Friday, December 31, 2010

A Quick Goodbye

Dear Friends, Family, and People who stumbled across this blog by accident:
Today I am leaving the great state of Texas (just for a while!) and the not-so-great year of 2010 behind. As you know, I am jetsetting to Florida with the people I love the most. As we were packing yesterday--and believe me, that was an adventure all by itself!--I got to thinking about the trip and what it really means to me. Tonight I will sit with lots of other folks and watch a fireworks show to welcome in 2011. I'm not sad to see 2010 go. It's been, without a doubt, THE most trying, difficult year of my entire life. Never before have I known such loss, felt such sorrow, or asked so many questions. But if I were to be honest, I would have to admit that it's been one of the greatest years of my life as well. Although the circumstances have been (and continue to be) less than ideal, I have seen God move, work, provide, and bless over and over and over again. He has been faithful, even when I have not been. Cancer is an unwelcome guest in my life, but it is also the agent by which I have experienced grace in its truest form. That is something I wouldn't trade for anything.
I will say goodbye to 2010 in high style tonight, and I am praying that the new year brings better days. But be assured that the lessons and memories of this year will not soon be forgotten!
One more thing. To those of you who have played a part in orchestrating my ChristMUST wish: The excitement in my house is through the roof! We have already had so much fun planning and packing! I covet your prayers this week as my family celebrates life together. My four guys and my precious parents have been through so much this year...I often say that cancer happened to them, too. I just can't tell you enough what this gift means to all of us. Thanks once again for the opportunity to have fun and just BE TOGETHER. To me, that's magic!
Blessings and God's best in 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A BIG Surprise

Our merry little Christmas was topped off with a BIG surprise for the little cowboys! Several weeks ago, some friends in Houston contacted my mother and shared with her that they wanted to do something special to make Christmas a little brighter for me and my family. Never in my wildest imagination could I have dreamed up what that "something" might be!

Hubby and I wanted to keep it a secret from the boys until Christmas morning. After the Christmas melee was over and we'd eaten breakfast, we sat them down and gave them each one more gift.

We got boxes!

T-shirts? We don't get it.


Opening Disney Dollars from Nana and Poppy.
Little Middle: "Mom, is this a credit card?"

After the gifts were opened and the great cat was out of the bag, we called Nana and Poppy to say "thank you" for the Christmas gifts. That was when the final surprise came out: Not only are the five of us going to Disney World, but my parents are going, too! The boys were hootin', hollerin', and running in crazy circles!

In just a matter of weeks, hundreds of people in five different states donated money, airline miles, and other resources to make this trip possible. Every last detail, from park admission down to luggage fees, has been taken care of. There is a travel agent who worked feverishly to put together an itinerary so that we don't miss a thing. Meals are paid for, and we are even having breakfast one morning with Chef Mickey!

My Goliath will turn 9 while we are in Florida. I can't think of a better place for my gentle giant to spend his birthday than at Disney. Our friends arranged a special birthday surprise for him...I absolutely can't WAIT to see his face!

This Friday, seven very excited people will head to DFW airport to catch a plane to Orlando. We will be in the Magic Kingdom in time to watch the fireworks and ring in the new year. We will return to DFW next Thursday. I fully expect that we will be tired, happy, and chock full of memories that will last a lifetime.

To Our ChristMUST Wish Friends:

You are amazing. We are simply blown away by your generosity, your love, and your friendship. Many of you don't even know us, but you have shown us the love of Christ and given us great joy this holiday season. God has allowed us to walk a very dark and difficult road this year. There have been many days that I wasn't sure that I could, or even wanted to, take the next step. But along the way, God has been faithful to place people in my path who could cheer, encourage, and pray. "Thank you" is so inadequate to express how grateful I am that all of you allowed Him to use you in such a special way. But for now...Thank you for lightening my load and giving me something to look forward to (and brag to the chemo crew about!). Thank you for making my husband happy. Thank you for the smiles on my boys' faces. Thank you for the delight and excitement I hear in my parents' voices when I talk to them.
"The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others' burdens, easing other's loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas."--W.C. Jones
Thank you for giving us such a magical and grand gift! Surely I am the most blessed lady in the world, because I am loved. My cup runneth over.



