Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book of Remembrance

Malachi 3:16 KJV - Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

Friends, I am so thankful to report that Randi is feeling great and that we were able to celebrate Christmas with relatively little pain and yet so much joy.  Amidst all these trials we still have so much to be thankful for.  A family tradition that Randi and I started in 2010 was that we created a Wideman Family Book of Remembrance so that we would not forget what the Almighty had done in our lives over the past year. At the end of every year we add to this book in hopes that it will serve to encourage us at future times and perhaps be continued long after we are gone. It was such a blessing for Randi and I to read that book last night together and to think on how good Our Father is to us, even in the darkest of days. Without a doubt, these have been the most trying times of our lives and yet the most fruitful in faith unto our Redeemer. He has never left us; His grace is as evident as it has ever been to us. When the clouds have grown darker, when the storm is ever raging around us, He is the peace in the eye of the hurricane, the calm in the storm. His hope breaks the gloominess like the sun's rays break the clouds and helps us to see things that the storm itself had concealed. Oh, His goodness is everlasting for He Himself is from everlasting to everlasting! How can we not "Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock." (Isaiah 26:4 ESV) He has undoubtedly been our strength when we are weak, our hope amidst the fear, our anchor in the stormy seas, our peace in the chaos, and our foundation stone upon which we stand. He has been our meaning in this mess, our purpose in this pain, and our Healer in the hurt. Thank you Lord for giving us so many things to look upon and to remember how good You are! Our hope in this post is that we may share with you just a glimpse of all that could be written and that you, yourself might then reflect upon the goodness that you have also seen in your own life.

As we have mentioned in prior posts, we got to share this truth of His goodness with YL kids shortly after the diagnosis. I am still blown away that God gave us such strength to share when everything was so fresh. Below is a video taken during that time. We apologize in advance that some of the words are hard to make out, but I believe that you may be blessed by listening to it. Just as we said to these high school students prior to all of the doctors appointments and surgeries then, this truth still rings true today: that God is good.






Below is a picture of my beautiful bride being her silly self just moments prior to her bilateral mastectomy on November 29th as she flashes the YL (Young Life) sign. One might wonder as the nurses, doctors, and family members often and quite audibly did, how can she smile like that before a life altering surgery? Where does that peace come from? John 14:27 ESV - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. How can one have joy like that? James 1:2 ESV - Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds... That is pure joy, my friends, only given by the One who has unspeakable joy. Praise God.


We had asked that friends be praying for us and over us Philippians 4:6-7 NIV - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Below are two pictures of Randi in recovery just after this surgery. Although many would say, myself included, that it's not fair that she looks so beautiful just after that ordeal, likewise, it is an uncanny thing that she might be so peaceful. To serve as a reminder of God's goodness, the card from the hospital that came with our breakfast actually had Philippians 4:7 written on it (a picture of it is below). As we have heard said, coincidences are just God's way of remaining anonymous. He was there the whole time...





After a rough night of little sleep, lots of pain and much vomiting, we were awakened by Dr. Wideman who had been called in to lighten the mood. She had just the medicine that was needed! The moment reminded me of Luke 5:31 NIV - Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Seeing my sweet bride smile at the unexpected sight of our little sweetheart dressed as a doctor brought to my attention that physical medicine can only go so far. So, although, we have been blessed with some amazing doctors, including Dr. McKinley Wideman nonetheless, we know and hold firm to the reality that our greatest and ultimate healing comes only from the Great Physician. Only He can meet our every need.


The following picture was taken just a few short days out of the hospital. It is an amazing thing to me to think that my sweet bride could be singing Christmas carols with our darling daughter so quickly after a major surgery. Nehemiah 12:43 NIV - And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. It refreshed my heart so to hear my wife sing with joy unto Our Father; I can only imagine how He feels when His loved ones sing loudly out to Him.


Oh, when I see my daughter smile it brings such sweet joy to my heart! I do not know how one could see the smile of a child and not smile themselves. The following was taken a week after surgery when my darling wife was supposed to be resting. Our daughter did not like that idea, of course, so she cried out for her mommy, and Randi immediately popped out of bed to comfort her. As soon as McKinley saw her mommy, she smiled bright and big as comfort came over her. Isaiah 66:13 NIV - As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you... What a wonderful reminder that just as a mommy comforts her child, God comforts us. He knows every tear we cry, and is just waiting for us to cry out to him; what are you waiting for? We have felt God's comfort in these past months like never before.




The final picture below is that of McKinley baking Jesus a birthday cake for Christmas. What a blessing it was to see my wife and daughter dancing around the house to Christmas music and singing praises to the King and to get to tell our sweet daughter about the One of whom we were celebrating, Jesus. Then the day after Christmas, McKinley said the name 'Jesus' for the first time! It was perhaps the sweetest word we have ever heard her say. Of course, we got so excited after she said it that now she claps after every time she enunciates the name Jesus. What a precious thing this is. Friends, I pray that would be my heart, that I would want to celebrate every time I hear the name of Jesus. Oh, that I would have the faith of a child, that really Jesus is the answer to everything and He is worth celebrating. He is over everything, in everything and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 NIV - He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. How can one not celebrate that? To think, that in that manger on Christmas morn, Mary held Jesus in her arms, while Jesus held the universe in His. Have you beheld this child? He is the only One holding it all together. He is holding us together.




Beloved, when looking back on this year, how can we not rejoice even in the difficulties that we face? Our Family Book of Remembrance is filled, not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us, in us, and through us. What does your book say? Even if you do not have a family tradition as ours, God is recording all that He has done in His Book. What a glorious day it will be to have that Book opened and read for those that feared Him and thought upon His name! Would you take a moment to think back on all the blessings that have been bestowed upon you these past 12 months? I bet that if you do count your blessings, then your count of presents from the Holidays won't matter as much anymore...Romans 15:13 NLT - I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.


We are continually humbled and honored by the number of people that have told us that they are keeping up with our journey and praying for us.  We ask that this would continue as the road gets tougher when Chemotherapy starts on January 10th. Thank you for your love! Happy New Year!

Matt

Saturday, December 17, 2011

If You Want Me To...

"Then Jesus withdrew from them about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down, and prayed, "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done."' Luke 22:42-42

Beloved Friends,

As our sweet Lord put this verse on my heart, I felt as though my heart was pierced upon reading the words of Jesus. Being fully God, Jesus knew his exact fate, he knew every single gruesome detail of his crucifixion, and the night before his death, Jesus, also being fully man, pleaded with His heavenly Dad, "Father, if its your will, take this crazy suffering away from me..." I think I have said those exact words to my heavenly Dad more in the past 4 days then ever before. On Tuesday, Matt and I met with my Oncologist at Baylor, Dr. O'Shaughnessy. She was absolutely darling! She was 5ft of bubbly, cancer wisdom and optimism. She made us feel comfortable and completely confident in her treatment plans for chemotherapy. I have to admit though, being the unrealistic optimist that I am, I think I had wishfully convinced myself that the surgery had gone so well that Dr. O'Shaughnessy was going to tell me that I didn't really need chemo, or that I would just have to get an 'easier' treatment. I really had no basis upon which to feel this way, I just wanted deeply for the hardest part of this journey to be over. So, as Dr. O'Shaughnessy laid out my chemo treatment plan for the next 6 months, I think I was in a complete daze. I heard every detail she said, I just didn't want her to be talking to me. Matt, of course, was there to hold my hand and soak up every detail; he was as encouraging as ever.

