Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Faithfulness of our Lord...and other thoughts.

As I've thought for the past few days of how to start this post, I haven't been able to clearly pin point exactly what my heart wanted to say.  There is so much.  I am overwhelmed by grace once again.

I suppose I should start with a health update for those of you who are waiting with baited breath to hear how it all went.

Surgery went extremely well!  I was released from the hospital a few days early.  My earliest release was Monday, April 28, but they were expecting Wednesday, April 30.  I came home Sunday night, April 27.  

The pathology reports came back within 48 hours of the surgery.  Talk about the longest 48 hours in the history of ever.  If one lymph node was malignant, my survival rate was 50%.  If two held cancer cells, my survival rate was 22%.  I would have about a year to live.  

All Lymp Nodes were clear!  All of them!  Praise the Lord!  

But wait!  There's more!  The pathologists also dissected and scanned the bladder.  Where once I had a tumor that took 3/4 of my bladder, held aggressive, high grade cancer, now there is no trace.  No trace!  This is the miracle we've been praying for!  God is faithful!

Many ask the question, why did we still have the surgery?  Bladder cancer is highly aggressive.  It has a very high re-occurance rate, but it also tends to jump from organ to lymph system, to other organs.  It morphs and before you know it, it takes over everything. If we hadn't had the surgery there was a 75% chance it would have come back - within the first year.  But there was no guarantee it would come back in the bladder.  It could have come back inoperable - as brain cancer, or bone cancer, or liver cancer.... This is HUGE!

Like I said before, God's great healing process and this surgery together are my miracle.  My survival rate now stands at 95-98%.  My surgeon says I have a very long life ahead of me!

That's the report of it all.  I still have catheters and tubes coming every which way.  I have a weak leg and a limp from a bit of nerve damage during surgery, but that will eventually heal.  I'm still tired and I still prefer soft foods to real food...but I'm home and I'm happy to announce that I am CANCER FREE!  God is good!

I have been thinking a lot this morning of how long - and how short this journey has been.  It all started six months ago, November 7.  And here we are, nearly six months later, and I've already conquered chemotherapy, I've already had my surgery, and I'm already home recuperating.  It seems like a lifetime ago, and yet, it seems like only yesterday.

As I contemplate my journey, here are some thoughts...

Psalm 23:
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

From the very first day of this blessed journey he assigned to me, The Lord has been my faithful shepherd.  I have never been in want for anything.  He has supplied all of our daily needs, medical needs, and pastoral needs.  

"He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters."

There was so much to take in and understand in the beginning.  So much information, so many decisions, so many choices... But it was as if He had already orchestrated them all for us, ahead of us.  So that all we had to do was rest and be still before Him.

"He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake.

From the very beginning I felt Him begin to restore my soul - even in the middle of the daily grind, the treatments, the fatigue, the nausea.  My body was unwell, but my soul was being restored.  I also believe that he allowed me to walk this path because I determined to give him every glory.  The passage says he leads us in paths of righteousness - not for our own sake, but for his name's sake.  For his own glory.  I pray my responses have pointed others to Christ and have given God all the glory.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

There were many days when I honestly didn't know what the outcome would be.  I read statistic reports, I studied every aspect of bladder cancer, I researched and read... and I prayed.  And even though it appeared as if I were in the literal valley of the shadow of death, I was not afraid.  The Lord was always there for comfort me, often times comforting through scripture, but also through random friends' text messages, emails, cards, letters, phone calls...hugs.

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over."

I can't say that I have any enemies.  There are a few that question my faith, but that's ok.  The Lord has overcome, and my cup runneth over!

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

I now understand how important it is to be a supporting voice, to give an encouraging word, to speak goodness to someone who is going through dark and troubled times.  For me, that's what this last verse means.  I've been given goodness and mercy and I want to spread it.  I want goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life as I dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  I want to share the grace that's been given to me with anyone and everyone I meet or know that needs it.

I believe I've been on a very blessed journey.  The cancer itself was a terrible thing, but it became my greatest blessing - in fact, the biggest blessing of my life.  Simply because it taught me grace, it taught me patience, it taught me hope, it taught me faith, it taught me mercy.  It grew my character.  It developed my fruit.  It opened my eyes to the unimportant and it cleared my heart of years and years of nasty debris.

