reflections of Truth

"Can't get through life by just being nice/
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."
~ Dion DiMucci, The Thunderer

Since watching Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, I have been contemplating something that I want to try to articulate. There was so much in the movie that might be offensive to some Christian parents - magic, a Methuselah-like main character, total occupation with the intrinsic human ability to succeed, in short, the whole "believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything" moral. However, there were many positive aspects of this story from a Christian worldview as well - the intrinsic value of human beings, perseverance, inter-generational relationships, respect, joy, a complete lack of "black" magic. How does a Christian parent decide what is good and wholesome for their children, and what fails to meet the standard? How do we judge secular entertainment, educational materials, literature, etc.?

It strikes me that there are several camps, historically, on this issue. I'm just going to reflect on a few of them here. The Puritanical perspective would justify their position using the verse, "I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil" (Romans 15:19). In current culture, we see these parents choosing only books and movies from the Christian bookstore (wait, is the Christian bookstore even o.k.? It's interdenominational!), reading only the Bible and C.S. Lewis to their kids, singing old hymns because pop Christian music might be a reflection of evil, dressing their kids very modestly, and avoiding dances, plays, and other forms of secular entertainment.

Then there is the traditional evangelical approach. This camp focuses heavily on Christian community and going "out" into the "world" to proselytize, relying on the phrase, "be in the world, but not of the world" (John 17:14-16). I don't want to raise my children completely in this camp either - I think Christian community is important, but I also want to be wholly there for people who don't share my faith. I don't want to just travel out from my camp to teach them, I really want to know them and develop relationships with them and teach my children by that example. I think it is dangerous to exist in a little Christian enclave. I think unbelievers help us keep perspective, and can teach us a lot about life - and it is also of utmost importance to share our faith with them just by involving them in our daily lives, as Jesus did!

A third group is at the most permissive side of the Christian spectrum, and I am not comfortable there, either. I don't know how to label this group I observe. I guess I would say they are liberal. There is no visible difference in how they speak, relate, dress, act, what hobbies they pursue, what entertainment they consume...they are, to the observer, part of the world. I want my family to stand out as a family living for Christ. I want our decisions to attract people to Christianity, not drive them away from it, but I want there to be a visible difference in us.

Here's what I want to communicate to my children:
  • We are set apart in Christ (Psalm 4:3)
  • We have freedom in Christ (I Corinthians 10:23-31)
  • We are responsible to make good decisions, especially with our bodies (I Corinthians 6:19)
  • We should carefully choose our friends (Proverbs 22:24; 27:10)
  • We should carefully choose our entertainment/media consumption (Romans 15:19)
  • We should keep ourselves & our minds pure (Titus 1:15)
  • We cannot 'throw stones' at other sinners as we are sinners, too (John 8:7)
  • We must value our conscience & keep it clean (Acts 24:16)
I think watching movies like Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is important. I want to raise culturally competent, friendly, interesting children who love God and attract people to them so that they can attract those same people to the Gospel. Understanding the world around them is an important piece of that. I also think it's important to teach them to see little pieces of God's Truth reflected in things of this world, for He is, truly, all around us. I see Him in the weirdest places sometimes!

"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." I Corinthians 9:22-23

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
~ "Awake My Soul, and With the Sun" by Thomas Ken
Man­u­al of Pray­ers for the Use of the Schol­ars of Win­ches­ter Col­lege
, 1674

My voice returned overnight. I am so thankful that I am among the 95% in this one thing. Living the rest of my days, never to raise my voice in song again was a
very difficult thought! Caleb fussed during church today, and I was in the foyer walking around with him. I started to sing to him, and he stared at me, then broke into the sweetest, most joyful smile I've ever seen on his face! As if to say, "I missed that sound, Mama!"

"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. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me. I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency." Philippians 4:6-7, 13-14 Amplified

You dance over me
While I am unaware
You sing all around
But I never hear the sound

Lord, I'm amazed by You
How You love me!

You paint the morning sky
with miracles in mind
My hope will always stand
For You hold me in Your hand

How wide
How deep
How great
Is Your love for me!

~ Jared Anderson, Amazed

Your life is an occasion...