So, basically Dr. O'Shaugnessy is recommending the MD Anderson chemo regiment for young women who wish to maintain their fertility. The whole chemo treatment will last 24 weeks (approximately 6 months) and is broken into 2 parts. The first 12 weeks of chemo, I will be on a 3 drug regiment called FAC (5-Fluorouracil, Adriamycin, Cytoxan). Apparently this is a pretty strong cocktail of drugs, so much so, that I can only receive it once every 3 weeks. It's side effects include hair loss, nausea, extreme fatigue, and a decreased immune system. I will get the FAC regiment 4 times (every 3 weeks = 12 weeks total). The following 12 weeks, I will only get a one drug regiment, called Taxol. Although side effects are similar, they are not near as harsh as the FAC. I will receive the Taxol chemotherapy once a week for 12 weeks. The Taxol apparently is much, much easier than the FAC, just bothersome to have to get it once a week. Then Dr. O'Shaugnessy  explained that because my cancer is strongly estrogen based, in order for the chemotherapy to actually work on the cancer cells, we need to significantly reduce the estrogen production in my body, which means temporarily shutting down my ovaries. So, I will have to get Lupron shots every 4 weeks during chemo. Weeks ago, when we met with the Fertility specialist, he had recommended Lupron to help preserve my fertility. However, after he recommended this and we did our research and talked to friends who have had to use Lupron before, the side effects seemed very harsh, and therefore not really worth it. So, at that point, after praying a lot about it, we had decided that we were not going to pursue any fertility options and just completely trust the Lord to grow our family as He wills. Dr. O'Shaugnessy explained that her use of Lupron, was not a suggestion, but a necessary means for the chemotherapy drugs to actually work on the cancer cells and to not have to fight with the estrogen. But it is an extra bonus that it will help preserve my ovaries! Nonetheless, Lupron will cause me to go into a medically induced menopause. Obviously, at 27, my body is not ready to go through menopause, so the side effects can be really hard to deal with. They include hot flashes, irritability, insomnia and weight gain. I am sure Dr. O. could see how overwhelmed I must have looked, so she kept reminding us that they have great drugs now to help combat almost all of these icky side effects. And the great news is, that she is very optimistic that my ovaries are going to function healthily again one day and we will get to have another biological baby! Praise the Lord! Oh, I hope that comes true! After I finish chemotherapy in 6 months, I will have to be on a hormone therapy drug, Tamoxifen, along with continued Lupron, for 5+ years. Dr. O said that if my body responds well to everything, then perhaps after 2 years (post chemotherapy) of taking Tamoxifen and Lurpon, we can pause them and try to get pregnant! Then after having a baby, I will have to get back on them until 5 years is completed. Oh, how that news encouraged my heart! Although, it was never my plan for McKinley and our next biological baby to be at least 5 years apart, I know that God is Sovereign, He knows exactly what He's doing, and I trust that He will give us a baby in His perfect timing. One of my greatest challenges through all this is handing God my dreams, my timing and my control, and really believing with all my heart that his ways are far better than mine. As my sweet hubby reminds me, "Faith that is going to be trusted is faith that is going to be tested."

On our way home home from the Oncologist, Matt and I began to discuss what the next 6 months would look like. All that I could hear was that I was going to be nauseated, irritable, extremely tired yet not able to sleep, have hot flashes, and that I would be bald and fat. (We are still doing our research on whether I am a candidate for the penguin cold caps to preserve my hair, but because of the drugs involved and the length of treatment, it is not looking like a likely possibility.) I was overwhelmed with fear and insecurity, and I just cried out, "Lord, please don't make me do this... I'm not strong enough... I don't want to..." and although I tried to ignore it, I could hear God saying, "I love you Randi; remember, with me all things are possible (Mark 10:27)." On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I didn't want to hear that All things are possible with God, I just wanted God to take this crazy suffering from me. I had taken my eyes and my heart off of the Lord and His perfect plan for my life and I allowed the enemy to fill me with doubt and sorrow. Every time I thought about being sick, grumpy, bald and fat, I would just start crying! Oh, how silly and vain I am! Then in my Bible study, I was reminded of a verse in Isaiah that described Jesus' physical appearance: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him...." (Isaiah 53:2) That just blows my mind, because when I picture Jesus, I think of a really handsome man with brown flowing hair and perfect features. But when the God of the universe created his son in human form, He chose for him to have NO beauty or physical attractiveness. That baffled me. Why wouldn't God have made Jesus the most handsome man to ever walk the earth? And then it hit me, God never wanted His perfect message to be overshadowed by his messenger. My sweet friend reminded me that this summer I had prayed that God would get me out of the way, so when there is less of me, there could me more of Him (John 3:30). I am thankful that God answers prayers. And from the first day of this cancer diagnosis, Matt and I have prayed that God would be glorified through every step of our journey and that people would come to know His great love through our story. So perhaps, by allowing me to lose my physical attractiveness, God is simply not allowing his messenger to distract from His amazing message. I know that the Lord is continually teaching me that true beauty lies within and that He alone is more than enough for my every want and desire. So, precious Lord, I will walk through this valley, if you want me to...



Oh how I love that song! The Sunday after I was diagnosed, Ginny Owens performed that song, "If You Want Me To" at our church. Although Ginny Owens is legally blind, she has helped me to see things so clearly. If you can't see the video on your iPhone, go to YouTube or iTunes and download Ginny Owen's "If You Want Me To," I know it will bless your heart as it has blessed mine. So, today I am claiming God's promises and goodness: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..." (Ephesians 3:20) How beautiful that the God of the universe that has the power to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, loves us and is working in us and through us. This week, I looked at chemotherapy and its icky side effects as a punishment, but today I realized that I am so blessed to undergo a treatment that will kill all the cancer in me. That in a year, I will be healthy again and perhaps in 2.5 years, we will be able to have another baby. Praise God for that hope! With hope in our Lord, I can and will continue to find joy in this journey. Please pray that I will not take my eyes off of our Lord for a single moment and that I will be joyful regardless of how I look or feel. So, although I have cried out many time this week, "Lord, if you are willing take this cup from me" I now can find so much peace in the end of that verse "but Lord, be not MY will, but YOURS be done." (Luke 22:43)

Sweet friends, I love you dearly and I am so thankful for you. Thank you for reading our blog and being part of our journey. For those who have sent messages telling us what the Lord is doing in your life, Thank you! They have brought us so much joy, as they help to reveal God's goodness through all of this. I pray that you too will find peace knowing that God's will for your life is better than anything you would have planned. I am so thankful that He uses my mess for His message. Will you allow Him to use yours?

Joyfully in HIM~

Rands


Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; ALL things are possible with God." Mark 10:27

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Profoundness of Prayer


Isaiah 64:4 NIV - Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

I know that close friends are already chuckling as they read the title to this post. In the past two years they have undoubtedly heard me talk plenty on this subject as I have grown in my understanding and therefore, passion thereof.  My perspective on prayer has shifted in recent years as my utter ignorance of its depth has been revealed in me. I feel as though a whole new realm has been opened up to me and in writing this I hope that I may share some of my journey with you.  I believe that God has been preparing me for such a time as this and He has done so in the quite, secret place of prayer.  About a year and a half ago I picked up an autobiography of a very well known speaker throughout the world.  In it, he said that there was one book that had impacted his life above all others; I had to get the book.  I drove that day to the only book store in town that had it in stock, and I paid full price for the book.  If you know me, I never pay full price for anything but this book has been worth every penny.  I have read it through perhaps ten times now and every time I glean something new from its fields of wisdom on prayer.  Prayer is profound.

