Sunday, September 25, 2011

Disqualified for Ministry

Last Wednesday I had to go to my chemo appointment. Since Kendra is back at work, I've been having some "substitute" caretakers join me for my treatments. This week my grandfather came. A large part of my testimony of how I came to know God and why I'm able to respond to the cancer they way I am, is due to my heritage. My grandparents have been colossal examples of lives lived in high definition and service for their Lord. 

My grandfather has dedicated his entire adult life to service and ministry. He and my grandmother founded a ministry called Eagle Village that started as a boys home, and grew to become a nationally recognized treatment center for at risk, abused, and neglected boys and girls. Over the years foster care, adoption, family ministry, and a Christian camp were all born out of this. After thousands of changed lives, an honorary doctorate, distinguished recognitions from governors, judges, and the like, it is easy to see that God has blessed their efforts. 

However that's only half the story. My grandfather has little more than an elementary education. He was born to a coal mining family in PA as poor as you can be. He grew up in rough neighborhoods and lived a hard childhood. Tragedy and circumstances were stacked against him. He served in Korea and came home looking for a purpose. From worldly standards there wasn't a lot that would've qualified my grandfather to be a leader.

As we drove down we talked about different things but quickly the conversation turned to ministry and life. This was precious time that we both were obviously savoring. Grandpa candidly shared with me things he thought he did well at Eagle Village but also shared things he wished he'd done different. Despite all of his success Grandpa felt unqualified most of his ministry career. He felt not smart enough, not wise enough, not articulate enough, not political enough, whatever the reasons he often felt like God could do more with someone else. 

I can relate right now. I'm getting a little bit of attention from people because of my situation. However I feel very unworthy of the attention. I'm human just like everybody else. I'm making mistakes just like everybody else. However I can clearly see that God is using my story in a big way. It's one of the things that makes dealing with all of this worth it. I know God is at work. I just don't know why? There are so many other people he could be using that would do a better job.

That's how God works however. As 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."

You see only in our weakness can God be glorified most. Whether it is a stuttering Moses in the desert, an uneducated poor boy from Pennsylvania, or a cancer-stricken 25 year old, God can do more through us in our imperfections than through our strengths. 

I often tell folks I feel like God is working in spite of me not through me. Paul shared similar feelings about a physical ailment he had in 2 Corinthians 12. 

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I've thought long and hard about why God would choose to use my grandfather in such a powerful way. Honestly it was twofold. My Grandfather was obedient, despite his insecurities, failures, and doubts, he still obeyed when God called. The second reason is Grandpa was the man for the job. God doesn't look at us outwardly he looks at our hearts. 

What disqualifies us for success in the world may be exactly what qualifies us for success in God's eyes. I couldn't be prouder of my grandfather and his "disqualifications" because it just points to the greatness of our God all the more. I only hope and pray that I can do the same in my own weakness.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is your legacy?

I've started something new for me this year at school.  I've done "warmups" in the past that have posed students questions to get them thinking about Spanish/French.  This year I decided to revamp it to "learning logs" - I'm getting them to do some more metacognition and processing through the "how" and "why" of the language, and pulling more prior knowledge out.  Then I had the fantastic (in my opinion) idea of starting every day with a short personal question to get them to do more introspection.  I've had some of the most amazing conversations with my students that are sometimes relevant to languages, and sometimes just relevant to growing as individuals, and in character, leadership, and attitudes.

Today's question was: "Let's say that I see you walking down the street 10 years from now.  What would you want me to remember about you?  In other words, what positive characteristics about yourself do you want others to notice?"

I prefaced their writing by telling them that at the tender age of 12, 13, and 14, they are already building their legacy.  What they say and do now is already partially defining who they are as an individual, and they are making impressions on people that are going to last a lifetime.

Not every student took it seriously.  I did have a couple of students that told me that they want to be remembered "a clown" and someone wanted to be remembered as hyper.  Bahhh.  Okay, we're striving for perfection and we'll get close eventually. :)

But some of the thoughts that poured out of those eighth grade minds humbled and amazed me.  They wanted to be remembered as kind, flexible, helpful, compassionate, responsible, a person with good character, friendly, a leader, a good student, and even a good role model for others.  I adore these kids.  They get it.  They get it!