If God had to use a horrible thing like cancer to heal my broken and wounded soul, I say bless it!  I am thankful for every tear I had to cry.  I am thankful for every sleepless night.  I am thankful for every uncertain day.

God has proven himself faithful to me once again.  He is good and His love endures forever!

Only By His Grace,


Sunday, April 20, 2014

You steady my heart...

From the very beginning of this journey I have had an overwhelming, exceedingly abundant peace.  I have believed that God was sovereign over all areas of my life - including this one.  I have believed that if he allowed this to touch my life, he had a divine purpose.  I will not waiver from it.  God has been good.  He has been faithful and he has never left my side.

In the rare moments when I was sick or afraid, He always steadied my heart.  Even these past 24 hours when I have had additional stressors, He has continued to steady my heart, to bring random friends to speak encouraging words of truth to me.  He has brought understanding and compassion my way, even from people who had no idea I was struggling.

I am thankful that even in the middle of chaos, He is the calm in my storm.  I am thankful that he steadies my heart.

Only By His Grace,


He is not here...He is risen!

There is hope for a fallen world because He has risen.  The old has gone; the new has come.  We have peace in Christ alone.

I am thankful for that peace that passes all understanding.  I am thankful that He has me in the palm of his hand and that His way is perfect.  

So thankful for a risen savior this Lord's day!

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

Only By His Grace,


Thank you to the designer of the graphic above.  It was pulled from an internet search - and I lost the citation.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

When there's nothing left to say...

Luke 23:34 "Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."

In the past few hours I have faced the most intense attack I've ever known.  Those I trusted, those I held closest to me proved to be untrue.  My faith, my beliefs were attacked on a very personal level.  

There are many things I will stand by and just take.  I will turn the other cheek.  But when someone attacks the very faith I have that has held me strong throughout all of this journey, righteous indignation burned within me.  There are some battles worth fighting.

In the wee hours of the morning, when I couldn't cry another tear or pray another word, my heart's cry turned to Jesus's words, "Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing."

Forgiveness is a sweet thing, but it doesn't mean you continue to allow people to hurt you again and again.  Sometimes you just have to say goodbye.

My heart is sad - and I didn't need the additional stress mere hours before this surgery.  But my God is a God of peace - and he has sustained me through every step of this journey.  I do not expect Him to leave me now.

In the meantime, when I cannot face the pain inside of me, when I don't have the strength to fight this battle, my heart prays, "Father forgive them.  They know not what they are doing."

Only By His Grace,


Friday, April 18, 2014

Mary's Song...

I realize it's the Easter season.  Don't think I've finally, officially lost it.  I haven't.  I just woke up thinking about Mary.

Luke 1:26-33 introduces us to Mary and shares her part in the great story.  "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you."  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of this father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."  

Mary was greatly troubled, but her response is foundational to all we believe; "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." (verse 38).

When you look past the history we know about this story and how it played out in the end, you see how troubling this actually was.  Mary, a virgin, pledged to be married is found with child.  That's scandalous.  Mary, a young girl with no means of taking care of herself and a child should her betrothed abandon her.  That's terrifying.  Mary, a girl still living in her parents' home hiding an "immaculate" conception.  That's not only deceptive, it appears to be insane.

Although Jesus' birth is a miracle for us, in the beginning it was troubling news to Mary. Mary asked the question we would ask: How? The angel gives her the details and the answer to the how. But the most important thing he tells her is this: "For nothing is impossible with God."

Mary's response was simple. "May it be to me as you have said." I'm certain Mary didn't say those words idly. I'm certain that even as a young girl Mary knew the consequences. I'm certain she knew the repercussions. I'm certain she knew the risks. But even as a young girl Mary humbled herself, calmed her fears and submitted to God's will for her life... even this.

Not many of us can say we've been visited by angels. Not many of us can say we've been given great news by an angel sent from God.

Most of us can say that we've received news that shook us to the core. And like Mary, most of us can say that we were "greatly troubled."

