Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I can't believe I haven't posted an entry for an entire week. So much has happened in such a short amount of time. Nick's surgery to remove his fourth brain tumor and fifth cancerous mass went exceptionally well! Just 48 hours ago Nick was in ICU, and tonight we are in our living room doing our normal little routine! I am just amazed!
It is nights like these when I look around my living room, and I simply count my blessings. I am thankful for a snoring husband who is cuddled under a blanket with me....he has juggled so many different responsibilities for our family and yet never complains. I am thankful for my mom who drops everything in her life to be here for us every time Nick faces medical attention. She is such a blessing! I am thankful for Todd, our 14-year old son, who has grown up so much in the past few years. Living with a brother who is battling cancer hasn't always been easy for Todd, but he has blossomed in the high school choir and band, and I am so thankful. I am thankful for heat! It is well-below 20 degrees tonight outside and yet I feel warm here in our house. I pray for those who are cold tonight and pray that God will give me an opportunity to help them somehow. I am thankful for friends. As I check my email, I am reminded of so many wonderful friends who pray for our family and who are a phone call away if I need them. More than anything, I am thankful for a Heavenly Father who not only created us but also loves us more than we could ever imagine!
Life has not always been easy, but the Bible tells us that God's ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. I must cling to the truth that He has a perfect plan and that He promises to bring good from every situation. He also promises to never give me more than I can bear.
With all of these thoughts whirling around in my mind, I know that I will sleep peacefully.
If you are having a tough time in life right now, try counting your blessings and reminding yourself of some of God's promises that speak directly to your situation! If you need help finding verses to help you, please send me a note. I will search the Scripture until I find a word from God for you. I promise that He has at least one! I love you all! God bless you and thank you for praying for Nick!!!!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Yesterday we found out that once again Nick's cancer is back. Like a bad dream that returns night after night, I face the coming days with the reality that on Monday I will be sitting in Columbus Children's Hospital waiting for Nick's fifth surgery to end.
In my mind I know God promises to never leave me or forsake me. I know that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I know that His love endures forever. I know that His mercies are new every morning.
But in my heart, I am a mommy. I see my Nick looking in the mirror at his finally-grown out hair with such excitement, yet I know that on Monday it will once again be gone. I see my Nick playing a video game today, yet I know that on Tuesday his eyes will be bruised and swollen shut. I see my Nick eating whatever his heart desires tonight, yet I know that next week we will be helping him hold a cup to his mouth and balancing his straw for him.
So how do I balance these two parts of my life in a way that allows me to fight the fear within me? It isn't easy. I am struggling tonight. I can't lie. I could pretend that I am super-woman, but what would I gain from such an act?
Tonight all I can do to balance my mind and heart is to remind myself that the Bible says, "When I am afraid, I will trust in You, in God, whose word I praise. In God I trust, I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" (Ps. 56:3,4)
From this verse, I know several things. First, it is okay to be afraid. It doesn't say, "if I am afraid" it says, "when." I also know that the truths that my mind knows about God are all I need to know and to trust in right now. God is my Father, my Provider, my Protector, my Comforter, my Guide, my Counselor, my King, my Lord, my Savior............I do praise His word! Also, the Bible never lets me down. The Bible brings hope and peace. I am so thankful for God's Word! And finally, no matter what I face here on earth, NOTHING is too big for God! What can mortal man do to me? Nothing! God is on His throne, high and exalted. He holds the future in His hands.
So, tonight, as I prepare for a peaceful night of sleep, I must give all my worries and anxieties to Him who is prepared to hold it. Once I give it all to Him, I must not take it back. That's the hard part, but it is the only way for me to gain courage and peace.
Nick's favorite verse has always been, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord our God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
Thank you, Father, for being with me through this difficult time. I love you, Lord. I place Nick in your Your hands, Lord. I trust You with Him. Heal him, Lord. In Your Son's Name I Pray, Amen
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
An Email Journal Entry
Dear Prayer Warriors,
Wow.....sometimes I feel so unsure of what I am about to say and yet so certain that I an suppose to write to you all and share an update on Nick and our life. I have so many things on my mind, so I will just begin spilling them out.
First, we were thrilled to hear that Evan (a little boy battling the same type of cancer as Nick) had a clear MRI on Friday! Praise the Lord!
Second, we were excited to hear that Jenna (a little girl battling leukemia) is doing well and has completed her treatments!
