Monday, October 31, 2011

The scans, they are a-coming!

One week.

One week from today, Ryan will undergo PET, CT, and MRI scans in Zion.  We will get the results in approximately 184 hours (noon CST on Tuesday, Nov. 8th).  My stomach is returning to that familiar flip-flop state, where I go between taking comfort in the fact that Ryan has seemed absolutely normal and healthy lately, and fearing the worst that could happen.  It's a weird place to be, not knowing what the near future looks like.  I don't like it.  I don't even know for sure how many days to plan to be gone from school.  I'm planning for three, and hoping for only two.  If anything significant happens with Ryan's progress, then it's entirely possible that we might stay some extra time.  (Gosh, I hope not...)

I had the thought the other day on the way to work, "This really is just the beginning."  I know that things are going to get worse before they get better.  It just isn't feasible that we are going to continue to stay in this lulling, comfortable rhythm of Ryan having treatment, a short recovery time, and then two weeks of feeling completely normal.  Even if miracles come about, there would be serious, debilitating, life-altering surgery before Ryan is healed.  If the worst happens, then things would get very, very ugly.  I have had some people share with me what "the end" is like, and it makes me want to throw up and then punch a wall when I hear those stories.  I love my husband so intensely, and sometimes I go crazy with worry and sadness even when he has a bad reaction to chemo.  I can't imagine what it is like to go through what some people have already been through.  I just can't enter into that.

But I was thinking about these things, and how there are tough times ahead, and I felt overwhelming peace in spite of these scary thoughts.  I contemplated how I have been able to move from a shaking, sobbing mess in April as I sat at a friend's kitchen island and declared that I would not be able to handle getting more bad news if Mayo didn't say things that we wanted to hear, to someone that by October can think about the toughest of times while being accompanied by a peace that transcends understanding.  And it struck me.

It's as simple as making a choice that I made.

"I am going to do this well. I am going to trust."

And then you have to stick to that choice.  Sometimes you have to remind yourself of your choice 10 times a day.

I am a very emotional person by nature.  I love big, I can cry at the drop of a hat, and I have a seriously quick temper.  But somewhere along the way, emotions have been (somewhat) overruled by logic.  I learned an equation this summer, thanks to Beth Moore and beautiful, soul-penetrating Scripture.

If "x" happens, then God will still be good.  Solve for x. Answers will vary.

(That is the most helpful equation I've ever learned.  I never really had much use for math class.)

I knew last week as I was driving to work, that even if God takes us through the valley of the shadow of death, His goodness will not change.  His provision will not falter.  He will give us grace for THAT moment.  And I just knew very, very deep in my heart that no matter what happens, I was going to be okay.  Leaning on Him is what I will choose to do at that time, and therefore I. Will. Be. Okay.  This is a wonderful feeling, and unlike anything I have experienced in my life.

Lest I come across as some sort of superhero again, this is not by anything of Kendra that this assurance has come.  This is a result of the heart surgery God has performed on me for the last seven months, prayer from thousands of people, and a strength and resolve that is completely not characteristic of me - that's how I know that it's not my own power.  Additionally, this is not something that I'm even close to perfect at.  I still have my moments of weakness where my focus wanes and I panic.  But in my moments of greatest clarity, I know the truth.  And it sets me free.

Free from worry.

Free from anxiety.

Free from reliance on Kendra (who is decidedly unreliable).

One week.

Your will be done, Lord.  And help me be okay with that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

MSU football, the parting of the Red Sea, and God's glory

By the end of the post, I'm hoping to be able to link these things together.

By the way, this is post #100.  Isn't that crazy?

I am not a fanatic when it comes to American football.  I like it, but I don't adore it.  I am related to some people that REALLY, REALLY love football, but I'm just not quite as passionate as they are.  (*cough cough *Steve*Corey*Jeremy* cough cough*)

However, I do really like the MSU Spartans.  This is probably because a.) I lived in Lansing for three years when we were engaged/newly married, b.) Ryan is an alum, so I spent a lot of time on campus, c.) I like the fact that they're always kind of the underdog, and d.) one of my former students plays for them.  #22 RB Larry Caper was in my Spanish 2 class at Battle Creek Central High School.  He was an AWESOME student - very polite, Christian, and extremely smart.

