Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Footprints: The Trail of a Year

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

Sweet Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A New Morning; A New Day; A New Outlook

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

Sweet Friends,

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

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

The view we had from a new morning on Lake Texoma! 
Lamentations 3:22 NIV - Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

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

His New Creation~

Monday, July 30, 2012

Celebrating The Trial & The Triumph

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

Precious Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Joyfully in HIM~

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ten Golden Rules We Learned From A Golden Example

2 Corinthians 1:3 NASB - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort

Three years ago today we picked up our other best friend. Today we held him as he took his last breath. Our hearts are broken. Trooper was the greatest dog in the world, and as Randi would always say he was our 'first born son.'  He was part of our family.  He was an integral part of Team Wideman. If you are not an animal lover I know that you may think this is silly, but I would often make it a prayer of mine to be more like Trooper in the way that I relate to my Master and to the world.  As I would pray that in the wee hours of the morning on my knees, Trooper would be right there by my side. He rarely left it and even more rarely disobeyed a command. If I could only live a life like that...

Below is a list of 10 things we learned from our other best friend:

1.  Always be excited to see whoever crosses your path.

Trooper never met a stranger.  Every person that walked into our house, Trooper loved on.  He made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. He would get SO excited when we walked through the door.  You couldn't help but smile when Troop greeted you. Trooper wanted to be friends with everyone.   He could not understand why any person or dog wouldn't want to be his friend. Every day that we went to the park, Trooper played with every kid there. We even trained him to go down the slide:) McKinley loved playing with him.

2.  Always be willing to help with the dishes.

Trooper was the best helper ever.  He licked clean our dishes after every meal. As soon as he would hear the fork scrapping at the bottom of the plate, he ran into the room. All our friends and family laughed at this, but he loved it!  He was also great at licking McKinley's face after meals; she loved to share her food with Troop!

3.  Sometimes the greatest need is to just be there.

Troop was the best at just being there. He would curl up by your feet, or put his head on your lap, sometimes even lay in your lap and his sweet, big, brown eyes would just look at you, making it seem like everything was going to be okay.  He was a comforter.

4.  Follow your Master wherever He takes you.

Wherever we went, Trooper would follow. He was the most loyal thing we have ever known. No matter how he felt, or how tired or scared he may have been, he stuck right by us.  Especially to Matt.  Trooper adored the heck out of his dad. Where Matt was, Trooper always had to be.

5.  Tears are just opportunities for kisses.

Trooper licked far too many of our tears this year. He had the sweetest heart; he knew when you were hurting and just wanted to make all your tears go away. We SO loved Trooper's kisses.

6.  An empty hand is meant to be held.

Trooper loved to have his hand held.  He would sit right in front of you and put his precious paw into your hand and want you to squeeze it. He reminded us that sometimes just holding your hand can make you feel so loved.

7.  No matter how hard things are, make someone smile.

Whether it was when I was in the pain of surgery or sick in bed during chemotherapy, Troop laid right by my bed. He would put his sweet head on the edge of my pillow and just grin his big teeth. After I lost my hair, Troopie would love to lick my bald head. Oh how it made us laugh. He brought more joy to our lives then we could possibly explain.

8.  A Family is meant to be together.

Trooper hated for any of us to separated from each other. When he was a puppy, we took him on the kayaks at Lake Lavon. Matt would be in one kayak, and I would be in the other. Trooper could not stand for us to be apart! When we would ride bikes, Trooper hated that we couldn't always ride next to each other. He was our constant reminder that Team Wideman needed to be one.

9. Complaining never gets you anywhere.

Trooper never wined or complained.  He really made the best of every situation. McKinley loved to climb on Trooper and try to ride him. I'm sure a toddler yanking on him all the time wasn't always enjoyable, but Trooper just let her do it; they were best friends.  Last fall, when we were camping, there was a terrible rain storm and our tent completely leaked.  We were all totally soaked and snuggling together to keep warm. Trooper would not lay down, he stood on his feet all night to protect us. The next morning, although we are sure he was exhausted, he was out fishing with his dad.

10.  Always know the call of your Master.

There was this special whistle noise that only Matt could do, that Trooper always responded to.  He could be so far away, exploring as he loved to do, and yet when he heard Matt's call, he came running. This often kept him out of trouble in dangerous places! Oh how we wish we always respond to the call of our Master that same way.

