34 Years of Abundant Life

19861220 Wedding Photo 1

When I took that summer job, it was my 2nd to last choice.  I was getting desperate because I really didn’t want to work in the fields again that summer.  Not that I objected to the field work.  It was good honest work, but I felt it wasn’t helping me move forward in my future aspirations.  Little did I know what I would find when I walked into that JCPenney 34 years ago.  The credit booth lady was a lot younger than I expected, and a whole lot more attractive, but I was trying to focus on getting a job.  She was good at hers though and drew me in.  I was a rising Senior in college after all, so I thought I had this.  Well nothing will humble you faster than being at a credit booth in front of a young lady you want to impress when you don’t have a job.  That is until she asked, “Are you 18 or older?”  OUCH.  That plan ended like most of my plans those days.

Back to the main goal.  Get a job.  I scraped my ego off of the floor and dragged what was left of my dignity to basement (where the offices were) and resume in hand, inquired about a job.  I was hired almost immediately and since my head was still spinning from the credit booth encounter, I wasn’t thinking straight.  The only 2 thoughts in my head were, 1) I am not working in the fields again; and 2) I HAVE A JOB! Now I can go back and talk!  And march right back up to the credit booth I did.  Only to discover that she was busy with another family as they filled out their application.  Crash and burn twice in 30 minutes. 

Fortunately, my future conversations were a little more successful (although I was still pretty awkward – women were like aliens to me and this vision of beauty came from a different world than I did).  We spent a great deal of time together and within 7 weeks of meeting, were engaged.  That December, we were married and have been best friends and soulmates for 34 years. 

My life changed forever when I walked into that JCPenney (the first store in the mall that I walked into).  I could have just as easily walked into Mervyn’s, or The Bon, or even Nordstrom’s, but I didn’t.  I walked into JCPenney because the parking garage was full, and I had to park on the street on the other side of the mall.  I remembered my mother always enjoyed JCPenny, so I thought, I would give it a try since I was here.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the way a full garage would change my life.  While a job in retail was the 4th choice on my list, it came with the greatest job benefit one could imagine.  My bride.

I am not the same person I was before I met her. I cannot imagine what I would be like, if not for her.  I flew by the seat of my pants in everything, having ideas but no plans (that is called dreaming young mean – it won’t get you very far).  She brings out the best in me, and I hope, I in her. That is the mark of a remarkable relationship.  And I owe it all to my Lord and my Beautiful.  This is not a Facebook relationship where it is all roses all of the time. Hallmark, maybe (without the 3rd wheel) where there are misunderstandings and/or bad choices and someone gets upset, but it all works out in the end.   We are real people and God is still working on us.  That means we have had to ask for, and give forgiveness more times than I can possibly remember.  Because doing anything else isn’t an option.

I look back and chuckle at that summer.  I still clearly remember, even though I was pretty much over the moon the entire time.  We were kids.  We had no idea what we were doing.  Yet because of the unshakable love of God, a dedication to always resolve our differences and to be more like Christ every day, we have decades of experiences in the rearview mirror and a full tank of gas to explore the future together.

Our journey together has brought us a whole bunch of other people.  Our 7 children, 2 additional children as spouses and 7 grandchildren (2 we will get to meet when our days are done) bring a level of chaos, noise and laughter that is invaluable.  This afternoon as I reflected on how full my heart is because of how full my family is, I was humbled and immensely grateful.  Grateful to my Lord for bringing us together.  Grateful to Beautiful for saying “yes” 34 years ago.  This my friends is abundant life.  A life of peace, joy and purpose.

Here is to another 34 Beautiful!  May they be as exciting, challenging and joyful as the last 34. 

Happy Anniversary!

Working from Home survival guide

This post is a bit of a departure from the usual fare (not that the usual fare is all that usual or regular to begin with).  Given that we are all “social distancing” many of us are now working at home.  It occurred to me that some of you that are newer to this, might benefit from a few of the lessons I learned the hard way over the decades I have worked, on and off from home.

Qualifiers

Just to be clear, these principles apply whether you are in your living room in an 800 square ft. apartment with a toddler watching reruns of Sesame Street on a worn out VHS tape (done that), or you have your own dedicated office space in your home (actually, I haven’t done that).  They will also apply if you are an introvert (done that) or an extravert (I can pretend pretty well most of the time).  What will differ is the particulars of how you implement the principles.

