Monday, May 14, 2012

The Year Of The Piñata

Where do I begin? For over a year life has been very complicated, confusing, overwhelming and simply put 'arduous'. If not for my faith in a God who loves me and cares deeply for me I could not have survived these past months. There was a point when I began to feel as if I might lose my sanity. It was a frightening time and I pray I never feel like that again.  Months have passed, Keith's chemo is over and God has taken his cancer away. How grateful we both are, how truly grateful. What I am about to write in no way takes anything from the wonderful news of his remission. I am putting it on here to help myself see things more clearly.  There is something very unsettling occurring and though I can't discuss it right now I would covet any and all prayers. At this moment I feel like a piñata that's been repeatedly whacked by people who want a piece of me. I am hopeful that, as of May 25th this issue will be in the past so I can concentrate on those who need me rather then those who want, from me, something I don't have.  It is said, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and this past year has taught me that this is true. Before the events of the past fifteen months or so I never considered myself to be a strong person. Emotionally, I am too soft for my own good and perhaps God decided I needed to toughen up a bit. Perhaps not, who really knows? Am I stronger, I hope so. Am I still too soft, probably. God designed me so I have to believe that I am empathetic for a reason. It can be, however, a very painful characteristic. Sometimes, I wish I was a man so that I could compartmentalize everything neatly in its own little space in my head where I could access it easily but only when necessary. I'm not disparaging men it is the way they are designed. My problem is that there is way too much 'stuff' competing for attention in my head and I am unable to compartmentalize any of it. C'est la vie! I do know there will be more trials ahead, that is part of life, and I hope I am better able to cope because of the recent past. Time will tell what God already knows so I am trying to rest in the certain knowledge that He is in control.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bad News, Good News, Best News

April 19, 2012      
Things have gone relatively smooth for the past five weeks. Except for the 36 hours Keith spent in the hospital due to a 0.2 white blood cell count, which was accompanied by a 101.4 temperature, his health has been quite good. Over all Keith has made this journey through chemotherapy well and with his sense of humor very much intact. I have noticed that each day he seems more and more like he did before all of his health issues surfaced.   

For those who have been following this Blog I hope you found it interesting and were able to laugh along with Keith and me. It's funny how laughter finds its way into even the darkest places we travel. Laughter really is the best medicine, it can turn a cloudy day sunny and turn a serious moment funny. We've had lots of serious moments during Keith's chemo but the ability to find humor in the midst of our journey made it easier to bear.       

Friday, the twentieth of April, is the day he has the PET/CT scan. This test will show if there is any cancer left in his body. We will be meeting with his oncologist  on Tuesday for the results and hopefully he will be in remission. That is our prayer but in the event it is still in his body he will have to face the possibility of a bone marrow transplant. So, if the test results are not what we hope we still have options and will not be giving up the fight. If he is in remission I will be able to breathe deeply for the first time in many months. There are still some hurdles to jump over unrelated to Keith's cancer but I am hopeful we will be able to get over them and keep on going. One day in the not too distant future our lives may feel normal once again (if there is such a thing as normal) but that doesn't mean our trials will be over. Life is full of trials and we have to deal with them as they present themselves. If trials build character all I can say is I think I've had enough character building for a while God, if that's okay with      

We have walked in some pretty deep valleys and struggled to climb some even steeper mountains but God has been with us and because of Him the road we have walked this past six/seven months has been easier to travel.       

After I post Keith's results I will probably be shifting the focus of my Blog to my Mom and her struggle with Alzheimer's. I will, of course, be giving updates where Keith is concerned but as long as he is in remission (if he is in remission) there won't be as much to write about. This is a good thing!      Along with the present trials there are two more, which I cannot discuss for now, but I intend to address them when I am able. Thank you all for helping us through this with your prayers and support. God put you in our lives for this purpose and we are grateful, so grateful. 

My friends you are a blessing  
sent from up above 
to help us through this trial 
a witness to God's love 
When we feel like giving up 
when every dawn is gray 
when everything seems pointless 
you help us find our way 
God shows his tender mercy 
in the midst of sorrows woe 
by sending friends to aid us 
when heartache brings us low 
God's realm abounds with angels 
His word says this is true 
but now and then one comes to earth 
The proof is here in you         

Monday, April 2, 2012

There Is No Option - FORGIVE

April 1, 2012

     As I prepare to celebrate Easter I am reminded of how much Jesus did for all of us when he walked the Via Dolorosa on the way to His death. He gave His life that you and I might live. Christ willingly gave His life on the cross, over two thousand years ago, so that you and I could be forgiven. We are all sinners in need of a savior and in Christ God met our need. The perfect Son of God, the only sinless man who ever lived, died an excruciating death to make a way for man to live with God for eternity.

