Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Good news first:  Hubby has a job!  There is a whole back story of an interview, a staffing recruiter who dropped the ball,  a prayer time where the two of us petitioned the Lord and honestly poured out our hurting hearts, and then a whirlwind 24 hours of contacts and circumstances that only our good, never-lets-go God could have orchestrated.  He starts on Monday.  His first paycheck will come in at just about the time we expect that the "reserves" will run out.

Huh.  Just in telling you that mini-story, there is light shining through the darkness that has been this day.  I actually intended to pour out my sad, hurting heart again here to you this afternoon.  I meant to tell you about pain that refuses to be managed and the gray, Eeyore-ish cloud that was above my head when I woke up this morning.  I wanted to tell you that I cancelled a coffee date with a friend and I have let my phone go to voice mail because I simply couldn't get past myself.  I intended to tell you that I haven't even changed out of my pajamas today, and if I were to be really honest, I would have confessed that I could not wait until the cowboys left for school this morning so I could get on with the business of feeling sorry for myself.

Deep breath.

I flipped open my laptop to do just that, and Hubby said, "Oh--are you going to write about the job?"

I didn't tell him that his brand new, answer-to-many-prayers job wasn't even on my radar.  I simply replied, "Of course!"...and I acted as if that had been my intention the entire time.


It's a weird thing about being diagnosed with a terminal illness...your perspective changes almost instantly.  I'm not talking even about the initial diagnosis.  For seven years now, I have had some treatment up my sleeve.  There has been a "next thing," something else to try--some reason to believe that certainly, surely there was no way that God was going to let me die.  No, it's the part where there is no more medicine or technology or earthly intervention that can fix it.  The part where the doctor looks you straight in the eye and says, "I'm sorry.  There is nothing else to do."  I've always seen the world through pretty black-and-white lenses.  It's one of the best things about me, and it can also be one of the worst things about me.  But now, almost overnight, my perspective has been even more narrowed.  I just want to get straight to the bottom line.  Only a few things really matter, quite a lot of other things don't matter much at all.

People matter.  Families matter.  Time matters.  Jesus matters.

It's also super-easy to forget the things that matter and to self-focus.  It is, after all, ME who is sick.  I am the one who has to deal with stuff no one my age should have to think about:  hospice services, wills and other legal documents, funeral arrangements.  Sometimes my pain can be managed, other times it is unbearable.  Nearly everything I do requires hard work:  showering, helping with 4th grade fractions, explaining my decisions/feelings to everyone.  My life has been turned upside down by this wretched Sickness.

( Quick story:  When Goliath was three, Seester and I had a garage sale at our parents' house.  While we were working ourselves to death in the Houston hellish inferno weather, Goliath and Abby Dog were watching us from a window.  Thus, my small son witnessed the patrons who wheeled his tiny bicycle out of my parents' garage and tried to buy it from us.  His comment to his Nana:  "Those are wretched, wretched people!"  That is how 'wretched' came to be one of my very favorite words of all time.)

"These are uphill, into-the-wind challenges you are facing.  They are not easy.  But neither are they random.  God is not sometimes sovereign.  He is not occasionally victorious.  He does not occupy the throne one day and vacate it the next.  "The Lord shall not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the thoughts and intents of His mind" (Jeremiah 30:24).  This season in which you find yourself may puzzle you, but it does not bewilder God.  He can and will use it for his purpose."  --Max Lucado, You'll Get Through This

It's not about me at all.  Some days, like today, I need to breathe deeply and take a few steps back in order to get a clear picture.  This Sickness--this life--is not at all what I thought it would be.  I didn't plan on this or want this or even see it coming.  But my uprooted plans and my changing circumstances do not change who God is.  Not one little bit.  He remains the same, whether I have a "good" day and I feel like my old self, or a bad day, and I barely manage to brush my teeth.  (Hmmm...did I brush my teeth this morning?)  He is sovereign.  He is good.  He intends great things for me, and he is determined to see them through to completion.  There is comfort in that for me.

