Raw ingredients...formless, full of possibilities, only potential. A pile of scraps on the floor, a sweater ruined in the wash.

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.

From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.
Psalm 22:9-10

Beginning to take shape under a skilled hand. In the middle stages, things often look strange and unfamiliar. The Loch Ness monster looms instead of what I had created with my mind's eye. It is tempting to give up - I am certain things won't turn out well in the end. I can't imagine what good will come of persevering at this point.

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

I am poured out like water...
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Psalm 22:11, 14-15

In the end, it all comes together. What was once a pile of fuzzy, useless scraps will be cuddled and treasured in it's new form. It isn't a monster after just needed a few more pieces added and a few finishing touches to bring out it's character. My perseverance paid off.

For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
future generations will be told about the Lord.

They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it.

Psalm 22:24, 30-31

My heart is steadfast oh God
And I will sing
With all my heart and soul
Music for the King
And I will awake the dawn
With my praise to You oh Lord

How great is Your love
So much higher than the heavens
With faithfulness that reaches the sky

~ How Great is Your Love, MercyMe

Praise God for family and friends, hugs and tears, food and fall colors. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Happy Thanksgiving!

Why write?

Intending to be purposeful about more of the little details of my tasks in each day, I've been thinking about this particular work a lot. Why write a blog? What's the purpose in that? "Blogging" does, in fact, make life a bit more awkward at times. Inviting people - friends and complete strangers alike - to read your journal can lead to some interesting social moments. The underlying truth that propels me forward in this endeavor is the fact that intimacy is of Christ. The woman at the well, the adultress about to be stoned, even infamous Judas Ischariot...all were allowed to be deeply intimate, in a short time, with Christ...His thoughts, feelings, and resolute choice to follow the Father, whatever suffering that choice brought.

And so I, taking up my unique cross at this tentative juncture of my life, make my thoughts, feeling, and resolute choice to follow the Father transparent. I invite the world to inspect my victories, and my shortcomings, and to see my answer to everyone who asks me to give the reason for the hope that I have (I Peter 3:15). I write partly because I do not want to disappear into the void if I die from this cancer. I want something of this struggle to remain, especially for my children. I don't want to be another tragic story, I want to be a story of victory and glory for God. I want to be sure that my children know that about me. I also write to heal, to process, to examine my heart. If I write it out, it is laid bare in a new way, before both God and man. And I pray, with David, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24).

After Christmas haze

You know how kids act in those lack-luster days just after New Years? The sparkle of Christmas gives way to the cacophony of New Years, and suddenly, there you are, a few dozen new toys later, feeling just the same as you always did. It is a time of returning to center, getting back to normal, reorganizing, and coming to grips with the fact that all the celebration in the world doesn't change reality. Because the truth is, life is a series of small tasks, small joys, small sorrows. There are a few major events thrown in to the mix, but life, the everyday living of it, is a collection of small details that make up mundane, tiny parts of a more majestic whole. "After Christmas burn-out" - I think that is the term I am describing. Climbing a hill necessitates the coming down afterward. Anyone who has scaled a mountain knows it is much easier to climb up than down.

I am in the after-Christmas phase of this trial. I woke up that morning of reunion with the same butterflies in my stomach I have had on Christmas Eve morning ever since I can remember. The joy of seeing my children and husband again - holding them - was better than unwrapping any gift I've ever been given. Now I am experiencing that period of being overwhelmed, feeling as though my world has been turned upside down. I feel a bit like a stranger in my own home, with routines, chores, and sleep schedules all just a little different than they were when I left. Not only that, but I feel frustrated with being overwhelmed! I wish I could say that yes, I've learned my lessons, and I value and cherish these children more than ever and delight to care for their every need. I do, in one sense, but it is still difficult. Cherishing the tasks does not make them easy. Christ warned us of this, and now I am learning it firsthand in new ways. If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24) I am taking up my cross, the heavy, rough wood of it scratching into my shoulder, making me ache by bedtime. I am taking it up daily, each morning inhaling deeply and rising to the needs of the little ones I am called to tend today. I am fixing my eyes on Christ, determinedly, in spite of the burn-out. When I am overwhelmed, I am closing my eyes in prayer for strength. I want nothing...burn-out, stress, plethora of tasks and studies, little troubles in distract me from the work I have been assigned, and the joy I have been provided.

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless

You're the strength in our weakness
You're the love to the broken
You're the joy in the sadness
You Are

Greater things have yet to come
Great things are still to be done
In this city
Where glory shines from hearts alive
With praise for you and love for you
In this city
~ God of This City, Chris Tomlin

Climbing back in the highchair

I've read about regression after stressful life events, but I've never witnessed it so dramatically in my own children. Amelia has been climbing into the high chair and asking for a bottle or "so-yo" (cereal), stammering and making a lot of pre-verbal sounds instead of speaking to me, requesting to "lay in my arms" like a baby. Rosy is sucking her thumb, having nightmares, wetting the bed, cuddling much more than usual. Caleb is continuing to try and nurse on me, although it has been almost 6 weeks now since I weaned him - I foolishly thought he would have forgotten by now. Katy is fussing, in ways which she hasn't for years, and asking me to cuddle her while she falls asleep.

