Thursday, December 23, 2010

Frosting, and sprinkles and sugar....OH MY!

Cookies, cookies, and more cookies. Tuesday night we all gathered around the kitchen island for our annual sugar cookie cutting evening....Christmas trees, snowman, stars and bells....the cookie cutters scattered about, big and little hands taste testing the dough and flour falling like soft snow all around.....memories created, overdoes of laughter, messy hands and one tired mom. (and dad!) 

Phew.....step one done....60+ sugar cookie cut-outs baked and ready to be adorned.

Adorned we did last night. 

Frosting colored and pushed into decorating bags, pans laid out, sprinkles lined up....the troops were called in and the decorating in full swing. 


One, two, three.....we're off....

Faith figuring out how this thing works, intently creating a masterpiece.

Jeddy, all smiles.

Mom (who lives in an attached in-law apartment), joined in on the action. 

"Oh, I can't wait to eat this masterpiece!"

Luke, adding the star on top. 

And Ben, well, this just shows you are never too old for decorating cookies.....or look closely at his pan.....
never too old to have fun with the sprinkles. 

Frosting covered hands....in on the mess.....so thankful for these Christmas moments.   The mess all worth it! 

Fun. 

Seth's creation.....not one of his finest. 

And Jed, his creativity with the stars. 

The finished product. 

As quickly as they came, they left.....and my dear, sweet, precious husband who appointed himself the clean-up crew.


Ahhh, life is good.

Enjoy each moment for they all count!

Today, we had a few extra children over for playdates. Somehow throughout the day those 60+ cookies dwindled down to about 15 or so....that's what happens when you have a house of growing boys mixed in with friends. (who are also growing boys!)

Mental note for next year.....hide the cookies. :)

Hoping you are making many special Christmas memories.

Much love,
Stacy

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bare

My calendar last week greeted me with 4 days of doctors appointments. What I had pictured as "time off", from chemo to radiation, was beginning to look quite different. Walking through cancer, there really is no "time off." It is always there. The reality. The possibilities. The doctors. There was no letting down this month between me and the medical community. Instead, we have broadened our relationships to now include a staff of radiation specialists....doctors, nurses, technicians and receptionists included.

More people on my path who I have the privilege of meeting. Lives intersecting through cancer. Relationships that might never have been built outside of this disease and my treatment.

Last Tuesday began with my Radiation Simulation appointment. The pre-radiation appointment, if you will, where images are made of my chest so that the radiation can be targeted to the desired location.

When I arrived, a nurse quickly greeted me in the waiting room. She lead me through the next door and guided me past the lockers that would hold my belongings each day as my treatment was underway, to the cabinet that held the hospital gowns, to the changing room and finally to the chairs that would hold me as I waited for my name to be called. This path would mark my footsteps for 28 consecutive days beginning in January.  It will be a path that I will come to know well.

I completed the steps and sat in the small, back waiting room, dressed in the gown, bare underneath from the waist up....waiting. My nurse reappeared and walked me down the wide corridor to the imaging room.

The room was warm, but somehow a chill still ran through my body. I didn't want to be here. I sat quietly, somewhat nervously as she began her job. She was all all business. She had a job to do. My eyes gazed around the room as she prepared. Before me was the cat scan machine and a long, narrow bed attached to the machine. There was a closed door connecting to another room and a window along the same wall covered in metal blinds. Beyond that room were the technicians, I presumed, waiting with their imaging computers for my body to come up on their screens. The room was quiet.

She said she was ready and positioned me on the table. Underneath me laid a trash bag filled with the magic potion that would make the mold of my body. A mold that would hold me each day of treatment as the radiation did its job, hopefully killing any lingering cancer cells near my chest wall. A mold positioning me just right, made to fit my body exactly, cradling me, holding me.

My arms were raised overhead, hands loosely clasped, face turned to the side. Body exposed with nothing more than a thin sheet covering my chest, of which she had to take off marking my sides with a marker.

Bare.

It is a word that seems to define my exterior a lot these days. A bare head. Bare eyes with just traces of eyelashes left, bare eyebrows, the hair that is suppose to layer my exterior is gone.

And yet God reminds me that I am clothed in His mighty robes of righteousness and beauty. Robes that are lavish and deeply colored. Robes of royalty and an inheritance of glory that is waiting for me one day. A robe that is crisp and clean from the forgiveness that He freely extends each day. And I have to constantly bring this reality to the forefront of my mind and heart....meditating on Him alone or the bareness of my physical body will overtake me with grief. All that has been shed.

My mind goes to my Jesus who laid bare in the manger as He made His entrance into this world. As the animals in the stable carried on around Him. As the Wise Men came peering in on Jesus with awe and wonderment, probably never realizing the true beauty that laid before them. Beauty that was just in this baby, but what He had come to do. A purpose to fulfill. And then 33 years later, Bare...He would hang on a cross. Naked, beaten, bruised, hurting in pain unimaginable.....for you and for me. As onlookers mocked him, ridiculed him and gazed at his naked frame. Unknowing that He was the King of all Kings.  Their redeemer. And that while His outward man was perishing, His inward soul was being renewed by the hand of His Father. There He hung, fully God and fully man.....something my mind has a hard time wrapping itself around.

He was willing to be bare.

It wasn't the outside that mattered so much as the inside. What laid beneath the surface. That was the business He was after.

"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary,
 but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Temporary versus eternal.

What we think is important in our eyes, compared to what is important in God's eyes.

And He is getting to the heart of my interior. The stripping away that began the moment I sat in the hair dressers chair months ago. I knew it in my heart. That this was just the beginning. As the hair fell softly to the floor that day. That God was doing a new work in my heart. But for that work to be accomplished, the old would have to go. Old patterns of thinking. Old habits. Old paradigms.

