Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Downward Slope

I'm trading in my hiking boots for a pair of skies!  Today I began on the downward slope with radiation.  I'm just over half way to the finish line, since today was number 16 of 31.   I've been doing really well considering, but yesterday's treatment rattled me.  I came out of the cancer center cold, shaky and a bit nauseated.  By the time we came home I was having chills.

I had just told the doctor I was doing great!  And I am.  Periodically, though, it takes a different direction and the only thing to do is go with it.  I came home, put on warm, soft sweats, got in my recliner, turned on the fireplace and settled in.  I woke up today feeling pretty much the same, but the day is young and I'm skiing now!

We went yesterday bearing gifts, along with our gratitude.  I made pumpkin bread and we bought some fun candy, plus a tray of grapes and clementines for a healthier option.  The techs that do the treatments are young.  Well, the ladies are young, but  the one man is in his early fifties I expect.  Always friendly, always optimistic, they make the journey easier, and we wanted to show our appreciation.  It is Thanksgiving week, after all!

We have been visiting recently with the other gowned and robed ladies as we wait. While I took my turn in the " chamber", two shared the ups and downs of their journey with Joel.  One had chemo first because even though they caught it early, she is battling the "worst" kind of breast cancer. She is a vibrant upbeat warrior who looks beautiful from the top of her bald head to the tip of her painted toes.    The other has 6 days of treatment left.  Tired often, but still working.  Yay for her!  The room that we wait in holds many stories.  I have heard laughter there, voices of courage, and weeping of one overcome by the reality of it all.  And silence.  So much silence.  Everyone's journey is a bit different but yet all of us are united by the unjust war we fight and the deep desire to live a long full life!

I am so very grateful for the promises God has given me/us.  They sustain us.  That wrap around shield He has promised to me?  We see that......we feel that.....His love and protection.  My skin is doing okay and my energy has been really quite good until yesterday.  Speaking of yesterday, in the morning I was reading the Passion Translation's daily words...."I hear Him whisper" and there it was written boldly for me to see, my own reminder from the One who keeps His promises.......Yes!

"I will be your Wrap-Around-Shield."

We can depend on His promises.  Rest on them.  Thank you for reminding me of Your promises when things get a bit tough.  Thank you that You are a God of Your Word.  We have so much to be thankful for as we rest in His promises, eat our pumpkin pie, and worship the One who keeps His promises, His Word.  My Wrap-Around-Shield.  Yours.  Ours.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday evening to you from our cold and snowy part of the world.  Yesterday morning I walked on dry pathways around our association, and by this morning we had 9.5 inches of snow on the ground! Winter has arrived.

Friday I got called to come in early for radiation, since the roads were getting slippery.  My treatments are usually at three each weekday, but it seems that our day still focuses around them.  I see the radiology oncologist every Tuesday but otherwise it takes only an hour out of our day.  We try to walk in the mornings, get done what needs to get done, and then after treatments in the afternoon I take it easy until supper.  So far, so good.

Joel preached and officiated at a baptism and communion for a local Lutheran church last Saturday. We headed to the last Wednesday night of teaching on healing, and Thursday morning I went to Bible study at church.  Friday morning Joel went to his colleague group, and today we walked at the mall, then went out for lunch with friends, before coming to the house to visit.

This week I have been reading a John Lake book, catching up on my Guideposts magazines, and watching a few online teachings.  We have not watched any movies except a Christmas  one on the Hallmark channel.

Speaking of.......I am getting in the mood for Christmas!  It is hard not to when everywhere we go there are trees, lights, ads, and music playing.  "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas"    And the family will be home!!!  I ordered our photo cards and wrote the yearly newsletter this week.  Are you waiting until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas?  We are....but it is tempting not to!

Until next time.....................

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Storms

We are under a storm warning today as we wait for the first snow of the season to arrive.  This storm is going to leave behind 3-8 inches of snow, depending on where you live.  The weathermen can see it coming and have given us notice, so we have time to be prepared.

Don't you wish all storms in life gave us warning?  Not the natural storms, but the storms that come against us from the enemy, from living in a broken world, from reaping what we sow.  Yeah.  Those kind of storms.

No matter the storm....natural or supernatural....we have the One who calms the storms walking with us.  We may be tossed about for a while, we may be shaken, we may face tempest winds and beating rain or rising waters and even heavy snow, but we are never alone in what we face.  Nope.  Never.

Today I had treatment number 13, with 18 left to go.  My energy has been good, but I have developed a few crusty bumpy sores from the skin's reaction to the radiation on the upper breast and along the scar where the nodes were removed.  Those are not an issue, but the sore area of my breast that is more tender than the rest is getting more challenging.  I keep standing on the promise that God gave me the day I found out I would need radiation...."I will be your wrap around shield".