Larry Caper, AP Photo

So this past Saturday night, I was watching the MSU Spartans take on the Wisconsin Badgers.  In typical MSU fashion, their win came at the very last second, on a play that needed to be reviewed after Kirk Cousins lofted a 44-yard Hail Mary to BJ Cunningham, which bounced off Cunningham, was caught by Keith Nichol, and the ball BARELY crossed the goal line as Wisconsin players struggled to push Nichol back.  At first it was not ruled a touchdown.  After a couple of tense minutes, the call was reversed, a touchdown was declared, and I celebrated exuberantly as Spartan Stadium erupted in excitement on the television.

Al Goldis/Associated Press

Then I remarked to Ryan, who had been snoozing on the couch next to me until I started shouting at the TV, "MSU football and basketball just always bring things down to the wire.  I think that they have taken years off of their fans' lives."  Ryan, who is an avid fan of Spartan basketball, heartily agreed.  He has spent many winter nights glued to the TV as his favorite college basketball team repeatedly toys with his heart.  Some nights they win, sometimes they fall short, but they almost always make it interesting (read: stressful).  However, those wins are so much sweeter when they come in dramatic fashion, aren't they?

Okay, now what does this have to do with the parting of the Red Sea?  Well, I also recently reread the story of the Israelites escaping from Egypt in similarly dramatic fashion.  In case you're unfamiliar with the story, the nation of Israel was bound in slavery to Egyptians, and a man named Moses was prompted by God to go to Pharaoh and ask him to set the Israelites free.  Pharaoh refused time and time again, despite many different plagues being sent to Egypt.  It wasn't until the Passover happened that Pharaoh finally relented and allowed the Israelites to leave, and they start heading towards the Red Sea.

However, in Exodus 14, Pharaoh decides that he's not quite done with them yet.  In verse 4, God said that he was going to harden Pharaoh's heart and consequently, Pharaoh sent his army after the fleeing Israelites.  Now at first, you may wonder to yourself, "Why?  Here they are, finally set free after all of these years of slavery and mistreatment.  Why can't they just be let go in peace, without having to worry about an army coming after them?"

Or similarly, "God, I was really content living my life in a quiet manner.  I'd like to just go to work, talk about you to my friends once in a while (of course, in a really non-offensive way), and raise my kids in relative peace and quiet.  Isn't it that good enough?  Can't I just fade into the background?  Why can't I just be in peace, instead of having to deal with this tough situation?"

If you read the entire verse of Exodus 14:4, God declares, "I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them.  But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and all the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD."  At the end of the story, the Lord allows the Red Sea to part, the Israelites cross the Red Sea, and Pharaoh's army attempts to cross the same dry path that the Israelites did, but are swept away when the sea rushes back and drowns them.  Later on in the same chapter, in verse 31 it says that the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD and that they feared him.  There would be a dearth of moments like this in the ensuing years, so good thing that the Israelites recognized it at least this one time.


A situation that you wouldn't have chosen is unfolding, and it's uncertain how it will turn out.  Will they drop that pass?  Will they make those free throws?  Will God's people escape?

Will my husband be healed?

Just like the unpredictable MSU Spartans, sometimes these situations turn out the way we'd like, and sometimes they don't.  But God is a master at producing big finishes, and we can remain hopeful in His miracles and His provision.

And regardless of the outcome in the end, there is glory.  God is good, all the time.  In all situations, no matter the outcome, God must be glorified.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Grieving the future

It's my second night in a row of insomnia and as my wife pointed out to me, I haven't blogged in almost a month.

 Sorry about that, if anything, it is because the last month or so have been fairly normal. I've been going about life and dealing with everyday stuff.

 This is a difficult topic for me to write about but it is something I've been wrestling through for a while.

You see Kendra and I have been blessed beyond belief by having Colton in our lives during this process. I'm thankful he's so young that hey may not remember most of it. I hope he will remember me if things don't go well. We didn't plan on having a child at this stage in our marriage when we got married. We were going to wait a while longer and "get settled" before we took that step. Then for whatever reason I got the itch to try for a baby. About a year later Colton was born.

 A year after that on Coltons birthday, when we were told I had less than a year to live. We had always planned on having more children. Three maybe four or more, we weren't sure but a decent sized family was in our plans. The hard reality is right now it would be as much a miracle for us to have our own children as for me to get healed. The chemo is wicked stuff and it messes with every part of your body.

So according to my eyes and a man's perspective the door to future children is closed. One of the hardest parts about this process is feeling like you have lost some of the dreams you've had for so long. Children, vacations, ministry opportunities, anything you imagine and dream about doing in the future. For Kendra and I this children loss is hard to swallow.