Chunk and Breath

That is not the latest birthing method, it is a work at home survival tool.

Chunking your work

If you are blessed to be in a busy role, you have an abundance of work.  This is a good problem to have, but it is still a problem if you don’t have a strategy.  Work Chunking is one of the most important because it makes many of the other principles possible.

Chunking is conceptualizing and pushing through your work in pieces.  No matter what kind of work  you do, it is chunkable, however, the type of chunks may vary.  If your work is project based, you might have chunks that are task oriented(e.g. write 4 pages).  If your work is transaction work, or “line work” you might chunk based on time or quantity (e.g. 2 hours, 20 calls, 30 email, etc.).  Most of us will find time to be the easiest divisor.  This is particularly true if your work, like most office workers, is a mix of a variety of activities.  You may also find that what you start with is inadequate and you need to adjust.  That is also fine.  What is not fine, is not having a plan with regard to when you have completed a chunk.

Breathe.  Seriously.  Breathe.

Those of you that know me, know that I am definitely not into mysticism of any kind.  This is not a criticism of those readers who are, it is just an qualifier that this concept is a healthy principle for everyone.

When you complete a chunk, you need to breathe.  This can actually be taking a minute or two to just clear your head and focus exclusively on nice deep breathing.  The science on this is pretty clear.  Clearing your head and your lungs will go a long way to help you regain perspective.  If you have an Apple watch, it has a great app, named Breathe (clever folks down there in Cupertino).  Try it out.  It is pretty helpful.

However, this step can be substituted with sitting on the porch rocking, watching the birds in the bird feeder, etc.  Just a minute or two of separation from mental stimuli is all that is necessary.  It is giving the brain, and your emotions a rest.  I actually love to pray for a bit.  It helps me reorient and let go of things beyond my control.

Catching up on Facebook, the news, or TV does not qualify.  Usually listening to music does not qualify either because music is intended to move your emotions and your goal here is to avoid external stimuli that causes strong reactions.   You are looking for inactivity that is calming.

Set Boundaries

Normally you have the opportunity  to transition from work while you commute.  When you are working from home, there is no commute so you need to transition almost instantly.  That means  you need set two kinds of boundaries and communicate them with your family. 

Set Work Day Boundaries

With work being at home, it is too easy to jump back into work and leave your family hanging.  Keep in mind that they likely need your time during this crisis as well.  For me, it was easier to create family hours, then working  hours.  That means that outside of an emergency the family has me from dinner until the children are in bed.  This means I shut off my notifications and don’t check my smart device during that time.  I belong to the family.  My team knows that if they have an emergency, they can call and I am ready to roll.  Short of that, they can email me and I will get back to it after family time is over.

Set Family Boundaries

One of the benefits of working from home is you are able to see your family throughout the day.  One of the challenges of working from home is you are able to see your family throughout the day. 

As you probably discovered by now, it is both a blessing and a challenge to have family this accessible during the work day.

Setting up boundaries will help them know when you need to focus and when your work is interruptible.  For us, it is the office door.  We have a community office.  The entire family shares my office (there are 4 desks in here) and I love it.  However, there are times when I need to give every firing synapse to a difficult problem.  For those moments, the office is emptied and the door is closed.  Everyone in the family knows that means “stay out or you may not survive the encounter.”  Fear not, none of my family members have expired yet.

This technique allows you benefit from both the presence of the family and the distraction free environment you can create at home.

Share the Load

If you have a significant other at home, they may likely be working as well.  In our case, my wife is running our household and a non-profit therapy farm while I sit in my comfortable chair and pluck away at my keyboard.  Sometimes, she needs help, or just needs to be free to get something done herself. 

This is where work chunking is really important.  If you chunk your work, you can transition between chunks to help mind the little one, or the dog, or goldfish, or whatever you may have at your home.  This enables you to plan ahead, coordinate with your work team and be helpful without causing additional stress to yourself and your coworkers.

This will lengthen your work day if you have to take time out to share the load, but this will also enable you to help your household weather the storm as well.