Your angel's message may be your boss. Your news may be downsizing.

Your angel
's message may come through a lawyer. Your news may be divorce.

Your angel
's message may come by way of an officer. Your news may be your child arrested.

Your angel's message may be the bank. Your news may be a repossession.

Your angel's message may be your doctor. Your news may be cancer.

But the underlying answer, the final thought on the matter is the same as Mary's; "Nothing is impossible with God."

Mary's song goes like this: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation..." Luke 1:46-50

I have faced the news of my angel. My news was cancer. I weighed the consequences and I faced my fears. But even in light of what the end might be I have come to know in a very personal way that "nothing is impossible with God." It doesn't make sense to anyone else, but I know that even in this I have found favor with God.

I have prayed for many years for God to heal my broken heart. It is only since I've had to face a broken body that the healing has come. I have learned what it means to surrender your own will and submit to God's will...even when it doesn't make sense. I have learned to say, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirt rejoices in God my Savior."

What will your response be? When the angel gives you the news will you consider yourself "highly favored?" When you ask the hard questions, the how questions and the why questions, how will you respond to the answers? Will you ponder the consequences? Will you weigh the repercussions? And when you see how badly this can go, when you see how tragically this may end, will you see God's glory in it all, respond humbly and submit to his will? Will you answer, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said"?

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Comfort for others...

Monday, April 21 is my surgery.  It is a radical surgery and the recovery will be an insane uphill climb.  But I'm ready.  I feel like I've been prepared for such a time as this.  I believe God has allowed me to walk this path for a purpose.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

My hope in this blog is that someone, somewhere has gained hope and encouragement from my struggle with cancer.  My prayer is that my hope and trust has overflowed to another life.  I believe I have been given a great gift of peace and I pray that peace extends to you.

Tomorrow is Friday.  I start my new diet (afore warned sarcasm).  Starting Friday, I may eat soft foods such as noodle soup, yogurt, jello.  Saturday and Sunday it's liquids only, such as juices and broth, yummy broth.  Do you understand what this means?  No Easter ham!  No mashed potatoes!  No green beans!  No coconut cake!  For the love...

One thing I do get to have is 3 servings of Magnesium Citrate.  Yes, folks, liquid laxative.  Did I mention that a serving is 10 oz?  At least it's lemon flavored.  Sigh.

Did I mention what a happy hungry person I am?  My poor husband is already trembling in his boots.  I've already started apologizing to people for what I said when I was hungry.  No, really!

Monday is surgery.  I will not eat anything for at least five days.  That's five days starting Monday...that means Friday, Saturday and Sunday are just bonus days... Eight days total. Eight. Days.

What does all of this mean?  Well, in spite of all the dripping sarcasm, I really do believe God will sustain me and comfort me through the whole process.  I believe also that because of that comfort, He will allow me to comfort others in their own journeys.  

I will know a hunger I've never known.  But, during this Lenten period, I'm reminded that Jesus' own journey started with a 40 day fast in the wilderness.  I will know pain like I've never known.  But I'm also strengthened by the pain He endured on the cross.  

In a strange way I believe this is the beginning of a new journey for me.  Not a journey of chemotherapy sickness or the pain of cancer, but rather a journey of encouragement and hope.  Not for myself, but for others.

I have been given a great gift in the peace that passes all understanding.  I don't believe it's just for me, but for me to share.  That's my hope.  

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, os that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received..."  That's my desire.

Only By His Grace,


Monday, April 14, 2014

Everyday miracles...

It's a beautiful rainy Monday here.  I love Monday. It's my favorite day of the week.  It's like a new week full of possibilities.  I love rainy Mondays best.  It's as if the world slows down just a little bit before rushing into the week...a nice slow rainy Monday :)  

I've been thinking a lot lately about all of the everyday miracles in my life since this cancer journey has begun.  I think sometimes we think of miracles as only the big thing, the unbelievable thing, the impossible thing.  When really, there are so many little miraculous things in our life every day.

We've all heard of blessings in disguise...I think sometimes our miracles are hidden as well.  Sometimes they may look like adversity, when really they're blessings all along.  

