Friday, December 1, 2017

All is Well

Last night I went to the Michael W. Smith Christmas concert, also featuring Jordan Smith (recent winner of "The Voice").  The music was heavenly, the singing that of angels, and the company of sweet friends made it even more of a treasure.

It took one friend to take Little Man home with her, then to practice.  Another friend to bring the girls home from their practice.  And the Coach getting another girl home from school and picking Little Man up after his practice.  Just for me to have the night off.  I'm so thankful for all of the help so I could go!

I sat there, overwhelmed with the beauty.  And the joy in my heart.  Things are GOOD with our troops right now.  Busy, happy, healthy.  I'm so thankful.  But this joy in my heart is deeper than that. It's that joy that comes after you've come through the valley of the shadow of death and FOUND JOY THERE.  Not the joy that only comes after a trial (although I admit how amazing it is to be on the other side!).  But the deeper joy that comes when you realize that no matter what happens, peace and joy can still fill your heart.

On my one side?  A dear friend who has been caring for her mother that recently suffered a stroke.  The all encompassing work and heart ache and exhaustion to watch someone you love so dearly suffer so deeply.  All while caring for her own family and a recently empty nest and her baby in college far away.

On the other side?  Another precious friend whose husband is suffering greatly from a degenerative illness that allows for very little rest and recuperation for either of them or their family.  Also with a newly empty nest and a young college student.

I sat there between them, thinking of this past year at the troops, the heart ache and suffering that my boy has experienced.  How we are still exhausted and the tears still fall when we least expect them.  How I wonder every day what the long-term scars will be  - not only for my boy, but for the other troops and the Coach and I.

And yet.

The three of us sitting there with that music washing over us, are really just like all of mankind for all time.  Each one of us having our own physical trials and emotional heart ache and pain.  We all have pain.  Of some sort, at some time.  Some sweet friends I pray for daily have had a lifetime of it.

I don't understand why.  I never will.  It doesn't make sense to me at all.  Our kind and wise teacher not recovering from his bone marrow transplant, leaving his kids and grand babies without their Pop.  Our volleyball coach's wife (and my dear friend) leaving her family and this earth at a time that was certainly way too soon for her husband and her seven children.  Babies who have physical challenges that can't be overcome this side of eternity.  So much loss and suffering.

I don't have to understand.

It's enough to know that All is Well.  Not because my circumstances are "well" or because my life is easy and uncomplicated and pain-free.  All is well because we have Immanuel.  God with us.

He's with us today, when the house is decorated for Christmas and we have basketball games to look forward to.  As we celebrate Advent and have our kids home with us and enjoy time with our families.

He's with us tomorrow in the unknown, the fears, the uncertainly, that defines life on this earth.

He's Immanuel.  God with us.  And all is well.  

"All Is Well"

All is well all is well 
Angels and men rejoice 
For tonight darkness fell 
Into the dawn of love's light 
Sing A-le 
Sing Alleluia 

All is well all is well
Let there be peace on earth 
Christ is come go and tell 
That He is in the manger 
Sing A-le 
Sing Alleluia 

All is well all is well 
Lift up your voice and sing 
Born is now Emmanuel 
Born is our Lord and Savior 
Sing Alleluia 
Sing Alleluia 
All is well

by Wayne Kirkpatrick, Michael W. Smith

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Practicing Thankfulness

We're doing really well at the troops.

School is going well.  Everyone has passing grades (haha!).  Not to make light of academic struggles, but the troops got their daddy's smarts.  We may miss an assignment now and then or not get AR points for the 9 weeks (because this momma has kind of given up at this point), but they are bright.  I'm thankful.

We survived volleyball season.  The Coach and our football team made it to the playoffs.  Basketball practice has started for the girls and Little Man had his first game of the season on Saturday.  It goes so fast and I want to enjoy it all.

The house isn't being worked on all day every day, anymore.  We still need curtains in the "library" and dining room, but I've decided I'm done making decisions.  I'll get to them, eventually.  And someday maybe those pictures of the fun projects.  The bookcases are AMAZING.  So thankful.

The college kids are finishing up second semester of Junior year (engineering)/first semester of Junior year (nursing)/first semester of Freshman year (math education).  And doing SO well.  Another year from now we'll be getting ready for more graduations.

I'm so thankful for it all.

For the fact that God has been with us this past year as we've walked through so much.  He's been so faithful.