 Kendra has always had a heart for adoption. I was never nearly as passionate about it. I think it's a great opportunity and there are so many worthy children who deserve a family. I just didn't feel led or passionate about it. I've said that being diagnosed changed a lot of things in an instant in my heart. One of those things is adoption. I would love to adopt a child now. To add to our family a child who is hopeless and doesn't see many options to a future would be incredible. To learn more intimately what it means to be adopted into God's family through adoption one of His children into my family is something I'd be anxious to grow in.

 The problem is adoption agency's don't like to give children to stage four cancer patients or even survivors. I get it. I'm seriously struggling about whether it would be wise for us to add a child right now facing the opportunity that I might not be around to be their father. There are so many factors to consider. Either way though it feels like for now the decisions have already been made for us, and it's hard not to grieve that loss.

 I can't always see God's specific plan or the why behind it through this journey. Some things don't make sense to me. So when my mind is struggling I have to rely on my will, which I have set firmly on the truth that God is perfect, in control, and all wise. I'm also 100% confident that God is completely able to bless Kendra and I with a child naturally or adopted if that is his plan. He already blessed us with Colton who if we stayed with our plans would never had been born. How much we would have missed out on.

 I'm sharing this with you not because we're looking for advice on how to have or adopt a child. We've done diligent research and the point of the blog isn't really about having a child, it's about trusting in God even when it feels like things are being stripped away. I don't want to be like Abram and Tamar and show my lack of faith that God's in control and try to fix things according to how it works in my mind. I want to trust God completely, with my present, future, and dreams.

 We would love for you to continue to pray for us, and if you're able to add family members to your family please please know how incredibly blessed you are.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Update on Ryan.

You can breathe a sigh of relief.  This isn't a bad update, it's actually a really good one.  Ryan's not been feeling hot the last couple of days (which is expected, since he got his nasty treatment on Wednesday), so I figured I should probably update people on how he's doing.

Wednesday morning, I woke up at five a.m. like normal (have I yet mentioned how much I despise waking up so early?  I need to advocate for school starting at 10 a.m.), and when I checked to see what the score was of the Tigers game the night before on my iPhone, Ryan popped up on Facebook Messenger and asked me what I was doing up so early.  Now mind you, he was awake at FOUR a.m. Central Time (he was already in Chicago at this point).  So then he told me that he had barely slept the night before because he was itchy and uncomfortable.  This totally scared me, because itching is one of the #1 symptoms of liver problems.  However, when he got bloodwork done that day, everything was the same as always (pretty much completely normal - Praise the Lord!).  Ryan has always struggled with dry skin, especially in the months of October & November when the weather is changing and becoming drier.  It seems as if the symptoms have gone away once he started using really good moisturizing lotion.

So the appointment on Wednesday went great - no new symptoms, his bloodwork was really good, and he has had decreased side effects since he went on his new drugs.  Now we all need to start PRAYING,


that his scans on November 7th go really, really well.  I'm not sure if we will be in Chicago for 2 days or 3 days, but we will probably get results on the 8th or the 9th.


Please. :-)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Superhero Me?

Actual picture of Kendra? 

I have one of Colton's books memorized.  Okay, actually I have several of his books memorized, but one of the ones that I have (inadvertently) committed to memory is titled "Superhero Me".

Who's a superhero?
Me, that's who!
Would you like to be a superhero too?

Then it goes on to talk about how sometimes the kid in the book is Super Rexosaur, Super Puddle Jumper, Sir Strongheart, or Astrokid (basically a rocket-propelled toddler who can fly into outer space).  Colton LOVES this book.  I think that he's going to be a superhero freak when he gets a little older.  He already has the Super Rexosaur Dinoroar down quite well, and he also is the proud new owner of a Jedi lightsaber.

In other news this week, I spent time reflecting on Paul's letter to the Ephesians, and more specifically on the fourth chapter.  Here's what it says in the middle of it:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 

So you may be wondering about my literary leap from talking about superheroes to quoting scripture.  But here's the liaison: I used to think that Philippians 4:13 meant that I was privy to some sort of supernatural strength or wisdom because I was a follower of Christ.  I would invoke this verse before a big final exam in college: "Oh crap, I didn't study!  No worries...I can do all things through Jesus." if I were to switch on my high-powered Christian brain and/or Popeye strength and pwn my way through every sticky situation.  But friends, that is not actually what this verse is about.

