Thursday, July 24

total awe

Sometimes I feel like I have homework when it comes to this blog. I know I haven't written in awhile and that fact just hovers in the back of my head for days—until I finally write something. I always love writing down my thoughts and taking the time to reflect or ponder life. And I've tried to write at least 2 or 3 times a week. But this summer is altogether different. I wish that I had the time to sit and write and write, especially since I have so many topics floating around in my head. But the truth is, I'm so fulfilled just living life, that I'm finding it hard to take the time to record it all. I'm sure that when things settle down (once school resumes), I'll start to contribute more. In the meantime, I'm storing up my topics and if they're a month or two late, then who cares?

I want to write about our 5th Annual Girl Getaway that my sisters, our daughters and my mom take every summer. But I need to go through photos first and have a bit of solitude to reflect on the weekend. We had a blast, as always. In some ways this may have been our best Getaway yet.

And I want to write about all the others things (big and small) that have happened this summer. I'm still in awe of how great this summer has been.

Since I don't have the hours right now to account for everything, I'll be brief and offer up any medical news since the last time I wrote.

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday and my platelets were too low to receive chemo. I have to go back on Monday and have blood drawn again. Hopefully my platelets will have risen and I can begin taking the chemo pills on Tuesday. Sometimes I get nauseous on the chemo pills (I must take 5 pills a day for 14 days, then I have a 7-day break). I also notice that my energy seems to decrease a bit each day. BUUUUT....... I did manage to walk 2.5 miles two days ago at the gym! My doctor is impressed. I give all the credit to Marielle because she walks with me and just talks and talks. I love listening to her and it makes the time fly.

Let's see. Any other symptoms? My Numb Chin Syndrome has seemed to be getting BETTER! I didn't thing that was possible. Oh, and I thought I had a UTI 3 weeks ago, so I had a urine culture taken. Unfortunately I DID have a UTI, but no one bothered to let me know. They took another sample yesterday and I was finally given an antibiotic. Hmmmm....oh, and my weight continues to decrease which is not good. But honestly, be careful if you pray for weight gain. While I want to be at a healthier weight, I've always struggled with my weight and I quite enjoy getting to eat whatever I want and not worrying about calories. Or buying clothes without even trying them on, because I know they'll fit and look good. —Every woman's dream....ahhhh! I'd say that if I could gain about 5 to 7 pounds and then plateau, that would be ideal.

Hmmmm....what else.....

I guess that's about it. I'm at a place of happiness right now.

There's only 25 days left until school begins. And no, I'm not the one counting down. My kids are looking forward to going back to school, so they're counting down the days as if it's Christmas. In just the next 3 weeks, we're having company for a few days—out of town friends that I can't wait to see. Next on the agenda, the four of us are planning a weekend trip to Six Flags Great America in Chicago. It's going to be so much fun! A week later, my sisterchick and I are planning to get away for a few days at a luxury Spa in Wisconsin. Sometime in there, Josiah has piano camp and we'll need to start buying school supplies and clothes. I'm just loving the balance we've had this summer with staying busy and being productive, making memories either at home or out of town and also relaxing and doing nothing on those long, lazy days of summer.

Home Sweet Home


Thank you, Lord, for giving me the Summer of 2014. What a blessing each day has been. Even when the kids argue (and drive me up the wall), I've noticed a bond that is growing between them. I thank you for allowing me to witness these precious days. I have a deep yearning to spend many more summers with my family. Oh, please Lord, let it be. Yet no matter what, I will always be grateful for the Summer of 2014. — A season where my kids can always look back on and see their mama in a positive way. I know there will be too many memories of me in the hospital and with tubes and bruises and a paleness that defines my physical appearance. But nothing can take away what we have right now. And you know, Lord, that sometimes I struggle with being a mom. Not even a GOOD mom, just a mom. It's so hard and I can't stand the fights and the whining and all the other thousand little things that come with the package of having a sibling. So that's why this summer is such a miracle. I've been at my wits end more days than I would like over the past couple of months, but You've given me new eyes and have softened my heart. Only You can do that. I have a new tenderness toward them that I don't think I've ever had before. Thank You for continuing to work in my life and shape me to be the woman, mom, wife and friend that you designed for me to be. I just love you SO much, my Heavenly Father and personal Friend. I have no words. I'm in awe.

Thursday, July 17

clouds of prayer

Even though I vomited yesterday and weariness causes me to sleep the day away, I can't help but feel like I'm walking on air. My feet are hovering on a path of clouds that carry me and protect my every step. 

Once in awhile I step outside of myself and take a hard look at my life. With each passing month, full of treatments and scans and results, I grow more in awe that I'm alive. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense to me that others have been diagnosed with advanced cancer and have passed away within months, while I enter my 5th year of living with this incurable disease. I honestly don't think I'd be doing as well as I am if it weren't for the many, many prayers said on my behalf over the years. I like to imagine that every single prayer buys me a day of capabilities. 24 hours of being able to walk. 24 hours to enjoy pain-free memories. 24 hours of having sight, of being able to hear and think and stand and eat. Oh sure, there are parts of me that I have to watch decline, but hey, after all....I have widespread cancer throughout most of my bones and liver and BRAIN, for crying out loud. I'm not sure what I thought it'd look like to live with widespread cancer, but this isn't it.

The Lord gives and He takes away. And I praise Him no matter what. And He listens to every single prayer. I don't believe He passively listens, rather He ACTIVELY hears our cries and praise. God is moved and touched when we seek Him and His will. Our humble prayers are not left hanging on clogged ears, they MOVE God. And what's more is that our prayers move US. We move closer to Him and His will. Perhaps God would sustain and keep me alive these past few years regardless if anyone said a single prayer for me. But I know in my heart that those prayers have helped me ENJOY life and this journey I'm on. They have kept me from getting depressed or discouraged. Every prayer keeps me truckin' along.