Randi and I continue to be overwhelmed at the generous response of family and friends throughout this whole ordeal.  So many of you have offered up meals, time, letters, babysitting, gifts, encouragement, thoughts, and even money.  Some of you have even put in calls to doctors and friends to get us into places we might not have been able to see and enabled us to talk to those who have walked this path before us.  Your care has been astounding; I don't think we've ever known that we are so loved. For this, we are ever grateful and words do not suffice to express our thankfulness.  Thank you.

Of everything done on our behalf however, the most humbling of all is that you would offer this: prayer.  For you to talk to a friend on our behalf who has gone through this before is of great benefit; to talk to the One who has walked in human flesh and can identify with every bit of our experience is powerful: Hebrews 4:15-16 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." I have heard it reported that Barack Obama's uncle who happens to be an illegal resident, was arrested on intoxication charges.  He was shortly released because his friends appealed to the highest authority in the land: the President of the United States, a.k.a. his uncle.  In like manner, as I have said before, some of you have appealed to doctors in order to get us into places where we might not of otherwise been afforded the opportunity. Ah, but when you pray, you appeal to the highest authority in the heavens, a.k.a. The Father.  For there is no one greater to appeal to.

I have heard it asked what the highest position one might hold in ministry might be.  Many answers have been offered but perhaps the following is the best given. If you are a teacher, you may move a class; if you are an Evangelist, you may move a crowd; if you are a Priest, you may move a parish; if you are a Preacher, you may move a congregation; if you are a Pope you may move a religion; if you are a President, you may move a government; and if you are a Prophet, you may move a nation; but when you PRAY, you may move God.  I believe that there is no higher form of ministry in this life than that of prayer.

Prayer is profoundly simple, and simply profound.  It is easy enough that a small child can do it, and yet so deep that an old man may not fully understand its capacity. Prayer links our impotence to His Omnipotence. It takes our inabilities and leans on His reliability.  Prayer releases the illusion of control to the reality of the illustrious One who controls all things.  Prayer takes work, but I am convinced that prayer works.

That is why we believe that the most humbling thing that can be said to Randi and I is that someone is praying for us.  WOW.  The idea that you would take our little concern in front of the greatest authority in the universe is very, very humbling.  I know of no greater honor.

If you are anything like me, however, this statement of 'praying for you' may at times just be a simple phrase that is code for 'good luck with that' and you go on your merry way.  It may just be a simple colloquialism that is said because in the situation that we find ourselves in that is just what people say.  Or, it may be said in all earnestness and then shortly thereafter forgotten.  Perhaps, you find yourself on the journey where I was a few years ago and you wouldn't even know where to start in prayer.   

At its most elementary form, prayer is simply a conversation with God. It is not a repetitious recital of words, it is talking to a friend.   There are no magic words, God looks at the heart.  It is not confined to a church, actually Jesus himself said to pray in an inner room like a closet in your home: Matthew 6:6 NASB - "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. You see, as I have heard it said, the secret to praying is praying in secret. Just like you would get alone with any person you want to grow in relationship with, prayer is our means to grow in God.  A simple acronym that we often tell YL kids about that helps as we pray is A.C.T.S. modeled after how Jesus himself told us to pray:

  • Adoration: Adoring the King for who He is, Our Father.
  • Confession: Releasing any sin that we may be carrying around to Him.
  • Thanksgiving: Thanking Him for what He has already done.
  • Supplication: Finally, putting our requests before Him.

The other day, we asked that folks would pray for Randi in regards to her pain level and medication.  It was an amazing thing to see those prayers answered so quickly.  When you prayed, God moved on the situation and it was as if pain medication was never a problem to begin with! We took the old pain medication that didn't work well after the first surgery and God graciously dealt with the pain in His providence.  Some might like to say this was a result of external circumstances.  I say it was eternal ones.

Last Monday night, Randi began to break out in hives all over her body.  It started on her arms and moved quickly down to her legs.  She described it as hot and itchy and the rash was very visible. As a husband, my first reaction was to 'fix' this with some sort of pill or method or phone call as tears poured down my sweet wife's face.  I immediately went to natural means to deal with the issue.  Then I prayed.  As quickly as it came, it left and Randi slept about as good as she has slept since surgery.  God loves to answer prayer!

It has also been our prayer from the very beginning that through our trials and triumphs, God would use our journey to supply encouragement to whoever might read this. That He might be made more famous even in our 'famine' and that you might know Him in a new way.  He has continued to answer this on a daily basis.  We have received many letters, emails, texts, Facebook messages, and phone calls from so many who have said that our story has provided them courage to walk through the darkest of valleys and faith to trust in the most trying of times.  I am so grateful to know that we have a God that is bigger than our situation.

A number of friends have commented that our faith is so strong.  I have tried to be quick to remind them that faith is only as strong as the object upon which it is trusting. For I can have faith that this chair that I am sitting in will hold me, but what if the chair is weak and it collapses?  You see, the faith in the chair is only as strong as the chair itself.  Likewise, prayer is only as powerful as the one to which the prayer is offered. Fortunately, we can call upon the One who is more powerful than any circumstance we face.  He is waiting for us, will you wait on Him? Jeremiah 33:3 NASB - 'Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'

Forever grateful for your prayers,

Matt



Monday, December 5, 2011

Eye's Fixed, Endurance Found

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Precious Friends,

It feels wonderful to be able to write this. This last week has definitely been the most physically painful of my life. I don't think I could have ever prepared myself for the icky, icky pain that I am facing. As I have said before though, I am a wimp:) I cry when things hurt. I have cried a lot this past week. But I am crying this morning as I write this because God is so faithful and he answers prayers! Friday night when Matt posted on the blog, we last updated y'all that we couldn't find a pain medicine that would work for me and we asked for prayer. Oh, I am so thankful for your prayers, because within hours we tried a different pain med and it worked! My pain definitely lessened and I was able to sleep! Praise God. It overwhelms my heart that we have family and friends that would pray for us and that we have a loving God who hears our every prayer. If as many people are truly praying as say they are praying, then God's glory is for sure going to shine through all this pain:) Thank you for praying.

In one of my weakest moments when the pain was at its peak, Matt's sweet Grandma gently reminded me that when the pain is there, it is an opportunity to remember the suffering Jesus endured for me. What a blessing it has been to take my thoughts off of me and instead put them on Jesus. It completely blows my mind that the King of the Universe would come down to Earth and endure the worst death possible, death on a cross, just for me; Just for you. This week in my devotional, I read this amazing verse, " See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;" Isaiah 49:16 As Jesus was nailed to the cross, my name was engraved on the palms of his hands! He was thinking about me. I remember so clearly the night at YL camp when I was 16, that I finally understood that Jesus wasn't just some guy that died on a cross for all the good people in this world. My young life leader so lovingly told me that Jesus knew every little thing about me, every mistake I had ever made and will ever make, and he loved me more than I could even imagine. "God demonstrated his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 That day on that cross, perfect Jesus, who deserved none of it, endured the worst suffering imaginable, all because he loved a sinner like me. Even if I was the only person on earth, Jesus still would have died for me. The same is true of you; He died for you. He knows every tiny thing about you and he passionately loves you. Do you know that love? Oh, I hope so. If you don't, I would love nothing more in this world than to talk to you about it. Jesus would love nothing more than for you talk to him about it. When Jesus died on that cross and arose from the dead three days later, the greatest rescue plan in all of history occurred. Jesus saved us from an eternity of life without him. He saved me from a life of me. The day I finally understood this truth and accepted the amazing gift Christ has to offer, it changed my life forever. That day in 2000, I gave my whole life to Christ. It has been the best decision I have ever made. Jesus never promises that a life with Him will be easy and free from pain and trials (oh, how I understand this evermore now), but that He will "never leave us or forsake us. "Hebrews 13:5. I can't imagine living one day of this icky cancer without my Jesus.   Although the physical pain at times feels overwhelming, it pales in comparison to the pain of living any day without Him.  So, even though my body feels like it is wasting away, my heart is renewed every day as I set my eyes on Jesus. He understands my every pain, he has been there, he gets it. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2 Please continue to pray that Matt and I will fix our eyes on Jesus every single day of this journey. I pray that you too will fix your eyes on Him.

