Sunday, January 20, 2013

One Step Closer To What?

And now, on to the post that I thought I was writing a couple of minutes ago.....unless, of course, God has something else I mind:)

Each day of my sweet girl's treatment for cancer has been marked off of the calendar with gratitude that we survived that day.  That hasn't changed, but over the last month something has changed.  For so long, I have repeated to myself, "We're one step closer.". It's a true statement, but as I have finally begun to see the end of treatment in the not so distant future another question has come.  One step closer to what?  I remember back at the beginning telling people that I just couldn't wrap my brain around 2 1/2 years of treatment.  So we took it one day at a time, one treatment phase at a time.  Now here I sit with only 4 months of treatment left , and I marvel that we have made it to the point that I can see that endpoint at all.  It seemed so far away 2 years ago, but now it's rapidly approaching.

And now the question comes......one step closer to what?  Well, one thing is obvious; one step closer to no more daily chemo.  What most people assume is that that brings with it great excitement and a feeling of conquering the beast we know as cancer.  And there is some of that for sure.  One step closer to being cured.  But the backdrop is what no cancer mom wants to talk about because it is perhaps our biggest fear.......relapse.  Are we one step closer to a cure or one step closer to relapse.......the question, one step closer to what?  The truth is that only time will tell because no one on earth knows the answer to that question.  The truth is that you start this journey with only one thought in mind....cure.  But somewhere along the way your are met with the reality that relapse is a very real possibility.

Now I know what many well meaning people will say at this point.  You must think positive!  Most kids do NOT relapse.  Eighty percent, in fact, never hear the word leukemia again.  I'm a pretty positive person, but I'm also a numbers girl and a realist.  Here's what I would tell you about 80%.......80% means that 1in 5 kids WILL, in fact, relapse.  That doesn't sound quite as good.  I'll also let you know that well less than 1% of kids will ever have cancer in the first place, and I've already been faced with experiencing that 1%.  Which means that facing 20% seems all that more likely to me.

So back to the question that is rattling around my brain.....one step closer to what?  If I'm talking cure or relapse, I honestly don't know the answer.  But this question is way bigger than cancer.  One step closer to.........Jesus or Satan?  Now you might think that is a bit dramatic, but I believe it's always one or the other........harsh but true.  What I've learned is that each steps take has significance here; each choice I make matters.  And then there's the truth that points to peace and makes all the other questions pale in comparison.  THE answer........one step closer to what?........Heaven and the arms of my Savior.  Between here and there will be either cure or relapse, or perhaps both.  But the destination will not change.........each and every step in every one of my days brings me one step closer to Heaven.  Thank you Jesus!

                                                Amy

                                                       Amy

My Excursion

Life is a journey.........most often a journey filled with many ups and downs, twists and turns.  I've begun to think of this life as a trip through this place that is my temporary home.  This trip has many different excursions; you know, those delightful little trips that you take while on a trip to see or experience a little of what the area has to offer.  Some of these excursions last for a day,some for a season, some for years, and others that span my entire lifetime.

For the past two years, I've been on what I thought was a little side trip through pediatric cancer.  Some days the truth of that is still hard to grasp......my precious daughter has cancer.  How is that even possible???  Kids aren't supposed to get cancer, and especially, my kid is not supposed to get cancer.  Pediatric cancer is something that should happen only in the St. Jude Hospital commercial;  it's something that happens to "them", not to "real" people, and certainly not to my daughter!
But then I look no further than my kitchen counter, and I see the evidence of reality in the bottles of chemo pills lined up and the medicine calendar waiting to be checked off.  And I am forced to acknowledge that this is my reality.  And with that present reality comes the realization that, for me, this is no little side trip that will soon come to an end; this is also my future.  This is a part of the world that I will never choose to leave.  This is a little gift.....a place to seek and to share the God I love......not just for this day, but for all the days I have left on my journey through this temporary home.  God has woven a love for these kids and their families into my heart, especially for their moms and their siblings. I don't know what that looks like in the future for me, and just know without a doubt that I won't ever be leaving this part of this world because the love it too deep and too wide to deminish this side of Heaven.