By the way, Marielle and I walked another two miles together at the gym today. What'd I tell ya? Prayers! I didn't huff and puff and I kept up a good pace. I may have wobbled every once in awhile, but I feel stronger and healthier and better about life. Once again, Prayers! It's in God's hands what He wants to do with my life. It's in OUR hands to pray. Your prayers have kept me afloat — physically, mentally, emotionally and especially spiritually. Thank you.

If I have to live with cancer, then I'm SO glad I get to be lifted up daily by those clouds of prayer. 


Thursday, July 10

take me out to the ballgame

Twenty four hours ago we hit a milestone that will forever remain in our memories.

Along with my sister, we took the kids to see their very first Cardinal Game. Marielle's excitement about the game rubbed off on me and I just couldn't wait. Yesterday morning, Josiah said he'd rather stay behind and play with his cousins than go to the game. Boy am I glad I took him. Out of all 4 of us, he probably enjoyed the game the most. He sat at the edge of his seat practically the whole time and hardly put down the binoculars. It was so cute. He was really getting into the game. He'd stand and cheer, he'd scream and shake his fists high in the air when something good happened. He moaned with the rest of the crowd and just really got into it.

Didn't we just have the best seats ever? Here's how Josiah looked practically the whole entire game. And look how happy Marielle is!


I'm STILL living off the energy from last night. Every little thing went just perfectly. I've been to enough games over my life to know that some games are better than others. Well, everything from the weather, to our parking spot, to our seats, to the actual game was just perfect. I didn't want nosebleed seats (which is where I usually sit), so I splurged to get seats on the first level, just to the left of home base. It was amazing. The weather was also perfect. In the middle of July, I expected it to be hot and stuffy and miserable, but it was slightly warm with a nice breeze here and there. I didn't even have to put on my sweater as the night grew colder. And some games are just so boring. It's no fun to watch a game when the Cards are losing—even though that doesn't happen very often :-). Sometimes the game is so boring because no one is scoring. But last night, it seemed like some action happened on every single inning.

Looking back, I am in awe of just how perfect and memorable the game was. I was nervous that the kids would be totally bored and wouldn't be able to last 3 hours. We are not really a big sports family. So I knew this game would either endear them to the Cards or turn them off of sports altogether. I only love the Cardinals because I went so often as a child. It holds special nostalgic meaning to me.....our family of six, loading up bags of Pringles, popcorn and soda and driving the hour north to St. Louis for a Cardinal Game. The binoculars, the cotton candy, the atmosphere, the energy, staying up late....all made for wonderful family memories. Last night could have gone very differently, but I'm so glad everything worked out. Thankfully my kids are excited about going again. Hopefully we'll be able to go to a game every summer.

What a relief. It's so difficult to find things to do that our whole family enjoys. Unlike Marielle, Josiah likes amusement parks, swimming and doing anything outside. Marielle prefers shopping and hotels (—she's a gal after my own heart). Often time Dale will take Josiah somewhere and I'll either stay home with Marielle or we'll find something else to do. Sometimes planning a vacation is so difficult. But I have renewed hope.

I just can't get enough of looking at my kids enjoying themselves. Oh, and that view! Even as the sun was going down, we weren't hot and didn't have the sun in our eyes.

Saturday, July 5

independence day

A quick update (because I'm falling asleep).....

Yesterday was Independence Day. I always love the tradition we have of spending the day at Glen Oak Ampitheater and watching the fireworks with my family. The weather was just gorgeous and the entire day perfect. My daughter captured a wonderful photo of my favorite firework. I call it the Never Ending Golden Star:



On July 4th, I also began taking my chemo pills again. Boy, I really miss the 7 day break I get with Xeloda (chemo pills). I get a little queasy with this chemo and increasingly fatigued. Today, however, I DID manage to go to the gym. It's been a couple of weeks since I've gone. But I really want my kids to be more physically active and I knew Marielle wouldn't go unless I took her — because I don't stay as long as Dale does. So we took two cars and Marielle and I walked the track. I always read an eBook from my phone while I walk. But today Marielle and I walked side by side and talked the whole time. It was SO wonderful to hear her talk about anything and everything. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a very good listener, because I like to give advice and share about my past. I like for my kids to know that I understand them. But today, I was able to listen more, because I get too out of breath when I walk and talk. It was just perfect! I told her that I love it when she talks to me. She questioned why and I said it's because when she was little I could control what she did, watched and who she hung out with. But now the only way I get to know what's going on inside of her is if she talks to me. I really hope our "Gym Walks 'n Talk" can bring us even closer together. OH! And we walked TWO miles!! That's the most I've walked yet — I just didn't want her to stop sharing.

Well, it's late and I need to be well rested for church tomorrow. I'm sure I'll update next week as we take a vacation to St. Louis, MO and Eureka Springs, AR.

Monday, June 30

a letter to my daughter

I'm writing a letter to my daughter on her first day of being 13. The more I interact with 12-14 year olds and the more I remember myself at that age, the more convinced I am that this issue is universal. Please sneak a peak into my heart as I share a burning passion to encourage ALL teenagers to stop looking in the physical mirror and comparing or judging themselves. How much grander it is to start looking in the mirror that God has placed inside our heart to reveal Truth. HIS truth — because He is the only One that can be trusted to see us just as we are.


My precious angel,

You are an official teenager. In many ways you have already reached that level of maturity and responsibility that comes with growing up. Oh, my sweet girl....it's not over.

I don't know how much longer I will be with you here on earth as your mom. Sometimes I panic because I have so much to share and so little time. I so desperately long to guide you and help you as problems arise in your life. But I also know that it's important to gradually let go of my hold on you, so you can grow and learn from your own experiences, choices and mistakes.

I wish I could address every possible scenario that may arise in your teen years and 20's. But I can't. So let's just focus on one very important thing. I believe this lesson could be a life-changing moment and provide a foundation that will filter into every aspect of your life.

