Thursday, January 31, 2013

The first time I wanted to quit

I've had a secret project that Kendra and I have been working on for the last six months or more. It's been off and on, but since Thanksgiving it's really been a focus and time consumer for me.

We're writing a book.

There I said it. I haven't wanted to publicize what I have been up to. I feel I need to share it now though. I'm very excited about it. I never in a million years thought I could possibly author a book. Yet here I am working through chapter after chapter. My fondest memory of English class were the School House Rock videos, after that not much was pleasant. Sure I like to read but I hate to write. Sort of ironic that now my profession as a marketing director involves writing and my hobby as a blogger and now potential author all are anchored in the written word.

We had many people approach us and encourage us to write and honestly I blew them off. I didn't think I was qualified or willing for that matter to pursue that type of project. However a marketing director for a substantial sports and literary agency contacted us after reading our blog and strongly encouraged me that I need to think about getting published.

Wow. This was a different level. No offense to my friends, but moms love ugly babies, why wouldn't you love my writing? So we began exploring, reading, and attending writing conferences trying to learn so much about this strange new literary world.

After starting a project and writing a couple chapters, we sent it to the agency and they showed it around and got back with us that there was real potential,,, but the writing wasn't strong enough.

Big shocker, I know. It really didn't offend me. I was so intimidated by this process and the time it was taking and just not knowing what I didn't know that I was open to answers. They asked us what about a writer to work with you, co-author the book.

Honestly I really didn't mind. It wasn't about me, it was about our story. So if someone else could help me tell this story that might help it get published, and in front of more people, that God might affect their lives, I was willing.

So through the power of the Holy Spirit we found an incredible seasoned Christian author with whom we instantly developed a bond and a trust with. He came up from Florida to visit us and get to know us. Now he is full steam ahead working on our project.

How it works is I give him notes with scriptures, stories, analogies, etc. Then I verbally record my thoughts for about forty five minutes to seventy five minutes. He takes all this and writes a first draft. We then have extensive back and forth. Kendra and I have final say on everything, and we still do a lot of writing and re-writing with him.

The first chapter is focused on godliness. Again, as I sat on the couch knowing that I really needed to verbally explain my notes to Larry, I started to feel very anxious. Ever since we met Larry and really started digging into the project weird things have been happening.

The time I have to work on this is evenings and weekends. Over the last month and a half to two months most nights and weekends I start feeling very "spacey" and weak. I have difficulty being motivated and focusing. I will feel totally alert during the day and then something changes at night. I have really been fighting itchiness as well. Again, it follows the same pattern. Worse at night and on weekends. Almost unbearable. During the day it's much more manageable.

As I talked to Larry, he too had been experiencing physical difficulties as he began working on our project. It wasn't until after I began working on Chapter one that it hit me. I'm under attack from the evil one. We're under attack. He does not want to see this book come to fruition and is working hard to keep both of us from being able to dedicate ourselves to it.

So back to the night I tried to do my first recording. I was anxious and starting to get overwhelmed when one of the verses I wanted to use suddenly was nowhere to be found. I used every internet Bible search and it literally was ripped from every version, translation, and commentary in the Bible. Just the evening before I had found it and now I couldn't find it anywhere.

My steam was rising, I don't do well with things that I know should be one way or something should be some place and it's not. I get angry, irritable, snappy, and worse. That night Kendra was saintly catching many of the bullets of my anger. As I realized I'm supposed to spend the next hour talking about godliness and here I am blowing up over not finding a Bible verse, I kind of lost it.

I wanted to quit. It was so hard. Not just not finding the verse, but the whole thing. I didn't think this would be easy, but I had no idea it would be this hard. All my inadequacies rose to the surface again, my physical symptoms attacked again, and I felt like it was all a huge waste of time.

My angel of a wife kept encouraging me, praying for me, and supporting me. She let me vent, spout off, and I finally came back and apologized.

I knew what I had to do. After praying that the next hour would be spirit led. I knew I just had to start. It would be awkward and clunky. It would be scattered and random. But I just had to start. So I started rambling into the recorder and before too long something special happened.

My mind snapped into clarity and I began getting louder and louder and I talked about godliness into this microphone. I started thinking of more verses that I didn't write down before, more analogies came to mind, and I was getting really excited (not a good problem for someone battling sleep deprivation to get really excited at 10:30 at night).