Your life is an occasion. Rise to it!
~ Mr. Magorium, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

It's silly that you can find such deep messages in a children's movie. The girls and I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium this morning. I am trying to watch something with them every day as a little break for my voice, which becomes weak and painful if I overuse it! They love it, of course, as TV and movies are an unusual treat in our home. Break notwithstanding, I am having a day of struggle...Aaron is on call this weekend, and my house is a mess, the children are still in their pj's at 11 a.m., Caleb is fussy because he is going through a growth spurt, Amelia is having a hard time with the difficulty communicating with me...the list goes on and on. There are times when I raise my arms to God and sincerely ask, "REALLY??!! This is what you expect of me?? This is the level of difficulty you think I can handle?? Because I'm not so sure at this moment!!" I found this little song, "Love the World You Find", an encouragement in a dark day. Because He does promise that "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." I Corinthians 10:13

"For He knoweth our frame; He remembreth that we are dust." Psalm 103:14

You don't know what you're becoming
Who knows what you're gonna be
We don't know where we're going
We don't know cause we can't see

If I could tell your future
I'd say love the world you find.
In the dark times and the hard questions,
Let some sunshine in your mind

~ The Flaming Lips, Love the World You Find

The Sound of Silence

When the rain comes
you blame it on the things that
you have done
When the storm fades
you know that rain must fall
on everyone
Rest awhile
it'll be alright
No one loves you like I do
When the rain comes
I will hold you

~ Third Day, When the Rain Comes

My right vocal cord is paralyzed. That is why I can't speak and have trouble drinking. I have to take care not to choke on food or drink, as my airway is always partially open in this condition. This particular doctor is hopeful that the paralysis is temporary, due to bruising around and on the nerve during the surgery. He expects my voice to return anywhere between next week and six months from now. Now, about that bobby whistle...

Psalm 143

Aaron shared this with me from his daily Bible reading yesterday. I found it perfectly captured where my spirit is the past few days, so I will quote the entire Psalm here.

O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.

The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord,
for I hid myself in you.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;
may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
For your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes;
for I am your servant.

Tests tomorrow

I am scheduled for a videostrobolaryngoscopy tomorrow morning, performed by the leading local Ear/Nose/Throat specialist. That's a fancy word for sticking a camera down your nose to videotape your vocal cords as they put you through a series of speech tests! This will rule out one-sided vocal cord paralysis or disorders of the vocal folds. The results will be sent to Mayo, a treatment plan will be drawn up, and more testing or surgery may be ordered. Please keep this in your prayers.


After much research in the wee hours this morning, I have found that vocal cord paralysis occurs in less than 5% of thyroid cancer patients. However, in about half of the patients with vocal cord paralysis, loss of voice is caused by metastasis to the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Another request to bring before that great Throne above...pray that my loss of voice is caused by something other than the spread of my cancer!

"God does not condemn our moments of despair and unbelief. He Himself set the tone by diving into earth and enduring cruel, senseless suffering. Before the final moment, His own Son asked if the cup could pass from Him, and on the cross cried out, "God, why have You forsaken me?" The full range of anger and despair and present in the Christian message -- complete identification with the suffering world.

But Christianity takes a further step, which has been a stumbling block to many. It is called the Resurrection, the moment of victory when the last enemy, death itself, was smashed. God, who invites Job and you and me to step into joy and victory, does not ask us to accept a Pollyannish world. He simply adds a further, mysterious layer to human experience. He asks for hope in spite of hopeless surroundings. When suffering bleeds us, He asks us not reject Him, but to respond to Him as children, trusting His wisdom and affirming, "However deep the pit, God's love is deeper still."" ~ Philip Yancey, Where is God When it Hurts?

A less arduous destiny

Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life - the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child - he will take endless trouble - and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more, but for less." C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Today has been a day of wishing for a less arduous destiny. It has been a bittersweet day. My sweet baby boy loves the sound of my whisper, and coos and talks more now than he ever did when I could talk back. I think it perfectly suits his quiet personality, this hushed mama he suddenly has! My girls, however, are struggling to turn down their own volume so that they can hear me over the cacophony of toddler-hood. This morning, I taught them the Holmen family signature whistle - 2 tones strung together by my own mother as a means of playing "Marco Polo" of sorts in stores and crowds. We did several practice drills today so they would learn to come quickly to me when they hear that whistle. My dad recommended an English bobby whistle for crowds and busy streets! I may look into that...