All this reminds me that this is the state we willfully put ourselves in, as children of God, in the long periods that we separate ourselves from Him by stubbornly choosing freedom of flesh over freedom in Christ. I am the regressed child, long stumbling through the desert of loneliness, huddling now in my Savior's arms. I am the newborn babe crying for milk, I am the toddler stumbling over words, I am the preschooler terrorized in the night, I am the child fussing for attention.

What amazes me about this analogy is the love Christ has welling over for me, the prodigal returned! As the mother of Caleb, Amy, Rosy, Katy, I delight to meet every need in these days of renewed exuberance over our relationship. I am so thrilled that they need me, that they recognize their need for me and beg for me, it matters little whether or not they are maturing, whether they are living at the potential I have seen in days past. What matters is that we are back together. My heart is filled with boundless joy because I have the chance to serve them again. I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3:17-19) Parenthood has been a season of learning what it means to love unconditionally. I am learning daily, as I tend to my children, what it means to love someone, regardless of how they smell, look, feel, act, or what little they are doing for me. It is an exercise in being selfless, and I am blessed that God has given me this opportunity to glimpse the sufferings of Christ. And the beauty of the homecoming of His beloved children in His eyes. Even if we are serving Him daily, there is daily at least those momentary lapses that require repentance and restoration to fellowship. If we are not serving Him daily, there is an exuberant, desirous Father waiting at the threshold of our hearts, just begging to be ushered in for a joyful reunion like the one I am experiencing with my children! Yes, we will regress. And yes, our Father loves us in spite of, perhaps even because of, our little human weaknesses. For isn't it the very childish mispronunciations, and lisps, and regressions, that most endear our children to our tender hearts?

Infinitely beyond

That you may really come to know practically, through experience for yourselves the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge without experience; that you may be filled [through all your being unto all the fullness of God may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself!

Now to Him Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams--To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. ~ Ephesians 3:19-21 (Amplified)

Today is an Amplified version sort of day. Without the blackness of the past 17 days, the pure white joy of the past 24 hours would be so much less. God is so wise and gentle in His love for me. I am blissfully finishing feeding my children their 5th meal/snack of the day! Right now they are feasting on plain whole wheat bread (untoasted, with the crusts torn off) with honey, a favorite of theirs. My skinny little Rosy is on her 5th piece! Because the emotions of these past 24 hours completely surpass my powers of description, two more short video clips...

Welcome home!

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

Notes in the margins

"I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughter, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them...Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride, before your wickedness was uncovered?...And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD is there." ~ Ezekiel 16:53-54, 56; 48:35b

In the margin: How is it possible to have so much wrath and yet so much promise, the coexistence of hope and commitment with annihilating judgement? This is the inconceivable divine...

My hope lies not in governments, principalities, physical realities, proximity to those I love, temporal comforts, freedoms, Constitutions, even God-given relationships. It rests solely in Him and the promise that the next world is to be my focus and my aim, the source of my joy and my salvation. I fear what God is doing in this country; I fear - in that awe-struck sense, shrinking from the unknown, shrinking from the human realities of pain and tears - what He may be doing in my own life in these next months. I don't want to see our country laid to waste; I don't want to see my bones laid bare by illness. But neither would destroy the hope that I have in Him.

"For this vision of truth God has been working for ages and ages. For this simple condition, this apex of life, upon which a man wonders like a child that he cannot make other men see as he sees, the whole labour of God's science, history, poetry - truth upon truth in lovely vision, in torturing law, never lying, never repenting; and for this will the patience of God labour while there is yet a human soul whose eyes have not been opened, whose child-heart has not yet been born in him. For this one condition of humanity, this simple beholding, has all the outthinking of God flowed in forms innumerable and changeful from the foundation of the world; and for this, too, has the divine destruction been going forth; that his life might be our life, that in us, too, might dwell that same consuming fire which is essential love."
~ George MacDonald, The Consuming Fire

Those who go before me

But is that enough? The terrible things in the world seem to make a mockery of the love of God, and the question always arises: Why?! God allows Satan to make a test case from time to time. It had to be proved to Satan, in Job's case, that there is such a thing as obedient faith which does not depend on receiving only benefits. Jesus had to show the world that He loved the Father and would, no matter what happened, do exactly what He said. The servant is not greater than his Lord. When we cry "Why, Lord?" we should ask instead, "Why not, Lord? Shall I not follow my Master in suffering as in everything else?"

Does our faith depend on having every prayer answered as we think it should be answered, or does it rest rather on the character of a sovereign Lord? We can't really tell, can we, until we're in real trouble.

...asking God to enable her to show the world what genuine faith is--the kind of faith that overcomes the world because it trusts and obeys, no matter what the circumstances. The world does not want to be told. The world must be shown. Isn't that part of the answer to the great question of why Christians suffer?

~ Elisabeth Elliot, A Path Through Suffering

Two more days until I am reunited with my family! I told Katy to put a big red "x" through today's date on the calendar so she can visualize how short a time of separation is left. Each day gets a little harder at this point. I imagine Wednesday will feel like a "party" day - I will wake up with butterflies in my stomach and spring in my step. I dreamt this morning about holding Caleb, and it felt so real that I tried to will myself to stay asleep to revel in the dream for a few moments longer.