It has often been said that dogs tend to look like their owners. Golly, we aspire to look like our dog. We were so blessed by every day of the past 3 years with Trooper.  God knew what we needed and when we needed him the most. God used sweet Trooper to teach us so much about His unconditional, always present, forever loyal love for us.  Our family is forever grateful for our time with Trooper. Although so much shorter than we would have hoped, his impact will last a lifetime.  We are heart broken and can't imagine our life with out our baby Trooper. But we are praying that every time we miss him (which we know will be A LOT), we will turn to our Heavenly Master, listening to His call and following Him wherever he leads us.  Even in this moment of tremendous loss and sadness, He is evermore the God of all comfort.

With all our love,

Team Wideman

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When God Says Wait...

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Precious Friends,

   I have been wanting to write this post for weeks now, but I just didn't have the words to express my heart's emotions in all of this. So, I have been praying Psalm 139 faithfully; that the Lord, who knows my heart and my every thought, would rescue me in my struggle to trust Him in this area; asking Him to lead me in His ways, and not my own. So, I have to confess that what I share with y'all today has been my greatest struggle through this cancer journey. Although losing my breasts and hair, being sick, tired, scared, weak, and insecure have all definitely been challenging, on most days it has been easy to trust God and see His abundant goodness amidst them. Oh, how He has been so good to us through every day of this journey. But yet, when I let my heart wrestle with the fact that we may not be able to have any more biological kids, instead of running desperately into Christ's arms, I start running away. Every day I look at our beautiful McKinley and I just cry out that the Lord would let me be a mama again. And instead of trusting that God knows exactly what is best for our family, I begin to doubt that He knows the deepest desires of my heart. As I write this, it just sounds so silly that I would doubt that my Heavenly Dad who created every fiber of my being and every ounce of my soul would keep any good thing from me. And yet, knowing the truth, "You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." Psalm 145:16-18 I believe the enemy's lies that God is not for me and that my ways are better than His. I just hate when I let those lies into my heart! But God is so faithful to show me time and time again how much He loves me and how wonderful His plans are for my life.

   About 3 months ago, Matt and I decided to take an adoption class at our church. As I have told y'all before, Matt and I have always had a heart for adoption. (Praise the Lord for that!) But in my perfect Randi world, we would have adopted a little black boy years from now after we had all our biological kids. I never thought that we would be considering adoption because we were unable to have our own. Needless to say, the class was a general overview on the process of adoption, and some of of our sweet friends were also taking it, so we were really excited to start the learning process. We knew that we wanted to adopt, but we really didn't know anything about the adoptive process. The class was great! I absolutely loved learning about God's heart for adoption and His call for us to love His children. What a sweet reminder of how we were all adopted; How God came to earth to rescue us and adopt us as His sons and daughters. "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--" Ephesians 1:4-5 Oh, I love that truth! However, the more we learned about adoption, the more excited I got, and the harder it became to be content where God has us right now. From the first day we met with my oncologist and she explained that we needed to shut down my ovaries (hopefully temporarily) because my cancer feasts on estrogen and progesterone, therefore perhaps taking away our ability to conceive future children, I started praying that the Lord would meet me right there in the middle of that 'loss' and help me to be content in this. As the apostle Paul so perfectly wrote, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13 And the Lord truly answered my prayer. The more I prayed it and trusted in Christ for my strength, the more content I felt... until we started the adoption class. Because instead of praying for God's will for my life and our family, I started praying that He would give me another baby. Not that praying for more babies is wrong at all, because I know the Lord loves to hear our heart's desires. But I took my prayers off of the Lord and put the focus on me. My plans, My way. Not His plans, His way. It was like I was saying, "Lord, if you won't give me a biological baby right now, then Matt and I will just go and get one ourselves!" Oh, how selfish and vain that sounds now! But then over the course of the class, it was explained to us that any public adoption agency, whether domestic or international, requires you to disclose all medical history. Therefore, disqualifying us from starting the adoption process until I am in full remission (5 years after completing treatment). Oh, how my heart broke! "5 years before we even get to start the process Lord? That means McKinley and her siblings would be at least 7 years apart! God, that was not my plan for our family!" And God gently whispered, "Randi, wait on me. Wait on my timing. Trust me." And I was reminded of Isaiah 30:18: "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" Okay, Lord we will wait on you. Truthfully, I've never really had to wait on the Lord before. Waiting is hard. I see so many of our friends waiting: for jobs, to get married, to have a baby, to get healthy, to get out of debt etc... We want everything right now, and then God says wait. So, I know He has a purpose in us waiting. When we wait, we have the choice: run to God to fill that void or try to fill it ourselves. As mush as I hate waiting, I know that the Lord wants to teach me something so beautiful, so I am trusting in God's promise that "Blessed are those who wait for Him."