Losing my voice has been a black spot on an otherwise encouraging treatment trajectory. I received the final pathology reports today, and all my lymph nodes are negative for cancer. The tumor penetrated the tumor capsule (membrane surrounding the growth) but did not appear to penetrate the thyroid membrane, which decreases the chance for metastasis. That gives me the best possible survival rates with a tumor of this size. I think the survival rates at 10 years post-operatively are around the 90% mark. Wonderful news - and to think we were perhaps just a few days from the tumor breaking through the thyroid membrane, which it was touching already! God was gracious in clearing the road before us as we approached surgery. I shudder to think what may have happened had I been a more passive patient - in which case, I would be going for my first biopsy tomorrow and wouldn't have the results for another two weeks after that!

You are the first
You go before/
You are the last/
Lord, You're the encore/
Your name's in lights for all to see/
The starry host declare Your glory.../

Apart from You/there is no god/
Light of the world/
The Bright and Morning Star/
Your name will shine for all to see/
You are the one/
You are my glory
Chris Tomlin, Glory in the Highest

My desire is before Thee...

"If it is possible, if it works out, if it is God's will--even this small detail he offered to the Lord Jesus for his permission, like the psalmist who prayed, "Lord, all my desire is before Thee" (Ps 38:9 AV).

Let our hopes for today be under the Lord Jesus--screened by Him who loves us and can work them all out if they are good for us and for all concerned."

~ Elisabeth Elliot, "A Lamp for My Feet"


Caleb wondering why he isn't eating...

Amelia's signature "pucker"...

Rosy & Katy playing at Scott & Jamie's wedding...

Katy in a moment of sheer joy.

Sotto voce...

I spoke with the surgeon's resident and nurse this afternoon regarding my voice. I had my voice back for about 48 hours after surgery and it seems to have gotten progressively more difficult to make any noise above a whisper. This afternoon, nothing but whisper is coming out at all when I try to talk. I also have a feeling of constriction in my throat, which the resident said is consistent with one-sided vocal cord paralysis. He is horrified that I may have nerve damage, as they felt they were able to completely preserve my nerves. There are several possible reasons for the current problem:
  1. inflammation from the surgery, which would resolve over time,
  2. "poisoning" of the nerves related to cell death in the area of the surgery
  3. nerve damage from the physical manipulation of the surgery
Please pray that this would be a simple case of inflammation post-surgically, and that it would start to resolve quickly in the next few days. If I am still unable to speak normally by Thursday, I will be heading back down to Mayo for electrical stimulation testing of my vocal cords and a possible bronchoscopy while they are at it. This would involve a same-day visit to the hospital, more sedation, and more separation from my kids, especially my little nursling, Caleb. I would appreciate your prayers!

"So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD." I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."

~ Lamentation 3:18-33 NIV

Blessings in Disguise

"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption...the redemption of our body. For in hope were we saved: if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered...we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:22-28 exc. ASV

A little book by Philip Yancey once helped me understand the role of suffering in our universe, and I am re-reading it in light of this new trial. He points out that pain is a useful, necessary part of a warning system that was actually designed for our greater good in the beginning. Without pain, I would work so hard after this surgery that I would tear open my incision, do permanent damage to my swollen nerves by straining to speak, or worse. It is unlikely that I would have the full use of my body or my senses if I had not had the sense of pain to protect me for my 29 years. I am struck by the hidden blessing of my suffering - it is a welcome wake-up call that I delight to receive as I go about with my head down, hand to the plow. I could easily become so busy with school and the work of raising my children and keeping my house that I would not even absorb the daily blessings He showers down upon me. I am thankful that God is using this trial to slow me down, force me to take those deep breaths, force me to take my eyes off my work and let the beauty of my life permeate deep into my soul.