The stripping continues.

I don't lose heart. There are days I am tired and feel like this journey may go on forever. But I know He is doing a work deep within. Cleaning the lens and showing me what is of greater value.

The exterior is temporary. Let's face it. It grows old. It sags. It lets us down. We can spend oodles of money trying to make it better, but at the end of the day....it will die. We all will, someday.

But the soul, the interior.....as the body grows weak, the interior....through Christ.....can grow strong. It can blossom and grow. It can be renewed. And often, that renewing comes through the road of affliction.

I will be laid bare for that work to be accomplished in me. It is worth it. He is worth it. The eternal weight of glory is worth it.

And so I press on, trying not to look at what my eyes want to behold in the mirror, but what the mirror of God's Word beholds in me. That as God speaks to my heart about matters of my soul, I will respond in obedience and willingness.

She worked quickly pushing the sides of the trash bag against my body, holding it there as the liquid inside settled into place, hardening into a cast. I had my ipod in hand. I knew I needed to go to the place that truly brought me peace and rest. My body laid upon the narrow table, the catscan machine waiting just beyond my head....ready.

She made small talk as she worked. But I really didn't want to talk. I wanted to just be still. Once again, I choked back the tears that seem to sting my eyes so easily these days. They come from nowhere and freely flow down my cheeks when I least expect it. It is as if they sit, waiting. I closed my eyes, releasing the tension that stiffened my body. And then she left. It was just me and the machine.....and God, who never leaves or forsakes us. He is there, always.

Worship music began flooding my ears as I praised Him in the quietness and warmth of the room. The table slid into the machine, the whirl began as the machine took its pictures and the imaging began. I was transported to the throne of the Almighty. Peace flooded my heart. The bareness was replaced with the shelter of God Himself. He is my covering. As He whispered His love to my heart and my heart in return cried to Him. And we met again in the cat scan tunnel.

Time moved quickly as the table ushered me back into the room. My arms were numb and heavy from being stationary over my head for so long. The nurse returned and told me I could rest my arms. As I tried to move them they banged against my body with an uncontrolled heaviness. Blood began returning to my fingertips, as the nurse prepared my body for the radiation tatoos....4 of them....marking my body permanently. Pricks of a needle, forever marked by radiation. Forever marked by this breast cancer road, once again.

As the imaging appointment finished, I retraced my previous steps and walked out into the brisk air. Later that day, my oncologist called to tell me that there was a problem with my imaging. As it turns out, my left breast was a bit too large, thus inhibiting the radiation ray to my chest wall. She informed me that she had called my plastic surgeon, relaying this information and that my left side needed to be somewhat deflated.

Last Friday, I went to my plastic surgeon. He took the stitches out from my mole removal procedure the week before, He happily informed me that my moles all came back completely clear...no abnormal cells at all....Praise God! And then he took 125ML of saline out of my left breast leaving me, shall we say....a little bit lopsided.

And this too is temporary....following radiation....he will reinflate me for two months leading up to my final reconstruction surgery in late April.

So this morning, I was back to the radiation department, walking back through the paths leading to the cat scan imaging room....for imaging number 2. Same nurse, same room, same procedure. As she rolled me into the machine, Ipod once again playing and earphones snuggly in my ears.....a light shone through my closed eyes as worship music flooded my ears......with the words.....broken into beautiful.

That is our God.....He takes the broken, the bare....and makes us beautiful as we submit to His loving and gracious hand. He has heart work that He is after.

May we not lose heart.....

Much love today,
Stacy

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Preschool Christmas Show - Another First for us

Friday night was a proud moment for this momma....as you may know, the Preschool scene has been among the many "new" things that this past year has been wrapped in for us. In early October, Faith began attending a local Christian preschool 3 days a week. She is the first one in our Davis clan to attend Preschool.....call it cancer, call it a girl, call it "this momma needed a little break...." I'm calling it divine intervention.  The experience has been nothing but spectacular for all of us.

Her teachers are an extension of God's heart to these precious and tender souls. The preschool director has blessed our family in more ways than I can express. And my little Faithy girl grins from ear to ear each preschool day. No separation anxiety in her little personality. No "bad" habits/attitudes coming home from preschool. Nothing but pure excitement and smiles...as she soaks up God's Word, learns her days of the week and ABC's, gets to be crafty (of which I'm not!), plays, and sings to her heart's content.

Friday night, we attended her Preschool Christmas Program. It was both divine and filled with the melodious voices of preschoolers pouring out their hearts in song to Jesus. It was the "first" Christmas program I've attended and there was much anticipation. Not just because Faith stood among her classmates singing and sharing the story of Christ's birth, but because she had been asked to sing a duet with another preschooler that evening. 

My Faithy girl doesn't really have a shy bone in her body. At times, she is a bit bold. We are working on the "quick to listen and slow to speak" verse....as sometimes she can be a bit too forthright with adults and her mind comes pouring out through her mouth. This I think she might get from me. The joys of parenting as we see in our children what really first lies within us....and God uses our children to train our hearts as we are training theirs. :)

I digress.

Anyway, after weeks of practicing the song at home, Friday night was showtime. And she stood before that microphone and sang to Jesus and each one of us. My heart was full and tears stung my eyes. The evening was a gift in so many ways.

After the performance, as people came up to her and bid her well wishes and congratulations....some asked if she was nervous, to which she replied, "Nervous? Not at all." Again....she speaks her mind freely.

May you enjoy her singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth." And as Jesus is peace, may we share Him freely, lovingly and boldly this Christmas season and may we live each moment to its fullest!