My sister who walked this journey last year had no issues.....but the techs told me  that what I am experiencing is "common".  Each person is unique, according to the skin, breast size, and where the cancer was located.  Although they do radiate the whole breast.  SO, we went shopping an found me a humongous sweatshirt to wear at home when I go bra-less.  I am kind of old to be a hippie.....giggle....but I am willing to do what is necessary on my part while believing God will be my shield.

The treatments are getting easier, with less mapping to do, with the lasers lining up.....We drive the 8-10 minutes to the cancer center using our cancer permit to park close by.  We walk in, Joel get's coffee and I go back into radiology, going into the women's dressing room, getting a gown and robe, then heading into the dressing stall, undressing from the waist up, hanging my clothes in a locker and then going into the waiting room to sit with Joel until they come get me.

They have scheduled patients every 15 minutes and have two rooms they can use.  When they come, I give them my card, which they scan in the computer so the machine knows what is needed for co-ordinates.  They get me a step stool to get up on the table and I lay down.  As they align me they put my arms in the overhead braces, strap my feet down, and lower the gown to get those lasers where needed.  The actual treatment is 3-4 minutes, first on one side and then that big machine rotates to the other side.  I am done, dressed, and back home in less than an hour.  Some days I come home feeling very cold, so I lotion up. put on my new oversized hoodie, get in my recliner, turn on the fireplace and cover up with a quilt until I get warm.  I may doze off for a short nap, but otherwise get on with my day.  I will say that Fridays seem to take more out of accumulation of the week I expect.

My Daily Attire:  Gowns and robes

This is the biggest hospital and cancer center in all of north and central Iowa so people come from up to two hours away every single day for treatments.  Amazing.  So grateful for the kind and caring staff, the short distance we have to drive, Joel's continual support, and all of the prayers.
Coffee and the newspaper
while waiting

I have not always stayed calm in this storm.  I shed tears easily and most days, but tears are a good way to release stress.  I still find anger rising once in awhile and I take it to God and try to focus on giving thanks.  My sacrifice of praise, as the Bible calls it, is where my strong honest emotions bring "fragrance to my praises" as Pastor Bill Johnson says so well.

Storms.  They will come.  Some with notice, some without.  But in the storm we are never alone. They come, but they also go.  Jesus says, "Be still" and even nature obeys Him.  He is our shield.  He is our wrap around shield!

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Child's Faith and God's Response

When we lived in the Philippine Islands, the heat and humidity made for fertile ground for infections to set in.  Our daughter from the P.I. came to us with staph and it would come out on her body in the form of huge boils that were very contagious.   It was always difficult to watch doctors lance those boils, drain them, and then stuff them with gauze.  I had one and it was so painful I could not stop myself from yelling when they lanced it.  And then our oldest daughter, Beth, who was nearly six at the time, got one in the corner of her eye.  We could not imagine how painful it would be to have the doctors go after that one.

We took her in to the base hospital and turned her over to the doctors while we prayed and paced the floor in the waiting room.  We expected her to be hurting, but when she came out she was calm and collected.  We headed for home and finally my curiosity got the best of me and I asked her if it was really painful when they lanced the boil.  Her reply?  "Oh, no.  It did not hurt at all.  I just asked Jesus to keep it from hurting and He did."

A child's faith.....and God's response.

Another time we were heading to the base from Angeles City where we lived.  On the way there our car died.  It was just our oldest daughter and myself and getting stalled off the base was not the safest place to be.  At that time we did not have cell phones, so we were on our own....with a long walk to the base or a long walk home, not being guaranteed our car would still be there when we returned!  I tried to start the car.  Nothing.  Again....and nothing.  Nor on the third try.  Then on the fourth try it started up and purred like a kitten.  I was surprised, but Bethany was not.  Her statement to mommy?  "I knew the car would start Mom, because I prayed about it.

A child's faith.......and God's response.

Beth was only four when she came home from Sunday School and told us that she knew she would go to Heaven when she died.  I asked her why she believed that and she said, "Because I asked Jesus into my heart today!"

A child's faith.......and God's response.

These memories remind me of a story I read that was shared  by Joyce Meyers.  She was talking about prayer and that we do not have to pray long prayers to receive from God.  She shared an example of a mom who was having a lot of stomach pain and was laying on the sofa.  Her little boy knew she was hurting and he came over to her, put his hand on her tummy and said, "Mommy.....Owie.......Jesus."   And her pain left.

A child's faith..........and God's response.

