Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Under Pressure

It's been one week on a new Chemotherapy regimen. Thankfully I get a week off now. It has been tough. When we think of chemo we think of puking and the physical effects. There are mental and emotional effects that can be just as devastating but invisible.

Sometimes people ask me what it's like. Honestly I can't answer completely. I struggle to put words to how I feel. However, here are some words that came out the other day when I was really struggling. I don't live in this feeling all the time, but it is a reality of what Kendra and I have to overcome some days.
What a bad days like   
Under Pressure, 
Building, suffocating, exhausting pressure. 
Struggle to focus, thoughts are disoriented. I am not myself. 
I’m tired, physically tired. 
I can’t read, think, or process my thoughts. Simple tasks are overwhelming and I’m under pressure. 
Anxiety dances on my chest. Cuts me short of breath. 
I’m tired, mentally tired. 
The more I try to fix it, the worse it gets, I can’t escape. 
Circumstances, hopes, dreams, tasks, failures all build into pressure. 
It keeps you up at night, which makes you foggier, which makes you feel more pressure which keeps you up at night. 
I’m tired, emotionally tired. 
The body doesn’t respond like it should. I’m weak, feeble, and frustrated.
Things go well, things go poor, still under pressure.
This pressure invisible to others, consumes me. 
I’m weary today. Caught in the mire and clay. My burden is heavy. 
I cast all my cares upon You

Monday, January 30, 2012

Starbucks, Jacob, and Rachel

This afternoon around 3:15 p.m., I stopped at the Grand Haven Starbucks for the second time today and ordered another grande Blonde roast with one creamer and two Splendas.  Now, lest you think that I'm a freewheeling spender, I was gifted a Starbucks mug for Christmas (from one of my students!) that allows me to go to Starbucks the entire month of January and fill it up with brewed coffee for NOTHING.  I didn't even know that such a thing existed.  Now, since I am a quarter Dutch and it's January 30th, you'd bet your sweet bippy that I'm going to get every last drop out of that mug.  I've got quite a reputation around the GH Starbucks for being the blonde that likes Blonde roast and Splenda.  I totally get their marketing strategy though.  They sell those mugs so that people can give them as Christmas gifts, and people like me who normally brew their own coffee at home to save money get totally HOOKED on expensive coffee and become regular customers.  Yeah, I'm onto you Starbucks...and guess what, your evil scheme totally worked.

So what does this have to do with Jacob and Rachel?  Absolutely nothing, except that I'm awake at 11 p.m., no thanks to my Starbucks addiction... and I likely will be awake for quite some time...so why not blog about a topic that's in my head?

So, God taught me an important truth about attitude through the story of Jacob and Rachel as I read it recently.  While I can't relate to bigamous relationships, manual labor, or really anything about their culture, I can relate to certain parts of their story and namely, their attitudes.

Here is a link to Genesis 29, which tells their story.  As you read it, notice a couple of things.  First of all, Uncle Laban was in the sheep business.  I don't know how much you have been able to experience sheep, but my best friend growing up had sheep for a couple of years.  Sometimes I'd be at her house, and she would have to do something regarding the care of these animals and I would tag along to their pen with her.  I remember very little about sheep except that they are stupid, that they excreted really foul-smelling stuff, that they were messy and difficult, and and that hers were named Salt and Pepper.  Helping my best friend occasionally feed her sheep (or chase one if it got out of its pen) is really all I ever want to do with them.  So I find it very remarkable and frankly - depressing - that Jacob agreed to work for seven years in a disgusting job to marry the woman that he loved.  However, he put his nose the grindstone and kept a positive attitude during those seven long years (v. 20).  I like that about him.

Contrast that with the woman he married, Rachel.  As lovely as Rachel was on the outside, if you look closely at her character, she has a lot of problems.  Rachel suffered from a condition that I can relate with, the "I want what I can't have" syndrome.  The biggest object of her desire was to have a child.  It wasn't enough to be Jacob's beloved and preferred wife, but she possessed an all-consuming desire to have a child and went to great lengths to procure one.