This is not the post that I set out to write this morning, but I guess it was the post that god had for me for this moment.  It's a gentle reminder of His call, met with a whisper from my heart......yes, Lord.
                                                                   
                                                            Amy

Thursday, December 27, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from one of my pastors.  It seems that another member of our congregation had told him that I might be a good person to ask to share a part of my faith story.  To be honest, when I read the email, I quickly clicked away and told myself it was probably intended for C.  But God wouldn't let it go at that.  So about 1am under the influence of codeine laced cough syrup, I sent an email that said yes, I am willing to share.   I had to say yes before my mind had time to think of all the reasons to say no.
 
Then, on December 23, I found myself standing in our sanctuary speaking about how the Prince of Peace has been active in my life in the last two years.  Some intersting things happened in my heart there at that microphone, but those are stories for another day.  For now, here is some semblence of what I shared with my church congregation.  We have 4 different services every Sunday morning; I spoke at each one.  These words are some combination of the things I said at the four services, at least as I remember them. 
 
I am not a gifted public speaker.  I am here because I know the Prince of Peace.  I asked Jesus to be my Savior 32 years ago.
 
Many of you are familiar with my family's story over the last two years, some of you have been a part of our story with your prayers and other gifts, but some of you are not. So I'll start at the beginning. On January 14, 2011 around 11pm I left my house with my 7 year old daughter, D, and headed to the ER. I took a change of clothes for both of us, my cell phone charger, and my Bible. I remember every moment of the drive on the icy roads. We arrived just before midnight. By 12:30, I was standing in the hallway of the ER hearing the doctor say, "You're daughter has leukemia. That's cancer. Are you ok?" My immediate response was, "Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday, and He'll still be the same tomorrow. I should probably call my husband.". I called C. I have no idea what I told him. It really didn't matter; he'd already hit google with her preliminary blood work info and pretty much knew what the diagnosis was going to be. Our entire conversation took less than 30 seconds. Then I started to go back into D's treatment room. The doctor stopped me. She was sure I was suffering from shock. They wanted me to sit, to eat a cracker, to have some juice…..really just to react in what they deemed an appropriate manner.  They took my blood pressure. I had never been so calm in my life. I'm going to let you in on a little secret......as I merged from 575 onto 75 on the way to the hospital, I heard a voice say, "She has leukemia.". You see, God's better than Google; He didn't need any info from the doc to get the diagnosis right. I was not in shock; I was in peace. John 14:26-27 says "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.". This is Jesus speaking; this is His promise. The story I just told you is of me living that promise. 32 years is a long time to hear God's truth over and over. The Holy Spirit was faithful in reminding me of what I knew to be true......Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday, and He'll be the same tomorrow. This truth brought me the peace that Jesus promised.
 
 
The same Bible that went to the ER with me that night stayed with me going home and back to the hospital many times over the next 6 months, but I didn't open it. Not even once. The only scripture that I physically read was that on notes and cards from friends and the many placed around my house by a friend. But the Holy Spirit was very faithful to remind me of all that Jesus said. I didn't read the Bible as I usually would because the Spirit was so very clear. In many ways, I wish that I could go back and stay in that time. God was so very close in a way I had never experienced before.  Cancer has given me more than it can ever take away.
 
 
But time goes on, and I am human. And that closeness diminished. Many of you have experience with cancer, and you know that at times it seems like you have more bad days than good. In one of those times God lead me to the 16th chapter of John and these words from verse 33. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." This is His reminder that He has overcome whatever I will have to face. And in that reminder, He once again offers peace. This is a verse that I still often cling to on most days.  There is nothing I will face today that He hasn’t already overcome, and there is nothing that the doctors can tell me next month that He hasn’t already overcome.
 
 
When I did pick up my Bible again, I went to the Old Testament. That's always my go-to place. I need the unending love and power of God the Father that I read about there. One day I found myself reading in the book of Isaiah. I read these words, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal." (26:3-4). I read and reread these scriptures for days. And I prayed that God would help me to keep my mind steadfast and trust in Him. He had shown me that was the key to real peace. And during this time, while snuggling in her bed watching a movie one afternoon, D looked me in the eye and asked, "Mommy, is leukemia going to kill me?". As much as I wanted to tell her NO!, I didn’t because I had promised that I would never lie to her.  I looked back at her filled with a perfect peace and told her the truth. "It might, but dying here on earth simply means you get to start living in Heaven sooner."  Her response was short, "I guess Heaven's not such a bad option" and she returned to watching the movie. As tears ran down my cheek, I thanked God for His peace, for keeping my mind steadfast and my trust intact, and for being the Rock eternal as Isaiah said.  When your daughter asks if she is going to die, eternity becomes really important.  God is faithful even then.
 