(don't forget to pause the song playlist at the bottom of my blog before listening. 
Faith is on the left in the white and black polka dots.)






Much love and peace to each of you,
Stacy

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Door #3 - Radiation

Last week, December 8th to be exact, door #3 of treatment stood before me.

The door read: RADIATION

No sooner had chemo ended one week before, and here we were traveling quickly to the next phase of treatment.

I wasn't really ready. I just wanted to stand still for a bit and rest. Wait. Savor the moments of chemo being over and bit by bit my body returning to normal.

But the door stood there ajar. Waiting for me to cross the threshold.

9:00AM, consultation with Dr. S.

Months prior, Barclay and I had met with two different Radiation Oncologists. We heard all the statistics.  Why radiation was needed for my cancer. You see, when the mastectomy was done back in July, I had two positive lymph nodes that held cancer and In situ cancer (DCIS) was found .3mm from my chest wall. It was the chest wall issue that caused the doctor's concern and necessitated my need for radiation.

So we prayed. We sought the Lord on this matter, asking Him to show us His way. To bring all into agreement, if this is what we were to do.

We had talked to two other Radiation Oncologists, my Integrative doctor and my Medical Oncologist. All agreed.

And whereas, I really didn't want to proceed down this passageway.....I knew that is where my feet needed to travel.

But I was uneasy about my doctor. We hadn't met yet and it was so important for me to click with her. To feel comfortable in her hands. I knew she was well respected, but also knew that I didn't want to be a numbers and figures on a chart, as I had felt when meeting other doctors. I need my doctors to see me as a woman, with a family facing a disease. So far, God has given that to me, and more.

Wednesday morning came, as the dates on the calendars always do. I awoke early and spent some time in prayer and reading my Bible. I knew this morning, I needed protection...God's protection and His divine Truths to wash over me calming my restless heart. Refocusing my attention on Him and off the hours that laid ahead.

I am constantly aware that without Him I am weak and misguided. That left to myself, I am without peace and direction. Without strength. Without hope.

He is my everything. And He has the answers that I don't have. He calms the storm that begins rising within me.

"And Peter answered Him and said, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.' So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, 'Lord, save me!' And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him...." Matthew 14:28-31

My eyes need to be fixed on Him....everyday. Every hour. Every minute.

And so that morning, I fixed my eyes on Him. Seeking His shelter and His peace.

He is faithful leading me in His Word to exactly what I needed to hear deep in my heart.

He lead me to Psalm 108.

And I read....

"I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples, And I will sing your praises to You among the nations.....that Your beloved may be delivered, save with Your right hand, and hear me.....Give us (me) help from trouble, For the help of man is useless. Through God we (I) will do valiantly, For it is  He who shall tread down our (my) enemies." 

He again showed me that He is fighting this enemy....cancer. He is my help. He is my deliverer. Through Him I will do mighty things.....and He will take down this enemy. His way, in His time. All I need to do is stand strong in Him, each and every day and wait on the Lord.

I know I sound like a broken record.....but really....in God is victory and strength. He takes down strongholds and parts the sea. He takes down the giants and desires us to live abundantly in Him.

So I choose Him over everything else.

I stood confident in Him as I walked through the Radiation door.

And He showed Himself strong.

From the receptionist, to the nurse to the Radiation Oncologist......more than I could have asked for.

They were all lovely. They were gentle with me. They were kind. They made me laugh. And the conversation with Dr. S wasn't focused on statistics and percentages of recurrence. She focused on me. Where I began, where I had gone these last 8 months, and why we were seated in front of her that day. And whereas she agreed, that radiation is needed, she ended with saying...."Stacy, ultimately you can choose if this is what is best for you."

No forcing. No medical muscles flexed to intimidate.

A choice.

And isn't that what everything comes down to....choices. Will we chose Him? Will we walk in His love and His strength? Will be rest in His peace?

That morning as I chose to start with Him. Stay with Him and be lead by Him.....He held me tightly.

And so we walk through this door....Beginning in January, I will go through 28 days of radiation therapy. 5 days a week. Targeting my right side from my clavicle to just under my rib cage.

Until then, I have appointments to set up the specs for my radiation. A custom mold made of me for the radiation table. Imaging to target the radiation in the right spots. And then on we go...ready.

And so, with peace and confidence in God alone,  I walk through the next door trusting that God has gone before me.

And as I walk this cancer journey, I am learning more and more that rest is not the absence of trials and difficulty.....rest is the presence of God.

Are you resting in Him today, no matter where He has you?


Much love,
Stacy

Monday, December 13, 2010

Do you see what I see.....



So a little laughter on Monday morning is always a good way to start the day.

On Sunday morning, during breakfast, I was showing the kids my new peach fuzz, telling them that daddy said it was like the head of a newborn baby. Saying that they could now picture what I looked like as a baby, a long time ago. My new fuzz is super fine, kinda white and wispy.  It will probably fall out as it changes over to "real" hair.  The excitement builds as we wait to see what my 'new' hair will look like. Most say it comes in darker and curlier. Time will tell.

Well, My 10 year old, in such a sweet, childlike manner piped in, "Yeah, but mom you have teeth, babies don't have teeth!"

The boys, all gathered around the kitchen table, with two of their friends who had spent the night, started laughing hysterically.....I think picturing me with no teeth.

I, too, couldn't stop laughing and said to the boys..."It is bad enough not having hair, can you imagine what I'd look like right now with peach fuzz and no teeth!"

Thanking God for the little things....peach fuzz and teeth. :)

"Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new.' And He said to me, 'Write, for these words are true and faithful." Revelation 21:5

Much love today,
Stacy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's been a long week....

Today was beautiful.