However, even when she finally had a natural son, she wanted more.  And her greed didn't stop there. If you keep reading in Genesis, she took her father's terephim so that her husband would be the principal among Laban's male heirs.  She was continually discontent in her circumstances, always looking for the greenest grass.  Contrast that attitude with the humility that her husband showed to his deceitful uncle and to his tricky wife, and I'd say that you have a pretty huge divide in their character at this point in their lives.

Sometimes lately I have felt like Rachel.  I have to check my attitude to make sure that I'm not allowing discontent to breed itself within me, and I will tell you that it is hard.  Keeping an attitude of thankfulness is not an easy thing when I feel like my life and my dreams have been ripped away from me.  It's so easy for me to become jealous of others like Rachel was jealous of her sister Leah, and to forget the blessings that God has given me in abundance.

I think that Jacob is the one that I'd rather emulate.  He treated his difficult wife very well, which is an admirable thing in and of itself.  His attitude was good in the midst of his hard labor. Yes, he chose to endure his hard labor for Rachel's sake, and I didn't choose my situation.  But rather than complain about the sheep droppings in my life, I too could focus more on my Beloved (and I'm talking about my Heavenly father here, not just Ryan!) and minimize my self-centeredness.  My attitude in the midst of this journey is positively correlational to the amount of time I spend praying for God's will to be done in my life.  Being like Rachel and continually looking to what's around the corner or how I can squeeze out of a situation that I don't like only leads to discontent, anger, and a loathsome attitude.

So today, after I have had a really long, hard day of feeling sorry for myself, I choose to act more like Jacob and put my nose back to the grindstone.  I'm not sure how long we'll be on this journey, but no matter how long it is, my complaints and pity parties would be better left by the wayside.  After all, positive attitudes sound much more melodious than negative ones.

P.S. Shout out to my grandpa-in-law for the bippy comment!

We have a neat opportunity this weekend!

Something that I never thought I would do in my life is about to happen.

I am going to speak at a church this weekend.  Yes, Kendra Prudhomme, reformed bad girl, reformed slinker-to-the-back-of-the-church, the girl without a wise word to say to anyone...I am going to actually speak at a church's Sunday service.

Okay, okay.  So Ryan is also speaking. Actually, we'll call him the main speaker, and I'm his trusty sidekick. We all KNOW that he's the main attraction, and I promise you that he's a better speaker than I am. :)

Anyway, if you're interested in coming to hear what we have to say, here's where we'll be.

Bridge North Bible Church
1500 Whitehall Road, North Muskegon (WinterSun Preschool)
Service starts at 10:30 a.m.

Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pump up the faith!

I'm not an athlete.

If you read my husband's guest blog that he wrote for Kevin East's "Following to Lead", you'll notice that in the first couple of sentences he mentioned that he wants our child(ren) to be athletes.  Then, for the life of me I cannot figure out why he married me.  I like running because it makes me feel good, but I'm not fast - breaking a ten-minute mile is cause for serious celebration in my life.  I am not terribly coordinated.  I have never dribbled a ball well, I can't throw, and I hated people trying to take the ball from me in soccer - "Just take it.  I'm done.  Don't crowd me."  Have I told you about the time that I once played pick-up volleyball, and a sixty year old man got frustrated with how terrible I played? Every time the ball came dropping down in my direction, he would hightail it over to cover me, even if he was on the opposite side of the court. That was unbelievably embarrassing.  So... I guess that the major point here is that I am a rotten athlete.  Period.