Don’t forget the Chocolate

You need to ensure you indulge a bit in what takes you to your happy place.  The breathing part is about resting.  This is about moving toward happiness.  For me it is chocolate.  So much so, that we have a chocolate lab, and her name is….Hershey.  I also like to build things or dig up weeds (funny, I used to hate that).  Whatever it is, make sure you include it in your routine.  

The point is to pursue happiness that is apart from your work routine.  While my work makes me happy, a person also needs to diversify a bit to stay balanced.

Don’t Forget to Date

While our favorite date places (like Tractor Supply and Home Depot – only partially kidding here) are now off the list, you can still take time to spend with your significant other.  Give the kids a game or a chore and go sit on the front porch and watch the sun set or sit on the back deck and listen to the crickets.  For those still in colder weather, you might escape to another room and just visit about the day.

The important point here is to ensure that you are still making time to spend with your favorite person.  This will fill both of your emotional fuel tanks like nothing else.

Summing Up

You can work from home and do it successfully.  Just like your work communication has likely had to change, so will your other habits.  If you are diligent about the suggestions above, you, your family and your coworkers will thrive, not just survive.

Pure Vanilla

20191014_130707638_iOSWe are often asked what is like in our family.  We have all kinds of funny little phrases that we use to quickly describe it.  My previous favorite was, “A tentless circus with lots of side shows.”  This picture above is my new metaphor.  Going forward, I am just going to show people this picture.

I am sure some of you who are wondering where this is going.  Well, that is exactly the point, so without further delay, allow me to explain.

Beautiful is away right now, helping Princess and her Prince Charming with the birth of their own Princess (to be blognamed after I get to know her a bit better).  That meant, I was on morning tidy up.  After I had worked at for a bit and was feeling pretty good about the general state of the house, I noticed that I had walked by this little gem at least a half dozen times.  Yes, that really is a botte of Pure Vanilla Extract. Normally, a bottle of vanilla extract wouldn’t even warrant notice, never mind becoming my new theme meme.  However, this particular bottle was sitting in our living room right next to the TV.

My thoughts ran something like:

  1. Is that a bottle of extract?
  2. Yep, vanilla extract to be precise.
  3. That will make a really nice icing, but it will yellow a bit. 
  4. Almond extract is a nice choice too.
  5. I wonder who put that in living room.
  6. I wonder what they were making.
  7. How about that,  I didn’t even wonder why that was sitting there.
  8. Yep, this sort of thing is common enough that it did not even phase me.

And there it is:  The very metaphor of plainness – vanilla, in completely the wrong place and this is perfectly normal for us.  When you have special needs children in your family, you learn to expect the unexpected, and you learn that your normal is not like other people’s normal.

You drive through the neighborhood and see the immaculately trimmed bushes and edged yards, and you think, “Good for them!  It must be nice to have that kind of time.”  You see other kids running out to go play after school, while yours is hustled off to speech therapy.  Other parents are posting their kids and their new sports trophy, or a picture from some exotic location while you are just trying to figure out which child has school the next day.  You have to ask your child three different ways if he likes his quesadilla spicy of plain, because you’re not sure if he really understands the question (and he is giving you a different answer every time – turns out after 6 times, he likes them both, but he prefers not spicy).  And you have big children that are still having toileting accidents.  That is our normal.  And we love it.

Ours is a blessed life.  We live  with some of the most amazing people on this planet.  I am privileged to visit with, and enjoy them every  day.  And Beautiful and I have the responsibility of helping them find their way in the world.  My only regret is that most of you will never have the chance to know these amazing people like we do.  They see the world differently and they enjoy deep satisfaction in things we are “too busy” to see.  They are eager to share that world with us every day and it constantly blows my mind.

That is our Vanilla Extract.  It might look like everyone else’s, but ours is sitting in the living room, and we are just fine with that.

One year later…

pink-ribbonIt is hard to believe that is has only been a year.  Both Beautiful and I were amazed when we realized that today is the day.  So much has changed and we have grown in so many ways that it feels like a lifetime ago that this journey began.  We all have milestone events in life like that, some big day that changes everything.  I think every high school graduate feels that way at the time (I did not, but I understand many do).  For me the closest was getting married to Beautiful.  I remember all of the planning and excitement leading up to that special day.  It was a whirlwind, but I still remember it clearly.  Our lives changed completely that day and within no time, I could not remember what life was like without her.  Having children was similarly life transforming.  Our world changed with the arrival of Coco 28 years ago and we have had children in our home ever since.  All of these blessings are easy to recognize and almost everyone understands them as such.  There are Hallmark cards, and songs fill the charts  for every one of those milestones.