 "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed," (Isaiah 53:5) How great is that? 

     I don't know about you but I don't deserve to be forgiven yet I know I am. Scripture tells me that God loves me and desires to be my heavenly Father but at the same time I am not commanded to come to Him. The choice is mine. I can choose to go through life believing that God is just a crutch for weak and foolish people or I can live my life believing that God is real and that He cares for me. If I believe He is real then I'd be wise to search the scriptures to see what His guidelines are for my life. 
     The Bible is a wealth of information and many of us, myself included, do not take advantage of the wisdom it contains. If not for His Word there would be no boundaries and truth would be whatever we wanted it to be. 
     God tells us to forgive one another but many times we hold on to our anger refusing to forgive, which only leads to bitterness. If Jesus could sacrifice His life so that my sins are wiped away what right have I not to forgive others? 
     Some people think their sin is too terrible for God to forgive but He will wipe the slate clean if we come to Him with repentant hearts, no matter how horrible the sin.
     While I'm on the subject of forgiveness, which was the theme of October Baby (a movie about abortion and forgiveness), I wonder how many women who aborted their babies have sought redemption and healing. I know abortion is legal but it is nothing more then murder with a more palatable name. So many women are living life burdened by the knowledge that they killed their child believing that there is no way God could forgive them. I pray that they will seek redemption and feel God's healing power coursing through their bodies. That they will understand they can change their lives for the good free from the heavy burden they have born upon their shoulders for much too long. God loves them, His Son died for them and all they need do is seek and they will find Him, repent and He will forgive them. When they experience what it feels like to be free from the sin that has weighed them down so long then there will be peace in their hearts and joy unspeakable in their souls.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
   28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Wasted time spent lost in hate unable to forgive
Never giving love a chance to flourish and to live
The reason for your bitterness your mind cannot recall
and yet the anger in your heart has built a sturdy wall.
Misunderstanding paved the way for enmity to grow
Those once considered family are now your biggest foe
Has something you did long ago left you with regret
and now you feel the sting of shame that you cannot forget.
Release your cares into the hands of the Lord of all creation
He will forgive your darkest sin and fill you with elation. 
Forgiveness is God's plan for you when on Him you will call
and He will turn your shame to joy for Jesus paid it all.

     How grateful I am to know He has forgiven me and cast my sins into the sea of forgetfulness never to be acknowledged again. 
                                     Have a blessed Easter     

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mom, I Know You're In There And I'm Here