So over the years, I've compensated for my lack of athletic ability by getting inordinately competitive over other things that I'm good at.  Scrabble?  I'll pwn any Scrabble opponent with my eyes closed.  Scattergories?  Ask Mike & Lee how intensely competitive I can get with my husband, who is the only person I've met that can give me a real run for my money at Scattergories.  It can get ugly.  I constantly feuded with a girl in seventh and eighth grade over first and second chair clarinet.  Getting first chair was of utmost importance to me, and I practiced for HOURS before a challenge.  Heidi and I would barely speak after one of us beat the other one.  And cheerleading has been a real outlet for me.  I am not very good at tumbling because that takes coordination, but I'm as bendable as Gumby so I was great at splits, jumps, etc.  I was the best back spot imaginable.  I excelled at cheer.  There isn't really a good litmus test for which cheerleader is best, but I know in my heart that I was tops.  Gosh, I can't wait until I have enough time to coach cheer again. (And yes, in case you're wondering - that is me in the middle of that picture.)

So since my husband is a sports junkie, he has shared some stories with me about how he used to prepare for big games.  One of the things that he told me is that he used to listen to heavy metal or rock songs to get him mentally prepared for dominating his opponents.  He once found a mix tape that he had made in eighth grade basketball and he popped it in his CD player in his truck.  For the next half hour, he forced me to listen to Metallica and Jock Jams as he nodded his head enthusiastically and pounded his fists on the steering wheel.  We went well over the speed limit.  I think we won whatever drag race he thought we were participating in.

As his last scans were coming up, I kind of copied Ryan's pre-game mental warmup to get my own "juices" flowing and to get in the mindset of total domination.  Here's what I did: I spent some time in the last week in the Gospels reading about Jesus' healing miracles. Whether it was leprosy, blindness, paralysis, deformities, internal sickness, dropsy, or raising a man from the dead, Jesus showed Himself to be the ultimate healer on earth of all types of ailments.  As I was reading this, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  Okay, so Jesus is not walking here on earth with me at the moment. But the Holy Spirit is.  And my God is still completely capable of doing ANY of these things right now.  Right here.  This moment.  Us.  We could be next.

After I got all jacked up (in a good way) from the Gospels, I decided to put my own version of Ryan's Jock Jams CD on.  Nope, "Pump up the Jam" was not on the playlist, but I do have a playlist on my iPhone that I specifically go to when I need a fast shot of encouragement.  Many of the same songs that are on it are ones that I've shared links to on this blog.  So imagine me, singing at the top of my lungs as I folded laundry in our bedroom, tunes cranked, and still half-crazy with a Gospel high. "AND IF OUR GOD IS FOR US, THEN WHO COULD EVER STOP US?!  AND IF OUR GOD IS WITH US, THEN WHAT CAN STAND AGAINST US?!!" My toddler son was looking at me with his head cocked quizzically.  Oh gosh, Colton is not even two yet and he already thinks I'm nuts!

So going into these scans, I was half-expecting the skies to part and a miracle to unfold at CTCA this week.  Not yet, is the answer we heard.  But I have not yet lost one iota of faith that we could still see a major, undeniably God-sized miracle in this situation.  Maybe you can say that I'm in denial, if you don't see the world the way that I do.  But isn't faith kind of like denial?  Faith is a denial that the world's perspective is always correct.  Faith says, "NO!  My God will not be put in a box.  My God is bigger than your logic."

Have you lost your faith in God's miracles or His ability to heal beyond reason?  His amazing power is something that we can hardly comprehend in our pea-sized minds.  At times like this, when we get a setback that guts us to the core, the one thing that buoys me is the knowledge that my God loves me beyond what I can comprehend, that is He is powerful, that He is always good, and that He is completely able to sustain my husband and I.

We love you all, dear readers.  If you don't have this same faith or buoyancy, I beg of you to ask us how you can face difficult situations - even terminal illness or death - and have hope.  I won't even ask you to dance like a crazy person to Chris Tomlin - but you can if you want to!

AND PLEASE KEEP PRAYING!  Our God is in the business of miracles.  Please ask for one on our behalf TODAY!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The shifting sands of change.

Last night I had a dream.

