Before I forget, I wanted to post a schedule for the coming weeks, as many have wondered where I will be and when.

November 3 Uptake dose of I-131 (around 7 mCi, if you're curious)
November 5 Uptake scan to determine where & how much absorbed
November 5 Appointment with endocrinologist to go over results of scan
November 6 Probable date for I-131 ablation (50-150 mCi depending on scan)
November 6-10 complete isolation in Chetek (no visitors)
November 10-14 North Shore of Lake Superior (Grandparents home)
November 14-16 either Chetek with family or Minneapolis with family
November 17-20 Swap Chetek for Minneapolis
November 20 Gamma radiation scan to check safety of return home & REUNION PARTY!!

His grace is enough

For who is God besides the LORD ? And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.
You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me;
you stoop down to make me great.
You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn..
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed...
~ Psalm 18 (exc.)

How humbling to at the epicenter of a miracle. I was told by all of my doctors that I would be bed-ridden by this point in my treatment. I was told to cancel school, work, and anything outside the home for the final week of my hypothyroid period. My thyroid is gone, and with it an essential string of hormones that are necessary for human metabolism. In short, every cell in my body is currently starving for an essential component of metabolism. On a cellular level, there is no organ or body system that is functioning normally - theoretically. As soon as I knew that I was going to require the radioactive iodine, I prayed that God would choose to sustain me through what seemed like an insurmountable trial, one that could easily land me in the hospital. The specialist at Mayo wished to proactively hospitalize me for the entire second week of my hypothyroid period.

What doctors don't understand is that I am not simply a sum of my cellular parts. I was created from dust - life breathed into me as a single cell by God's choice and His infinite wisdom and grace. Through a series of miracles we think of scientifically as conception and implantation, the cell that was the beginning of me was fostered and grew entirely on it's own, without blood or circulation, oxygen or exogenous protein source. I was sustained by a beautiful, complicated mystery - God's decision put me in motion and keeps me in motion. He is not limited by hormones, or cellular metabolism; He holds the keys to life and death. (Rev. 1:18)

The cynic in me knows that I may find out at the end of this that it was a tumor that was sustaining me through this period: if active cancer is present, it may be producing hormones that replace the hormones my thyroid used to make. I choose to have faith, for right now, that God is intervening and keeping my wheels turning through this starvation period. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (I Corinthians 12:9)

Great is Your love and justice God
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me
~ Chris Tomlin, Your Grace is Enough


This is what it looks like for a busy mother to leave her family behind for nearly 3 weeks. A mobile above the crib, an oddity in a house where little sleeping is done in cribs; bottles, waiting in queue to be washed; bags of pre-made baby food for weekend trips, packaged and ready to pre-pack for my dear, busy, harried husband; notes on the children's schedules, their likes, their dislikes; menu ideas outside the bursting pantry that now holds 3 weeks worth of neatly packed groceries.

Lifted up

My encouragement this morning came from my dear mother, who has faithfully and fearlessly reminded me that grief can be a powerful tool of our great enemy, Satan. In a culture that accepts grief as an inevitable "consequence" of loss, she points out that there is, nevertheless, some element of choice in every experience of sorrow. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Pr. 27:17)

"Please read 1 Peter 5:6-11 and DO NOT GIVE IN OR UP to the devil! Not only does he want to devour YOU, but all those that depend on you! Your husband, your children, your friends, and all the unsaved people seeing and reading your light! It is a BATTLE my precious girl. I love you. I recommend and reading this portion in the amplified, the message, and the NIV.
Love you. Mama"

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. (The Message)

Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset--rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the dominion (power, authority, rule) forever and ever. Amen (so be it). (Amplified)

nearly November

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD.
~ author unknown

I remember when I was a child - and an avid reader beyond my years - I thought for many months that "Anon" was the greatest poet I had ever read! This little quote is profound but there is no one to credit.

Today has been a bleak day, one of those near-November days when the winds of change are cold and distinct, hinting at driving snow and skeletal trees and gray furrows in the field across the street. The sun came in long streaks of pale yellow through clouds racing across the horizon. My heart felt exactly like that - my children popping like little bursts of joy in a day that included much pain and processing of what is to come in the next few weeks. I had delightful times with my friend who is here to help. Even her sometimes-silent companionship felt like sliding into a warm bath of comfort. I also had aching breasts, literally a physical longing to comfort and love my little son, who spent the day beating at my chest, pulling my shirt, and crying to nurse. He is asleep now and I am left with no solution to my immediate problem.