We are all going to be remembered for a while after we die.  Some of us may even make a huge lasting impact and be remembered for a really long time.  People are watching us every day, and whether you like it or not, your movements are mentally recorded and the sum total of your interactions with others is the legacy and reputation that you become known for.  I don't know about you, but I've been working overtime since I became aware of this reality a few years ago, and I've redoubled my efforts to try and ensure that my character is reflective of Christ's work in my life.  I don't always achieve this.  But all we can do is try our best to live out Luke 10:27, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All I want for Christmas...

Today I had the unfortunate task of stopping at the mall to exchange a pair of shoes and buy Colton some socks.

Ha.  If you know me, you know that this is some SERIOUS sarcasm.  There is something about malls that gives me a warm, fuzzy feelings inside.

But, alas, today was not a big shopping day.  1 exchange and 1 purchase of toddler socks.  Not exactly a shopping spree, but I just like looking and walking around the mall.  Happy girl!

One thing stood out to me on my trip through JCPenney.  Near the center of the store, starkly in contrast to the many summer clothes that are still idling on nearby racks and clearance shelves, stood the beginnings of JCPenney's Christmas display.  CHRISTMAS.  It's still over three months away.  Are you ready?

I'm not.

I can already tell that the holidays are going to be hard for me this year.  I'm going to enjoy the season and cherish and savor every minute of it, but it will be dramatically different than 2010.  Christmas 2010 was so relaxed, so easy, so fun - after all, it was Colton's first!  And life was so laidback at that point.

And with Christmas come the presents!  Ugh.  I have a ginormous shopping list.  Buying gifts that no one needs has gotten seriously difficult for me the last couple of years.  What is the point?  The one thing that I want cannot exactly be wrapped up and placed underneath a tree, unless there is a bag of magical medicine somewhere that can be topped with a bow.  Truly, the only thing I'm asking for this year is a miracle.  Perhaps also healing.  Peace.  Comfort.  A Kodak moment to freeze in my mind that I can call upon in my memory for the rest of my life, like when our son was born.  I can still picture every feature of his warm, soft newborn face.  I intentionally seared that little face into my memory and prayed fervently that I would never forget what he looked like when he first opened up his eyes.  I'd like another moment like that for Christmas this year.

My Christmas is going to remain intentionally simple this year.  I have no desire to fall victim to the merchandising headache this year.  I just want time to celebrate our God.  I want time with my boys.  I want for my heart to be unconditionally content.

And, I want this stinking cancer to be GONE.

Here's praying that Christmas 2011 be a time of love, family, and celebration of Jesus' birth, and a time of great hope and promise not just for the Prudhomme family, but for all of us.  We have so much to be thankful for.  And we all have 96 days to get our hearts in the right place.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The trail changes course

Have you ever ridden an unknown trail? I have many times. It looks like things are headed in one direction then it can commonly change direction and you're off in a new heading. That is what happened today.

I have had two symptoms in the last cycle that have either cropped up or gradually gotten worse. I started having ringing in my ears, and the numbing and pins and needles in my hands and feet is gradually getting more noticeable. The neuropathy (numbing and pins and needles) is less significant but annoying. There shouldn't be long term effects from it. However the ringing in my ears could progress to hearing loss. That would be irreversible. My doctor's were concerned about that, and so we adjusted our treatment cycle. I am swapping out the harsh drug I took for a very very similar drug that should not affect my hearing and neuropathy like the old drugs.

With change comes apprehension. I would be lying if I said I'm not a little nervous. However I do trust my doctors. They all told me the efficacy of the new drug should be the same as the old drug. If the scans show differently after a couple cycles we will re-evaluate. I'd rather be deaf and alive, than have my hearing but not need it.

Otherwise my check up was unremarkable medically and very routine. My blood work was all good and there was nothing of note. I had a wonderful conversation with one of my nurses that started with teaching and the climate of funding cuts in Michigan and quickly progressed to children who are less fortunate. She shared how she would love to be a missionary doctor over seas. Then we talked about how God has a plan, even though as she see so many patients in so many conditions it can be hard not to ask "why?". She has been an incredible nurse for us, and truly has built a relationship with us. She said that I blessed her, but as usual I walked away blessed as well.