P.S. I will try to post small updates and pictures on Facebook while we are gone. Watch for them!

Christmas 2010

Our family will always remember Christmas 2010 as a very merry one indeed! After the year that we've had, Hubby and I wanted to keep it simple. We stayed home and did Christmas our way--just the 5 of us. Here are a few pictures that I took with my new camera: (Thanks, Hubby!)

Hubby read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the little cowboys.

Handsome Little Middle showing off his new Christmas pajamas before bed.

Cookies and milk for Santa, carrots for the reindeer.

Christmas morning...Santa came!

They were up early...a little sleepy-eyed, but very excited!

Santa and his reindeer loved their treats!

Goliath read Santa's letter out loud for everyone.

Happy chaos!

Goliath loves his new "Russian" hunting hat.

He can't wait to get in the kitchen with Mom and try out a new recipe.

Star Wars Legos!!!!

Baby laughed hard the first time we played Twister.

Later in the day, I found this airplane "crashed" into the Christmas tree
and a plastic passenger clinging to life on an ornament.

Christmas Dinner
I went into the Christmas season fearful that the Sickness and all that goes with it would stand in the way of me experiencing real joy. I have been very purposeful about looking for joy over the last month, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to find it--and how it was never out of my reach in the first place.
We went to the Christmas Eve service at our church. We sang traditional carols, the boys got to go down to the front for a mini-sermon, and at the end of the service, we lit candles and sang "Silent Night" a capella. I was overwhelmed with the hundreds of little lights and voices being lifted in worship toward the King.
Majesty in a manger...the Son of God in a stable. He came so that I could live (John 10:10). JOY!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

From Our Family To Yours...


"And Mary said, 'I'm bursting with God-news, I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened--I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet, the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel, he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It's exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.' " Luke 1:46-55

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lines That Made Me Laugh

Little Middle, upon being sent to his room: "Oh, pickles and prune juice!"

Baby: "Mommy, you are a female and females are bad guys."

Baby, while playing the Wii with his brother: "We can't kill that guy because he is music-activated."

Little Middle, after waking from a rare afternoon nap: "Mom, is today still yesterday? You forgot to wear new clothes."

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Second Verse

I grew up in a great church where the foundation was laid for my faith. I memorized Scripture there, I made lifelong friends there, and I learned to worship, particularly through music. Our church services had a healthy dose of hymns with a generous sprinkling of praise choruses, circa 1980s: "Majesty," "We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise," and "As the Deer" stand out in my mind. I still remember that "How Great Thou Art" was #2 in the hymnal.

We don't use that hymnal much these days. My kids are learning song lyrics from a screen in the worship center rather than the hymnal in the pew. In fact, I'm certain that that hymnal is not much more to them than a hard book to put under their children's bulletins that they work on during the sermon! And that makes me a little sad.

When I was growing up, sometimes I would get bored during the sermon. My mother suggested once that I listen carefully and write down all of the words I didn't understand. The only word I walked away with was "multitude," with a bunch of tally marks for every time the preacher said it. Sometimes I would pass the time reading the hymnal. Yes, I know it's kind of a dorky thing to do. But that opened my eyes to what I now consider to be often-overlooked treasures: the second verse. We always sing the first verse of a hymn, and often the third or fourth. But why not the second?

It's no wonder, then, that I was surprised in a good way as I was driving around town running errands with the radio on this week. "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" has a second verse that strikes my heart and meets me right where I am this Christmas:

And ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary load
And hear the angels sing.

Every step I take feels painful and slow, and sometimes even backwards. Even my commitment to seek out joy this holiday season seems like a mountain in and of itself some days. I will gladly accept the invitation to leave my load beside the manger and listen to the angels sing.