I feel like I am stepping forward into an abyss of unknown - how will Caleb be fed? Will the children bear emotional scars from this long time spent apart? What will I do and think while I am away? What will my scans bring to light - an end in sight, or more suffering to come? The sense of the Everlasting Arms beneath me was faint today...sometimes I can literally feel the pulse in those wings, feel them bearing me up and their strength and power so close I can almost touch it. At other times, I wonder if I imagine them after all, struggling with disbelief and the cascade of temporal sorrows that abound wherever I turn. Today I felt just a flicker of the Comforter in the very peripheral vision of my day. I pray for renewed closeness and joy tomorrow.

"Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice! Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon]. Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:4-7 (Amp)

Time in a bottle (or breast)

Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way. Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear. ~ Psalm 119:36-38

How quickly the human heart turns something created for God's glory into an idol! "Beholding vanity", such a beautiful phrase of Old English found in the King James Bible, is substituted by most modern translators with the term "worthless things". What is worthy, and what is worthless? Breastfeeding is certainly held up as worthy in our society at this stage of history, the gold standard in infant nutrition and perfectly designed to promote both physical and psychosocial development. It is a beautiful, precious act that at times has seemed sacred to me...never more so than in the past six weeks as I prepared to give it up. While it is worthy - God gave me these children to feed, clothe, protect, nurture and teach, after all - it is not sacred by any definition of the word ("set apart for worship", "dedicated for one purpose or service", or "entitled to reverence").

I tend to think of idol worship as bowing down physically before an altar. What would I be willing to humiliate myself for, in other words? I would certainly never bow down to my breasts (oh, horrid thought)! Yet was I, in a more subtle sense? Do I really believe that my ability to give and receive love with my child is bound in such a finite, limited act, the ability to perform which is bound quite certainly in the present and would shortly pass, whatever my situation? What I am really mourning, if I mourn this loss, is time. I am experiencing that inevitable marching on of days that God Himself put in motion at the creation of the world (Genesis 1). In a few short months, my sweet, happily breastfed son would have been done with that need, and would be gleefully independent of me and I of him. Would I have shed as many tears if weaning had taken place in the way I planned it?

As always, I wind up at the end of a long string of questions with many new ones left unanswered. How much is it appropriate to mourn such a loss? Mortality - that grim truth we are all facing when we speak of time and our days being numbered - still reigns, and in it Satan. That I can mourn. Even then I must guard I crying tears of sorrow or righteous anger toward the enemy, or am I crying tears of pity for my own self? Do I believe that God will turn this - and every sorrow - into dancing in the end? Yes, I do believe that. On that I must act: a smile for my children, a hug for my husband in greeting at the close of each day, a sigh of relief to my Savior who has borne me through yet another storm. Let my tears be something God can heal and answer, not an unanswerable state of bitterness and settled depression.

Lord, still my waves, the waves of my sea
That keep me tossed and full of fear
Open my eyes to see my Jesus, my Friend,
Over all, and yet so near.
~ Debra Holmen, Eat and Drink

What's that smell??

Ah yes, the delightful odor of wilted cabbage!

Weaning is going well. In the past 24 hours, I nursed Caleb once. He was very fussy throughout the night, but finally fell asleep in my arms and slept from 5-7 a.m. He is acting very tired today (thank goodness!) and I think both mom and babe will lay down for a nap shortly, putting a much-coveted Thumbelina DVD in for the girls!

Miraculously, the constant consumption of sage tea and application of cabbage leaves seems to be working. My milk is drying up very well as I have suffered no engorgement yet. My dear husband has permission to call me his frau now - any woman who walks around smelling constantly of cabbage must certainly be a frau, don't you think??

In honor of the cabbage, here is a frau in fine art for your appreciation!
Die Frau ohne Schatten by Strauss, performed by De Nederlandse Opera in 1996

Changing our craving

Nursing is on my mind today. I am trying hard to dry up my milk while still nursing Caleb 2-4 times per day. The theory is that this will allow him to become frustrated with nursing and quit of his own volition, rather than being denied something he revels in. I am hoping it is less traumatic for him this way; however, if my milk isn't significantly diminished in the next few days of herbal remedies, I will have to stop nursing him altogether to ensure that my milk has a chance to dry up before my scan dose of the I-131 less than 2 weeks from now.