I'm not speaking of the weather. That too, was beautiful.  From frigid 30's for the past week to the 50's today. Yes, the air lost its bite and a warmth was replaced.

But today was beautiful for other reasons.

Today, 120 women gathered at our church celebrating our Savior at our Women's Christmas luncheon. Breaking bread together. Worshipping together. Fellowshipping together joined by the common thread of Jesus Christ our Lord...sisters in Christ.

And God was there. His Spirit was felt in such a tangible way as He moved through the hearts of the women, especially mine.  As He spoke through the woman sharing the message from Isaiah 9:6:

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called 
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Speaking Truth, speaking love, speaking of prophecy and fulfillment, speaking of the gift of salvation and the greatest gift giver, all wrapped in one. Jesus Christ. Speaking of the character of Jesus. Who He is and what He's done for us.

That the focus of this season is not just a baby laying in a manager. That was Jesus's earthly entrance fully God and fully man. That day in Bethlehem was life changing. But Jesus came to do so much more. He walked among us fulfilling a purpose. Bestowing upon us a gift wrapped in more love than our minds can fathom...the giving of Himself.....and He suffered unjustly on the cross at Calvary for my sins and yours, died and rose again....alive today.....seated at God's right hand on the heavenly throne desiring a relationship with you and me.

From the manager, to the cross, to the throne.

May we celebrate Him this Christmas season. May we get to know more of His heart. More of His thoughts. More of His ways. May we focus on the gift giver. Thanking Him and loving Him, giving more to Him than to any other. He is the greatest gift giver.

He is Wonderful. The great Counselor. Mighty God and Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace.

He is worthy.

Do you know Him? May we all seek Him this Christmas season.

It was a beautiful ending to a long week and so humbling and fulfilling seeing God bring 6 months of prayer and preparation to fulfillment, as He allows me to oversee our church's Women's Ministry. What a privilege.

On another note....

I'm sorry I've been away for the last week or so.  After chemo, I retreated to my bed for a few days. Bone pain descended. Fatigue took over. But God gave respite even in the midst of this last recovery, allowing me to attend a much anticipated wedding and also make it to church last Sunday.  Each day I fell into bed quickly thereafter, but was thankful to make it out. By Tuesday, I was back on my feet feeling restored once again and chemo a thing of my past.

In the midst of final luncheon preparations this past week, I had my first radiation oncology appointment on Wednesday. Bible Study Thursday morning and then that afternoon, I had two moles removed in an outpatient procedure. Friday set up for the luncheon and then ahh.....rest right now.

It has been a long week. I hope to share more about my appointment this week, as God moved mountains once again and spoke so intimately to my heart the morning of my radiation appointment. And then Satan, as is His way, tried to wreak havoc on my mind on Thursday following my procedure. He surely doesn't want me walking in Christ's victory, or entering Christ's rest. And He ramped things up on Thursday after my plastic surgeon informed me he is a little worried about the mole taken off my back.

So we wait for pathology to come back this week. And as I wait, I will rest in the Lord and His goodness because again.....He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

I don't have to understand why things happen as they do, but I trust in a God who does and who holds me in His righteous right hand.

That is where I am resting tonight. I pray you are too!

Much love,
Stacy

PS...A huge thank you to my sweet blogging sister in the Lord, Lisa. I came to post tonight and saw all your precious comments, quickly learning that Lisa had shared my story of God's Victory on her blog. I was humbled beyond words. My heart was touched by each one of you. Thank you for praying me through this breast cancer journey. I hope to stop by and say hi to each of you.

And lastly....yes, I will stop here......8 years ago today, my precious boy, Joshua, went home to be with the Lord. Hard to believe it has been 8 years. In many ways it seems like yesterday and in others....it seems like forever. He is being remembered today. A precious gift to our family in so many ways. Again, God set forth the perfect day, a day my mind was on Him and all that He has done. God gives and takes away....blessed be the Lord.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." James 1:7






Friday, December 3, 2010

The Victory Celebration

There are days that you just don't want to forget. Forever etched on your heart and in your mind.

Significant.

Many of those days are not days of our choosing. They are days that chose us through the hand of a loving and faithful Father.  Approving, understanding the significance, and knowing that the purpose holds eternal weight.

Wednesday was one of those days. As my last chemo treatment was before me, I wanted to celebrate.

Celebrate the end, bringing about a new beginning.

Celebrating the journey and all that God had taught me along the way, thus far...knowing there is more ahead, but this passageway complete.

Celebrate life and hope through Jesus Christ.

Celebrate friends and the family of God for whom God used to bring me through. Many who gave more to me than they may ever know.

A couple weeks before the calendar marked my last treatment day, I sat in the chemo lounge, receiving a treatment and watched as a lady finished her course. A bell was brought to the center of the room and this lady rang that bell signifying the end. And she bid farewell to each of us sitting in the chemo chairs announcing her road to wellness was before her. There was a smile on her face and a skip in her step. It was a joyous moment. One I will always remember.

I knew my day was approaching. After 97 days of enduring the effects of chemo....August 26th to December 1st....the passageway was narrowing and the door coming to a close on day 98, December 1st..a new beginning.

And I wanted to celebrate that victory.  I didn't just survive. Through Christ, I conquered.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.....yet in all these things we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us."  Romans 8:35,37

And that is victory....sweet victory. That these trials do not separate....they draw us closer, if we'll submit and allow them to.....closer to our Jesus as our dependence is on Him and none other. In Him I am a victor.

Now mind you, I didn't know what that celebration looked like....so I deferred to my precious husband who enlisted the help of some precious other sisters in the Lord.

And once again, I witnessed the body of Christ in action. The love of Christ poured out as a drink offering.

I drank deeply and am still full today.