Lord, let us have the faith of a child.  Trusting, expecting, and believing for Your response.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday's Scribbles: Paris

I woke up today with the people of France on my heart.  Tears fall, anger swells and fear whispers in my ear.  My emotions are strong as I sit safe and comfy in my home here in the heartland of the USA. I have never been to France, and even though I have French ancestry I don't know any possible relatives there. But one Facebook post I read said, "Today we are all French".  We hurt for the French.  These terrorist attacks affect all of us whether they are on our soil or not.

I am so weary of the evil.  How do we understand the person who, in the name of their God, can behead a two year old child or mow down people who have no way of escape.  It is sick.  It is wrong.  It is scary.  It echos of Hitler or the Klan.  Yes. No mercy.  It is difficult to pray for them to know Jesus as their Savior,  when the other part of me wants them all gone so our world will be safer.  Oh, Papa God, we all need You.

This day, this week, this year we stand together with those who are grieving, those who are fearful, those who are angry and confused.   We lift France up in prayer as the people  try to make sense of such senseless acts.  They need you Papa God.  We all do.

Friday, November 13, 2015

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times

The other day I asked Joel what he felt was the most challenging and difficult time in his ministry.  Even with all we have been through, hands down it was when we were at St. John Lutheran in Zimmerman MN.  It was there that a parishner, who was a violent unstable alcoholic, threatened Joel's life.  We had been there only a few months when we received a phone call late at night from the police telling us a man was on his way to kill Joel and that they would get there as soon as possible to help us.  We gathered the 5 kids we had at the time and put them on our bedroom floor while Joel moved around in the dark with a loaded rifle.  I stood at the window keeping my eyes on anything that moved while periodically checking on the kids.   And we prayed.  We prayed hard for protection for our family.

When the police arrived it was like a "Cagney and Lacy" episode with several officers coming into our home with guns drawn.  One officer took our oldest around the house to get clothing for each of the kids as we prepared them for leaving.  They guarded us as we got into our car and they had the kids lay down.  Five police and sheriff vehicles escorted us out of town as we headed to the Twin Cities to stay with my sister Janelle and family.  It. was. scary.

It was a strange phone call I made to my sister.  "Hi, can we come down and stay with you tonight?  A man is coming to kill Joel and the police are here and going to escort us out of town."

Our children were ages 14, 13, 7, 6, and 4 at the time. Feeling safe in our home became a goal we worked towards after this event. We had moved a lot over the years and so we asked the two oldest if they wanted to move or stay and then with their desire to stay,  Joel and I prayed and made a decision to stay, even though this man continued to make threats against Joel and our family from jail, from treatment, and from his home a few blocks away.  He used to sit out on the road in his car and watch our home.  It was a long season (over 6 years) of learning to trust God in the moment but it did take a toll on us.  It also made us stronger and more dependent on God and each other.

I was not surprised by Joel's answer, but what did surprise me was his answer to the question, "And what place we lived was the best place during your ministry?"   Without pausing he told me it was the same place. Say, what?

Of course we liked things and the people in every church he served, and we would both agree his year of Internship in Malta Montana was the most fun, challenging, educating, and memorable. We have been richly blessed at each church Joel served, but our years at St John Lutheran came to mind for him for other reasons.

Certainly, we loved the parsonage and surrounding 3 acres which held the church, parking lot, a field, woods, and plenty of places for the kids to roam.  BUT the hours for Joel were long....often 65-70 hours a week average.  The family had quality time with him but not much quantity time.  It is where I became infected with Lyme Disease and began to be limited by sickness.  And then there were the death threats.

And yet I understood what he was saying.  It was here that we learned to rely on God.  It was here that Joel's abilities in ministry grew and stretched us both.  It was here where we felt God's guidance and protection.  This season of our lives was both good and bad.  Like most in life.  It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.

It feels a bit like that again as we are in another challenging season of our lives.  I am on this journey with breast cancer.  Cancer gone, but radiation......preventive radiation still going on daily.  A family member told me that I could do this.  I have been through worst that this.  And yet, it is another health issue.  Our move put on hold or cancelled.  Our beliefs on healing challenged.  Yet, we have found a church that is feeding us, and where people actually get us.  We are getting to fellowship as a couple with others more than we have in 20 years.  God is showing up in powerful ways as we take every step forward, whether it is at the cancer center, the hospital, the church, unpacking, or more.   And the blessings!  So many blessings that at times it moves us to tears.  It is again, the best of times and it is the worst of times.

During this season the scriptures are coming alive and it is the promises of God that we are seeing come to fruition, to life in us.  During the worst of times, God is right there with us lighting the way, so we are able to also embrace the best in a bad situation.  It is the best of times and it is the worst of times.