Nursing is a theme that is surprisingly common in God's word. I find this process of early weaning so illustrative of the larger spiritual truths that are being revealed to me through my battle with cancer. New Christians are compared to babes, and told "like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (I Peter 2:2). Yet, as we grow as Christians and become more mature, we are "weaned" from that process of feeding on the "milk" of Scripture...the basic tenets of the faith. We wrestle with the big problems of humanity, and ultimately must choose whether to trust God to sort out the unaswerable questions or to let our own doubt and worry limit or weaken our faith in Him. David describes the process of handing anxiety over the future over to the God He continually trusted more each day: "I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." (Psalm 131:1b-2) Caleb, comforted at my breast for 8 months, finds it almost a sole source of love, affection, sustenance, and joy in certain circumstances; he hasn't yet learned to trust me or his world enough to feel safe in a world that doesn't include his mother's milk and skin-to-skin contact. In many ways, this correlates with my faith pre-cancer: I felt like I had a lot of answers; I could provide an answer to so many questions, at least theoretically. Weaning is putting Caleb's faith to the test: will Mama still love me? How will I eat? How will I fall to sleep? Cancer is doing the same for my faith: does God still love me? Will I live? How will I rest or find joy in the midst of physical and emotional calamity?

I long for a "quiet and still" child at the end of this weaning process...a child that can lay at my breast without tears or struggles, and find comfort in my songs, my cuddles, my conversation. I long to be like a weaned child snuggled up to God's chest...I don't want to "fight cancer", as the world would have me do. I want to "still and quiet my soul", so that I lay peacefully against the heart of my Savior, completely trusting He careth for me! (I Peter 5:7)

Oh Lord, you've searched me,
You know my way,
Even when I fail you,
I know You love me.

Your holy presence
Surrounding me,
In every season,
I know You love me

You go before me,
You shield my way,
Your hand upholds me
I know You love me

~ Hillsong, At the Cross

Catching up and coming down

Our family had a wonderful weekend of catching up with far-away family and old friends. We played cards, laughed until our sides hurt, ate WAY too much, spent too many hours in the car. It was wonderful!

I haven't weaned Caleb yet. I think I need to re-think my plan, which was to wait until this coming Friday (13 days before my treatment dose, and only 8 days before my scan dose). I need to do it sooner. I am facing the fact that I have an extreme case of denial and just don't want the future to HAPPEN at this point, which is really just plain silly and must just be dealt with and acted on soon. My sweet boy is eating solids very well, and has started taking water and juice from a cup. I am going to try rice milk in a bottle tomorrow, and I am biting the bullet and weaning him tomorrow...

Church was, in short, inspiring today! The topic was contentment in any circumstance, and drew from John 15 and Paul's letters. Perspective again, that necessary daily dose of medicine that erases the most extreme case of the "poor me-s". It is impossible to be miserable when you turn the conscious mind to joy - the body may be weak, but my soul is laughing. Incredibly, I find that God's strength IS sufficient for my weakness... (II Corin. 12:9) He can even hold up a sorry soul that is lacking a thyroid gland altogether! I am still existing on my requisite 4-5 hours of sleep per night, I have had a total of 2 naps since going off my medication, and I am magically keeping up with housework, child care, and school, just as usual. I would say my energy level is at about 90%, which is amazing, considering the doctor warned me I would be in bed nearly 24 hours a day by this point. To me, it is yet more evidence of His miraculous grace. Who knew such things were even possible?!! Yes, He is pruning me; yes, all that trimming can be pretty painful. But by His grace this season of such attention to the details and habits of my thoughts and character will yield a bounty harvest in the years to come.