But if I were to be truly honest...
((and if you know me, you know I have to be))

There is still a lot to be worked through, processed, and dealt with around here.  And sometimes it all creeps up on me and I feel slightly incapacitated and very much less like dealing with daily life.  Think couch/netflix/chocolate, while the puppy sleeps at my feet.  Not that I have time for that, but a girl can dream.

Life is GOOD and we are so grateful.

And when I'm tired and cranky and overwhelmed with it all, I need to practice thankfulness and remember that.  Every day is such a gift.

So here's my list for today:

1.  A patient (extremely patient) husband, who can tell when I've had it with the 10 year old, the dog,  the laundry, and the dog stealing the laundry.

2.  Books.  So I can escape, learn, or just fall asleep reading.  I never want to stop learning.

3.  Our kids.  Who make me laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time.  They are sweet and funny and sarcastic and smart and athletic and everything I would have wanted to be when I was a teenager.  They are the best.  Even if I have to drive to Alva to watch one of them play football on Friday in the cold.

4.  Our home.  I don't like to get out in the cold, but I sure like to stay home in it.  With the fire and hot tea and blankets and my slippers.  The best.

5.  Amazon Prime.  Because #4.

6.  Doctors and medicine and clinics and hospitals and nurses and the way God uses them every. single. day.  Because my boy is here and healthy and whole and I'm so so thankful.

7.  My new car.  Even if it already has a dent.  It smells nice and drives smoothly and everything works.  Amazing.  And I guess we can only have a car without a dent for a few weeks and that's ok.  I'll keep the kids, anyway.

8.  Soup and chili and hot cocoa and cider and fireplaces.  And trees turning colors and cool breezes and a yard full of leaves (even if they have to be raked).

9.  Friends.  To drink coffee with, laugh and cry with, do life with.  Who remind me that God is faithful and that I can always trust Him.

I'm feeling better already.

What are you thankful for, today??

Saturday, October 21, 2017

We'll Make it... Right?

Over our almost 23 years together, as various crises have occurred with our troops, I have crawled into bed at night with a sigh and asked the Coach, "We'll make it, right?"

Without fail and with utmost confidence, he'd tell me,  "Yes.  Of course we will."

Trouble with kids, broken bones, injuries, 10 people with the stomach flu, you know... Crises.

But the first time I crawled into bed with the Coach after Son #3 was diagnosed with cancer (and it was weeks, literally, that we spent the nights apart)...

It just stuck in my throat.

I couldn't ask him.

I couldn't bear the answer.  I knew he couldn't promise me that our boy would be OK.  How could he?  And I didn't want to hear that.

Nine months later, I still haven't asked him.  I wonder if he's noticed?

But over these nine months, a new thought has grown and taken root in my heart.  The question still comes.  Mostly at night when I'm trying to sleep and my mind won't be settled.  When I pray for so many precious friends who are walking through fiery trials.

Yes, our boy is doing SO well.  Yes, the future is hopeful, today.  I'm so thankful.  I pray I'll never take "normal" for granted, again.

But life is still hard.

We may not be finished fighting cancer at the troops, no one can promise me that.
We may still have struggles with our kids, their choices, and the directions they go.
We may still have tragedy and illness and heart ache in the years to come.  In fact, I can almost guarantee it.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But we'll make it.

I'm sure of it.

Not because the difficulties will end.  Because they won't.  Not this side of heaven.

We'll make it because GOD WILL BE FAITHFUL.  And that won't change no matter what happens.  He promises that whatever comes in this life, He will walk through it WITH us.  We don't have to face it alone.  We don't have to face anything alone.

Maybe I won't need to ask the Coach that question, again.  I'm still confident in him and his ability to lead, protect, and provide for us - which he does SO very well.

But ultimately, my confidence in is my Lord and Savior who is GOOD, who LOVES us, and who works EVEN the horrible things for our good and His glory.  All praise be to His name forever.

We're going to make it at the troops.  And if you know Jesus...

You will, too.

Tit 2:13
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Friday, September 22, 2017

Trusting the One Who Knows

We've had some delightful distractions going on here at the Troops.  Fun projects that have occupied our time and thoughts - and we've enjoyed it tremendously.  I'll post pictures soon.

Cleaning out cabinets to make room for new bookshelves in the "library" (so fun!) we came across our wedding video.  VHS none the less.  The kids insisted they hadn't seen it - forgetting that I used to make them watch it every December 17th, when the bigs were toddlers.  I couldn't resist turning it on and watching it with them.  I'm not sure how it's been almost 23 years.  But it has.  Son #1 will soon be 22.  Maybe this is why I'm so tired.  Well, ONE reason, anyway.

