Monday, July 25, 2016

Pride Brings A Person Low

Some of our family came to visit this weekend.   It was such a wonderful weekend full of laughter, eating, shopping, and just relaxing.  The only thing that would have made it even more perfect would have been if Tanner would have been there.  However, we knew he was content because he was serving at his favorite place - Beautiful Feet Mission in Fort Worth, Texas. 

As amazing as this weekend was I have to make a confession.  The days leading up to their arrival revealed a terrible character trait in me:  pride.   I didn't realize just how big and ugly it was until God pointed it out. 

As I was cleaning the bathroom I was frustrated that our tub has this ugly stain that will not come out. No matter what I try.  It makes me look like a horrible house keeper.  It is just nasty.   So embarrassing.  Then I started thinking that I really needed to go buy new towels because ours are not really the nicest for company.   That made me start thinking about how half of my dinner dishes are chipped because my boys are not always the most careful when unloading the dishwasher so maybe I should go get a few dishes.   Then I started noticing other things that I wished I could make "just so" before their arrival and God just said, "STOP!" 

He reminded me of exactly where Tanner was at that moment.  Serving homeless people in Fort Worth.   People I love so very much.   People who have absolutely nothing when I have absolutely everything.  And I had let my pride take priority over what was important which was welcoming our family into our home.  Spending time with them.   Making memories during the time we were going to share.  

Psalm 29:23 says "pride brings a person low" and I believe it, because it focuses on me-me-me instead of others like it is intended.  Once God convinced me to let go of everything and just focus on the weekend I felt free. 

Even free to ignore my home and that little spider web I noticed in the corner as we ate supper because we were all laughing at another funny story that was being told. 

Monday, July 18, 2016


I have named Donald's cancer, "Goliath".  

For any of you who are not aware of Goliath, he was a giant warrior in the Philistine army.  I think there is some arguments about exactly how tall he was.  I have heard he was 6 foot 9 inches and I have heard he was 9 foot 9 inches.  In any case, he was HUGE and mean and fierce. 

But he was on the wrong side because David was on God's side.  That is who fought and conquered Goliath.  Fought him with his slingshot and five smooth stones.   That part of the story still amazes me.  David went to a creek and picked out five stones.  It only took one stone to kill Goliath, but he had five.   He had a plan and a faith in God.   

So, you see why I have named Donald's cancer Goliath.   It is on the wrong side of God.   We are being given a lot of stones (treatment options) to choose from right now.  We are asking God to guide our hearts and minds as to which one to put in our slingshot.  

Right before David killed Goliath he said, "This is the Lord's battle, and he will give you to us!" (1 Samuel 17:47 NLT).    That is another reason I call this Goliath.  This battle is the Lord's.  It is His.  Every mountain and valley.  Every decision.  Every day of treatment.  Every day.  

This battle is yours, Lord.   Thy Will Be Done. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Give Us Your Peace

I have been reading in Mark 4.   Verses 35-41 keep staying with me. 

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

I love reading about Jesus for obvious reasons.   Sometimes I think we forget that he was fully human when he was here.    With all the obvious messages I have heard on these verses, it is the humanness that has stuck out most.  

"When evening came...." The verses before these tell us Jesus had been standing on that boat all day long preaching to the crowds.   Can you imagine how tired he must have been?  But he couldn't just step off the boat and walk home to sit down on the couch and rest.  First of all, he didn't have a home or a couch.  Plus to step off the boat would mean stepping into the crowd who all wanted just a second to talk to him.   His only option was to just push the boat off and go to the other side.  

I can only imagine that he was asleep within a few minutes of putting his head down.   So when his disciples woke him up about that storm?  I don't know about you, but when someone wakes me up when I am exhausted I am GROUCHY.  (Seriously fam... no comments here.)   I know Jesus handled grouchiness better than I do. 

But really I can't fault the disciples.   I am pretty sure I know why God led me to these verse.  This week has been hard.  Bone weary.  Heart breaking.  Chest crushing.  Hard.  