Here's my list:

1) I had to have reconstructive surgery as a child.  Had I not had that surgery it is highly likely we wouldn't have found my cancer until it was too late.  Even if the reconstruction had been mere centimeters off, we couldn't have found it.  Miracle #1.

2) My urologist just "happened" to run into my oncologist at the grocery store the night he found my cancer.  Happenstance?  I don't think so.  Miracle #2.

3) Having such good response from the chemo - so that my cancer shrunk from 30% of my bladder down to less than 5%, and whatever was causing the lymph node to show up on PET scan to disappear completely.  Not everyone has this kind of response.  Miracle #3

4) Having a secondary surgeon who is willing to help with my procedure - so much that he will get jurisdiction to perform surgery at a hospital outside his own.  Everyday practice?  Not usually.  Miracle #4.

What's my point in all of this?  I'm not trying to belittle the actual occurrences of miracles, I'm only trying to say that in some ways all of these things are tiny miracles - at least they are to me.

From the beginning I've been praying that God would just heal me from all of this...I was expecting a miracle.  But the thought occurred to me sometime last night that through this surgery I am receiving my miracle.  Twenty, thirty, forty years ago bladder cancer, if they could have even diagnosed it, would have been a death sentence.  Twenty years ago chemotherapy would have been harsh enough to have taken me out all on its own.  Twenty years ago I would have never received a prognosis of 95-98% survival rate when talking about bladder cancer.  

Although my surgery will be radical, and my physical body forever altered, this is a life-saving procedure for me.  In so many ways, this surgery is my miracle. I don't want to miss that because I've been waiting for something else.  I don't want to miss the rainbow because I'm mourning over the rain.

Right now it's cold, rainy and windy on this Monday morning.  And yet outside my window is a bird, sitting on a tree branch, no shelter from the weather, but she sits there chirping nonetheless.  

I will not mourn the loss of my bladder, or any other organ my doctors choose to take.  What I will focus on is the good this surgery will do.  Yes, there will be scars, big ones, scars that will never go away.  But I will wear them proudly because I know that because of these scars my life was spared.  I will not despise them for altering my physical form.  I will look at them fondly and with great appreciate because I know that in their own way, they too, are part of my miracle!

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pointing to truth...

When I found out I had cancer my whole world felt like it was coming apart.    Yet, at the same time, I had (and continue to have) the strangest peace.  Let me explain.  There were moments of fear, moments of worry, moments of panic...but overall, there was (and is) peace.  If there are 60 minutes in an hour, maybe one of them is spent in fear.  The peace I have is more overwhelming than any fear I have. The fear came in like waves, washing over me until I couldn't breathe, threatening to take the very life from my chest.  But just when it became too great, God's peace washed over me like a never ending flood.  

I remember the first twenty four hours I was home from the hospital.  I read the book of Job over and over again.  I read the words of "comfort" his friends gave to him.  I read Job's response to them.  I read how The Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.  And I read Job's response to God.  I was overtaken by my own questions: "Why did this happen to me?"  "What will happen to my family?"  "How will my children remember me?"  "I don't want John to be alone..."

And then something happened.  Some dear friends, partners in the gospel, called to visit us.  They asked how the kids were doing.  They came on a Friday  night to visit us.  They brought cheesecake and blueberry pie.  They didn't treat me as if I had been given a  death sentence.  They simply had coffee and pie with us.

As the conversation turned to my diagnosis, as we knew it eventually would, our dear friend asked if he could read a scripture.  We said yes.  I was expecting Psalm 23 or Psalm 18, or Psalm 139.    But what he read was Psalm 93:

"The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; The Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength.  The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.  Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.  The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.  Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea -- The Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord."

I must admit that at first I didn't understand why He read that passage.  But slowly, over time, as I read and re-read and re-read and re-read and re-read the Psalm it started sinking in.  No matter what happens to me, no matter what comes or what goes - God is still on his throne.  Nothing can shake him from it.  No one can remove him from it.  Nothing can change who He is.