As you enter your teen years, I know this age and time in your life is challenging. The emotions, the questions, the hurt, the confusion — all consume your mind and reflect how you interact and how you view yourself. I know. I've been there. In some ways I'm STILL there. This is a critical point in your life. It's a big deal. You are growing up and asking questions. You are having to deal with how to handle some difficult situations. You're being exposed to more complicated and worldly issues. All you want is to fit in. Your view of yourself is very much impacted by your peers. Yet in many ways you're still a child — and please never lose that element of your personality. Never stop having giggling fits for no reason or squeaking in the highest voice as you "ooh and aah" over your cat's cuteness. Never stop getting excited about the little things in life, like drinking a lemon-lime slushy or popping bubble wrap or watching the sky turn dark in the middle of the day as a storm rolls in.

I pray that you will always be part child. Run to your Heavenly Father and twirl in front of Him to show off your new outfit. Thank Him and praise Him for every single little thing. Let Him lift you up and set you on His lap. Lean into Him with adoration and complete trust. Tell God anything and everything, knowing that He is always listening. And caring. And loving. Yell at Him, if you must. He can take it. Let your Father squeeze you tight when you're hurting. He'll wipe each and every tear. Always keep a childlike faith and simplicity.

I wish I could keep you innocent like a child. But you're growing up. It's natural to question everything. Even who you are.

This is what I'm writing about: our identity.

If you never remember anything I've ever said over the past 13 years, I pray you'll never forget the following words and message:

When you view yourself and wonder just who you are, you won't see yourself clearly unless you view yourself as God views you. His eyes can be trusted whereas human eyes are always tainted. We are tainted by what others have said to us and about us. We are tainted by whatever good or bad has happened in our past, by our insecurities, by our families, by what the media presents to us, and just by comparing ourselves to others.

How we see ourselves is HUGE! It effects how we interact with others and how much or little we contribute to the well-being of others. If our view of ourself is any less than how God sees us, we can easily become jealous, insecure, depressed, angry, frustrated, prideful, self-absorbed, confused and the list goes on and on. If we allow ourselves to see ourselves through others' eyes, we become what other people think of us. Why would I believe that another flawed human being knows the real me? And just what IS the real me? Everyone has their own human imperfections, based on their own insecurities and views of themselves.

Too many times I've either said to myself or heard others say, "Nobody understands me. I feel so alone or unloved. I wish I was skinnier, prettier, smarter, richer, more popular [fill in the blank]. I just hate myself. All I want is to fit in. I wish I was different."

LIES!

Don't you, my precious child, believe any negative thing about your character that comes out of the mouths of others or that swirls around in your head. The enemy would love nothing better than to steal your confidence and tear you down. God created you and your personality and by hating yourself, you're saying that God made a mistake and you're dismissing His goodness.

I think this could be said of people of all ages. But I'm particularly writing to you, your friends and any pre-teen or teen who is in the midst of discovering who they are. It's such a critical age. These years are when you go from being an obedient child to making decisions and life choices on your own. You are seeking answers and may no longer feel comfortable asking your parents the hard questions. So perhaps you open up to friends. Then maybe those friends will hurt you. Then what? Alone. Depressed. Questioning, "Who am I?" "Who do I want to be?"

Even in my 30's I've had to deal with this. Where one may say I'm mean, another may not understand me and call me weird, some say I'm unapproachable, and others think I'm not very smart. I'm given labels from Day 1: she's the quiet one, the tom boy, the nerd, the chunkier one, the messiest, the artist, loud, aggressive, uncaring and so on. All of those labels stay with me and form my identity. I suddenly see myself as the mean sister. Or maybe I'm not good at anything but art. One negative comment will forever color my view of myself. So I strive for accolades to make me feel better about myself. I want the praise — so I know that I am good. This is ALL MESSED UP!

Our true identity is NOT based on how we think of ourselves. It's solely based on God. After all, He's the One who created us. He knows our innermost thoughts and secrets. He knows more about me than I do. So of course it makes sense to let God show me who I am. For several years, I allowed myself to think I was truly aggressive and mean and crude and insensitive, because that's what I was told, over and over. The break-through came, when I realized that those words and viewpoint were from other human beings and not from God. Just because someone may see me a certain way, doesn't mean it's true. Others have their own issues and baggage and insecurities and may very well be directing all their hurt onto the first person that comes along. What a relief! Now if I'm ever verbally attacked, I can check my spirit. Is this Truth that God wants me to see in myself? Or is this someone projecting their own viewpoint and trying to hurt me to make them feel better? See? There's no need to live in confusion or depression, when my identity is grounded in the Word of God.

You don't have to spend your life trying to figure out who you are. By believing God created you and knowing that He is Lord of your life, you can rest assured of your identity. You are beautiful. You are an heir to the throne. You are a princess.

When in doubt, search the Bible and read just what God says about you, His precious child:

I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I am His elect, full of mercy, kindness, humility, and longsuffering (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12).

I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).

I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).

I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7).

I am called of God to be the voice of His praise (Psalm 66:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).

I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12).

I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward (Philippians 3:14).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
____________________________________

My sweet daughter, I love you more than words can express. In life, when things become too chaotic and you can't escape the drama, remember: You are greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

I love you. So very much.
Your mom

Monday, June 23

i'm a geek....but that's how God made me


I now remember why I liked math so much in school!

My daughter has made a commitment to work hard on math over the summer with the hope of getting into a higher level next year. I'm not sure if the school will do that, but I am just SO encouraged by her willingness to learn.

All last year, I kept wanting to help her with math or at least check her homework assignments. But she wouldn't hear of it. It was a struggle for the both of us, as she wasn't learning the material but so badly wanted to be independent and for me because I so badly wanted to help.

That is why this willingness on her part is HUGE. Honestly, even if she doesn't move up a math level, I'm just so glad that she's showing initiative and letting me work with her.

