Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thank God for my Tongue

Last night as I drifted off to sleep, I felt my tongue against my teeth. As I slid my tongue back and forth over my teeth, I thanked God for my tongue. I thanked God for my eyesight, my hearing. I thank God that I'm whole. So many times I find myself upset with different things about my appearance. Seriously though, how shallow?!

Have you thanked God recently for the "little" things? Last night's experience of Dad almost having a chunk of his tongue removed (he would have lost the fine things - articulation; singing; etc. - and wouldn't have even known about it until after the fact) reminded me that God is the giver of all good things and that includes my tongue.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

PRAISE GOD!

The great thing about this blog is that I can write what I want to send out in e-mails and not feel uncertainty about sending them because you'll only read it if you want to come to my blog.

Just minutes after posting my latest entry that was filled with all kinds of honesty, my mom called with good news. Here's the e-mail most of you already received:

After I sent out the last e-mail, my mom called to say they did a biopsy on his tongue and were concerned that a fungus was attacking it and they would have to cut off a large part of his tongue. PRAISE GOD, that did NOT have to happen. They are 99% sure that it is bacterial and not fungal. Doctors even said the swelling seems to already be diminishing (they were administering antibiotics earlier as a precaution). Doctors only had positive things to say about the procedure. The tube went in just fine.

I cannot describe the relief I feel at this moment. I am in awe of how God continues to answer our prayers. Although it's a roller coaster ride, we always seem to be coming out on top. I am so grateful to have parents who taught me to go to the Bible and prayer for my comfort. Mom just quoted Psalm 100 to me over the phone with this good news.

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through generations."

Please continue to pray for no complications as a result of this procedure and for God's mercy to continue.

God and Cancer

My mom called in the middle of small group to tell me that they think my dad's tongue may be dead due to a fungus. They were having a special doctor called in to determine if they need to cut off a large part of his tongue. I could send out an e-mail asking everyone to pray that it not be a fungus. Thing is, everyone is already praying for the situation and God knows. If you're reading this, please pray that it is not a fungus and he doesn't have to lose his tongue. I realize that losing a tongue is not the same as losing your hearing and does not compare to losing your life but my dad is really going to have a hard time with this one.

To be honest, I'm not understanding any of this. It's a HUGE struggle for me right now. I continue to read the Bible and find comfort that God is constant. He remains the same even through these roller coaster moments. Humanly speaking, I cannot get my mind around it. I cannot understand why or how or when or what or anything for that matter anymore. I don't look forward to the holidays as I would usually do. I don't want them to come. I don't want tomorrow to come either. I simply want the simple life back. I used to pop out of bed every morning being the morning person that I am. These days, I have to force myself to get out of bed before the girls wake up. I would sleep the day away if I could. Just a little honesty from the daughter of a cancer patient.

So here's the hymn I've been holding to today from the Bible reading this morning:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

I do believe this and hold to the verses from Lamentations. At the same time, I'm human and it hurts to see my dad go through all of this.

Third Dad Update 10-30-07

My dad is currently entering surgery (7:30 p.m.; Tuesday night). His tongue and glands are severely swollen. Doctors are concerned that without the surgery, he will not be able to breathe and could die in the middle of the night. They are placing a breathing tube down his throat. Please play this will be successful so they do not need to do a more drastic surgery. Additionally, they will be placing a feeding tube into him as he will not be able to receive nutrition while this breathing tube is in.

This is quite discouraging. The past few days he has been weak but feeling well. To have all this is overwhelming. I know our God is strong. I know he works miracles. I also know NOTHING is impossible with him and that includes healing my Dad. (I watched Facing the Giants this afternoon which gave me great comfort emphasizing that point.) It's hard to think about the pain he is enduring at the moment and all that he and my mom are having to go through. They are not able to step back for a moment to get their bearings to cope. I am. Please pray for my dad and my mom.

Please pray that he will be able to come through this quickly and that this cancer can be beat!

Another Dad Update 10-30-07

They are admitting my dad to the hospital. His white blood count is still near 0 and he has a sore throat and a fever of 101. She said that his tongue is also swollen. They need to admit him to see what is going on. With this darn cancer, it is just one thing after another. He was feeling pretty good the last couple of days, too. Please pray for him.

Dad Update 10-30-07

Mom called this morning to tell me that Dad has a sore throat and a fever of 101*.

His white blood cell count is still right about 0. Please continue to pray for him.

They were waiting for the home nurse to hear what the next step will be.