Work is another blessing in disguise. Today was Aaron's first day back at work, and it is back to work as usual for me as well. The motherly duties of dressing, bathing, feeding, and performing "poop patrol" (as we jokingly call it when all four kids need wiping at once!) all came crashing down on me about 6 a.m. this morning! It is nearly impossible to wallow in self-pity and despair with these cheerful, whistling, singing, dancing little ones twirling through my day! It seems that God has me looking up, soaking in the vista, then hands back on the plow and off we go behind the horses, plowing up another row!

"Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until evening.

O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all;
The earth is full of Your possessions." Psalm 104:23-24 NASB

Misplaced faith kills

Read the Total Truth blog posting of the above title. I felt like it spoke to my question of the healing/medicine dichotomy:
Pearcey Blog


"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5 KJV (emphasis mine)

I have always been a chatterbox...just ask my father! He branded me as such early in my childhood and pokes fun at me still for how much I talk. I also have a temper problem, which has been brought to the forefront by my four children. (I didn't really think I had a temper until I had them - compared to my two of my younger brothers, I was always the calm child in the family!) This is yet another case of "be careful what you ask for!" - about 6 months ago, I prayed that God would remove from the ability to lose my temper, that He would completely resolve that issue for me and wipe it out of my life. I hate nothing more than yelling at my children. It usually happens when I am trying to get us out the door for some fun, memory-building family moment. (Note to self - and other busy moms: plan less fun, memory-building moments that require travel - just stay home and pick some flowers with your kids!)

As usual, God is proving His enormous cosmic sense of humor in completely removing my ability to raise my voice above a whisper. I was actually laughing at myself this afternoon (big, silent guffaws!) as I whispered at Katy, "Get back here RIGHT NOW!" She didn't even hear that I had spoken, much less absorb my anger! I am not sure if it is inflammation or permanent damage, but as of right now, I have no voice at all. I can speak, but not above a whisper. God has, quite literally, removed my ability to raise my voice at my children. Even if it is just for a season, I hope I learn how to communicate with them more effectively in this time.

The verse that opened this post is causing me to do some deep thinking tonight. I am in a stage of listening, not talking. Our small group met with some missionaries from Mexico tonight, and they had some wonderful tidbits from scripture and their lives to share with us. The woman quoted this verse to me several times, shared with me her own testimony of healing, and highlighted the past tense nature of this verse. I believe, whole-heartedly, that God can choose to miraculously heal any physical ailment, any place, any time. I also believe that He does not always choose to do so. Had I a voice, I would have shared these thoughts and questions with this woman. However, God has me in this place of simply listening. What do I make of this verse, in light of both of those truths? I think that He has healed me, eternally so! I am headed to heaven, and whatever physical ailments I may have that inconvenience me or even snuff the life out of my mortal body are inconsequential in light of that fact. My question is, do I need to have more faith in the potential for His physical, immediate healing of me, or even the reality of that healing as a past tense already-accomplished fact? He says that if I had faith the size of a mustard seed, I could move a mountain (Matthew 17:20). Does this cancer exist because of a lack of faith on my part? I am spinning on that question tonight.

Healer, heal me

Savior, save me
Maker, change me
Lover, love me

So I fall on my knees
To get back on my feet again
And I cry out for You
Would You please speak to me
Ten Shekel Shirt, "Healer"

John Pendleton's website

My faith

"He chose us before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will -- to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." ~Ephesians 1:4-8 (NIV)

"I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth for myself. I summon you by name and bestow upon you honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness. Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker...turn to me, and be saved." ~Isaiah 44:24, 45:4,9,22

My answer for the hope that I have (I Peter 3:15)...

I believe our universe and everything in it were miraculously created by an all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful God (Genesis 1-2). We were irrevocably separated from God's physical presence through sin (Genesis 3). In His grace, God sent His Son to become human and take on the burden of the sins of the world, past, present, and future (the Gospels). Christ was crucified unjustly by the Roman government, a historical fact, and through His crucifixion, paid the penalty for the sins of the world. Through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, each and every one of us can once again be reunited with God in heaven after death (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9).

