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Archive for June, 2010

For obvious reasons, the subject of death and dying have been on our minds lately. It’s not really a new subject. In fact, it’s one of the oldest systematically ignored subjects we human deal with (or don’t deal with as the case may be). The fact of the matter is that, regardless of the outcome of Mark’s surgery this Friday, he is dying. So am I. So is my four-month old granddaughter. We all are. Except for a select few alive at the return of Christ (I hope to be part of that number), none of us are going to make it out of here alive. I was thinking about this as I watched my chicks hatching a couple of weeks ago. I thought about the hatch from three perspectives; the shell, the chick, and me. I know, I know, a shell doesn’t have a perspective, but work with me on this.

As I watched the hatch, I noted that the shell was being destroyed. When the process was finished, I would remove the shell and discard it. It had served its purpose. If shells did have a perspective, it might have been distraught over what was happening to it. It was a pretty shell, a useful shell, a carefully nutured and protected shell, but now it was being relentlessy, ruthlessly broken apart by forces beyond its control. Hatching is not a pleasant process for a shell.

It’s not terribly pleasant for the chick, either. It’s a lot of work. It involves a lot of struggle. It’s not easy breaking through that shell and getting free. The chick was safe and warm inside that shell. Granted, it was a bit cramped, but it was familiar. None of that mattered to the chick. Regardless of the struggle, something told that chick it was time to break free, to move on to something more.

Then there’s me. I watched the hatch, not thinking at all about the destruction of the shell. I felt for the struggle of the chick, but I knew to intervene would cause serious harm to the chick. I knew the chick was struggling, but I didn’t feel sorry for it. On the contrary, I was excited. New life was bursting through that shell, soon to join the world! In fact, I was far more excited about the shells being destroyed, and the struggle of the chicks to break free, than I was over the two shells that remained intact. Those made me sad. There was no life inside.

Our bodies are shells. They are important. God Himself says so. But they are shells. One day, they will be destroyed. Cancer is threatening to destroy Mark’s “shell” a little on the early side, but even if we get it all out, his body will be destroyed eventually. All of ours will be. How we feel about that depends on our perspective. Our bodies don’t look forward to the process. It can be a long, painful struggle. Even if it happens suddenly and without pain, we still don’t want to think about it. For the believer, though, we know that although the process may be difficult, what awaits when we’re finished is well worth the struggle. Life, eternal life given by God to those who place their faith in Him, bursts through! The shell isn’t missed. We have the promise of an immortal, perfect body. Who would miss the old, broken down one? And as far as God’s perspective, Jesus says quite plainly in John 17 that He wants those who are His to be with Him. He knows it will be hard for those left behind, but one of His children is coming home! That’s not sad, that’s exciting!

Death is only death for those who don’t belong to Christ. For the believer, death is life bursting through!

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When we told our pastor about Mark’s cancer, I made the comment that at the very least I would have him for a few more years. He laughed and said he’d never have pegged me as a pessimist. That really bothered me, not because he said it but because I wondered if it might be true. I thought and prayed about it a lot. I personally think a Christian has no business being a pessimist. I finally realized it wasn’t pessimism, it’s a way I use to face difficult situations. I imagine the worst possible outcome to the situation I’m in, in this case it was losing Mark in a fairly short period of time, and then I face it. I stare it down. I look at it eyeball to eyeball. And I ask myself the question, “Do I trust the Lord enough to let Him take me down this road if this is what He wills?” Once that question is answered, the lesser ones become much easier.

We found out yesterday that the question does indeed look like it’s one of the lesser ones. Indications are that the cancer has only spread locally, if at all (the CT scan showed an area just outside the prostate that was possibly the tumor breaking through the prostate wall). Surgery will take place in July (still waiting on an exact date), at which time we should know for sure. We are in a period of guardedly optimistic waiting. The odds were against us. But what do odds matter when God is on our side!

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I knew this day would come. I know it won’t be the last. As is typical for me, the emotions are displaced. Annoyed at the kids, annoyed at the dog, annoyed at the cat. Not the goats. I think it’s impossible to be annoyed at the goats. Annoyed at the disaster my house is becoming, annoyed at not having the time or energy to do anything about it right now, and annoyed at the knowledge that I’d probably have to be forced to accept help with it. Then there’s the self-analysis. Is it the cancer? Is it the fact that I’m closing in on 46 and menopause is most defintely breathing down my neck? Is it both? I know I’ll get through it, I know I’ll find new ways to get done what I need to get done despite a far more disrupted schedule, I know the dog, the cat, and even the kids will forgive me if I fail to hold my tongue or keep up my “I’m just fine” face. I also know I hate feeling weak.