I was being obedient and God was supplying for me. He was supplying my physical, mental, and spiritual needs. What I wanted to quit, God was supernaturally empowering me to fulfill.

There is a long long ways to go with this book. Even once we write it it may never get published. I'm not concerned about any of that right now. I just want to be obedient and I definitely feel called to finish this project. It's something special and so dear to my heart.

Letters to my Son: What I want to tell him in case I never can

It is a topical discussion of the areas of Colton's life he'll need to learn about to be a godly man. These are the things I planned on teaching him over the next 20 plus years. I pray that someday I get to read this book to him, but if I don't and he's the only one that reads it, it will be worth it.

Please pray for me and Kendra and Larry. We do feel that Satan does not want us to complete this project. There are many things that could side track it or derail it. Pray for our physical and mental ability to spend the time necessary. Pray that the thoughts and leadings of the Holy Spirit are what would become the ink on paper, and not anything that points to Ryan selfishly or out of pride. It's so important to me that this book says what it needs to say, and I don't fully know what that is right now. I do know where God guides He provides. So I'll keep following this Guide and see what He provides me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another roadblock (sigh)

Dear family and friends,

I'm sure many of you are anxious to hear how things turned out with Ryan today. Well, as things have happened so many times in this long and arduous journey, we have mixed news to bring you.

Today Ryan received his second theraspheres treatment, and it was pretty uneventful. Like he was at Thanksgiving, he will be sore and sick for a few days. We might even actually be expecting jaundice and pain and other symptoms that totally threw us for a loop the last time and landed him in the ER twice in two days. He and his dad are on their way home right now from Zion and Ryan is doing just fine.

The prayer request part of this blog post is this: the tumor that we had mentioned in our previous blog post as a concern is now a major concern. Ryan has a tumor that is growing near the center of his liver that is not normal. It does not get its blood supply from the blood vessels that go to the liver; it is being supplied by blood vessels that supply his large intestine. What this means is that the treatment he has been receiving (theraspheres) is not going to be effective for that tumor whatsoever.

What does this fully mean? We are not sure yet. All that we know is that our doctors are not sure yet how to proceed and there is not a plan in place. There probably won't be a plan in place for a week or more. While this won't necessarily slow down treatment - Ryan will have to take a couple of weeks off after this radiation anyway - you all probably know how INCREDIBLY patient we Prudhommes are and how much we like to wait around for decisions to be made.

We will update you when we have more details. I really hate to leave you guys with more questions than answers but truly, we are in the same situation. We love you and continue to covet your prayers.

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord , 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"

Psalm 91:1-2

Monday, January 21, 2013

And if our God is for us...

I seriously can't get enough of Romans. Or maybe just Paul. I like that guy.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32 NIV)

Our God is for us.

So who could ever stop us?

Our God is with us.

Who could stand against us?

I can't live this life without that promise, without that solid knowledge that EVEN when it feels like the bottom could drop out from underneath me -

My God is with me. And for me. He's got this.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's been a while

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's... whoops I'm a little late I guess. Other than a post that was actually a devotional I gave at my family Christmas I haven't posted anything since before Christmas. There are a couple reasons why:

1. We had scans on the 26th of December. Kendra posted many updates on the results and I'm so thankful for God's provision for my treatment.
2. It was Christmas and we had family and holiday stuff like everyone else. We had a great time with both sides of the family.  My brother recently got engaged and we got to meet our six-month-old nephew, so that was fun.
3. I've been sick off and on for a month. This is probably the biggest reason I haven't posted. For a week before the scans I started only sleeping about 3-4 hours a night. Then in between Christmas and New Years I caught the flu and fought a fever for about 10 days straight. I thought it got straightened out after seeing a Dr. and started to feel better until this Wednesday. While driving home I got a sharp pain in my neck that only got worse as the evening went on. A nice little visit to the ER revealed it could be a pulmonary embolism. After lots of scans and tests everything came back normal and as I suspected it was a muscle pull or pinched nerve or something muscular / skeletal. Then yesterday while driving to a business meeting I started feeling grey. I fought it off all day and went to bed with a slight fever. About an hour later the fever broke and I was finally feeling great again. The only problem is it was 1:00 am. I was wide awake and didn't go back to sleep until 4ish. After waking up at seven this morning, I've pretty much slept all day long. It wasn't until about 4 pm that I finally started feeling decent again.