I had a dream that we were sitting in one of the little oncologist's offices at CTCA.  We were about to receive news from our oncologist about Ryan's scans.  I don't remember exactly what the results were, because I was jarred awake by our son screaming around 5 am today.  He's not in love with his pack n play.  I'm not in love with him not sleeping through the night.

What I do remember about the dream is that I was frightened out of my wits.  THAT is really close to reality.  As many times as we've been through this, it does not get any easier to sit in that little room and get the news.  It's so nerve-wracking, and I feel like my heart is going to pound out of my chest.  Without exception, I jump every time Dr. Sheelvanth knocks on the door.

So now to the news that you've been waiting for.  Today's results were a little mixed.  Most of the problem areas (small tumors, 2 enlarged lymph nodes) are stable since November's scans.  That is great news.  However, the tumor that has been the largest the whole time - around 1" in diameter - has grown to about 1.5".  That is not great news.  Our oncologist could not speculate about whether it was because we have not had the most consistency since November in keeping to his schedule, or whether perhaps the tumors are becoming resistant to the chemo drug that he is on.

So what we've decided to do is to switch drugs.  Ryan's cycles will go from being four weeks, to two weeks long.  He will get an infusion every two weeks (once in Chicago, once in Muskegon), and he will be on an oral chemotherapy for seven days at the beginning of each cycle.

Side effects should continue to exist, but we've been assured up and down that they should be pretty manageable.  Ryan's hair might thin a little bit - I am not pleased about this, but Ryan doesn't mind too much.  I must just be a girl or something.  To be honest with you, I'm not crazy about change.  It's hard, and it's scary.  I was just starting to feel like I had a grip on everything, and now the rug has been slightly taken out from under me again.  I am not crazy about this feeling.

Overall, we are grateful that things are not spinning out of control.  Our doctor rated this at about a "seven" on a 10 point scale, with 10 being the best news possible.  Ryan's liver enzymes are at a totally normal level, which they haven't been for a few months - wonderful!

We will do scans four weeks from now.  There is a possibility out on the horizon that Ryan might do a radio frequency ablation, which is targeted radiation to a particular tumor (likely this one that is growing). If this were to happen, it would be like a minor surgery with a few days' recovery period.

We are grateful especially for your prayer support.  Please continue to pray, and pray often for us.  We continue to remain confident in our God's ability to heal, without doubt.

And in Ryan's own words: "Good news doesn't mean I'm healed, and bad news doesn't mean I'm dead."

So true. :)

Psalm 91

 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, 
   my God, in whom I trust.”

My biggest regret

I recently had the chance to write a guest post for a friend and fellow camping professional. Kevin has an incredible blog that you should follow on leadership.

Read my post here to learn why obedience prevents regret.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Is God's grace really sufficient?

I was 20 years old, coming out of anesthesia from a liver biopsy and trying to comprehend what the letters PSC meant. I later understood it to mean Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, the rare liver disease that Walter Payton suffered from. At the time however I had just gotten done studying meat grading in my animal products class at Michigan State University. PSE (pale soft exudative) is a type of grade for meat. So my gastroenterologist was trying to tell me I have a rare, serious, incurable disease and all I wanted to talk about was meat grading.

So began a long process of coming to grips with this disease in my life. I learned that best case scenario was I would never need a liver transplant and we might just "manage it". Worst case scenario was things would go down hill within a couple years.  The likely scenario was that I would need a transplant in 10-15 years. And oh yeah, there's this very small but serious chance that an undetectable cancer could develop... so the longer you wait the greater the risk, but that's very rare. 

I have a morning routine of studying and praying that I've stuck with off and on since about the time I was diagnosed. I have a prayer list of things that I talk to God about. One item on my list since 2006 has been my health. Of course I ask God to take this cup away from me and heal me, but if He chooses not to, then I have asked every day for the Grace to deal with it in a way that honors Him. That my reaction and character no matter my circumstances would point to him. 

