Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In the Words of Willie Nelson--"On the Road Again"

We have come so far in almost 3 years! Tomorrow, November 18, 2015, Rodney and I will leave for Houston for tests at MD Anderson. I was scrolling through my blog and was reminded of a BIG trip to Houston when we went for surgery. God is so amazing and has done SO much since May 2013. This week we will see the same doctors from the story below. Pray for us as we travel and pray for our doctors as they guide us. Pray for our boys as they are in the loving care of family!

You all have been, and continue to be, such a blessing to our family! Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! We expect miracles! LIVING AS IF!!

May 2013

This is a big week for the Jackson crew.  We have checked off our final round of Power Aide (hear the angels sing?!?) and now we move to the next phase of attack---surgery. Wow! By the time I am done I am going to have more scars on my body than a road map of Texas, but if that is what it takes to kick this nuisance, then so be it. I will be a personally monogrammed map of triumph!

Your prayers and encouragement have sustained us on this rocky road. It is an amazing thing to look back over the past 6 months of struggle with this and honestly be able to say that I have cried more tears of amazement than tears of sadness. You have loved us, fed us, covered for us, supported us, and prayed for us. If it isn't too much to ask, we'd love to solicit your prayers for the needs that lie ahead.

Wednesday morning I will leave for MD Anderson. Rodney is giving his Chemistry End-Of-Course exam (big state test) and doesn't want run out on his kids who have worked so hard, so he will fly in later that day to catch up with me. I will have labs and CT scans done on Wednesday to see where we are standing with things.  Please pray that my blood counts are all good and that the CT scans show that the little boogers (tumors) got blown to bits by my Power Aide and are no longer existent! Pray that everything is in order so that surgery can be performed.

Thursday morning I will meet with my MD Anderson oncologist. His name is Dr. Blumenschein. He will review the labs and scan with us and give any input on treatment that he sees necessary. We saw Dr. Blumenschein on our initial visit, but he has been out on leave for our last two. That means he will have a little catching up to do on my progress.  Pray that he gains a thorough understanding of where we are in my recovery. Pray he has wisdom in his decision making regarding my case. Pray that God blesses him for his willingness to be a healer.

Friday we will meet with the surgeon, Dr. Vaporciyan. I LOVE THIS MAN! Each time we have met with him he has given us valuable information about our situation. If you remember my earlier blog, In the Details, I talked about the miracle we had our first time at MD Anderson when we realized that Dr. Vaporciyan, whom we were squeezed in with at the last moment as an afterthought, trained the surgeon who did my initial surgery in Lubbock. He is a miracle and we are glad for him! He will make final surgery plans with us and answer any remaining questions. Pray that he is able to remove any remaining cells of the nuisance--each little one. Pray that the margins of the tumors are clear and that the pathology is good so it never regroups and attacks. Pray for Dr. Vaporciyan's hands, his eyes, his mind and his judgement as he performs surgery on me. Pray that God uses him to perform a miracle!

After we meet with Dr. Vaporciyan, I will meet with the anesthesiologist. I do not know who that will be yet, but he has a very important job! The greatest obstacle I faced with the last surgery was nausea from the anesthesia. It lasted for days. Pray that they will find the perfect balance of medication to control the pain and avoid the nausea.

Then the waiting begins. Rodney and I will stay in Houston over the weekend. My mom, dad, and two sisters will join us on Monday. Then Tuesday is the big day. I will have surgery on the 14th. The surgery will involve an incision between my ribs on my back (a few will be broken to get in there). It is a pretty tough little surgery. The goal of the surgery is to remove any remainders of tumors. There are two that have been seen on scans that have already shown improvement, but during my first surgery more were felt on my diaghram. These have not shown up on any scans so we don't know exactly what we're dealing with there. Hopefully, they are no longer there or by some strange chance, were never tumors, but some kind of scarring or other medical mystery! One of the greatest risks is to my lungs. Since they have already been beaten up a little by the first surgery, there is a chance they will have small punctures when they begin to manipulate them. This is one of the greatest risks. Please pray that my lungs hold strong. Pray for success in the surgery- clean margins and easy removal. Pray that my recovery is smooth and that we are able to get home without any bad side effects.

That brings me to the biggest prayer of all. Our total time away from home is probably going to be around 15-16 days. That is a long time to be away from my babies. Pray for our family as we are apart. Pray that the days goes swiftly and that all our needs are met while we are apart. Pray that my boys are confident and courageous (and us too!) Please pray for my family members as they take care of my kids and for their teachers as they take care of them at school. And if you see them, give them a big hug!!!!!

Finally, please pray for the next phases.  After surgery, my medical team will have to make some decisions about what is next. It could involve more Power Aide, radiation, or by the grace of God a miracle. Radiation would involve 4-6 weeks in Houston (PLEASE NO!!!!!!!!). Power Aide would involve more of what we've endured. Neither sound very fun. PRAY FOR A MIRACLE! Pray that we don't require any more treatment to have this thing totally beat. But most of all, pray for God's will. He knows what is best for me. That is what I want.