Please pray for my side effects. Nothing right now is interrupting my day to day activities. However specifically pray for the ringing and hearing issues, the neuropathy, I have very slight intermittent abdominal pain, and the chemo brain for a while after treatment.

Things at work are very exciting and very busy right now. I have many major projects coming to a head. Grace Adventures has supported me in so many overwhelming ways and continues to do so. I'm so thankful to work for an organization that loves its' employees as Christ would. However I want to give my best to Grace and to God. Please pray that projects would go smoothly, retreats and events would fill, and that God would bless the marketing department at Grace Adventures. Through my weakness He is stronger.

Finally please pray that God would continue to open doors for Kendra and I to share our story and how God is at work with more people. It's my desire to use this journey to encourage and inspire those around me to deepen a relationship with Jesus Christ. Whether it is with individuals or with larger groups, we just want more people to be able to see God in the way that we have learned to see Him in the last couple months.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's going on?

Hey there everybody,

Well, like it or not, school is back in session.  For some of us, this means much busier teaching, daycare, running around after school to practices, etc.  For some of you, it may be relief!  Phew, I'm home alone/with less children again!  I'm actually so busy lately that I'm typing this while on my lunch break at school, while scarfing down almonds (I have yet to actually remember to bring a lunch except for one day...sigh).  Busy feels good, most of the time.  Normalcy is something that I crave, even though my normal is a crazy schedule.

Being busy takes my mind off of things, which is a blessing in the moment but sometimes it can be overwhelming when things come rushing back.  As I was driving home from work yesterday (Monday), I began praying - and I hadn't even gotten out of Grand Haven before I was in floods of tears.  To say that I've been struggling with the question "Why us?" lately - that would be an understatement.  The question of why my son Colton's dad is in serious danger of losing his life, when there are plenty of deadbeat, awful dads out there - I cannot answer that in my finite wisdom.  It is so unfair.  God, why don't you just take jerks out of the world while they're young and leave us good people alone and let all of us live nice, long lives?

I know that this is irrational, and I know truths in my head.  But there is a huge disconnect sometimes between the truths that I know about God and what I feel in my heart.  This is precisely why I'm not worried anymore about how I'm going to handle all of this situation, because my head almost always wins out over my heart (my life is ruled by logic).  At the end of every difficult situation, I grudgingly make the choice to trust.  But getting between point A and point B can be a very sticky, difficult road sometimes.  When I'm having a downer day, it's because for the umpteenth time, I'm trying to figure out this tricky situation of giving up control issues.


In other news, Ryan and his dad are headed down to Zion today.  No big scans are scheduled, but please pray for excellent, encouraging bloodwork.  Please pray that Ryan's next treatment cycle goes very serious nausea since the ugly cycle 3 in June, and we'd like to keep it that way.  His neuropathy is getting a little worse every cycle (since it has cumulative effects on the body), but it's still extremely manageable.  We would just really like it if it didn't progress hardly at all.

We've gotta pray these tumors away.  God is absolutely able.  Let's keep bringing it before his throne!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rodeo for Ryan

At the Rodeo for Ryan event I was overwhelmed at over 1000 people who decided to attend and support us. One of the passions I have is training horses, and helping people. Something I do to combine the two is call Spur of the Moment Ministries. Since I was in high school I have been presenting relational principles using horses to spur others on towards maturity. It was very important to me to be able to share with those that attended why I have the perspective I have. Many have asked if it would be put online, so here it is.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Labor day weekend to remember

I have had a great weekend, a great weekend. We went to the high school football game on Thursday night. Friday night Kendra and Colton and I had a great night at home.

 Then Saturday we took Colton to a local farm market that has a huge petting/kids area. Colton got to see a camel, goats, wallaby's, zebras, donkeys, peacocks, and more. 

We wandered around and watched Colton laugh and giggle and explore all these new sights and sounds. Saturday night we went to the local rodeo. It was a ton of fun to take Colton again. He sat on our laps transfixed with the bull riders, clowns, and other performers. 

Sunday we went to Community Worship at Grace Adventures where Shaun Groves was the speaker/worship leader. Shaun spoke about how much we live with "extra" in our lives. He then encouraged us to consider using some of that "extra" to sponsor a child around the world and change their life. Kendra and I decided we wanted to sponsor a child and now have an 11 year old boy in Africa that we're excited to get to know. After that Kendra and Colton and I spent the evening with dear friends burning the midnight oil. 