Then, like He has so many times before, my Lord reminded me that it isn’t my strength that I need to depend on. I dropped Mark off at work after the first step of his bone scan this morning and headed for the grocery store. Noticing that it was 9:00 and knowing that annoying “This miracle supplement will cure all your problems!” infomercial was ending, I flipped on the radio. After the intro to the Haven Today show that was just starting, the host played a song. It was exactly what I needed to hear. My Lord always knows. I never have to pretend with Him. I couldn’t get away with it if I tried. He can see right through that “I’m just fine” face of mine (and He gave me a husband who can do it too). Here is the song.

You Are My All in All by Dennis Jernigan

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all

Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I’d be a fool
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I bless Your name
You are my all in all

When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

©1991 CCLI #825356

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This morning I read yesterday’s reading in Oswald Chambers “My Utmost For His Highest”. In this reading Oswald Chambers says, “The saint realizes that it is God Who engineers circumstances, consequently there is no whine, but a reckless abandon to Jesus.” This is something I’ve known to be true but was such a comfort to read again. God isn’t up there smacking his forehead saying, “I wish I’d seen this coming, I could have done something about it.” He knew this time in our lives would come even before He created us. As I look back, I marvel at how He has prepared us for this moment. Everything from the way He formed our basic personalities to the way He worked in us through trials in our lives totally independent of cancer, many of which occurred before we ever met. Lessons we’ve learned in very different circumstances are bearing fruit in this one. It is our prayer that lessons we learn in this trial will bear also bear fruit somewhere down the road.

For the time being, we are in limbo. Tests tomorrow and Wednesday, results on Thursday, and then decisions to make. I have a feeling waiting is something we’re going to be doing a lot of. For right now, there is no anger, no denial, no attempts to bargain with God. He is God, we are not. We are His to do with as He chooses. I know it’s early in the process, I know there will be good days and bad days, but I am so honored to be the wife of a man who can hear the words he heard last week and immediately turn to the Lord in faith and trust.

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The Journey Begins

I think it’s fitting that as I returned to my blog, I find that the last post before I got busy with the new farm was entitled “Open Hands.” It’s only been a day, but already my Lord has proven to me that He is there with me on this journey He’s called me to. I need to open up my hands and give my husband to Him. Whether He chooses to take my husband home or let me keep him, I need to trust in His loving faithfulness to never call me to go through anything He will not also equip me to go through.

I almost have to laugh as I hear the chipper voice on the other end of the line. “We have your husband’s pathology back and the doctor would like to see you both. Can you come in today?” I’m thinking, “Why the ruse? You’re telling me my husband has cancer and we need to discuss our options.” Of course I politely answer that we will be there. It’s not her fault my husband has cancer.

The bottom line, aggressive prostate cancer. At this point they’re calling it a stage T2a, meaning he has a palpable tumor within the prostate that involves one of the two lobes. What makes it aggressive is a Gleason score of 8. The range is 1-10. The doctor whips out this handy little chart that tells us that a man with a PSA level of 4-10 and a Gleason score of 8 has a 61% chance that the cancer has already spread outside the prostate. Tests next week are the first step in determining if that has happened and getting a more accurate staging.

For me, this is reality time. I’m a woman married to a man almost 12 years my senior. I’ve always known that statistically speaking, I would have to face losing him. This drives that point home. I find that the Lord has been preparing me for this journey. Lately, before we even knew cancer was a possibility, I’ve found myself drawn to a hymn we sometimes sing at church. I will close with the words of that hymn.

Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer – by Keith Getty and Margaret Becker

Verse 1
Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labor thro’ the storm
You have called me to this passage
And I’ll follow tho’ I’m worn

Chorus 1
May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Verse 2
Jesus guide me thro’ the tempest
Keep my spirit staid and sure
When the midnight meets the morning
Let me love You even more

Chorus 2
May this journey be a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Verse 3
Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne

Chorus 3
May this journey be a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

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