Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Quietness and Confidence is my strength

Chemo has this way about it. It is sneaky. It plays with your mind and your body and ultimately wreaks havoc producing nausea and fatigue. It wants to bring you down and your body has to fight with all its might to regain and reestablish a stable state. And it tries to weaken you to the point of breaking. But it doesn't happen all at once.....that's how it is sneaky. As the chemo gets pumped through your veins, you don't feel a thing. But as the afternoon turns into evening, extreme tiredness takes up residence in your body that seems to linger for a couple of days. A friend this weekend referred to Adriamyacin as the "red devil." I think that name is pretty accurate on all fronts.

I had my third chemo treatment last Thursday. My oncologist had told me that the longer you get chemo, as it accumulates in my body, the more effect it will have and the more tired I will become.

I am tired.

This last treatment was the hardest. It tricked me this time, though. I left the Cancer Center on Thursday afternoon feeling just fine. My in-laws were in town for the week and I had extra hands on deck each day. It was a dream! I felt full of energy from a week of extra help. As the evening ensued, so did the fatigue and by about 7:30 or so, off to bed I went. I awoke Friday morning feeling rested and was off an running. Nausea was an undertone throughout the day, but I have grown accustomed to that after my treatments. Overall, I was surprised at how good I felt on Friday. Saturday morning, I went in early for my Neulasta shot (it helps my blood rebuild for the next treatment) and then onto the football field for Seth's game that morning. As friends asked how I was doing, I joyfully said, "great!" and truly, I was feeling good and so glad to be at the field. And that's how this chemo thing minute you feel great and the next you feel cut off at the knees. I thought I would sail through treatment number 3 and be on my way.....but by later that afternoon, my body was slowly shutting down and crying out for rest. I crawled into bed late Saturday afternoon, as we had dinner plans that evening with friends. I slept for a few hours, but just didn't bounce back as I expected.

Sunday came quickly and was filled with more children's activities. And as Monday approached, I still didn't feel 100 percent. I was frustrated, tired and struggling on many fronts.

You see, as the fatigue begins to take over my body after these treatments, it becomes so hard to get out of bed in the morning. I now have to retire earlier than usual in the evening, as well. I set my alarm for 5:00 AM each night and just can't seem to get up. I actually turn my alarm off in my sleep and I don't even have the alarm clock set next to my bed. It is on the floor toward the end of my bed. Crazy, I know. This has plagued me since college. It has become a joke actually. Barclay just laughs when he sees me setting it.

But, oh how I need to get up early before the children. That time is precious. It is the time when I get recharged, refreshed and filled so that I can make it through the day. It is the time that is reserved for me and God.

Well, chemo has snuck in and tried to rob that from me and I've let it these last couple of days.

How I long for the lazy summer mornings on the front porch. How I need that time.

And what resulted was the perfect storm. My body was weakened, my mind distracted, and my soul was dry and thirsty. And I struggled. I was depleted on all sides, but being pushed on all sides.

That is where I have been these last couple of the desert waging war against the drugs that are suppose to fight this cancer but are bringing me down.

It isn't a good place. And all I wanted to do was run and hide. Seek shelter.

This morning that is what I did.

I cried out to my Jesus. He got me out of bed before the children awoke and I sat at my desk with my Bible open and began pouring out my heart in prayer.

As the tears streamed down my face, God clearly began speaking to my heart. As God knows my heart intimately, I mean let's face it, He created it.....He sees the cobwebs of sin and pride...He sees what man cannot. He began to bring to my mind a verse in the midst of my prayers. He began speaking to me....

"in returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall by your strength."

Now, I've got to tell you. God has spoken to me many times and many times very clearly, but never quite like this. These words kept flooding my heart as I kept on praying, so much so that I stopped praying, opened my computer to Blue Letter Bible to find where this verse was in the Bible.

Isaiah 30:15

Guess what the next verse says....."But you would not."

My heart stopped.

It all goes back to a choice.

You see on Tuesday morning, as I was so distraught, distracted, agitated, tired and just plain worn out.....I tried to sit with the Lord, but the children had woken up, the day was beginning and children were already calling for me from the four corners of the house needing help with schoolwork. And Jed sat at the table ready for his 1st grade lessons. As I walked out of the office, Barclay said to me, "No Stacy, you need to be with the Lord."

I chose to do Jed's lessons.