     Well, in the middle of our waiting, God gave us such a sweet gift. About half way through the adoption class in late spring, I was sitting in bible study on a Wednesday morning and I received a text message from a sweet friend in Alabama, whose husband has been a pastor of a wonderful church there for nearly 30 years. My friend informed me that they had a beautiful 19 year old girl there, who was pregnant and wanting to give up her baby through a private adoption agency. She asked if we were interested. Oh golly, I read that text message and I wanted to dance through halls screaming, OF COURSE WE ARE INTERESTED! I called my precious Matt right away, and he said we definitely needed to get more information. So we then found out that the beautiful 19 year old girl had just come to know Jesus, and that she was having a boy due on August 19th. Since McKinley was born, I have been praying that we would have a son next and that our kids would be exactly 2 years apart. McKinley's 2nd birthday is August 17th. Y'all, it was as if God screamed down from heaven, "Randi, I know the deepest desires of your heart. I hear you. I'm listening. I love you." I just started crying. Even if the story stopped right there, it was as if God handed me the exact amount of hope I needed to hold on to during this time of waiting. We were then connected to the private adoption attorney that she was working with. He is an incredible guy, with such a heart for the Lord and finding Christ-centered homes for adopted children. However, right when we started talking with him, I told him all about my cancer, the treatment etc... I guess if it was going to close the door, I wanted it to happen right away. However, he told us that because it was a private adoption agency, we didn't need to disclose any medical records. Awesome! So we were actual candidates for adoption! He told us though that the girl was going to choose an adoptive family within the next 2.5 weeks, so we needed to get all the paperwork submitted as soon as possible. It was a lot of paperwork and recommendations! But God was so gracious with time and resources and our friends and family were spectacular in getting the recommendations written within 1 week. (We have been told that often it takes months to complete all the necessary steps). We submitted everything on a Monday morning, thanking God for the possibility of getting to adopt that precious little boy and then leaving it in His hands. 

     The very next day, on our way to chemotherapy, Matt and I received an email from the attorney, telling us how great our profile was etc..., but that the girl had already chosen a family for her baby boy during the week we were completing our paperwork. She never even saw our profile. Tears streamed down both of our faces. Sweet Matt, grabbed my hand and just started praying. He prayed for the girl, her baby boy, and the chosen family; then he prayed for my heart and our future children, that God would bless us with a baby in His perfect timing. Matt reminded me that God knows the exact baby for our family, and that he or she is so worth waiting for. A little bit of my heart was broken that day. Of course, being the dreamer that I am, I had already stayed up many nights dreaming of that little boy's nursery and how great of a big sister McKinley will be, and how much Trooper will love him and how great of a boy daddy Matt will be. And then God says wait. So, we are waiting. But every day I am learning that waiting is just an opportunity to trust God. He is so faithful to remind me over and over again how much He loves me and how good His plans are for my life. "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalm 103:2-5 So, as I am in this time of waiting, my prayer is that I will delight in the Lord every day, knowing full well that no baby will ever fulfill me, only Christ can. He captivated my heart 12 years ago, and He is yet to disappoint me. He's my everything. He knows every desire of my heart and He cares more than I can possibly imagine. But if McKinley is the only child we ever get to have, biological or adopted, that will never change how good, powerful and loving our Savior is. 

     Friends, is God asking you to wait right now? My prayer is that you will run right into the arms of the only One who can truly satisfy the deepest desires of your heart. Anything or anyone else will leave us always longing for more. We will always be waiting, if our hearts are not fully captivated by our King. May today be the day, we stop waiting and hoping for what tomorrow could bring and that we find full joy right where God has us today. 

     Y'all, thank you for walking through this journey with us. I cannot believe I only have 2 chemos left! And Praise God, Dr. O'Shaugnessy said that I could bump my last chemo until July 17th, and go to Young Life camp in Buena Vista, Colorado from July 7-15th! I am thrilled beyond words! Please join us in praying that so many kids would come to know Christ's perfect love while we are there. It is truly the 'best week of our lives' every year we get to go! I know that this year will be no exception.  God is so good!

Joyfully in HIM~


Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Man's Role; A Husband's Duty; A Father's Call

Romans 15:1 ASV - Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

To think that we are so far along in this journey, is a far thought from where we started. It is hard to imagine that we now have only four treatments of the Taxol chemotherapy left and for the most part we have been moving right along. My beautiful bride continues to blow me away with the way that she constantly carries herself through this trial. Proverbs 14:30 NIV - A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. I doubt that I have ever seen a heart that has been more at peace than my beloved's during this time. She has had every excuse, if there are such, to compare herself to peers, wishing that it was not her that had to go through this. She could be saying 'why isn't my life like her's?'; instead I have never seen her more alive. I will never forget that first night we found out that it was cancer: the pain, the emotion, the uncertainty. And yet, through all of that I got to hear my wife pray as though she were Paul in Romans 9:1-3. I recall her sweet heart in tears praying 'Oh, Lord,  if this cancer would bring people to you, even if it brings just one, then give me cancer a thousand times over.' As tears filled my eyes, joy filled my heart; I don't think I have ever been more astounded by her beauty than at that moment. What a Gem of a wife she is. 