Heaven and hell are literal and real, yet exist outside our perceivable universe. Heaven is a place of peace and joy, a dimension in which the soul can transcend time and the confines of space (Revelation, John 14). In heaven, we will be in the presence of God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and will communicate with Him and experience awe and joy in His power and majesty (Revelation). If we reject God and His free gift of salvation, or attempt to earn salvation through our own actions, we are destined for hell (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). In hell, the soul will suffer the eternal torment of separation from the presence of God, and will suffer enormous pain, being burned by flames continuously in a lake of fire (Matthew 18:8-9, Revelation 20:11-15).

What I have to offer, as a constantly failing human, however beautiful my spirit or soul may seem when viewed in their entirety, is trash...filthy rags. Yet what Christ credited me, through His death on the cross, is beautiful, snow-white purity...snow. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18)

Every person born on this earth will have the opportunity to accept or reject the reality of God and the undeserved gift of salvation from the penalty of our sins. There is only one true God, and only one way to obtain salvation. Consider these words from the Bible:

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy, He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:5-7 (KJV)

"God our Savior wants everyone to be saved and understand the truth. There is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and his people. He is the man, Jesus Christ. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone." I Timothy 1:3-6 (NLV)

God purchased freedom for everyone on earth. My prayer for you is that you will accept His gift of salvation and understand the peace and joy of living as a freed man. Once accepted, salvation is yours forever, regardless of mistakes you make along the road (John 10:28). Jesus Christ purchased you with His blood, and He has already forgiven you for all your sins...past, present, and future. When He died for you, all of your sins were in the future, so it would be illogical to assume that He paid for only the sins you commit before accepting salvation. All you need to do is accept His forgiveness by acknowledging His presence and admitting you are in need of His help. You can do this in the privacy of your own home, or in the middle of a crowded room. It only takes a few moments to talk with God and accept Him as your personal Savior. Running the race set before us without fear of death is a wonderful gift.

"Whoever believes in the Son of God has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." ~John 3:36 (NIV)

The majesty and mystery of the creation is most potent proof of a powerful Higher Being. As someone who appreciates and explores the great outdoors, I have examined many theories of how the world came to be. The astounding variety and beauty of God's creation is the foundation of my belief that he exists and cares deeply about his creation. Creation also confirms that I am in great need of salvation and a reconciliation with my Creator:

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever." ~Isaiah 40:6,8 (NIV)

What's that smell?

"...thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." ~ II Corinthians 2:15-16 ESV

Those of you who know me well know that smell is probably my most treasured sense. I was thinking about smells last night when I was awake in the middle of the night. I smell like surgery. As a nurse, this is a very familiar smell to me, and has never seemed too unpleasant. However, juxtaposing that scent with the smells of my babies in bed with me was unpleasant! My babies smell like...well, babies! And I did not want to get the smells of sickness on them. I got up and took a second shower, but came to the conclusion the smell was emanating from me - not just on me!

What a beautiful word picture Paul gives us in II Corinthians when he states that "we are to God the aroma of Christ"! How amazing that something recently dead could smell so sweet. The smell of sickness that clung to me before has been forever concealed by the sweet odor of Christ's resurrection. Instead of leaving the lingering odor of surgery behind me as I traveled through the halls at Mayo this past week, Christ was, through me, "spreading everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him." What a blessing to be the vehicle of such a beautiful and peaceful scent!

We will seek you first, Lord,

You will hear our voices

Early in the morning and late in the night

We will sing Your praises,

Giving You the glory

Offering our lives to You, a holy sacrifice.

May our praise arise as incense,
Oh Lord, to You.

May our worship be a fragrance,

Oh Lord, to You...

~ Shane Barnard, Oh Lord to You

I asked for life...

"But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth..."

Casting Crowns, "Voice of Truth"

My surgery on Wednesday went well. The entire visit to Mayo was quite an experience - I will have an interesting, science fiction account of my stay in the pre-surgical holding area in a day or two! After repeat testing was done, the Mayo surgical team believed that my tumor was benign, consisting of normal follicular cells - a normal overgrowth of the thyroid, possibly related to pregnancy. Aaron and I were presented with two possible treatment options: 1) go home and follow-up with another ultrasound and biopsy in 3 months, or 2) proceed with surgery due to the question of cancer and my symptoms of hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. We were still presented with a 5-10% chance of cancer, although the surgeons felt it would be slow-growing. After much prayer and discussion, we decided we would hinge upon the ultrasound results, which would either show shrinkage (what the surgeons expected), no change or growth in tumor size (which I expected). The tumor was, indeed, the same size, and after a few moments of anguish, both Aaron and I decided we did not have peace with leaving the tumor there for 3 months. Thank God for His gentle hand guiding us!