We can feel
Your mercy falling
You are turning our hearts back again
Hear our praises rise to heaven
Draw us near Lord
Meet us here
~ Chris Tomlin, Kindness


Focusing outward in prayer

Having cancer cells lurking around in your body can make a person quite introspective, I've come to find. For weeks, almost every prayer was a cry - "Please heal me!" At our annual church camp in late September, I realized that my prayers had become quite "selfish" in that I was forgetting the rest of my usual prayer list in favor of prayer for my own life. I immediately set about changing that. Each child has a person they are praying for (Amy prays for me, sweet girl), and we have integrated prayer times into our day at meals, naps, bedtime, and snacktimes. It is really awesome to watch the girls developing in this area. Amy's little prayers are so sweet - she changes her voice to this little endearing pout, kind of, and prays an entire paragraph with few prompts. Rosy is long-winded in prayer, adding all kinds of creative thoughts and word pictures to her prayers. And Katy is very matter-of-fact and to the point (shocker!).

It has been really enjoyable to experience some success in this little area with the kids. I have also tried to become more diligent about praying for my children, and I found this chart through a friend. I think it will get much use, especially during my two weeks away! 20 Praying for our Children.pdf

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. ~ John 17:9

Flipping the pyramid

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. ~ II Peter 1:5-7

Years ago, I made a list of "Mama's Rules" and posted it on my bathroom wall as a reminder of how I need to act throughout my busy...and often frustrating...days as a young mother. I have been working on the area of self-control in my life for about six years now, and it has been a very slow, uphill battle. When I read the above list, it seems like I started with faith; I added goodness; then knowledge; and finally, got stuck on the self-control tier. I was re-reading my list of "Rules" today, and thought about how far God has taken me in that battle over the past few months.

Then it struck me - we start everything out backwards in our culture! I assume that I am full of love because I "feel" love all the time - for my husband, my kids, my family, strangers, sick people, you name it, I "love" them! Yet how often do I show them brotherly kindness? How often godliness? How often do I persevere through difficulty in relationships? Is it really love I have after all, if these other traits are so lacking in my actions, words, and thoughts? The world would say yes, love is a feeling. Everything else follows love. But this verse indicates is the end result of a long string of choices, not a passive experience on which your own choices have little consequence.

I do feel as though God has recently completed a step in my transformation through Christ. Self-control is coming easier day by day, and now it is that perseverance step that I need to master. I go along for weeks without incident, and then quit persevering and oops! there I am wallowing in self-indulgence again...emotional, physical, mental, spiritual. I have new motivation today after my "light bulb moment". My end goal is not some lofty spiritual aim, nor mere pie-in-the-sky human goodness. My aim is love, true, deep love as evidenced by acts of brotherly kindness, godly character, perseverance in the face of adversity, self-control, knowledge, goodness and faith. Whether you're humanist or Christian - aiming for this list of traits will guarantee that your life and the lives of those around you are better, richer, more enjoyable.

Not dispensed from thought

I know when the stress has grown too strong,
Thou wilt be there.
Thou hearest prayer.
I know that in the crash of falling worlds,
Thou holdest me.
I know that life and death and all are Thine

The work is God's, not ours. We are not dispensed from labour and thought, but from trouble of mind. If we understand God's meaning we shall keep our peace of mind all through. God has never found fault with anyone for trusting too much and expecting too much of Him.

~Janet Erskine Stuart

I want to read the book In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God, by J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler. Has anyone read it? I am thinking of getting it for my two-week sabbatical. I started a "countdown" to my first round of treatment on my Facebook account today: 20 days left. 6 days to nurse my son. It is urgent: I am going to bed to nurse him right now! Pray for strength for me as I walk into this next breaker of sorrow; pray for physical strength as I weather the storm within sans thyroid replacement. Just like my doctor said, it is, in fact, essential.

Keeping my hand to the plow

...visible things are signs of an invisible reality; that common duties may be "an immeasurable ministry of love." The spiritual training of souls must be inseparable from practical disciplines, as Jesus so plainly taught; "The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches! And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?" (Luke 16:10-12, JB). (The footnote to "your very own" says, "Jesus is speaking of the most intimate Possessions a man can have; these are spiritual.")

~ Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

I have been asked many times whether I will be taking a leave of absence from school, seeking help with my housework or childcare, giving up this commitment or that one. I haven't yet. It is a little more difficult than it used to be to fit everything in, but I feel as though the duties I perform as wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, part of the body of Christ at my is these things that define me and bring my life purpose. Keeping hands and feet busy is a sure way to avoid pity-parties, my mother always used to say. She was right! When I am focused outward - on my children, husband, family or friends - it is impossible to be too introspective, brooding, anxious, wracked by sorrow. There is no room in a busy mother's day for more than a few tears, a few moments of aching in the heart. I must go on, and it is so wonderfully freeing to do so.

