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?

OH BUT IT HAS.

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!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

No More Missing Out

I'm not the most positive person.  The Coach would tell you that.  In fact it's one of our many running jokes about each other (along with how funny he is ordering from a drive through - just ask the kids).  "Ahhh.  There's Little Miss Sunshine," he'll say. When I'm dramatically lamenting all the things.

This is a huge reason I started writing "Thankful Thursday" posts years ago.  Not because I was a naturally thankful person, but because I wasn't.

Although I have developed more of a grateful heart over the years, it's still not always my reflex when I see the circumstances.  This "detour" in our son's life has certainly given me a lot of opportunity to focus on what we ARE thankful for.  Doing that helps me see God's hand of protection and provision.  His tangible acts of LOVE toward us.  Even if it's finding a Starbucks coffee machine in the hospital cafe after a mostly sleepless night in a hospital recliner (pretty sure the angels sang this morning when that happened).

There's no doubt that we need people in our lives we can be real with.  People who we can text and say, "Wow.  This really sucks.  All of it.  In every way." And not be judged for it.  I'm blessed to have those people.  I'm thankful for THEM, even if not for the circumstances that we share.  Because sometimes that's not being a pessimist, it's just reality.

But over these last couple of months I keep going back to something that won't leave me.

How much of the JOY of life have I missed, wishing for things to be different?

Everyone tells you when you get married to enjoy the time together before you have kids.  And those 11 months were amazing (Ha!).  We still talk about how fun it was.  Fixing up that cute little house.  Making the Coach breakfast every morning, even when I started throwing up before and after cooking it (thanks for that, Son #1).  Putting in a yard and garden.  Decorating the nursery.

Then everyone tells you to enjoy when they are little because it goes so quickly.  But when you are in the MIDDLE of it, it can feel so overwhelming.  I look back, thankful for our 9 babies (one miscarriage) in 11 years.  But those 11 years were HARD.  All kinds of hard.  And when you are there, it's difficult to see beyond it.

At some point I did start enjoying it more, laughing more, letting myself just be in the moment - whatever craziness it was - because I started seeing it slipping away. Precious days of all of us together.  So short.

Then they start leaving home and OH MY HEART I miss them.  Still.  Two and a half years later I still miss those days of everyone being home.

Of course now, my heart physically hurts wishing for six months ago when everything was so normal.  So school and football and volleyball and homework and crock pot dinners and laundry and teenagers everywhere, NORMAL.  I ache for it.  I loved it.  I really did enjoy it - being a wife and momma is all I've ever wanted to do.

It's made me realize that I haven't always appreciated even the happy things in life.  When things have been good, really good?  I'd find myself not fully enjoying it because I anticipated it ending.  I would miss those moments, just because I knew that when they were over I would be sad, so I'd be sad before they even were over.  Crazy, I know.  I have issues, obviously.

And the hard things?  I'd miss fully being present then, too, because I'd just wish to be on the other side SO badly.  Maybe that's more normal.  But now looking back, those "hard" things often were the "good" things.  God loves us so very much.  I just want to be content and thankful, regardless.

So today I'm purposing anew to remember Jim Elliot's "Wherever you are, be all there."  Someday I pray that the "there" will be on the other side of this cancer detour with a healthy boy and a new normal.  I pray for that.  I long for that.

But were not there, yet.  So I'm also purposing to be all "here".  In a place I wouldn't choose, in a fight I don't want, in circumstances that are so far from what I would wish for.  Being thankful.  Being present.  Allowing myself to feel it all, to work through the emotions, to be honest about it...  but also remembering to see God's love and tender care for us in each small thing.  He's always faithful.  He's always good.  No matter what comes I know those are truths I can stand on.

Keep praying for our boy.  We love you all so very much.


Granddad got his head shaved when we got home from Houston.  Love these two!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.

When I woke up this morning, I realized that is was February 26th.  It's been my pass code on my phone since Christmas.  The date of my first full marathon.

It's a good reminder that we can make plans, but we can't control the future. We can't control much at all, really.

I'm not sad that I trained.  That 19 mile run (my last long Saturday run before everything changed) was awful and wonderful, both.  Gave me the idea that maybe it is possible.  It's still on my list of things I will do someday.

But this Sunday morning, I'm in Houston with my son.  The Coach left yesterday to spend some time at home with the kids.  I miss him.  But they needed him.  We've never been away from our kids for this long.  Ever.

They've done so well.  I'm so proud of all of them.  We've had precious friends and family step in to help care for things at home.  And provide graciously for us, here, as well.  But our troops have been amazing.

So today isn't what I planned for February 26, 2017.  But I'm thankful.

Thankful for the beautiful weather and this morning's (short) run.
Thankful that we all slept well last night.
Thankful for our kind hosts and their gracious care for us.
Thankful that the Coach is getting some time at home and at school.
Thankful for Pastor Mark's sermons online.
Thankful for coffee, hot showers, clean laundry, and Pride and Prejudice on DVD.
Thankful that my boy is feeling well.  Hasn't gotten sick.  Is less nauseous.
Thankful that he hasn't needed a transfusion in 10 days.
Thankful that he still has his hair (even if it's just for a little while longer).
Thankful for one more week of rest and quiet before round 2 of chemo starts.
Thankful for Spring Break plans and the hope of seeing ALL of the troops soon.
Thankful for God's Word and how it strengthens us, guides us, and gives us hope.
Thankful for the prayers of SO many.  Please keep praying!

When life doesn't take you where you thought it would (does it ever?), be thankful that there is no where you can go that is out of God's presence.  We are learning that He is enough.  God is so faithful.


"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I".  Psalm 61:2