I don't write all this to worry you, solicit help on how to stay healthy, or to elicit your sympathy. I know many of you care very deeply about how I'm doing. I've told Kendra I feel like the last month has been a battle. Fortunately none of the circumstances have been very serious in nature, they're just annoying, uncomfortable, or unpleasant.

When I'm sleep deprived, feverish, and overall just punky it's very hard for me to write anything. I wish I could but I just can't get the words to make sense in my head let alone on the page.

Here's a few prayer requests;
1. I have finally gotten the next round of Theraspheres scheduled. I will be going down January 23-24 for the next round. The actual injection will be very straight forward. However and this is IMPORTANT. The last scans revealed one tumor that appears to still be getting a blood supply. This allows it to grow. They're not sure where the supply is coming from, so before the injection they'll attempt to map out this specific tumor. Please pray that they could find the source and that it would be an option for a future injection of radiation. If they can't find the source or it's too intricate, then Theraspheres are not an option to treat that tumor.
2. Please pray for my overall health. While nothing seems to be serious, it is constantly a worry that an infection would get really bad, or that my body would get run down. We do take precautions to protect me and will continue to do so. However the best flu shot and medicine is the prayers of the saints.
3. Please pray for me professionally. This is a very busy time for me at work. It's exciting and God is doing some awesome things. However it requires a lot of focus and hard work. It is only for a season but I'm right in the middle of it now. Please pray for wisdom, strength, and focus.

Thanks so much for all your support. There is so much to be thankful for. We continue to take this journey one step at a time and God continues to guide us.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My fear for our son

That precious face is my pride and joy.

That little two-year-old makes me alternately want to scream in frustration and yet also in exultation at his accomplishments.  He makes me laugh, and I shed tears over him often.  I spend much of my time thinking about his character, his integrity, his heart, his future, his needs, his happiness, and his hurts.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about how he could lose his father.

And I just can't imagine what it would be like to grow up like that.  I had both of my parents - still do.  All of my friends growing up were children of two-parent families.  I have no frame of reference for what it is like to be raised as the only child of a single parent.  And to suffer the excruciating loss of a parent at an early, I cannot identify with that whatsoever.

You see, I have come to a certain level of acceptance of what the possibility of Ryan's death could mean for me.  I know in my head - no matter what is ahead of me tomorrow, I will have abounding grace to tackle it.  Whether that is the weariness of being a cancer caretaker for many, many years, or the heartache of burying the love of my life - I know that somehow, some way - I will endure that.

But the thing is, I am in my late twenties.  I have been a Christian long enough and I have been in this situation long enough to know that God will sustain me through any pain that might be in store.

But that sweet boy that is pictured above - he doesn't know that yet.

And likely, I will be one of the major people in his life to introduce him to this concept of contentment despite heartache, and commitment to God through any circumstances.

Gulp.  No pressure, ya know?

Ultimately, I'm afraid for my son and his future.  I'm afraid he might grow up bitter if he loses his dad.  I'm afraid that he will always feel an aching and a profound sense of loss that no male relative or family friend will ever be able to begin to ease.  And I'm afraid for myself - how would I ever provide for my son's emotional and spiritual needs?  What if I fail my son?

What if I fail my husband and his expectations for our son's upbringing?

"God is an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5

As much as my head can start spinning when I consider all of the possible outcomes and all of my shortcomings as a mother (and a person in general), I have to just stop.  STOP.

My God is sufficient.  For me.  For my husband.  For my son.

For you.

And - deep breath - no matter what is in store, God is going to support me (us), hold me (us) upright, gird me (us), and defend me (us).

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Thank you, God, for being enough for me.  For Ryan.  For Colton.

Thank you for protecting all three of us.  And I know you will continue to, no matter what lies ahead.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My new years resolution; a year of surrender and faith

I attended a conference last month put on by the Christian Camp and Conference Association for all camping professionals in the country and Canada. It is a combination of professional development, relationship building, and spiritual renewal. The theme this year was Strong and Courageous. This was taken from:

Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

I was asked to speak briefly about my experience with cancer and my perspective on Strong and Courageous. As I prayed about it the words surrender and faith came to mind. 

Since the conference I've had this rattling around in my head and I can’t get loose of it. 

Strength come through surrender, courage comes through faith. 

At first it sounds like courage is something I’m supposed to “do”. Go out and conquer the world no matter what. Before cancer I probably had that approach. I could go and do anything I wanted to. There was nothing I put my mind to that I couldn't accomplish. 