This from the "Mother's Topical Bible" on the topic When You Feel Overwhelmed by Your Responsibilities...reminds me that no mere physical ailment or emotional sorrow can possibly overwhelm me - for I have all the tools and strength of my Savior at my disposal, if I will only ask! That is the "reason for my hope" (I Peter 3:15) in these difficult days of lacking something my physical body needs to live and work. I am trusting that God is sufficient in this, as in every human struggle I will ever face.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." ~ II Corinthians 10:3-5

Walking the ridgeline

" was the way of his God to choose the insignificant, the overlooked, and the humble to overcome massive evil: Nazareth, a virgin, a manger, a cross. And so it was Paul's way. He understood evil's Goliath and persisted in asking us to be like youthful David and in faith use small stones (our simple gifts) to assault towering evil."
~ Matthew R. Ristuccia, Structural evil vs. simple good, WORLD, May 3/10, 2008

It doesn't take much looking to see that God is using this battle to change me. Our church camp theme this year was "Changing Lives". That's the business God is in. Most of the struggles in my life have revolved around that pivotal issue, my selfish desire for independence, the futile human clinging to the mistaken belief that our lives are under our control. There is a tightrope to walk, as a Christian: lean too far one way, and you forget that God holds the world and everything in it in His hand and we are all subject to His sovereignty; lean too far the other way, and you forget that you have a free will, and your actions and thoughts impact your life and the lives of those around you. It is the age-old debate surrounding predestination and free will. It is difficult for me to grasp how both can exist simultaneously, as they seem mutually exclusive using logic.

Here I am, on the tightrope. My various phone calls to and from the University of Chicago and UPenn today yielded some interesting results: no appointments available until November with the expert I need to see, and the pathologist is on vacation starting today and ending October 30. I have definitely sensed God leading me to these physicians; now they are unavailable to me! I have felt led to accept the radioactive iodine treatment, and now must step forward on that path without the further knowledge a second opinion might yield. I can't ascertain what God might be doing here (or perhaps allowing?). My will is involved: I must choose which path to take, and make constant choices to either continue along it or digress from it. Yet He has set my course, and I am looking for the faint impressions in the slippery sand beneath my feet that might indicate where He has gone before me. It is a foreign landscape, and one can't always be looking at one's feet in any case. I am still learning that lesson I was given as a child - trust Me, have faith, not sight, not sense, sometimes not even peace.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are..." ~ I Corinthians 1:27-28

No new tumor growth

My ultrasound today went well. It was a 45-minute scan, and covered my entire neck, upper chest, and chin area, just like the ultrasound at Mayo. The test is slightly less sensitive because the technician wasn't as highly specialized and the machine slightly less good. However, the news is great and cause for much celebration! The radiologist spoke with Aaron and said he sees "nothing to be concerned about" in the way of new tumor growth in my neck. The voice changes and swallowing difficulty is most likely due to scar tissue or worsening of my vocal cord issue. It could also be complicated by my hypothyroidism, which causes dry mouth that results in hoarseness. So the symptoms may improve once I get back on my medications in mid-November.

I also spent the better part of the morning trying to coordinate appointments at the University of Chicago. It looks like I will not be able to get in there until after the radioactive iodine treatment, unless the doctor decides to "overbook" himself. He is an Orthodox Jew and in the middle of the Yom Kippur/Sukkot observation, so he is not checking e-mail or answering phone calls except on Sundays right now. I won't know about the appointment until next week when his secretary gets back to me.

Here comes the rain...

Katy: Mama, I figured out how God does it.
Does what, honey?

Sends the rain down to the earth. He must use a watering can. Except it would be really huge, like this big (extends both arms). Hmmm. I wonder how He fills it, then?