Grace is a funny thing. I think it has two meanings. First straight out of Sunday school, would be "God's unmerited favor". Which is true, just cliche. As Eph. 2:8-9 explains, grace is that process by which we are saved:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. NIV
 Or as Romans 3:23-24 explains;
 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. NIV
It is because of this understanding of grace that I'm able to come to the second meaning of grace. By entering into this relationship through the grace of God, I'm able to access His provision to act and behave in a Godly manner. Or as Barnes puts it, "the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit" which allow us to act in a way unnatural to how we would on our own.
2 Cor 9:8-9
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. NIV
Eph 4:7-8
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. NIV
2 Cor 12:9
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. NIV
Fast forward to April and my diagnosis. Since then I've had many many people ask how I'm able to respond the way I have. One quick but truthful answer is this isn't how I'd respond either. I really feel like God has allowed and protected me to have this response. It's not out of Ryan's strength.

The second answer is I've been praying for 5 years for if and when this day comes that I would have the grace to respond in a way that honors God. Every prayer has ended with, "not my will but yours be done" however I know beyond a doubt that whatever God allows or ordains into my life I will have the resources, the grace, to respond in a way that honors Him. I still have to choose to accept that grace, and humble myself to trusting God in my circumstances. This prayer is not a new one to me. Even though I've only been diagnosed for a couple months, I've been preparing for this for years, and God has been preparing me as well.

I don't know what you're going through. I do know many of my friends and family have crushing circumstances around them; more cancer, job loss, loss of family members, sickness, uncertainty, family turmoil, and more. Maybe life is good for you right now. I can promise you it won't stay that way. Not to scare you, but we all know it's how life works.

When you face that hurdle now or in the future, would you rather do just starting to pray God give me the grace, or would you rather know that prayer intimately and down to the very fiber of your core. Would you rather just start learning what it means, or have prayed it so many times that you've prayed it through tears, through happiness, through sickness, through health, through anger, and through joy?

Start praying for grace today, it'll change your life.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why haven't I been posting lately? Because...

... I've been playing basketball!!!

In the last nine days I've played basketball three times and volleyball twice. This is five times as active as I have been since the week we got diagnosed over 9 months ago.

The last time I played basketball was in between when I was diagnosed and when we left for Mayo Clinic. I remember wondering if I would ever play basketball again. There were so many unknowns back then. We were hoping to go to Mayo and get a liver transplant and be done with all this within a year, but we had no idea if that would actually happen, and obviously it didn't.

Fast forward to this last Sunday. How did I play? Horribly.

I missed layups
I sucked wind
I didn't make a single shot
I barely played defense
I couldn't run, jump, or do much of anything

You know what? I have never cared less. I'm pretty competitive, so this was a foreign concept to me.

Now I just wanted to play. To lace up my sneakers, break a sweat, and feel that leather ball between my fingers. It was incredible. It was painful. Hard to tell if I was so bad and uncoordinated because of my treatments or because I haven't done anything in 8 months. Who cares.

This may seem like a small blessing to some, but it was a huge milestone and an incredible gift from God for me. There haven't been a lot of positive milestones and honestly this routine of injecting poison into my body every four weeks is starting to get old. God knew that and provided a wonderful distraction by giving me the strength to do a simple thing like play a basketball game.

God cares about me. He loves me. He provides for my needs and many of my wants. How can I complain?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hey, did we mention the scans?

I feel like it's been a long time since we went to Zion right after Christmas.  When we were there, I was surprised to find out that they wanted to a Cat scan on January 24, with results coming to us on January 25.  We aren't going into these scans with really high expectations because Ryan has only done ONE complete cycle of chemo since the last scans in November.  My armchair oncologist opinion would be that things are probably pretty stable but not shrinking.  However, it never hurts to pray that my pessimism (or rather, lack of optimism) is completely off-base and things are still SHRINKING like crazy!

