Saturday, June 09, 2018

A Parallel Life

Another day, another blood draw, another oncology appointment...

another life lesson to be learned.

Brad has often said to me, "This is the craziest life I've ever known."

Most days I just smile and shake my head at him. 

But today, I agree with him fully!

We are so grateful for God's sweet mercy! Brad's white blood count slightly increased from 2.1 to 2.4 and his neutrophils increased from .8 to 1.2. 

So he's out of the danger zone again, and he can say good-bye to his mask!

Wearing a medical mask in 95 degree weather is no fun AT ALL people!

Because his numbers have increased instead of decrease, we can also wait another 2 weeks until his next blood draw. And continue to pray that his bone marrow finally figures out how to produce more white blood cells.

In the meanwhile, Brad will do his best to rest and take care of his body, and I will do my best to keep him doing just that. 

As we were driving from the hospital, I could not help but think about how this cancer journey parallels a Christian life. The similarities suddenly struck me today.

We have made summer plans, but we know that Brad's numbers will determine whether we're able to fulfill and live out those plans. Each week we may have to adjust our lives in light of a blood draw or chemotherapy treatment or new symptoms of a possible infection.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." 
 - Proverbs 16:9

I am so much more aware at this moment, more than I've ever been in my life, that my life is not my own and the Lord will lead and do as he wills. He establishes our steps. I make plans, but the Lord is in control of all things.

And all will be for our good and his glory. 

My mantra has become...
“...if the Lord wills...” - James 4:15
 
So, we continue to try and live a (new) normal life...we make plans, but hold onto them loosely. 

Not only am I learning to use the phrase, "Lord willing," more and to guard my heart if summer plans have to be altered or changed, but I'm also learning how to be content with just knowing the very next step in Brad's medical journey.  

Brad and I were eager to talk at his appointment yesterday about whether he can still direct our church's VBS in 2 weeks or if we can go on our Aust family vacation in late July. 

But our oncologist doesn't know. 

We don't know. 

Nobody but God knows. 

We just have to be content with taking it one step at a time. 

God is giving us just enough light to see the next step on our path. He's encouraged our hearts by increasing Brad's numbers this week, but the final answer for VBS will be given on June 21, at Brad's next blood draw. Right now we can't see that step.

 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." -Psalm 119:105

One step at a time.  

That's pretty hard for the 6 month planner in me...

But it's good. 

So good for me. 

Whatever control I thought I had concerning Brad's health and recovery, I realize I don't. 

But I trust the One who does know. The One who lovingly leads and guides us each day. The One who is control of all things.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Life with cancer

As Brad and I were waiting to see his oncologist last Thursday morning, I was jotting down some questions I wanted to ask. My biggest questions were...

"Once his numbers are all within the normal range, how do we know his leukemia is dormant/gone/in remission? Will a blood test be the only way we will know for sure? Will signs of infection be our only clues that the leukemia is back?"

But, I wasn't able to ask those questions because his white blood count had dropped from 2.54 down to 2.1 (4-11 is normal) and his neutrophils had dropped from 1.48 down to .8 (2-8 is normal and below 1 makes him highly susceptible to infection) in just 4 and a half weeks.

The upward trend in Brad's numbers in April had given us hope that this medical journey might be coming to an end. 

But, as the Lord has seen fit, it hasn't. 

So, we have a short term plan in place. Wait for a week just to rule out that a virus wasn't the culprit of his low numbers...we had been living life normally, with visits from out of state family and friends, day trips to Pella, IA, and LOTS of neighbor kids running through our house. If his numbers are still low on Friday, the next step will be to do another bone marrow biopsy. 

And as I've been told since the beginning of March, the answers are often found in the bone marrow. 

After we get a pathology report from that, Brad's oncologist will be able to make a plan for what's next.   

So, unfortunately, we're back in the "waiting room".

Many of you have texted and called and reached out to us with prayers and words of encouragement. 

Thank you! 

So, how are we doing?

Overall, we're doing okay. I'm not going to lie...Thursday was a really, really hard day. But Friday morning, Brad and I were both up early, and we refocused and made plans for the new day. 

Last Friday was our kiddos' last day of school, and we decided to spend the day celebrating the completion of another school year! 