Of all the words of comfort I heard over the next days and weeks, these were the words that pointed me to Christ.  Please understand, many were the hundreds of people who were praying for us.  I am so grateful for every prayer.  Many were the cards and letters saying that they knew "all would be well."  Each one touched my heart.  Phone calls and text messages poured in, each one offering love and hope and holding out a helping hand.  I could not have survived without them.  I do not discount a single one.  These were the hands and feet of Christ to me and my family.

However, this passage was the only one that pointed me to Christ, not just to his blessings.  I am thankful, so thankful, for His grace.  I am overwhelmed by his mercy.  I am humbled by his never-ending love.  But I don't want to miss Christ by looking only at the good gifts he gives.  

In the end of it all, should my life be called short I can say that when it mattered most my eyes were opened and I could see clearly the things of importance.  While on this earth I have experienced God's grace, His mercy and His love.  I believe when this is over I will have a healing that I never dreamed.  But I am most thankful for these past few months because they have focused my eyes more clearly on God and diverted then from my surroundings.  

Jesus told us, "In this life you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world."  Jn 16:33.  For a long time my eyes have been fixed and focused on the "troubles" of this world.  This one said this, that one did that, so-and-so didn't do such-and-such.  I didn't get what I wanted.  I didn't have what I needed...

But the truth is, none of those things matter...not really.  Oh, they may seem important for a short time, for a glimpse of a moment...but then, like the wind, they are gone.  When we move our gaze from the troubles of this life and fix our eyes on our one true hope, that is when we see things most clearly.  That is where we truly find our rest.  That is where our peace lies.

Whatever you are facing today allow me to leave you with words of hope and point you to truth.  "The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; The Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength...The Lord on high is mighty."

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Of Grace and mustard seeds...

Someone asked me how I came up with the name for my blog.  It wasn't complicated... it just came to me.  When I was first diagnosed with cancer I knew that I wanted to blog about my journey in a public way.  I had found and read many blogs about cancer but they were mostly personal journals about chemo treatments, hair loss, emotions... I knew from the start I wanted my blog to be about God's grace throughout the journey.  So I knew the title must reflect that.

However, the truth is also that I was afraid.  There is so much uncertainly attached to cancer, so many unanswered questions.  You honestly do not know whether you will live or die.  You do not know if you'll survive the treatments, if the cancer will spread, if the chemo will work.  You do. not. know.  There is great fear unlike anything you've ever known before.  

And then you pick yourself up by your boot straps and you set your mind on fighting the fight and winning the battle.  One of the first things I thought was, "I don't have enough faith for this."

But Jesus said, "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed..."  A mustard seed is only about the size of a pencil lead.  That's not much, and yet, it's enough.  I knew then that the title would also have to incorporate the idea of the mustard seed.

What I didn't know was that Grace and Mustard Seeds wouldn't just be the title of my blog, but that it would also become the theme of my journey, my life.  

Everything I do is simply and only by his grace.  I cannot wake up in the morning other than by God's grace.  I cannot breath or sleep or eat or jog or clean my house unless it's by God's grace.  Everything I do is only by his grace.  

And then there's faith.  I have had to reevaluate what I believed lately.  Not that my theology has changed; It has not.  More that my  understanding   of faith has changed.  I used to think, "I believe because ___________."  Now, it's more that, "I believe."  It's a simpler kind of faith...more like that grain of mustard seed.  It isn't complicated, it just "is."

Every moment of my day, every trial I still face, every battle line that is drawn I face with two weapons: God's grace and faith as a mustard seed.  I believe these two things will carry me through anything that is thrown my way.  

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

His Love Endures Forever...

Psalm 136 says, "Give thanks to The Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever..."

For the next 26 verses this psalm talks about how great God is with the response, "His love endures forever."  It talks about God's majesty, his victory, his mercy... with the response, "His love endures forever."

Sometimes I think we get caught in the mindset that "his love endures forever" means that we get exactly what we want.  We get the promotion at work, we get the raise in salary, we get married, we have children, we get a good report from the doctor... But "his love endures forever" isn't conditioned to us getting what we want. Favor and blessing are not equalled to his love.  