Of course, we will update right after our appointment on January 25, so circle the date on your calendar and you can spend your whole day on the blog hitting refresh over and over again. :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Goodbye, doubt. Hope wins.

I have had a ghost in my classroom.

It has been hanging around in my red notebook, in which I often write down my students' scores.  I take the red notebook to team meeting on Tuesdays.  I take it to professional development and sign my name into it 100 times and draw daisies (I swear that I have undiagnosed ADD).  My red notebook goes everywhere with me.

On the first page of the notebook is a running score of a game of rummy between my husband and I.  I won't tell you who won this rummy game, but I'll give you a hint - their name rhymes with Bendra.  But the second page of the notebook brings me much fewer smiles than my rummy victory page.

You remember how I mentioned that the red notebook goes everywhere with me?  Yeah, it went to Minnesota with me this past year, too.  If you remember back to April, we didn't exactly take a vacation.  We went to the Mayo Clinic.

The second page of the notebook has my notes from the only meeting that we had with a real doctor during our three days at Mayo.  It is virtually the only memory that I have of that place, besides meeting two awesome people (the Halvorsens), running outside in 30 degree weather with short sleeves on and catching a cold, drinking Caribou Coffee, and buying a lot of hand soap at Trader Joe's.  I also remember waiting a lot to get into this highly-anticipated meeting with our first oncologist.  As you can see from the page, the meeting did not go well.

As I was writing these notes, my stomach had the weirdest feeling, like it was going to leap out through my throat while simultaneously dropping out my bottom.  I blinked back tears and yet I felt like I was too stunned to cry.  I remember staring at my husband, half-expecting him to act sick.  But he didn't, which only added to the surreal feelings that I felt.

When I open up my red notebook, I see this page too often.  The same pangs of fear, uncertainty, and doubt creep into my head.  Hey Kendra.  The doctor may have been a little off on his timeline, but no doubt he'll be right!  Cancer is coming to GET you!

Of course, I can remind myself of the blessings that God has poured out, how He is a God of miracles, and how Ryan's response to treatment has been overwhelmingly positive lately. I can tattoo Psalm 91 on my arm or something. But that stupid paper drops in from time to time, taunting me with its memories and its nay-saying. To say the least, this page has derailed my attitude on more than one occasion.

I remember hearing a sermon once when I was a baby Christian.  It was all about removing "stakes" in our lives that keep us from reaching our fullest potential in Christ.  At the time, I realized that I needed to distance myself from certain friends that weren't healthy for me.  At this point in my life, I am realizing that I am only able to have faith in my God's healing ability until I allow the medical profession to have more power over Ryan's cancer than He does.  This is precisely why the paper can't win anymore.

It has outstayed its welcome.  I think it's time for some closure.

Goodbye, doubt.  Hope wins.

What do you have in your life that strikes doubt in your heart or keeps you from being able to fully trust in God?  Maybe burning isn't the answer, but I think that there needs to be a cleansing of that thing from your life in some way, shape, or form.

Man, I feel better already.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A humble request

What's the purpose of all this Lord?

Why me?

What will my legacy be?

These are all questions that at one time or another have rattled around in my head. This has not be an easy journey. There have been moments that have almost been crushing. When the world seems to be caving in there are a few things that keep me going.

1. An uncompromising decision that God is in control and I can trust Him.
2. My network of family and friends.
3. The knowledge that God is using Kendra and I to help those with our story.

There is something exhilirating about God opening doors for us to share our story. Whether it was at a major Christian concert (the next day a news article about me speaking headlines our newspaper instead of Newsboys!), speaking to football teams, churches, this blog, or interacting with individuals one on one, there have been so many times God has blessed us by allowing us to encourage those around us.

When I was diagnosed I would've never imagined all of this, and I still feel like it is building. I know what my purpose is no matter how much time I have left. I am desperate to help people see life in High Definition without having to go through the struggle Kendra and I have.