And so the questions continue, cancer or not - regardless of my burgeoning school, home, and health care responsibilities. Katy's questions these days are big ones. My questions these days - bigger? Are they any more difficult to answer than the questions of my childhood, though? I am faced with the "science question of the day" every morning (courtesy of Katrina), and I reflect back on my own process...sorting through these conundrums, proliferating answers, selecting one, living my life upon that Truth I had discovered. Here I am, facing cancer, and all the world can still be distilled in to the question, "Who is in control over the rain, why does He send it, and how??" (Psalm 148:8) Are my questions really that different? What is cancer, anyway? No less random, sudden, unpremeditated, or unexplained - in human terms - than the rain. Here I stand, in a maelstrom of hail, pounding rain, buffeting winds. My life is in the balance. Although I can put human terms to the origin of my distress (mutation on gene x caused my cancer), I cannot calculate the spiritual and emotional havoc - nor growth - this trial entails. What is the human face of cancer? Surprisingly, it is me - 29 years old, teaching my children about creation, pondering the profundities and borders of homeschooling, floundering in grad school, crying over the loss of these precious days, cherishing memories...cancer is Genevieve. Cancer is this body. Cancer is teaching this mind. Cancer is changing this soul.

But there will be deaths to die. Paul found that out--daily, he said. That is the price of following the way of the cross--of course. If our object is to save others we must be clear that we cannot save ourselves. Jesus couldn't either.

This scares people. Yet what is there to fear when Christ holds first place in our lives? Where, other than in the will of the Father, shall we expect to find significance, security, and serenity?

~ Elisabeth Elliot, The Supremacy of Christ

Looks like tonight, the sky is heavy
Feels like the winds are gonna change
Beneath my feet, the earth is ready
I know its time for heaven's rain, it's gonna rain

Because it's living water we desire
To flood our hearts with holy fire

Rain down/ all around the world, we're singing
Rain down/can you hear the earth is singing
Rain down/ my heart is dry but still I'm singing
Rain down rain it down on me.

Back to the start, my heart is heavy
Feels like it's time, to dream again
I see the clouds, and yes I'm ready
To dance upon this barren land
Hope in my hands

Give me strength to cross the water
Keep my heart upon Your altar

Give me strength to cross this water
Keep my feet don’t let me falter

~ Delirious, Rain Down

God things or Satan's bling?

The internet is replete with rabbit holes into which one may fall with one click of a mouse key. I ran down a few last night, and found some more research articles on papillary carcinoma - follicular variant. One, in particular, has sent my mind spinning off in all kinds of untoward directions! The article, co-authored by the pathologist my tumor is being sent to within a few days, mentions the hazy diagnostic procedures used by many hospitals in differentiating between types of follicular tumors (which I have). There is one word mentioned over and over in that article that sort of sends a tingle down my spine. Anaplastic. It is a word for a very deadly type of cancer of the thyroid. That type of cancer isn't ever really cured, and is a death sentence for many.

At the beginning of this process, words like this were never spoken. Today, two physicians mentioned that word in passing. I don't like hearing it. Yet I feel it is an odd sort of blessing to hear it now instead of two weeks from now, in more concrete terms. This is a amorphous, ill-defined entity that is lurking just inside the threshold of my consciousness, present but not really acknowledged, seen but not really recognized. I can't decide whether it is better to be stabbed in the back with reality, an unseen intruder crashing suddenly in a physical way, or to be watchful of the reality, seeing it, knowing it is there, yet never quite sure how to react to it.

Is God preparing my heart for something big in the next few weeks? I keep getting the nagging sense that He is. It could also be Satan, distracting me from the momentary, fleeting blessings of today with the specter of doom in tomorrow. So many little things - watching the news for the first time in months and seeing a story about a young woman much like me who is dying of terminal cancer; reading an article that mentions the misdiagnosis of anaplastic carcinoma; being connected to physicians across the country who can potentially greatly help us, or bring us the next harbinger of pain to come; meeting up with an old friend I lost track of 12 years ago, and being comforted and encouraged by her just when I need it most; my children asking questions I never wanted them to ask and doing things I never wanted them to do...crying about cancer, asking about orphans, weaning against their will.