This one is different.  There are no Hallmark cards and there was no eager anticipation.  No sparkly eyed speculating about what the future will hold.  This one came down like a hammer.  I remember when I was in Junior High , and it was close to the end of the school year.  Our whole grade was headed to the gym to watch a movie.  I remember running across the gym to get a good seat in the bleachers. I also remember that one moment I was running, happy and carefree and the next thing I remember, I was lying on my back looking up at the ceiling of the darkened gym with my head pounding.  I was nauseous and dizzy.  I remember trying to sit through the movie with a huge welt on my head that was throbbing with each heart beat.  I remember being delirious throughout the movie, not understanding what was happening or how I got there.  To this day, I have no idea what happened.  Obviously I hit my head somehow, but I am still clueless as to how that happened as my last memory I was 20 feet from the bleachers.  That my friends is the closest experience I have ever had to sitting in that room and having the doctor tell us Beautiful had cancer.  We were hurt.  We were delirious.  And we had no idea how we got there.

What follows is not a complaint or whine session, and I hope you understand that we are exceedingly grateful for the Lord’s grace and blessings over the last year.  He has grown us and we are grateful for the opportunity to trust Him all the more.  I write this to give a voice to those that won’t speak and to give you a glimpse into what it is like to live with cancer.

We never ceased trusting our Lord through this process, but I remember Beautiful’s agony in those early days as she struggled to understand all of the implications.  She has always been a strong woman and she has always walked in great faith, but this process has also helped show both of us just how much iron she has in her.  The days of the big questions are behind us, but the reality of cancer continues to live with us every day.  Most days, it is like a third wheel whenever we spend time together.  Sometimes it is like a jealous lover that wraps her up and pushes everyone else away.  On good days, it is quiet and seems almost content.  But it is with us every day.

Beautiful has been through a lot.  Surgery after surgery after surgery.  Chemotherapy and hormone suppression infusions.  Prescriptions so complicated we had to get an App just to keep them all straight.  If we add up all of the days that she was unable to function and just needed to stay in bed it would have been months of time.   Making family decisions was a mess.  Beautiful wanted to participate like she always had, but her reasoning was frequently chaotic and she would come to heartfelt, passionate conclusions that didn’t make any sense.  Then 2 days later, she would feel completely the opposite.  Even  with all of that, I think the thing that bothers her most is not being able to do what she used to for all of our children.  When you go from being the primary care giver, to the primary care receiver, it is a humbling and identity crushing experience.  That is the thing that weighs on her the most.

It has been a growing experience for me as well.  We used to joke that I had 7 children and Beautiful had 8.  Those of you that know us, know that I have never grown up.  I just hide my childishness a little better than I used to.  This year, I had to grow up.  With Princess and Coco “off the payroll” we have 5 children in our home.  With Beautiful’s cancer, for much of the year I had 6 children, a job and a household to try to hold together.  Our plans for quality time and quality of life were completely abandoned for raw survival.  If the kids made it out the door for school with shoes on their feet, then we were good, they didn’t even need to match (yes that happened – more than once).  Eating together was replaced with just making sure everyone ate (no, you cannot have cookies for dinner).  My days were filled with “firefighting” whatever was right in front of me in hopes of ending that crisis before the next began.  When everyone was in bed, it was time to catch up on laundry, bills, dishes, email, whatever I had set aside to get us through the day.  I remember several nights working through a pile of laundry praying to God to give me strength to make it through this next load and because I could not handle one more thing on my plate at the moment.

Of course, not every day was like that.  There were times when we were able to enjoy relaxing as well, reading a book, watching HGTV or playing on the XBOX.  We had many days where life seemed pre-cancer normal again, but those were a little oasis in the seemingly unending desert.  The reality of how our life has changed always returns to remind us, that it is still there, still with us.

