Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Footprints: The Trail of a Year

 Jesus said, “It is finished.” John 19:30

Sweet Friends,

   Exactly one year ago today, I was sitting on the floor in our playroom playing with my precious McKinley, when the phone rang; it was my doctor. We had been anxiously awaiting the results from my biopsy, without any real fear that the results would come back negative. The doctor so sweetly said, "Randi, We have results from your biopsy and I'm so sorry to tell you this, but you have breast cancer." My heart stopped. I was speechless. I don't really remember much else in that conversation. I don't know that anything in the world could have prepared my heart for that news. I called Matt at work, bawling. I couldn't even get the words to come out of my mouth: "I have cancer." I didn't want to say it, because then it would be real.  And I would have done anything in the world that day for it not to be real. Matt, being the incredible warrior that he is, just said 'Baby, I love you more than anything in the world, and we are going to get through this. God's got us.  He must have a purpose' and then he just started praying. I cried, he prayed.  I'm sure I had many conversations that day with the Lord, asking Him 'Why me?' I couldn't make sense of it in my mind. I was young and healthy, I had a 1 year old baby and a husband who needed me. I had no idea the plans God had for me. So, I cried... a lot.  In desperation, I prayed. And prayed. This must be a mistake. But then I knew full well that God doesn't make mistakes. I wrestled with the Lord that day and on many days to come. Somewhere along the road, I stopped praying that God would take my cancer away, but instead that He would use it in mighty ways in my heart and in the heart's and lives of others. I clung so hard to God's promise: "For we know that in ALL things God works for the Good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28  Okay, God, You've got this. I love you. Work it together for good. I trust you...

  Y'all I sit here today, exactly a year later from the day that changed my life, and I have never been more certain of God's goodness. I have had 2 major surgeries, 3 minor surgeries, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, endless amounts of injections and medicine, been put into menopause, I've lost my breasts, my hair and potentially my ability to have biological children. Wow, that seems like a lot! But as much as I have gone through and as much as seemingly has been taken away from me, God has given me so much more. I am overwhelmed thinking about all that He has given me.  He has given me a peace that transcends all understanding, a calm amidst a storm, a heart that is so deeply and desperately in Love with Him, a confidence in His plans, a husband that absolutely amazes me,  a daughter whose spirit encourages mine every day, a family that has loved us to the uttermost, a beauty that comes from deep within, friends that have constantly reminded us of truth, sweet relationships with new friends, a crazy, flourishing ministry with our Young Life kids, divine provision to meet all our needs, and a deep, unwavering Trust in my Savior. God is so good, all the time.  I knew about God's goodness before I had cancer, but now I have experienced His goodness with every ounce of my being.  And I wouldn't trade that for anything. He had such a bigger plan for me, than I had for myself.

    Last Tuesday, I saw Dr. O for the first time since I finished chemotherapy and she ran a gamet of tests on me.  That morning, before our appointment, I sat still in the presence of the Lord and asked Him once again for a peace to flood my heart. Oh, those icky feelings of worry and anxiety were creeping in. I deeply wanted to hear good news from the doctor, but I felt the Lord reminding me to guard my heart. "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" Proverbs 4:23. I could hear him saying, "Randi, no matter what news you receive today, I love you and I am good. Don't stop trusting me now."  So, here we were again, Matt and I anxiously awaiting the results from my tests. Matt prayed. Except, this time, my doctor so sweetly said, "Randi, we have the results from all the tests, and there is No Evidence of Disease!" NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE means NO CANCER in me. Praise God!!! "Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live!" Psalm 146:1-2 To God be the Glory. Although I have had the dream team of Doctors and unbelievable medical care, I know with full certainty that the Great Physician was ultimately the one who healed me.  But even if they would have told us that the cancer was all over my body, it wouldn't have changed God's goodness. I have learned well this year that God's plans often differ than ours because He can see everything in its entirety. "God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens" Job 28:23-24  As my sweet friend always remind me, "God knows!" I would so much rather trust the King of the universe who sees everything, than to trust what I think is best. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know full well Who holds my tomorrow. But as for today we will celebrate because I have no cancer in me!  "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever" Psalm 30:11-12 

