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Helping a sister out

12 Jan


I’ve never felt like I was living the story of Esther quite like I did this month. I’ve been drawn to that story since learning about it, particularly the idea of how God prepares us – all our lives – to bring glory to his kingdom, in the most perfect timing imaginable.

My sister-in-law is one of a kind: hilariously funny with a huge heart. I felt a special connection with her from the moment I first met her. When she called me in January, I was literally moments away from 25 guests appearing on my doorstep for a baby shower I was hosting at my home. I almost didn’t answer the call but something made me pick up. I was not prepared for her to start the call with words that sent chills down my spine: “I felt a lump.” After urging her to get herself in a doctor’s office – stat – and some reassurance, I hung up, truly thinking she would probably be okay. But none of this came with easy timing. Though her family would continue to be most supportive, they had recently established a new home in the neighboring state, and she had few friends to lean on and absolutely no established medical care yet. Once we found her a solid doctor, things started moving quickly: positive findings, orders for more imaging, requests for genetic testing, big decisions to make. Her house is a 4 hour drive from mine, so I hopped in the car to attend the biggest decision making appointments: meeting the oncologist, evaluating the prognosis, and making chemotherapy decisions.

I didn’t know a thing about cancer before I met Joe. But God knew everything. He knew I would be helpful to Kim when her time came. He stirred my heart and I quickly became an advocate – maybe THE advocate – for women’s reproductive cancers in our region. After forming a nonprofit, I counseled patients and their families, helped them find appropriate social networks and resources. I had never had cancer. No one close to me had ever had cancer. But I had a need to do this in a way I could never explain to anyone else.

When Kim was diagnosed my husband was at the busiest height of his career. I was his stand-in for her, a link to bridge her to his knowledge and expertise. And I could do it with my own authority too. I knew the tough questions to ask and the important decisions that needed to be made. God had prepared me for such a time as this.

When it all came together, we had a plan in place for Kim. Our whole family went for her first chemotherapy. Joe was there to support her at the doctor’s office and I was there to help support her at home. Nothing was more special than this time we all had together with her family. The photo above was the early morning just before her first chemo.

Kim received the strongest chemo available. She had a good prognosis if it worked. She then had several major surgeries. She was BRAC+. Her chances of getting this cancer were almost certain. We wanted to make sure it would never come back, anywhere. Her daughter and sister have had to do major prophylactic surgeries to prepare for their own inevitable fates. Joe, thankfully, was negative.

This picture was taken in January of 2012. It is not May 2016 as I update this. Kim is still cancer free. She has since enjoyed her daughter’s wedding, the birth of her grandson, her son’s graduation from high school and him starting college at Troy. She has moved to the beach. She enjoys every minute of her new lease on life.

For such a time as this – I felt like every moment of my life had led to me helping Kim navigate those scary waters. God was there for her in a mighty way, and it was a privilege to be a small part of it.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

8 Dec

Advent season is a time of waiting. We are preparing our hearts for Jesus’ birthday by pondering the many precious details of the first Christmas.  My children’s favorite question during this season is “Can we do our Advent calendars??”

As with a lot of prized possessions in our house, we have three Advent calendars (how else would I negotiate the passing-down of things later?!).  And then this year, we added a disposable fourth.  

My (former) favorite is our oldest calendar.  Below Joseph, circa 2006, demonstrates our use of this calendar and the story that goes along with it.

(Incidentally, here he is reciting the story several years later, in 2010. One of my proudest moments!)

Lest you think we are busy polishing our halos whilst you read our blog, however, I shall introduce you to the children’s favorite Advent calendar:

Photos from Dec 7, 2011

The LEGO STAR WARS Advent Calendar! I mean if it isn’t cool enough that it is made by LEGO, it achieves ultimate awesomeness with its STAR WARS theme.  Each day a new flap is opened to reveal 15-20 teeninsy pieces that they put together (instructions inside flap) to create a Lego creation.  Rumor has it that Santa Yoda will appear on Day 24.  We’ll see!  Totally sacrilegious  secular but still fun.  Although this is not a “keeper” calendar, we do get a LEGO calendar yearly.  LEGO has many styles of these calendars available each year, in City versions and, this year, Star Wars, as shown.