We started the festivities with a some pizza at a park.



 Then the kids rode the carousel at Union Park...it's only 50 cents per ride!


 



















The kids went swimming and played on the beach at Gray's Lake.





















And Brad and I got to relax a little in the shade. He always tells me to tell people that he's smiling under his mask!


Then we dropped off Sammy at Hidden Acres camp on Sunday afternoon. 

When Sammy first saw Brad with his mask back on last Thursday, she quickly stated without any hesitation, "I'm not going to camp. I need to be here in case something happens." As the oldest, she has carried a lot of the weight of family life at home in March and April. 

But no, sweet girl, you are headed to camp! You need to have a week to be a kid and not worry or be anxious about what may lie ahead.


As Brad continues to work from both home and church, preparing for his sermon on Sunday and VBS in a couple of weeks, the younger 3 kids and I have been busy with basketball camp, trips to parks, and some hot afternoons at the pool. 



 






















 
It's crazy how life continues to go on every day. There are moments where I only think about Brad's cancer and other moments when I'm busy doing things around the house or am out and about with the kids that I forget about the black cloud of cancer that hangs over our family. 

It's a strange, new normal. And it's something I'm sure our family shares now with many, many other cancer families out there. 

So, while we're in this waiting room and preparing for, perhaps, another round of chemotherapy and then a 4-6 week recovery, we work on house projects, spend time together, and make adjustments to plans in light of Brad's compromised immune system. 

I feel compelled, as long as we are on this journey, to not waste what God has for us in this battle against leukemia. If I believe, and I do believe, that God doesn't allow anything to touch us except what has been filtered through his loving hands, then there is good to be found in this. 

So, we place our hope in God, savor each new day, and live life in a way that makes much of the name of Christ.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Two months...

Several years ago as I was reading through the Old Testament, I was struck by how many times these phrases were used...

remember
and 
do not forget
and 
when your children ask you
and 
as a memorial

All those phrases were coupled with places, times, locations in which God rescued, saved or restored his people, the Israelites. God was very specific. And he was very serious about this. He wanted his people to remember the great work that he had done in their midst AND to tell future generations about that great work. 

I am forgetful. My children are forgetful. We as a society forget things that just happened the day before. 

It's easy to forget.

But it's important that we don't. 

Why?

Because memories are important. 

They are powerful. 

They help us make choices in the present and help us from making the same mistakes in the future. Memories can make you smile or bring you to tears. 

Memories are one of the main reasons I love to scrapbook. The power and importance of memories is why I assigned Sammy to read The Giver this year for school.  

Most importantly, memories help us remember what God has done and grow our faith to continue to believe in him and his promises in his Word when the next crisis comes.

It is good for us to remember...even the hard memories. 

Dates, anniversaries, months, years, milestones are significant. Reflecting and remembering those days are very, very important to me. And our family hit one of those significant anniversaries on Monday, May 28. 

Two months. 

Two months since Brad was discharged from the hospital after spending 28 days fighting for his life against Legionaries Disease and Hairy Cell Leukemia. 

Two months of good days and bad days. Two months of healing. Two months of exhaustion and gratefulness. Two months of adjusting to our "new normal." 

Today....well, today Brad feels great. He's felt really good the last 3 weeks or so. 

And just like that...the one thing we prayed for...

normal life again
  
has, in some ways, been granted.  

Last night, as part of family devotions, we talked about what life was like 3 months ago...when Brad first got sick. 

Surprisingly, it was hard for our younger 2 kids to really remember what that was like...

Daddy, very sick in the hospital and Mommy, away from the family and caring and advocating for Daddy all day, every day. 

So we added another "stone" to our "stones of remembrance."

God spared Daddy's life.

Because I don't want them to forget the miracle that God did in their midst. I don't want to forget how God answered hundreds of people's prayers. And I want to remember how God was near to our family. 

Especially today as we prepare for another blood draw and oncology appointment tomorrow.

Remember...remember...remember...

"And when in time to come your son asks you, "what does this mean?" you shall say to him, "By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery." -Exodus 13:14

 "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children--" -Deut. 4:9

"And he said to the people of Israel, "When your children ask their fathers in times to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground." -Joshua 4:21-22

 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A new creation

I am a firm believer that God is writing each of my kiddo's story.  Nothing that has happened to them since before they were born has been a result of chance.