Friends, I look back on this year and all I see today is God's miraculous work. God has been faithful every day to his promise that "He will never leave us or forsake us" Hebrews 13:5b. I was recently reminded of the beloved poem "Footprints." It's definitely worth reading today:

I know that the Lord carried me through this past year.  To Him be the Glory. It was never my strength, it was completely His.  Although so much of it has been my story, I hope it all pointed to His story. I pray that no matter what 'cancer' is in your life, that you would know, without a shadow of a doubt, how good God is and how deeply he loves you!  Sometimes we just have to let him carry us. Thank you for walking through this last year with us. Thank you for crying with us, encouraging us, praying for us and celebrating with us. We love you!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A New Morning; A New Day; A New Outlook

Isaiah 43:19a NASB - "Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth...

Sweet Friends,

   How are you? I hope this letter finds you well, that you have been able to settle into the busy fun that is fall!   I so LOVE summer but I am always excited for fall. I know that for most, spring marks new beginnings, but somehow fall always seems for me like the time of the year for fresh starts. I love the excitement of school and activities starting; I love watching football games and ordering pumpkin spice chai tea lattes at Starbucks. I love the warmth of deep conversations with friends and the way my heart is overjoyed when bible study starts up again. I love getting out fall clothes and putting away all the pool toys. I love wearing scarfs and boots. I love cool afternoons spent playing at the park with McKinley and our new puppy, Trigger :) I love thinking about what our little family will dress up as for Halloween. I love kicking off another year with Young Life and watching kids who accepted Christ at camp this summer really start walking with Jesus. I love the beauty of fall colors.  I love this fall especially because it marks a new beginning in our life. Nearly a year ago, this cancer journey started and tomorrow we get to take the final step (hopefully)! To say that I am excited, is a complete understatement! I am over the moon thrilled! At 7:00am tomorrow morning (Friday, September 14th), I will have my last surgery. Dr. Carpenter, my wonderful plastic surgeon, will take out my expanders, and replace them with beautiful, new implants! During the procedure, he will also take fat from my tummy (awesome!) and add it to my breasts to make them look realistic. God has such a great sense of humor that the surgery that gives me new boobs would also tighten my tummy!  The surgery should take 2.5 hours and I should be released from the hospital later in the day.  Compared to my first surgery, this should be so much easier. I will have those terribly, icky drains in until Tuesday, so Dr. Carpenter said I will feel pretty bad until then.  But after they are removed, I should make a quick recovery! I just can't do any heavy lifting for about 4 weeks. So once again, I can't lift my precious McKinley, which breaks my heart.  However, she is a very independent little 2 year old now, so I'm sure it won't even phase her. How much she has grown up since my first surgery last November! How much the Lord has grown all of us over this past year.

Tonight, on the eve of my last surgery, my heart is overwhelmed with the idea of newness. Perhaps because tomorrow I get new boobs, which is awesome; but as I really start thinking about it, God has given me so many new things over the past year. At times, I start to think of everything that has been taken, but then I am reminded of the joy that comes from focusing on what God has so graciously given. I have been given so much. Besides my new breasts, I feel as if I have a new body in many ways, one with out any cancer in it. I have new hair, which is really growing in, it is about 2 inches long!  I finally have new eye lashes, that I am so thankful for. And I know that I have a new perspective on life. I'm sure anyone that has had cancer, looks at life a little differently: sweeter, more precious. God has given me a new standard of beauty, one that comes from a heart that is so in love with Jesus. I love knowing that God makes all things new in His time. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17. I love that because of Christ, we are completely new; that God doesn't see any old in us. He removes our sins, our old self, as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) God, in His abundant goodness, only sees us as new creations. Oh, how wonderful would it be if we never focused on what used to be! I pray that I will be able to see all of my new things, without remembering how they used to be.  I pray my mind will not dwell on what I used to be, but rather what God has made me into. "To be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:23-24. He made my heart new years ago, but this year He has given me so many new things to remind me of how He wants everything to be made new, and when it is made new, the old is completely gone. Oh Lord, I pray that my old, cancer filled body would be completely gone.  And when I look in the mirror and see my image that isn't what it used to be, I would rejoice in the fact that it isn't as it used to be. God has made me new. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 21:5  

The view we had from a new morning on Lake Texoma! 
Lamentations 3:22 NIV - 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.

