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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pray for our boy

Since January 27th, I've wondered how I would write this.  Is there a right or wrong way?  Will something I say or not say be misunderstood?  And since things are changing so quickly, should I just wait to write anything at all?

But here we are, February 17, and it needs to be done.

Our 18 year old son has Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.

I can't even type that without tears and disbelief.  How did we get here?  How is this US?  How is this happening to our family?

I may never know.

Our lives will never be the same.  I don't know every way in which they will change, but I know they are already fundamentally different.  We can't go back to our lives as they were.  How I wish we could.  How I miss that life.  I even asked the doctor if we could turn around, walk out, and pretend like this never happened.  His answer wasn't encouraging.

So the Coach and I are with Son (#3) in Houston at MD Anderson receiving treatment.  Our other 5 non-college troops are at home.  This particular type of lymphoma is nasty and horrible (as is ALL cancer!) and our doctors at home wouldn't touch it.  The chemo is also nasty and horrible and apparently quite complex and continuously adjusted.  We already hate what it's doing to our boy.  And yet we are so thankful that it will give him an opportunity for a long, healthy life.

We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love, prayers, and HELP.  Our kids have been cared for, fed yummy dinners, had groceries taken care of, rides to practises and games, and friends to stay with them.

The Coach, Son (#3) and I have been abundantly cared for as well.  I'm already realizing that I do not have the capacity to thank everyone personally.  But I pray that the Lord will bless everyone that has helped make this journey more bearable.  We are so thankful.

Every day brings another opportunity.  To choose joy.  To choose to be thankful.  There are people all around us, other patients,
nurses, doctors, caregivers, to whom we need to be thankful and kind.  There are circumstances every minute of every day that give us the chance to choose to be thankful and to trust the Lord.  So much trusting the Lord.

Some moments, the desire to see the kids and be HOME (we were hospitalized for a week there before we came here) overwhelms me.  The longing for the "before" is more than I can bear.  The pain my son is experiencing seems impossible.  The next six month stretch of 10 inpatient chemo treatments is before us like a mountain we can't climb.

But GOD.

He continues to give us strength.  All 10 of us in different and loving ways.
He continues to give grace for each adjustment in plans, treatments, and results.
He continues to show us His love, through the love of SO many others - praying, reaching out, helping.
He continues to give us HOPE, through his Word and the comfort of his presence with us.

As much as I want to go back to before this devastating diagnosis, I DO trust the Lord to continue to give us what we need and provide for us as we go.  He's gone before, he's prepared a way, He's with us today, and He holds the future.

Will you join us in praying for complete healing for our boy?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beginning Again

Today was not a fall-asleep-on-the-couch-while-watching-a-hallmark-movie-nap kind of day.


It was a put-my-jammies-back-on-and-crawl-into-the-unmade-bed-nap kind of day.

The Coach and I finished week ONE of marathon training this morning.

Yes, you can laugh.

I realize week one isn't anything to write about.  It just struck me as extremely funny.  I asked the Coach to find the longest beginning training plan and add a month.  So now we've worked our way up to actually being ON the planned runs.

So coming in from our eight miles this morning as the sun was rising, he turned to me and said... I'm SO tired.

Week one.

Already done.

Except we're not.  Tired is the normal around here.  We'll keep on keeping on and pray and hope that my shins hold out (and don't turn to stress fractures - I've had three) and his knee doesn't give up (like it did in our last half-marathon - my 5th).

Old.  We're old.  And did I mention tired?

Maybe we did pick one of the busiest seasons of life to attempt this feat.  But there's always a 6th grade DC trip or an injury or LIFE and here we are with 2 college kids and 3 high-school kids and 1 Jr high kid and 2 elementary kids...

Beginning again.

I will run and stretch and ice and ibuprofen.  And maybe we'll make it to that marathon in February.

Maybe we won't.

But I'll keep trying.

One of these days we're going to do it.  Maybe this time will be it.

Happy RESTful Sunday.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

For my tired mama friends...

I hear you.  I hear you yawn, pour another cup of coffee, give yourself a pep talk.

I see you falling asleep while listening to your little one tell you one more time that he can't sleep.  Or that he's scared.  Or that the big kids keep turning lights off or music on or slamming doors.

I know you're discouraged.  Wondering why it's so hard and what would make it less exhausting and why can't it all just be easier?  For one day?

I watch you sigh when someone needs one. more. thing. for that project or the shoes are too small or the pants are too short and you can't imagine buying, spending, shopping.  Not to mention the budget that is always and forever stretched too thin.

This is tough stuff.  It's a lot of work... and when you mix in the pressures from every other area of life it can be more than daunting... seem impossible, even.

You mommas with little ones think if they'll just grow up a bit, be more independent, be able to go potty or tie their shoes or clean up without help... maybe you can catch your breath.

But then they are teens who are driving (so much for breathing), playing sports (and getting hurt), out with friends (good friends? good places? doing good things??) and not coming home before you fall asleep.  And do you let them?  Or say no?  Do they need to learn the hard way OR be protected?  Or both?

Then college students who you don't see for weeks.  My kids haven't even given me anything to worry about and I still do.  I can't help it.  Even if they are doing exactly what I'd want them to, there are OTHER people out there who aren't.  See what I mean?

I hear you.  I see you.  I know.

Can I just tell you something?

You're doing a great job.

Not a perfect job, of course.  You aren't Jesus.  And can I be honest?  I wonder how Jesus would have handled a houseful of kids.  Then I remember he parents ME and that makes it easier to imagine.

But if you're worn out and working hard and praying hard and loving your family?  You're doing a great job.

You can be a perfect momma and lose your kids.  We've all seen it.  You can fail every day and have kids who grow up to love God and love you and love others.  I've see that, too.

Parenting doesn't have guarantees.  But today?  I'm telling you, tired exhausted overwhelmed unsure momma...

You're gonna make it.  And so am I.

Now for another pot of coffee.

Psalm 27:14  Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.