Tomorrow we go to see Dr. Carpenter and hopefully I will get these silly drains removed! Please pray that I am healing well and that I will respect the boundaries that the Doctors and this cancer have put on me. I have been known to push boundaries:) My parents have so lovingly been here for the past week and have taken great care of McKinley and I. I will be sad to see them to go back to Colorado tomorrow, but my sweet little sister Ryli is flying in tonight to be with us for the next week. I am so excited for sweet time with her. If you by chance see Matt or have the time to email/call him in the days ahead, please give him a big hug, because he is without a doubt the best husband in the world. He has served me in the most selfless of ways. I know that nearly 5 years ago when he married me, he never thought he would have to care for me in these ways. I hate that he has to do it. But golly, he has loved me more in the last week than I could ever describe. Please encourage him with me. God is so good to give me a husband like Matt and family and friends like all of you. I am encouraged every day by your love and I truly thank God for you.

Joyfully in HIM~

Rands

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Lighten" The Night

2 Corinthians 4:6 NASB - For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

The last 72 hours have gone by very quickly, and yet so slowly at the same time.  This is the paradox of pain I am sure.  Sleep has been a luxury lost in the waning hours.  We have made it home and it has been good to see our sweet daughter McKinley and our best friend (dog) Trooper.  Last night was our first night at home since the surgery; it was a difficult night.  Our God is so gracious though!  He knows just the little things we need to encourage us.  Psalms 145:9 NASB - The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. This verse rang very true our first night home.  We walked outside to find that our house had been fully equipped with some stunning Christmas lights.  This is the first time we have ever had them.  Randi said it was a dream come true!




The Senior Campaigners group with Young Life, alongside Jeff Levesque and his father had spent all day while we were at the hospital setting up these lights.  Are you kidding me!? When I was a senior in HS I sincerely doubt that I would have done such a thing.  Would you have? Light was shining on our dark circumstances.  Randi and I could do nothing but cry tears of joy because our heavenly Father is right there alongside us through even the darkest of moments.  I have said this before and it stands true today: "When I am tempted to be overwhelmed by my circumstance, I trust and am overwhelmed by His GRACE."

Will you look for the Light today, no matter how dim your day is or how dark your night feels?  Where the Light is, darkness cannot abide.  Darkness only exists where the Light is being blocked, what is blocking the Light for you? Numbers 6:24-25 NASB - The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you.

Please pray not for comfort, but for The Comforter.  The pain has been intense as it comes and goes.  We have had great difficulty finding a pain medication that works with Randi the way we need it to.  Please pray that God would remove the pain, or if not, then give Randi the strength to endure it.  Rands is such a pillar of peace, even in the midst of such pain. I must say that my wife is even more beautiful to me now since I have seen her true colors through the trials than she has ever been to me before.  Proverbs 18:22 NASB - He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the LORD. I have found a GREAT one.  Thank you Father for such a gift!

Leaning on Him,

Matt

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Surgery's Story, Recovery's Road

Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer. (Romans 12:12 NASB)

Sweet Friends,

I have been utterly and completely overwhelmed by the compassion, concern, and care that you have showered upon us. I am happy to report from the hospital room that we are in, a successful surgery after five long hours. The peace that my wife experienced prior to surgery was so undeniably evident and profoundly powerful that it is difficult for me to explain in the natural realm. It is proof that your prayers are powerful and that our God is good.

We have had good reports thus far from all of the doctors. I got to see my precious bride in recovery and I can still say with all confidence that she shines with all beauty despite these ugly circumstances. Even in vomiting and pain, I have the most amazing, gorgeous wife that money can't buy, only a gracious God can grant. I am so blessed by her.

It is now a bit after 10 and Rands is slowly coming in and out of sleep. What a princess, she's my queen. Her trust is true, her hope is honorable, her faith is fruitful and her love is lasting. She, to me, epitomizes Romans 12:12. What a gal I was given; what a God we got.

Thank you for you prayers and your encouragement. We are so humbled by you and grateful for your love. The road ahead is very long. Randi is a strong woman (but kind of a wimp when it comes to pain). Will you join us in rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, and being devoted in prayer?

In His Love,

Matt

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

"When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by Glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me..."

From the song "How He Loves Us"

Sweet Friends,

Tonight at Young Life we sang one of my favorite songs: "How He Loves us." Though, as I listened to the voices of our beloved young life kids, the part of the song written above touched my heart in a new way. How beautiful that our afflictions- this cancer, the surgery tomorrow- are nothing compared to our Lord's glory and the marvelous plans He has for all of this. I needed to hear how much my God loves me. Sunday, at church, it was though the message was written just for me. God knew the exact words I needed to hear to comfort and encourage my anxious heart. "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances..." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Oh, how hard it can be to be truly thankful in all circumstances. But what a sweet reminder I was given: that sometimes the things we don't have in this life are God's greatest mercies on us. Because the very things that cause us the most pain, also cause us to rely on our Lord in a whole new way. Trials lead us into the arms of our heavenly Dad. I have prayed so much for the Lord to take this cancer away, to heal me, to let us have another baby and all the while God has been saying "pray for more of me. Randi, I love you. All you need is me. I'm enough." Tonight, I am certain that God is enough. He is more than enough. I love how desperately I need Him. I love that He is in control, so that I don't have to be. I love that Jesus changed my life. I love that he continues to change me every day. I love that he considered me worthy to carry this cross. Oh, I love Him. So, when I think of all He's done for me and how He loves me, I can't do anything but Thank Him. I am thankful in this cancer, because it has driven me into the arms of my Savior. I am so thankful that these momentary afflictions are eclipsed by His Glory. Oh, How He Loves Us! I pray that you would know how much our sweet Lord loves you and that no matter what trials you are facing, that in them you would turn to the Savior instead of turning away from Him.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11:30, I have to check into Baylor and the surgery is scheduled to start at 1pm. It will last about 5 hours. Dr. Grant will go in first and do the bilateral mastectomy and remove as much breast tissue as possible and hopefully all the cancer. Dr. Carpenter will follow and do the beginning stages of the implants. Please pray that they will have the skill and insight to remove all the cancer and then build me some new, beautiful breasts:) Pray that the hands of God will guide and direct them. I am so thankful to have them as doctors. I feel very confident in their ability.

For me [and Matt:)], please pray Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and his peace, which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus." I feel so peaceful tonight. I am not scared or anxious. I am in the grip of grace:) Please pray that this beautiful peace that transcends all understanding will continue to guard my heart and mind as we approach this surgery. I pray that in my weakness, God's strength will overwhelm me and that I will Thank Him for who He is even when pain and afflictions encompass me.

Thank you Friends for taking this journey with us. Thank you for all your sweet words of encouragement and for all your prayers. We are so humbled by it all. We love you so very much.

Joyfully in HIM~

Rands

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Updating My Results, Uplifting My Rock

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all: he protects all his bones..." Psalm 34:17-20

Precious friends,

I have wonderful news to report. The good Lord protected all my bones and the bone scan came back completely clear! Praise God! The CT scan that I had gotten nearly 2 weeks ago, indicated that there was a questionable area on the femur part of my leg bone, thus the Dr. ordered a bone scan. So, we were anticipating the news that the bone scan would show that the cancer had spread, but it didn't! It was totally clear, no cancer in my bones! Yippee!