Friends, I don't know where this finds you tonight; perhaps you are on the eve of some big change, perhaps tomorrow is just a regular day. Wherever you are, I pray that you have given your heart to Jesus and been made new.  As our heavenly Dad says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;" Ezekial 36:26. And as a new creation, I pray that today you would sing a new song, one that rings in the heart of heaven. "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." Psalm 40:3. I pray that you would only be able to see your newness in Christ, and that you would let your old be completely removed. How great our God is to make all things new! How beautiful it is to focus on the new. Please pray that my surgery goes well and that Dr. Carpenter's hands would be guided by the Great Physician. Pray that my heart would cling to the cross when pain overwhelms my body. Thank you precious friends for all your love, encouragement and prayers. We will keep you updated!

His New Creation~

Monday, July 30, 2012

Celebrating The Trial & The Triumph

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:2-5

Precious Friends,

          Oh, I have so much to tell you! Young Life camp was AMAZING! Matt and I will write another post just on that because God did incredible things while we were there! But today's post is about another AMAZING thing God has done; Praise the Lord that I am officially done with chemotherapy! Oh, how the Lord has healed my body and redeemed my life from this pit of cancer, crowned me with His amazing love and compassion and satisfied my desires with such good things! How good our God is! On Tuesday, July 17th, I had my very last round of Taxol chemotherapy. Golly, it may be one of the happiest days of my life :)  My sweet parents and little sister, Ryli, came down from Colorado to celebrate with us!  Matt even brought McKinley to the hospital to join in on the festivities! And a celebration it was! My mom was so cute and brought all the party princess attire for me to wear. It was the same party princess attire that she wore 7 years ago when she completed chemotherapy.  Although, I'm sure she never wanted to have to share that with me, it has been a special gift from God to have a mom who completely understands what this cancer journey feels like. So for many reasons, my mama was probably even more happy than I was that day; she definitely knew what a celebration it was to be done with chemotherapy. In typical Randi fashion, I wanted to bounce through the halls of Baylor Cancer center signing 'CELEBRATE Good Times!' and hugging every one of my sweet cancer nurses, doctors and friends. Although it was never an 'enjoyable' thing to have to go to Baylor to get cancer treatment, I really did love my whole team there. Every receptionist, nurse, and of course Dr. O'Shaugnessy always greeted us with big smiles and warm hugs. They all have a real special place in my heart, as I know the Lord used them every Tuesday to comfort me and remind me of His peace. God has used so many people in so many sweet ways to reflect His love and goodness. I am so blessed.