Our other Advent calendar was a gift to our family this year.  It has become my favorite!  This calendar by Kurt Adler is a magnetic style calendar which can be hung on the wall or can sit alone.  Each door reveals a wooden magnet that can be attached to the board.  It is beautiful!  And now, my favorite.
Photos from Dec 7, 2011

For gifts to share with friends this year we gave Usborne’s Advent Calendar to Color.  Sturdy hardback board books, they were a great price point at only $7.99 each and they are perfect for littler children too.  Each day my children take turns opening the flaps and then coloring the area around the flap they opened.  We will have a lovely masterpiece when we are finished!

Photos from Dec 7, 2011

Photos from Dec 7, 2011

Advent truly is a season of expectation.  When my children start annoying me each morning by asking WHEN they can do this tradition that we do each night before they go to bed, I remind myself that the most important part of the season is teaching them how to expect hope.  When we know in our hearts the assurance that Jesus is, indeed, coming, we can surely prepare room for him there, all day long, all season long.  And if the season is special enough, maybe it will even last throughout the coming year.

The Wisemen Brought Three Gifts, So Wisely

25 Nov

I don’t give my sister a gift for my neighbor’s birthday. Nor do I buy my husband a gift when it’s time to gather friends to celebrate my best friend’s day of birth.

So why do we give each other gifts for Jesus’ birthday?

In our family, we believe in the spirit of giving as a way to share the gratitude for the love Christ has given to us. In other words, we are so thankful for Christ’s birth that we want to share the joy by giving to others.  This includes our children.  However, it is hard for our children not to get hijacked by Santa Clause.  Of course we participate with Santa also, but we don’t deviate far from our values by asking our children to request only one gift from Santa.  And, we tell them, in return, Santa will leave three gifts for them.  There are gifts in the story of Jesus’ birth:  the three wisemen each brought a gift to the baby Jesus.  If three gifts were enough for our newborn savior king, then three gifts should leave us plenty thankful, too.

Here is a picture of Joseph’s first Christmas, and his sheer delight as he opened his gifts:

Photos from 2004 December

The next year he was old enough to make requests.  He asked for this “wee-do” (also called a weed eater to those of you who are picky about pronunciations) and he played with it all winter and spring.

Photos from 2005 December Christmas

Santa was very gracious to bring him a basketball goal as well.

Photos from 2005 December Christmas

As Joseph’s requests have always been quite simple, the next year all he wanted was a standard issue red fire truck.  Santa did deliver!  He also brought a Rheneas roller coaster train set as well as some cool building blocks.  The fire truck was the hit of the next eighteen months.  The kid knows what he wants.

Photos from 2006 December christmas

Belle, a new addition that Christmas, got a kitchen set (seen in above picture), a pink chair, and this outdoor wheelie toy (fire engine not included).

Photos from 2006 December christmas

In 2007 we had another addition to the family, but she was brand, brand new.  The big kids were surprised to find that Santa does, in fact, visit 5-day old children!  Anna Clare received an interactive blanket, a stacking ring toy, and a stuffed elephant.  Belle got two riding toys and an Elmo computer, none of which worked by spring. :/ Joseph, a big Toy Story fan that year, was shocked to find the actual Toy Story remote control car with Buzz Lightyear.  Plus he got a Leapster and a Chalktracker truck.  Buzz only recently was stowed in the toy trunk for safekeeping.

Photo from 2007 Belle December

The toys really changed in 2008.  All Joseph asked for was a real football!  He was also happy to find Lincoln Logs and Wall-E, the Kelly family movie of the year, surprised him as a “real robot.”