And there is more good news! On Friday I had my sentinel node biopsy, where Dr. Grant took out 7 of my lymph nodes in my left armpit, and tested them to see if the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. Today, we got the results back and only 1 of the 7 nodes tested positive for cancer. It's not a perfect result, of course we were hoping for 0 nodes, but we are definitely praising the Lord that it has not spread any further. THANK YOU for praying! 1 out of 7 would indicate that approximately 14% of my lymph nodes could be cancerous, but Dr. Grant says that I won't need further surgery to remove more lymph nodes. It will just effect the chemo I receive, but it looks like I won't have to get radiation! yay!!! That means I can get my implants (well, the beginning stages of them) while I get my bilateral mastectomy next Tuesday (the 29th). God is so good. How appropriate that Thanksgiving is this week. We have so much to be thankful for.

Although we have received such great news today, I for some reason just want to cry my eyes out. God has poured out more blessings in the last week than I can begin to explain. We are overwhelmed and humbled at the love the Lord has lavished on us through our friends and family. I started a special journal yesterday to document all the amazing things that God is doing every day throughout this dumb cancer. (There are already so many pages filled!) I know that reflecting on his goodness and provision every day will help me to have a thankful heart through all this. I want so desperately to praise God and thank Him no matter how hard the storm rages around us. There is a verse in Philippians that has been put on my heart so much in the last few days: "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like the stars in the universe, as you hold firmly to the word of life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing" Philippians 2:14-16. This past weekend was really hard for me to do everything without arguing or complaining. The sentinel node biopsy on Friday was just an outpatient surgery, but they still had to put me under anesthesia (for the first time in my life) and they made an incision in my left armpit. I was supposed to be on pain meds all weekend and I wasn't supposed to pick McKinley up using my left side. However, hydro-codeine had the reverse effect on me and kept me up all night! So, I just felt icky and tired all weekend and it was nearly impossible for me not to pick up McKinley. I think it gave Matt and I a little insight to what surgery will be like next week, except that surgery is like 100x more intense. Recovery for this little thing was a weekend; recovery for surgery is 4 weeks, just in time to start chemotherapy. It was so hard to not feel like myself and it broke my heart not to be able to take care of my precious little angel like she is used to. I'm a snuggler, my first instinct as a mommy is to just wrap McKinley up in my arms, whether it is celebrate with her or to comfort her. I just love holding my baby girl. After surgery I won't be able to pick her up to put her in her bed, or high chair, or car seat or anything for 4 weeks. It is so hard for me to think about not being able to completely care for my baby. Matt is a phenomenal Daddy; McKinley's favorite thing in this world is to play with her Daddy. But sometimes, a little girl just needs her mommy. Mommy's, you understand. That just makes me so sad and as I started thinking about how scary and intense surgery would be, I was overwhelmed with fear. Truthfully, I am so scared for the physical pain and inconvenience that lies ahead. I'm a wimp. I'm not a tough girl, I cry when things hurt... but I am so thankful that God is the toughest and when I am weak, He is strong. So, tonight, I am holding firmly to the truth that I have nothing to fear, because "He will never leave me or forsake me" Hebrews 13:5. I have an heavenly Dad who will fight this battle for me; he hears my every cry and delivers me from trouble. How blessed I am.

Please pray that my heart would not be anxious or afraid for surgery next week. Please pray for sweet McKinley that God would protect her from understanding the changes that are going on around her. Pray that she would be so excited to be surrounded by family and friends that she won't even notice that mommy isn't quite herself. And while you are at it, Praise God for all the wonderful blessings in your life. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with the people you love. I will be praying for an attitude of gratitude and a heart set solely on our Lord.


I love you all so very much.


Joyfully in HIM~


Rands

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Purpose In Pain

John 11:4 NIV - When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."

This has to be one of the most painful experiences of my life, helplessly watching my precious wife go through so many tests, appointments, phone calls and scans and all I can do is be there with her through this. Oh, if there were any which way that I might take this cancer from her and put it on myself, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment; even if it were for just a day.  To think, this is only the beginning of our journey; I am so glad that I get to walk it with her.  

This past Sunday, Randi and I heard about a sweet lady that had lived her life in such a way that when it was her funeral, her husband and three boys stood in front of her casket and cheered.  She had lived a Proverbs 31 life,  so "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:" (Pro 31:28 NIV).  You must understand, this is the type of woman that my wife is. To me "...She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." (Pro 31:10-12 NIV).  When I look on the pain that is this situation, everything in me screams that this is not fair.  It's true.  It's not fair - that I get to be married to such a woman of noble character; to her. She has a trust that outlasts trials, a love that outlives looks, a faith that outshines flames, and a hope that overcomes helplessness.  In all sincerity, she is my hero that also happens to be my helpmate.  I am so blessed by her.

That is why this is so painful.  When friends call and ask how we are doing, it is a difficult question to answer. This hurts.  The pain is very much palpable.  However, in the midst of our pain, Randi and I have found great comfort in the realization that pain always has a purpose.  Oh, what vanity and emptiness it would be to think that the present sufferings don't matter in the end! Ah, but we know that "You (the enemy) intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." (Gen 50:20 NLT) Also, in Romans 8:28 NKJV - And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. That is why I am praying John 11:4 today that "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." There is purpose in pain.

What pain is it today that you are experiencing? What is it that is bringing you comfort in the pain?  Is it a bottle, a pill, a person? What about a PURPOSE? We may not know all the reasons why things may happen in this life, but oh what a promise we have: that in the end, God has a purpose! Will you trust Him with me? For, there is Purpose In Pain.  



Purpose in Pain

There is purpose in pain,
Every mountain top has its climb,
Every dark night has its dawn,
Every rose buds in time,
There is purpose in pain.
There is purpose in pain,
Every birth has its travail,
Every victory has its battle,
Every cross has its nail,
There is purpose in pain.
There is purpose in pain,
Every diamond is dug from dirt,
Every healing has its sickness,
Every hope has its hurt,
There is purpose in pain.
There is Purpose in Pain,
Every newborn has its first breath,
Every phoenix has its ashes,
Every Resurrection has its death,
There is purpose in Pain.

Grateful for pain that has a purpose, however painful it may be,

Matt

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wonderfully Made by a Wonderful Creator

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me... For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:1, 13-14

Friends, (especially my sweet girl friends- this is kind of a girly post!)

As I read Psalm 139 this morning, my heart was so refreshed upon the reminder that God made me, He knit me together in my mother's womb, He knows every single thing about me, He knows every cell in my body and every hair on my head. So, although this cancer has taken me so much by surprise, I am so thankful that it has not taken my God by surprise at all. He knows every mutation of every cancer cell before it ever happens. Although, I wish that all my cells were normal and healthy, as each day passes God reveals a little more of His glory and beautiful plan for all this. However, some days I hear stupid Satan's lies: that my cancer infested body is not wonderful, and that when I am bald and potentially barren I won't be beautiful at all. I know these are dumb, dumb lies. So, every day I have to remind myself of the amazing truths of my God: He is Sovereign. He is in control. He made me. His works are wonderful. True beauty comes from within. He Loves me. He has a plan for me. I know these truths seem so simple, but they have filled my heart with peace every time I feel anxious and afraid.