 
I'm far from perfect. I still fall into fearing for myself and for Danielle. But the Spirit is still faithful in reminding me of the promises of Jesus. And Jesus is still in the business of giving peace......yesterday, today, and forever.
 
 
There is great blessing in saying yes.............I'm so glad that I did.
 
                                                                Amy

Saturday, February 11, 2012

God is Bigger Than My Questions

Two days ago I heard some news that maybe really shouldn't have effected me so much...........but it did.  A sweet little two year old that has been through so much in her short life was once again thrown back to the front line in the war for her life.  As I type, doctors--experts in the field--are trying to come up with a plan to wage this fight again.  And so, the questions come...........the big ones.........the ones that I don't have answers to or the answers I do have are just not very satisfying........

Where is God?  Why is this happening to this little girl..........AGAIN?  What is the purpose?  WHY, WHY, WHY????????

God is right here.......I know that.........I feel that..........I believe that with everything in me.  But that in no way takes away the pain.  I can come up with reasons why and give this situation purpose in human terms, but those are shallow at best..........and they do nothing to make me feel better.  And so, I am left with the question, why?  and the answer...I DON'T KNOW!  I'll be honest...........I would really like to know why these things happen.  But God knows that I don't need to know.........heck, I probably wouldn't even understand if He spelled it out for me.  He promises that all things work together for the good of those who love Him.............He does not promise that all things work together to make Amy feel like it is good for her or so that Amy can clearly see that it is good.

And then just to up the trust meter a little bit, the following story broke nationwide yesterday..........http://abcnews.go.com/Health/CancerPreventionAndTreatment/critical-shortage-childrens-leukemia-drug/story?id=15557922  A drug that every expert in the country says that my baby girl needs to kick leukemia's butt may not be available when she needs it.  That terrifies me and makes me more than a little bit angry!  They value a HUGE profit more than they value life........life with what most of us would consider a nice enough profit anyway.  It's frustrating!  But like I said on our caring bridge site........God can heal my girl with or without methotrexate........I know that; I believe that..........................now I must choose to LIVE that.

God never promised an easy life here (in fact, pretty much the opposite), but He did promise never to leave me.  I am thankful.

And on a side note, if any of you want to 'key' to our caringbridge site, please leave a comment here, and I'll think about letting you in ;)

                                                                                       Amy

Monday, January 23, 2012

Feeling Deeply

The last 10 days have been hard for me emotionally.  And for the last 10 days I have been doing my best to keep moving through the pain.  But today, I just really felt lead to slow down and even stop and to just feel it all........feel it deeply..........and hopefully to let it go.  Over the last week I have said "see you on the other side" to 11 kids ranging in age from 2-13.........way too young to pass.  I hate what cancer does to our children!!!!  In addition to that, several that are in the midst of the fight have recieved not so good news........and that hurts too.  I don't know, it just seems like for every one bit of good news, there have been 4 or 5 bits of bad news.  Most of these friends are of the online variety with just a few 'real life' ones thrown in.  I have been advised to 'step away from the computer' by some who I know just want things to be easier for me.  But there is a firmer, more consistent voice in my heart that says that this is where He is sending me..........to feel their hurt and share their burdens.  I may 'only get to type on a keyboard' but it is what I am called to do.  Their names are on my heart in constant prayer..........they feel much closer to me than most of the the people I actually see in person.  We are sharing real life..........more real than we wanted to know about.  We also share the ups in our lives right in the midst of the downs. 

So, I'm not going to change in how I share my heart, but I am going to change in the way I deal with it.  No more charging through the pain........I'm going to pause, to feel, to feel deeply..........and then let it go.  I am going to celebrate our good news as if it were my own.  I am blessed to share real life with these cyber friends and the in person friends God has brought my way.

I am going to enjoy each moment with my own three and make the most of the time that I get to have my hubby.  Living life and saying yes with each breath...........saying yes to the moment whatever it may hold.  Give your kids a hug and say a prayer for those that would give anything in the world just to hug their babies one more time.

                                                                               
                               Amy

Thursday, January 5, 2012

God Is In the Details

(If you are a reader of our Caring Bridge site, this is also posted there.)

I wonder why I'm still amazed when God speaks so clearly to my heart. Nothing magic has happened since I last posted---cancer's crappiness has not vanished. But God is ever present with His love and grace. He is faithful when I am not.

