Society to make free wigs for cancer patients in need. My hair would be of no use to me, but someday someone will tease it, spray it and throw it over their shoulder.  A head in need deserves hair indeed! 

Proclamation Two- I wasn't going down alone. I couldn't imagine how hard it would be to walk into the bathroom alone and shave my head as tears streamed down my face. Worked on Parenthood, but just not my style. I wouldn't do this alone, nor would I go quietly! I decided to fill my bathroom with kids and laughter. This was partly for me and partly for my boys. I wanted to empower them to take some control of this as well. I wanted them to see that together we could face this with courage and confidence. I bought bald wigs for my boys, nieces and nephews, even my Arkansas kids, and requested their presence for a Bald is Beautiful party--even from afar. I put my hair in small ponytails, they slapped on their bald wigs, and together we cut off the locks. My mother, in her bald wig, shaved the rest and as a family found joy, not sorrow and love, not fear or embarrassment.

Proclamation Three- There must be cake! We celebrated the healing, not the loss, the blessings not the trials. God is good and He cares for me. Matthew 10:29-31 says, "Are not not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of the Father. And even the hairs on your head are numbered. SO DO NOT BE AFRAID. You are worth more than many sparrows!" God knows the number of each hair I lost and He cares! I have nothing to fear. My value is not on my hair, it is in His love for me! I am no Samson. Samson's strength was in his hair and the promise it represented. When he lost his hair, he lost his strength. I, on the other hand, am becoming stronger through the loss of my hair. God is using the trial to increase my strength, confidence and faith.

I knew the party had the desired effect when I saw Spencer's post on Instagram. He said, "Tonight I shaved my mother's head, but it wasn't sad. It just means the medicine is working!"  We had a choice. We chose joy!

So here I am, clean shaven and braced for the next wave. I plan on rocking some pretty wigs and "letting my hair down"! When people see me and wonder, "Is that her hair?" Why, yes it is. I have the receipt to prove it! And if for one moment someone thinks of making fun of my baldness, let me tell you another biblical truth I have learned from 2 Kings 2:23-24. "From there Elisha went up to Bethel. as he was walking along, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. "Get out of here, baldy" they said. He turned around and looked at them and called down a curse in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the boys." Lesson? Don't make fun of bald people and beware of bears!! (Betcha didn't remember that pieces of Bible trivia!--- thanks Mom!)