I had several thoughts while watching it.  One... I'm STILL a little bitter that the videographers just put a shot on the candles during the prelude music - I would so love to have video of the PEOPLE coming in, forheavenssake.  It's probably time for me to get over that.

Two... we were so young.  And well-rested.  When that camera zoomed in as the Coach put the ring on my hand... they didn't look like my hands at all.  No spots or wrinkles! The funniest part may have been when Son (#4) said, "You got a french manicure?" Ok.  So he knows more about nails than I would have thought.  That's weird.

The kids (as usual) made fun of the Coach and I.  Our smiles, the way we look so awkward and nervous - like we didn't know each other - which we didn't.  So wonderful to see our grandparents - all five that were living when we married have passed away.  The kids couldn't believe all of the uncles - and how young they were.  Especially their aunt (who was 10) and uncle (who was 17) - who were in our wedding.  Babies who now have full houses of their own babies.  And our parents who were truly SO young, still.

The Coach has always been the right one.  I knew it the first time we sat on the porch and talked and prayed together.  He balances me and calms me and completes me in ways I never knew I needed.  He loves me unconditionally - through weight gains (currently) and weight losses (soon, I hope!), through pregnancy and post-partum (so many times), through parenting babies, toddlers, middle schoolers, pre-teens (not my favorite, I'll be honest). Through watching our kids graduate from high school (Three of them now, how is that possible??) and leave for college.  Always faithful, always loving me, even when I (often) don't deserve it.

But if I ever HAD doubted how thankful I am for the Coach and his steadfastness?  The last 8 months have made it quite clear.  God knew what He was doing when He led the Coach to pursue me almost 24 years ago.  And the Coach, in his typical steady, consistent way... was so faithful to follow.

The hard things are what shape us.  I wish that weren't true.  I wish we could become more dependent on the Lord, more loving to each other, and more thankful for the countless gifts God gives us - without the hard.  How I wish.

But I'm so thankful that IN the hard, God shows us his faithfulness in new and deeper ways.  One of them being that He blessed me with the perfect match in the Coach.  Even though we couldn't have imagined what the next 23 years would hold.

I'd say yes to him again in a heartbeat.  I'd say yes to the 8 babies in 11 years, too.  I'd choose the Coach through all of it, every day, every trial, every sleepless night, all of the tears, and all of the laughter, too.

And today?  So. Very. Thankful. For all of them.  God is so good to give us what we need, before we know we need it.

Such a good reminder to me in the NOW.  The uncertainty, the waiting, the concerns.  God knows.  He's already been there and He's making a way.  Even now.  We can trust Him.  His faithfulness to us will continue and we can trust Him.  I'm so thankful.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Darkness of the "What If's"

Six months since the diagnosis, the Coach and I feel like it's been years and yet it's also flown by.  In some ways, it feels like it's all we've ever known. But then it also feels a bit like a dream... no... more like a nightmare.

We've learned that although the physical battle is hard - so hard (I hate watching my boy suffer!) - the mental battle is harder.  The constant struggle to take thoughts captive, to not let our minds go places they shouldn't, to camp out on God's promises when discouragement takes hold.  To not allow the "what if's" to rule us.

The future is unknown.  Fear is a natural response.  We like to be in control and we like to expect certain outcomes.  We like to put in the work and get the reward.  If only it were that simple.

Will the next round of scans be clear?
Will the cancer still be there?
Will he need a bone marrow transplant?
Will it come back in months or years?
Will he be able to live as a healthy adult?
Will he have a chance to marry?  To have children?

We don't have the answers to any of these questions.  And sometimes, in the dark of night, they haunt us.

God promises to be faithful.  He promises that whatever we have to walk through, He will be with us.

He doesn't promise any of those ^^ other things.

Cancer only SHOWED us the unknown.  Made us aware of the uncertainty.  Because the reality is, we've never known what the future holds for us OR our troops.

We want to believe that if our kids are healthy and not *too* stupid and can work hard... that the future holds all of the good things for them.  That we'll see good come from the hard in this life.  That if we raise them right and feed them healthy food and protect the from evil and prepare them for the world...

But we don't have that promise.  We don't know what's coming today or tomorrow or next week or 10 years from now.  We plan, we prepare, we TRUST an all knowing and sovereign God to go with us into the unknown.  But there are no guarantees.  Especially that they won't be stupid (because KIDS forheavenssake).  After all, I'm still pretty stupid sometimes at 44.