Beginning Thursday she'll meet with her teacher once a week for 5 weeks. We've already begun doing worksheets at home. I quickly realized that I needed to brush up on my pre-Algebra...okay, I really needed to re-teach myself practically everything. I found this fabulous website tutorial that I've been watching and it just gets me so excited. I'm a geek. I know. I wrote down the "rules" that are expected to be memorized and made a sort of cheat sheet for her. Oh, who am I kidding? — I made the sheet for me.

One thing I just love about math is that it's constant. By following the steps, I know I will always get the right answer. Unlike the english language, there are no exceptions. I feel like doing pre-Algebra is sort of like working a puzzle. I just have to plug in the pieces (rules/formulas) and the finished answer is revealed. It may sound silly, but I've been doing the worksheets, too, and I just feel so giddy when my answers match up with the answer key. What a rush! Please don't make fun of me.

I normally detest homework, but for some reason I find these math worksheets pretty therapeutic.
I have to say that the very best reward I've gotten, though, has been watching Marielle learn. I'm starting to see a little bit of confidence return. I think my enthusiasm may be rubbing off on her just a bit as well. When I came downstairs and exclaimed that I got all 10 problems correct, she said, "Awesome! Now I can't wait to do MY worksheet!"

Whether she aces her homework or not I'm proud of her. My hope is that she will no longer feel like math just isn't her thing, and give up.

Working on math is just a glimpse of what we've been up to this summer. If you all have been wondering why my blog posts have been dwindling lately, it's because our days have been filled with trying to balance fun/relax time with productive/learning time. It's not just Marielle who is getting prepared for the next school year. Josiah is working on reading 13 books this summer to get ahead in language arts next year. I'm so grateful for the school staff for allowing him to take a test after each book, while the content is still fresh in his mind. He loves to read, but his dyslexia makes reading a little bit challenging. Now he'll be able to focus more on spelling and writing next year, without the stress of reading for a grade. As it stands, he gets to read without pressure and he even told me that answering the questions on the test doesn't even seem like work!

Aside from studying, there's also piano and violin to practice daily and lessons weekly. And so far I'm still motivated to take them to the gym a couple of times a week. I love having days when we all get to stay home and today was one of those days.

I just love spending time with my kids, teaching them in a relaxed atmosphere with no pressure of deadlines. The only problem is that when we're taking a break from school work, I'm just not motivated to get online and write in my blog. When they're in school, the hours of my days are spent writing and napping. During the summer, I'm finding that the time spent away from the kids is time I so desperately need to nap. I've been on chemo now long enough that the daily meds are making me a tad more fatigued each day. But I feel really pleased with how the summer is going. I'm taking it one day at a time, with little snippets of activities to look forward to scattered throughout the weeks. I hope you're having a wonderful summer, too.

Saturday, June 14

this and that

Happy weekend, everyone!

Tomorrow is Father's Day, but it's been hard for me to remember that. My son leaves bright and early for camp in the morning. I think I finally have most of his things packed, but some items will have to wait until the morning. He is going to have so much fun....and I'm going to miss him terribly. But I'm looking forward to spending the week with Marielle.

I haven't updated in a week because it seems that my spare time is spent with the kids. And when I finally get a break, I feel like napping instead of writing. But now I have a few minutes to fill you in.

I guess the first thing is that I saw my oncologist last Monday. There was nothing really substantial that we discussed. He wasn't too concerned right now with my numb chin syndrome (NCS). But I think I'll call him next week, because it's getting worse. I'm repeatedly biting my bottom lip because I can't feel it. It's difficult to eat and drink and the lower right side of my face feels cold and swollen. I can't even make a facial expression without it hurting. My lower gums are tender and my bottom teeth have shifted —though I'm glad they're not loose. I feel like the NCS is more prominent than a few days ago and starting to spread to the center and left side.

I also have a pea-sized lump just under my skin on the right side of my navel. My oncologist didn't like the looks of it, but just said to keep an eye on it and see if they grow or change. Since then I've discovered a few more lumps on the right side of my tummy.

On Thursday, I started having sharp pains on the right from my waist to my knee in the back. It has gotten worse and today I can barely put pressure on that leg. Even laying still, my bottom and thigh is throbbing and aching.

I also started taking the chemo pills again. This cycle I have to take the full dose of 5 pills a day. So far I haven't vomited, which is GREAT. Hopefully I can stay on this chemo for awhile and let it do some good.

On a personal note, today was a great day. Two guys from church came over to collaborate with me on a song. A couple of months ago, I was contacted to see if I'd allow them to write a song about me and my journey. Evidently my blog inspired them to write a song. How flattering!

So for weeks we've been writing drafts and sending edits or suggestions back and forth. Today was the first day I really got to meet them and we had a blast. It was so much fun to work together in such a creative way. I've never done anything like that before. We'd just talk and brainstorm and see what worked or didn't work. We already had the skeleton of the song put together and just needed to add some meat and skin. We are SO close to being done. I can't wait to share the lyrics and song with you. It's been stuck in my head all day.



On that note.....have a great weekend. And Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 7

yippee skippee

Yay! I received the results of my latest brain MRI and everything is stable!! There's no new cancer spots and the cancer that I currently have is not growing or spreading. This is SUCH great news. While I don't normally worry or concern myself with the results of my many scans, I didn't have a good feeling about my brain. For the past few days, I've experienced CNS (Chin Numbness Syndrome). The right side of my chin and bottom lip feel like they've been injected with lidocaine from a dental procedure.

Also my lower teeth on the right side have also started to shift. I have an appointment on Monday with my oncologist, so I'll be sure and discuss both of these concerns. Probably what's happening, has to do with the cancer in my bones and not my brain. Still, when numbness is involved, it's easy to think it's a central nervous system issue.

Aside from medical stuff, my life is still so wonderfully full.