And that's how it happens. We choose to put something before the Lord. I put my fatigue, I put my day and all my responsibilities and everything became too big. And that's when the tiredness sets deeply in. And as the chemo is sneaky and takes me by surprise, as Satan so craftily works, so do my choices. Nothing can come before God. If I am not setting time to sit before the Lord, I am empty, I am operating in my own strength and rest is not to be received, no matter how much I sleep or how hard I try.

In returning (repentance) and rest (resting in the Lord) you shall be saved. In quietness and confidence (utter trust) shall be your strength.

And as my eyes continued to read through the rest of the chapter, to my amazement I began reading one of the exact verses God had spoken to my heart 8 years ago after our son Joshua went home to be with the Lord. At a time that I was crying out to the Lord once again.

He is so faithful. He so intimately meets us if we would just call out to Him. Come and be fed by His Word. He restores. He refreshes. He is patient. He is gracious. He makes the path straight.

"Therefore, the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.

For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem;
You shall weep no more.
He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry;
When He hears it, He will answer you.
And though the Lord gives you
The bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore,
But your eyes shall see your teachers.
Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying,
This is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30:18-21

He is the way. The only way.

And through this maze of cancer, chemo and treatments, and all else that comes along my path, He will tell me the way to go, if I would just seek Him and spend time with Him.

With God's strength, this chemo will not take me down. It may weaken me. It may set in and cause my body to fight like it has never fought before, but it won't have me. And I pray that even though it is a poison to my body, it will be a healer of any remnant cancer cells floating through my body. And that what Satan desires for evil.....God desires for good. That in this chemo journey, in this fight, I would run even harder into the arms of my heavenly Father and see Him face to face. Know Him more deeply than I have ever known Him before.

And so today is a new day. My body is still tired, but my spirit is refreshed and refueled. God says "man cannot live on bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." This is what Jesus said to Satan as He was temped in the desert. He hadn't eaten in 40 days. I'm sure He was quite tired and His body was weak. But I also believe He was strong. He had just been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. He was strong as He had spent time with His Father. In quietness and confidence was His strength. He trusted in His Father. Bread will fuel our body, but not our spirit or soul. We need God's Word. I need His Word each day.

...........and in quietness and confidence is my strength.

Much love,

Monday, September 27, 2010

All I can say is thank you....

Thank you for the outpouring of love upon our family these past 4 months in so many ways.

Thank you for giving so generously, supporting my sister as she ran her heart out for breast cancer, as she crossed that finish line for me this weekend. You've helped alleviate some of our financial burden of co-pays, deductibles, and hospital expenses. And to the anonymous sister in Christ who sent a financial gift to our home, if you are reading....I have no words, only tears of gratitude, a heart filled to overflowing with thanksgiving. As Jesus said, "inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Thank you.

Thank you for your daily prayers and words of encouragement. You truly are God's hands and feet to us right now and we are eternally grateful.

Thank you for checking in on me, emailing me and just sending your love. I've said it before and I say it again, "my heart is full."

Thank you for letting me be me. Somedays, I'm not sure who me much is new and yet so much is the same.

Thank you for holding my hand as there are many days on this journey that my hand needs a tight squeeze.

Thank you for your love and support.

I pray you know how much you are loved right back. You are each a gift, a treasure, a token of God's grace.

All I can say is "thank you" from the bottom of my heart.

Much love,

Friday, September 24, 2010

a note from stacy's sister

greetings everyone! writing to you today is stacy's sister, tasha. i've hijacked her blog for a post to share something exciting.

first, i will tell you that stacy is doing well. she sat in the chemo chair again this week and is responding better than she has in past weeks. she is feeling tired, but has more energy than she has with prior treatments. every little bit counts, right? praise God for this!

now, on to my announcement- this saturday i am running in a 10k to raise funds for stacy. you can follow my story (if you so choose) by tuning in to i will be running at 9:00am (pacific time) and would love it if you would join me by praying for me as i run. i'm not a runner by nature, so i'm going to need God's strength to carry my little legs to the finish.

you can also support this run (and directly support stacy) by donating to "the betties" fundraising efforts. one hundred percent of the money raised goes to stacy- it will help pay for the co-pays and deductibles and the like.

thank you, in advance, for your prayers and support. and thank you also for the encouragement that you blog readers have shared with her.

in Him-

Monday, September 20, 2010

Walking by Faith, not sight...