Halloween and Judgment

After Kindergarten yesterday, we were allowing the kids to play outside as some of us moms discussed different topics yesterday. One topic, in particular, was trick or treating. There are definitely different views about this activity. One is that Halloween is a pagan holiday and therefore, Christians should not participate at all. Another I witnessed last night as I drove through one neighborhood all decked out with ghosts and goblins, lights and tombstones. Still, there are others that just participate without much thought given to the matter.

One of the moms was discussing how her daughter was informed that she was “bad” by another little girlfriend because their family chooses to participate in Halloween. This mom was clearly offended by this and to be honest, I don’t blame her. We are so busy living our “righteous” lives that we don’t take the time to think about the feelings of others. Judgment is quickly offered about everything for everyone. Naturally, we pass that on to our children. They learn to pass judgment at an early age. Rarely do we give the benefit of the doubt.

I grew up passing judgment quickly on many occasions. I can still vividly recall numerous accounts where my “high and mighty” attitude came before the feelings of others. I even informed my own father that he wasn't doing Christmas right because he didn't ritually read us the Christmas Story. It is a mind state I am still working hard to change.

When we hold to a belief in our family, I want our reasons to honor God as well as our actions. I want our children to learn to always give the benefit of the doubt. Extending grace is an action that is learned. God taught us through His actions and we must do the same for our children.

Do we personally celebrate Halloween? We do our best to focus on the harvest that carries through to Thanksgiving. Do we allow our girls to trick-or-treat? I think there are more opportunities to extend grace by participating than by withdrawing. We simply tell them that some people like to make Halloween scary. We don’t. We just like to have fun. (Honestly, I personally just avoid the fright at all costs. It just comes to close to our world’s reality for me. Besides, I still have trouble taking showers at motels! Psycho.)

Let me clarify that I think it is just fine if your family decides to abstain from this celebration of Halloween. To be honest, I revisit the matter every year. I just think it is important to make sure we aren’t raising little judgment passers. I know it is something I fight against daily in my own mind and heart. Judgment is God’s business; not mine. I simply don’t qualify to pass judgment on others.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekend Getaway

This past weekend was spent at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort in Starved Rock with Rod’s family. The family agreed to no longer exchange birthday gifts. Instead, it was decided to invest in an overnight event. We met Rod’s parents, sister, Aunt and Uncle and cousins in Utica for some quality time.

Nikelle remembered many details from our visit in June with the Swedish relatives. “Can I sleep on the top bed again?” Bunk beds are always an attraction for 5-year-olds. “The house is bigger than ours!” The open cabin gives a skewed view to a child. “I want to golf again.” We invested in a time of mini golf last visit and opted on the free playground this time around.

I would have to say that the highlight of the weekend was that Rod was able to stay overnight. (His visit was cut short due to work commitments the last time.) The other highlights were my time with Jaycie in the kiddie pool on Saturday and my time with Nike in the wave pool on Sunday.

I am often jealous of the time Rod has with the girls responsibility free. As a man, he is able to forget about everything else going on in our home and just focus on having fun with them. This is just the way God designed him and I am grateful the girls have these quality moments with their Daddy. Unfortunately, my heart is always torn between time with them and the responsibilities at home. Meals need to be made, laundry is always waiting, bath time beckons and the floors won’t clean themselves. This weekend, however, I was able to play.

Nikelle climbed on my back as the buzzer sounded to announce the beginning of waves in the pool. As the waves subsided, she announced it was time for my swim class. We played between the waterfalls and splashed Uncle Bob and Cousin Danny. “Do you know what my favorite time was?” I asked Nike. “What?” she anticipated the answer. “Right now. Swimming with you.” My heart swells as I recall the moment. I long for more time where I can just play with my girls.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Second Identity?

There’s this whole world on the internet where you can pick and choose a fantasy life to run from reality. The key word here is fantasy, though. As I watched the news report the other day, they were reporting on a “married” couple from “Second Identity”. Sadly, although the “wife” from Second Identity is single in real life, the “husband” already has a legal wife (and family)! The reporter ended with something to this effect, “They have no intentions of meeting in the real world. However, this has made her think twice about her single status.”

It’s become quite evident where this world stands on marriage as well as other Christian and family values. No one wants to face reality anymore. Everyone runs away. It’s no wonder that people in this world are so untrusting. Who out of the people you run into are leading secret lives?

I'm grateful I don't need to turn to a fantasy world to be content in my identity.