Physically, I've gone to the gym now 4 times since last Saturday. I can walk a mile briskly without stopping to catch my breath or slow down. I didn't realize how much of an accomplishment this is until we took a family walk last night. Dale wanted us all to walk down the road to get ice cream, but we always drive the car because it's a bit of a hike. I insisted that I could do it, so all four of us headed out. He couldn't get over how "fast" I was walking. In truth, I was probably walking at a moderate stroll. But he didn't have to slow down for me. We were able to walk hand in hand (something that we can't do when I'm riding my scooter), and have pleasant conversations without me running out of breath. *smile* It sure made my bowl of strawberry ice cream covered with real strawberries taste all the sweeter.

Mentally, my spirit is lifted. How could it not be? I've gotten a good report and I'm able to do more and make more memories with the family. I'm thinking the Summer of 2014 will forever be one of the best seasons I've had while undergoing treatment. Regardless of what happens in the future, I am SO grateful to have these precious days to feel like a regular mom and wife again.

Spiritually, I'm living in praise daily. How could I not? This extra bounce in my step wouldn't be there without the working of God in my life and body. I just love the fact that when things are bad and only getting worse, it doesn't mean it's all downhill from there. I'm not sure I thought that I would ever drive again or take a walk without stopping every couple of minutes or without excruciating back pain. But here I am. Living on a cloud. Padded and protected by God's heavenly presence. When He chooses to set that cloud down, I can look up and remember that extraordinary flight I was on. A gift.

Good things are happening this summer. The kids are learning to get along better and I'm having such wonderful, deep and necessary conversations with my daughter who is growing up way too fast. I just love her and her heart. We have a couple of big trips to look forward to, as well as some smaller outings. But mostly, we're enjoying the simple things like pizza and a movie or a stroll for ice cream on a warm summer night.

Yes. I love my life.

Sunday, June 1

it's a wonderFULL life

I haven't written in awhile because....well, my life is just so full. I can't say that my life is "busy" — just full.

I'm still in awe at the change that has occurred since returning from Italy. It's like I'm back to my normal self. I've even been preparing lunches for the kids and dinners for the four of us. I'm refraining from saying that I've been cooking, because all I really do is take items from the freezer or fridge and warm them up. But it requires planning and motivation, not to mention energy to prepare meals.

And yesterday I finally did it. I went with the family to the gym and signed up. I walked the track then ended with a soak in the hot tub. I grumbled about going at 10:00 in the morning — I know, I know....that's late for most people — but come on, I'm usually just waking up around 9:30 and need my mornings to slowly wake up. Anyway, I'm glad we went to work out in the morning, because I just felt so refreshed afterwards and all day. Dale even managed to get me out of the house that evening to join the rest of the family at Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Oh! And I forgot to tell you that Friday night, Dale and I took a walk by the Riverfront....just the two of us. It was such a beautiful late spring day.

Over the Memorial holiday weekend, we all drove to Missouri. We got to stay with my parents and see some family, but on Sunday the four of us escaped to St. Louis. We stayed at a hotel right next to the Arch. It was so great to rest (have I mentioned how much I LOVE hotels??!!) at the hotel. The boys went down to the pool for a few hours while Marielle and I watched home decorating shows on HGTV. Then on Monday we all walked to the Arch....okay, I cheated and rode my scooter. It was a gorgeous day. We took a few photos and then got tickets to ride the tram to the top of the Arch. The kids had a blast and it was a wonderful day, full of memories.


Every day I wake up and see the mess in my bedroom and wish I could just blink my eyes and it'll be clean. There are so many jobs I'd like to tackle and rooms I'd like to clean and organize, but I'm not stressing about it. The kids and I are enjoying a slow-paced summer. We sleep in, get a little bit of something done, spend time together, sometimes run an errand or two, and just do whatever we feel like doing. We have trips and activities scattered throughout the summer to give us something to look forward to, but for the most part, we're staying close to home. It's a wonderfully FULL life. I like not being busy and rushing around. I'm hoping the kids will find value in staying home and will cherish these slower days of summer.

But it's not all laziness. Both kids are being tutored this summer (reading/spelling and math) and they both have music lessons (piano and violin). We've had eye appointments as well as dentist and orthodontist appointments. I, of course have my scans and appointments and treatments, so we need to hover close to home. I'm also taking this summer to try and instill better habits in the kids (in ME, as well). I'm hoping to take them to the gym at least 2 times a week. I don't think I'd do it on my own, but they'll motivate me to get out of the house. I'm also proud of them for reading daily. I still have to tell them to read, but hopefully by the end of summer, they'll enjoy reading enough to automatically read before bed. I'm starting to see some fruits begin to form already as they tell me about what they've read.

To change the subject:

I have an MRI of my brain tomorrow. I'm curious to compare it with my brain MRI from a couple of months ago. After my MRI, I have a heavenly massage to look forward to. I can't wait!!

I'm still on chemo — taking 2 chemo pills every day. Most of the time I don't think I have any side effects, but I think it's starting to culminate into greater fatigue. If I don't take the pills with food, I start to feel bad, and if I take the pills with the wrong kind of food (or maybe the wrong time of day), then I still end up vomiting. But this Thursday is my last day (Day 14) of taking the pills. Then I get a week off and start all over again.

I hope everyone is enjoying beautiful weather....if not outside, then within your homes and hearts. I have another week coming up with appointments, lessons and meetings. If I don't update for a few days, then just know that I'm trying to live a full life with those I love.

Friday, May 23

a quick chemo update

I can't write for very long, because I'm a busy little bee — and I'm lovin' it! It's nice to have things to do AND be able to actually do them.

I just wanted to fill everybody in on the latest. I started take my chemo pills again on Wednesday evening. I'm supposed to take 3 pills in the morning and 2 in the evening with food. I took 2 pills Wednesday evening and 45 minutes later I vomited. Ugh. Here we go again. So I didn't take any pills on Thursday, but called my oncologist instead. He said to reduce my dosage and take 1 pill in the morning (this morning) and if I handle it well, then take 1 more pill in the evening. Well....so far so good. I took a pill this morning with food and just laid flat in bed for a little over an hour.