Third, we received a very special gift and a very mysterious gift last week in the mail. The mysterious gift was a card with a monetary gift but no return address or signature. We want to send a very special “thank you” to whoever it was that blessed us last week. It was such a God-moment, because I had taken Nick to the health store earlier that day and had spent a large amount of money on herbs that Nick needed. I couldn't believe it when I got the mail and there was this unexpected and beautiful card that I knew God had orchestrated to arrive on that very day when I was feeling unsure about finances. God is so good. The special gift was an American flag that was sent to Nick by Mike and Tammy Frye. Mike has been serving in Iraq, and he had a flag that was flown in Iraq in honor of Nick last fall on November 5 (November 4th in America, because Iraq is a day ahead of us!!!!! God again worked the four in there for me!!!) mailed to us! The certificate that accompanied the flag said that Nick was being honored for “leading by example.” It was very touching! I couldn't help but think that just as America is in a battle, Nick is in a battle. Nick was so proud of the flag and certificate. He said, “I want to frame them both.” I will add photos to Nick's site soon. Thanks, Mike and Tammy!
Fourth, Nick and I were able to travel to Columbus today with Trish and Macy Brammell and Donnette Bondurant for a visit to Dr. Kosnik that wasn't for Nick. Macy is a precious little girl from Grayson who is only 1 ½ years old but has already been through more than most people go through in a lifetime. She has had open heart surgery as well as stomach surgery on top of many other things. Right before Christmas, Macy had an MRI of her brain that seemed to show a cyst growing in her brain. Through a chain of events, Macy was referred to Nick's brain surgeon....our very special Dr. Kosnik. It was so special for Nick to be a part of this trip. He sat by Macy in the back seat and would periodically rub her little leg or pat her fingers or just talk to her. It was precious. You could just feel Nick's empathy for Macy. When we arrived, Nick led the way to the elevator and to the hall leading to Kosnik's office. While in the waiting room, Dr. Kosnik walked by to cross over to their other office. As he went back by, Nick waved. Dr. Kosnik smiled, and I said “We're not here for Nick. We brought a friend.” As we waited back in the room, I know Trish was full of anxiety but she handled the day with grace and beauty. Dr. Kosnik opened the door and simply said, “Why are you here?” Trish gave a little background on Macy, and then Dr. Kosnik, in his simple, professional voice said, “There's no cyst.” Trish began to cry as he explained, and I took Macy as we went out in the hall to look at the MRI results. I held Macy in one arm and rubbed Dr. Kosnik's back with the other as he pointed to various places in Macy's brain and made everything make sense! Trish was overwhelmed with emotion, and we all cried tears of joy! Nick was grinning ear to ear! As we were leaving the office, Dr. Kosnik told Nick, “You look good.” As Nick walked out, he said, “See you next Tuesday.” It was so surreal and yet so wonderful at the same time to see Nick so accepting of his lot in life! It was so great to hear wonderful news for little Macy too!!!!! Tonight, Nick said, “I'm glad I went.” I think it was very good for him to see the hospital as a support person and not a patient for once. I can definitely see in Nick a very special gift of compassion. It was a very special day for all of us. It was so special to me that as we left the office and I was so happy for Trish, I couldn't help but think, “Oh, Lord, please let us celebrate just like this next week!” In just a few minutes, Donnette's daughter called from Illinois to say that she had just had an ultrasound and the baby had her thumbs up!!!! They took a picture and they are emailing it to us! I will add it to Nick's site as soon as I get it! Then right after that, we walked into Cracker Barrel and the first thing I read was a plaque that said, “I Believe in Miracles.” On the way home, we stopped at McDonalds. I got a coffee, Donnette wanted a diet coke, and Nick wanted a hot chocolate. At first he ordered a medium and then decided to change it to a large. We were going to get food but decided not to. With all of our changes in orders, I couldn't believe it when the girl said I owed her $4.44!!!!!!!!! I love God so much! He spoke today through Dr. Kosnik, an ultrasound, a plaque, and a receipt at McDonalds! It was so amazing and yet so God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Finally, our two big “next steps” with Nick are coming up. Tomorrow at 3:30 we have the conference call with Dr. Wallace in Utah. I don't really know what to expect and I need to spend time tomorrow going through our huge notebook from her in order to line out our questions. Next Tuesday at 8:30 in the morning is Nick's follow-up MRI where they will look at the pocket of blood to see what is going on in Nick's brain. We are praying that the spot is GONE!
I guess I need to get to bed. It is midnight and I have to take Olivia to school early to get her math book! She forgot it Monday and has homework that is due tomorrow! (They had a snow day today!) Thank you, Roxie, for keeping Olivia while we were out of town.