James 1:2-8
“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. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pajamas and a Clean Garage

I decided to give my parents a call to see if we could visit today. My dad's white blood cell count is at 0 so we opted to wait until next week just to be safe.

We had a pajama day today and cleaned the garage. One side of the garage has been used for storage since I had a garage sale this summer to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It's due time to have the garage space again for both vehicles, especially since we purchased a new car last night. (Rod's old van gave out.) It'll be nice for him to be able to pull the car into the garage tonight.

As for my dad, he has taken a couple doses of the prescription medicine. When I phoned earlier today I could hear records playing in the background. That's some positive news. Thank you for your continued prayers.

No School!

No school today. It's Teacher's Institute Day. Is it pathetic that I'm so extremely excited that I don't have the task of transporting Nikelle to and from school today? Pathetic or not, I'm relieved to have a break from that schedule today. I could clean the garage or visit my dad. I could go to the mall to make some returns or just enjoy a pajama day. Whatever I choose, it will be my choice without any scheduled obligations looming over my head. I'm planning on enjoying today.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dad Update 10-26-07

There is still a long and uncertain battle ahead for my Dad. To give you some insight, when he began this battle back in February, he was under the assumption that it would be done and overwith by Easter. Obviously, that is not the case.

One of the things about the drugs used to treat cancer is that they mess with the chemicals in the patient. For this reason, my dad has been given a prescription to treat depression. From the sounds of things, I do not believe he is taking this medication. My dad has always been anti-medication. He didn't even really take tylenol to relieve pain throughout his life. It is a struggle for him to be on so many medications. When he feels he can have control to decide not to take a certain medication, he tends to choose not to take it.

Please pray with me that he will take the medication so he can think a little more clearly. There are continually moments that he does not see him self continuing this fight. I'd hate for him to make such a decision if it would be altered by a simple medication. I do believe he will continue to fight, but can't help but wonder if he'd be a little more positive if he'd take this prescription drug.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for my mom to be constantly surrounded by such negativity and doom and gloom. Sadly, I chose not to visit my dad last night when I could have. The thought of sitting next to him trying to encourage him when he just won't have it was too discouraging for me to face last night. We are also trying to be cautious of germs with his blood counts so low but my main reason was just that I could not bring myself to go.

Please pray that God will provide strength as always.

FOOL!

Here's an interesting topic. Have you ever thought of yourself as a fool? Or for that matter, better than a fool? These are the verses in Proverbs from the past couple days' readings of the One-Year-Bible.

Proverbs 26:6-12
"Trusting a fool to convey a message is like cutting off one's feet or drinking poison! A proverb in the mouth of a fool is as useless as a paralyed leg. Honoring a fool is as foolish as tying a stone to a slingshot. A proverb in the mouth of a fool is like a thorny branch brandished by a drunk. An employer who hires a fool or a bystander is like an archer who shoots at random. As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness."

Quite a description on fools. Reading these verses, we have some vivid pictures painted for our minds on what fools are. Different people come to your minds,too?

Finish reading verse 12.
"THERE IS MORE HOPE FOR FOOLS THAN FOR PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY ARE WISE."

As a person who often struggles with pride, this stops me in my tracks. I don't think of myself as a fool very often, although I'm quick to place others under that heading. Maybe it'd be better to think of myself as a fool rather than think of myself as wise.

Maybe I should take a break from blogging for a while? It seems dangerous to be thinking there are people out there longing for my wisdom. Thankfully, that never was my reason for blogging in the first place. We'll just stick to using this blog as a pathway to write and clear my head.

Something to think about.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Friendship in the Deep

What is a one of the main qualities you look for in a friend? This was one of the questions we discussed during our small group last night. Honesty, Loyalty, Sincerity, Comfort, Acceptance, a Listening ear: These were all some of the answers of what our group looks for in a friend.

I am truly blessed to be surrounded by so many friends. More specifically, blessed with friends who don’t waste much time with surface conversation but are willing to jump into the deep and share what is going on in their life.

I love people who desire to share meaningful conversation. When I walk away from a discussion, my desire is to have learned something about God, the other person or even myself for that matter. Our lives are so busy and rushed that I want every moment to count.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Update on Dad 10-23-07

For those of you looking at my blog to find the latest news about my dad, here it is:

Mom called around 3:30 this afternoon (Tuesday) to inform me that the doctors will be releasing him and allowing him to go home tonight. He just needs to get a shot of Neulasta and then they'll head home.

