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.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hard is hard is hard.

We're enjoying a weekend at the farm.  All eight of the troops here, I'm so thankful.  Even the coach, who never stops working, has slowed down this weekend.  When I got up this morning (late), he and Little Man were out on the pond fishing from the paddle boat.  Little Man wants to break yesterday's record.  Six, I think.  Now they are out shooting handguns at targets in the yard.  While I sit here in my jammies.  At almost noon.

The farm is one of our favorite places.  Along with Breckenridge, Colorado.  This Summer, we've traded vacation in Colorado for Chemotherapy.  So the farm it is.  Hopefully more than once.  Depending on treatment schedules and how our boy is feeling.

I think my blood pressure lowers when we pull in the gate.  There is still a lot of food and cooking and laundry and cleaning up.  But it's so lovely here and somehow I don't feel guilty sleeping in, or not showering until evening, or drinking coffee all day, or putting my feet up on the porch with a good book. 

This morning, as often happens, I woke up praying.  It's funny how when you go through something hard, it makes your heart more tender to those who are also suffering.  Even things that have happened in the past have made my heart hurt all over, again.  I understand, on some small level, what they've been through.  I've grieved the loss of others more in the last four months than I ever did at the time.  I just didn't know.  I still don't fully understand.  But I have some idea, at least. 

The Lord tells us that this will happen.  "Grace be to you and peace form God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."  2 Corinthians 1:2-4

For whatever reason, I've had sweet friends hesitate to tell me the hard things they are going through. Because comparatively, they say, it's not as hard as what we are experiencing.  And every time, I tell them, Hard is Hard.  Is Hard.  Your hard may be harder than mine, but that doesn't make this any easier for me.  My hard may be harder than yours, but that certainly won't help you hurt any less. 

Whatever trial you are in is hard for you.  And can I just remind you?  God is with you in the midst of it.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  He will give you the strength for today (or even this minute, if it's all you can do right now) and He will give you hope.  In the darkest days of our journey, we've learned this.  He continues to go before, prepare the way, and walk with us.  Every step.

It's doesn't take away the hard, but it makes it possible to keep going.  It keeps us getting up in the morning and facing another day.  Even when the day holds something we dread.  

We've so enjoyed this two weeks off of treatment for our boy.  He's feeling well.  He's only needed one transfusion and he's been able to stay out of the hospital, otherwise.  He was able to be with his class for graduation and make us SO proud as he shared what God's been teaching him.  

But the hardest is before us.  And we all know it.  It's the undercurrent in every moment we share as a family, even when we are laughing at Boo (daughter #5) so hard that we are crying. Even when we sit on the porch and talk, or watch through Monk episodes we've all seen several times.  We are enjoying these moments together and we are so thankful.  But we all know that on Tuesday we have to walk back into that infusion clinic and start chemo, again.  And our boy has such a long journey still ahead.  

The Lord knows.  He's with us.  And He's with you.  He promises He will be.  

"It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day Weekend

These are exhausting days.

The pace is different.  We do a lot lot less in many ways - activities, events, parties... we just opt out and stay home most of the time.  Then we do a lot more in other ways... doctors appointments, treatments, labs, meds.

It's so different from our lives six months ago.

I told the Coach last night that I find myself forcing certain thoughts to the back of my mind without even realizing it.  I can't keep going if I let those creep in.  But then something will happen and all of a sudden they are all there again, and it's almost unbearable.

This is our normal here.  We are getting used to the pace and the medical issues and our handsome son/brother and his amazing strength and heart.  He's ours and we are so proud.  But then someone else sees him for the first time in a few weeks, or says something (even kind), or asks a question (which is completely fine!) and we are pulled back to the shock of it all.  How horrible and sad it all is.

We don't live there every moment of every day.  But sometimes it hits with overwhelming waves.

Most days?  There is a lot of joy and laughter.  Sweet friends and family stopping by or sitting with us at treatments.  Movies and fruit smoothies and popcorn and more laughing.  Laughter is a gift.  It reminds us that even in the worst heartache, there can still be JOY.

We don't know how to do this.  It's a new challenge every day and we find ourselves with the rug pulled out from under us again and again.

So we've been hanging hard onto Romans 8:18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Great suffering, great glory.

I don't understand how it works.  I don't understand WHY the suffering.  But I hang onto that great glory for my boy.