This is exactly what a Labor Day weekend with your family should feel like.

I have had a great weekend, and I have big plans for today (Monday) as well. However it has been very difficult. I have had so much joy and peace spending the weekend with my family and friends doing some very fun things. I also can't help but have thoughts go through my mind like, "Am I going to be able to do this again next Labor day? How many more rodeos will I get to take Colton to? How many more football seasons are Kendra and I going to go to? How much more time do I have?"

I have had these questions pop into my head ever since a doctor at Mayo told me I have 1 year left to live. Since then I've had medical professionals tell me that was an irresponsible thing for a doctor to do. Maybe the populations average a year, but statistics apply to populations not individuals. Everybody responds differently to their cancer and treatment. Finally those types of time frames become self fulfilling prophecy's. I have chosen not to dwell or really even give validity to those thoughts. I know that the amount of time I have left is directly determined by how much time God gives me. 

Kendra and I chose to live our lives in a way that stays positive, dreams, and lives for the future. We said we won't go through this next year like everything is the "last time". In order to do that, I have to take those thoughts captive. They come in just like temptations do and I have to choose not to let those thoughts fester and grow. 

However I also am aware that the reality of my situation is such, that I may not be around this time next year.  That's a difficult thing to know, and not be ruled by. So I also am going to take advantage of all the opportunities that God is giving me, including enjoying the moments of life. Spending moments with those you love is a huge part of "living in high definition". 

We're not going to be ruled by fear of the future, but we're also going to take advantage of the time we have.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

School daze

In just two days, I will begin a new school year.  Only a couple of months ago, the thought of me working anywhere this fall was laughable, and by the grace of God I landed on my feet again in a fabulous district.  I'm super excited, but this school year is slightly overwhelming to think about - at least in terms of 180 days.  I'm especially worried about the commute.  If I go straight from our house to Grand Haven, it's only 35 minutes on fast roads (we live very close to US-31, and my school is right off US-31).  However, three days a week I still have to drop off Colton in Montague - and that adds quite a bit to the drive (especially in wintertime).  So if anyone that lives near us is interested in a job dropping off my son at daycare three days a week, let me know!  I'd be glad to pay you for it.  (No, I'm being totally serious.  Let me know.)

I am having to do some serious retraining of my mind throughout this process.  Truthfully, I struggle all the time with looking too far ahead in the distance.  It's something that I've always done.  I probably come across as way too scattered to keep a planner, but I meticulously enter in events into my Google calendar (otherwise I would forget them - because of the scatterbrained qualities that I have).  I have my Google calendar filled out to at least Christmas, and several events from now to the end of the school year.  But lately I've been having to push out thoughts like, "What will I do if I lose Ryan?  Where am I going to live?  Will I sell the house?  Can I keep up this property on my own?  Which school district will I end up in?  Will I ever be a school counselor?  Where is Colton going to go to school?  Who will help me take care of him?  Will I be alone for the rest of my life?  How am I going to do this?"  Friends, these are not easy thoughts.  I can spend forever and a day thinking about these things, freaking out.  Meanwhile, the worst has not even happened.  So what's the point of worrying about this now?  Answer: nothing.  There is no point in worrying.

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

We are given grace for this moment.  Not tomorrow, or next Tuesday.  This moment.  My worrying about tomorrow and what will happen is directly a result of a lack of faith that I have in my Lord providing what I need for tomorrow and five years from now.  I have no idea what God has in store for Ryan and I.  By some miracle, our lives might return to a semblance of what they were prior to April - in high definition instead of standard def.  That is my deepest, most aching desire.  But it's very likely that life as we know it will never be the same.  I can either worry myself into oblivion, or buckle up my seatbelt and give God the proverbial steering wheel.  He has our lives headed in a direction that is not easy, but full of promise and meaning.

Meanwhile, I count my blessings that I again will have the chance to impact lives this year.  Working with students has always been my highest calling.  I like Spanish and French alright, but getting to connect with students who are figuring things out for themselves and being able to be a positive role model for them - that is what fills my cup.  Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of being able to do what I love!