I have been through the hardest five months of my entire life.  Going into the hospital thinking I had a kidney stone and coming home with a diagnosis of aggressive bladder cancer really brought my thinking to a screeching halt.  I had to reconsider some of the things I previously believed.  I had to rethink the things I believed about grace and mercy.  I had to reexamine what I thought about favor and blessing.  

My bout with cancer has caused me to narrow it all down and simplify the things I know in my own heart.  God is love, his love endures forever.  For me, his favor isn't dependent on monetary blessings.  His grace isn't dependent on what I see or think or feel.  His mercy isn't dependent on whether or not my prayers are answered in the manner in which I hope.  

It is simple:  God is love.  Nothing can separate us from it.  Nothing can change his mind about it.  Nothing can absolve it.  His love endures forever.

I often asked myself the question, "What if God chooses to take me?  What if He doesn't heal me?  What if the cancer spreads?"  These are the questions that haunted my mind.  Then I realized that even if he chose to take me, his love would still endure.  Even if the cancer spread, his love would still endure.  Even if my body failed, his love would still endure.

Then there were the questions about my family.  If John lost his wife, God's love would still endure.  If my kids lost their mom, God's love would still endure.  If memories started to fade, God's love would still endure.  If eventually a new family was formed and new memories created, God's love would still endure.

James 4:14 says, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." This is true for all of us.  It was painfully evident to me because of my cancer, but none of us knows when our last breath will be.  What we do know is that even still his love endures forever.

I have found a great hope in this.  There are many uncertainties in life.  Some battles may be won while others may be lost.  But of one thing we can be sure,  "His love endures forever."

Only By His Grace,


Sunday, April 6, 2014

I'm sick....

Let's just state the facts, folks.  I'm sick and there's no hope for me now.  Oh, my health is fine.  It's my obsessed mind that is sick.

Here's how I know I'm getting better while on this cancer journey.  I've traded my obsession of cancer and chemo for an obsession of kitchen updates. 

We bought our house 7 years ago.  It is 15 years old.  I love our house.  I love the layout. I love the size.  I love the space.  I love the communal areas and the private areas.  I adore my kitchen.

However, there are a few things about my 15 year old house that I would love to change.  Although I love my kitchen, there are a few things I'd like to change. We have oak hardwood floors. Those are fine; I love the natural color of oak.  The black counter tops aren't the best, and probably need to be replaced.  But they're not cracked or chipped.  They aren't burnt or stained.  

My kitchen cabinets are what I'm obsessing about.  We have plain, builder grade cherry cabinets.  There's nothing wrong with them, but with dark appliances and dark counter tops, the dark cabinets make the kitchen feel very dark.

I've spent countless hours while recuperating scanning the internet for black and white kitchens.  I love them.  I love black counters with white cabinets.  L-O-V-E, love them!

And then, the unthinkable happened... I found a blog - an interior designer's blog - and she painted her kitchen cabinets white.  And she installed black counter tops, and hardwood floors.  And her appliances are nearly identical to my own.  And the layout of her kitchen is nearly identical to my own.

So now I'm convinced there is nothing else for me to do but paint my kitchen cabinets white, too.  Because I'm sick, folks.  

I know better than to start a major renovation before a major surgery, so this update will have to wait, for now.  It will be at least two months before I can even think of starting such a project.  But it will give me something to think about while I recuperate :)

Here is  my kitchen now:

Here is my inspiration kitchen from The Yellow Cape Cod:

Let's face it folks...I'm sick.  I'm obsessed.  But at least I have a plan and I know what I'll be doing this summer :)

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wonderful memories...

Every day is a gift.  It's funny that I knew it, but didn't really know it until recently.  I used to complain about little things: things like traffic, or things taking too long, or crowds.  I overlooked the moments because of the circumstances.  

I have said many times that my cancer, although it has been a great hurdle, has been the biggest blessing of my life.  I'm not sure anyone really understands me when I say that.  I'm not even sure other cancer survivors understand me when I say that.  But suddenly, it's as if I can smell things for the first time, see things for the first time, taste things for the first time, feel things for the first time, experience things for the first time...