God promises us that the suffering cannot compare to the GLORY.  Oh Lord be glorified in us.

Some days I'd trade that glory for relief.  For no more suffering.  But that's not the choice we have in front of us.  So we choose over and over again to submit to this trial.  To ask for the grace for today.  The mercy to endure.  And that God will use it all for His glory.

Thank you all so very much for your continuing prayers.  I know that prayer is the hardest work in this.  Having you stand with us is an amazing overwhelming gift.  I can't adequately thank you for that.  

Thank you also for the meals, the cards, the messages, the LOVE you've showered us with.  It softens the heart ache on the days we don't think we can bear it any more.

We are so thankful that our boy was able to attend baccalaureate last week.  A hard and beautiful blessing for our troops.

We continue to thank God for these gifts.  And we continue to ask Him for graduation.  And the end of the induction phase of the protocol (hopefully in mid-June).  And more than that, for healing.  And most of all that God will be glorified in our family.  Even on the days we'd rather just run away from it all.  He is our strength.

Happy Mother's Day from our troops to yours.  With our love.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

But not THIS story...

Since I was a little girl, I've loved to read and write.  Stories with happy endings are my favorite.  I still have some of my first stories.  They feel like little treasures that I can't bear to have anyone make fun of.  The written word is my love language.  Well, that and doing dishes and folding laundry (as if you couldn't guess!).

More recently, I've written our love story.  I wrote about how God brought the Coach and I together.  He's been so faithful to us.  Orchestrating events in our lives to bring us to Himself and to one another.  Then giving us the troops.  Each of them such a precious gift and blessing to us and to each other.  Each of them unique, each such a special part of our family.

I'm so thankful for it it all.

Maybe, I've thought, someday, there's a book out there for me to write.  How God has provided and directed and cared for us.  Along with some of the humorous things that life with eight kids has brought.  Maybe some of the things we've learned along the way.  Certainly never a lack of material around here, which is why this blog has been such a fun outlet for me for so long.

But now we're fighting this cancer battle.  Something I never imagined we'd experience. A difficult, heart-wrenching, exhausting season that we are walking through.

I find myself telling God that this isn't the story I wanted to write.  I wanted the funny, the entertaining, the tender parts for our family of 10.  I wanted the troops growing up and marrying and giving us the grand kids that everyone says are so wonderful.  I wanted the Coach and I, enjoying happy, healthy kids who are loving and serving Him.  I don't want the cancer story, the sickness, the weakness, the pain, to be our story.  I don't want this for my boy (God please have mercy!), and I don't want it for the rest of us.  This is the hardest thing we've ever faced and I beg God every day to take it away.

Yet, in the middle of this, I keep remembering God's faithfulness to our troops.  In the good and the bad.  For over 22 years.  He's led, protected, provided, tenderly cared for us.  We've faced some hard things and He's never left us.  We've come to know Him and found Him faithful.  We can fully lean on Him and He will sustain us.  He never fails.

In that way, whether the courtship story, or the big family story, or the cancer story...

It's all the SAME story.

Because it's not about how we were only engaged for eight weeks or how we didn't kiss before our wedding.  It's not about how funny it can be to raise eight kids or how crazy it is to have them all in school together or even the six, six and under, season.  As fun as that was.  Sort of.

The real story is God's faithfulness.  How He gave His Son for us.  Offers us salvation for eternity.  And along with eternal HOPE, daily HOPE for all of the seasons of life.  All of them.  Even the cancer one.

The real question?  Isn't if I'll have a chance to write our story someday.  Or which story it will be.  The real question is how well my LIFE will tell the story of God's faithfulness.  Because that's the best story of all.

Almost 23 years ago, when the Coach and I sat on my parent's porch and talked about our future together and prayed together for the first time, we promised each other that if God did indeed bring us together, we'd give Him the glory.  That whatever story He gave us, we'd be faithful to share it.  To honor Him in it. We didn't know what our future together held and we certainly couldn't have imagined this, but the commitment to honor God and glorify Him was in our hearts from the very beginning.

Today's part of our story didn't take God by surprise.  He's been showing us all along that we can fully trust Him.

I pray for each of you as well, that you may know Christ, the fellowship of His suffering (even while begging for His mercy!) AND the power of His resurrection.  So thankful for the HOPE He gives.

Happy Easter!