Truth be told, I've hated this day.  It's dark out now, and I will be glad to go to sleep and put it behind me.  Tomorrow, my new hospice nurse is making her first official visit.  I'm not sure I'm exactly looking forward to that either, but I am certain that my Jesus has already gone ahead and paved the way.  Just as he made provision for Hubby's new job, he will take care of this new chapter of the journey.

Don't you wonder how people who don't have Jesus get through life?  I think about that all the time.  My darkest days are still lined with victory.  I hope that you know him, friend.  I am so grateful that I can have hope to fall back on when the days are overwhelming.  I'm so thankful that all the pieces of my life are in his hands.  Tomorrow is a new day.  Great is his faithfulness.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Not Forgotten

Life for the past 9 days has been a crazy roller coaster ride.  I alternate between bouts of tears and moments of peace.  I have done my best to balance my  need to be with friends and loved ones with my almost insatiable desire to be alone.  I have read my Bible and I have heaved huge, you-don't-know-what-you're-doing sighs at God.  I have laid in bed and I have gone to Target.

I have also done quite a bit of worrying.

It wasn't too many weeks ago that I told you that my husband had lost his job.  Truth be told, it was a terrible way to end a terrible year...and a terrifying way to begin a new one.

I suppose it goes without saying that we need him to be working.  Insurance alone is absolutely necessary (and crazy expensive).

He is looking.  He has made some contacts, and had a few interviews.  So far, though, nothing too solid or promising has come his way.

We paid the January bills, and then we started crunching numbers.  Every which way we trimmed it, there were more bills than money.

And so I worried.  I despaired.  I fretted.  And yesterday, I threw a pity party for one:  ME.  I sat on my comfy bed in my warm house in my clean, soft pajamas, and I used my computer to read about hospice services.  And I cried.  Goodness, did I cry!  Finally, after a couple of hours, I slammed my laptop shut and I said to God only three words:  "Where. Are. You.?????"

This afternoon, Baby brought in the mail.  He likes to sort it into five piles:  Hubby, Me, Goliath, Little Middle, and his own.  (Today, his and Goliath's piles were empty, but Little Middle scored a hunting magazine!)  When he ran back outside to play, I went through the stacks again.  Bill, bill, W-2, advertisement, sweet card, sweet card, more bills....and an envelope.  Curiosity got the best of me and I opened it.

Inside that ordinary-looking envelope was a check.  Are you sitting down, friend?  It was a check payable to Hubby for the exact amount that we need to make our next mortgage and insurance payments.  THE EXACT AMOUNT.  To the dollar, what we had discussed and agreed that we need.

God was there.  He has been working, even as I have worried.

We are not forgotten.

I collapsed into a chair, and with fresh tears streaming down my cheeks, I called my husband.  I told him, and he simply said, "Praise God."  

Friends, we do not know where the money came from.  All we know is that our very real God met our very real need with a miracle in the mail.

Isn't that just like our Lord?  To show up in an unexpected, unusual way to prove that his promises are 100% true?

So many things remain unknowns in my life.  There are inquiries to be made and caregiver interviews to be conducted.  There are details to be attended to and decisions to be made.  There are unthinkable conversations to be held with my three little cowboys.

But my question from yesterday has been answered :  "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

I still have goose bumps on my arms, and I'm sniffly from crying.  But my heart...oh, my heart is refreshed.  No doubt that could have happened without such a blatant miracle.  I am so incredibly thankful.  Thankful for the miracle in the mail...thankful that I belong to a God who loves and provides...thankful that I am never beyond his reach or outside of his care.

We are not forgotten.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."  Luke 12:6-7

Saturday, January 11, 2014

All I Can Say

Lord, I'm tired.

I have fought this Monster for a long time.  Seven years.  Nearly the entirety of my Baby's life.  I have had surgeries.  I've been hospitalized multiple times.  I have done chemotherapy...five times.  I lost my hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes.  I've given up my dignity and my spirit has been crushed.  I endured radiation as long as I could.  My skin has been burnt to a crisp.  I've traveled the country, made countless appointments, and researched until my eyes were crossed.

Lord, I'm so alone.