I have to admit though that the morning of my last chemotherapy I woke up feeling kind of sad. I knew it was crazy to feel that way, I should be the happiest girl in the world, but a part of me couldn't believe that this part of my journey was finally coming to an end. Since October 24th, our whole world has been cancer, it's hard to imagine life without it. As I have said before, I really do hate cancer, but I love how it has drawn me closer to Jesus than I have ever been before. (James 4:8) I love that cancer made me depend on Him in a crazy, all-in sort of way. (Colossians 1:29, John 15:5) I love that I knew in full certainty that in my moments of complete weakness, Christ was my complete strength. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)  I love that even when I was sick and exhausted, I knew I was living the abundant life. (John 10:10) I love how God taught me that this battle was His to fight, not mine. (2 Chronicles 20:15, Matthew 11:28)  I love how God used cancer to make me be still in His presence. (Psalm 46:10) I love that cancer gave me the opportunity every day to really Trust God; not just to say that I trust Him, but to live out that trust, even when I didn't understand His plans. (Proverbs 3:5-6) I love how God continues to use my bald head to show me that true beauty comes from the heart and that my identity is in Him alone. (1 Peter 3:3-4; Song of Solomon 4:7) I love how cancer has made me fall even more in love with my husband; I am eternally blessed to be loved by Matt Wideman. (1 John 4:19) I love that cancer gave me such sweet one-on-one time with my family and friends. (Proverbs 17:17, Colossians 4:5)  I love that God used cancer to confirm that His plans for my life are so good, even in the middle of such pain. (Jeremiah 29:11) I love that God has used cancer to show me how to love on people going through difficult circumstances.  He definitely grew my heart in compassion for hurting people. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)  I love that God still allowed me to do Young Life through all of it. I have never felt more useful for His Kingdom. (2 Timothy 2:21) I love that God used cancer to teach me how much I need to pray with every breath I take. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:16) I love how cancer allowed me to choose Joy every day, even when the circumstances of my life weren't conducive to it. (1 Thessalonians 5:16) I love how cancer made me realize that I have nothing to fear in Christ, that He has me exactly where He wants me. (Isaiah 43:1)  I love how God used so many people to be His hands and feet in our life. (1 John 3:18; Mark 12:30-31) I have never seen more of God's love than I have through all of you over the past 9 months. Thank you. Your kindness, generosity, love, words of encouragement and prayer have meant more than you will ever know. I love that somehow in God's complete awesomeness, I can think of so many more things I love about cancer than I hate about it.

  So although July 17th was a such a day to celebrate, perhaps my sadness that morning stemmed from my heart not wanting to forget all that the Lord has taught me through cancer. Don't get me wrong, I am OVERJOYED that chemotherapy is over. My hair has already started to grow back (yippee!) and my energy grows every day. I am thrilled to get back to 'normal' life being the mommy of McKinley and wifey of Matt.  I am SO excited to get my chemotherapy port removed this Friday and for the final stages of my plastic surgery to happen in 7-8 weeks. There are so many reasons I am thankful that this part of the cancer journey is over, but truthfully, I am so thankful that this cancer journey happened.  I really don't question at all why God allowed me to get cancer, I know he used it to make my heart more like His.  He taught me more in the last 9 months about His love, His character and His beautiful promises than in the other 27 years of my life. So, I am definitely celebrating that its over, but I am also celebrating that it happened!

   Friends, you are such a treasure.  Thank you for walking this journey with us and for allowing God to use you to bless us so much throughout everything. Thank you for sharing in our sorrow and for celebrating our joy. I pray that whatever your 'cancer' is, you would look for how God has sprinkled His goodness all over it. That you would see God's abundant purpose amidst your pain. I can so testify that what the enemy wants to use for evil, God will use for good, if you let Him. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 Will you let God use whatever you are going through for good? I hope so!  Oh how I am praying for that!

   Many friends have asked what happens now. Well, I started taking Tamoxifen, my cancer drug, this week and will take it for the next 5+ years. It is just a little pill that I take once a day. It has no nasty side effects, it just keep the icky cancer from coming back in my body. I am so thankful for the incredible brains the Lord has given the doctors who come up with this stuff! I will also be getting Lupron shots, the drug that keeps me in a medically induced menopause, every 3 months for the next 5+ years.  So that means I will get to see Dr. O'Shaugnessy every 3 months from here on out, and each time I see her she will run all my blood work and look at my tumor markers etc... I think it is such a blessing that I get to be so highly monitored over the next 5 years, so if this cancer ever came back, they would find it so early.  If all my labs keep coming back great, then Dr. O said that in 2 years from right now we can put a temporary halt on all my medications and try to get pregnant! Yippee!  I can't wait! 2 years could not come soon enough :)  As I mentioned earlier, I get my chemotherapy port removed this Friday; it's just a little day surgery, no big deal. And then in 7-8 weeks, I will have a little bit bigger surgery where I get my expanders removed and my implants put in. I am SO excited for that to happen! Well, I think that's everything! I am going to go play with my precious princess, so I hope you all have a wonderful day!  We Love you!

Joyfully in HIM~