I love you all so much. I am reading a book right now that was recommended by Robin Stanley, a friend from college. It is called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. It is so good! It is about Benaiah, a man in II Samuel 23 who chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed it. Robin said that she thought Nick was a lion chaser just like Benaiah and that cancer was his lion. She said that just like Benaiah, Nick would become famous because of his courage and would be noticed by even the likes of someone like King David and that he would become the protector of those who protect. Read this passage in II Samuel 23 sometime. I had never heard of Benaiah. It was so neat, because the day Robin shared this story with me was the day of Nick's last MRI, and Nick had just walked out the back door into a snowy yard with snow falling down. He was literally chasing his lion on a snowy day! I was so inspired by the story! It gave me strength for that particular day! Let me know of any good books you are reading! I love new books!
Erich and Evan have moved back into their dorms. We are back to just 3 kids, and it is weird. Todd's band is competing in something this spring where he has a solo on the baritone. Olivia stays busy with basketball. Nick is really into reading Hardy Boys books. He read an entire one today! He reads at least 3 a week! Tim is so busy with the college, the church, and now tax season. I am spending some time writing and digging into the Bible, and I need to be spending more time experimenting in the kitchen with new meals. The kids are getting very tired of chicken.
Have a wonderful day and remember that no matter what you are going through, God is there with you every step of the way!
Clinging to Him and oh, so thankful!Tammy
Thursday, January 10, 2008
It's Just a Little "C"
I wasn't expecting Olivia to bring home her report card today. Even more than that, I wasn't expecting her to have a "C." Not that I think she should have all As and Bs, but I guess I just assumed she would make the honor roll as easily as her brothers did. As disappointed as I felt inside, I did crack up when the words that came out of her mouth as she handed me her report card were, "It's just a little "C," like they come in different sizes or even upper and lower case. I tried not to laugh, because I knew she was embarrassed.
Here's the truth. I don't want to measure Olivia by her grades. I don't know all of the factors that played into this outcome. Did she have a lot of subs? Was she sick on the day of a test? Did Nick's illness cause her to worry while at school? Is she staying up too late and getting sleepy during class? These are questions I may never know the answer to. So measuring Olivia by a single grade on a report card seems a little unfair. On the other hand, I do want to measure Olivia by her level of effort. Does she do her homework? Does she study for tests? Does she have a good attitude during class? Is she respectful of her teacher and classmates? These are the things that matter to me as a mom.
I remember having a student who was often a behavior problem. We never heard from his mom when we tried to call with concerns. Then report cards went home, and he had a B. His mother was livid. The boy cried in fear of his mom before leaving school. She said "Bs" were not acceptable.
As I look back on this emotional day as a teacher, I can't help but look at Olivia's face and see her heart. Yes, she received a C. I think she can do much better next time. However, instead of focusing on the past grades, my husband and I have decided to focus on the future. I met with Olivia's teacher. We have a plan for receiving news of any concerns from her teacher. We are moving her homework station to her bedroom where it is quiet. Olivia knows that she needs to get serious about school. She knows there is a team of people cheering her on and that we are going to hold her accountable.
Shouldn't church be like this? When we see someone mess up, why don't we help them instead of judge them. Why do we get angry? Why do we look at the past?
This "little C" from Olivia has reminded me of the big "Cs" we need to have at church for our Christian brothers and sisters: compassion, care, concern, commitment. As we help Olivia succeed in school, I want to make a committed effort to helping my friends at church succeed in living for Christ.
Thank you, God, for speaking through little Cs!!!!
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
The Power of the American Flag
Yesterday I received a very special email from an alumnus of the university where my husband teaches . In the email I learned that this former student and her husband (a member of the US army) were mailing my son an American flag that had been flying in Iraq while he served there.
Tears came into my eyes as I imagined the war-ravaged country of Iraq. As bombs explode unexpectedly and buildings fall daily, this land gives every appearance of being forgotten, forlorn, and in many ways finished. Yet the thought of the American flag peacefully flying amidst the chaos and confusion somehow brought me an inner peace at that moment in time. I never really thought about an American flag flying in Iraq.
"From sea to shining sea" swells in my heart as I reread the email from this couple. For some reason, God has blessed America in so many ways in her short history. I pray for our country. I pray that the leaders will look back at the history of our nation and remember WHY it was created and on WHO it was formed.
Then I think of my son Nick who will be receiving this special flag. Nick is in his own kind of battle. A battle against cancer. And just like the American flag flies in Iraq, the Holy Spirit abides in Nick as a daily source of strength and hope.