These days Beautiful is able to get around, but slowly, and painfully.  Her hair is growing back in (much curlier than before), and she remains in good spirits.  She has also been able to get back to some of the things she did before.  I haven’t done laundry in weeks now and it is great to see her back puttering in the kitchen, baking up something we all love.  We all love what the Lord has wrought through this process.  We are stronger as a family and we have a better appreciation for what matters.  We enjoy little things as the Lord brings them and continue to celebrate everything we can – we do love our cake around here.  God is good.  He has changed our world.  It has been hard, but it has also been a journey I would not change.  Would I ask for it?  No.  But, I still wouldn’t change it.

One year later, cancer is still a reality for us, but God has brought us to this point and we know He will continue to bring us through.

1 Week–1 ?

One

Beautiful’s journey with the harsh Chemotherapy has almost come to end.  We have 1 Week left (then 9 months of much milder chemo – every three weeks).  It also means the theme of this week is ‘1’.  Beautiful decided she wanted to write this week’s post so I will be turning the keyboard over to her after the update.

Chemotherapy builds and each week the effect is progressively more pronounced.  The effects that people feel vary, but her in her case, we have seen some consistent trends.  She is tired, nauseous and she has neuropathy,  all of which have been more pronounced.  Throughout her treatment she usually had a couple of days where she felt like normal (or closer to normal than the others), but not this week.  She has been tired all week.  The neuropathy has also been worse.  Friday she woke up and was unable to move her thumbs.  That improved over the weekend, but we expect it to be a little more severe for this last dose.  Despite her physical ailments, her spirits have remained in a fantastic place.  Once she was able to accept this “curveball” from the Lord, she has embraced it as her journey to better serve.  That spirit has remained and become stronger throughout.  I have been blessed to be here, in the front row, for it all.  We look forward to the end of her treatment, but we also know that our lives will forever be transformed by this path.  We are excited to see where the Lord will take us from here.

Beautiful Takes Over

This post of ONE is dedicated to MY number ONE.  My FIRST husband and my seven children’s Daddy.  First, I have to say up front I am NOT an eloquent writer like my husband, so here you have it.  ALSO a huge disclaimer I HAVE chemo brain and it is a real thing, so read with understanding and patience knowing that I am not fully here (in mind).  Smile Here is an example of chemo brain. . . I was talking with a friend the other day and I was trying to say the name of a horse.  I couldn’t remember the name, so I could only describe him with adjectives.  Fortunately, she does not have chemo brain was able to finally figure out who I was talking about.  Yes, this has been my life for a long time now.  I sometimes feel like I am on a game show trying to figure out the words to complete a puzzle, but I am only trying to say a sentence.  So reader be aware. 

First, I want to give glory to God for giving me such a dedicated husband that has been here for not only me, but our children too.  He has taken on pretty much the household chores and keeping the house running.  It truly has been a journey for him too, and he has done this without complaining, and even joyfully.  I have to admit we have really had a different perspective in life, as to what are the major things and what are things that can slide a little.  It has been so freeing to not have to stress about the little things and REALLY put priorities into perspective.  I have to admit that this journey has been a great time of growing for all of our family, but especially for John and I. 

I look forward to the Tuesday mornings we go off to chemo together.  He gets just as spoiled by the nurses at chemo as I do.  They have all grown to love John too.  I mean who would turn away a warm blanket, sweet or salty treats and drinks offered numerous times throughout the day by the nurses.  OK he has never taken them up on the warm blankets, but you can guess they know his favorite snacks and will go digging to make sure they have his favorites on hand for him each week. 

One of the best things about having a husband that understands is being able to just go lay down and take a nap ANYTIME you need one.  Sometimes it is just for a short time and other times I am out for the day or night.  I used to struggle with needing to do this and needing to take care of my family at the same time but I was always lovingly reminded that MY job is to rest and heal and to listen to my body.  THAT is a husband who loves his wife.  I do love my naps, but I look forward to the day when I am blessed  with the energy I once had to take care of my family.  I DO think it will take some time for all of the energy to come back.  I think I will take it slow to just make sure. Smile   Remember, I DO love my naps.  As we come to a close of this part of our chemo and start on our new chemo journey I want to say THANK YOU to my loving, caring, entertaining and most of all understanding husband.  We could not have made it this far without you.  May God bless you ten fold.

I LOVE YOU JOHN GUYER

2 Weeks–2 Grandchildren

2 Grandchildren

This week’s post Beautiful wanted devoted to two people that bring her incredible joy:  Our grandchildren.  Even on her down days, her spirits and energy can rally to visit with these two little people.  Please allow me to introduce them.