I have four hubs in my home...places where many hours are spent each day and each week, a hub of activity, if you will. Being a word girl, a hub is the central part of the wheel upon which the spokes are inserted. God has blessed me with a lot of spokes: A hubby, precious children, and a couple years ago, He called me into coordinating women's ministry at our church, as well as teaching a Thursday morning Bible Study. Without the hub, there would be a lot of chaos. I don't much care for chaos. Order, even if it is just visual order, sets a good rhythm to my beating heart.

Each place is rich in its surroundings, not because of what indwells there, or because of the physical decorations that may beautify that space, but because of the activity that takes place there. It is meaningful, it is lasting, and it sets about change and often deep heart activity. I've already shared with you my first hub: my front porch. This is where in the spring and summer days, I meet with the Lord. If my meeting time is disturbed, oh boy do the spokes come lose and that wheel wobbles all over the place. The front porch is my sanctuary of sorts for the Lord. It is where I open my Bible to hear from Him and then close my eyes to talk to Him. It is where I worship Him and praise Him for who He is and all that He is. It is where my faith begins growing as I learn more of Him. It is the most essential part of the without Him the spokes become detached and chaos ensues.

My second hub is what I call my "runway." No not where I do the cat walk, although there is a lot of walking that takes place on the runway. It is more like an airport runway.....planes come in and planes go out....although on my runway those planes would be the 12 feet that daily (ok, let's be real...I have 4 boys: 1 teenager and 2 coming close...they eat at all hours/minutes of the day)....coming and going from the kitchen. My runway is a span that runs from my kitchen sink to an old, antique jelly cupboard that sits along the wall at the end of my kitchen holding our dishes, the phone, some homeschool supplies and curriculum hidden behind the bottom doors and my cookbooks. On one side of the runway is a wall of cabinets, our stove, pantry and fridge, and on the other a long kitchen island where 6 of us cozy up for long talks, many a meal, schoolwork, name it, it happens here. I walk up and down that runway throughout the day pouring into the lives and mouths of these growing and changing babes.

The third hub is my laundry room. It is off my kitchen and nestled in the back corner of my home. I'll be honest, sometimes it is my hiding place on those days when my heart is overwhelmed and I need a moment to get right with God. It is where I get semi-instant gratification. The clothes come out of the washer and go into the dryer and then get folded and put into bins for each child to carry off to their room and put away. Ahh, completion, even if only for a moment, for the laundry NEVER ends in this house. No sooner do I think I am done and all clothes are neatly folded and ready to whisked away, another dirty item ends up on the floor of the laundry room. But I don't mind. I actually love doing the laundry. I love the fresh smell of laundered clothes. I love the process. I love the completion. I know, I might be a bit crazy. Between 7 people, 5 beds, loads of towels, dirty football uniforms, swimming suits and towels, muddy motorcross apparel....without my third hub....let's face it....we'd be one dirty and smelly family.

And then there is my 4th hub and what bring to the original picture I posted. It is my desk in the office I share with my hubby. I love this space. It brings me back to the days when I first laid eyes on my husband as we sat next to each other in high school English class. We were seated alphabetically and our English teacher either had the class arranged with the alphabet running forward or the alphabet running backwards: either way Barclay either was in front of me or right behind me as he was a D and I was a B. And throughout 11th grade English class, he and I passed notes back and forth. Silly notes with stars adorning the pages. Notes I still have today. Notes that marked the beginning of 22 years together. And now, once again, as he is back working from home, he has his desk and I have mine, and as he works, I am often sitting at my desk working alongside him. This is where many an email is exchanged, many a Bible study lesson written, a phone call taken, a children's writing assignment graded and questions answered. It is my hub. And at this hub, I do have things around me that go to the core of who I am. There are Bible verses tacked to the filing cabinet next to my desk, there are pictures of those close to my heart, there are poems that have touched me....and there sits in front of me, upon my desk, a little wooden, 3 drawered cabinet, with items that are significant to me: a rock given to me by a dear friend with an inscription from Psalm 62:7:

"For God is my salvation and my glory. The rock of my strength."

Allyson gave this to me early in my diagnosis with breast cancer. It is a reminder to me that God is my strength-daily. There are 2 bells: one which was a part of my grandmother's antique bell collection and the other that was my mother's. She would ring this almost daily around 5:00PM when I was a child telling us girls that it was time for family devotions. I rebelled a bit growing up regarding these family devotions, but know that it was foundational for who I am today in Christ and thankful for that time in God's Word as a child. And there is my grandfather's pipe. He was instrumental in my life for many reasons and when I look at this pipe, I am taken back to many good childhood memories when Grandpa was by my side.