How light and momentary my trials seem as I think about what others have gone through. A few of the stories that have been compelling me onward in courage beg sharing here. My aunt Shera has come to my mind again and again as I undergo this separation. She was divorced many years ago, and has lived a large part of her life alone, single. She is alone with God all the time, and I see the amazing peace she has, alone with Him. But her heart still cries out for companionship just as mine has done in these past two weeks. I hear the lonesome strains of the song of her soul every now and then in her letters or her words, sometimes her eyes. Yet, despite that song ever streaming from deep within, she has had to learn to dwell in God's peace, to satisfy her desires through Him, in a long-term sense. Who am I to complain during a brief separation from my husband and children?

As I woke this morning from my dream of holding my son, my heart was broken once again for the dear friends I have who have lost a child. How much more precious those visions during slumber must be to them who will not hold their dear one again in a few days time. My words are completely inadequate to express how humbled I am to watch Christ's dignity and willingness to bear a cross played out in their lives. How much deeper a well of suffering they must drink much deeper that granite vein of strength born through trials runs in their hearts than much more still the waters of their souls are becoming as they learn to rest in God's presence and trust His teaching hand, however harsh it may seem to human understanding. They, truly, are overcoming the world, and show us, through their example, the wonderful, awesome and terrible faces of the mighty God we serve!

To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv’n.
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in Heav’n.
Then onward from the hill of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus’ conqu’ring Name.

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!
O glorious victory, that overcomes the world.

~ John Henry Yates, Faith is the Victory, 1891


This second week is apparently where the rubber meets the road. I am feeling better every day physically. I am peeling as though I had a sunburn, but other than that, most of my side effects from the RAI have vanished. I am still a little swollen and sore from the withdrawal from my Synthroid (replacement hormone). Now it is just my heart that is broken! With each day, I miss my family more and what was a dull throb is now a persistent ache that I assume will swell further this coming week until I am near tears all the time instead of just some of the time! The hallmark times of day are most difficult...waking, meal times, evening, and bedtime. My life is so built around the routine we have established that it gets more and more difficult to live without the routine, and more importantly, the reasons behind the routine...four delightful children and a dear husband! Please lift my spirit up in prayer as I struggle through these last days of loneliness for my family. Katy and Amy seem to be getting more lonely as well, so please keep both of them, and Aaron, in your prayers as well.

Say no to partial birth abortion

Click the following banner ad to say "no" to partial birth abortion, abortion without education, abortion by unlicensed personnel, and abortion for minors without parental consent. All will be signed into federal law by President-elect Barack Obama within the first 100 days of office in 2009.

Fighting the harness

I have celebrated a lot of my victories as I write here. Today a defeat is heavy on my mind.

I prayed for years to be put behind a plow for God. I prayed as I wept by the bedsides of children I did not bear that He would give me children of my own so that I could walk this incredible journey I watched parents walking. It is something I literally begged God for. And He said, "Yes, my child", and gave me four children in four years! God's blessing is bountiful when He pours it out on us. In the midst of walking the path of young motherhood...truthfully, just past the threshold...I began to wonder if I had been "called" to this after all. What if it was all a mistake?? What if, instead of allowing a blessing, God had allowed one massive test to enter my life? I pictured the scene in heaven, God telling Satan, "No, don't give that woman children. She is a perfectly good nurse and that is what I have called her to do."

[Enter the pitiful wails and flailing about of my faulty human spirit and hormonal young womanhood.]

God tips His ear my way, and says, "Hmmm. Well, if she really desires it, and yes, it WOULD be a good test for her. Alright, Satan, have at it! I promised to be with her, and I will. She will cry out to me, and I will draw nigh to her. Let's give her the test she asks for."

Do you have a "blessing" in your life that feels more like a trial most of the time? Do you wonder if you misread your "call"? Do you resist the harness of the plowhorse, feeling as though perhaps you were bred for sprinting, not 12-hour days cutting the ground into furrows? Do you wonder if the grass is sweeter at the race track, or the pasture where a loving family keeps you for occasional riding use? Would you rather work in the mountains, perhaps, or see what it is like to work down in sunny Mexico? This has certainly been my battle of late. Here I am, plowing the furrows that are my children. At least eighteen years of work lies before me. And it is not just the mantle of motherhood that I have bucked and worn askew, and occasionally tossed on the ground and stomped upon! It is the particular type of mantle God has called me to now wear! Stay at home?? Keep my children in home school?? Sew and can and weed a garden and make a home and do laundry?? Is this really what I was "called" to do, God?? What about my shriveling intellect, the very brain and wit and desire for knowledge you planted as a seed in me in my mother's womb? What about my nursing knowledge and ability to help families navigate some of the most difficult health care decisions of their lives? Doesn't that have merit? What am I to do with it? Cast it aside for an archaic, Biblical archetype that is almost impossible to envision in the current bounds of our society and culture?

[Enter somber doctor with lab report, medical record and pathology. In short, enter cancer.]