The truth is, I can only discern part of the path that lies ahead. This story from Daylights encouraged me:

"The waiting lines [at theme parks] are well marked with rails or bars. But the key concept is that the path of the line winds. In thinking over my life, I wonder if God uses the same strategy with us. With the optimism of youth or the naivete of the ignorant, we assume our sanctification or the solution to a problem will be swift. God knows differently, but He only reveals the next step or two because He understands how much we can handle at any time. In His tenderness and compassion He moves us along through a hardship at His pace, weaving in a thousand other strands of circumstances of which we are unaware."
~ Dotty Vanderhost, Cornerstone Community Church, Daylights, September 27

They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we'd be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We're asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It's unfair.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred know our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.

If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?

~ Natalie Grant, Held

Blessed quietness

Joys are flowing like a river,
Since the Comforter has come;
He abides with us forever,
Makes the trusting heart His home.

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
Blest assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea Jesus speaks to me,
And the billows cease to roll.
~ Manie P. Ferguson, Blessed Quietness, 1897

We spent the weekend in Iowa with Dennis and Rosalie. The frame of that house is familiar and slips on like a well-loved garment; lovely, ordinary people have been living there for nearly 100 years. Deep in a river valley and surrounded by the rolling hills and wind-swept prairies, it is sheltered from every noise of natural or human origin. We spent our days laughing at the kids riding back and forth along the sidewalk in front of the house - sidewalks are foreign to country kids - trying to avoid the firestorm of walnuts dropping suddenly in swaths from the tree above. We visited an antique store, the local pizza place, and an animal sanctuary where different species are on display. The kids ran alongside a timber wolf, we squawked at several different types of owls, and tip-toed around the cage of cougars, bobcats, and a very, very fat bear.

I didn't think much about cancer this weekend. I did respond differently, as has become my habit, to the midnight wakefulness of baby Caleb, who is teething and fitful all night long. I spent last night awake with him. Usually I would fill the time with reading or thinking, but I was able to enjoy his restless company and spent most of the night watching him tenderly and caring for his needs so he could get the best rest possible. It pains me to think that a life-threatening illness was necessary to make me really stop and appreciate what God has so lovingly and freely set before me to enjoy for years. I am ashamed of that.

Upon returning to the "real world" (i.e. Wisconsin!), I opened up an e-mail from the leading thyroid cancer expert in the nation, Dr. Roy E. Weiss. I looked him up online with the help of a patient advocate at the American Cancer Society (who I will be shamelessly plugging for all time thanks to their generous, freely given and truly informative support!). I sent him an e-mail and received a thoughtful, individualized and kindly reply from him just a few days later. He is the inventor of Synthroid, the wonder drug that allows me to continue to function without my thyroid. He has already contacted the best pathologist in the country, Virginia Livolsi, who works out of the University of Pennsylvania and analyzes thousands of slides per year of papillary carcinoma-follicular variant. She will be analyzing my slides. So my task has become very easy - contact Mayo, sign release forms, and call the University of Chicago to arrange for my appointments at my convenience. Unlike Mayo, this doctor is also extremely concerned about my voice changes and will have me evaluated using laryngoscopy, consulting an ear-nose-throat surgeon and a thryoid oncologic surgeon at my first appointment. That should allow them to decide whether the changes are from cancer or permanent/ongoing damage of the recurrent laryngeal nerve.

I get that sense again - I think I am recognizing the "peace that passes understanding" (Phil. 4:7). It feels as though this road, the road that leads to the University of Chicago and this distinguished pathologist, has been laid out before me. It feels smooth and right to be on it. What else can we possibly trust in a situation that completely befuddles us all on a mere human level??

He is my Light and my Salvation
Whom have I to fear
In His secret place I'll hide and pray
That I might hear a simple word

O, how I would have despaired
If You had not come found me there
I can lean against You throne and find my Peace
Find my Peace
And when my enemies draw near
I pray that they will find
That I'm protected and secure
All tempests He will bind with a mighty word

~ Jennifer Knapp, Peace

I sing a simple song of love

Prayerlessness is one of many ways by which we can easily forfeit the peace God wants us to have. I've been thinking of some other ways. Here's a sampling:
  1. Resent God's ways.
  2. Worry as much as possible.
  3. Pray only about things you can't manage by yourself.
  4. Refuse to accept what God gives.
  5. Look for peace elsewhere than in Him.
  6. Try to rule your own life.
  7. Doubt God's word.
  8. Carry all your cares.