I believe that He uses life changes, easy and difficult circumstances, and even decisions that Brad and I make to grow them into the people He wants them to be.  Everything shapes them...from how Brad and I parent them to how they are treated by other kids at school to what interests they have and even whether they are tall or short or can make a jump shot.

Even though I know this in my head, and hold tightly to verses such as Isaiah 40:11 to remind my mama's heart:

"He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young."

It's one thing to know it in my head, it's another to trust God with it in my heart and actually do it each day.

If you were to ask me last January what the hardest thing about our move from Minnesota to Iowa was, I would have said, "shepherding my kids, especially Sammy through the first several weeks of our transition."

I won't share all the details about her struggle here...I do believe it's her story to tell and not mine...but I will share a few of the joys that came as a result of those struggles.  

First, for the first time in her life, she decided, on her own, to read the Bible every day and in one year. Our senior pastor challenged everyone in our church to do the Bible Project on January 1, and Sammy immediately asked if we could download the app on our phones.  It was amazing to watch her as she discovered for herself the riches of the Word of God and how all 66 books fit together to show a beautiful story of God redeeming His children!

Second, we had a front row seat at watching a young girl, who had been told her entire life that God is good, and He is faithful, and He is sovereign, and that everything happens for our good and His glory...wrestle with and decide for herself if that was the truth or not. Brad and I could see daily her internal struggle with trying to reconcile between a good God and a God who seemed to have taken everything away from her.

And last, all of this led her to repent of her sins and call upon the name of Jesus to save her! 

On July 23, at our church's outdoor service...
 


 Sammy briefly shared her testimony...

 

(I love this picture of me holding Josiah, reveling in the goodness of God and His work in Sammy's life!)


...and was baptized!

We weren't sure at first whether Brad was going to find somewhere safe enough to baptize her...we weren't able to reserve the swimming beach area at Lake Ahquabi for our church service and where we were was more of a fishing area. But Sammy had her heart SET on being baptized in a lake.  A blow up pool at church just wasn't going to cut it for her.  She was a Minnesotan at heart, and she wasn't going to settle for any other place than a lake!





I LOVE this last picture!  I love the look on Brad's face and the joy on Sammy's!  
I'm grateful for Sammy's testimony of God's goodness, and that God saw fit....almost 12 years ago... to allow us to be her parents!

Monday, October 09, 2017

A time to reflect...part 2

What is the antidote to discouragement?

Change of circumstances?

Getting what you want?

More coffee? (This was a close runner-up! I DO love my coffee!)

No.

As I've been thinking and chewing on a few thoughts this past weekend about discouragement, I first landed on gratitude and the practice of being thankful.  I certainly had an overflowing, thankful heart as I was reflecting on pictures from this past summer, and they unquestionably encouraged me and lifted my spirit.

But there was something more...something more beyond the pictures and memories and the gift of friends and fun places and new adventures.

These people (my children and friends and family) are all gifts. The adventures and exploration are all gifts. Even the sadness and dissatisfaction and heartache are gifts.

But if my focus is solely on the gifts, I lose sight of the Giver of those good gifts.

Nothing that has happened this past year has been by my hand. God has ordained our move to Iowa, the sale of our house in Minneapolis, the purchase of our new home in Indianola, where our kids went to school (last year AND this year), the people we've come into contact with, and so many more things!

I may have been the "party planner" for my family this summer (you should have seen the enormous 4 month calendar I had on my wall chalked FULL of our fun summer plans...some of you have and can attest to this!) but God has been our Guide, our Light, our Good Shepherd.

He has been good. He has been faithful. His love has been constant.

And while His good gifts are very, very good...they are nothing next to knowing and savoring and being satisfied in Him.

Jesus is the antidote to discouragement.

His good gifts are just bonus.

And there may be seasons of fewer good gifts from God. When heartache and pain and despair are more prevalent than laughter and joy. 

In those times, I hope I will remember one of my favorite John Piper's quotes:

"God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them."

So, heart, press on.  Look deeply into the face of the Giver of all good gifts and know...

"that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." --Ephesians 3:16-19