There are two other small rocks. One which my friend Brenda brought back from her trip to Israel. A rock she picked up for me in the place where David fought Goliath. A remembrance that as David fought Goliath, He was fighting in the strength of the Lord.

"David said to the Philistines, 'You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied......for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands."
1 Samuel 17:45, 47

Oh, this is my battle cry each day. Lord, this cancer battle, it is yours. My weapons are not of this world, they are yours.

And then there is this verse, simply framed, written with a black sharpie on a crinkled piece of brown paper bag, tucked into a glass Ikea frame:

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7

And it brings me to the purpose for this post in the first place....sorry it took me so long to get here! The journey of life can't be walked by sight. That is my look with my eyes, find solutions, understand, figure out, and press on. But I tried this long ago and guess what....chaos ensued in many areas of my life. I don't have the answers. I don't see the big picture. I don't have the strength needed most days. And as God always does in His Word, He gives us all the answers we need for life. He tells us to walk by faith. To walk trusting in Him not what our finite eyes can see. I look at this verse everyday when I sit at my desk. I need this before me, as a reminder that God knows everything and all I need to do is trust Him, believe Him and walk with Him. Simply and obediently. He will light the step for each next step. He has done that and more as I've walked through this new journey.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer this past June, God began opening my eyes to a part of disease that I had never really recognized before: the financial burden of that disease. In an area of our marriage and family where God has begun stripping away years before, He now was doing on an even greater level. Will you walk by faith and not by sight with your finances? Will you give your finances to me? Will you trust Me that I will provide for your every need? Will you give me your first fruits and not the leftovers? Do you know that your money, is Mine? Will you allow me into this place, your finances, and allow me to show Myself strong as you walk obediently, humbly and faithfully before me? Yes, Lord, we will. And God has taken us on a financial journey of letting go. It hasn't been easy, but He has been faithful every step of the way.

And as my eyes became open to the financial burden, my heart began aching for every other woman faced with breast cancer, maybe without insurance, maybe without the financial resources to draw from to pay the out of pocket expenses...and I prayed.

In the meantime, my sister, Tasha, shared with me what God had been doing in her heart and life as she had started running. She shared with me that she wanted to run in a race to support me financially as we walk this breast cancer road. She felt God telling her to pay her own entrance fee, but raise money for me instead. I've got to tell you, this was a hard one for me. I really have a hard time receiving, especially when it comes to money. As I prayed even more on this, I watched as God began putting all the pieces together once again, softening my heart and saying yes. This Saturday, Tasha will be running in the Hers Breast Cancer 10K run in Freemont, CA.....for me. Her team is "The Beatties." :) If you want to read her story and find out more click here and see a glimpse into her precious heart. Thank you, Tasha. I love you so!
My friend Jill, came alongside to help, as well, offering her support and technical assistance. She has been a precious friend and sister in the Lord for some time. She is the one who originally gave me the nudge to begin blogging and has encouraged me along the way. You can stop by her blog, as well and get a glimpse at what she and Tasha are up to. Thank you, Jill!

I am beyond blessed by their hearts not only for the Lord, but for me. My hope is that someday in the future, God will put the pieces together to bless other women financially as they too, walk through breast cancer. I don't know what this all looks like, but that is my heart: to raise money not for research, but for women. To give a financial gift to another woman whose life is touched by breast cancer to help alleviate the financial burden of treatment, to help her purchase a wig, to give her the option of alternative help lighten her load. I trust that if God desires to put this together, He will one day, in His way and according to His timetable and purposes. But He has put the seed in my heart.

And so going back to my hubs, which are calling me at this very minute....I leave you with this:

"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 temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 5:16-18

Much love,

Monday, September 13, 2010

So many thanks, chemo round 2 and the final strands of hair....

Thank you.

You are all treasures that I hold close to my heart, each one of you, who has spoken words of encouragement, cheered me onward and upward, and reminded me again and again that we are each on a journey....a journey toward the heart of God. Toward knowing Him more fully and making Him more fully known. You have thronged God's throne of grace and mercy on our behalf and lifted my name to the very one who holds my life in His hands. You have poured on us the love of Christ. You have loved us. You have made the road a little less rocky, and a little easier to walk. I am so humbled to be the recipient of so much love.