This week was spring break for our kiddos, and although money has been a little tighter than usual, we still wanted (needed) a little time away.  So we took our kiddos to the Smokey Mountains for three days.  We hiked, we toured historic homes and grounds, I cooked in the room, we at continental breakfast :)  And every single moment of it was fresh even though we've been going to the Smokey Mountains for Spring Break every single year for eight years.

One morning I got up and went for a jog.  I rarely jog on vacations because I'm afraid I'll either get lost, or be eaten by a bear.  Considering that we saw a bear the previous day, being eaten was not outside the realm of possibility.  However, it was as if the thought that "you only live once" was suddenly a reality.  So I laced up my Sauconey and went for a jog.  Here is the path I ran. It followed a stream for two miles.  

I heard the sounds of the water, the birds in the trees, the wind in the pines... I smelled the dirt, the leaves and the faint smell of oncoming rain.  And suddenly I realized what peace actually felt like, actually smelled like, actually sounded like.  I had been to this stream before, but I hadn't experienced it like this particular morning.

Last night we took our kids on the same 2 mile path.  It rained heavily yesterday morning and the streams were full and roaring.  It was spectacular to watch my children play in the water, traipse along the water's edge as we walked the path.  It was as if I actually heard the sound of their voices and listened to the cadence of their laughter. 

On the way back, I cohered them into taking a picture together.  They are beautiful, these children of mine.  Two very tangible blessings of God's grace and mercy in my life.

I feel as if I've been to the precipice, stood and stared into the abyss and come back more alive.  

I recently saw something that said, "Turn a set back into a come back."  In so many ways I feel as if the past few years of my life have been sort of a set back.  I think I was so afraid of being hurt again that I shut off my feelings.  It was easier to be numb than to be hurt by the same ole things, by the same ole people, by the same ole me...  

My cancer story isn't just about my cancer, my treatments and my survival.  My cancer story is the beginning of my come back.  I feel as if I'm waking up again.  I'm loving people again. I'm not afraid of what they may do, or may say, or how they may react.  I'm not afraid of people's reactions and I'm no longer worried about earning someone's approval.  

I'm hearing again, tasting again, smelling again, feeling again.  I'm no longer put out by traffic or long lines at the grocery.  I don't care if it takes my laundry an extra 20 minutes to dry or if the lawn needs mowed...again.  Because these "inconveniences" are part of the daily story...the things we should be writing in our journals.  Sometimes we wait for "memorable" things before we make a memory... when really, sometimes eating spaghetti in a motor-lodge is the memory.

My cancer story is hugely my beginning.  And for me, it is by far the biggest blessing of my life!

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blessings upon Blessings...

I am beyond blessed this evening.

Last Tuesday I had a PET scan to show our progress from chemo.  The CT scan we did 6 weeks ago was "good" but they still were questioning the status of that one lymph node.

Today my oncologist told us, actually read to us, the report from the PET scan.  The lymph node in question "has disappeared."  

This means one of two things: 1) that it was indeed just inflammation.  In which case, the aggravation of the tumor was causing to to inflame and it has decreased as the tumor decreased, or 2) that it was indeed cancerous and the chemotherapy worked to eradicate it from the lymph node.

This is most excellent news because it also means that any of those pesky cancer cells that may have been traveling through out my body, would most likely have been killed off as well.

There is remarkably little to speak of left in my bladder and it will come out with surgery.  The lymph nodes will also be removed simply because they need to be.

Above all, I believe this is the work of God's healing touch.  I have said that I don't put my trust in chariots or horses but in the name of the Lord my God.  I was hopeful the chemo would work, but ultimately I knew it was God's healing touch that would remove this dreadful disease from my body.

I know these little updates may seem insignificant but I never want to be like the 10 with leprosy.  

Luke 17:11-19 NIV "11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

I want to be like the one who returned to give thanks.  I want to praise Him for his healing touch on my life.  It doesn't matter whether the healing comes from chemo, surgery or his miraculous touch.  I don't care where it comes from, I know from where it comes!

I am thankful this evening for this spectacular news.  We are forever overjoyed because of what this means...

God is faithful once again!

Only By His Grace,