Photo from 2008 December J3

Belle gave this easel a full workout only minutes after seeing it.  The dollhouse was a marginal hit, and Eve (to go with Wall-E) was actually the only thing she wanted for Christmas.  Unseen are Anna Clare’s 2008 gifts:  a riding toy, a walker toy, and a musical instrument set.

Photos from 2009 December Belle

Anna Clare had not asked for anything in 2009 but is still absolutely crazy about Mickey and friends, and the Disney toys seen below are still her very favorite toys.  Amazing.

Photo from 2009 December AC

For Joseph 2009 was year of the Legos.  And Star Wars.  And cars.  And Santa brought a gift in each category.  These have all three proven to stand the test of time in this house as well.  Great classics.

Photos from 2009 December J3

In 2009 Belle wanted a Cinderella costume, deluxe set.  When she saw it, she nearly cried.  She barely played with her Polly Pocket fully outfitted Jet set or Disney listening discs.

Photo from 2009 December Belle

Last year, 2010, both girls got American Girl style dolls and Leaptag books. All Anna Clare had asked for was “a polar bear” so she got one, but is was sort of just an accessory to some other toys with more lasting power.  Since Belle was getting a doll, Anna Clare got a friend for her doll to play with.  The vanity was a fun addition as well.  Belle’s third gift was a Cinderella castle set.

Photos from 2010 December Christmas

Joseph’s gifts were Star Wars-themed.  He had asked for the X-wing fighter and Santa found it (barely). R2D2 was a great “real robot” and a genuine surprise.  The game table was a fun surprise also, and a great idea for when friends come to play.

Photos from 2010 December Christmas

Clearly, three gifts are plenty.  And when there are three children, three gifts per child make even more plentiful gifts.  Add to that a stocking per child, plus gifts between siblings, plus gifts from both sets of grandparents, parents, and friends, and you’ve got more gifts than the children can play with before next Christmas!

When the wisemen gave their gifts to Jesus, they gave sacrificial, large gifts, out of the generosity of their hearts, as a way to show their appreciation and love for the joy they felt about this newborn who would become their king and savior.  When we give gifts, we should give in the same spirit, and when we receive them, we should receive them graciously, without expectation, and with a sense of kindness and love, for we are sharing the same joy that beheld the wisemen so long ago.

Holding Down the Fort

23 Nov
Have you ever heard a phrase that struck a cord deep within you, as if the words were made especially for the moment you were living?
I’ve never repeated a Bible Study that I’ve previously done, until now.  Recently I re-started “Crossings” as a way to introduce the study to a friend.  At first I was afraid the study would seem too familiar, since it has been less than a year since we piloted it for the group leader.  But now, only two lessons into the seven week series, I know it will impact my life as strongly now as it did the first time around.  However, this time around it has a fresh new meaning, and different  parts of the work are sticking with me than when I did it before.
Today’s lesson was about Joshua, the man who was trained by God to become a leader for his people.  During his training he learned from one the best: Moses, who often had the incredible honor and privilege of spending one-on-one time alone with God.  Joshua was a devoted servant to God and an invaluable aide to Moses.  During the times that Moses met with God, Joshua stood behind Moses, allowing Moses the full glory of the opportunity to be with God alone, but also protecting Moses from any sort of ill will that could have befallen him during this time of vulnerability.  Joshua was, in fact, “holding down the fort” for Moses.
Botsford Tree House, a photo by Voxphoto on Flickr.
It’s an issue I can relate to.  As the mother of three young children, I’m holding down the fort for them in myriad ways:  carefully keeping a watchful eye to shield them from harm, proudly allowing them to shine in their various moments in the spotlight, gradually encouraging them to grow in faith and spend time making their own godly decisions.  As the wife of a busy subspecialist, I am holding down the fort at home, keeping our house a safe haven to protect him from the pressures of a demanding job and a stressful work environment.  I am holding down the fort in our marriage, keeping things intimate, creating time for our relationship, finding ways to spend quality time together.  I am holding down the fort socially, as I navigate our calendar and make decisions on where to spend our most valuable commodity: time.
Sometimes it feels like I am left to hold down the fort while other people are able to enjoy life to the fullest.  But I know now that God is preparing me for all that He has planned for me, and that He thinks the fort is important enough to protect.  And I find it a great honor to be in charge of it.  In fact, I can think of no greater joy.
Holding down the fort: When I heard those words today I knew they were meant for me.  The next time I feel like life is passing me by, I’m going to clean up my fort a little, and make sure it is adequately prepared for whatever may come.