Thank you for your comments here and on Facebook, for the cards received, the gifts in the mail from those whom I've never even met face to face, the flowers, the financial contributions, the emails, the phone've shown you cared and for that I say "thank you." It doesn't seem like enough, and yet I pray that God showers down His abundant blessings on each of you in ways that I never could. God has used each of you to touch places of my heart intimately. "I thank God upon each remembrance of you." Phil 1:3

Chemo Round 2......
We made it through Round 2! My second chemo treatment was last Thursday. Barclay was called into surgery that day, and my precious friend, Beth, once again stepped right in to hold my hand and laugh me through treatment. I think the nurses might think we are a bit crazy. God has knitted our hearts together not only through His Son, Jesus Christ, but through our losses (miscarriages and deaths) and through the triumphs we have celebrated over the years as God has reigned victorious in our lives and taught our hearts to trust Him even more. Thank you, Beth. Thanks for traveling one more road by my side, for not being afraid to press in, for loving me enough to keep checking in on me.

Here is one of my nurses, Kelly. She, was a little reluctant to be photographed, but finally agreed. Thanks, Kelly! She brings more laughter, lots of reassurance and plenty of smiles on a day that you just wish would be crossed quickly off the calendar and fade into a distant memory. She and all the other chemo nurses help make the process a little less painful.

I had been prepared by my oncologist that my first chemo will pretty much determine how I'll feel throughout my course of treatment. The biggest change will be with fatigue. Fatigue will become more prevalent the longer the treatment continues and as the drugs build up in the body. So far, I'm managing. I was thankful to still have an appetite Thursday evening, but by about 7:00PM, the nausea began and my body was just worn out. I crawled into bed allowing my body to just rest. Friday arrived with about the same. A general feeling of nausea, a little fatigue and not much of an appetite. But I am functioning and able to continue with daily activities, and for that I am really thankful. Saturday brought one more day of the same and then by Sunday, I was back up and running...and Monday....back to myself. It is one crazy cycle, but I'll take the normal for as long as I can get it and praise God for the reprieve He gives.

The Final Strands of Hair.....
After the initial head shaving last Wednesday, I knew that the fuzz that covered my head would be temporary. As the hair follicle closes from the chemo, it releases the hair. Over the weekend, it became evident as I would run my hand over the top of my head....tiny strands of hair would be left laying in my hand. And as I laid my head down Sunday night, prickles ran over the top of my head making it uncomfortable laying down. By Monday morning, I could just pull the tiny spikes from my head with ease. It was time.

My friend, Hillary, who is a breast cancer survivor, had told me that when she came to this stage, her hair came out in her hands while showering. As the prospect of this seemed a bit overwhelming, I asked my rock of a husband to assist me in this process over the kitchen sink. Of course, I didn't do anything but hang my head in the sink. He did all the work. We are truly walking through the "in sickness and in health" part of our vows as we committed our lives and hearts together through Christ in marriage 16 years ago. And God is using cancer to establish our marriage as never before. As we embrace each step together seeking God first, He is building, unifying and teaching us both. Barclay is a true example of a man of God and God has given me the blessing and privilege of calling him husband and being his wife.

Cancer has given me perspective. Cancer has given me a deeper love for Barclay. Cancer has shown me that each day is truly a gift from God and we can either take that gift and grumble, complain and be angry or we can take that gift and have joy, contentment and peace. The choice is ours. And cancer has shown me that my deepest fears can be met face on with Christ, who is faithful and just, and with Him what seems like a mountain becomes a spring welling up with living water, if only we will let go to the power, majesty and love of Christ. He will rain down.

Onto the sink we went....ready to let all the remaining pieces of hair fall. As Barclay gently (but vigorously) washed my hair, he had put our worship mix on in the background. Together, he and I praised God for who He is and all that He has done. And as God so intimately does, He met us in that moment. When our son, Joshua went home to be with the Lord, we had chosen the music at his funeral very purposely. There was a song entitled, "He Knows My Name" that was poignant for us because it speaks to not only the power of God, but His tender heart, His love for all of us and all knowing character. As the hair was being washed away, as Barclay gently held the razor in his hand, shaving....God reminded us that He is our maker, He sees our tears and He hears me as my heart is overwhelmed and cries out to Him. Before the very foundation of the is world....He knew. And as each subsequent song rang out through my ipod, God met me as He reminded me over and over again of who He is. That is where my heart needs to lie who He is. As the water washed over my head, so His Spirit washed over my soul.

The hair is now all gone. And what remains, I pray is so much more.
More of Him and less of Me.