I had to get laundry going and pick up the kids' report cards, so I've been on the go. In just a few hours we'll be heading down to Missouri to spend the 3-day weekend with my parents and one of my sissies. I can't even pack until laundry is done, but since it's only for a couple of nights, I'll just throw some stuff in a suitcase and not worry about it. Hey, packing will seem like a breeze since it's not like we're taking stuff for 2 weeks in Italy! Now THAT was a tad stressful.

I better stop being lazy and go get some stuff done now. Hopefully I'll be able to continue taking Xeloda (chemo pills). I really NEED this chemo to work for awhile. I hate the thought of having to discontinue this chemo drug because of side effects. I'd rather discontinue it only if/when it becomes ineffective.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I'm planning on enjoying the road trip with my family and relaxing at my parent's house. There's something so glorious about "going back home."

Monday, May 19

feeling revived

Sometimes ya' just gotta play with your food.

I haven't had any chemo treatments in almost 2 months. And I am SOO lovin' it! I never quite understood it when cancer patients chose to stop treatments in order to have a better quality of life. But now I get it. I've just had more energy and less problems as each day passes. It's wonderful. I'm actually making summer plans and looking forward to spending a quality summer with my family. Last summer was a blur. I don't think we did much as a family and I know that I spent a lot of time resting in bed while the kids took care of themselves. Summer officially begins for us in 1.5 days. I can't believe school will be out at noon on Wednesday the 21st — especially considering how many snow days we had to take.

I really hope this summer will be a great balance of relaxing as well as doing some fun activities and making lasting memories. But as summer begins for us, I will be starting back on chemo. I'll start taking my daily chemo pills once again on Wednesday. I really hope I can breeze right through this chemo with little or no side effects. We won't start back up on the brain chemo just yet.

Feeling so good physically comes with a price, though. I had a full body PET scan last Thursday and it seems that the cancer has grown and become more active. I have several new cancer lesions on my liver and more cancer activity throughout my bones. At least no new organs have been touched.

Tomorrow I go to the hospital for another surgery. It's that time of the year I need to have my ureter stents replaced. They should be replaced every 5-6 months and we're pushing 7 months. I've been feeling the pain lately, so I'm glad surgery is sooner rather than later. It'll take me a few days (sometimes up to a week) to recover, but at least I don't have to stay overnight in the hospital.

I'll have an MRI of my brain on June 2nd. The results will determine if and when I'll resume the brain chemo.

Even though the cancer has spread, I'm still grateful for the break I've had. This 2 month break has allowed me to return to the land of the living. I needed to get past the extreme fatigue, weakness and dehydration. I feel like I have an extra bounce in my step — although it's internally. I have a renewed viewpoint and I'm ready to tackle this next season in my journey. I think our two-weeks away also refreshed my perspective. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I believe it. By taking a break from parenting duties, I'm able to think with a clear head and a not-so-emotionally-exhausted frame of mind. I'm able to look toward summer and plan some events instead of dread the endless hours of boredom that my kids would surely announce on a daily basis. It's not unlike having the summer to recharge and prepare for a new school year. My breaks from chemo and parenting came at just the perfect time. I most definitely feel led and guided by God. What a great feeling!

Sunday, May 18

spirit of hope award

Some of my blog posts will be arriving late (like this one). In the middle of updates about current life, I'll try and throw in some posts about our recent trip to Italy — while it's still fresh in my mind. But first, I'll backtrack a couple of weeks and share some photos from the Spirit of Living Dinner that I missed because Dale and I were in Venice.

Oh, it about killed me to not be there that night. It was the evening of April 26th that I was to be awarded the Spirit of Hope award. Thankfully my parents were able to attend and both kids went up to the podium to accept the award on my behalf.

Here's the photo that was on the screen while Matt George (the Executive Director of the Hult Center) gave some background about the award and introduced me:



This was my acceptance video that was played in lieu of my physical appearance. Ugh. I could only watch it one time. I'm so awkward. I think I would have done a better job had I been there in person. Oh well.



Below you'll find Marielle and Josiah accepting the award presented by Matt George:



Here's a close-up of the award:



Of course I feel so honored. I think part of the joy for me, is looking at that picture of my two kids, all big and dressed up. I think it was so special for them to get to do this. I really wish I could have been there, but it all worked out.

Wednesday, May 14

theater

I just love theater. I love everything about it. I love the bigger-than-life characters, the costumes...just everything. Acting is in my blood. There's a very unique and precious "high" that I get from the camaraderie with other cast members and transforming into another person once I step upon that stage. And there's a deep sorrow during the last performance of knowing that this "family" will never exist in the same way again. Never again will we all rehearse together, sing together or share in the magic of that particular show. It's part of the highs and lows that prompt me to crave that next production.

Once I got a taste of directing, I fell deeper in love with theater. As a director, I essentially get to be all of the actors. I get to envision how the scene should look and guide each actor into the role that best fits. I love closing my eyes in the planning stage and picturing how each scene will best unfold. Who will enter and exit from which point and who will stand where. I get to think about how each cast member should react and best utilize their body language and facial expressions. I get to guide them and help them form their personalities. There's nothing quite like it. It's magical to have a vision and see it unfold before an audience. And when the actors take ownership and add to their character?—Well, nothing short of pride and glee fill my core. I just love it.

I've missed acting and directing, and feel a little bit of emptiness inside because that area of my life isn't fulfilled. I would have loved to make a career of it or at least volunteer in community plays, but the timing wasn't right. I needed to take a break from directing a few years ago because it's so very time consuming. As a wife and mom, I was inadvertently neglecting my family, as I focused all my energy on this or that production. But theater will always be in my blood. I have a difficult time comparing any other event in my life to that of being on stage — of becoming a different person for an hour and a half, making people laugh and helping them get away from their lives by stepping into the magical world of live theater.