I was whisked to surgery in about 45 minutes time after we made our decision. It was difficult to trust God and - even more - myself during this time. I was thankful it was a short time. I was put to sleep using a totally IV anesthetic, which hopefully would avoid the post-surgical vomiting I have experienced in the past. I had the chance to tell my surgical team that I and many others were lifting them up in prayer just prior to being put under. Immediately after I was put under, I began retching uncontrollably (in my sleep, no less!) and they had to use an IV paralytic as well as a local paralytic spray in my throat so that they could continue the surgery on my neck. Following removal of the lobe of my thyroid where the tumor was growing, a section was frozen, sliced, and examined by a pathologist in the surgical suite. Much to Dr. Richard's surprise, the results came back "papillary carcinoma - follicular variant". She then proceeded to remove the rest of my thyroid gland, as well as all the lymph nodes in the central part of my neck. These were sent off to pathology for examination, and the preliminary results are that the lymph nodes contain no cancer.

When I woke from anesthesia, I continued to retch and they had difficulty stabilizing my breathing because of my treatment with the paralyzing agents. I am continuing to have some difficult coughing and clearing my throat because of this. I had a few hours of fighting more anxiety, as I heard soon after I awoke that I had a total thyroidectomy (which I knew meant I had cancer) but not told the good news that I had the papillary - and thus more curable - type!

I was discharged from the hospital this afternoon. I feel quite well. I have a sore throat, stiff neck and the small trouble with breathing and coughing. I am very encouraged by my visits with various top-notch endocrinologists today, who confirm that I belong to an intermediate risk group of people with highly curable and never deadly cancer. It is probably something I will be dealing with for the rest of my life, with frequent follow-up at Mayo and iodine scans of my body for metastasis. I may or may not require iodine treatments, which would require 1-3 weeks of separation from my children each time. Please keep this in your prayers! There is some concern that metastasis will be difficult to identify, as it was so difficult to identify the original cancerous tumor. That is also an issue for prayer!

Thank you all for your continued prayers and notes of support! I read them all, and although I haven't had time to reply to everyone, I appreciate them so much and find them very uplifting.

He asked you for life, and you gave it to him— length of days, for ever and ever. Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. ~ Psalm 21:4-6

Why Worry?

My surgery is scheduled for today at noon. My surgeon is a wonderful woman in her late 30's-early 40's, with confidence but a sweet disposition and kind heart. There is still a chance the surgery will be postponed, pending the results of an ultrasound at 10:15. Please continue to pray for God's healing!

I have been encouraged this morning by a children's song I sing to the girls all the time...

Why worry, when you can pray?
Trust Jesus, He'll be your stay!
Don't be a doubting Thomas, rest fully on His promise,
Why worry, worry, worry, worry
When you can pray?

I will rejoice!

Lord, hear my voice, hear my cry for You,
Lord, in my heart is such thankfulness,
You set my feet upon the rock,
You took me out of where I was,
You drew me close and taught me that I was someone that mattered.

Lord it's Your selflessness
That covers my weakness
Lord, it's Your mercy, Lord, it's Your mercy!
Lord, it's Your faithfulness
That speaks of Your greatness,
Lord, it's Your mercy, Lord, it's Your mercy!

~ Eoghan Heaslip, Mercy

Tonight I am struggling to stand upon the Rock. To thrust fear and anxiety out of my mind and heart. To enjoy this day with my children and my husband. The air is yellow with waning sun, the air is vibrant with a cool summer freshness, my kids are happily soaking dirt in through their pores and my husband is fencing our garden. I have worked ahead in school, nursed my baby to my heart's content, and am heading upstairs to finish his quilt. Keep me in prayers before that great Throne of mercy tomorrow and Wednesday as I submit to the skill and knife of another faulty human being!