Getting the chance to encourage others and help others really does make it worth dealing with this cancer.

Would you please help us? If you have been blessed by our story and the lessons God has been teaching us, would you do something for us? Would you be willing to help us share our story. There are a few ways you can help us.

1. Please help pass our blog along. You can share it to Facebook or Twitter, e-mail it to prayer chains and networks, or recommend it to your friends and family.

2. If you would be willing, would you consider helping us to find more places we would be able to share our story in person. Kendra and I desire to encourage, challenge, and inspire other people. If you think there might be an opportunity for us to share our story we would be so grateful if you would help connect us. We're not seeking any kind of compensation or reimbursement. We really just want to help out. If you know of an event, church, group, school, or team that it might be beneficial, please be willing to speak to someone on our behalf.

3. Please pray for open doors. I serve a big God and know that He will use me however he sees fit. Every day I pray that God would use me to help others and that He would open doors that I can't open. Would you join me in this prayer please?

I hope you have been blessed and ministered to by reading our blog. If you have would you please help us? We'd be so grateful.

If you have questions feel free to e-mail me at ryan@graceadventures.org. Thank you so much for your continued prayer and support. We can't tell you how much we value and appreciate it.

PS I'm feeling much better. We decided to just postpone my second dose of chemo and we'll start over again with my next cycle as scheduled. We'll also be having another set of scans done at that time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Keep looking up!

Our son, Colton, loves bathtime.  As soon as I mention the word "tubby", he goes racing to the bathroom door.  Once inside, he cannot strip his clothes off fast enough.  It's one of his (and my) favorite times of the day.  We laugh, play, and talk.  Only I cannot understand this foreign language that Colton speaks in the bathtub sometimes.  It sounds like an Ewok.

But as happy as he looks/sounds in that clip, what you have to realize is that we haven't gotten to the hair washing part of the bathtime routine, given that his hair is still dry.  Colton despises hair washing time.  I use gentle shampoo and take the greatest pains to ensure that no water/soap get in his eyes, but he thrashes around violently and screams when his hair is getting washed, so soap inevitably ends up in his eyes.  Life is rough.

Yes, I've heard about those fancy visor things that can prevent kids from getting water in their eyes, but I flatly refuse to pay money for something like that.  So I have had to come up with a plan for him to be able to cope with this "horrible" situation in his life. Lately I've been training him to "look up!" whenever the time comes for us to wet or rinse his hair.  "COLTON!  Look up!  Keep looking up!  Honey, don't look down.  Look UP!  Look up at the ceiling!  NO!  When you look down, you get water in your face.  Baby boy, look UP!"

As you can tell by the conversation, this is a constant reminder that he needs.  Sometimes he follows my instruction clearly and he stares at the ceiling the entire time I rinse his shampoo out.  However, more times than not, he screams and drops his chin to his chest, causing the hated shampoo to flood his eyes and make his situation even worse.  It's quite a battle.  I get really wet sometimes.

And it would just be so much easier, so much less of a hassle, if he would stay focused on my instruction.  But the moment that he questions me, his loving mother, who wouldn't ever harm him or mislead him, he breaks my command and he begins to suffer.

Are you catching my drift?  I'm sure you see by now where I'm going with this.

In Psalm 105, we are exhorted (verse 4) to Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.  Always does not mean that we are to praise God and follow Him only when it's convenient or easy for us, but to train ourselves to keep seeking His will even when he is leading us through the most harrowing of situations, whether it be the risk of getting shampoo in our eyes, or having the most excruciatingly painful, long, dark period of our lives.  Following the Lord's instruction in our lives is not always easy, but I can tell you that this last week, God has asked me to do some pretty humbling, difficult things. I have had to trust as I've gone out on this limb, that He would not allow me to get soap in my eyes. It has been a total blessing to do what He's asked of me.  I have been so privileged to see Him working not only in my own life, but the lives of people around me. It has given me such joy and such peace to trust, trust my God.