A couple of years ago we took our kids to see a high school musical production of Alice in Wonderland. As the opening music began to build and my excitement rose, I suddenly got tears in my eyes. Marielle had been showing an interest in acting and of course my mommy-heart swelled with pride. I looked over and saw her face light up in eager anticipation and got a huge lump in my throat. I wondered if I'd live long enough to see her up on stage in her own high school production. It was one of the first times I allowed myself to think about possibly missing every single event of my children's high school experience. I had thought about missing the biggies like: teaching them to drive, seeing them graduate, watching them get married, rejoicing over their first job and holding their own children in my arms. But what about all the other thousands of little things I'd miss? Like: worrying over their first dates, clapping as they receive the science or math award, watching them perform on stage or give a speech behind a podium, hearing all about their friends, wiping their tears when their heart gets broken, listening to their dreams, sharing in their goals, and just watching them grow up. It was an eye-opener for me to process never seeing my daughter up on stage.

Fast forward 2 years.....

I didn't even pray for it, but God does indeed know the desires of our hearts. A couple of months ago, Marielle auditioned for the Middle School production of Willie Wonka. I had so much fun helping her with her lines and listening to her audition song. I was blown away by how my shy, introverted daughter really got into her character and seemed to blossom. I wasn't sure she would get the part she wanted (Violet, the gum chewer), but I was proud of her for her ambition and hard work. When she came home from school a week later, she couldn't stop jumping around. I knew. I could see her adrenaline bubbling over and working overtime throughout her bloodstream. She was practically bursting. She couldn't even speak at first—just bounce and squeal. She got the part of Violet! Instantly my own heart rate sped up and I felt what she was feeling. I knew that feeling all too well. There's nothing quite like it. It's a bit of pride, mixed with shock, confidence, and unbelief. It's feeling like the world has opened up and I'm about to set foot on this amazing journey where anything can happen.

In just two nights, after many dedicated weeks of rehearsals, I will get to see my daughter on stage. Thank you, Lord! Thank you for answering the prayer I never spoke.


Sunday, May 11

to the future mom of my kids

Today's sermon centered around Hannah. Hannah was a woman who was barren. For many years she prayed and she grieved, but she didn't give up. Many years had passed and yet she still prayed for a child. She prayed (1 Samuel 1:11) that if God would bless her with a son, then she would give him back to the Lord for all the days of his life.

Before the sermon began, we had a baby dedication. I watched and wondered if the parents knew exactly what they were doing. They were basically making a vow to raise their child to know and fear the Lord. But more than that, they were acknowledging God's role in the life of their child. Would any of them be willing to let another raise their child for God as Hannah did? When I dedicated my own babies to the Lord, I didn't know the full extent of what I was doing. Then one day it became clear. I was forced to ACT on those words I agreed to, "....dedicate Marielle/Josiah to the Lord who gave them to me, surrendering all worldly claims upon their lives in the hope that she/he will belong wholly to God." How many mothers, I wonder, would willingly give up her child (after he is weaned, so after a few years) and no longer play a role in his/her upbringing. That would be so difficult.

On this Mother's Day, I'd like to discuss how God has asked me to do just that—to give my children back to Him. To let go of my hold on parenting. To be willing to step aside and let another step in. I had to realize that my children are really God's to begin with. He has entrusted me, for however long, to see to their upbringing, but ultimately I gave Marielle and Josiah to God. They are His. Not mine. I've come to a point where I can say, "My kids don't NEED me.....they NEED God." Whether I'm in the picture or not, doesn't change that bit of truth.

There is no way that I could address the following topic if I hadn't dedicated my children to God and BELIEVED that God is perfectly qualified and capable to watch over, take care of and parent my kids. I believe He is the Perfect Parent and has good things in store for them. If I doubted that God is good and worthy to be trusted, then I wouldn't have the peace that I have.

So today, on this day to celebrate moms, I thought I'd lift up my children's future mom. I pray for her, you know. I don't know her name or what she looks like. I don't know if she's married right now or has children of her own. But we're connected. My two dearest hearts will one day call her mom. My soul mate will once again find peace and completeness with her. I already love her.

I think of her as already a part of our family. In my mind, I consider my kids, "OUR kids" because they are hers, too. It has taken quite a process for me to be able to go there emotionally. [If this topic bothers you, please read my disclaimer below] Even writing this post is causing tears to trickle down my cheeks. But the only way I can even think about it, let alone write/talk about it, is because of what God has said to me over the years and more recently in my prayers. It all began about 10 years ago when Josiah was an infant in my arms. At 2:00 in the morning, as I rocked him to sleep, tears began to quietly stream down my cheeks. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and wondered if my precious baby would ever get to know his mama, remember her face or have any memories of her at all. The voice of God whispered to my soul, "Trust Me. You dedicated your children to Me as infants. I am their Father. They will always be in good hands." I suddenly understood the seriousness and depth of dedicating my children to God. It can't be in words only. It's a matter of the heart and a commitment to surrender my will for God's will. I have to be willing to let go of my parenting and let God be their Father and true Parent. I have to trust that God is ultimately good and has a grand future planned for each of them.

Here's how I can embrace the idea of another woman becoming a mom to Marielle and Josiah. First of all, I know she's not stepping into my shoes or taking my place. The kind of marriage she and Dale will share will be wholly unique to them. Just as she will bring newness to parenting. I'm not so puffed up to believe that I and only I am capable and needed to parent these children. Even if Dale doesn't re-marry for quite some time (I hope he doesn't wait too long), then God their Father will absolutely fill in the blanks—although really, He should be the One to Parent and WE should fill in the blanks. But you know what I mean. The bottom line is that my kids are well protected and taken care of.