Dad did need to have a blood transfusion again today. He needed the red blood cells for oxygen. He's weak and they were concerned that his breathing was a bit labored. As they are allowing him to go home, it must be something that doctors feel can be monitored by the home nurses.

Not sure when he'll be headed into the hospital again or what will happen next.

Outlook Altered

Our outlook on the circumstances in our life can completely alter our day. Yesterday, I had one of those days that every mom (and human being for that matter) can relate to.

I woke up to be greeted shortly by Jaycie’s all too familiar screaming. No idea what is wrong with the child other than the fact that she is her mother’s daughter and knows how to scream – loud. The only thing that would comfort her was Papa and Gaga videos. She loves to sit and watch home videos. Of course, that allows me just minutes to get something accomplished before I am beckoned to join her on the sofa with her on my lap. I just succumbed to the fact that it would be some quality time for the both of us (not to mention I take any excuse to sit on my rear end.) Sitting with her only comforts her until the moment she decides she would really rather stand. Correction: she would really rather I stand and hold her. I agreed to that until she threw her head into my mouth and gave me a fat lip. At that point, I just put her in the pack-and-play and went up to the bathroom to cry.

Thankfully, it was soon time to take Nike to school and naptime always coincides. Making my way back downstairs to feed them lunch, I found my two-year-old asleep where I left her. Now what? Do I wake her up so I can have the scheduled time-out I desired or leave her sleep so I don’t have to listen to her scream? I decided to wake her up and listen to her yell.

Jumping into the van to take Nikelle to school, we pulled into the parking lot just shy of the start time. As I hopped out to get the girls out of Rod’s van (I was lucky enough to have possession of it this day), I noticed the flat tire on the rear of the driver’s side. Not just low on air but completely flat. I had to be driving on the rim. Trying to fight off tears and listen to a woman who was kindly offering her assistance, I listened to my oldest daughter’s command, “C’mon, Mom. We’re going to be late.” Everything in me wanted to just go home and crawl into bed.

A friend of mine was kind enough to take Jaycie and I home as I awaited instructions from Rod about his van. After talking to him, I was to wait for him to get home. This required calling in yet another favor from my sister as I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon. I couldn’t stop my mind racing ahead to the following day and my full schedule that awaited me…without a vehicle?

Hindsight allows me to see things in a different light. We’ve had a concern about the breaks on Rod’s van for some time now and this very well could have been God’s way of keeping us safe. (Especially considering this was a specific request Rod had asked of God.) The timing of finding the flat tire allowed me to make alternative plans to get to the dentist (as I would have normally walked Nike to school and not found out until just a couple hours prior to my appointment). It was also good to see the way I am surrounded by people who will lend assistance. How often to I try to just tackle everything in my life on my own?

As to how my outlook can effect my entire day – things tend to snowball as we allow frustration, disappointment and anger to envelop us. I really was looking forward to running some errands prior to the dentist without children and was allowing myself to focus on that rather than look at what could be going on outside of that.

Was this flat tire just another obstacle in my life or an opportunity for God to remind me that He is well in control of every aspect of my every day?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Marathon Completed!

This weekend, my sister-in-law, Fiona, and I took a road trip to Indianapolis, Indiana. We had one thing in mind and that was to complete a marathon we had trained so hard for in the past 6 months.

We awoke Saturday morning to beautiful weather which was quite the contrast to the 90* heat index we had for the Chicago Marathon. Our goal would not be cut short due to the weather, of that it seemed certain. As we headed to the starting line, it was obvious that this was a much smaller scale marathon in comparison. The mood was more of a training morning as we anxiously awaited the start of the race.

A giant-size American Flag hung at the starting line as the race commenced with our country’s National Anthem. There was an entirely different sentiment at the start of this 26.2-mile course at the Historic Fort Benjamin Harrison U.S. Army Post.

Around Mile 8, we were reminded of the many hurdles endurance athletes face. Fiona’s IT Band required her to speed walk rather than continue with our 6:2 run/walk strategy. Shortly after, she assured me she would persevere to the finish line and encouraged me to press on and meet her there. With her assurance, I continued with the strategy towards the finish.

At mile 12.5, many of the participants went to the finish line as they were only in it for the mini (half) marathon as we kept going straight for the duration of the 26.2 miles. We ran through one of the State parks where Autumn was displayed by beautifully colored leaves on trees as well as decorating the ground.