In my momma's heart, I want to be able to tell them that life holds all the good things for them.  I SO badly want to.

But I can't promise them that.

You know what I CAN promise them?  That the glory of heaven will make our earthly suffering seem so small.  That God will always be faithful no matter what.  NO.  MATTER.  WHAT.  That God is big enough for the pain, the heart ache, all of the hard of this life, and HE is enough.

Those what if's that beckon in the night?  They are part of our life right now.  We can stuff them.  Or we can lay them at the feet of Jesus and trust Him to carry them all for us.

We don't know.  We don't know what life holds for any of us.

But we can trust the One who does.  He loves us so much.  Oh to trust Him more.

Come Lord Jesus.

#standingstrongwithgtb #dontstoppraying

Friday, June 23, 2017

Between Two Worlds

When we first began this cancer journey, it was all consuming.  I couldn't think of anything else or make any decisions or honestly... stop crying.

As the days have passed, I've been amazed by the capacity of the human heart to continue living with such heart ache.  But we do.  We get up every day (some days more easily than others) and do what needs to be done. At times, I'm never sure exactly how.  But by God's grace.

Now that we are heading into six months of this, our daily lives have somewhat resumed.  We are home. The kids are out of school for the Summer.  Mission trips and jobs, workouts and summer league games.  We're back at it.

And yet, our boy still has cancer.

It's like straddling over the border between two worlds.  One foot?  It's in the normal world.  Our marriage, our home, our kids.  Life is still moving on.  Laundry has to be done and meals made and dishes washed and groceries bought and floors vacuumed.  Just normal stuff.

The other foot is in the cancer fight with our boy.  He's not living in that normal world right now.  His world is filled with pain and weakness and chemo and blood draws and piles of daily meds.  Every now and then he ventures into the normal world with a visit to a friend's house or a walk in the neighborhood or a drive to his grandparents.  But his trips out are short and infrequent.  Mostly he stays put in the cancer world.

Although I hover between the two?  I have to move from one to the other throughout every day.  When we have appointments or treatments or when he's really sick, I'm in cancer world.  When he feels good and ventures into normal world, I join him there.  When the Coach or a friend enters his world for a time, sometimes I can step more fully into normal with the troops or a friend for a bit and spend some time.

Most of the time I'm stranded between the two.  Knowing that life moves on all around us, but in cancer world it's different.  We don't know what the future will look like, or how long it will take, but it's our first and most important job right now.  Getting our boy well.  Caring for him in whatever way he needs.

I don't ask or expect anyone else in our journey to live between these two worlds.  The Coach joins our boy and I - any time we need him to.  He's been amazing and strong and PRESENT.  I couldn't be more thankful for him.  But he can't live in the cancer world. He has his work and responsibility and although we have him whenever we need him, he comes and goes.  The troops visit, as well.  Coming to appointments or treatments or hanging with their brother in his room when he's not feeling well.  They've been amazing, too.  But they can't live there - their lives have to keep on keeping on.  We've been blessed with a few precious friends whom our boy will allow to join him in his world, as well.  I can't say what a gift that is... it's more important than I ever thought possible.  Having friends means so much.  Not everyone is willing to step inside his world, but those who do are precious to us.

Maybe the hardest part of all, is that none of us can really live fully where he is right now.  I can be there a lot, I can straddle that line, I can make him my top priority, but I can't do it for him.  I can't feel what he's feeling and fight the battles he faces or take his place.

My ability to care for and walk with and encourage my boy wouldn't give me much hope.  I'm just his momma.  He's an adult.  The pain and fears and struggles he faces are so far beyond anything I could ever make better.

PRAISE THE LIVING LORD that even when we aren't with him, His loving Savior is.  Always.  Going before, preparing the way, and walking not just with us, but with HIM.  Every moment giving him strength and grace and peace.  Things I can't give him.  No one else can.  But God keeps His promises.  And He has promised to never leave or forsake us.  He's promised that all things work for good.  He's promised that He has a plan for us and it's always good.  He's promised that nothing can take us out of His hand.  He's promised that nothing can separate us form His love.  He's promised that He is with us always.

So my hope in this journey isn't my ability to be a good momma and try to meet every need my precious son has.  Although you'll find me making those trips to get that one food that sounds good to him, or sitting with him while he sleeps, or reading aloud CS Lewis (even if it's in the middle of the book and I'm completely confused!)... flushing PICC lines, changing sheets, making smoothies, doing everything I can to make this hard thing easier.