March 8, 2012

     Well, the past week has been interesting to say the least. However, this time, it is my Mom who has been the focal point of my attention. She has Alzheimer's, an awful disease, which wreaks havoc in the lives of everyone concerned. Mom has her days and nights mixed up and we can't seem to get her turned around. She sleeps in her chair most of the day, wakes around 6:00p.m. and then goes to bed for the night at 8:30. She then wakes up at least two times in the middle of the night, thinks it's morning and gets dressed. The confusion has gotten worse lately and I am hoping it is not permanent. She is hallucinating and thinks that the people in the pictures on her wall are moving and she doesn't understand that it isn't real so the anxiety from that upsets her terribly. I feel so sorry for her because she cannot help what is happening but at the same time it is very hard on Keith and me and our ability to function as a normal couple. Keith, even with all he has to deal with, is handling it well and his patience is commendable. It is hard to watch my mom deteriorate right before my eyes knowing that there is nothing I, or anyone else, can do to stop this diseases progression. If not for God, who gives me strength, Keith and the help of two of my siblings and their spouses this would be impossible to bear. I am so thankful that Keith is such a supportive, generous and helpful husband. After God and my husband, my sister Denise is the biggest help to me and I am grateful for her. Her husband Curt, along with my brother Steve and his wife Karen all work and can only do as much as their schedules allow but they are each still a godsend. Karen, my sister-in-law, is a huge help when she is available but being a nurse limits her time. She has done so much for mom and has been more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law. God has blessed our family and I thank Him for His goodness and mercy through out these trying times.
     Being a caregiver is not for sissies. It is awful to watch someone you love lose more of herself everyday. Today Mom was belligerent and there was no settling her down until she was good and ready. I suppose having no sense of control over any area of her life is frustrating enough but when the confusion of her mind is added to the mix she must feel totally lost and helpless. She is becoming more childlike as time passes and gets defiant, pouty and sullen. The difficulty comes when she insists "I am the mother", and expects us to behave like the children. We respect that she is the 'Mom' but she no longer has the ability to care for herself and the roles have been reversed whether any of us like it or not. To put it simply, it is what it is and we are doing what is necessary regardless of whether or not feelings get hurt, hers or ours.
     I know that the chances are high that some morning I will go down stairs to check on her and she will be gone. It is not easy to think about but it is a fact that I cannot escape. Since her heart condition reared it's ugly head in January it has become clear that her fragile body is wearing out. I'm relatively sure she senses that   her time is growing shorter. Anyone at the age of 86, in fragile condition, would be aware of their life ebbing even if their mind was confusing them. I believe we can all sense when our time is near perhaps so we can make peace with God and the people we will leave behind. For the past week I have literally taken a deep breath before entering her bedroom in the morning because I don't know what I'll find and although I tell myself I'm prepared I don't think I really am. I may be dreading that moment but even so my prayer is that God takes her gently in her sleep one night and that she doesn't have to suffer. She is tired of how uncooperative her body is and often says she just wants it over, she doesn't want to live anymore. As hard as that is for me to hear it must be terrible to feel that way. My poor Mom, I wish there was more I could do to help ease her discomfort. I guess for now I'll keep doing what I've been doing and pray that she finds peace in her situation. 
     The Bible says we are to Honor our father and mother. It doesn't say to honor them only when they are nice, when they are in a good mood, when they are healthy, or when the mood strikes us. No, we are to honor them because God has commanded us to do so, at all times. End of story! 
     If your mother is still alive thank God for blessing you and use your time wisely where she is concerned. Don't wait to tell her you love her you may not get another chance. 

The only one who loves us more than our mother is God. How awesome is that?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trusting In God = Peace

March 6, 2012

     Well here we sit at the Weinberg Cancer Institute while Keith gets a blood transfusion. He is almost through the first unit and then the nurse will start the second one, which will take another two to three hours. If all goes well we will be out of here by four or five o'clock at the latest. 
     His blood counts and energy level were not as good as the doctor thought they should be and felt it was time to give his blood a boost. His color already looks better and the doctor said he should make him feel more energetic.
     Keith is still Keith, giving the nurses a good laugh. Before the nurse hung the first unit Keith requested 'young stud blood'. Anyone who knows him well will not be surprised by this, nor am I. I just looked at the nurse, who seemed amused, and rolled my eyes. I told him it was probably the blood of a woman (should have said a  menopausal woman) and the nurse got a bit of a chuckle. 
     He is an inspiration in his overall attitude toward his cancer. As I sit here it is even more clear how upbeat he remains in the midst of this madness. We are both handling this setback better then I had expected and I know it is only by the grace of God that this is so. 
     Our family and friends have been very supportive and we are blessed. I cannot even imagine how it must be for someone going through this without family and friends but more importantly without God. I am the kind of person who values my alone time and am able to fill the occasional void without feeling lonely but I also know how valuable it is to have the support and comfort of people around who love me and on whom I can depend. Above all, as I have said before, it is knowing that God is watching over Keith and me that offers the most comfort. 
     This past year I have discovered that to trust God is absolutely necessary in order to gain peace of mind. When I learned how to give it to God and stop stealing it back my outlook in the midst of trials became brighter, my focus clearer and my ability to function in a productive manner improved greatly.
     We are nearing the end of the chemo treatments, five down and one to go. All prayers are still highly coveted. 