Young woman, if it is you reading this, lay down your struggles. I beg you to lay them down sooner than I did. Don't push God's limits with your questions and your struggles and desires for self. Lay your self down willingly at His feet! Pray about it every day, as I did not. Ask your husband to help you, as I did not. Ask an older woman for counsel, as I did not. Pray some more. Why struggle to the bitter end, digging your nails into the last shreds of your dignity and selfhood as they are gently and inexorably pulled away from you? Don't you see it is YOU who are shredding it? God asks you to hand Him the garment of your old self - and promises to hand back, in return, a glorious new garment. "...put off the old self with its practices, and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other; And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (Colossians 3:5-14 exc. ESV)

Do not sell your soul for the paltry pittance your culture will offer you! My self, that intellectual bauble I too easily praise, is not worthy of a second glance when my Savior and His tasks lie before me! Instead of narrowing my depth of focus to self, wondering if I'd misinterpreted God's call and made a mistake to ask for these children, why not look up at the landscape before me and trust that this view, this vista...this is what God has planned for me. If it is before me, it is my call. My self - yes, created by Him, yes, valuable in His merciful, Fatherly eyes. But worthy of worship? Worthy of sacrifice? Do not let feminism turn your body and your mind and your contribution to society into something that it is not! You were created to praise God, not self. You were created to serve God, not self. Do not be a fool, as I have so often been in these past five years! A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

Today I am praying for lasting change. I don't want cancer to be the proverbial blip on my screen. I want it to be changing me forever. I want to trade my slow connection with God, the one that I have accessed only in times of greatest need, for high-speed, the type that is constantly exchanging information. In the world, cancer turns people inward as they focus on improving their healthy lifestyle to maximize their days on this earth. That is not my goal. I want to maximize my soul's harvest in heaven. That is my focus. I repent that I only heard this lesson through God's megaphone of cancer. I repent that I neglected the soft whispers of His loving, Father-voice in my soul while I held my delicious babies close. I repent that I was deaf to the voice of my compassionate husband, who desires the best for his family and wishes to make me a queen in my own home. I repent that I struggled so against the harness of my plow. Now that it is lifted off my shoulders, I see the deep furrows and scars in my soul where I have struggled. Where God desired serene beauty there is now a battle-worn heart. When He put peace and understanding in my reach, in plain sight, I turned away and cried bitter tears I never had to cry. I chose suffering instead of peace; flailing instead of resting; this life instead of the next. Please don't do it! Learn from my mistake.

The God who is ever uttering himself in the changeful profusion of nature; who takes infinite years to form a soul that shall understand him and be blessed; who never needs to be, and never is, in haste; who welcomes the simplest thought of truth or beauty as the return for seed he has sown upon the old fallows of eternity, who rejoices in the response of a faltering moment to the age-old cry of his wisdom in the streets; the God of music, of painting, of building, the Lord of Hosts, the God of mountains and oceans; whose laws go forth from one unseen point of wisdom, and thither return without an atom of loss; the God of history working in time unto christianity; this God is the God of little children, and he alone can be perfectly, abandonedly simple and devoted. The deepest, purest love of a woman has its well-spring in him. Our longing desires can no more exhaust the fullness of the treasures of the Godhead than our imagination can touch their measure. Of him not a thought, not a joy, not a hope of one of his creatures can pass unseen.

Life is no series of chances with a few providences sprinkled between to keep up a justly failing belief, but one providence of God; and the man shall not live long before life itself shall remind him, it may be in agony of soul, of that which he has forgotten. When he prays for comfort, the answer may come in dismay and terror and the turning aside of the Father's countenance; for love itself will, for love's sake, turn the countenance away from that which is not lovely; and he will have to read, written upon the dark wall of his imprisoned countenance, the words, awful and glorious, Our God is a consuming fire.

~ George MacDonald, The Child in the Midst

Ode to my beloved

Keep askin' ourselves are we really
Strong enough
There's so many things that we got
Too proud of
We're too proud of
We're too proud of

I wanna take the preconceived
Out from underneath your feet

We could shake it off
Instead we'll plant some seeds
We'll watch em' as they grow
And with each new beat
From your heart the roots grow deeper
The branches will they reach for what
Nobody really knows
But underneath it all
There's this heart all alone

What about is gone
And it really won't be so long

Sometimes it feels like a heart is no place to be singin' from at all

There's a world we've never seen
There's still hope between the dreams
The weight of it all
Could blow away with a breeze
If your waiting on the wind
Don't forget to breathe

Cause as the darkness gets deeper
We'll be sinkin' as we reach for love
At least somethin' we could hold
But I'll reach to you from where time just can't go

~ All at Once, Jack Johnson

A beauty observed pales in comparison to a beauty shared. This one I married, this man I crave...I miss him most deeply in these long days on my own. How thankful I am that singleness usually precedes togetherness, and that this is but a season of separation. It is so much harder to travel backward on this trajectory, and to lose the little joys that have been so tightly woven they are part of the very fabric of my being after just six years. Someone to warm my toes on...someone to cry my most bitter tears with...someone who understands my wordless wonder over all things outdoors and all things truly beautiful...someone who shares completely my idea of beauty and goodness...who enjoys the same art, who considers the same cottonwood tree "art", who thinks of dry grass prairies as "art", and the wind blowing through them "music". Someone who wakes hours before dawn to show me fields I've never seen, to teach me bird calls I've always longed to know, to watch me experience the thrill of the hunt, and takes time to teach me the dark profiles of a myriad of different birds as they fly against the gray-green of a predawn skyline. The tender curve of a man's back bent beneath the weight of our shared child; the quiet shuffle of his feet across the cold wood floors in winter, up to care for a crying child while I stay tucked in bed with the delicious baby.