No one understands--really understands--what it feels like to be me.  I have an army of friends and family who have walked with me and stood in the gap for me.  But nobody fully can understand the fear of laying on that CT scan table over and over again, month after month, year after year.  No one else can really identify with that feeling I get in my stomach while I wait for the phone to ring with news--that is always bad.  No one sees the way people look at me with pity or worse, look at my children.  No one but me can read the precious cards that come in the mail that all say, "I am praying for healing,"...and then wonder why God isn't answering that prayer.

Lord, the dark is creeping in, it's creeping up to swallow me.

God and I, we've stayed up a lot of nights together.  Seven years equals a lot of insomnia.  There have been nights where I've cried, nights where I've begged, and nights when I've tried to ignore Him altogether.  (That never worked out great for me.) We've had days, when I've been alone in bed, and I could literally feel the disease--the darkness--moving closer.

I think I'll stop, rest here awhile.

I had an appointment with Dr. F this week.  I was very clear as I explained to him how I have been suffering.  I told him how radiation has made me SO UNBELIEVABLY SICK, and how I feel like I made a deal with the devil by agreeing to do it.  I am weak, and crazy tired.  I calmly listed out the symptoms I am experiencing, and then sat back, swiped at the frustrated tears falling down my cheeks, and listened as my entire life changed...again.

It is time, he said.  

And this is all that I can say right now.

I am sick because of the progression of the disease.  I have used up all of the treatment options, and there is simply nothing else to do.  He is recommending that we start looking at hospice.  He doesn't suggest that for patients unless he can estimate that the remaining time left to live is six months (or less).

Lord, didn't you see me crying?

I was barely aware of the tears that persistently fell.  I hung on every word that Nurse Allyson spoke about hospice:  where to look, what to ask about, how it works.  I nearly missed my sweet Dr. F, out of the corner of my eye, reach for the Kleenex box.  It took me a moment to figure out that he was crying, too.

And didn't you hear me call your name?

It ended with Dr. F just asking me to let him know what I decide.  When I give the green light, he and Nurse Allyson will go to the ends of the earth to help me find the right people, get the right meds, and be as comfortable as possible.  They both hugged me, and I walked out of there, stunned.

Of course, nothing that he said was a real surprise.  I think I felt it in my body long before I heard the words.  There is simply a bit of shock value to hearing someone verbalize such absolutes.  

Wasn't it you I gave my heart to?

Six months.  Or less.

I wish you'd remember where you sat it down.

There is still the idea of the clinical trial at MD Anderson.  It is Dr. F's belief (and I have no reason to doubt him) that the trial would not result in any significant extension or quality of life for me.

There are decisions to make.  Many hard decisions.

And this is all that I can say right now.
And this is all that I can give.
And this is all that I can say right now,
And this is all that I can give, that's my everything.

I've walked with Jesus for a long, long time.  I don't claim to know everything, or to understand why he does what he does.  Not by a long shot.  As the darkness creeps closer, I have to dig deep to get back to what I do know is Truth:

1) God loves me.
2) God will take care of me.
3) God is always in control.

These are The Three Things that I have taught my boys.  The four of us have recited them over and over again until we were red in the face and they were rolling their eyes at me.  But The Three Things have never been more important than they are now.

This is all that I can say right now.

"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  Psalm 73:23-26

Yes, that's my everything.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy Birthday, Goliath!

Dear Goliath,

Today is your day, buddy!  I could write here about this day twelve years ago--the day that you made me a Mom.  I could retell the story you've heard hundreds of times.  You know, the one where it's snowing outside?  The one where I look out the window off and on for nearly 14 hours of labor?  The story of the day that the hospital waiting room was filled to the brim with people who were thrilled about you?  

Yes, I could tell you all of that.  But instead of talking about how Aunt Jenny gave you the nickname "Gloworm," let's talk about how you've grown.  Because really, I am just as astonished about the person you have grown into as I was about the baby that was born on January 2, 2002.

The Year You Were Eleven had plenty of highs and lows, for sure.  In a lot of ways, you are predictable.  All of the parenting books and websites and experts warn that when kids reach your age, parents should expect mood swings.  (Um, no kidding.)  I have been prepared for you to want to spend less time with us and more time with your friends.  I was ready (I thought) to work harder and to ask more questions in order to keep up with what's going on in your world, because your world is increasingly becoming more yours.