It was a lonely race in many places as spectators were scarce – another contrast to our Chicago experience. Any encouragement came from other runners as I, in turn, tried to encourage them, which gave inspiration to continue on.

Mile 21 was the point I began to feel muscle fatigue and tightness in my legs. I told myself that I’ve asked Dad to persevere and my pain does not even compare with what he is enduring. I would press on no matter what.

Prayer was my tool to get me to the finish line. As I prayed for Fiona, Dad, and many others in my life, along with myself, my body continued to move forward mile after mile. At mile 24, I was anxiously anticipating the finish line. There were few runners as my strides continued. Even still, I was pushing my body to miles it had never been before and in a timeframe I was happy with.

I crossed the finish line just minutes after 5 hours. Completion. It was for so many reasons: My dad; Rod’s dad; My own personal satisfaction; Those who donated money to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; Everyone who gave their support through friendship and prayer. Mainly, at this point, it was something I needed to prove to myself. I wanted to know that I could complete a marathon. That I did, and by my 30th birthday, too. It’s a goal I thank God for giving me the strength to accomplish. This training has given me something positive to focus on through my dads’ battles with cancer.

As I left for Indiana Friday afternoon, Rod had placed a note on my front seat. On it, he had written Hebrews 12:1: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Verse 2 goes on to say, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” This is how I got through those final miles.

Thank you to each of you for supporting me in this endeavor. Over $2,000 was raised to find a cure for blood diseases through my journey alone. More than $2.5 million was raised through the Chicago Marathon event. Research has come such a long way and still has such a long way to go. Thank you for being a part of improving the lives of all blood cancer patients.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Life with a Remote Control

I would love to live life with a remote control. It would be so nice to press one of the many buttons at different times in life. I would like to rewind for my mistakes or moments I didn’t cherish like I should have at the time. I’d like to press the stop button when life gets overwhelming. The fast forward button would be nice so that I can know what is going to happen on the other side of different situations. The pause button would be extremely helpful during this current stage of life.

If I could just pause life as dad fights this battle with cancer that would certainly be nice. I could focus on him and spend time talking to him or helping him and then resume the rest of my life when he is healed. That’s just not the way life happens and I know I will grow because of it. At the same time, it doesn’t make it any easier to handle.

I’ve heard people talk about going through crises in their life and how it seems strange that everyone keeps on living life around them. Now I understand (somewhat) first hand what they were talking about. Even still, I, myself, am not fighting this battle. I’m certain Dad would love to pause everything so that at the end of this battle the grandkids haven’t grown and he hasn’t missed any special moments with them. If a pause button could be effective, he wouldn’t have to think about missing any holidays.

If live could be lived utilizing a remote control, what would it be like? Not much room for growing in the tough times, I’d assume.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” – Romans 5:3-5

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Fulfilling Run

One of the main reasons I enjoy running is because it allows me to clear my head. Getting on the treadmill by myself without the television or radio yesterday gave me a new experience that was quite fulfilling.

Recently, I’ve found it difficult to know how to pray. I just want to continue to pray over and over again for God to heal both my dad and Rod’s dad. It is such narrow-minded praying. I want my prayers to be deeper than this. I want to pray for others as I’m asking them to do for us.

Yesterday, I got on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I began praying for my grandparents and went through everyone in my family. I prayed for others in my life as well. With each one I prayed some specifics and also remembered the way Paul prayed for the different groups of people he wrote to. It was quite fulfilling to know that I didn’t just complete 30 minutes for my physical health but spiritually as well.

There are times I don’t know how to pray and I use The Lord’s Prayer. Then there are times that I allow song lyrics to be my prayer. My experience yesterday was deeply satisfying as I prayed specifics for others.

Whenever I run for any amount of time, I know it is beneficial for my health. However, it is so much more fulfilling and satisfying when I double that time by spending it in prayer.

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." - Colossians 4:2

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Hope I'm Holding To

When I received the news yesterday about my Dad, we had not yet heard about the potential clinical study. My first reaction was to lose all hope and cry. I had too much to get done and my little girls see me crying all the time. I fought off my emotions and told myself I could deal with the news later after Nike was at school and Jaycie was napping.

I got on the treadmill after they were both settled and the words from the following song kept running through my mind. I am so grateful to know that my hope is in the Lord. Without Him, I just don't see how getting through all this would be possible.