It goes beyond all the little human connections and years of small kindnesses and momentary regrets, and shared experiences. It is being one in soul. I am less than half of what I should be without him. I am scared, and lonely, and dull. I was designed for him, and him for me, and it is irrefutable. He is all of my best songs, and my most tender moments; he is my truest mirror and yet takes care to cast back only my most flattering reflection. He is the greatest part of my peace, he is the most vibrant part of my thoughts, he is the most winnowed and honed part of my wit. He is my protector, he is my critic, he is my enigma, he is my joy. We are so grown together, in such a short time, that it is difficult to spend 17 days without his touch, and his thoughts, and his laughter. I miss the curious little crinkles around his eyelids, the way he closes his eyes when I compliment him, the way he "pshaws" at me when I admire him. Yet it is so beyond compliments and admiration, even adoration. It is need and longing and fulfillment and passion and desire and acquiescence and...betterness. He is my call to goodness and my will for perseverance and my desire for God. He lights my flames and tends them with me. He is the granite shore on which my soul stands, he is the swell in my wave, he is the dance in my days, the lilt in my monotony.

I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot

Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here
And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday
And I know
That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you
Next door there's an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know
That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest
~ The Luckiest, Ben Folds

The grand sweep

When I left my home for this extended absence, I left a basket full of gifts for my children. One for each child, for each day. I envisioned them opening them in a difficult moment...a moment of missing Mama, at different times each day. Instead, they rush to the basket first thing every morning, and gleefully open their gift to see how I intended to start this day for them. I am thankful God directed me and gave me heightened awareness as I carefully selected each day, calendar in hand, knowing a few skeleton details of what that day would hold for them. Monday was picture day. Cute, decorated 3"x 3" picture frames, one for each child, with a photo of me loving them up. Something to brighten the beginning of another week without Mama. A visual reminder of the strength and tenacity of a mother's love.

I find myself waking in the morning, a little later than usual, but still at a reasonable hour. Around 7 a.m., I wake up, look into the sky and unwrap the day like the gift it is. I am away from my loved ones, it is true. Yet here I am, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, with the pale blue sky above and the grandeur of that beloved and familiar wild granite shore undergirding me. Enveloped in the warm air and presence of two of my favorite people on earth. Eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, the familiar slip of a hand of cards under my swollen fingertips. I am incredibly alive. There is poison brewing in me, and I feel it's undercurrent, but I am not pulled under by it. I am buoyed by it. I bob on the surface with remarkable resilience and spirit. "I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly" do the days.

This day is a pearl, just like my unexpected Monday of a week past. Sometimes my pearls reflect the dull tears my eyes refuse to cry in their dry state; sometimes the crinkle of swollen eyes curved in smile. These are bittersweet days, but days nonetheless. I read something today that reminded me of WHO is waiting, and what Home He is waiting in! Who am I to ask to linger? How would my husband feel if I begged to stay away from home just one more day, stretching the 17 to 18?? How would I feel if my husband begged me to stay away for just one more? How ridiculous! Yet that is what my request for "life" amounts to! My God has promised that He, in His wisdom, omnipotence and grace, has granted me the perfect number of days! Why do I ask for "just one more"? I cannot get my head around that question right now. Not to mention my heart!

Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. ~ Job 14:5

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12

And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man,"dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." ~ Revelation 1:12-18

Who am I to be afraid? For the First and the Last, the Living One, miraculously, tenderly, whole-heartedly and unabashedly cares for me!

Limiting God

It's never a good idea to put God in a box. I enjoyed this scripture from Haggai this morning. I am reading the English Standard Version for the next 5 years. I just started Rosy's journal Bible. I have writer's block every time I think about writing my letter to her in the coverlet. Interesting, because I found it so easy to write Katrina's 5 years ago when I set out on this project. It feels as though the stakes have been raised, and I need to be so much more mindful of what I say to my little Rosebud in her Bible.

"Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them in a bag with holes. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors." ~ Haggai 1:4-11

Today I am meditating on these verses. Obviously, I go to a physical building for Sunday worship of the Lord of hosts. It is not in shambles. But what can I do to build it up? How can I shift out of a consumer mentality in this time of economic and political crisis and change? How can I become a contributor, in a deep sense, to my faith community? Even more, how can I reach beyond those borders to the vast Church, and specifically to God's people? Instead of letting these trials focus me inward, to my own family, how can they propel me outward, to focus on others with my children and husband at my side?