Check out this book!

25 Sep

I am not a big fan of series books.  I usually read the first one and get the gist of it, and never finish the series. 

After three friends recommended this book to me, I figured I better read it.  I knew it was the start of a three-part series, and I knew I probably wouldn’t finish the series.  But, I figured, what harm was there in reading the first book.

Oh. My.

I just finished the second book in the series and can’t wait to download the third to my Nook.  Oh yes.  It’s that good.

I admit I like historical fiction anyway, but this particular historical fiction is well written because of the character development.  You will find yourself so attracted to each widely diverse character (sometimes in horrifying ways that might even scare yourself) that you will find yourself going through your day wondering if you are being more like Julia, or Olivia, when you should in all honesty be considering this situation more like Hadassah, of course.  Truly these characters are so well developed that you could almost anticipate their actions…if they weren’t so jaw-droppingly stuck in their ways. 

This is the first Christian fiction I have ever read, and I think it will be tough to follow.  I was thankful for the Book 2 teaser at the end of Book 1, for there is a lot to think about at the end of the book.  And Book 2, if possible, is even better than Book 1.  You simply will not be able to quit after the first one!


What is Truth?

30 Aug

If someone asked you to define truth, what would you say?  Would you put it into a context, such as a religious context, or a context of a personal experience?  Could you give a definition without using the actual word truth?  My Wednesday girls Bible study group is doing a study by Focus on the Family called The Truth Project.  It is a very different study for out group, more academic than usual and very thought-provoking in a different kind of way.  It starts out with this simple question and leads to many more philosophical questions as a way to lead the participants to a deeper understanding of God and who He really is.  Sometimes the most simple questions can cause us to pause and reflect upon how we are really living our lives.  What is truth to you? Are you reflecting this in your life?

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
Psalm 119:30

Mommy I don’t feel good. (The sweetest sound I could have heard!)

24 May
It has been a roller coaster week of emotions for me.  For two years my daughter has had a condition that we have not been able to figure out.  We have been to nine doctors, from her local primary doctor, to a world -renowned expert, and everyone in between.  But for some reason, everyone can agree that there is an issue, but no one can diagnose precisely what the issue is.  For the most part, everyone has done a fairly good job of convincing me that she does not have a rare but serious disease and that her condition is not life-threatening, and the difficult part has been finding childcare for my other children during the times that we have had tests done or to drive longer distances for day trips to the doctors in other cities.  I have tried to remain strong, and I’ve done a pretty good job at it.  Normally an emotional person, I’ve kept myself in check, not shedding  a tear over this entire experience, fully believing that “rule out” tests were simply that:  ruling out remote possibilities and not likely chances of drastic diseases.  I have prayed and prayed and remained steadfast and faithful that God WILL bring us through whatever comes down this path.  Should we get an ugly diagnosis, we will deal with it, whatever it is.  Should we get a simple, easily treatable one, we will be abundantly thankful.  Either way, I have tried to look for the way we should glorify Him in this entire experience.  It’s been hard.  A three year old shouldn’t really have to bear burdens of life’s bigger issues, in my opinion.   

Of course there has always been that nagging feeling in the back of my mind, that “what if” factor that keeps me awake in the middle of the night, that makes me second guess every routine childhood illness, that creeps into my thoughts when she complains about simple aches and pains.   I have read and re-read to myself Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in Me, the Lord, with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Me, and I will direct your paths.”  Most of the time it works; I know He has us in his hands and Satan’s tempting thoughts of fear are chased away by loving thouths of God’s faithfulness to our family and thoughts that He WILL direct us.   