                             We'll see the beauty beyond the pain
                            for there'd be no garden without some rain.
Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Paths, Roads, Stones and Boulders

February 27, 2012

As Keith and I continue on this journey we are bolstered every step of the way by God's unfailing love. He has enabled us to walk this path with the confidence that He is walking with us, sheltering us under His wing. It is very hard to give up when we know He is gently guiding us forward and ever on our side. So, we push ahead kicking the stones in our path aside confident that God will remove, from our path, the boulders we cannot budge. There is no better companion with whom to travel through life. Invite Him to travel life's road with you.
There is a lot to be said for the sense of peace and hope you get from knowing that God in heaven loves you. Even if you don't love him he loves you. Your name was known to him, before you were born, he's just waiting for you to call on him to give you the comfort for which your soul is crying out. Bad things in this life happen to all of us and make us question, "If there is a God why would he allow this to happen"? The truth is much of the time we will not get the answer in this lifetime but that is what trust and faith are all about. If you can see and touch something it is easy to trust in its existence and requires no faith. 
Trusting in the creator, with a faith so deep it is unshakable is a life changing experience. There is so much cynicism in the world today that some people just cannot let themselves trust in a faithful God. I have seen so many lives changed for the better because they let the Lord take control. So, even if you say you're not religious at all, I think somewhere deep inside, your soul is crying out for that firm foundation to stand upon. God created you and he knows what you are going through and you don't have to go it alone. That is the key, all you have to do is use it to open the door to your heart and let him in.

I know, I know, easier said than done but if you've exhausted every avenue, because you've insisted on doing it your way, and you still feel alone, lonely, empty, unloved, abandoned, or betrayed what have you got to lose? You won't know how much God really loves you until you put your life in His hands and trust Him to fill the void in your life. Some think that accepting Christ means you will never have anymore problems and that life will forever be filled with happiness. Sorry, that's just not so. The difference is that no matter the problem you can confront it head on because you are not alone in your battle. God is your shield, your loving protector and though you may get bruised and battered He will never leave your side. He is your living stone against the Goliaths of this world. 

Without God we are mere mortal human beings, full of distrust, anger, deceit, selfishness and pride, to name just a few of man's sinful characteristics. That is not the way to go through life and will only leave you feeling bitter and joyless. God did not create us to live empty, lonely lives but our sin cuts us off from Him until we call upon the one who died for us, the one whose blood poured out and whose body was broken on the cross of Calvary over two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ. 

I accepted Jesus thirty one years ago and cannot imagine my life without Him. His sacrifice, for MY SINS and yours, was the greatest gift ever given to mankind. 
                                             Romans 5:8 
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Best Is Yet To Be

February 17,2012

     Time is passing quickly and Keith now has only two chemo treatments left. It is amazing how time flies. He is doing extraordinarily well and continues to meet this challenge head on. His positive outlook is a big part of his recovery, of that I am sure. However, I am even more certain that his abiding faith in God is what carries him through every area of his life. He is a man who walks his talk. Through out our marriage it has been one of his best traits. I have always been able to count on him and trust him to keep his word. It is a wonderful quality. We may not agree on everything (who does) but knowing you never need doubt your spouse's word is a very peaceful feeling. There is enough stress in life without the added burden of doubt.
     Anyway, as I've said before this battle is the LORD's and we are both confident that He can and will do a mighty work no matter what the outcome. 
     Keith went back to work February 6th, which helps him to feel more like his old self. If it wasn't for his hair, or lack thereof, it would almost be possible to believe this isn't really happening, at least for me. 
     Two more treatments then a three to four week wait before the doctor orders a Pet/CT. After the scan we will know if the cancer is gone or if further procedures need to be done. If the cancer is gone he will be in remission. If at the end of five years there is no reoccurrence he will be considered cured. Until that time we will live life to the fullest and keep praying for this to be a distant memory.
     But until we get the news, we are waiting to hear, we will do what is necessary for his healing. We know that God is in control and that He will never leave us or forsake us. With that in mind we will focus on the task at hand.
     The journey, so far, has been a learning experience and has taught us how precious family is and whom we can truly call friends. I thank my God for the people in my life who know what agape love means and who love without limits. You are all blessing our lives immensely. 
     Right now we are planning a wonderful get away for when this is all over and we can relax. It feels good to have something positive for which to look forward. I have a feeling we will both find this to be one of the best vacations we've ever taken. The Lord willing we will be cruising the Mediterranean this coming fall and one of our ports of call is Kusadasi, Turkey, with an excursion to Ephesus. John the Apostle, it is believed, lived out his last days in this area as did Mary the mother of Jesus. How thrilling it is to think I could possibly tread where they once walked. 
      So, if all goes as well as we hope, this year we will be able to take a deep breath and continue to chase the dream;          
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!'” Robert Browning