Mini Gogo is the young man on the right.  He is very much like his father was at that age, but he is still very much his own person.  Like his father, he is very bright, curious and loves tech.  He seems to be more active (hence the Mini Gogo name, rather Mini Coco), but it could also be that I have slowed down.  He has his own preferences and he is a beautiful blend of Sweetness and Coco.  It has been a joy to share time with him for his almost 2 years of life.

Cheeky is the young lady on the left and as you can see, there is no question why she is named accordingly.  She is very generous with her smiles and her cheeks get even larger when she does.  It is one of the most heartwarming sights you can experience to see her happy.  As she gets more mobile (rolling over now), her personality is beginning to immerge more.  We are looking forward to many more years together getting to know her better.

While we have always loved Psalm 128, it has even more special meaning now.

4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. 

5 The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!

6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!  Psalm 128:4-5

A Week of Thanksgiving

This week was challenging.  Beautiful’s Neuropathy continued, but it did not worsen.  She will likely experience it for the rest of her Chemotherapy and then during the period where her body recovers.  It is hard to say how long that will be.  Buttons and zippers are tricky but manageable.  Cooking is out.  And opening Soda cans is PAINFUL.  She did well getting the children through the last days of school before Thanksgiving break, but has crashed much of the time since.   “Chemo Brain” seemed to be in full swing and led to some very funny situations.  She had fun with it, which is always a good sign.   Those of the particulars of her days.

Her spirit is an entirely different matter.  It was a great week of Thanksgiving here.  We have so much to be grateful for that I am writing this post with bleary eyes as I hold back the tears.  Our Lord has been so generous that I find it hard to comprehend.  He has enlarged our family again this year with a great godly young man that is everything I prayed for for my Princess.  He added to our numbers with another beautiful grandchild that brings the world so much joy.  He has been healing, encouraging and transforming us through Beautiful’s trial.  And, He continues to show us, each and every day, that His love is real, and efficacious. 

Why Lord?  Why are we so blessed?  How can we possibly repay your kindness?

The simple and somewhat unsettling answer is we do not deserve it and we cannot repay it.  But that is also the beauty in it.  We give Him the glory for what He has done, and respond as He requires:  To live His way, and that includes paying it all forward to those that are hurting and those in need.  Not to earn or repay His kindness, but to honor what He has already done.  We are not saved by our good works.  We are saved for  His good works.

I am excited to see what great things He will bring this new week!

Tomorrow, You’re Only a Day Away!

pink-ribbon

We have always tried to teach our children to plan for the future, but live in the present.  People waste their entire lives thinking about tomorrow and when they wake up, they find it is still another day away.  Lately, we have been in that mode ourselves.  Fortunately, there has been plenty to keep us focused on today so Tomorrow didn’t  seem so BIG.  You know, little stuff, like a wedding, children starting 3 different schools, cabinet making (okay, I only made one – it turned out pretty well, but I don’t have time for more), etc.

Well, our tomorrow will truly arrive when the sun comes up.  It is the day that has loomed large on our calendar for over a month.  It has been talked about, prayed about and planned for.  Tomorrow is the day Beautiful begins treatment.  When we wake up, Beautiful and I will scurry around getting ready, we will wake the kids for school and we will head for the hospital before they are fully awake.  She will get prepped for surgery and after an hour or two, they will get started.  Five hours later, it is supposed to be over.  It all sounds so simple and clinical when you think about it like that.  The reality is that it is far from that.

Thunder asked me the other day, why I thought God allowed Beautiful to get cancer.  Part of his question is a desire to know, but part of it is also a desire for the comfort that everything will be okay.  I explained to him that we may never know the answer while we walk this earth, but we do know that God does.  God knows because He allowed it.  He only allows things into our lives that make us more like Christ. So, I explained that what He allows either tears down the part that is not Christ in us, or it builds up the part that is Christ in us.  The good and the bad are all part of that process.  We don’t understand the how anymore than we understand how prayer changes us, but it does.  So, we are prepared for our tomorrow.

“…what He allows either tears down the part that is not Christ in us, or it builds up the part that is Christ in us.”