It is about learning to be content, no matter what your circumstances.  Yes, always content, no matter how much your kids are screaming and driving you insane, how many eighth graders gave you an excuse about not doing their homework the night before, how much money you make, or even how many of your dreams have turned out to be true.

In Ephesians 4, Paul is referring to the many great trials that he had been embroiled in by this point in his ministry, and how no matter what odds were stacked against him or how much he disliked the situation he was in, that he had learned how to have peace in the midst of terror.  Happiness in the midst of sorrow.  Hope when any average person would have thrown in the towel.  Supernatural peace, not supernatural strength.  In our moments of weakness is when Christ's strength is most evident in us:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

This is actually a relief to me.  I don't have any right to have an "S" painted on my chest, and I certainly did not find that Philippians 4:13 was any kind of help when I needed an extra dose of knowledge about 17th century French literature.  At this point in my life, I'm just glad that I am not called to be Wonder Woman...and that my command is to trust my God and rely on Him and trust Him instead of myself.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trust (or a lack thereof)

This past weekend Ryan and I got into an argument.

I know.  You're shocked.

Either you sensed my sarcasm in that last line because you know Ryan and I well enough, or maybe I might have actually surprised you.  You see, just because we are now living life in high definition, does NOT mean that we are perfect or that we have learned all of our lessons.  We didn't fight for about a month and a half after diagnosis, but different situations (including going back to work, adjusting to new rhythms in life, figuring out how to divvy up household responsibilities now, and just the plain stress of cancer life) can really make us edgy.

So here's what it was about.  Basically, Ryan wanted to go for a horseback ride with Colton and I.  That sounds innocuous enough, but it made this mother's blood run cold.  HORSES?!  Those wild beasts.  What if the horse bucked?  What if Colton was thrown from Ryan's arms and he drowned in a pond?  What if a deer jumped out and Colton and Ryan were thrown off from a rearing horse and Ryan broke his back and Colton broke a bone too?  What if Colton got too cold?  What if he cried?  What if the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot all converged on our hapless little riding party and the Snowman ate Ryan, Nessy ate Colton, and Bigfoot ran away with me and forced me to marry him?  What if?  What if?  What if?

Now that you've seen the crazy side of me for a second, let's go back to reality.  Ryan was asking to go on a horseback ride with two completely trained, well-broke camp horses from Grace Adventures that routinely carry tiny children around with no incidents.  In all reality, there was about zero reason to worry.  He had the situation handled.  But I lacked trust in my husband, whom I know and love with all of my heart.  In my head, I know that he always has my son's best interests at heart.  But for a minute, I doubted.  And HOO BOY, it created an argument. :)

I know that I've written on this before, but I have had to work on overcoming worry and fear almost every day.  This is something that is on my heart constantly.  I also know for a fact that I have some friends that struggle with worrying even worse than I do, and I'm ninety-nine percent certain that they read this blog.

"Worry is the result of a lack of trust in God's care and providence."  This quote, just read recently, really sums up the lesson I've been learning.  My worrying about our future is directly related to the amount of control that I'm trying to wield over the situation and my lack of faith in God's care of my family.

None of us have the assurance that our lives are going to be easy.  I see lots of my friends around me with stable, comfortable lives and I wish two things for them: #1, that they thank God for that blessing, and #2, that they practice living out their trust in God in the midst of a lulling peace.  Nobody knows when their lives will be flipped upside down, when God is going to call them on a horseback ride through a dark, scary forest.  When God calls your family into danger, are you going to trust that He really does desire for you to live lives of peace?  Jeremiah 29:11 does not promise us that our earthly lives will be devoid of problems.  But it does give us assurance that there is a future of hope, even though the current situation sucks.  The Israelites were being called to wait, and to have faith that at the end of their captivity, there would still be a blessing.  Even if they (I) lose everything, God will still be God and He will still be good.

Beth Moore's Esther study summed it up like this: "If _________ happens, God will still be faithful."  You can fill in the blank with any of your worst nightmares.

I would like to happily report that we went on a great horseback ride and we had a fabulous time.  Ryan was right.  Things were just fine.  I'm so glad that we didn't miss the blessing of a great afternoon because I was too scared to allow us to enjoy it.

Live in the moment and do not worry for tomorrow.  Count your blessings.  They are so numerous, my friends.  We are so blessed.  We are so blessed.