Once again, my thanks are not enough. They come from a place so deep in my heart and soul and yet I feel I can never adequately repay each of you for the love you have poured out on me and my family. So many of you, God has used in my life these past 8 months. From the time I found the lump in late April until today. These precious woman who surrounded me on Wednesday, have ministered to me in ways that truly bring me to tears as I write these words. From the continual phone calls just checking in on me, to the cards received by their hands in some of my weakest moments, to the prayers that they have ushered to God's throne, often over the phone with me or in person, to the life giving words of Truth from God that they have spoken into me, to the tangible help each chemo week with my children, to the hugs, the gifts received....to the selfless love that they each have offered to me with open hands. May God return to them 10 fold. May God bless them in ways that I never could. Thank you sweet friends, for holding my hand and even raising them when I was too weak. You are tokens of God's grace and love.

And there are many more around me, who were not there that day, who, too, have walked with me. Thank you.

What a beautiful ending God gave me as I crossed that threshold over the chemo doorway once and for all. May these pictures complete this part of HIS story.



The completion bell resting upon a shelf in the chemo lounge. It was my day to ring it~

Ring the bell three times well, its toll will clearly say, "My treatments done! This course is run and now I'm on my way!"


Birdseye view of the chemo lounge. Many hours spent here. Barclay came with me to treatment this morning, but left at lunchtime (now knowing he had much up his sleeve!) and my best friend, Beth, came sitting with me to the end. 

As this was all a surprise to me, I later learned that some of my precious friends were waiting in the lobby outside the chemo lounge for their grand entrance as my chemo was completed. 

The moment of surprise as they came around the corner bearing balloons, gift baskets and their smiling faces.
I was truly overwhelmed with their love and their desire to share in this special day with me.  

Laura, my nurse that day, disconnecting me from the chemo line for the last time. 

At this point, my husband had returned with all of our children and my mother, in tow. Here is Jeddy,  our 6 year old, coming right over to hug me. Later that night, He told me, "Mommy, I am so glad your chemo is done!"

It is finished!

The man of my dreams. Having walked intimately beside me. Holding me. Enduring. Drawing closer. And here embracing me once again. We celebrate together.  
They brought the bell to the center of the room. There were about 7 people still finishing up their treatment that afternoon. I quickly shared with them the passage from Deuteronomy that God had spoken to my heart that morning. Praying that God would encourage their hearts on their journey.  "Stand strong in the Lord. Posses the victory that is in Him. He will lead you to the other side...a land flowing with milk and honey.  This is what He desires for you. He cares for you deeply. Trust in Him" 

And I rang that bell!! 

My family

With my mom.....

with my sweet, endearing, precious friends and sisters in the Lord. 

Some of the many wonderful and gifted nurses that took care of me with a tender heart and a tender touch. With a smile on their face and compassion in their eyes each week. They walked me through each treatment, each Neulasta shot, each question and concern. 

After I ran the bell, Beth handed me a baggie filled with laminated Bible verses.  My life verse was typed on pretty paper and laminated. 1 Corinthians 15:58 "My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing your labor is not in vain in the Lord." She had made them for me to hand out. I walked through the chemo lounge and asked each person if I could give them this bookmark, that God would encourage their hearts as they continued through their journey. All but one took them. This dear lady, was holding the hand of a friend. As I came to her, she had a story to share with me. 

She told me that she is a 30 year cancer survivor. She continued to tell me a story that I will remember forever. After her treatment ended, she worried, as most cancer patients do....that her cancer would come back. Her faith was strong. But Satan was waging a war on her mind. That is his way. He is a lion who seeks daily who he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) She wasn't going to let him win. She was speaking to her priest one day sharing this with him. This is what the priest told her that she passed on to me in that moment....."I wouldn't tell anyone to ever go to hell.....but Satan....my priest told me....you tell him to go to hell, back where he came from and leave you alone!"

The battle is won! Victory is mine says the Lord! AMEN. 

And here is my oncologist, who happened to come around the corner at the end of the celebration, Dr. Johnson.  Like a mother in many ways to me. Her sweet and gentle spirit drew me. Meekness, in a profession where you don't see that very often. Yet, a woman filled with knowledge and wisdom. God placed me in her hands. 

One final farewell....and around the corner, out the door I went. My friends went their way, and we piled in the car heading home....relishing in those beautiful moments and the people that God had blessed me with. 

Little did I know the party was to continue at home with others gathered. As we pulled into our neighborhood and drove up the hill, there lining the roadway were familiar cars.  Tears of joy flooded my eyes once again. As I walked in there they were. And I pulled them all in for one big group hug. 

I am truly blessed beyond measure to know these woman. 

We sat around the table, eating, talking and sharing. Fellowship. 

And as I shared again what God did in my heart that morning, the message He had for me that truly set the foundation for that day and my days to come....our  Pastor's wife and dear friend, Laurie, pulled out a slip of paper that she had written a note to me on, laying atop a package and read it...

."Stacy, I couldn't find "pink" but praise God 'pink - as beautiful as it is, shall be behind you.' I don't know what color stands for triumph....but whatever that color is, it is yours! I believe that whatever grain of fear that was left in you - God has used the vehicle of cancer to stomp it out. You expressed years ago that you battled fear and worry. Faith will and has triumphed! Amen!!

You see.....God confirmed through Laurie, all that He had spoken to my heart just hours before through His Word. He is faithful, always and to the end. 


And as my morning began at the throne of Jesus, so too, it ended with my sisters gathered around me, unified through Jesus Christ as He laid His life down for each of us on the cross some 2000 years ago....saying, "It is finished." He conquered death. He took our sin upon His shoulders covering our sin with His blood.  Fully God, fully man. He suffered and it was in His suffering that He knows ours, intimately. He meets us there with outstretched arms saying, Come. In Me, there is everlasting life. Believe. Have hope. Find lasting peace.