Our tomorrow is based on what the doctors think  they know.  They will be the first to admit, that they can’t know more until tomorrow.  That means we will go into surgery with one plan, and we may leave surgery with a completely different plan.  That will depend on what they find tomorrow.  If Beautiful’s tumor turns out to be in the state they believe it is, she only need endure months of recovery and the frustration of not being able to care for her children the way she would like, and the way they are all used to.  It is difficult to Mommy effectively when you can’t raise your hands over your head or pick up more than 5 pounds.  If the tumor is not in the state they believe it is, there will be many more tomorrows of treatment before she can consider herself on the road to recovery. 

One of those Tomorrows will be tough.  Many more tomorrows will be MUCH harder to endure.  So, we go to the Lord Jesus Christ and ask that He provide the Tomorrow that He knows is best for us.  We ask that you will pray with us.  Pray that Beautiful, and our entire family would direct the world to God tomorrow.  Pray that the children will seek comfort in Him tomorrow.  Pray the that doctors will know wisdom and will see God’s design in all that He does tomorrow.  Pray for patience for us, while we wait out what His will is for us tomorrow.  Tomorrow we will find out.  It is good that it is only a day away.   

The Weatherman Missed by a Mile

pink-ribbonWe all know the drill.  You wake up, check the weather and prepare for the day.  It used to be you had to look out the window or if you were more sophisticated, you might have a barometer around to take a check (if you knew how to use it).  Now, we just roll over in bed and check our smart gadget of choice to see what our day will hold.   Even in a place like North Carolina were the weather will be predictably, unpredictable, the weather gurus generally get it in the ballpark.  Once in a while, they miss by a country mile.  We prepare for a picnic at the beach  and it is freezing and wet.

We have had one of those weeks.  Beautiful called me on Thursday and asked me to clear my calendar because the doctor called and asked her to come in for additional tests.  He wouldn’t give us any more information.  That is always, an “Uh oh,” moment.  After arriving, they explained that they noticed some anomalies in her tests and needed more detail to be conclusive.  After the procedure, the physician explained that he suspected there may be cancer and they would need to do more tests to be sure.  That was when the rain really began to fall on our little picnic.  After a long weekend where Beautiful ran through all of the emotions one would humanly expect: fear, hurt, anger, etc., and a very painful biopsy, I continued to pray and support my normally cheerful bride.  It pained me most that this incredible flower seemed to be withering before her time.  That was when the prayers rained down.  Almost like a light switch, she went from anger and fear to peace and joy.  I cannot tell you how much of a blessing it is see that kind of a transformation.  On Wednesday we received the verdict.  Without a doubt it was the “C” word: CANCER.  But my wife wasn’t overwhelmed with tears when they told her.  She was resting in her faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  She cried, but it wasn’t out of fear or anger.  She cried because of God’s faithfulness in friends, family and in really, really good doctors.  You see she understands this for it really is: an opportunity for our Lord Jesus Christ to receive glory and an opportunity for our faith to grow.

She has shared that she is really excited to see what God does through all of this.  It has given her an additional level of boldness to talk about her love and faith in God.  If you have been around us “bible” people very much, you have probably heard someone quote Romans 8:28 when there is a trial.  The funny thing is, that we usually get it wrong.  I have known my bride a long time, and I know where her hope is.  She gets it.  You see that verse is connected to bunch of others.  Here is the frame around 8:28:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:18-19

Paul has a larger discussion about creation and our hope and brings it home with:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29

When you bring these together you see clearly what Paul is NOT saying.  He is not saying that our skies will always be “Sunshine and Lollipops.”  On the contrary, he is telling us that when the rain comes we need to embrace it because it makes us more like Christ. 

She is in for a lot of pain.  Our lives will be very different for at least a few months.  But, we know that there is good in the pain as there is joy in the rain.  We are all going to grow and it will be glorious.  I don’t know how much rain we are going to get and I am sure we will all be sick of it before we see the sun again.  But this much I know, our Lord will never leave us and my bride will be loved through it all.