I am a member if a Wednesday night Bible study group. This week, our reading was from the latter part of Isaiah. I can't even begin to count the times the words of Isaiah have echoed in my heart since January. God reveals Himself in so many ways in Isaiah. He proclaims that He is my redeemer over and over; He let's me know that "his understanding no one can fathom" (good thing since I don't even come close to understanding most things), He let's me know He has called me by name, He tells me I am "precious and honored in his sight", He tells me to stop and wait, He tells me more than once, "Do not be afraid", He says, "I will rescue you", and He reminds me that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine. So it's no wonder that over the last several months Isaiah's words have been a comfort to me.

I've known from the beginning if this journey that not one moment of this has taken Him by surprise. I've read the book of Isaiah many times, but as I was rereading today in preparation for our discussion tonight something new caught my attention. I didn't count how many times--I just know it was a lot---that God states some form of 'do not be afraid', 'I am your redeemer', or 'I will rescue you.' All of these have brought me comfort. But what really stood out to me today was that I wouldn't have to be afraid if there was nothing to fear, I wouldn't need a redeemer if redemption was unnecessary, I wouldn't need to be rescued if there was no peril. God knew exactly where I would be at this moment in time and He was already here before I got here. He's got this.........and even better, He knows exactly what 'this' is. Nothing about me or my life or my tangled emotions surprises Him. God knows what each second will bring; He's got it all covered. In John, He let's me know again that life is not always easy ---"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." don't miss the verb tense here......I WILL have trouble, but He HAS ALREADY OVERCOME before I even get there.

Tonight while our group was discussing certain portions of the scripture reading, I discovered something else. In a passage that I've read many times and at least twice in the last week, I found the words of the prayer that I've been praying for the last couple of months. I didn't notice it when reading before class. It's not word for word, you know, because my brain really doesn't tend to speak in the eloquence of the Bible. Just another confirmation from God. You might call it a coincidence, but I think not!

My entire life on earth, much less the past year, wouldn't even be big enough for a blip in a picture of eternity, but God is lovingly in the smallest details of my existence here. I'm probably making no sense to you; oh well.

As if that wasn't enough for one day, it didn't stop there. God has chosen to bless me this year through a very special person in our church family. This person's words have penetrated my heart in a way that I know without a shadow of doubt that they are from the mouth of God. On several occasions this person has been the very arms of God. This person's hugs come straight from the Throne. Tonight was no different. A hug and a whisper in my heart---'Amy, you are not alone. I am here.'

And then when I got home, I received a phone call from a long distance friend. She hadn't read my last entry. She just called because she felt lead to. She talked, she listened, she cried with me, and she gave some very practical insights.

And so my day ended in the company of some of the people who would learn how to repel and join me if I fall off the emotional cliff I'm living on these days. I am blessed.

                                                                                   Much love,
                                                                                        
                                                                    Amy

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:46

I'll just go ahead and state up front that if I had been able to look into the future and see what 2011 was going to hold for me, I would have been  pleading with God, "No, no, no!!!!!!"  There would have been no, "Yes, Lord" from me.  That's just one of the many reasons that I am glad that I can't see all that God sees.  What I do know without a doubt is that God was not surprised by anything that happened in 2011!

When I look back on my journals from 2011, it often feels like I am reading about someone else's life.  Yet, so much of it seems like it just happened a few minutes ago as well.  I'm putting pictures of Miss D from throughout the year in this blog of remembering.  It's not that I have forgotten that I have two other children; it just that for me (and this is my blog after all) I see 2011 reflected in her eyes.....sometimes with great happiness,  sometimes with great pain, but always with a smile that is only the result of the joy of the Lord.  Miss D has taught me over and over this year exactly how to say, "Yes, Lord."
December 2010.....1 month before life changed forever.

This first picture was taken in December of 2010...........back when our schedule was full of all sorts of 'good' things.  I was a master of saying , "Yes".

Just 4 days before diagnosis.
Then we have the picture from just a few short days before cancer entered our worlds.  I remember loving those days because we had a ton of snow on the ground (for the Southeast at least), the world was pretty quiet, and I was 'forced' to stay home and enjoy being with my kids.  We decided to build an igloo.......Miss D really just wanted to stay in and sit on the couch.  I wouldn't let her.   How could I have know that a beast was quickly invading her body and trying to snuff our her life?  I've scoured the pictures for any signs that I missed; I've asked friends who saw us during these days if they suspected anything; I've cried more than a few tears.  But God in His loving care, has shown me that He was all too aware and had every moment covered with His Hand.