Philippians 1:6 tells me that I can be "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus." This is both true for me as well as Marielle and Josiah. God is and will always be shaping them into the image of Jesus. Whether I'm around or not, I know this to be true. And because I'm a fallible human being, I have no problems thinking that God's work might be done more fully if I'm out of the picture. My children have a bright future, for sure. And part of the success of their own journey may be due to the fact that they lived through the tragedy of losing a parent and handling life with a new mom on the other side. Who knows? Only God sees the future and how it will unfold.

I sort of see myself as mom #1. If my own life's journey leads me to pass the baton to mom #2, then I'm willing. I'm willing because I know that God is Sovereign. He most definitely knows what He's doing. Will it be a tragedy? Some may say, "Yes." But I see it as God orchestrating lives and shaping His children to be more like Christ...all for the Glory of His Name! Praise God! That is all I want, really...to let God be in control of my life. How can I fully do that, if I'm not willing to GIVE Him my life and if I cling too tightly to the things of this world?

It's inevitable. Change happens. All the time. Every day. We can't hope for all change to be good. When change happens (whether good or bad), God WILL make good come from it, if we allow Him to. That is my prayer and why I have such peace about mom #2 coming in to finish what I've begun. It won't be smooth sailing, but I know that my children will grow and learn and draw closer to Jesus.

So, future mother of my children, I want to first thank you. God has called you to minister in our home and I thank you for heeding His call. I know it won't be easy, and my heart aches for the transition and frustrations that will arise from forming a new and different family unit. I pray that you will always seek God when it's tough and not give up. I believe that God has handpicked you to fill this role. Our children will one day rise up and call you "Blessed." Thank you for loving our children as though you birthed them. I pray for you now, wherever you are. God is using the circumstances in your life right now to prepare you for what will come. I pray that nothing can divert your eyes from the One who can answer/solve/fix anything. When you're at your wits end, I pray you'll take a deep breath of the Holy Spirit and exhale His wisdom and comfort. I pray that Marielle and Josiah will accept you and love you with a child's devoted love. I love you and I thank God for you.

DISCLAIMER:
I need you to know my heart and where I stand in writing on this particular topic. I don't feel helpless or hopeless. I don't believe that I only have a few months left to live. I know that my life is in God's hands. I love praying and thinking about God completely healing my body from cancer. Nothing is impossible. I haven't given up on that prayer. With that said, God has given me a supernatural peace about my children's future, should He call me home while they're still young. Living with terminal cancer makes it necessary to think about and work through such things. This doesn't mean that I'm prophesying my own doom. It DOES mean that I have assurance and peace—no matter WHAT happens. I needn't worry about the future of my kids as well as my own future. God's got this and He knows what He's doing.

Saturday, May 10

we made it home

Arrivederci, Italy.

We arrived back home last night (or was it early this morning). The long return flight was really quite amazing. The plane wasn't booked, so Dale grabbed an open seat across the aisle. I got to have two seats to myself!! For most of the 8 hours, I slept all curled up in both seats. It was wonderful! Thank you, Lord!

Two weeks away was just about right. Dale and I were missing the kids and being back home in our own little world with our own little life — dirty laundry, dusty furniture and all. Since I slept so much on the plane, I was plenty energized to give the kids tons of attention last night. It was great. I'm a little overwhelmed by jumping back into mom mode — especially with a busier school schedule next week. But there's only one full week of school left, so I'm telling myself, "I know I can....I know I can." I'm so thankful that my mom and dad were here to take care of things while we were gone. I didn't have to concern myself with anything, because I knew the kids were well taken care of. If I was concerned about anything, it was how my parents would do. They said it was quite busy at times, but worth it, to get to spend so much time with Marielle and Josiah.

I plan to put my Italy photos in the gallery page, when I can weed through them. Right now I'm taking care of some business things—going through mail, paying bills, helping with homework, doing laundry, unpacking and all the other hundred little things I must do. Hopefully I can go through those photos sooner rather than later, though.

For now, I'll just use my words to talk a bit about our trip.

I think the biggest shock for me was how much this trip has changed me physically. I was fully prepared to spend most of the days in bed, resting. I figured at the most I would get out of the house/hotel/apartment for an hour or so and then need to go back and nap. Well, it didn't happen that way. I think I was able to nap at least once a day, but we really spent a lot of hours sight-seeing. I am in awe at God's perfect timing. I have no one to credit but God. He foresaw how I would need this trip at just the right time. Ever since January (and truthfully, since last Fall), I have slowly lost more and more energy. Going from brain radiation to surgery to brain chemo to regular chemo, made me dehydrated and very weak. I was stuck in a rut physically. I knew I needed to eat and get up and around, but it made me so fatigued and nauseous. I DID feel a little queasy at times in Italy, but it always passed quickly. And I STILL walked slow and huffed and puffed in Italy, but I had my scooter close at hand when I needed it.

I weighed myself last night, thinking I surely have gained at least 5 pounds. Nope. My weight stayed the same. But my clothes are fitting differently and so I know that I've put on a little fat and muscle. I've done a lot more physical activity in the last 2 weeks than in the last 2 months! It feels wonderful. I even told Dale that he can add me to his gym membership. He's pretty consistent about going to the gym with the kids about 2-3 times a week. While I may not be able to do much at first, I can walk the track and see progress as I start to walk farther and farther. I can also use the swimming pool. I'm hoping to see if one or both of my kids can teach me to swim. I've never had a desire to learn, but I think it would be something special to do with them. Oh, and there's a hot tub at the gym. Bonus!

This morning I woke up at 8:15 and the old me would have turned around and gone back to sleep. But I got up and have been SO productive today. It's now 5:30, and I haven't even taken one nap. Amazing. God has done a healing work in me—in my body and in my mind. Who knew that it would take a trip across the world to get me back on track? It's as if the past few months of treatments didn't even happen.

There's more to come about what I learned in Italy and how this trip has changed me. Stay tuned.....