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,


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~


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~


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,


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~

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~


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!


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~