This summer at YL camp, my sweet friend showed me a verse that I have relished in ever since: "All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you." Song of Songs 4:7. Immediately I thought, oh I need to frame this verse and put it right next to McKinley's mirror, so that as she grows up, every time she looks in the mirror, she will be reminded that God made her beautiful, without a flaw. Since before she was born, I have prayed and prayed that her significance in this life would not come from what she sees in the mirror, but who she is in her Maker. I have struggled my whole life with basing my worth off of my looks. So many times I have thought, "if only I was prettier, skinnier, blonder.... then I would be as beautiful as _________." My whole life, my dad, mom, sisters, and friends have told me that I was pretty, I have just chosen to believe Satan's lies. I am so blessed that not a day goes by, that Matt doesn't remind that I am the most beautiful woman in the world to him, not only for what is on the outside, but more-so, because of my heart. This weekend, Matt surprised me with a little weekend get away for us! It was wonderful; he really is the best husband in the world. He reminded me over and over again that it was my heart that he fell in love with, and that is more beautiful than ever. For the past 11 years, God has shown me over and over again that my significance, my true beauty, comes only from Him. Although, this has been a daily struggle for me. So, now as I look forward into the months to come and I see my outer beauty fade away, I have to shut my eyes and hear the voice of my heavenly Dad telling me; "All beautiful you are my darling, there is no flaw in you."

Okay, so because I am a diva of a girl who cares way too much about how I look, I have prayed so much that I wouldn't have to lose my hair during chemotherapy. Oh, I have pleaded with the Lord over this silly thing! Then, last week I received a phone call from a delightful, Jesus loving lady, who just a year ago had the exact same diagnosis as I and used the same Doctors as we have. First, she reassured me that we have chosen the BEST doctors in Dallas, she said they are known as the "dream team." This made me so thankful and definitely reconfirmed our decision on the doctors we have chosen. She said that Dr. Grant and Dr. Carpenter are artists and that my new boobies will be beautiful! lol:) And then she told me, that I may not loose my hair during chemo! Apparently there are these things called Penguin Cold Caps, they are pretty main stream in Europe and other places in the world, but only like 200 women in the United States have used them. This was the first lady at Baylor to ever try them, and she didn't lose her hair! So, I guess how they work is that on the day of chemo for 8 hours, we fill these caps with dry ice and bring my head temperature to -32 degrees Celsius! (That is Freezing!) The theory behind them is that they will freeze my hair follicles, thus preventing the chemo drugs to effect them. Obviously, anyone who does this cannot be a wimp at all! She said my hair may thin a little, and obviously I can't color it for awhile so I will have terrible roots, but I will have hair! A lot of this depends on the type of chemo I will receive, so I'm trying not to get too excited, but at least there is hope that I won't be bald! Needless to say, I was so grateful for that phone call and so thankful that I have a God who hears my every prayer and cares about every little thing about me.

Is there anything too big for our God? Nope, He is bigger still. Is there anything to small for Him to care about? Nope, He delights in the details. When I feel like wandering, I have to remember that I am wonderfully made. There is no flaw in me! You too are wonderfully made by a Wonderful Creator! Will you praise Him with me today?

Tomorrow we meet with the plastic surgeon to discuss all our reconstruction options and I have a bone scan. Then on Friday, I have the sentinel lobe biopsy. Please pray that the cancer has not spread to my bones or lymph nodes. Thank you for praying! Matt and I are overwhelmed and humbled by your love.


Joyfully in HIM~
Rands

Friday, November 11, 2011

Trust God!

Pro 3:5-6 NIV - "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
  
As Randi and I wrestle through this new struggle in our lives, the common theme that has arisen in both of us is that our God is TRUSTWORTHY. We shared this with YL kids on Monday night as we reminded them of Psalm 55:22 NASB - "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." The next day, Anthony, a YL kid, showed up at our house with this shirt on! It brought my sweet wife to tears (and I never thought I could look so good in pink)! 
As I looked at this verse on the back of the shirt a thought came to my mind: how can this ordeal not shake someone? This is so heavy; this is so hard. My wife is the most precious woman in the world to me and the thought of her experiencing any pain burdens my heart and saddens my soul. Then, as I was listening to the radio this week, I heard this comment by one of my favorite men to listen to "When you hit rock bottom, it is because God wants you to know that He is the Rock at the bottom!" What a precious reminder to my soul.  When my feet are planted on The Rock, it is much harder for my world to be rocked.  I have a firm foundation upon which to stand, an anchor in our storm, a hope in the despair.  He will sustain me, and He will not allow me to be shaken. Notice that I didn't say that my circumstances wouldn't be shaken, but that I wouldn't be shaken.  I was also reminded of what I had found on the bottom of an In and Out Burger cup: Nahum 1:7 NIV - "The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him." How grateful I am that I have a God that cares for me, even as I am learning at a deeper level what it means to trust in Him. For me, the question is not 'is God trustworthy?' for in my life and in many others He has overwhelmingly shown Himself to be so, but rather 'am I trusting in Him?' On my way home from work today, I was swamped in the mire of the reality that we find ourselves sinking into ever so quickly. Randi had a conversation with a sweet lady who was a year out from first finding out that she has cancer with pretty much the same diagnosis and with the same doctors.  She let Randi know that she will be out of commission for quite a while after surgery, at least a couple of weeks.  For Randi and myself this was hard news to hear.  Randi will not be able to pick McKinley up to put her in her car seat, in her chair to eat, or in her bed to sleep.  Randi won't even be able to turn a steering wheel.  I immediately thought what can I do to "fix" this, and I was overwhelmed. Naturally, I was trusting in myself to solve our circumstances; my inadequacies engulfed me. Then a stinging rebuke came into my ears over the airwaves and through the radio.  The following list was read to me and I am so grateful for it:
  • When you choose to worry, you do not trust God.
  • When you try to fix the complicated, you do not trust God.
  • When you think you can handle the impossible, you do not trust God.
  • When you hurry ahead and do not wait for Him, you do not trust God. 
  • When you lay awake twisting and turning on your bed, you do not trust God. 
  • When you doubt Biblical precepts and principals and promises, you do not trust God. 
  • When you listen to human counsel and give it higher priority than Holy Scripture, you do not trust God. 
  • When you manipulate and maneuver to get your way, you do not trust God. 
  • When you step in and take charge without praying or being led clearly to do so, you do not trust God. 
  • When you resist leaning on God and you promote yourself so that others will notice, and you rely on your own ingenuity and creativity to become known, you do not trust God. 
  • When you cling to others in order to feel secured and loved and needed, you do not trust God. 
  • When you struggle with God’s leading and fight the change and resist His plan, you do not trust God. 
  • When you understand His word, but though, you know what to do, you don’t do it, you do not trust God. 
  • When death takes someone significant from you and you continue to think that you should have done this or that to prolong their life, you do not trust God. 
What do you find yourself trusting in today? As for me, I will trust God - even in the face of cancer. I was overwhelmed by our circumstances, now I am overwhelmed by His Grace. The response of friends to help during this difficult time has been amazing and humbling.  So many of you have offered to help, stay at our house, cook meals, and pray for us. Like I said, our God is TRUSTWORTHY. As my wife so often reminds me "When you can't trace God's hand of purpose, you must trust His heart of love." Trust God!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Encouraged By You, Loved By Him

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God... Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you... Do not be afraid, for I am with you." Isaiah 43:1-5 NIV

Oh friends,

I am overwhelmed and humbled by your love and encouragement. Thank you. Thank you for loving us; thank you for caring about us; thank you for spurring us on to follow the path Christ has laid before us; thank you for your faithful prayers. We thank God for each of you.