Tuesdays are the days of chemotherapy and by the grace of God alone, Randi and I have gotten to serve Tuesday nights as marriage mentors through a ministry called Merge at our church. How she is able only a few short hours after treatment to give of herself in this way cannot be answered in the natural realm. 1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV - But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Supernatural strength is so evident in her and I am so blessed by her. Through the class, one of the things that has been talked about is the role of a husband and it has caused me to think often of what my role has been through all of this. Psalm 128 has been a great reminder to me of the duty that I have been given, I hope it is a blessing to you as well:

Psalm 128:1-6 NIV - A song of ascents. 
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. 
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 
Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,
and may you live to see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel.

Firstly, it is evident to me that this Psalm is for men, husbands, and fathers. I believe that it is a great vision of God's plan for us. Blessing will be upon me if I fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord can be defined in Proverbs 8:13 NIV - To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. I must so hate evil that I would choose to walk in the truth. This is my responsibility first and foremost as a man. I must lead myself before I am able to lead anyone else and it must be done in righteousness. 1 Timothy 4:7b NASB - Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; Who I follow, is who they follow if they follow me.

Secondly, I notice that I will eat the fruit of my labor. I believe that this can be applied in the confines of work but given the context, I believe that the fruit is shown foremost in the familial relationships. Galatians 6:7 NASB - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. In other words, this thing of being a man, husband and father is hard work, but blessings and prosperity in those relationships will be mine if I am willing to labor for it.

Thirdly, my wife will be like a fruitful vine within my house. Joy is often symbolized in the Bible with wine, but good wine takes good grapes. These grapes must be grown, crushed, and aged. Good grapes only come from a good vine, and a good vine requires a good vine-dresser.  A vine does not grown in the dirt, it must be elevated above all that. I as a husband, must elevate my wife, honor her and take her higher than the dirt of this world. A good vine must also have something to cling to. I as a husband must be her strength, be what she clings to no matter the storms or droughts that come her way. Genesis 2:24 KJV - Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. A good vine needs water and nutrition as well as to keep the pests away. I as a husband must be the provider and protector of my wife. I need to keep the pests away (Song of Songs 2:15 NIV - Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.) and I need to provide for her everything necessary to grow. Lastly, for a vine to grow, it must be in the right climate. I have heard it said this way: As a husband, I have the choice as to be a Thermometer or a Thermostat. I can either report what the temperature is, or I can set the temperature of our relationship. In other words, I must Act as a husband, instead of Reacting like a fool. Oh, when I have done these things well I have tasted the sweet joy of marriage, no matter what has come to crush my bride, she is my fine wine: only getting better with age!

Now if I lead myself well, and I lead my wife well, then my children will be like olive shoots around the table. It is my understanding that an olive plant takes about 15 years to produce fruit and then can produce fruit for more than a hundred years after. It is a sobering thought to me that I only have 13-16 more years with my sweet daughter. How important it is to be "around the table" with her, to be involved in her life. My prayer is that she can grow up to be as much like her mother as she can be, for then she will be an astounding woman.

If I am able to lead well in these areas, I shall be blessed beyond belief. Through this journey of cancer, it has been my hope and sincere desire to be that man, that husband, and that father. As my family knows all too well, I am not perfect in this, I just know the One that is. Proverbs 24:16 NLT - The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked. I have seen in my life that success comes in getting up again, even when I fail and fall. So grateful that God is not done with me yet. Is there anything keeping you down? If God was able to raise the dead, then there is nothing that can stop you from getting up in His power.

In the last two verses of Psalm 128, I see mentioned Zion, which can be representative for the church (Hebrews 12:22-23), Jerusalem, which is representative of a city, and Israel, which is a representation of a country. In other words, God's economy and master plan is summed up in this Psalm. If we want a blessed country, it must be made up of blessed cities. If we want a blessed city, it must be made up of blessed churches. If we want a blessed church, it must be made up of blessed families. If we want a blessed family, it must have a blessed wife & children. If we want a blessed wife and children, we must have a blessed Man: Psalm 128:4 NIV - Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.

Oh, Lord, to be this man! God, would you walk with me and guide me so that no matter what comes my way, my wife's way, my children's way, my church's way, my city's way or my nation's way, I would be blessed; that I would be that man. May I live in such a way that everywhere I am, it is life-giving.