Outside looking in

Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
~ The Matrix (1999)

I had a painful preview tonight of what I sometimes imagine it will be like to be dead. I had a wonderful date three feet across a table from my husband. We talked about the kids a lot. I followed him back to my aunt and uncle's house, where the children were, and quietly parked my car, lights off, to watch them through the window. Those ten minutes spent watching their dear little mannerisms and hearing little whispers of their laughter and gay voices through the pane of glass that separated us were exactly what I imagine it would be like to be dead...exquisitely wonderful and exquisitely painful at the same time. To see and not touch, to hear and not feel. To be an observer in what "should" be my life. It was more than I could bear, and I left in a rush for a little Indian restaurant on the corner, where I'm sure they thought I was a little insane, rushing in with tears streaming, frozen to the core and begging for a cup of hot tea (a cup of cheer, the real, literal soul-cheering kind, is what I really desired at that moment!).

I wish I could leave it at that, that my soul didn't force my brain to go deeper into the issues that underlie this entire vignette and make it so exquisitely painful. The true issue is one of the heart, one of selfishness. For I have selfishly absorbed that entirely humanistic idea that my life is my own to live, my deserved right. In truth, it is a gift, each day and each hour. In truth, God would faithfully provide if my death comes about while my children are still babes. For it is not through me that they is through God in heaven. In truth, my death will not be tinged by these human sorrows. Although it is incomprehensible to me now, my death will not be the script of It's a Wonderful Life, for although each of us adds a remarkable human thumbprint to the existence of others, that is all it is. It is the spark and thumbprint of the divine that makes our lives truly remarkable, and it is the mercy of the Almighty that promises a death of joy instead of one of aching loss...for I will turn mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow, promises our God (Jeremiah 31:13). I do not die to cry over the loss of my life, but to rejoice in the life I have gained because of the death of my Savior! What a full circle we come!

It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. ~ Titus 2:12-14

There'll be no dark valleys when Jesus comes...
There'll be no more sorrow when Jesus comes...
There'll be songs of greeting when Jesus comes,
to gather His loved ones home!
~ William Orcutt Cushing, 1823-1902

The song of my heart tonight can only be captured in my absolute favorite Italian aria, Nessun Dorma. I have included it here sung by the untrained and absolutely beautiful voice of the unlikely Paul Potts. Here are the words and the translation:
Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d'amore
e di speranza.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò
quando la luce splenderà!
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
che ti fa mia!
(Il nome suo nessun saprà!...
e noi dovrem, ahime, morir!)
Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vincerò!
vincerò, vincerò!

Nobody shall sleep!...
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know...
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

Seeds already sown

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea... ~ Exodus 14:8-9 ESV

Seeds were on my mind as I contemplated November during my cold, windy walks around the lake yesterday and again this morning. I looked around at the man-made objects, and the minimal preparations we humans now make for winter. We gather up some hoses, mulch our small gardens, and mow the grass one last time. There is no fuel laid by for winter, no pantry full of home-canned foods we raised up from the ground with our own two hands, no root cellar or ice house full of meat or produce stored carefully against the snowy days to come. Just a few cosmetic details done mostly to the exterior of our homes and grounds. And we continue to rush on at break-neck pace toward Thanksgiving...then Christmas...then Spring Break.

I have lived close to farmers for most of my life. Their life is predictable: turn the ground over as soon as it thaws in the spring, pick the rocks, fertilize the soil, sow the seeds. Watch the plants grow all summer: a brief rest, with the daily rhythms of turning out livestock, bringing livestock home to tend. Then the harvest: a brilliant flash of activity that continues dawn until well after dark in these days of headlights and engines. Preserving and selling the harvest; then tending the land and the seeds for the next season, the cold, life-destructive forces of the winter months. It is the visionary who is out planting when others are harvesting: winter wheat, late beans. Even the visionaries invest little into crops that defy winter. They are unpredictable.

Yet that is what we're called to be as Christians, isn't it? Visionaries? Planters who sow when all others are conserving. Farmers who trust in a high-risk crop because we are led by a Force more powerful than those of nature...the Ruler of all the other forces of nature? Certainly I am sowing seeds when the world around me screams for me to retreat, conserve, preserve, consolidate. I am throwing around seed with abandon. I am potentially wasting my resources. I don't see much sense in sleeping, whether I am tired or not; I don't care to sit on a couch watching TV, numbing my brain when I feel most called to sharpen it. My physical body is under attack, yet I refuse to build up walls to protect it. I trust God to protect it. I trust His power in my weakness. I will not bend to these aching knees; I will not succumb to the joylessness of conservation.

I also see that seeds long sown are lying dormant within me during this time of unexpected November. My health isn't great right now; but my spirit is. I watched this conundrum over and over on the transplant unit: those families who had a full field of seeds already sewn when the storm came watched peacefully as the water rushed over the landscape of their hearts; they were confident of the harvest to come, however lashed about by storms they were. There were families with nothing planted when the storm hit, and they mourned immediately for the loss of harvest they also knew was inevitable. And then there was a third class, the families God called out during the storm. They were out planting when everyone else was huddled inside: lashed about by rain and thunder and lightening, they were throwing seed into the fields anyway. Winter wheat, late beans. There are harvests to be gleaned when you are willing to risk everything for God!