"I am the way, the Truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. " John 14:6

There is nothing greater than He!!!

I am not a survivor. I am a Victor, through Jesus Christ my Lord. 

In Christ's amazing love,
Stacy



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Victory - last chemo treatment!

5:30AM

The bedside alarm sounds.

I am unfazed. In a deep slumber. Just a little longer echoes in my mind as I unconsciously lean over turning off the alarm. No snooze. Off. 

And my mind and spirit wrestle as I drift back off to sleep. 

"Come to Me." I hear. I'm waiting whispers the voice of God. 

And I so want to go but don't. Sleep ensues. 

And He waits. He doesn't have too, but He does. He stands at the door. Not being an intrusive God. Not forceful. And I'm sure, His heart is aching for me to choose Him over sleep. 

He wakes me up at 6:42 with an urgency. I'm awake. The need to be with Him overtakes my need for more sleep. 

Forgive me, Lord. I'm sorry. 

And the hand of forgiveness is extended. His grace poured out. 

I am on a mission as I slip out the bedroom door and go to my new meeting space with the Lord. 

The house is quiet and dark. Stillness abounds. 

In that stillness we meet as a divine appointment had been planned unbeknownst to me. 

Jesus had something to speak to my heart. Something I needed for today and each day going forward. 

His love is abundant and real like that. He has that for each of us if only we "Come and meet Him."

So we met as we do almost everyday. This day He poured out upon me as if a deluge of living water flooded my heart with words that dripped truth from every drop. 

As the rain outside poured heavily this morning and the wind swept the rain, so too, the Holy Spirit was doing a work in my heart, deep inside. 

You see, today, Wednesday, December 1st, was chemo #8, my last treatment. A day marked forever on the calendar. A day signifying the end and a new beginning. A day that should be filled with joy and thanksgiving. Rejoicing. 

And I was struggling.

I kept looking past today with the reality that my cancer could come back and with it, more chemo. More treatments. More pain. Was today really the end? What if it is temporary, as I wait through the next 5 years. The next 10 years. What if it comes back and I am back in this room, in this chair?  I will be forever in relationship with my oncologist. Forever tested, scanned and prodded. Forever on alert to signs in my body signifying a return. 

And I put up a wall of protection. I justified my feelings saying I was living in reality. The reality that my cancer could return. I can "Do" all the right things: eat well, take my supplements, exercise, rest, go for Vit. C treatments, get chemo, get radiation.... and yet, my cancer is in God's hands. My future, it too lies outside of my control in the hands that created me. 

And He asked me this morning, "Will you walk in victory or in defeat?" Will you walk by faith, trusting that I have something good for you no matter what? I go before you in all things. Trust Me. Or will you walk in your old ways.....fear? Fearing the future, trusting, putting my hope in "things" outside of him, fearing cancer?"

That four letter word that has been attached to my heart for too many years. I thought I was free from fear and that I had let those weights go long ago. 

But I had picked them back up. You see my greatest fear in life has always been cancer and my health. And it ultimately came down to control, gripping tightly to the tangible or letting go to the seemingly intangible. Walking by faith not by sight. 

God was asking me this morning to face that fear head on, with Him as He gently lead me by the hand through His Word. His Word is truth and there the intangible becomes alive. Real. Abundant. Tangible.

And He walked me through the fear. He named the sin for me. And isn't that what we do with sin. We justify. We try to give it a pretty name or even pretend that it isn't even there. 

But God...those two words that change it all. He says "in me there is victory and with victory there is peace and there is rest. Will you grab ahold of Me? Will you posses the victory that is yours in Christ.  He wants us to repent. To come to Him, confess, and be cleansed. 

He sent the cleansing rain this morning. 

With the house quiet, the lights low and my heart ready. We met. 

As we began our walk together through His Word. He didn't waste any time. 

I picked up my devotional reading:

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9

That rest includes victory: "The Lord gave them rest on every side.....The Lord handed all their enemies over to them" Joshua 21:44. "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57

And you know what....I didn't realize this this morning as I read, but as I typed that last verse just now and then typed where it is found in the Bible, I stopped.

You see, my life verse is 1 Corinthians 15:58. God gave me that verse when I was pregnant with Joshua just days before I knew that he was fatally ill. It is my life verse because it stands as the platform upon which I stand with Christ.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor is not in vain in the Lord." 

My life is in Him and a work of Him. And this verse proceeds it. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

As I type I am in awe once again in my Father, Jesus Christ.

I can be steadfast and immovable because He is. And He gives me the victory through Him alone. 

It is the bookend to my faith. As this walk of cancer has been for me. Josh was one end and this cancer has been and will continue to be another. Two roads looking completely different on the outside, but doing a work much the same, only deeper on the inside. 

He goes before us in ALL things just as this verse goes before the other. 

Victory. 

Victory includes peace. Victory includes rest. Victory is the absence of war. Where there is peace, there is no fear. That is only found in Christ.

You see, the devotional went on to tell the story of a Christian woman, who was plagued by fear, trouble and anxiety. She had a dream. In that dream God met her. She was walking on a highway and on that highway all the people were carrying black bundles. The people were tired and they were weighted down...burdened.  These bundles were being dropped along the road by scary, creepy looking creatures. And as one bundle dropped someone quickly picked it up, carrying it along. She, too, carried her black bundles. 