And so it begins…

20150613_140931471_iOSThis cute little girl is our little Bright Eyes.  She is a miracle in many ways and her life is the inspiration for the next chapter of ours.  That is why I wanted her to do the honors.  You see this little girl has already done something twice, that only a small portion of the population can claim, but it is something we will all do at some point.  She died.  Twice.  She spent five days on life support and had every drop of her blood removed from her body, filtered, and put back in.  For the first four months, she couldn’t cry to tell you she needed something.  For the first three years we had to thicken everything she drank or she would aspirate her liquids.  When she was four, we didn’t know if she would ever be able to attend school.

You would be hard pressed to know that by visiting with her.  To most, she is a curious, energetic girl that is living at a different speed than the rest of us.  She has many nicknames.  Butterfly, Bright Eyes, Purple Tornado, etc.  She is the only girl that I know that needs 4 changes of clothes before she makes it out the door for school (yes that really happened).  We praise God, she is attending school and just completed Kindergarten.  We lived all of her first years with her and we have to remind ourselves now where she came from.

She is a miracle.  A miracle by God, shaped with the hands of skilled physicians and therapists.  She is living proof, what a dauntless heart, with the right treatment can become.  We have watched her grow into a beautiful young lady full of life and curiosity.  We have seen her struggle and overcome with the help of the right therapies.  She is victory embodied.

Our other young ones have similar triumph stories, although not as severe as hers.  They had big obstacles to overcome, and all of them will have to wrestle with those challenges the rest of their lives.  But, they are learning how to overcome, cope and subdue those challenges so they can enjoy life and contribute in positive ways.  That is what therapy can do.

I have a confession.  I wasn’t a fan of therapy initially.  It was inconvenient.  It took a LOT of Beautiful’s time and I was skeptical that it would ever accomplish anything.  It didn’t take long to move me from skeptic to, “How do we get more kids benefitting from therapy?”  And that is exactly the next chapter of our life.

Bright Eyes, and her victory inspired our quest to bring the right therapy to the right children.  That is why she was the one I chose to put the application for our Nonprofit Corporation into the mail.   Our new quest is to start a Therapy Farm to provide just the right therapy for every child.  I pray you will stick around for the next chapter.  I expect it will be even more exciting than the last.

Redistribution of Wealth

IMG_0602

We had a redistribution of wealth here yesterday.  No, this is not a political discussion, but it is a funny little illustration of how early human nature manifests itself.  Let me explain.

It all began when I started handing out the gold.  Pooh Bear was very excited that he was a recipient of the distribution.  He was happy until he noticed that his pile of gold was smaller than mine.  That was when the trouble began.  Poor Bear informed me that he saw a problem with the size of our piles.  He was polite but insistent.  I did not relent because, you see, we were talking about those golden sticks of goodness.  Yes, I am talking about French Fries!  [Editorial note: He was recently introduced to fries with ketchup and that took the goodness up to a completely different level]

I carefully explained that I was bigger and needed a bigger pile.  He was not buying it.  The piles of fries were all that mattered and they were different.  Need had nothing to do with it.  My explanation fell on deaf ears and then the grasping began.  Pooh Bear decided if I was not going to help, he was going to solve the problem for himself.  He promptly hopped up on his knees and grabbed a fistful of fries to add to his pile.  This was getting to be very entertaining so I ran with it.  I decided to make the piles even and see what would happen.

As you guessed, there was much rejoicing in the land as the wealth was now equitably distributed.  Then the eating began in earnest.  My pile quickly diminished and once again we had a have, and a have not.  However, the roles were now reversed.  I pointed this out to Pooh Bear, a normally generous young fellow to see what he would do.  He smiled said, “All done,” and gave me the sign for all done.  It is funny how in these circumstances it looked suspiciously like “Talk to the hand.”  I had a laugh.  I was not going to a beneficiary of another redistribution.  Since I spent my gold, I was all done.  He continued to happily munch for a while, keeping a wary eye on me to make sure I was not going to resort to his solution.  The lad was definitely catching on.  Clearly he has older siblings.

I went back to my day and came back a few minutes later to check on him.  He was all done too.  The really funny thing is that he never even finished his pile of fries.

It is funny how we can absolutely need something when someone else has it, and then find we really didn’t need it at all.  It was a good lesson for both of us.  I clearly didn’t need as much as I initially thought, and in the end, neither did he.  Even after the good natured conflict, we both had more than we needed.  That is the nugget in all of this.  I hope I remember our little lunch for a long time.  It was a timely lesson this close to Christmas.