To put it into perspective for you.   At some moments, Donald's cancer has been small in comparison to some of the other things going on.  Yes, just that hard.

In all of these storms I have found myself crying out, "Jesus!  Do you see that we are sinking?  I trust you.  I believe you.  My hope is in you.  But, I feel like the waves are getting way too high and overwhelming.   Please, Jesus, calm these storms!" 

Then these last verses... "Even the wind and the waves obey Him!"  

Those simple words have brought comfort to me.  

That Jesus in his own moment of human exhaustion stood up and said, "Peace." and the wind and waves obeyed him.  What comfort that is to me. 

The disciples were so slow to understand, but I understand.  I know.  Lord, these waves are high right now.    Gives us your peace. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016


All this waiting is just so draining.   Each of us are trying to stay busy to keep ourselves distracted.

Donald is working.  Obviously, he wants to work as long as he can.  It gives him a sense of normalcy in the midst of a lot of uncertainty. 

Both the boys are doing mission work, volunteering at the church, helping both Donald and I with anything we need and spending time with friends. 

I am trying to think ahead and anticipate what our needs might be in the coming weeks.   Cleaning.  Trying to cook some things to put in our freezer.  Making sure that all Tanner's curriculum and lessons are ready for the first semester of school.    Trying to look at all the things that Donald does that I am going to have to handle while he is going through chemo/radiation.  (What a list!)

I am going to admit that today has overwhelmed me a little.  I have looked ahead a little too much.  Allowed myself to think too much.   Long story short... I took my eyes off of Him.  That is never a good idea.   I have had to step back and remind myself that God already knows what is ahead and has it firmly in His control.   I have had to allow myself to put my head in my Father's lap and just cry for a few minutes.    So thankful for Jesus' promise of peace.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  John 14:27

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Not Just One But Two

I woke up at 4am this morning.  Wide awake.  The kind of awake that told me God was telling me to get up and pray.   It was easy to pray because my list is so long:  Donald's health, Tanner's trip to Beautiful Feet, the team going to Belize, my aunt's surgery this morning, my Dad's heart, Nathan in the Dominican Republic, Aaron and Karen at Winshape, my nieces away at the beach, my sister and BIL transition to Memphis, Todd starting his sophomore year of college, etc.... You get the picture.  God and I could talk forever about so many things. 

However, I knew that God was preparing my heart for the doctor's appointment that we had with Donald's urologist that we had planned this morning.  He knew what we were going to hear.  

The words the doctor spoke were:  "Donald has kidney cancer." 

The air didn't seem to leave the room like it did with the first diagnosis.  However, we have decided that if there is a statistic to break, Donald is obviously going to do it.  This cancer is usually found in men who smoke.  Since Donald has never smoked a day in his life, he doesn't fit the normal realms of this cancer. 

However, now we are not dealing with just one cancer, but two. 

The doctor says he wants to make the final confirmation next Wednesday with the biopsy, but he is 90% sure of his diagnosis.   We were so thankful to find out that this kidney cancer is not the same as his other cancer.   The kidney cancer is very slow growing and the mass is small at this point.  

Donald looked at the doctor today and said, "I am going to beat this so just tell us what to do."   So we talked through what that would look like and how it needed to work in relation to his treatment for the other cancer. 

For now we are so thankful for another amazing doctor which God has sent us.   We are thankful that we have a plan for this cancer.   I am thankful for my sweet husband and his continual leadership of our family. 

I am most thankful for our Great Physician.

Thy Will Be Done.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Taste and See

"Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" 
Psalm 34:8

Can your kitchen be a prayer closet?   I hope so, because it is one of the places for me where I take refuge to pray.   Maybe that is why I like Psalm 34:8 so much.  Any time I see that verse I think of cooking and baking for my family and I also think of taking refuge in my special place. 

Today as I baked batches of chess squares, Mississippi Mud cake, pork loin, summer vegetables, fresh bread and other things, God and I talked.   We talked about all the missionaries that are on our missionary board.  All the friends and family whose pictures are posted inside our cabinet doors.  

We just talked and He nourished my soul while I made the things that I thought would nourish the stomachs of my family and friends who are going through some trying times.