What have I in this life
But the love in Your eyes
This empty world will one day fade
Only Your truth will remain

Jesus, all I have is You
You're the hope I'm holding to
I might weep but still my faith rests in You

As the heavens hold the skies
It's Your hand that holds my life
And Your love will lead me on
When all else is gone

Dad Update 10-16-07

Dad went to Loyola yesterday to begin more chemotherapy. He is still fighting off the MRSA infection and now is fighting a stomach/intestinal infection as well. The discouraging news is that they did NOT begin administering chemotherapy as planned. The reason is because it is no longer effective. Doctors tell him there is no hope down that path. Thankfully, there is a clinical study out there that he may be a candidate for. We are still waiting for more information. Please pray that God will continue to provide dad with physical and emotional strength through this battle. Additionally, the prayer is that he will be a candidate for this study and that it would be effective.

As I got into the van the other day, Rod had WMBI on. The program was talking about Philippians 4:6-7. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I only heard a few seconds of what the man was saying about it as I wasn't driving far. What he said stuck with me as simple as it was. Don't worry about ANYTHING but pray about EVERYTHING. I just need to keep giving it to God and his peace will help me through the day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Stopping to "Smell the Flowers"

We celebrated Jaycie's 2nd birthday this Saturday. She turns 2 on Wednesday. As I look back over the years, it seems like time flies by so fast and I simply do not take time to "smell the flowers" enough. She is starting to say many new words (like "mine") and wants to do everything her big sister does.

It's funny how much a 2-year-old can understand. All day long she was asking for Papa and Gaga (my parents). I tried to explain to her that they wouldn't be coming as Dad is now fighting a stomach/intenstinal infection on top of everything else. It was likely more for the prevention of my own disappointment rather then hers that I informed her of their absence. Even still, as the doorbell rang, Jaycie asked, "Papa? Gaga?".

Her Great-Grandparents gave her a Curious George that tumbles as you push his head forward. Her Auntie Rhonda gave her some new silver shoes that Jaycie had to put on immediately enjoying the noise they made clonking on the wood floor. Her little friend Natalie gave her a Cabbage Patch baby that we couldn't get out of the package fast enough for her to hug. Yet, once again, the best present was simply the presence of my parents.

The older I get, the more I appreciate shared moments and quality time. Memory making is big for me. I scrapbook, snap photos and take videos quite often so memories can be documented. This celebration is one more moment that I am reminded to cherish. Every moment God gives me with those I love is a gift.

The Friday preceding her party, I was informed that Dad was not doing well. Because of my personality, it was really disturbing to me that we would have this party without my parents there. I also couldn't stop thinking about all the other memory-making moments coming upon us as the holidays approach. My emotions were so out-of-whack that I didn't even want to prepare for Jaycie's party -- and I had a whole lot to do. I shared this feeling with a couple of friends who informed me they would be praying. At the end of the day, God had given me enough peace of mind to get done what had to be done. I do not want my girls to miss out on life as I struggle with thoughts of what if's in the future.

If I think about the future, fear and worry can overwhelm me. When I allow God to handle the future and ask him for the peace and strength to help me live for today, I am able to "smell the flowers" more often.

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" -- Matthew 6:27

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, presnet your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 4:6-7

Friday, October 12, 2007

A confession

One hot summer day when Nikelle was just a year old, I put her to sleep without her blankets. I just assumed that it was too hot and that she’d fall asleep as usual. That was a big mistake! She cried and cried until I realized what was wrong and gave her those precious blankies! Since then, she has slept with them just about every night as well as at naptime.

Jaycie has simply followed suit. I just assumed that it was because her sister sleeps with two blankies that Jaycie thinks it’s important to have her own. Honestly, it wasn’t something I really gave much thought until earlier this week.

I have a quilt that my Grandma handmade for me when I was a teenager. She crafted it out of old scraps of material; some of which were from dresses my Mom had made me. I've had it since I was about 15-years-old and sleep with it every night. I even take it on trips with me.

When Rod and I first got our dog, she decided to pull part of this quilt through her cage and tore holes in it. When I informed my grandma, she suggested that I just sew some patches over these holes with some type of puppy fabric. So, to be more specific, I have a patchwork quilt.

After the entire marathon debacle, Rod and I stayed in Chicago at a hotel with the girls overnight. We thought we would have some quality family time. Along with everything else that weekend, it did not go as planned.

When we left the City, I was quite relieved. I was looking forward to getting home and getting some rest. We stopped at my parents’ house to visit my dad and Rod mowed their lawn. He was really in overdrive and decided to mow his parents’ lawn as well. We didn’t get home until close to 9 p.m.