Now that’s totally different. I’m a shell of myself. I’m weaker and more worn down than I've ever been. I know I’m commanded to “not be terrified, do not be discouraged” but the more I try not to be the more I am some days. Some days “terrified” is exactly the word to use to describe how I feel. So what am I supposed to do? 

I don’t have the strength to overcome right now. I can’t cowboy up and push through. I've tried. These emotions aren't fake or a figment of my imagination. They’re real. It’s proof that I've got a long ways to go in my walk with the Lord. If my faith was greater, maybe I wouldn't struggle... but I might make a speculation that Jesus himself was afraid and weak the night he prayed for mercy and relief in Gethsemane. His humanity shines through in that moment of pure vulnerability. 

First, in order to gain strength and “be strong”, I must surrender all that is dear to me. Maybe it’s money like the rich young ruler, maybe it’s family like Abraham, maybe it’s comfort like Paul with his thorn in the side, maybe it’s your children’s decisions like David. Whatever it is, the more I cling to the things that I don’t want to lose, the quicker they slip through my fingers. 

We’re all familiar with:

2 Cor 12:9-10
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. 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. 

This makes no sense. The weaker we are the stronger we are? It’s 100% opposite what our culture tells us. When you fight cancer everyone comes and tells you to “keep fighting”. I know what they mean, and that they mean well. However, ultimately I don’t think one lives or dies from cancer solely because they choose to keep fighting. I won’t deny that attitude and determination play a part, but I know that I may very well choose to buckle down and fight like crazy and still lose this battle. 

I think that’s like life. We are so afraid of losing the precious things in our lives, we hold onto them tightly. Then when we face adversity we buckle down and fight like crazy to “overcome, persevere, or get through”. We’re called to do the opposite though. It’s only through our weakness that God will take those things we once held dear and use them for His glory in a way that we never imagined. 

Being willing to submit yourself to the will of God - no matter what it might mean in your life - is a scary idea. Deep down in our hearts, most of us have things we’re hiding, holding onto, or avoiding. If we want to be strong, we must be willing to truly surrender those intimate and vulnerable places we’ve been keeping God out of. 

I was forced to surrender a lot in my life. So that was out of my hands. I’ve learned more about how to willingly surrender things along the way, such as Colton’s future, my wife’s future, the ministry goals I’ve had, and more. I wouldn’t say I have that lesson down, but like I said, I’ve been forced to learn this one. The lesson that I’m struggling with is courage. 

I’ve always thought of myself as a courageous person. I rode unbroken horses, I wasn’t afraid to have hard conversations, and I’d like to think I would do what was necessary to defend my family or my country if called upon. There was a lot of bravado wrapped up in that, though. That kind of courage is about me, what I can do, how brave I am. The object of the courage is the individual.

As I read through scripture though there’s an overwhelming pattern that when one is told to be courageous it’s almost always in the context of, “the Lord is with you, the Lord will guide you, the Lord will provide”. I haven’t done a study to know if it’s every time, but it’s a lot. For instance:

Isaiah 41:10

New International Version (NIV)
So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I’m told to “do not fear”. That’s great but I still do. Why am I afraid? What causes me to fear? Well right now the circumstances of what I’m facing are greater than my perceived capacity to overcome them. In other words, I can’t get out of this jam. 

I’m told that God is with me, not to be discouraged, for He is my God. He will strengthen me, help me, and uphold me. So what am I afraid for? Again it has to do with my faith. Do I really trust that God is in control when life feels so out of control? Do I really trust that God’s still got a plan for me when all my plans have fallen a part? Do I really believe that God is still MY God, when it feels like He has abandoned me? 

When I’m afraid, the answer is no. I’m not trusting that God is God. I do not believe He is still sovereign. 

When I am at most peace is when I’m most dependent upon Him and I’ve chosen to surrender and trust Him. These moments are indescribable. It feels like a high of thanksgiving, peace, and hope. I haven’t found anything that compares to this feeling. Not only that, but God has used me in ways I could’ve never imagined before cancer. He’s opened doors for Kendra and I that we’ve dreamed of only now it’s happening and bigger and better than we dreamed. 

So as I look to this New Year my goals and my encouragement to you is let’s be a people of surrender and faith. Let’s be a people that commits to being brave enough to let God into the recesses of our hearts and use our weaknesses to His purposes. I may not make it through the year, but whether I do or don’t, if I live my life like that - it won’t be wasted.