I am always telling my boys: "Whatever you are filled with spills when you are bumped."   Kind of like the gallon of tea that is sitting on my counter right now.  If I bump it, sweet tea will spill out.  Not milk.  Not water.  Not coke.  Sweet tea.   When we go through trials, whatever our heart is filled with is going to spill out.  If it is Jesus, then He will spill out.  If it is not, then that will spill out too. 

Getting bumped is not fun.   I have had a lot of bumps in my life time.   However, I have "tasted" and "seen" that bumps mean learning about God's faithfulness.   It is a way to increase and build on my faith.  If my life had been free from pain and sorrow, my relationship with God would still be so basic.  It would be like some of the relatives that my parents have told me stories about, but I have never met.   I am glad I know about them, but I don't know them.  There is no intimacy.  No relationship.  No friendship.   

I can't imagine my life without this friendship with Jesus.  I am so glad that I have been able to take refuge in Him.  To taste and see that He is GOOD!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Answers to Prayer #2

1.  This week we have received a card, a letter from a Sunday School class in another state, messages, texts and phone calls from people telling us they are praying.  Each and every word brings us comfort.  

2.  So many people have offered to help us however we need.   At this point, we have no idea what we need, but as we listened to the options for treatment I realized that the point for needing help was going to definitely going to come.   Please know that all of your offers for help are SO appreciated. 

3.  Have I mentioned Donald's surgeon, Dr. Jordan?  Still such an amazing answer to prayer.  He calls.  He texts.  He emails.   We are so thankful for him.

4.  Donald feels good.   He is working.  Being able to work and keep his normal schedule is a wonderful blessing.

5.  Although Donald's type of cancer is rare, unfortunately cancer isn't.  People who have walked this journey have given us words of wisdom that have really helped us in knowing best how to plan.  They have contacted our families as well.  We so appreciate that and hope to one day be where we can do the same for someone else. 

6.  Our families are amazing.   Their prayers.  Their encouragement.  Their love.   So thankful for each of them.

7.  Our boys.   You want to have a clue about how amazing Donald is as a Dad?   Look at our boys and how they are  handling all of this.   Their strength and maturity as well as faith in the midst of all of this makes me even more proud to be their Mom. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I Still Do

Happy Anniversary, my sweet husband! 

Twenty six years ago, I walked dragged my Daddy down the aisle to get to you.   Your Uncle Phil told Daddy that I was the happiest bride he had ever married in all his years as a pastor.   There is a reason for that.  I was the happiest bride on the face of that earth.  I am still the happiest bride on the face of the earth to be married to you. 

On that day we took our vows to to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.    We meant those words when we said them.   The last twenty six years of actually living the better  and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health have cemented those vows and made us one in the way God intended.  

You know me like no one else.   You make me laugh every single day.   We finish each others sentences and often don't need words at all.   We would rather be with each other than anyone else. 

Just like that day when we were standing in front of our family and friends, we did not know what our future held, we just knew that we were going to face it together.   Today we do that again.  I don't know what the next weeks, months and years hold for us, but I know that we will do it together, hand in hand with God holding each of us.

I love you with everything I am.  
Thank you for loving me.

I Still Do,

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

God Does Not Care About Statistics

We met with the University Hospital Medical team this morning.   I think I insulted the first doctor I met with my questions of "Are you married?" and "Will you call in a plastic reconstructive surgeon to help?" (He WAS the plastic reconstructive surgeon.)   Open mouth.  Insert foot.   Ya'll he just seemed so young.  However, my awkwardness aside, he and the entire team was smart.  Like major overwhelming, studied at John Hopkins and did residencies at some impressive universities smart.  They answered our  questions and even anticipated every scenario we were thinking.   They were blunt and brutally honest.  They said they felt like they owed that to us.   We agreed.  

We have kind of felt like we have been in such a waiting game that it felt good to get some answers and some direction.   They gave us a list of options that are offered here at University Hospital along with a time table.   They also highly encouraged us to go to MD Anderson to hear what they have to say and see what options they offer. 