It was at this point that I realized I had left my blanket and pillow in our hotel room! I broke down. Nothing – absolutely nothing went according to plan that weekend. I was exhausted and every emotion I’ve allowed to build up inside of me flowed out. (A more accurate description would probably be portrayed if I used the word “erupted” but that’s beside the point.) I could not imagine how a huge hotel like the Hyatt Regency Chicago would keep track of a worn out pillow and blanket but Rod made some phone calls in pursuit anyhow. (Did I mention one of Nike’s blankets was with my quilt as well?)

Late Tuesday morning I received a call informing me “they had good news” and I drove to downtown Chicago (on my own – quite the accomplishment) to retrieve my blanket. Every negative emotion I had towards that hotel was gone. It didn’t matter that I was charged money for phone calls and parking for which we would have made better choices had we been more informed. The fact that I had to share my room with my sister-in-law and brother the night before the marathon because they could not find her room was no longer an issue. They found my blankie and, in one moment, something seemed right in the world.

So, that’s my confession. I have a blankie that I’m obviously quite attached to. I also now understand why my girls are so attached to their blankets. They simply follow in their Mommy’s footsteps.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Fiona and I are obsessed with thinking about how we can complete the 26.2 miles we have trained so hard for. We have decided to participate in the Indianapolis Marathon on Saturday, October 20th. The experience of our family cheering us on will not be present but we will have the personal satisfaction of achieving goals we had set for ourselves.

Running/walking is addictive. It’s something I picked up back in 2004 and I love the high after a good run or even a run/walk. We practice a run/walk strategy of 6 minutes running: 2 minutes walking. This has been a very effective strategy thus far and will hopefully carry us across the finish line in Indianapolis.

Only God knows what kind of weather we will have but I’d almost bet there won’t be a 90* heat index this time!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Historical Marathon

For months, I have been training for the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. I was running in honor of my dad who is fighting against lymphoma for his life as well as for my father-in-law who is battling leukemia. Our coaches with Team in Training were incredible. I was very prepared for race day and was informed as to what I should do to equip me to cross the finish line at mile 26.2.

I was astonished just after the half way mark to be informed that they were cutting miles off the course only to be quickly followed up by the cancellation of the race. I was highly disappointed because I was utilizing a run/walk strategy to get me to the finish line. Although conditions were rough, I felt hydrated and energized. I was looking forward to the moment where I would cross the finish line for both my dads.

The beginning of the race was tremendous. Intentionally, we started at the back of the pack to avoid the crowd as much as possible. Being cheered on by people we don’t even know was an incredible experience. As we ran under the first viaduct, we read a banner hanging up reading “You Inspire”. This was not just for my dads, it was also a personal goal I had made and looked forward to finishing.

It was exciting to have my brother and some of their friends at the starting line. Soon into the race, I was cheered on by one of my very best friends and her husband who had made a day of it in the City for me. As we turned one corner on the course, I heard my sister and her family shouting our names. My husband’s sister was cheering me on later in the race as well as his cousin and her husband. This is where my marathon experience was cut short. The course was cut off and we were instructed to walk – not run with the masses back to Grant Park. Thankfully, this was the point where Rod and Nikelle were there to cheer me on. And still, I knew others were at longer miles offering their support. I also knew my in-laws were back near the finish line with Jaycie.

As we were corralled down Jackson Street, the water hydrants were blasting us. This action would have really been welcomed much earlier in the race as the first water station we came upon left us empty. Tables were overturned; littered cups and wet pavement left only signs of the liquids we were hoping for. Thankfully, our coaches had impressed upon us the importance of running with water packs. We tried to tell ourselves that this was a fluke and pressed on hoping the next water stop would be equipped. My sister-in-law, Fiona, who shared this experience with me had her cell phone on her and called my brother to meet us with water at the next point we would see them to be certain we had some fluids.

We continued on reminding ourselves of our reason for persevering. Near Lincoln Park Zoo, we came upon a fountain where we dipped our hats and doused our heads as we kept on. Again, as we approached Wrigleyville, a fountain offered the same experience. We were instructed by a friend of Fiona’s (who runs marathons) early in the race to accept ice from spectators and place it inside our hats to cool us down (not to mention using it to cool off any other place of our body we could). It was so greatly appreciated to have spectators spraying hoses, offering ice and water bottles and cheering us on. It was an incredible experience for what we were allowed to complete.