Last night may have been the hardest night yet for me. We finally told our beloved Young Life kids about the cancer. And it was so hard, but so beautiful. I first told my darling sophomore girls during campaigners before club. We went over the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, and how when they were thrown into the fire, there was a 4th man in the fire with them: Jesus. Today, especially, I am clinging to the truth that Jesus is in this fire with us and that he will not allow a hair on our heads to be burned. That's my Jesus, my rescuer; my hero. I am comforted every day that I am loved more than I can imagine by the King of the universe; and I am thankful that the Victory is already His. I know how the story ends and it is wonderful! Nonetheless, telling my girls that I know Jesus loves me and has an incredible plan for my life, even though I have cancer, was so hard. It is hard to explain how deep my love runs for these girls.  I hate to see them cry and be sad, especially on account of me. For a year and half, I have been telling these girls how much Jesus loves them, the amazing plans He has for their life, and how true beauty comes from within. Last night, they reminded me of all these beautiful truths. How blessed I am to be loved by them. Then Matt and I told probably 200 YL kids about the cancer during club. Matt was a pillar of strength, as always. I am certain his faith could move mountains:) What a privilege it was to get to tell those kids that God is Good all the time, even when times don't seem that good. I felt our sweet Lord holding us up last night, directing our every word. Our prayer is that kids wouldn't have heard about cancer, but about Christ and the crazy, awesome love He has for them. Our amazing Young Life team then handed out pink bracelets for all the kids to wear to remind them to pray for us. It is so humbling to know that so many people are praying for us. Thank you.

Since my last post, there is quite a bit to update y'all on! On Thursday, we met with the breast surgeon and oncologist at UT Southwestern and the breast surgeon at Baylor. It was a long day and we were thoroughly confused at the end of the day! All the Doctors seem so knowledgeable, and as I was stressing about which team to choose, Matt gently reminded me that we were so blessed to be able to choose from some of the best Doctors in the country. After praying all weekend about it, we decided to go with Dr. Grant from Baylor. He loves the Lord, which is a huge bonus and comfort. When we were with him, I felt peaceful and hopeful. Very different from the feelings of anxiety and fear that overwhelmed me every where else. So, it feels great to have that decision made. How thankful I am that the Lord cares about every little decision and adores me amidst my fear and anxiety. Once I told Dr. Grant that we would be going with him, the ball started rolling. We meet with the plastic surgeon, Dr. William Carpenter, next Tuesday and then next Friday I have my sentinel lymph node biopsy procedure. I guess this is an outpatient surgery where they will take out some of my lymph nodes to test them and see if the cancer has spread. They don't want any surprises once they get to the big surgery. So then the big, bilateral mastectomy surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, November 29th. This is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that I will get to celebrate Thanksgiving before the surgery. The decision to get a double mastectomy was hard, because as I explained in an earlier post, this means that I won't ever get to breast feed again. My heart breaks for this, but Matt and I really feel like it is a wise decision to remove as much tissue as we can now, so that we have a much lower chance of getting cancer again. I am so thankful God has kept our hearts on the same page through all this. I am sure that I will mourn for the loss of that blessing when and if we do get to have another baby. But in the meantime, I am just praying so hard that God will allow us to have another baby. Please pray for that with us.

As for chemotherapy, many pathology tests will be run on the actual tumor after it is taken out, so we will know a lot more about the specific chemo regime then. It would appear that chemotherapy will start 4 weeks after surgery, which is the 1st week in January. What a blessing that I will hopefully feel great for Christmas! Thank you, Lord. As always, His timing is perfect.

I think that is all I have to update y'all with today. We love you:)

Joyfully in HIM~

Randi

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Personal Gethsemane

Mar 14:32-36 NKJV - Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here while I pray." And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch." He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."

As I have studied the scriptures in an effort to better inform our circumstances, this thought has been very apparent to me: that any man that God desires to use in mighty ways, He first crushes. He takes that man and rips from him everything in this world until there is no hope left in himself. For faith that's going to be trusted is faith that's going to be tested. I distinctly remember praying with Randi a while back that God would make us more like Himself. He has answered that prayer but not in the way in which I had expected.  Too often I find myself wanting to follow Him because I know that in following is found blessing.  Rarely, if ever, have I thought that following Him includes carrying a cross!  I want the streets paved with gold, not the Via Dolorosa painted in blood.  Why should I expect anything less? After all it was Jesus himself who said in Luke 9:23 "And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." It has become ever more apparent to me that it is much easier to wear a cross than it is to bear a cross.  The footsteps of Jesus lead to a garden. Not the Garden of Eden from which came the curse of sweat, but the Garden in Gethsemane in which the pain was so intensely palpable that He sweated blood.  The highway of holiness (Isa 35:8) quite often may lead to A Personal Gethsemane. 

This has been true in many saint's lives throughout the corridor of time. Joseph had his prison, Jonah had his big fish, Abraham had his Mount Moriah, Jacob had his wrestling match, Job had his journey, Paul had his thorn in the flesh, Moses had his desert experience, even Peter, according to tradition, had to watch his wife be crucified as he himself hung upside down on a cross. This has also been true of saints found outside of the scriptures. See the story of David Livingston as told by Leonard Ravenhill:

“In Scotland, nine miles out of Glasgow, there’s a great big house, a national memorial to David Livingstone. In it there is a model that shows the room where he died, where for years and years he prayed. It’s like some of those houses in India that are made of bamboo and leaves woven in. And there he is, kneeling over a bed, if you can call it that—two bamboo rods with some leaves on it—and a candle flickering there. They said every night he would kneel at that bed and you would hear him crying with his hands raised, “God, when will the wound of this world’s sin be healed?”

He fought the Portuguese slave traders. He did many, many marvelous things. Why? Because he had a Gethsemane of his own. His precious wife died and he buried her in the jungle. And the baby she bore died. He buried the child at the side of its mother. Another child he had died—he buried that one.

But the grief didn't change his zeal for God. It added fuel to the fire. “The devil’s trying to rob me. The devil’s trying to hinder me.” And he worked with greater zeal. He prayed more than ever he had prayed. They said that night after night his voice would echo through the forest, “Oh God, when will the wound of this world’s sin be healed?”

Dear God! all our pastors are concerned about is adding one or two members! Or getting another bus to bring the people in! I say again, there can be no revival without travail.”

When David began his ministry to the "dark" continent of Africa as it was then called, there were perhaps 100 Christians.  Today, there are over 100 Million.

Horatio G. Spafford was a very successful businessman, lawyer, and real estate tycoon in the city of Chicago during the latter half of the 1800's.  He and his wife, Anna, had five young children, four girls and a boy and were fairly well known in the community.  In 1870, however, life began to change.  Horatio and Anna lost their only son to scarlet fever at the tender young age of four.  A year later, the Great Chicago Fire wiped out a majority, if not all, of Horatio's Real Estate holdings.  The toll taken on the family was evident so it was decided that a vacation to England was needed.  Anna and the four girls boarded a steamboat while Horatio was kept behind with some last minute business.  He planned to meet up with them later.  On November 2, 1873 the 'Ville de Havre' collided with another vessel, it took only 12 minutes to sink.  Horatio and Anna lost their four girls that day, Anna was miraculously spared.  As Horatio floated above the resting place of his four daughters on the next vessel out, he penned the words of a hymn that have brought much comfort throughout the years to so many, including myself during this time.  This hymn was entitled "It Is Well With My Soul" and you can find it below as sung by Hillsong.  To think that this man penned the words "When sorrows like sea billows roll...it is well with my soul" above the graves of his daughters is beyond comprehension.  From a personal Gethsemane came a profound blessing.