Once my son finally begins to trust me that I have his best interests at heart, he will begin to experience a peace about hair washing that he never thought possible.  He'll be such a happy, clean little boy.

And maybe I'll get through bathtime without having to change my shirt afterwards.

Keep looking up.  Our God's strength is unlimited, His will is perfect, and His instruction is infallible.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick Update

Hey friends, I wanted to update you on some things real quick.

I have been having a tougher cycle this time around. Nothing major, or severe, but things seemed to be taking longer to shake off. Foggier, tired, and over all out of it. I didn't think much of it and wrote it off as just not feeling well.

Today I went to Muskegon for my second treatment of my cycle. Come to find out a lot of my blood counts were low. Too low to do treatment. This was pretty frustrating. It's not major. It is part of the process. It's really a praise to God that I haven't had to deal with my counts yet. To have gone for over 8 months without interruption is remarkable.

I will probably just skip this treatment and pick right back up again in a couple weeks. However I hate that we have to adjust anything. Please pray that my body can bounce back quickly and that this will not be a set back for us or a pattern.

Once again I have to choose my attitude. I am consciously choosing to be grateful that we haven't had to deal with the counts for so long. I'm also so grateful that I can rest in a comfortable home with my family while I recover. There are many people with so much less than I have.

We covet your prayers continually. Thanks.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

You never let go.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I'm caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won't turn back
I know you are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

The first time I ever heard this song, it was March of 2008. We were at our small group in Lansing, worshiping before we started our study. We had already eaten the yummy snacks everyone had brought, and then our friend Nate, who is super talented musically, brought out his guitar and started playing for us.

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

That song was used that evening to break down some major walls in my heart. I had been angry at a string of events that had happened from early 2007 until early 2008: Ryan's diagnosis with PSC in March 2007, the death of our beloved colt, Laredo in August 2007, Ryan's rejection for a job in Kentucky that I was super excited about, my best friend had had a miscarriage of her first baby, and now to top it all off, Ryan and I were leaving Lansing to move back to Oceana County, therefore I had to leave my awesome teaching job at Battle Creek Central. Really God? WHAT is going on? Needless to say, I was pretty bitter in those times and did not understand where God was leading us. And to say that my response was at all appropriate would be a total lie. I was running from God.

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We'll live to know You here on the earth

Sitting on that couch in the living room in Dewitt, Michigan, I began to surrender my hurt and anger about the changes that life was bringing. Life was not turning out like I had planned. I would not have chosen to move back to Hart and leave my friends, job, and church down in Lansing, but I began to trust that the Lord had hold of me in that moment and even though I didn't understand or agree with His plan, I knew Jeremiah 29:11 was the truth. I just had to make a decision to trust.

Fast forward almost four years later to this morning at our church's New Year service. That song was played and I was whisked back to that time in my life where life felt overwhelming and God felt distant. That mirrors what I've been through these last couple of months. I looked back at that 23-year-old girl with all of those frustrations about where God was leading and I wanted to hug her and smack her at the same time. Those problems now feel insignificant, but largely because I now know how the story ended. God provided another job at Hesperia, he blessed us immensely as Ryan started at Grace, and he healed a lot of hurts that at that time seemed insurmountable. He also provided little Bryn for my best friend, along with Buck. I praise God for the joy they have brought Crystal and Steve. God was, and still is incredibly faithful. I think I was beginning to understand for the first time what it meant to surrender my will to His, and God proved himself to be a giver of unbelievable gifts in the next couple of years.

As I stood there this morning singing that same song, I knew that there would be another moment in the future when I would look back at January 1, 2012 and say, "Look at how my God provided for me. Praise be to Him who is faithful." I don't know what things will look like on that day, but I know what my response should be until that day comes.

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Ps. 34:1 NKJV

Happy 2012, friends. We pray that this is a year of joy and healing for us and for you - but even if it's not, our God will sustain us.

He always has.