In more ways, though, you are unpredictable, just because that's who you are.  Often, when I think that I've got you figured out, you find a new way to surprise me.  I don't mean that in a bad way, sweetness.  I just mean that you manage to keep me on my toes!

One of the ways you have surprised me this year has happened as you have continued to develop your personal interests and hobbies.  It has been fun (mostly) to watch you!  Especially since you started to middle school last have a lot of opportunities to try new things, and you are being fairly picky about how you spend your time.  This time last year, I never would have thought that there would be a target set up on our back fence for you to practice archery.  You saw something you wanted, and although you get frustrated, you continue to practice and fight for your spot on the team.  I'm proud of you for that.  Alternately, I really thought you would enjoy band.  Maybe I should have worried a little more when you couldn't decide on an instrument--the euphonium wasn't even in your top 3 choices!  You like it, but you don't love it.  We'll see.

Speaking of middle school...Oh, my.  There aren't really words to describe how I felt on the first day of school as I watched you and Henry cross the street and walk into that giant building.  I felt helpless!  I've only had that feeling one other time in my life--on the day you started school, and I left you sitting at that little table in your kindergarten classroom.  When I could no longer see you, I drove home and cried a little.  Of course, you aced your first day of kindergarten and had the same success on your first day of 6th grade.  Sniff.

You are now halfway through your first year of middle school.  You've been to your first school dance--and enjoyed it.  You had to sort through some relationship drama, but that seems to have leveled off and you know who your friends are and who to distance yourself from.  You are doing well in your classes.  Well, except for math.  I'm afraid you take after me when it comes to mathematics.  Sorry, dude.  Fortunately, you still like to read--also like your mama!--and you really enjoy your ELA class.  Overall, I have been impressed with your adjustment to middle school.  I often feel overwhelmed by it, but you seem to have a solid grip on what's going on.  I am very proud of you!

Another big change this year happened at church.  Our student ministry was restructured to include 6th grade--that's you!  The leadership is doing a great job, and you have made a seamless transition.  I am so thankful for that.  With a little pushing from me, you decided to be part of Priority.  It makes me laugh (to myself) that I have to, um, "encourage" you to go to rehearsal most Sunday afternoons, but how you always have such a fun time with your friends and tell me great stories when I pick you up.  Why can't you just go willingly and save us both the trouble?!?

You got a cell phone this year.  I want you to know that this was a  HUGE decision for Dad and me.  More so for me--your dad was on board early on, but I needed some convincing.  I haven't admitted it to you yet, but you should know that I'm glad now that I agreed.  It has come in handy on more than one occasion.  It also is our go-to punishment item--the first thing to get taken away when your behavior calls for consequences.  Gosh, you hate that!  ;)

You know what else you hate?  You despise cancer.  You are reluctant to deal with it, and very reluctant to talk about it.  That's making it tough.  You know that I am sick--maybe sicker than I've ever been--but you don't want to discuss it.  I press on, though.  I am determined for you to talk to me, even though it's hard.  Believe me,'s hard for me, too.  But I love you so much!  Way too much to just let it go.  So I will continue to try to gauge how much is too much, what is safe ground and what will push you too far.  Here's a small reminder for you:  God is in control.  There is nothing that this life can throw at us that He can't handle for you if you let Him.  Your mom loves you, but your God loves you infinitely more.

Life with you is a grand adventure, Goliath.  Some days are up, other days are not quite so easy.  I would not trade a single one for ANYTHING.  Each night at bedtime (sometimes I tuck you in, other times it's the other way around) when you hug me, it feels like the greatest thing in the world.  All the craziness and busyness of the day melts away, and I am taken back in an instant to that fantastic snowy day in 2002 when I first hugged you.  No matter what you do or where you go, I will be there.  No matter how big you grow and how diverse your interests become, I will be there.  Because, sweet one, that's what love is all about.  

Thank you for letting me be your mom and accompanying you on your life adventure.  You carry around a huge piece of my heart, and there is no one else who I would want to have it.  I look forward to what this new year will bring us and where it will take us...I love you so much!

Happy Birthday, amazing son.