Thank you again for loving us. Thank you for sharing these requests with your prayer groups. Thank you for being a part of our healing team and our lives! Now, let's get ready for the miracles!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Prayer for the Persecutioner

This post is very different from anything I have shared before, but I cannot get it out of my mind. I actually wrote it months ago and hesitated to post it, but each new event brings it back to my mind. I know that we all have a variety of opinions on war and politics, my intent is not to fuel a feud, but to share a different perspective. You do not have to agree with me. I do not have to agree with you. We each answer only to one. This is what that one has been laying on my heart. 
..."But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.

Persecuted. Women. Men. Children. Persecuted.
My mind has struggled to make sense of it. I have felt anger. I have felt despair. I have felt fear. I have wondered how to pray. I have seen responses calling for hell fire and damnation, and sometimes that is how God disciplines, but my mind could not find rest with that prayer. I keep thinking of a particular persecutioner. Worse than the rest, he feels totally justified in his killing. He prides himself on his crimes and feels no repentance for his violence. He marches across the country slaying those who do not believe like him, leading others in the crusade. He breeds fear. He breeds anger. He breeds despair. And then one day, this murderer of believers, is traveling on his mission of destruction. Like a predator he stalks his prey when suddenly he is blinded by a light. Lifting his hands to shield his eyes he hears a voice, and in a moment his life is changed, and so are ours. Not hell fire, not damnation, but a question. "Why are you persecuting me?" He had an encounter with Jesus Christ. On that day it was the persecutor that died--- to a life of murder. He began a new life as a passionate servant of a God he could not deny.

That man, Saul of Tarsus,  went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament. He was himself persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, abandoned, for his dedication to a Savior he had once denied. His messages to the churches of his day continue to speak to churches of ours. I am left wondering if in our fear, despair, and anger we are praying the wrong prayers. Instead of justice and vindication, what if we pray that today's persecutioners meet a Savior who will change their hearts, a God who will show them love. What if we pray that they are blinded by a truth that is too brilliant to be denied? What if the tide of hate is changed because we pray for the persecutor's salvation rather than their destruction? What if?

Things can change. People can change. Even those most committed to a mission can be changed by an encounter with a loving God.
Pray for the persecuted, oh please pray for them and their protection, and then pray for the persecutioner as well. It may very well be the greatest of all weapons in this war!

ACTS 9:9-22
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Off to Houston Again (God Has A Plan For That!)

This week has been one of ups and downs. My kids have had some victories in their lives and some sadness. I celebrated the life of a great man with his family and friends as we sadly said our final earthly goodbyes. I watched with sadness as our world was once again attacked by terrorists and I had to click off the news page as I read of mothers who have killed their children. Our world can be a really broken place. Meanwhile, life moves on and as mine does I face another trip to Houston for tests and doctor visits at MD Anderson. Normally as I gear up for that trip the verse, "They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD." Psalm 112:7 is running through my mind, but this week there is another I have been reflecting on. I  found myself saying it as I talked to our youth group on Sunday. I referenced it as I talk to my son about a loss he experienced that brought heartache. This morning it popped up on my phone as the verse of the day. I have quoted it to myself for assurance all week. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

As I read my Twitter feed this morning I saw a world asking how a good God can allow bad to happen. If He is so loving, why did people die? If He is so powerful, why do families fall apart? If He is so great, why do people get sick?  

"You know God, they actually have some pretty good questions there. If the plans you have for us are good, why does the world seem so bad?"

And then the verse ran through my head again, but this time it was if he placed the emphasis on the words a little differently. "For I know the plans I have for you are good." GOD'S plans for our lives are good, but there are other forces in the world. You see, free choice in the world led to sin. Sin in the world led to death, darkness, sickness. Yes, He could have kept that from happening, but to do so would have meant creating man to have no choice. He could have kept us from choosing sin and we'd all be living happily ever after in the Garden of Eden, but to do so would have required that we also didn't get to choose whether we loved him or not. He wanted us to choose Him, and because of that free choice bad things began. That doesn't change the fact that the plans HE has for us are good. God didn't sit down with a calendar and say that in November of 2012 Anna Jackson should be given cancer, but when that plot twist entered into my life he DID sit down and say, "Satan is planning an attack on my beloved, Anna. In that evil plan Anna will face cancer so MY plan is that in it she will find amazing joy. While Satan is trying to bring harm, I will show her peace. When Satan attacks with pain and nausea, when he takes her hair, her health, her energy, when he scares her children and husband and saddens her parents and sisters, I will show them things about me they never could have imagined. During the attack Satan thinks he has so wisely planned, they will be blessed by friends, family and strangers and they will see love. When they fear for the future, I will comfort them with provision. When the healing comes, but the tests continue, I will send remembrances of our journey together and remind them that my plan for them is good. In the end their memories of my presence will overshadow their memories of the pain. Through this trial, MY plan is to show them I am God. I am good."

Our world is broken. Man is mean. Satan is real. Pain exists. Bad things happen that should never, ever happen. But GOD, is good and his plan is to take the bad and use it to prosper us and not to harm us. Even if Satan takes our very lives, God has a plan for that.

This week people in Paris will have chances to see God in ways they couldn't have before. My prayer is that it brings revival and renewal to their hearts. This week my friends will begin learning to live without a man they dearly loved. I pray that as they do God brings comfort they could never have dreamed of. This week my son will begin to walk a different path than what he had planned. I pray that God will use it to show him opportunities he would have missed otherwise. This week I will travel to Houston for more tests. I pray that God will once again take my breath away with his love for me. The world is bad, but God has a plan for that!