The other morning before the MRI I found myself praying in tears "Father, I know that you are able to have the MRI show that the cancer is completely and miraculously gone and that all of this can be over.  Would you do that? Even if you do not, Lord you are praiseworthy and you are good."  Immediately, after I spoke those words, an overwhelming peace pervaded my heart.  It was as if my Father had said the words "Trust Me."  In that moment I learned Horatio's secret.  From that prayer to wherever this journey takes us, I can say that  "It is well, with my soul."  I can thank my God for this Personal Gethsemane, for there is always a Resurrection to come!

Matt

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Light In The Midst of Darkness

"You, Oh Lord, keep my lamp burning; My God turns my darkness into light." Psalm 18:28 NIV


My heart feels so good today:) The last week has been crazy, but amidst it all, I have spent some of the sweetest times of my life with the Lord. The waves of emotions have left my heart needing Jesus like never before. I don't just need him to make my day better or to help with a decision, I need Him for every breath. I cherish this feeling of desperately needing my Savior. I am so thankful that I have a God that turns my darkest day into light. I am fully confident that no matter what the future holds, my sweet Lord has plans to "prosper me, and not to harm me; plans to give me hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Since my last post, God has been so awesome in answering prayers. Thank you for praying! On Monday, Matt and I met with a Breast surgeon at Presbyterian Dallas and we really liked him. He was very knowledgeable. Then we met with the fertility Dr. at UT Southwestern. He sat with us for hours and laid out every option we have available from harvesting embryos and doing In-Vitro Fertlization (IVF) to getting a Lupron shot during chemo to protect the follicles in my ovaries, in hopes to preserve them. Please pray for discernment and wisdom for us. We want to bring glory to God through every decision and this is a difficult one. I want so desperately to have more babies but, Matt and I believe that those fertilized eggs (embryos) are Life and thus they are our babies. So, best case scenario, if my ovaries do work after chemo and we are able to have biological babies, then we would never just leave those Wideman embryos, thus we would have to get them implanted and go through IVF. However, if we play out worst case scenario, and my ovaries don't work after chemo, then we would have to be okay with never having biological babies again if we didn't harvest embryos now. Please pray that God would direct every part of our decision and that we would fully trust His perfect plan for our family.

On Monday, we also got notified that on Thursday(tomorrow) we get to meet with the breast surgeon and oncologist at UT Southwestern! And we have an appointment with the Breast surgeon at Baylor on Thursday too! So, hopefully by Thursday evening we will know what team of Doctors we are going to proceed with. I will be so glad when we decide, so that we can start getting rid of this dumb cancer:) I also have all my body scan tests on Friday. The hardest part of all of these Dr appointments is that I don't get to be with McKinley. I miss her every second that I am not with her. But I know she is in great hands. Matt and I are overwhelmed with the love and support of our family, friends, and community. It all means more than we will ever be able to express. Thank you friends.

This morning we found out that I do NOT have the gene for breast cancer! That is great news, in that if I did have it, I would be at a much higher risk of developing cancer again. Praise God! Although, if I had the gene, then at least there would be an explanation of why I have cancer at age 27. But the fact that I don't just confirms in my heart, that God is up to something so much bigger than I can understand. I know he will continue to turn my darkness into light and I am learning every day what it means to praise Him in my storm. We love you all so very much.


Only by His Grace~


Rands

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fear Overridden By Faith

This is an email Randi sent to some of her close friends last Friday...

My sweet friends,

Tears stream down my face as i try to write this, so please forgive me if I don't make complete sense. Thank you for your sweet words and messages of encouragement over the past few days, they mean the world to me:) But most of all thank you for praying... I can feel God's sweet arms holding me tighter than ever. The last 5 days seem like a whirlwind... I still feel so healthy, so it so hard to grasp that cancer is inside of me. But now more than ever, I know that God is in control, and that He will use this for His glory. From the 1st day we found the lump, Matt and I started praying that no matter what the future holds, our sweet Lord would be glorified. So although my emotions have been all over the place, my heart is peaceful. I feel honored that God would let me carry this cross. I am scared and sad, but I surrendered my life to Christ when I was 16, and He has proven faithful every single day since, so I know He won't stop now. I have read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 about a million times: "My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness... Therfore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." So I am trying so hard to praise God that His power can be made perfect in my weakness. And I'm not about to let Satan steal my joy:)

So now for an update: As for today, the update is that I have invasive ductile breast cancer. We do not know the stage yet, as we are waiting on my full body scans to see if it has spread anywhere. But my Doctors think it will be Stage 1 or 2 (meaning it is only in my breast). This type of cancer is fueled by estrogen and progesterone and probably developed when I was pregnant with sweet McKinley. The MRI showed that it has not spread to the right breast, Praise God! and it doesn't look like it has infected the lymph nodes either, which is great! But there are 3 cancerous masses on my left breast. Together, they make a 3.6cm tumor (which is pretty big). That means that I defientely have to get a masectomy on my left side and if we want to be preventative my right side also. I'm not really sad about having my silly lil boobs removed (i get new pretty ones:), but I am so sad that if I get both removed, then I will never get to breast feed again. That breaks my heart. We met with an oncologist (cancer Dr) on Thursday. There was a lot to talk about but kind of regardless because of my age, I have to go through chemotherapy and then be on a cancer hormone drug for 5+ years. Chemo will start 3-4 weeks after surgery and will last 20-24 weeks. I am scared of chemo and really scared to lose my hair... My cancer is hormonal based, so the best chemo treatment would attack the origin of estrogen and progesterone, which is my ovaries. So the chemo could make me infertile and therefore we may never get to have another biological baby again. Of all the news that we have gotten, this is by far the hardest for me. I can't even think about it without bawling. My/Our dream was to have 2+ more babies (we were going to start trying in December) and then adopt a little black boy:). I know that through adoption we can still have our big family, it is just so hard to hand God my dreams and to trust that his dreams are so much better. The oncologist said that they will try everything they can to reduce the risk of infertility, but because my cancer was due to pregnancy, if I ever do get to be pregnant again, then I will have a high risk of re-developing cancer. It is all so much for my heart to take in.

My breast Dr (Dr Iyengar) has referred us to a team of Drs down at UT Southwestern: a fertility specailist, a medical oncologist, and another breast surgeon. Because of my age, I am kinda in a league of my own. Dr. Iyengar (who looks just like my friend Naina, so of course I love her:) says that this team of Drs is the best. However, when we called to get an appointment, 2 of 3 Drs were completely booked until November 26th. I dont think that I can wait that long. Please pray that appointments would open up and that I would get to be treated by these Drs or that God would provide another excellent set of Drs. Time seems so precious right now. I dont want this cancer in me any longer. We are also going to get another opinion from a great breast surgeon at Baylor Dallas. We have heard really great things about him. We did get an appointment with the fertility cancer Dr at UT southwestern on Monday. I am excited to see what he will have to say about everything. Next week I will also have a CT scan, PET scan (whole body cancer scan) and brain MRI. Please pray that the cancer has not spread anywhere else.

As far as Matt and I go, we are doing great. I can't imagine a better earthly warrior to fight this battle with me. He is amazing and I fall more in love with him everyday. His faith just blows me away. How blessed I am to be married to him:) McKinley is the most precious thing in the world. She brings more joy to my life than I can explain. Please pray that I can continue to love her so well during these hard times. I dont want her sweet little world to change because of me.

I will try to keep you all updated. Right now is just a waiting game for tests and Dr appointments. Please pray for us. Pray for healing and wisdom, but moreso pray that Jesus will be more famous because of this. I love you all so much and am eternally thankful for your friendship.

Only by His Grace~

Rands