And I will sing along...with my hymnal open.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


It is an awful feeling to wake up in the morning and think, "Today is the day I will find out if I have cancer in my body."

That is how my day began. Before I even opened my eyes this morning, my heart was pounding, my stomach was sinking, and I was begging God for favor. Maybe I should back up a bit... On Tuesday, I went to the hospital for my every-three-months-regularly-scheduled scan. This was a CT scan, much more difficult and not as detailed as a PET scan. When I got to the hospital and checked in, the technician took me and my sweet mom to a back waiting room and delivered 1 1/2 hours worth of barium sulfate. I had to drink a certain amount every 10 minutes. Let's just say that the more I drank, the faster the 10 minute mark kept coming! Before I even had time to rejoice that the cocktail was gone, the tech returned and whisked me back to what is really a closet with a chair in it. She started an IV, and then we went to the imaging room.

I've lost count of the number of times I've laid on that table, trying to follow the instructions from the automated machine: "Breathe in. Hold your breath." Whrrrrr. "Release your breath." Whrrrrr. Up, down, in, out. If I open my eyes, when the table moves me out of the machine, I can see what I'm sure is supposed to be a peaceful scene on the ceiling--a flowing brook surrounded by towering trees. I much prefer to close my eyes, but then all I can see are the faces of my boys. Desperate terror was what I felt on Tuesday. I think I might have tried to jump off that table and run away, except that 1) I was trapped in the imaging tunnel, and 2) I had a needle in my arm that attached me to an IV pole. So instead, I did the only thing I knew to do: I recited Scripture. A scripture, to be exact: Isaiah 26:3. "You will keep me in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because I trust in you." (paraphrases mine) Over and over again.

The scan takes less than 10 minutes, but it seemed so much longer than that. Finally, it was done and I was free to go. I collected my things and my mother and practically ran for the parking lot. Once we were safely in the car, I lost it. I simply could not contain the anxiety and fear any longer.

I don't know why I feel so terrified every single time I have to go there. Besides the obvious, I mean. I think it's natural to feel scared. The threat is very real. But after all this time, why do I start to hyperventilate when the hospital comes in sight? Why do my hands shake when I enter the office? Why do I still cry? I'm not nearly as brave as I want to be, or as good as I should be. I feel like if I were, then 2 Timothy 1:7 would not resonate with me like it does: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."

Mom, Baby, and I passed the waiting hours of Wednesday doing a little Christmas shopping while the big boys were at school. After school, there were spelling words to practice, friends to play with, and iCarly to watch. I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode of iCarly that there is. We went to bed early, and that brings us back to this morning. "Today is the day I will find out if I have cancer in my body."

As it turns out, the scan was clear. The emotions I felt with that news were a mixed bag: Relief, fear, joy, sorrow. Of course it was good news! It was exactly what I, along with so many of you, have prayed for. In the back of my mind, though, I can still feel the fear creeping in. This clear scan is just a reprieve...a temporary sigh of relief. The Sickness will be back, unless God overrules medicine (and He absolutely could choose to do that!).

I explained it to a close friend this afternoon this way: I feel like Eeyore, who always moved around with a dark cloud hovering over his head. No matter where he went or what he did, that cloud stayed with him. That's me. The cloud of cancer follows me everywhere. Just because it's not raining right now doesn't mean it isn't there or that I am not acutely aware of it. It permeates everything I think and do. It threatens to open up and pour down on me at any time. And do you want to know the truth? I am scared of it.

I hate that I'm scared. I want to be brave. My boys make me want to be brave. Whether or not my time with them is cut short, I desperately want them to remember that I trusted my Lord with all that I had. I want them to know that I faced the Sickness, if not cheerfully, than certainly with a welcoming spirit for the challenge. I want them to know that they were worth fighting for, and that the strength that I had to fight came from above.