After awhile, she looked up and starred into the face of man whose face shined with light, peace and love. He moved through the crowd. He came to her and asked her why she was carrying those bundles? He told Him how tired she was. They were heavy. He looked her in the eyes and told her, "Those bundles are not from Me. You have no need for them. They are the devil's burdens weighing you down. Drop them and refuse to pick them up again. Then you will find your path easy and you will feel carried on the wing's of eagles. (Ex. 19:4)

She dropped those black bundles, laid herself at the feet of Jesus and her heart was filled with peace. You see she possessed the victory. She choose to live in it. She choose Him.

And I bowed my head and prayed. I poured out my life to Christ surrendering it all to Him, again. 

I then, opened my Bible, to Daniel. And God in His perfect way lead me through His Word, laying my eyes on the exact words that my heart needed to hear. One verse, lead to another, and another until He brought me to my final resting place.

In Daniel He showed me that Daniel "Purposed in His heart that He would not sin and instead, seek holiness and purity." That is He sought God. He would not eat the food dedicated to idols. That which goes against God. 

Because of this, Daniel was victorious. You see he was going against the king's instruction and choosing God. All signs said that he would die, be cut off by going against the king and eating something different. But when God is for you, who can rise up against you?" God had gone before Daniel. He was doing a work. He honors obedience and blesses purity. 

A test ensued and guess what, God won and so Daniel won. Victory. It is the Lords. It is ours. 

And He took me to Psalm 68

My eyes soaked up each word and as they came to verse 7, "O God, when You went out before Your people, when you marched them through the wilderness, the earth shook, The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God.....You, O God, sent a plentiful rain." 

He went before His people. He sent rain.

At this point, I couldn't get enough. God had set out the appetizer, and now I was moving onto the meal. 

I dug deeper. 

I went to Exodus 13:21 and read of the Great Exodus out to Egypt and right before the Israelites were ready to cross the Red Sea, after a long and arduous journey. Hard. Painful. Questioning. Carried. 

God reminds them....."And the LORD went before them, by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night." He didn't take the pillar away.

He lead them.

He went before them.

He never left.

He's done the same for you and for me. What do I have to fear?

He prepares. He seeds. He waters. He brings forth a harvest. If only we will Come and follow.

And then He took me to the final resting place for my heart this morning. 

The place I needed to be this morning, before I walked through the chemo doors one last time. How would I walk through those doors? Rejoicing in Christ's victory? With peace and joy? or weighed down? Dragging? Fearing the future? 

He laid my eyes to rest in Deuteronomy chapter 11.

As I started at the beginning and read through, coming to verse 8....it was there....there that I began to weep tears of joy, tears of thanksgiving.....tears of deep gratitude and love to my Heavenly Father. 

He met me. Taught me. Changed me. Encouraged me. Broke me only to renew me!

"Therefore, you shall keep every commandment which I command you today, that you may be STRONG and go in and POSSESS the land which you cross over to possess, and that you may PROLONG your days in the land which the Lord swore to give your fathers, to them, and their descendants, A LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY. For the land which you go in to posses is not like the land of Egypt from you have come, where YOU sowed YOUR seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; BUT the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God CARES."
Deuteronomy 11:8-12


He was speaking to the new generation of Israelites who would be ushered into the promised land through Joshua. Moses is challenging them to seek God, the true victor. Their strength. Their guide. The one and only true God. 

Here is how God spoke to my heart.....

Stacy, obey me in all things. In Me lies strength. Go and take hold of the victory that I have for you. Possess it. Take possession. I want to lead you to the other side of these treatments. The other side of your journey. I desire your days to be long as you rest in me. With victory comes rest and peace. My ways are filled with that...milk and honey......joy, peace, abundance, rest. Don't go back to fear. Your old ways. Don't walk in your own strength and wisdom. What I have for you will still have hills and valleys, but those hills and valleys are watered by me. The rain I send will bring forth a harvest of righteousness. I care for you. Trust me, today. I go before you in all things. Do not fear the future. I am with you and if I lead you back to the cancer lounge one day, if your cancer returns....I will have prepared you for that day and where I am, there you, too, shall be. Walk victorious. "There is no fear in love." 

May His words be cemented to my heart. I don't ever want to forget. 

Literally the floodgates poured open. My eyes were opened and my heart received.

I had peace.  And I walked in it, in Him, today through the last chemo treatment.

My friends, God is good. What He gave me today, He has for each of you. He shows no partiality. His love is the same. His Word is alive because He is alive. And He has an amazing plan for each of our lives. Are you walking in His victory. You can, even in the midst of your circumstances. Choose Him today. Your life will be forever changed. 

I sat in that chair this morning a victor. I pray that door never opens again for me, but I am confident of this, if it does, He has gone before me. He will make the path straight. And today, today....I walk in that confidence, no fear. And today is the only day I am asked to walk; obediently, purely, seeking Him.  He will take care of my tomorrows. Blessed be the name of the Lord!!


Chemo #8- it was a celebration on every level...I'll share more tomorrow! 


Chemo complete...the chair is now empty......
As God has laid before me doors and passageways, I prayed as I walked over that threshold, out the chemo door.....



That the door will close forever, but the work in my heart will continue......to God be the glory!


Thank you for walking through with me. I am eternally grateful. Please pray for me as I enter into the next 6 days of chemo effects, fatigue and pain. May I lean on the Lord through it all.

In Christ alone,
Stacy

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Travels

Sorry it has been a week since I've written anything.....All is well on the home front. Life just kept me away. I always have the best intentions, and thoughts continue to swirl in my head, but somehow I can't always make it to the computer to put those thoughts down.

This week is a big week for me, as my last chemo is in eyesight. I hope to post tomorrow some more on that subject, but for today I'll share with you the Thanksgiving that I think might go down in our families' record book. I envision years beyond when my children will say, "Mom, remember that crazy Thanksgiving when we all went to Harrisburg the day before Thanksgiving and had to fill up 7 hours while Dad worked, the day went on forever, we were exhausted and oh you had cancer." I think there will be many laughs in hindsight.