This has been the truth that has guided me so far through this journey. It has been my ideal through the ordeal; it has been my standard to carry in this war. What are you fighting with? What is your goal? May today be the day that we as men would live out our calling in this world that is falling. On this Father's Day and everyday, may we live out what David wrote to Solomon on his deathbed:

1 Kings 2:2-3 NIV - "I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Celebrating His Goodness

"They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness." Psalm 145:7

Sweet friends,

   It is so much fun to write to y'all today, because I have so many fun celebrations to share with you! I love that God gives us such sweet opportunities to celebrate Him and His goodness. I love celebrating! I am a party girl, give me any reason to celebrate and I'll be there! I can't even imagine the party that goes on in heaven every time someone comes to know Christ. I can't wait to be a part of that party! More so now than ever before, I want to celebrate everything. I don't want to miss a single opportunity to celebrate the blessings God has given us.  Last weekend, Matt, McKinley and I traveled to Colorado to celebrate some wonderful things in my family. We are praising the Lord that I felt well enough that we were able to go. It was truly a small miracle that we were able to go in the middle of chemotherapy. (9 down, 7 to go!) I know that it was only through His strength that I had enough energy to be there. I love it when the only response that God gives us is to praise Him for His goodness and provision. I love that we have a God who doesn't stay in the shadows, that He makes himself known in all of creation, and in all His people. I love that we got to celebrate so much of His goodness this past weekend. The Lord has done so many great things in my family over the past years.  To watch Him relentlessly pursue them (us) and eventually capture their hearts has been one of my life's greatest blessings. Please indulge me while I brag a little on them:)

   Right when we arrived in Colorado, we headed to the Colorado High School State Track meet where my baby brother Lance was competing. His event is the 400m. I knew he was a great runner, but to see him run was more of a treasure than I can possibly explain. He did amazing, excellent, unbelievable: he set his best time, he broke his high school's long standing record. He ran it in 48.36 seconds. How awesome is that! To God be the Glory! I know that is only through the Lord, that Lance is able to run that fast. A year and a half ago, Lance tore his ACL in his knee and there was a large likelihood he might never run again. Now he is breaking records and going on a track scholarship to a Division I college. That's dedication.  That's perseverance.  That is the hand of God. Although Lance is 19 now, to me he will always be my chubby, curly haired baby brother who was running away from his 4 older sisters. So, to see him now as a handsome, smart, incredibly talented young man is such a blessing to my heart. But the sweetest thing about my baby brother is that he knows he is running for such a bigger race than that on the track: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us RUN with perseverance the race marked out for us. 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 12:1-2 May we all Run the race God has marked out for us, keeping our eyes totally fixed on Jesus. If we want to win the race, we better keep our focus on the finish line. I am so thankful that I have a little brother who reminds me of that!

  Below is a picture of the whole Loken gang at the state track meet. We are all kind of obsessed with Lance!

After all the track meet celebrations subsided, we had some BIG graduation celebrating to do! Lance graduated from Arapahoe High School and will be attending the University of Wyoming in the fall on a track scholarship.  We are so proud of him and so excited for the plans God has for him. We know that college can be such a tough time to really pursue a relationship with Christ, but we are praying hard that God will do BIG things in Lance and through him. 

        My little sister Ranai graduated from Colorado State University.  She was selected to be a part of Teach for America, and was recently hired as an elementary school literacy teacher in an inner city Denver charter school.  When I think of Ranai, this verse instantly enters my mind: "Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16 The light of Christ shines so brightly through Ranai. Just being around her makes you want to know Jesus more. CSU is forever changed because of how Ranai loved people there. I just beam when I think of how blessed those elementary school kids will be to be loved by her. She is going to love the heck out of those tough kids, change their lives, and make Jesus more famous along the way. We are thrilled to get to watch it! I pray that we can all let Christ's light shine brightly through us.

   My older sister, Rachel, also graduated from college. Y'all if you knew my big sister's story, you would be blown away. She is a beautiful picture of what is possible only through God. Four kids later, 7 moves around the country, her husband being deployed 3 times, losing their house and all their belongings to a flood last spring, and somehow Rachel still managed to graduate from Regis University with a degree in finance. To say Rach is an inspiration is an understatement. "With man this is impossible, but not with God, ALL things are possible with God." Mark 10:27  I wish every one of you could meet Rachel, her sweet spirit would encourage your heart more than I can explain. No matter what adversity Rachel faces, she trusts in the Lord and lets His love flow through her.  I pray we can all see life's challenges as opportunities to trust God and show the world that anything is possible with Christ!

                   Here is a picture of the gorgeous graduates!