"He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30

Again, I am truly blessed and my heart if full. I am savoring the gifts God has placed into my life.....cancer being one of them. I don't understand His ways....but you know what, I don't need to...all I need to do is continually trust Him and allow Him to finish the work He desires to do that I may be changed forever for Him and His glory.

May today, you cherish and thank God for the gifts He has placed in your life....
each and every one of them.

Much love,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

He is BIG!

Are you ready?

It is a simple question and often we make the answer so complex.

On Wednesday, as I walked into Jude Plum hair salon with my husband, and friends by my side, my heart was settled, my focus on the task before us, but my emotions were unstable. My mind raced to the uncertainty of how I would feel when this was all done? How would I feel as the razor hit my head? What would those moments be like? And what I am finding more each day through this cancer journey, is that therein lies my problem. The focus on the emotion which robs me of complete joy and peace in the Lord. My lens so quickly can come out of focus and that which should be last becomes last and Jesus first.

I sat in the chair, pulled my long hair from the clip which held it up and began laughing and talking with my dear friends who had come along. I was showing them that my hair had in fact begun the falling out process. As I ran my fingers through my hair, strands of hair were entangled in my fingers. This was the day this process needed to take place. God knew. I had asked Barclay to capture the moments. Because I never wanted to forget them. And as my head was turned, as my mind was focused on the conversation and the laughter.....Jude Plum picked up the razor and began his task, without asking me if I was ready.

My first response was panic. As the reverberation hit my head and the razor buzzed in my ears, I pulled back, a little annoyed with Jude. Why didn't you let me know you were going to begin, I thought? Ease into this with me, please. Let's take a moment. But, after 30 years of removing the hair from women's heads....Jude knows....that no lady is completely ready to lose her hair. He has to move right in and do the job before him. He was ever so gentle and loving, but as I pulled my head away slightly, he gently tilted it back toward the razor and continued on, never pausing or stopping. He had a job to do and my response had to be submission to the buzz and clipping of the razor in his hand. As I began to let go, my posture began changing. My head fell forward, my eyes closed and I began praying. Going to the one true source of my comfort and peace, my heavenly Father. As each clump of hair fell from my head, a deep stripping away came over me....another level of surrender, another level of letting go...not just of my hair, but the sin entangling my heart, the pain of this disease, and tears began to gently fall across my cheeks as the Holy Spirit washed over me with His love and abundant comfort. Lord, I am yours, completely.

Sitting in that chair Wednesday afternoon, God gave me such a vivid picture of Himself. As that razor was held in Jude's hand with a distinct purpose, so to is this breast cancer trial in the hand of my Lord and Savior. And as He holds each moment, holds each truth that He desires embedded so deeply in my heart....He is holding me and He is holding each of you in your trials and difficulties. And His love is everlasting. But the process must be walked out to arrive at the end. Was I ready for that first cut: not fully. But God knew that first cut was needed and had been preparing my heart for such a time, as I allowed Him in to the tender places of uncertainty that laid within. The razor is only the tool being used to achieve a much greater purpose. All God asks of me to walk in faith and trust the one who holds the razor...submitting. There should be no fear, as there is no fear in love.

I am learning through this trial many things. But what stuck with me yesterday morning, as I was reflecting back over the previous day is this.....I need to stop making my circumstances, my problems, this disease bigger than God and allow God to be in His rightful place: the King of Kings, the Lord of Lord. There is none bigger than God. I need to make God bigger and then He makes my circumstances smaller in my eyes and heart. It doesn't mean the problems go away, it means that my faith is being placed fully in Him and Him alone. That I am trusting Him, because He is the beginning and the end. He is the Alpha and the Omega. And as I put Jesus first in all things, every situation, every emotion, every trial.....He remains strong and faithful seeing me through each difficulty. What seems like the impossible, becomes possible through Him. And when He is on the throne of my heart, I can say....I am ready as I place myself under His Lordship, submitting to what He has allowed to enter my path and my life. How quickly my perspective is eschewed.

Joy is: Jesus first, others second, and me (you) last. So simple. But when this is followed how James 1:2-6 takes on such a real meaning...

"My brethren, count it all joy (Jesus, others, you) when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind."

Trials can be counted JOY because we are putting God first, not ourselves....knowing that God's heart is that we are perfect (spiritually mature) and complete, lacking nothing.

He is a big God. The biggest, "for He commanded and they were created, He also established them forever...." Psalm 148:5...the animals, the mountains, the trees, the seas, the wind, fire, hail and snow, all people....for "His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and the heavens."