Here is how it unfolded......

We weren't exactly sure what we were going to do this year for Thanksgiving. I have gone from an expert, "need to plan out every minute" kind of girl, to a let's wait and see what tomorrow brings kind of a girl and we'll decide then." Cancer has a way of doing that to you. And it is good. I'm liking the change.

In most past years, we'd travel to Northern VA (about a 3 hours drive) and spend a couple days with my husband's family. His parents live there along with his brother and his family and his sister and hers. All the extended family comes to town, as well, making it a mini-family reunion each year. It truly is special to see everyone come together for the holiday. There are around 40 people in attendance.

Let's just say this year, that was a teeny tiny bit overwhelming to me. I just didn't want to talk about cancer. I didn't want to wear cancer and I just didn't know if I'd have the energy to pack us all up and make the trek. But I wanted to do it for my husband. I wanted it for my kids, as family is so important. And the energy was returning after round 7 of chemo. So, on Tuesday we decided to make the trip. I was so thankful that Thanksgiving fell on an off-chemo week for me as it might just be one of my top favorite meals and I was looking forward to tasting it and enjoying it.

My husband works for an orthopedic company on the sales end of things. When surgeons are operating and using his spinal hardware, he is in the OR with the surgeon. Well, another consultant had asked him to cover a case in Harrisburg, PA on Wednesday. Harrisburg is almost halfway to his parents house. We found out Wednesday afternoon that the case had been moved to number 2 on the OR schedule. That meant a 10:30 OR time instead of 7:30AM.

Our plans were becoming a bit more complicated. In light of that new development, I thought it crazy for him to drive there, drive back to our house upon completion and then all of us retrace his steps. So I had this crazy idea to pack up that night, put it all in the car early Wednesday morning and go with him to Harrisburg. I figured I'd take the kids while he was in surgery and make a field trip out of it. Sometimes I can be a bit over ambitious. Still a work in progress....

So packed we did. By 9:00 Wednesday morning, we were all on our way. We were going to drop Barclay off at the Harrisburg hospital at 10:30 and then the kids and I would make our way to the Harrisburg State Museum. All went smoothly and to say the kids were excited would be an understatement.

The museum was both educational and inspirational seeing PA's history before us and the foundation of the state we live in. Ben and Seth are studying American History right now, and just finished through the colonization of the states, so we were in step with what they were studying. We all loved it. On the lower level they had a kids zone, which the younger 2 loved....and the 3 older found ways to enjoy as well. It was a nice way to end the museum tour.

We went across the street for lunch and then over to the state capital. I had never been there and it is truly a magnificent building. The kids were enthralled with it. We saw the senate and the House of Representatives. We stood in the Rotunda and marveled at the history that coated the walls and floors of that building. We sat on the marble grand staircase steps and read through the brochure together gleaning the facts from the pages as our eyes took in the surroundings. Together, we walked the halls of history as so much came alive. A field trip like none other.

We walked back to the car and at this point, I'm thinking we are in the home stretch. Three hours were absorbed as we soaked up the history. My feet, which have been struck with Neuropathy due to the chemo, were beginning to get soar. I texted Barclay to get his ETA and his reply back was, "we are getting ready for the second part of the surgery...about 3 more hours."

It was at this point that I began getting a bit ancy. I wasn't quite sure how to fill 3 more hours and we were all museumed out at this point. My brain went into survival mode....5 kids....a town I used to live in years ago, but it had changed quite a bit.....what to do with the next 3 hours? They were filled with walking through 2 malls, treking through the Big Bass Pro Shop (where we blew through $7 in quarters in 30 minutes as the boys played the laser gun games), and checking out our first home where Ben had lived for 2 years some 12 years ago. I think we drove pretty much all around Harrisburg by that point.

Around 5:30, I dared text Barclay again to see how close he was to being done. He said he wasn't sure. That is never a good answer. And at this point, I was beyond weary, totally worn out and questioning what had possessed me to think I could do this? It was then that I threw in the towel, drove back to the hospital and thanked God for the car DVD. For the next hour and a half, we sat parked in the hospital parking lot, car running, while the kids watched a movie. At 7:15 my dear sweet hubby walked out the hospital doors and we all sighed a heavy sigh of thankfulness.

Onward we traveled to Winchester, VA....after a long, but educational day.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Barclay's family. Thanksgiving was relaxing. And despite my fears, cancer wasn't discussed too much at all and again, I could just be....be with family and enjoy all that God has so richly blessed us with. We played games, caught up with all the relatives,  the cousins giggled together, the older boys played pool and ping pong, and we enjoyed a delicious turkey feast.

We came home on Friday evening after a wonderful and memorable time away.

As I type these words, I sit in front of our Christmas tree. Knowing that chemo is coming again on Wednesday and I'd be out of commission for about 6 days or so, we went out this weekend and bought our tree, decorated the house and did some Christmas shopping. It feels good to do those normal things. To enjoy the holidays without cancer robbing me of that time and the joy. I won't let it.

It is all in how you look at it, isn't it. Life is that way. I can either focus on what I don't have, or focus on what I do.....I choose the latter.  And all is good. It sure will be a Thanksgiving to remember.

Hope you all had a full Thanksgiving spent savoring the richness and blessings of all that you have.

William Penn, statue of the founder of PA

Mural of one of the battles during the Civil War

A mural depicting the overall history of PA

Seth being funny in the Kids Zone!

On the steps inside the Capital

Outside the capital

Much love,
Stacy