This week was tough.  Our whole physician team was re-worked.  One specialist sort of gave up on the whole thing.  Our primary physician is restructuring a plan for us.  Complicating matters are these bothersome little swollen lymph nodes that won’t seem to go back to normal.  This week those suddenly became a real issue.  And I didn’t like hearing that one bit.  It made everything seem very real, very scary, and much more than the superficial condition I was hoping this was.  It made it all seem like a real health issue, something we are really going to have to deal with.  If those nodes were swollen just to be swollen, that was a bad thing.  If they were swollen due to something else, like an ear infection or a virus, they  are considered “reactive” and that could be just a normal reaction.  (Although it wouldn’t really explain why she is sick so often, it would at least indicate that they are reactive instead of malignant.)  While I am usually very happy for a healthy report in the doctor’s office, that day I felt very unfortunate that there was no ear infection, no sore throat, no headache.  Nothing but a healthy looking kid.  With golf-ball sized lymph nodes.      

Wednesday I was at my Bible Study, what better place?!, and I asked them to pray for Boo.  I didn’t really want to get into the details and I didn’t want to get upset or worried about it, but I knew she needed the prayers.   While they prayed for her, I felt the tears coming.  First time in two years, mind you.  Unfortunately, I forgot all about Proverbs 3.  I just sat there and cried and cried.  Strangely, my Bible study leader, who knew nothing about my personal reading, said to me, “I don’t know why but this verse just came to me, and she quoted Proverbs 3:5-6.  I knew then that God was probably a little disappointed that I’d not done what He’d asked.  I wasn’t trusting in Him and I certainly wasn’t acknowledging Him.  I was just wallowing in self-pity and doubt and all the ugly things that Satan can plant in a fearful mother’s head.  

So I left there and screwed up my courage and faith and I have been repeating the Proverbs passage to myself ever since.   

And you know what?  We had to play hookey from church this morning.  Boo woke up with a sore throat.  A bad one.  Can’t eat.  Can’t sleep.  Can barely talk.  I’ve never been so glad for her to be sick in my life.  Those nodes are reactive.  At least for now, and I’ll take that.  it may not explain anything, but I won’t be leaning on my understanding.  I’ll just wait for His direction and take it from there.   


For such a time as this…

16 May
Something funny is going on.  Again.  Only three other times in my life do I remember this happening quite like this.  Once was in my teens, once was in my mid-twenties, and once was after I was married.  The first time was the one that shaped my future beliefs about all the relationships I have ever had.  The second time I often refer to as the “summer of listening” and it resulted in meeting my husband!  The last time I had a vision of a tornado coming down the golf fairway that we lived on and tearing down our house.  Within a few weeks we relocated, in the most inconvenient timing ever imaginable, just three weeks before a hurricane really did hit the city we lived in.
I never have really liked blogs all that much.  In one way I wonder what I could possibly say that anyone else would really find all that interesting to read on a regular basis.  It also seems a little overwhelming to keep up with a new project.  And besides, if anyone wants to talk to me, they can pick up the phone and call, right? But lately, words are literally spilling out of my head!  And I feel the urgency to record events as they are happening.  Little things.  Big things.  Little things that seem like big things.    So I guess maybe in one way this blog isn’t for you, it’s for me.  But in another way, I feel like it’s bigger than that.  It’s part of the strange stuff going on.

This time I am not really sure what the outcome will be, but I know it’s happening again: God is stirring my spirit.  In the past couple of months, starting a year or so ago and growing ever stronger, I have been enlightened about a number of things and in response I have fasted, prayed and opened an obedient heart.  I know the task He sets before me is not an easy one.  But I will do whatever He is asking me to do.  And, strangely enough,  it starts with this blog!
“For who knows, but that you have come to this position for such a time as this?”  -Esther 4:14 
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