Then my perfect little world, with my happy little family and my filled to the brim schedule shattered at the moment the words were uttered........."Your daughter has a blood cancer called leukemia.  I've called the pediatric oncologist, and he is on his way."  This is what I wrote about it at the time......
Then she stood there looking at me; I can only imagine the emotions running across my face. My world was shaken to its very foundation. I remember her asking if I was okay. My response came from deep within my soul…….”God is still the same God today that He was yesterday, and He’ll still be the same tomorrow. I need to call my husband and get back to my little girl.” I know she thought I was losing it, but I wasn’t. I had just found rock bottom and knew that it was solid ground.
4 days post diagnosis
Do you know what happens when your life is altered so?  Everything, and I mean everything, suddenly finds its proper place on the priorty list.  This is the gift that cancer gave me from the very beginning.  My schedule was very suddenly cleared of everything that didn't truly matter.  Yes, Lord.  Your schedule is by far superior to mine!

February 2011
I remember this day like it was yesterday.  It was Valentine's Day.  It was a clinic day for D.  She had 4 chemos injected into her body that morning.  Then we came home to the most glorious day.  She and I sat outside on the porch swing and talked about Heaven.  We took tons of pictures of each other and together.

March 2011
 The days, the weeks, and the months passed by........sometimes fast, but more often they were slow.

April 2011
May 2011
These moments taught me a lot about living and loving.  I sadly said goodbye to some friendships that couldn't handle this disease and what it brought to our lives.  But I also discovered some very sweet friendships of the eternal variety.  The friends that God sends to walk through the valley with you are the best.  Some of them I knew on the mountain top before, and some of them I met in the valley with me.  They are all precious........they are the gifts that God brought to me in this time and this place to have for eternity.

June 2011
The summer brought scheduled hosptial time.......which God so graciously took and made special time with each of my children.  My boys took turns staying with D and I in the hospital.  Our family relationships were completely changed and enriched by the experience.

July 2011
August 2011 Happy birthdday sweet girl!
Miss D and Mr. M also had birthdays in the summer.  It was a sweet time of celebrating life.  It was also one of the hardest days for me emotionally.  God and I had several heart wrenching conversations during those weeks.

September 2011
October 2011
Fall arrived with it's own blessings for our family.  New experiences, one on one travels, and so much more.  This time also allowed us to begin to add things back into our lives.......fun things like sports, clubs, and classes.  Only this time, they were each added with perspective and placed appropriately on the priority list.

November 2011
December 2011
We finished out our year celebrating life.......Jesus's birthday and the gift of eternity with Him.  As you can see, we enjoyed a few gifts.  But the greatest gift of all was being able to spend the day loving and living with all of our family together.  Even in all the hub-bub of the season, we didn't lose site of the things that really matter.

I began 2011 living in what I thought was the Light.......turns out in was definitely in the shadows.......only to be plunged into the darkness where I really found the Light.  I will remember 2011 as the year that I really started to learn what it would mean to say, "Yes, Lord".  God is good all the time...........in fact, He's so much more than good.  Sometimes you have to go into the dark to truly appreciate the light.  I will tell you that in my darkest moments, the Light shone more brilliantly than I had ever seen.  This year is one that taught me to let go of a lot of things....some bad things, but more good things.  Saying "Yes, Lord" will always mean saying "No." to something else.  I wouldn't trade this year of letting go of the world and clinging ever more closely to God for anything.

Now go ahead and look back through these pictures.  Cancer takes so much from the patient and their families.  But look again, can you see what cancer can never touch?  Cancer can't even get close to snuffing out Life...........He lives and loves and brings joy.  Now I know from experience, that no matter what the road the God leads me to, no matter the pain involved........I can say "Yes, Lord" with joy in my heart and anticipation of His blessings along the way.  Thank you Lord!

I'll close with my facebook status from tonight.....
If I took a snap shot of my 2011, I would probably just want to burn it. But that would be a real shame!!! In all the ways that really matter, 2011 really was one of the best years of my life........I've loved more deeply, lived more intentionally, and discovered just how peaceful it is to be held in the arms of the Almighty God. Tonight I reflect with a heart full of gratitude.
Happy New Year blog world!  May 2012 be a year of drawing closer to God with every 'Yes'.


                                                                                         
                                                          Amy