Among the many graduation celebrations, there was a very sweet time that I can't help but to share with y'all! My precious husband Matt planned something so special for Lance. One night after we had just finished opening all the graduation presents, Matt presented a very large present to Lance. Lance opened up a real, authentic, brave heart sword. Matt preceded to tell him that the sword symbolized that we no longer saw him as a boy, but now as a man. He read Ephesians 6 over him, explaining to him what it meant to put on the armor of God and to how to be a mighty warrior for the Lord. There wasn't a dry eye. It was beautiful. It was inspiring.  My sweet husband is a rock star for the kingdom and has such a heart for men to realize their full potential in Christ. (I will encourage him to write a full blog post on this- its so good!)  I love how he loves Jesus and how he pours into my little brother. How incredibly blessed I am to be married to the mightiest man of God I know! I am thrilled that my little brother has his example to follow.  

          So , just when you think we couldn't cram any more celebrations into a weekend, we had one more very exciting thing to celebrate! On Saturday, May 19th, on my parent's 33rd wedding anniversary, my other little sister, Ryli, got engaged! Her now fiance, Jase, planned a perfect proposal full of a limo scavenger hunt, love letters, presents, clues, and a proposal on a boat dock lit with hundreds of candles where he sang "Marry Me" by Ed Cash and washed her feet while he read to her from the Bible and told her how he couldn't wait to serve her and love her for the rest of his life.  It was absolutely amazing. I cannot imagine a better man for my little sister. Although the proposal was that out of a story book, their love story is even more beautiful. A year ago, both Ryli and Jase, completely separate from one another, decided to live their lives fully for the Lord. Although they both knew God, they made the choice to go ALL-in for the kingdom. They let Jesus radically change their lives.  My little sister is absolutely gorgeous, by her heart for Jesus is what truly radiates. Jase fell in love with the woman Ryli is in Christ. As both of them fell in love with Jesus, they fell in love with each other. "We love because Christ first loved us." 1 John 4:19 We know Ryli and Jase will have a lifetime of love because they know Christ's love. It has been an absolute privilege to watch them fall in love with each other as they pursue Christ. Matt and I can't wait to see how the Lord will use them for His kingdom as a married couple. They are a blessing. We love them and can't wait for the wedding!

 The four days we were able to spend in Colorado were a treasure. Thank you for indulging me and reading all about the celebrations we had. Although I am unbelievably proud of my siblings and find immense joy in celebrating their accomplishments, I hope I didn't boast in them, but rather I boasted in what God is doing in them and through them. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:30-31  God is awesome. He truly is good all the time. So many of the things that we celebrated this weekend I feel like I have prayed for 1,000 times before. This weekend was proof that God answers prayers. And when He does answer our prayers, in His perfect timing, it is exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21   I hope all of you sweet friends can find something to celebrate today. Look at your life, look at the lives of those you love, look for how God is working and celebrate Him. And keep praying.  Pray Big. Believe with your whole heart that God can and will answer your prayers. He's got you.  He's got me. That is worth celebrating every day.  You are Loved!

Joyfully in HIM~

Friday, May 4, 2012

JOY of The LORD - My Strength

"Consider it pure JOY, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

Sweet friends,

  I apologize that I have not written more frequently; life has just been busy these days! I had two wonderful weeks with my best friend of 16 years, Nicole and my amazing little sister, Ranai. We had so much fun playing with precious McKinley, and their incredible hearts just refreshed mine! I am 2 'easy' chemotherapies down and only 10 to go! Besides an icky cold that I just cannot seem to get over, I am feeling great! Oh, how I praise the Lord for that. I now have to get a shot every Saturday to boost my neutrophil levels, which makes me feel like I have the flu on Saturdays. But Tuesdays (chemotherapy days) are really just a tired day, and by Wednesday morning, I feel just like me again :) It seems as though the toughest part of this journey is behind us now. It is wonderful to see an end in sight! I was thinking the other day how 'comfortable' this cancer has become, it is just a part of our lives now. During the time of the initial diagnosis, surgery and hard chemotherapy, I couldn't get through a moment it seemed without completely relying on the Lord for my strength. It was by far the hardest time of my life, but now I look at that time with tenderness and sweetness of heart. For when there seemed to be none of me left, God was everything. I needed Jesus in a desperate way that I had never really needed Him before. It was a treasure.  My prayer now is that even though my health is restored more each day, that my heart couldn't get through a moment without my Jesus.