And you know the razor finished its task and I raised my head and opened my eyes....looking at the image being reflected back to me from the mirror, running my hands over this fuzzy new was well with my soul, because of God.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away;
behold ALL things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Here is the "new" me.

The Cheering Squad...Beth, Hillary, me, Allyson and sweet baby Priscilla. Thank you friends!

Jude showing me my many options....hats, hair pieces for under the hats....his bag of tricks if you will.

My Beloved husband

And this is the banner I came home to. I am truly blessed.

Thank you also to my precious family and friends who have financially contributed to the cost of the wig. You have each made this road a little easier to walk and
we love each of you so much.

Once again, God blows me away as I stand in awe of His ongoing provision, in ways my finite mind could never imagine. He is Big! :)

Much love,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The next passageway

Last week was glorious.

It was a return to life before cancer.... feeling like myself again. A week without doctor's appointments, (except for one Vit. C infusion), without tiredness overshadowing my day, without breast cancer determining my steps and schedule. Without constantly talking about this disease.

A week of homeschooling, football (of course!), making dinner again and doing laundry, running errands, being fully present with the children: All the little things that I had taken for granted before cancer entered my world and that of my family. We went to football games on Saturday and Sunday sitting on the sidelines cheering as Seth ran the ball within one foot of scoring a touchdown and Luke knocked down any opponent that dared crossed his path. We went out to dinner as a family (and I actually was able to eat). And we went to a wedding yesterday, children included, celebrating two lives that God has joined together. Truly a beautiful ending to a glorious week of normalcy, joy and togetherness as a family.

And all was good.....

........except for the looming hair loss that hung before me. The next passageway on this journey.

The calendar that would count down the days to the next chemo treatment and the talked about "Day 14" which would mark hair coming out upon my pillow in the morning. A day I didn't want to see or think about. As my oncologist told me, "You can expect your hair to come out by your next chemo treatment.

That treatment is this Thursday.

And as I blew dry my hair Monday morning, styling it for the wedding, trying to make it look pretty for my husband who loves my long hair.....wearing it down (with dark roots and all), melancholy flowed over me. It will be a long time before I do this again.

Will I be able to embrace the new reflection starring back at me in the mirror after my hair is gone?

And all I can do is embrace God even tighter.

Tomorrow my day begins early with lab work, then onto my plastic surgeon for yet another "filling" and then to my oncologist in preparation for round 2 of chemo Thursday morning.

At 2:00, I will sit in the hair salon chair as my long hair is shaved and falls to the ground. As my head will return to the day that I left my mother's womb and entered this world.....bald. As breast cancer now is not something that can be hidden under my shirt, but now worn for everyone to see.

I don't know what these next steps look like. But yet I walk. I'm a little scared. I'm a lot weak. And I'm fighting to focus on the little step in the big picture. This is temporary. Hair will grow back. (probably darker and curlier, so I'm told). And my beauty is not in my hair or my eyebrows or my eyelashes. They adorn my head, but yet are not what defines who I am. And more than anything, I struggle with what is displayed to the eyes of the beholders. Will you see a woman who loves the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind and strength? Or will you see a woman who is bald with cancer? Will you see beauty or just disease?

And as I even write these questions, my heart is pricked because the very root of my fear is my own insecurity and pride. Sin that entangles my heart and draws me into a self-reflective posture that cares too much about how I'm seen by the world.

Losing your hair is no small step. But what is so much more important is not what my hair looks like, but what my heart looks like before the Lord. What dwells there that is causing Him to look upon me with sadness? The fear, the pride, the insecurity.....they need to fall as the hair upon my head is shaved.

And as they do, as I confess each one of these sins which lay deep inside my heart to God, my Father, may I be adorned with the grace of God, the love of Christ and the redemption that I have in Him knowing that I am not a workmanship of cancer, but of Christ Jesus.

As the stylist tomorrow fits me for my wig and styles it making me appear as before....may I not be the same woman.

May I be changed.

May I embrace that image in the mirror reflecting back at me knowing that God is doing a bigger work in my heart and life. The old must go and the new must come. May I rejoice at this passageway and thank God for the privilege of walking so closely with my Savior. May my heart be filled with thanksgiving that He loves me enough that He allowed this cancer into my life for His purposes.

The image of one set of footprints in the sand. He is carrying me.