I have felt an incredible sense of the Devil these past four days. In a time that I expected to feel the comfort of the angels, instead I became more aware than ever of the presence of the Enemy. At first, I struggled with fear. Listening to a visionary today, I was reminded that, however inevitable fear is, it is my choice how to respond. Do I close my eyes and step forward with faith, bridging the gap? Or do I take counsel from my fear?

I want to be a visionary, sowing winter wheat today in the November of cancer. I also look with confidence at the seeds I know God has already sown in me, those seeds waiting to burst in the warmth of the springtime that I know is just around the corner. I feel a sense that now is a time to quietly sow, head down, anticipating a harvest. I don't want to raise my arms defiantly, expecting God to heal me and help me, while Satan is arming himself to attack. I just want to step out on faith, regardless of the impending attack, the attack at which I am perhaps now at the center of.

Though the enemy comes in,
I will not be shaken

Though I may have fallen,
I will not stay down

You are my Sanctuary
I love Your sweet embrace
You are my Sanctuary
Hide me in the secret place

When I long for more of You
You're my revelation
Lord the softest whisper
brings the strength I need

~ unknown, Sanctuary

Into November

You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. "If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. ~ Leviticus 26:2-6 ESV

November is here in the northland. I woke up this morning feeling November deep in my body: I have been taken to the very edge of autumn. My cells are grinding to a halt. My joints are stiff and thick with fluid that refuses to soften and move. My hands are thick and heavy and my feet feel wooden. Every part of me is a little swollen, a sign of the waste products building up in each cell with no where to go. Nothing is working as it should. The side effects of the radiation linger because my body is losing it's capacity to heal in it's semi-functional state.

I went for a walk around a nearby lake to wake my deadened senses. All around me, autumn is coming to a close. What starts so flamboyantly with the scattering of seeds and conserving of sap in the core of the hardwoods, resulting in those flaming maples and umbre of the oaks, is now grinding to a mushy, windswept conclusion of barrenness. The once-golden carpet of leaves beneath my feet no longer swish pleasantly; the beauty of the leaves is turning to sludge in the cold. The wind has swept all the trees bare; the grasses have scattered the beauty of their heavy heads and rustle brusquely as dry coarse stalks before the gusts. The songbirds have long since left, and with them most of the ducks and geese; we are left with a few brave gamebirds and the crows and vultures for the winter.

Because the majority of us experience life in a very predictable progression of seasons, that is what I had come to expect. Childhood was like coming out of winter, just wakening after hibernation; my teens were the muddy wildness of early spring. My early 20's, late spring: crocuses, daffodils, planting the fields, the warmth of the soil rolling over under the cultivator for the sun. Then the warmth of early summer, as I bore my children and began harvest. There were hot, humid days when my work seemed stagnant and cumbersome and all I wanted was a long, summer nap. How surprising, to descend into November when so much summer was left! I am surprised to be here. I am praying this is a brief interruption, a little foretaste of seasons to come later in life. My intuition tells me that winter is a long way off, that summer will return, uncharacteristically bright and refreshing.

For now, here I am. In November. Taking long hikes by myself. Wondering how I will ever get warm again.

In November, the earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets. The bare November trees are all sticks and bones spreading their arms like dancers.
~ In November, Cynthia Rylant

Coming through the fog

I feel like I am slowly emerging from the valley of the shadow of this treatment. My throat feels better this evening, and I have stayed in an upright, non-sleeping position now for an amazing three hours! Ah, the small things in life...

I have some burns from the radiation, so that is bothering me a bit. I am hoping they resolve quickly, with lots of fluids. I have had 3 gallons of water and 1 gallon of pineapple juice to drink today, so that should help! Let's just say the bathroom is my most used room in the house right now. I have some kidney pain and I am hoping that resolves with fluids as well. I have cabin fever because I felt too ill to go out for my planned walk around the lake. Looking forward to day +2 tomorrow...a walk around the lake, maybe pick up some stamps at a grocery store. Sunday, an evening date with my aunt, uncle and parents for some iodine-containing food! I am already thinking about what I will eat. I wish I could just sit down to a bowl full of seafood, but I've read that it makes you feel sick if you eat it too soon after the I-131 dose. I'll probably stick with something more benign...hmmm. Dairy, butter, soft cheese, soy, cured meats, seafood, salt. Taste, maybe?? We'll see how my little buds are doing. I remember taking care of kids on transplant after radiation and all they wanted to eat was Doritos for about 20 days or so. I thought it was such an odd food choice at the time, but I am getting a sneak peek into the world of no taste buds! Doritos are looking pretty good right about now!


I have avoided using this word for many years after watching the movie of the same title and being more deeply disturbed by Kathy Bates' rendition of the main character than I have ever felt before. However, it captures how I feel today. I am sitting upright, forcing myself to type for a few moment before collapsing back in bed. I have a lot of throat and facial swelling from the iodine, complete lack of secretions (tears, nose and throat) despite all that I am drinking, pain when I use the bathroom, and complete and utter fatigue. All the things I was expecting, but the "lived experience" (as we nurses call it) is still a challenge. I am going back to bed now! Please continue to pray for quick healing from these side effects of the iodine. I am also begging the Lord that the iodine will do it's dastardly job and kill all the little thyroid and cancer cells in my body so I don't have to go through this all again in 3 months.