The hardest part of the day for me was when they started throwing out statistics and numbers.  That is the only thing I cannot handle.   I hate numbers.  I hate statistics.  Hearing them boil my husband's life down to a number just shreds my heart. 

After we talked to our boys, I texted our circle about being home.   The first text I got back was from my brother-in-law.   His words to me were, "God does not care about statistics."   Oh to hug my sweet Taylor at that moment.   He was God's voice to my ears.   Even though Donald and I had said those words to each other on the way home, seeing those words in his text was just what I needed.  

So I am doing what I was reminded by Ron to do yesterday when he sent me 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you."

I trust in you, Lord.   This decision is yours.  Donald's health and life is yours.   Our marriage is yours.   Thy Will Be Done. 


"Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?  If so, what?"

There is something about answering that question on the dozen of medical forms we have had to fill out that has slammed the hammer of reality down on our hearts and minds.   (Speaking of medical forms... good grief there are so many and all the same.  There has to be a better way!  Maybe this is their way of helping you pass the time in waiting rooms. :-) )

We meet with the University Team in a just a little while.  Donald and I did not sleep well last night.   That feeling you get when you are a little kid excited about Christmas morning?  The opposite of that.   Neither of us seemed really anxious or nervous, we just couldn't sleep.   Really, I think I couldn't sleep and was keeping Donald awake, but he is way too sweet to tell me.

My coffee is getting cold.   Better get moving before we have to leave!

Thy Will Be Done.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


After we began discussing Donald's cancer journey, I began thinking that I really wanted to have family pictures made.   We have not have family pictures made in a long time.   That is primarily my fault.  I love photos as long as they are not of me.   I would rather go to the dentist than have my photo made.  Seriously... I just don't like having my photo taken.  Maybe if I were photogenic, but I am not.   You should see my nieces -- all three of them.  You can catch them off guard and they still look like they should be on the cover of a magazine.  If I didn't love them so much, I would have to be envious of that kind of ability.   Anyway, you get the picture (see what I did there?). 

I immediately knew that there was only one person I wanted to take our pictures.  She has taken the boys portraits.  We are friends and I trust her.   I sent her a vague text about photos and found out that her schedule was packed.   She was working VBS, going on a mission trip, and had a plate overflowing.   I just didn't think it was in the cards.   I wasn't sure where to go because I could not imagine anyone else taking our photos, but I knew she could help me find someone.  I called and asked her to help me find another photographer who would be willing to help us on July 4th weekend.  

Being the sweet, generous and thoughtful friend that she is, she offered to take our pictures for us despite the crazy hectic schedule he has.   I immediately started crying.   Over pictures.  I haven't cried over anything else in this process, but knowing that she would be willing to do this for us meant to much to me.  

This morning we met and tried our best to get photos.  It was hot!  Taking family photos in Mississippi in July is not exactly ideal.  However, if anybody can make us look good I know that my friend can do it.   She promised she put on her extra skinny lens for me.  :-)    We will see.  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Answers to Prayer

I worry if I don't start listing all the ways God has provided for us and answered prayers during this journey, I will forget something.  So this is the first installment in "Answered Prayer"...

*  The doctors tell us finding the tumor so soon is rare.  We believe this was God's hand!

*  Our surgeon, Dr. Jordan, has been a gift to us.   He has been on top of Donald's case.  Researching.  Giving us his personal phone number.  Getting us test results within hours instead of days.  Calling/texting/emailing us almost every day. 

*  Todd was working a summer internship in Chattanooga.  He had a slow down in his work load so he decided to come home to visit two days before we found out the news.   Such a God thing to be able to tell him face to face instead of over the phone.

* Logging into a medical website to pay a bill and finding a $1,450 bill suddenly at $0.

* The surgeon told us that Donald would have redness and swelling for about three months after his surgery.   It is two weeks after the surgery and you cannot even tell he had surgery.  No swelling.  No redness.  Only those of us who know where the incision was made can tell he had surgery. 

*  Peace... constant, abiding, overwhelming, perfect peace. 