"This is the day which the Lord hath made - I will rejoice and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24 KJV

God is God and I am not

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" Romans 11:33-34 ESV

As a child, it was difficult for me to obey and carry out a task given to me by my parents if I did not understand their purpose. My mother had to develop a system - make a beginning, start to obey, then and only then could I ask, "Why?" I am finding the same is true with God. I need to make a start, prove that I am willing, begin down the path. I can talk with Him about it on the way, but I need to be willing to start down the path without all the information about where we're going. I feel like that is where I am today: on the path, unsure where it leads. That's true all through life, isn't it? Although we may have an idea of our immediate destination, the whole picture is always a little fuzzy. We are never too certain what the future holds, although we might be in denial about that fact! Which path am I on: am I a young mother with cancer? Will I be required to leave my children for long periods of time to treat this condition? Will I be a survivor, or a member of heaven in 10 years? Or is this all just a giant test, is God just asking me to take my life and my children's lives to the altar, as He asked of Abraham and Isaac?

"By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice." Genesis 22:15-18

And the pain falls like a curtain

On the things I once called certain

And I have to say the words I fear the most

I just don’t know

And the questions without answers

Come and paralyze the dancer

So I stand here on the stage afraid to move

Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must

On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not

I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting

God is God and I am man

Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me

He is first and last before all that has been

Beyond all that will pass

~ Steven Curtis Chapman,
God is God

Repurposing Me

"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Revelation 21:4-6 KJV

I love old things. Old people, so much more interesting to talk to...I love the lines on their faces, like roadmaps of a past too complicated for me to comprehend in one afternoon. Old pieces of furniture, hewn by hand, each piece fitted together carefully by some craftsman passed. Old photographs, yellowed with the patina of age, the expressions on the faces foreign and unfathomable. Old newspaper clippings, stories of a time and place through which my imagination takes flight. Old books, their musty smell and the texture of their pages, the way my fingers feel after I have read them.

God is in the process of taking something old (the human version of me) and making something new (a glorified me in eternity). It is not easy to refurbish something or repurpose it. Taking an old dresser, scrubbing the dickens out of it, stripping the old finish off, sanding it, rounding off the rough edges, and putting coat after coat of new varnish on it - that takes energy and friction. The creativity to envision a new use for an old object - taking that old dresser and turning it into a vanity for a bathroom sink, perhaps - takes time and thoughtfulness. My life is the same way. I am going through a period of stripping, sanding, rounding off the rough edges. When I come through to the other side of this trial, I might look a little different - negatively, a large scar on my neck, some new health problems; positively, a new outlook on life, a gleam of wisdom in my eye that wasn't there before. My priorities are already changing, and perhaps God is using this to "re-purpose" me altogether.

In the 2nd to the last chapter of the entire Bible, God is still repurposing old things. He hasn't tossed out the entire creation, sinful humans and all. Instead, He is using the pressure of this cursed world to create vessels fit for His service, making old things new. What a kind God we have! What hope we have in Him!

You turn winter into spring
You take every living thing
And You breathe Your breath of life into it over and over again

You make all things new
Come redeem and come transform
Come renew and come restore
You make all things new
And forever we will watch and worship You

~ Steven Curtis Chapman, All Things New

I need a break!

"Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble;
thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah."
Psalm 32:7

Do you ever feel like you need a break, like you cannot take one more blow without crumpling? I am a strong person - I inherited that from Grandma Fern and numerous other relatives! - and sometimes I wonder if that is why God allows such massive waves of hardship and sorrow to wash over my life? Am I so stubborn that it takes a day like today to bring me to my knees? The question remains: am I willing, truly willing, to make myself and my family a vessel of suffering for the glory of God? Am I willing to have His strength made perfect through my weakness? I saw a shining example of choice as the critical element of faith yesterday: my grandma, anxiously, frantically fighting for air, soothed and comforted by songs of the psalms. She closed her eyes, consciously lowered herself back and began to breathe regularly, trusting God literally for every next breath. I want to have that spirit of decisively walking forward as I trust in the Lord through this and every trial.

You are my hiding place,
You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid;
I will trust you, I will trust in you,
Let the weak say I am strong in the strength of the Lord."

~ Michael Ledner, 1981

A Warrior's Homecoming

"Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased with His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God...
With Christ my Savior and my God!"