Tonight I cooked one of their favorite dinners and we celebrated the good news with root beer floats. Watching them enjoy their desserts, I breathed a prayer of thanks that there is "no evidence of recurrent or metastatic disease." I asked God to help me slow down and be present in the here and now, and most of all, to help me get a handle on that spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. If God is for me, who can be against me?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This and That

I know there hasn't been much activity on the blog lately, but that's really because there hasn't been much to say. Cancer, along with its many sorrows and joys, is still with me. The new maintenance regimen is much better than before, but it is still chemotherapy. It's difficult. I am having a CT scan next Tuesday, and a follow-up meeting with Dr. M on Thursday. We anticipate that all will be clear, as expected, and he will recommend marching forward with what I'm already doing. Still, there is much anxiety as the day approaches. I would appreciate your prayers.
Now, how about a little of this and a bit of that to catch up?
*Little Middle lost three teeth in four days. The Tooth Fairy is going broke. And he came home from school today with the announcement that another one is loose!
*I upgraded some of our Christmas decor this year. I figured after 12 years of marriage, we deserve a new tree skirt. Thank you, Hobby Lobby, for your over-the-top-after-Thanksgiving sales!
*Speaking of Christmas decorations, Hubby and Goliath hung lights outside. We want to do outside lights every year, but it doesn't always get done. Ahem. Anyway, while they were working, I heard maniacal laughter from the backyard. Turns out that Little Middle climbed up on the roof and JUMPED OFF onto the trampoline. Be still, my heart.
*Baby's favorite indoor "decoration" is the Little People nativity set. He is constantly rearranging the the animals and the characters, and pushing the angel down so she will "sing." He loves to sing along to Away in the Manger, and I cracked up when I heard his sweet voice sing "the little Bo Jesus laid down his sweet head." I mentioned that the right lyrics are "little LORD Jesus," and he said, "Hmmm. I always thought it was Bo Jesus." He keeps on singing it that way.
*Goliath is going to be Penguin #7 in the school Christmas play. It reminds me of this.
*I was totally blessed by two groups of MOPS moms from my church who adopted me as their "service project." One group took three baskets of our laundry to the laundromat, and the other group went to the grocery store for me. I literally wept when I saw the full refrigerator and the baskets of neatly folded clothes.
*Christmas came early for Hubby this year. He is the proud owner of his first new car since 1998. Believe me, he deserves it.
*I am on a personal mission to seek out joy this holiday season. It isn't coming as naturally to me as it usually does, so I am being very intentional about looking for it.
*While we were in Houston, my brother invited my boys over to his house for Nephew Camp. It might be the greatest thing that's ever happened to them--they are still talking about it! Baby now wants to get a Christmas tree to use in his room for a nightlight, because "that's what Uncle Phil let us have."
*I could probably construct a small temporary shelter with the lint I pulled out of my dryer today.
*Gus the dog is no longer my friend. He ATE the blue cover that goes over the trampoline springs, for crying out loud! What's worse, he doesn't much care what I think of him. He only has eyes for Hubby.
*Princess Puppy Love has stiff joints now that the weather is cold. Watching her struggle to get up and down (and I don't mean because she's plump) makes it easier to forgive finding her hairs on my new black sweater.
*I am not a fan of the new hair growing on my head. It is curly and it is the color of ugly dirt. The good news is that my eyelashes are finally growing back.
*When Hubby changed jobs back in September, we paid to COBRA our health insurance for about six weeks, until his new benefits kicked in. They were quick to take our money, but have yet to pay out one single claim that my doctor's office has made. What's more, we haven't been able to do much about it because we didn't get our ID cards until two weeks after COBRA was up. This has been so frustrating!
*Every single room in my house has at least a few silly bandz scattered around the floor.
*When I got up this morning, I got my glasses off my nightstand. It wasn't until I turned on the lights in the kitchen that I realized I was wearing my sunglasses.
*Goliath did a family tree project for social studies. I enjoyed helping him put together the information and telling him stories about the memories I have of my great-grandparents.
*One of my favorite things my husband does for me is to get the coffee pot ready every night. Each morning when I get up, there is already fresh coffee waiting!
*I bought something on Cyber Monday for the first time ever.