How This All Started

"Honey, do you feel this in my face?" was the question that Donald asked one morning after shaving.    That was the question that started us on this journey.  

After he noticed a knot in his cheek, he went to see our family doctor.  She looked at it and said, "I have no idea what that is.  It is up to you, you can leave it in or take it out, but  I am going to send you to see a ENT."  

A few days later we went to see the ENT.  He looked at it and said, "I have no idea what that is.  It is up to you.  You can leave it in or take it out, but I am going to send you to an otolaryngologist (yea.. say that five times fast!) 

We went to see him and he said, "I have no idea what that is, but let's biopsy it."   After 4-5 needle aspirations, he picked up the phone and said, "Call University and have them send a pathologist over here right now.  We are going to look at this before he leaves the office."   After a little while a pathologist walks in with his handy dandy microscope and equipment where they evaluate the cells and declare that everything is fine.   He says, "It is up to you.  You can leave it in or take it out.  If you want to take it out you can see the plastic surgeon."   

In my mind there was no option,  God didn't give him that little knot so let's get rid of it.  We went to see the plastic surgeon specializing in otolaryngology.   Dr. Jordan.... we cannot say enough about how amazing he is and what a gift from God he has been.   He scheduled the surgery.  My family came over and sat with me and we took a groggy Donald home expecting to sit on him during the recovery period.  (Sit on him because they told him not to do any lifting, strenuous or even sweat during the three weeks following surgery.  Almost impossible for my husband who our friends nicknamed the "Energizer Bunny".)   We still are not sure who was more shocked, Dr. Jordan or us, when the pathology report came back as cancer.  Dr. Jordan had multiple pathologist read the results.  He consulted multiple experts.   He presented our case before the head and neck tumor board of University Medical Center.   He wanted to be 200% sure that what he was seeing before he let us settle in on the diagnosis.  Donald has a rare and aggressive cancer.    They have dug through fifty years of medical documents trying to find another case like his and it simply does not exist. 

At Dr. Jordan's recommendation, we are working to get an appointment with another hospital (most likely MD Anderson in Houston, Texas).   Until that appointment happens, we are meeting again with University Medical Center's team to discuss all their treatment plans that are available here so we have a full understand of what they offer.  They want us to be fully educated before we go somewhere else.    Again, so impressed and truly thankful for Dr. Jordan and how amazing they have been since day one.  

We continue this journey knowing God walks beside us and before us.... Thy Will Be Done!

Thy Will Be Done

At the beginning of each year, God and I usually settle on a theme for our time together.   I don't know if that is just our relationship or not, but that is how it is with us.   When the phrase "Thy Will Be Done" kept popping up as the theme for 2016, I must admit I wasn't sure what to think. 

My first thought was, "Why is this the theme, God?  Is there something I am doing out of your will?  What is it?  Show it to me."  Like normal, I was talking to much and asking too many questions.   I kind of felt like God gave me the same look that I have sometimes given my own boys.  The same one when I say, "Asked and answered." 

I settled into the theme and began to pray this as He asked.   However, every situation that came up I would ask Him.  "Is this it, God?  Is this why you picked "They Will Be Done"?   One day I felt Him asking, "If it is or if it isn't, what is your answer?"  Seriously, some days I think I have grown so much in my relationship/friendship with Him and other days I realize that God has serious patience with me. 

The past months I studied Scripture and really settled into God's challenge of "Thy Will Be Done".  I felt His peace and presence.   He even directed me back to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace and their statement of "...and if not, He is still God!"  (Daniel 3:17-18)

When the call came telling us about Donald's cancer, that could have been a terrifying moment, but it wasn't.   It definitely took us by surprise.  After all, he had a biopsy before surgery that did not show any cancer.  However, when they called and told us the first thought that came into my mind was, "Thy Will Be Done" and a complete peace washed over me.  

That peace has permeated our family as we have faced surgery, every test, waited for the tumor boards and multiple pathologists and consultations.  

To God Be the Glory!  Great Things He Has Done... Is Doing... and Will Do! 

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"  Isaiah 26:3