I am so excited about holding this flag when it arrives at our home. I want to display it for the world to see, because just as I am thankful to be an American I am even more thankful to be a Christian. Earthly nations come and go, but Christ is eternal. I want Nick to see this flag as a symbol of hope! The battle he is fighting, he is not fighting alone.
Thank you, Lord, for unexpected gifts of unexpected kinds that remind me that You are working to encourage us and keep us going! Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Holy Spirit who abides in Your children! May we feel Your peace as we rest in Your arms! And may we always display our hope in You just as the soldiers display their hope in our country's freedom!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Olivia is turning 10!!!!
There's something about my youngest child moving into the double digits that almost seems surreal. It's definitely a moment in time when I realize that life is slipping by very quickly! Tonight I kept squeezing Olivia and saying, "This is my last night to have a little girl who is only 9!" I still remember when Erich (my oldest) turned 10. I felt like he was so old. Now he's 20! Wow. Who's old now?! I guess it's me! :)
All of these thoughts remind me of the Scripture that says, "life is but vapor."
If a vapor is all I am promised, I sure want to savor every moment of it. Soaking up our vapor..........that is God's dream for all of us. I want to teach my kids to soak up their vapors too. Live fully each day. Be thankful. Cherish the little things.
So as I settle into bed tonight knowing that I will awaken with a 10-year old little girl in my house, I can't help but smile and say "thank you, Lord" for another day of life. I want to make Olivia's day tomorrow so special for her! I want her to know that life may be a vapor but it is also a gift! I want her to feel God's "presence" as she opens her "presents!"
Thursday, January 3, 2008
God's Motives are Always Good
When Joseph finally had the chance to talk to his brothers face to face after being thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, and then imprisoned by Pharoah, he looked them in the eye and said, “… You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result …” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
I want to look at life like Joseph did. I want to take unkind words from others and see them as teachable moments from God. I want to take bad decisions that I make or my children make and see them as opportunities to learn more about God's grace. I want to take bad news and see the potential in it for bringing glory to God.
Do you have someone or something in your life that appears to be bent on bringing you down? Do you feel that your life seems to take one bad turn after another? If Joseph could sit down and have a cup of coffee with you, do you know what he would say? I do! He would tell you that what seems like evil against you now is actually going to be used by God to bring about a good result in the future!
Paul affirms this teaching when he tells us to "press on toward the prize." If you have ever watched or ran in a long marathon, you know that the people running are not skipping and smiling as they near the finish line. Their faces are often grimaced in pain. Their muscles are twitching in pure agony. Finding a deep breath is often difficult. However, they press on knowing that the finish line is worth the race. This life is tough. We will all face challenges that seem bigger than we can bear. However, God promises in I Corinthians 13 to never give us more than we can handle. He is constantly working in us and through us to bring glory to His name.
I have had to learn through the years to let go of the past and to know that God meant it for good. I have had to learn that some people will never be nice, but God can teach me through their unkindness about how I can be nicer. I have had to learn that my children will make mistakes, and that I must extend grace to them just as God daily extends grace to me. I have learned that no matter how close I feel to God, I still disappoint Him many times with my actions or my words. In these moments, I am trying to learn that God is teaching me that to become like His Son is a 24/7 work. I cannot expect to become like Christ only by attending church or even by praying and reading the Bible once a day. Christianity is a 24/7 life journey.
Like Joseph, I want to see God's Hand in every minute of my life. As 2008 gets underway, I commit to having a "Joseph-perspective" on this world. I am excited to see all the good God has planned!
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER!!
As my son entered the house this evening from working New Year's Day at the movie theater, he said, “Whew, that was the toughest day of work......ever.” He went on to tell us about how the theater had begun running low on some of their supplies and this one man in particular had gotten really angry and rude when he found out there were no more Milk Duds or Gummie Bears. This same man actually demanded to see the manager! As I listened to this story, I found it hard to believe that in the scheme of life anyone could ever become so upset because of something so trivial. My mind drifted to other aspects of life when people don't get what they want (death of a loved one, unexpected illness, loss of a job). I realized that so many times in these situations the first reaction for many people is to blame God. Anger and disappointment cause people to want to lash out and blame someone else or at least file a complaint, as if that will make things better. It is so much like saying, “I want to see the manager!” On the other hand, when life goes smoothly or when Milk Duds are in stock, do these same people take time to thank God or tell the manager what a great job he is doing? Not usually.
I am determined to live this year saying “thank you” to God for all of the little blessings! I am also going to make an effort to notice and show my thanks to those around me who may normally never receive a “thank you” for the job they perform.