   Many friends have asked me over the past months and weeks if I was angry with God. I think everyone kind of expected me to be angry with Him. "Randi, you are only 28, you have a little girl, you love God, you make wise health choices, WHY would He allow you to get cancer?" Oh, I have felt a vast array of emotions since I was diagnosed on October 23rd, like shock, sadness, and insecurity but I can honestly say, anger has not been my dominant emotion. It was clear from the beginning that me getting cancer didn't make sense, so we knew God had to be up to something bigger than we could possibly understand. In the book of John, there is this beautiful story of Jesus healing a blind man that has given my heart so much peace. Jesus sees this man who has been blind from birth. His disciples (aka best friends) ask him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  Isn't that such our human perspective, that we want to blame our sufferings and trials on something or someone. We believe the lie that we must have done something to deserve this. I think some people call this Karma. But Jesus doesn't work like that. Jesus replied to his disciples, "Neither this man or his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (John 9:1-3) I read that, and all I hear is God saying "Randi, I love you, I have beautiful plans for your life, but I am allowing you to go through this so that my power may be displayed through you." That brings my heart more joy than I can possibly explain. I used to read the verse in James 1 listed above, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds..."  and I thought he must be crazy to think we should consider it PURE JOY when we face really hard challenges. Not to just be joyful amidst pain, but to call our trials, Pure Joy. It is completely opposite to everything this world teaches us. In the face of hardship, this world tells us to be angry, sad, bitter, and to wallow in self pity and despair. But now, I get what James was telling us. I get that through Jesus alone, we can consider our trials pure joy.  It is through our deepest losses and struggles that we realize how desperately we need a savior. When we finally get that, there is PURE JOY. Joy is not happiness, it is not an ever changing feeling dependent upon our life circumstances. It is a confidence that the King of the Universe is on our team, that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He has plans only to "prosper us, and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. God never promises that we will be happy on this earth, because this is not our home. He actually promises the opposite: "In this world, you will have trouble." John 16:33 I am so thankful that we have an eternity of perfection with the King to look forward to. That we can see the pain and brokenness in this fallen world, and know for certain that this is not where we belong, and that one day, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4  I'm so thankful this world is not our home and that God doesn't see things the way we do.  I relish in Jesus' words: " Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22 Over the years, my precious hubby has often reminded me, "Randi, don't let this rob your JOY!"

   Today, I received a care package from one of my closest friends who is facing a tremendous trial in her life. After being completely blown away that my sweet friend would take time to encourage me, I dug into this precious, sunshine package and pulled out a devotional called, Jesus Calling. I opened up to May 4th and started reading the love letter written to us from Jesus’ perspective: "The more you give to Me and My ways, the more I fill you with inexpressible, heavenly joy." That's it! The key to having JOY is giving ourselves, our dreams, our struggles, and our deepest desires to Jesus. As our pastor reminded us last weekend, "CHOOSE JOY!" We all have a choice every day how we will face the trials of this world: do you choose anger and bitterness, resentment for feeling that God is ripping you off, or do you choose JOY: trusting that God is working in us and through us for His bigger purposes. Someone once told me JOY stands for Jesus, Others and Yourself. I love that! If I want Joy, I need to put Jesus first, then others, then myself. When faced with this cancer, Matt and I choose JOY. I don't want to waste a moment feeling angry: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10  I have seen too many people suffer in bitterness and resentment, and it robs them of the abundant life that God has for them. I know some of you sweet friends are reading this and are wrestling with those feelings of anger, and that's okay. ( I have wrestled with a lot of emotions!) God is not afraid of or intimidated by our emotions, he just asks us to bring all those feelings, good or bad, to Him. Flesh it out with God, yell at Him, let Him know exactly how you are feeling, and then when you get it all out, leave it at His feet and experience a peace and joy that will bring freedom to your soul. God asks us to give that burden to Him, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 Joy, peace, rest for our souls, that is what God wants to give us. He doesn't want us to miss out on all His glorious plans because we choose anger and bitterness. Friends, I know some days life seems impossibly hard, but I pray that today you will trade in your despair and anger and Choose Joy! "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13  Oh, how much we treasure and love you!

Joyfully in HIM~
"Be joyful always." 1 Thessalonians 5:16 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Help of My Countenance

Psalm 43:5 NKJV - Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

Many a friend has asked the question "Matt, do you even notice that Randi is sick? It seems impossible to tell." Indeed, even Randi's Oncologist has said that Randi is the "healthiest, sick person" she has treated. I recall the doctor stating that even on her best weeks, Randi should do her best to get outside and walk around the block even though she would not feel like it. Now, 4 months into treatment, it is not uncommon on a sunny day to find Randi walking 2.5 miles with our daughter and our dog to the park and back. On her best days, she even does a work out that would be a challenge to any healthy person (including myself)! Some might say that it’s unbelievable! Actually it’s totally believable, because it is not her strength, it's The Almighty's. Throughout this entire process, Randi still energetically leads her sophomore Young Life girls every Monday and cooks dinner for 10-20 high school boys every Tuesday night. Through the Grace of God, His energy overflows in her to make every person feel welcomed and loved. And praise be to The Almighty, for as much hair as Randi has lost, she still has her eyelashes and eyebrows, which to her is a big blessing!  To me, she is as beautiful as I have ever seen her. All of this undoubtedly begs the question, what has sustained us through this trial, what has carried us through this pain? I would submit to you that what has allowed us to not only survive but thrive through such a period has been, among others, these three things: PromisesPeople and Power.