He is filling me with His Spirit, searching my heart and He knows me. Purify me Lord. And He desires to transform me into the image of Jesus Christ. And as I want to turn and run from "Day 14" in every part of my weak flesh, may I instead turn and run into the arms of my loving Father who only needs one hand to uphold me.......His righteous right hand.

Tomorrow, I walk through that next passageway and bend in the long hallway from the door called chemo. I walk hand in hand with my husband and a few precious friends who will cheer me on.

"Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold or putting on fine apparel-rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." 1 Peter 3:3,4

Much love,

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A little bit of laughter...

So I haven't said much lately about the main object of my disease...the Betties. I thought we could all use a little bit of laughter as laughter is medicine for the soul. We've all got to continue laughing and smiling. There is so much to smile about!

After I posted about my first chemo treatment, I had a couple close to sister and dear friend.....comment about the size of my Betties from the pictures on that post. And a friend came over yesterday, who hadn't seen me in about a month, and that was one of the first things she commented size! It's ok, good friends can do that.

This is a bit outside my comfort zone, sharing with this much candor...but I'm sharing on this level as I've had many ask me about the filling process and I know, as women, we are curious about this part of breast cancer....and each week those of you who see me, see me growing. :)

This is where the comedy comes in.

Before breast cancer, I was, shall we say, rather small chested. I was glad for the person who invented the padded bra, as we were friends. (Funny how breast cancer thrusts you into an arena where you talk about something so personal that really wasn't open forum conversation before...but let's be real....breast cancer centers around the Betties.) I'll be tasteful! :)

Anyway, I often laugh when thinking about the whole filling up process. You see each week, when I go to my plastic surgeon.....He fills me up. As tissue expanders were put in during the mastectomy, they are basically hard plastic balloons with a center port for needle access. This is all under my skin, of course. But the idea behind the expanders is to inflate rather large, stretch the skin and prepare it for the final implants which will be silicone. The final implants can't go in until two months after all treatment is completed. So, we go through 4 months of chemo. They give my body a month to rest and then radiation will start probably sometime in early January. Those treatments will happen 5 days a week for one month. Then, Lord willing, I will be done with treatments and into the final stage of reconstructing my Betties by early April.

Radiation is pretty hard on the skin. It tightens the skin, causes burning and just overall makes the skin less elastic. That is why these fillings are so important, and the stretching process needed. My plastic surgeon wants to stretch the skin as much as he can, knowing it will be somewhat damaged after radiation. So each week, for the last 4 weeks, off I go to see my plastic surgeon and each week, I come home a little bigger and more stretched.

I thought you might want to see what awaits me at each of these doctor visits......

These too, have become my friends. Yes, those are big needles filled with saline. The little gray thing laying between the sharpie and the syringe is a magnet. The magnet locates the port on my Betty, the sharpie marks the spot and in goes the syringe. Out I go with bigger Betties....and residual chest pain as the muscles get stretched along with the skin. It is rather uncomfortable, I will say. You don't feel the needle going in, as I don't have any feeling now in the general area of my Betties, and the needle goes into the plastic expander......I'm hoping this makes sense.

Each week, I laugh as I walk out. It really is comical.

I haven't had a chest like this in a long time....probably since I was 18 or maybe since I was nursing and my milk was coming in....yeah...not comfortable.

And to think I still have 2 more fillings. I'm a little afraid of what I'll look like in the next 2-3 weeks. Yikes. There will be a lot of loose shirts in my future, as I have no desire to be known by the size of my Betties!! I mean really, I'm a huge proponent of modesty, so trying to take this all in stride and keeping the end result in view.

The other part that is comical is that the expanders aren't really round, as one would think. They are kind of oblong/squarish. So, as they fill up, they look more like footballs, as my plastic surgeon likes to point out. Yes, that would be accurate. My life is filled with football these days, so why not just look like one too! See, you really just have to laugh. :)

And then to put the cherry on the top of the right Betty decided that it should shift a bit down, so my right and left side don't exactly match up right. My plastic surgeon said he has only seen this happen in a couple of cases, where the muscle pushed the implant down. It's really pretty. So, back to the padded bra we go. Friends again.

There you have it. The life and filling of the Betties. It's ok if you are laughing, we are laughing and smiling together and really, life is too short to not keep it real and laugh together. It is one more stop on this journey. In the end, I'm told I will have some nice perky Betties for life. I guess the small physical silver lining in breast cancer. After 6 babies, my Betties will have gone from limp tea bags to something so much more!

Keep smiling and pressing on....

"Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad." Psalm 126:2,3

Much love,