My source of hope, for him and for ALL of my troops, is knowing that they have the Sovereign Lord and King of Kings as their own Loving Father to walk with them in the trials of life.  Being ever present in whatever world they are living in.  I won't ever been able to do that for them.

But with Jesus, they have all they need.  So thankful they all belong to Him.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Checking it off...

Back on April 13, after two rounds of Hyper-CVAD, our boy's doctor handed us his next round of treatment.  An abbreviated (because of the previous two rounds of a different protocol) "Induction Phase". That confusing thick stack of stapled pink pages became our road map.  We learned the pattern, the drugs, the side-effects. It was changed, altered, delayed - countless times over the next eight weeks (weeks longer than it originally called for), but today?

We crossed that very last chemo treatment off the pink list.  The first phase (of three) is done.

This is a huge milestone for all of us.  Obviously.

But the amazing part is that our boy has been WELL, lately.  He had a rough ROUGH April and first of May.  Several ER visits, one emergency surgery and three admissions for hospital stays.  But these last few weeks he's been better than we could have imagined!  We are so thankful.

Our idea of "well" has changed, obviously.  The round-the-clock nausea meds, the regular blood transfusions, the vomiting, and shiny bald head with it's occasional fuzz...

That's really, really good around here.

I know we have more rough seasons ahead.  But we are learning every day to enjoy the good moments.  The times when he DOES feel like eating, or visiting with friends, or even going for a SWIM (thanks to a skin infection that led to having his PICC line pulled).

As for the other troops, one just returned from Mexico, another from Chicago, and we sent one off to Africa for two weeks.  The Coach is re-doing the garage - paint, shelving and floor.  We finished cleaning and organizing the attic last week, while Little Man had basketball camp.  I'm back at bootcamp in the mornings, since it's earlier to beat the heat and our boy is usually still asleep.  The other big boys have started their summer jobs and the girls are working at VBS while Little Man attends this week.  Daughter (#2) is back to her nanny job - at least when she's not in Africa.

Life almost feels normal.

But then again, normal has changed so much here.  Cancer is a part of our daily lives with its treatments, medications, and nasty side effects.

But so is laughing and teasing each other and working hard side by side.

I remember in those early days after diagnosis, a couple of precious friends who have walked much much harder roads than I, told me that the sweet fellowship with Jesus would come through the pain.  I scoffed.  I didn't want the pain so much that I was willing to risk the deepened fellowship, as well.

Of course.  I couldn't imagine my boy's suffering bringing any good.  How could it?


I've watched him do this WELL. Not in his own strength, but leaning hard on the Lord and finding Him sufficient.  It's grown my faith in leaps and bounds to see him walking so faithfully.  To see how he's a picture of God's grace to his siblings and cousins and friends and doctors and nurses and every one he meets.

The Coach and I have shared more heart-ache than I could have imagined, but we've also found a new, sweet closeness that I can't think about without tears of thankfulness.  To walk through the hard of life and be loved so well.  How could I not thank the Lord for that?

I've watched the troops in their own sadness and grief and fear.  Sat with them as they've cried and been frustrated with so much change and pain and loss.  I've been blessed to see them find our Heavenly Father sufficient. Each of them, in their need for answers and comfort and assurance, seeking the Lord on their own and finding Him always there.

Many of you have heard the Coach tell how faithful God has been to our family.  And some of you have heard our boy say that the most important thing is knowing God and trusting Him.  I'm in awe of God's goodness to us.

On Tuesday, one week from today, we start the 6 week interim phase of the treatment protocol.  Lots more chemo.  And in a month or so, after more scans and biopsies and tests, we may know if we are looking at maintenance treatment... or a bone marrow transplant.

I'm not sure how we'll do it.  Just like I wasn't sure over 4 months ago how we'd do it.

But I know God will still be faithful.  Tomorrow.  Next week.  Next month.  Next year.

He never changes and we can trust Him.  Always.

Thank you all for your precious prayers and for continuing to intercede for our boy.  Thank you for feeding us, folding laundry, running errands, helping with kids, sending the sweetest notes and cards and gifts.  It takes my breath away to think of HOW MUCH HELP you've given us.  I would never be able to thank all of you enough.  I pray that your eternal reward will be great.  The Lord sees your hearts and your love.  It matters.  It's lessened the burden for us and given us such comfort. There really aren't words.

I'm thankful today that we are further along in this journey.  Remembering God's faithfulness all of the way.  He'll be faithful tomorrow, too.  Whatever we have ahead of us, we can continue to trust Him in it.