Shades of gray

A morning greeting from a lonely Mama's boy.

Even through my swollen lids he looked wonderful. I don't know how I will bear this...

Apparently I still have enough tears to cry.

Does one always wear flannel to radiology in Wisconsin? I missed the memo.

Ah, the notorious blue vinyl chairs, impervious to radiation and chemo. I remember these so well. And I've never sat in them before.

Bones spinning. Almost time.

Lead glows in fluorescent light.

One little word says so much: carcinoma.

Two categories that won't define me ever again. I've stepped out of these bounds forever.

Electric blue for danger. Down the hatch...

SHE is here!

The long awaited newest babe to join our growing clan arrived today, as predicted by the highly inaccurate due date calculators, on a momentous Election Day. Nearly 24 hours too late to receive a much-longed-for squeeze from her Auntie! Emma Kae...a beautiful name...a beautiful and (to all appearances) intelligent little one...7 lb 8 oz and 21 1/4" of her (the exact length Caleb was, and 5 oz more!). I am so anxious to meet her...

Who could possibly tire of looking at the sweet face of a newly born babe??


The way of mercy
Takes me to the least
Down the road of suffering
To the wedding feast

For I know that You are faithful
As we walk these fields of white
To the weary and the hurting
let Your Kingdom comes
~Faithful, David Ruis

Prayers are always answered. Yesterday was a glorious day, a string of pearls unfolding before my very eyes as I opened gift after gift streaming straight from the hands of the Father into my bruised heart. Just when I thought I was at the end of the necklace, another bead glistened in the warm, Indian summer sun. The morning began with waiting...but not for the radioactive treatment, rather the glorious arrival of my newest niece or nephew! Megan was admitted to the hospital Sunday night, and I couldn't believe God was granting my prayer that I be able to hold their little one before I was quarantined! I called early in the morning to see about delaying my treatment, and was told I could come anytime before 4:30 p.m. Another pearl: a beautiful, sunlit day to treasure my children, share life with them, breathe in their sights, and sounds, and smells. Fill my cup up to overflowing so I can spill some drops of joy into my barren lap on a darker day in the November that will surely come.

We went to music class and delighted together in the cacophony and chaos that is kids and music and dancing in a high-ceiling art gallery lit with eastern windows and glistening pine floors. We gloried in Kosher salt at a local deli and beautiful, crumbly goat cheese that a low-iodine Mama can feast upon. We napped together in the lazy, beetle-buzzing afternoon in the unexpected bliss of open windows and the sound of corn husks rustling in the warm, summer-like breeze. I packed my car slowly, savoring every quiet moment of the house God has given us, listening to the children sleep and staving off sorrows that threatened at every moment. Still waiting for the call announcing the birth of that beautiful babe...

Late afternoon came, and no baby. Confounding! The day was a gift just for me...brought about by the "impending birth", which didn't happen. A glorious, free day that I wasn't expecting. A drive back into the reality of the city with the children bursting at the seams from our joyous, momentous, and totally ordinary afternoon. Hugs, hugs, more hugs, holding tears in with iron bands of will as I smiled and hugged some more. Swallowing the largest lump my throat has ever known...swallowing it a hundred times, tasting it's salty bitterness, and thanking God for my afternoon of pearls. One hundred times easier to swallow the large blue horse-pill of radioactive iodine. Primed with grief and disbelief, my throat found that an easy job. Sitting in a sterile little room with my husband beside me, I stared down into a little lead canister, took out the glass vial, unscrewed the cap and tipped it back to accept this cure that threatens to be worse than the disease that now invisibly ails me. The ache of forgetting a good-bye kiss before the poison passed my lips. Walking away carefully observing the "3 foot rule". Feeling the world open up like a chasm before me.

That longed-for freedom...that abyss of unlimited choice...the silence as the "fetters" of motherhood and wifery dropped from my ankles and wrists and shattered around my feet. How shall I now live? Adrift once again in a sea of strangers. Floating along in the tide and whim of self. What moors me? What steers me?

Underneath, there He is. His heart beat still propels me. My joy is still in Him. What a pearl to discover, that after all this time, and all these externally imposed guides and rigorous boundaries, I have continued to internalize the lessons He is teaching, to integrate them as part of my self and what propels me and gives me meaning. I am not adrift. My ways and means have shifted, and my purpose is the same. In this, as in all else, I am here for His glory. I exist for His service. I pray for His guiding hand. I long for His touch.

Waking this morning, the world is tasteless and odorless. The world is magically sterile, and glitters with new sparkle through my eyes, swollen and skewed from the localized effects of the radiation. There is a philosophical lack of focus, an attendant lack of agenda and timeframe; and a physical reality, an inability to perceive the visual all around me. Words and worlds are as hazy as time and duty are.

Pearls of sleep, and friendship, and deep, uninterrupted drinking at the Well of meaning and Truth. I curl up by the Well for a good long rest after five years of many thirsty moments.

That is what it's like to leave your life, your home, your job; everything behind you, it feels. Everything in front of you different and intimidating and wonderful all at once. For me that has been 24 hours of radioactive cancer treatment. Now, only 456 hours to go...