If you'd rather not forfeit your peace, here are eight ways to find it (antidotes to the above eight):

  1. "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165 KJV). "Circumstances are the expression of God's will," wrote Bishop Handley Moule.
  2. "Don't worry about anything whatever" (Philippians 4:6, PHILLIPS).
  3. "In everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Then the peace of God... will guard your hearts" (Philippians 4:6,7, NEB).
  4. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me... and you will find rest" (Matthew 11:29, NIV).
  5. "Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give" (John 14 27, NEB).
  6. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" (Colossians 3:15, NIV).
  7. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing" (Romans 15:13, KJV).
  8. "Cast all your cares on him for you are his charge" (1 Peter 5:7, NEB).
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

I have come to a place of acceptance. Yes, I need to continue to push for medical answers so that I can have the best possible outcome here on earth. But I accept that God is allowing this trouble at this time. My seemingly infinite love of my children in this season of preparation for separation is such a picture to me of how my Father in heaven looks down on me. My main emotion the last few days is unworthiness...of His love, of this test. What a complex, interesting God we serve! I can't wait to ask Him a few questions about how trials are allotted and what happened before His throne through these difficult days of my life. How many prayers is He hearing every day? Which does He choose to answer? Does He cry about it, or, knowing the final outcome, is that grief spared Him, my Creator?

A second opinion

I just wanted to pop on and update those who read this. I saw my doctor today and he felt my throat. He said "nothing really pops out" at him. However, he is taking my symptoms seriously and ordered an ultrasound for next Wednesday to explore my neck area for any new (or growing) masses. I am also in the process of being referred, tissue samples, lab tests and all, to the University of Chicago for a second opinion from a pathologist and endocrine oncology team. Please keep both in your prayers. The most difficult aspects of this phase of the trial remain: 1) difficulty being separated so frequently from my precious kids so that I can attend appointments and tests; 2) waiting on the Lord for results as I literally feel my throat closing down. Please keep both in your prayers! They are so much appreciated.

Vier Augen sehen mehr als zwei - Four eyes see more than two.

God's incredible call

When you take the risk of obedience, you find solid rock beneath you--and markers, evidence that someone has traveled this route before. "The Lord your God will cross over at your head... he will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not be discouraged or afraid" (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20; 31:3, 8, NEB).
~Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart

When I was 19 years old, I was living almost entirely for myself. Really the only things that kept me from deviating much from the path I was taught as a child where the fear of being caught, and disappointing my parents, brothers and other family. My parents prayed for me daily, and their routine of falling on their knees begging for the life and soul of their little one saved me many a consequence I am sure. Even in that state, a sinner unrepentant yet guilt-wracked, I went to the Christian book store in town to pick a book for my mother. She was having a fairly routine surgery but would be in the hospital for several days. I went there with a boyfriend (!!! the memory of this sorry candidate for my heart makes me nauseous just thinking about it!) and the book. My poor mother! How she must have gasped at her treasured daughter walking into her hospital room with a pierced, spiky haired young man and the sorry peace offering of a BOOK! I'm sure I shocked her, and the morning prayers must have redoubled at that juncture.

The book I chose was the one quoted today. Even in the darkest, deepest hole of sin and anger I will ever know (I pray), I was led to this book. Purchased it and brought it to my mother to comfort her in her time of pain and illness. Now I read it myself and marvel. I was obviously led to it, as I would never have rationally thought it through and picked this title, nor did I know anything about the author. God was calling me, even then; humble and tender, He sat in the glory of His throne and called me - a sinner! Nudged me along faithfully and now is my comfort and my cup every day. I didn't deserve it then, and I don't deserve it now. The tender moments I shared today with my mother...laughter filling my kitchen while the girls and I made pudding for an afternoon snack a few minutes ago...the sleepy, sweet-scented bliss of my baby sleep-nursing at my breast in between cat-naps...the sun lilting across the fields in short, wind-blown bursts...pans of delicious lasagne laid up against the day I must leave my family...strength and energy even without my "vital" replacement medication! I cast all my cares upon Him, for He careth for me (I Peter 5:7). He is merciful; He is great; He grips me now, and always. If God is for me, what cancer or doctor or error can possibly stand in the way of His glory?? (Romans 8:31)

Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. ~ Psalm 55:22