~ words by Charitie Bancroft, 1863

My grandma went before us all through the gates of heaven this evening. Fern was a woman of faith, conviction, humor, and great self-sacrificing love. She conquered so much evil and pain throughout her life to become a beautiful, peaceful elderly woman. I have many, many dear memories of her from earliest childhood all the way through watching her be a great grandmother to my girls. To the day of her death, she had me on her prayer list, and always whispered to me, "I love you but Jesus loves you more!"

Like many saints before her, her death was peaceful and beautiful. I felt Jesus' presence tonight like I have not felt it for years. Huddled close to her bed, singing hymns and psalms of old days, her entire family was under His wings tonight as they ushered Grandma Fern to that 'golden strand'.

Another dear friend to greet when I get there!

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
I Corinthians 2:16-18

Wrestling with God

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle mentioned something during a sermon once that inspired me. He said he keeps a Bible for 5 years, journaling as he reads, and then writes a letter in the front of the Bible and gives it to one of his children. That way his thoughts are paired with the powerful words of God as his children study the Bible in later years. I started a Bible for Katrina when she was born, and I am just finishing up my 5 year stint of reading, studying and journaling in it. I realized this spring that I have been avoiding certain books of the Bible, namely the early Old Testament!, and started trying to catch up. I just completed Genesis, and these are some thoughts I had while reading the story of Jacob's wrestling match with God (Genesis 32).

"Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob", he answered. Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." The sun rose above him, and he was limping because of his hip." ~ Genesis 32: 24-31

This is so interesting in light of my present situation. The current brand of "nice Christianity", that smiling, sweet-voiced, forgiving and always tender Christianity so common in pop culture, does not capture the fullness of a lifelong relationship with God. This passage begs the question, is it o.k. to struggle with God - REALLY struggle - a knock-down drag-'em-out physical fight?? Am I willing to truly go to the altar with big questions, tough questions? Am I willing to ask God, again, after asking many times before, why he allows faithful people, still useful for the advancement of the Gospel, to suffer and die?

It is o.k. to struggle with God! He doesn't ask that we accept difficult times without asking questions. What He asks is that we recognize Him and give Him glory at the end of the struggle! He wants us to beg for blessing, continue in the struggle until we have come through it. And yes, we might limp at the end. I might not walk through this fire unscathed. It is not enough to simply "name it and claim it" - He wants me to fight for it.

Who would have thought I would find an answer to this question in Genesis??

My new fashion statement

OK - I need some scarves for my neck!! If you know where I can get some, let me know. I've never bought one in my life. Apparently I will have up to 70 staples and 2 drains in my neck when I am discharged from the hospital. New prayer request of the evening: NO DRAINS FOR THE WEDDING!

My tumor

I was diagnosed with a follicular thyroid tumor over the past few weeks. These tumors are sometimes benign, but it is impossible to tell without removing the tumor and thyroid (all or part). I was referred to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for treatment of this condition. Here is my latest update regarding the upcoming surgery:

I have a new surgery date. Dr. Grant was appalled at the length of time I would have to wait to see him. He is the specialist in papillary tumors - the more common type - which means he has a LOT more patients seeking his expertise! He referred me to another surgeon, Melanie Richards, who specializes in follicular tumors. My pre-surgical consult will be June 17 and my surgery is now scheduled for the a.m. of June 18. I will be hospitalized at Methodist Hospital in Rochester until the p.m. of the 19th at the earliest. They expect to discharge me on the 20th.

So - a new prayer request to add to the mushrooming list! Please pray that there will be no complications that would keep me hospitalized longer. Scott & Jamie's wedding is June 21 and Aaron, Katy, Rosy & I are all in the wedding. It is my sincerest desire to be able to be present and functional for the wedding. I would also really appreciate prayers for minimal pain during recovery so that I can participate fully in my brother's wedding.

I was encouraged by my kids' Gospel songs this morning - we have a morning clean-up and dance session to music around 8:30 a.m. every day.
"If you get there before I do
(Comin' for to carry me home)
Tell all my friends I'm a-comin', too
(Comin' for to carry me home)"
~Swing Low, Sweet Chariot