The Promises of God

A Promise is a powerful thing, only as powerful as the One who gives it and only as fruitful as the one who believes it. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV - All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. In the darkest of moments I have seen my wife hold up the light of truth: the Promises of God. Fresh on my mind are the nights of sleeplessness of my precious wife. As the hot flashes have come and gone (but mostly come and stayed) sleep has been a rarity. It has been in those moments where I have found Randi downstairs in deep study, leaning not on her own understanding of things but trusting in the Promises that The Almighty has given. Oh, where would we be if we had no Promise! All hope would be lost, life would lose purpose, and love would lose its luster. The Promises that we hold true have been the lamp that has lit our path during this dark night. Promise procures faith, produces hope, pounces fear, and pummels lies. What promise is it today that you are trusting in today? Proverbs 24:10 NIV - If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!

The People of God

We have been absolutely astonished at the outpouring of love, encouragement, prayers, phone calls, letters, emails, and support from so many people. We had no idea that so many cared about us. Hebrews 3:13 NIV - But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Through this time, I can see how easy it would be to feel as though we are being cheated, that God doesn't care, or that life is hopeless. As thoughts similar to these have been whispered, even stronger reminders of truth has been spoken over us by the People of God. Proverbs 17:17 NLT - A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. We cannot thank you enough for your continued support, love, and prayers. Truly, we would not be able to do this without you. Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 NIV - There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless--a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! If you had not been there to walk with us through this, there is no telling how trying and painful the depths of despair would be. We are so grateful for you!

Just a few weekends ago, Randi was in tears over the sleeplessness that had settled in. She was so tired and yet completely unable to get a full night's rest. As we were there together, this comment came in from Nancy, a stranger. Right at the moment of tears, exactly when we needed it, God had used one of His own to reassure us of His love and our purpose. Oh, where would we be without our Savior? Where would we be without His Body, that is His People? Who is it today that you can encourage? You never know how you may be the hand that God uses!

The Power of God

As wonderful as a Promise is, it is useless without the Power to carry it out. As helpful as People have been, they would be of no good if they had not the Power to help. Psalm 68:34 NIV - Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. Ultimately, it is the Power of God that has carried us through such a trial, and what an amazing Power it is! The Power of God is limitless, because God is limitless; it is Omnipotent, because God is Omnipotent. Oh, to think of what God could do through anyone whom He would choose to do it! The Power of God is found in the Person of the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at Creation, made Samson a strong man, Job a patient man, Solomon a wise man, Joshua a courageous man, Paul a new man, and Jesus a Resurrected Man! And to see Him dwell in my wife as she walks through the valley of the shadow of death has been an amazing sight indeed! Job 27:11 NIV - "I will teach you about the power of God; the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal. This was what Job said in the midst of his pain; this is what I have seen in my bride through this journey we are walking. Do you know this Power? Have you met this Person? Have you seen His Promise? He has been the help of her countenance, He has been the wind in her sails, He has been the strength in her weakness. Proverbs 18:14 NIV - A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? I thank God for the incorruptible Holy Spirit, and the work He has done through my wife and her corruptible body. In the end, we know she can't lose. Although the doctors are very optimistic that Randi will live a long, healthy life, Even if death takes her body, it is The Father who has her soul, and The Spirit that will raise her again one day! Ephesians 1:18-20 NIV - I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. I am inspired and in awe at my bride because to her, death has lost it's sting; she has no fear in death. Rather, she is excited, for she knows that whenever that day comes, she has full confidence that she will be with her Savior for all of eternity. 

1 Corinthians 2:9-12 NIV - However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" -- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Randi was supposed to start her 12 weeks of Taxol chemotherapy treatments two weeks ago, however her neutrophil counts have been too low. (Neutrophils work with the white blood cells to eat the bad bacteria).  Yet, through all of this, He has been the help of her countenance, it is an amazing sight to see. Please join us in praying that Randi's neutrophil count would be high enough today and going forward for Chemotherapy treatment and that the side effects would be minimal. 

We love you all and are so grateful for you!