Tears streamed down my face as I realized I would not have a finish line experience I had dreamed of for many days. However, I had told my dad that I would cross the finish line. At least they allowed us to do that (although the mileage was not even as long as our longest training). I told myself that I was part of a historical marathon. I told myself that funds were still raised and that, after all, was my purpose for beginning this marathon in the first place.

I was unaware of just how many sirens were sounding during the race. I was really oblivious to how many people were dropping due to the heat and I certainly had no idea of the tragedy that occurred for one family. As I walked towards the finish line with my sister-in-law, I realized that it was a wise decision to call the race. It didn’t relieve the frustration in my heart. Although, in my head, I knew it was important. I began to hear all the sirens and see people puking and laying on the sidelines. Even as we were trying to make our way to Charity Village to meet family, a spotter yelled into is megaphone “Runner down. Runner down.” There were simply not enough medics to keep up with the overheated runners.

As we came upon the Team in Training tent in Charity Village, family and friends were there to greet us. Although this was not the finish line memory I was hoping for, I told myself that I still had so much to be thankful for.

The news that night revealed the information about the death of the 35-year-old husband and father from Michigan. No wonder the race was cancelled. As I went to sleep Sunday night, I was grateful to be with my husband and daughters.

I know the conditions were serious and many had their health at stake, not to mention a life. Even still, my emotions are still conflicting as the moment I worked so hard for was stolen from me. As I still long for that finish line experience, I will continue on as an endurance athlete and one day complete those 26.2 miles.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hey, Hey, Hey -- Potty!

Yesterday Jaycie yelled, "Nini! Wait!" as Nikelle ran into the bathroom to do her business. Jaycie followed behind and we got her situated on the little potty chair. She often likes to sit on her potty chair to immitate her big sister. I have not encouraged or discouraged this as I've had a few other things to think about.

I left them to themselves as I usually do until I heard Jaycie yelling at Nikelle, "Nini! Wa wa! Nini! Wa wa!" I wasn't sure if I heard correctly. Was Jaycie attempting to inform her big sister that she went potty in the potty chair? She did! We gave high-fives and cheered. I even allowed her to call "Ga Ga" (my mom) to inform her of what a big girl she was. So, why not allow her to go around without pants for a while? Besides, it's not easy putting a diaper on a child while I'm talking on the phone.

I hung up the phone with my mom and went to find Jaycie peeing on my carpet by her toys! Oh, well. It was an exciting moment while it lasted.

Jaycie did decide to use the potty chair again before she took a bath later in the morning. Both times, we were only dealling with a trickle. I guess it looks as though I'm going to have one more thing to add to my to-do list.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

4 Days and Counting...

This morning Rod thoughtfully asked me if I wanted him to leave some leftover pizza for me. I snapped, “No. I don’t want you to leave any pizza for me. I cannot continue to eat that crap! How am I supposed to complete 26.2 miles on birthday cake and pizza?” The poor guy; he just never gets a break being married to me.

I am determined today to start prepping for this marathon on Sunday. There seems to be so much to get read for the day. To give you a glimpse of how unprepared I am for this event, people will say, “Are you ready for Sunday?” or “I’ll be thinking about you on Sunday.” I just look at them dumbly and respond by saying, “What’s Sunday?” Oh, well. Thankfully, I’ve prepared by putting in the mileage.

Maybe I’ll do better today with my eating although that might requiring actually going to the grocery store.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Countdown...5 more days

There are only 5 days remaining until I tackle The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. I can’t believe the day is finally approaching. When I started the training, I had a difficult time believing I would ever feel confident in completing the event. Today, as I look ahead to Sunday, I feel good about what I’ve accomplished in my training. Honestly, I wish I had watched what I was eating a little closer and made certain I was eating healthy. It seems a bit crazy that I have put on all these miles and still haven’t lost weight. At the same time, I will not allow that to diminish my accomplishment one bit.

Beginning today, I will be watching what I eat. Birthday cake and Rice Krispies Treats will not get me to the finish line. It is important that I make sure the calories I put into my body are beneficial. I want to be certain I can complete the 26.2 miles on Sunday morning.

The weathermen are not calling for great weather on Sunday. Rain is in the forecast. Thankfully, they’ve been wrong before and even if it does rain, we’ve run in rain before. It’s the spectators I’m concerned about. Please know (those of you who have expressed the desire to attend the marathon) I will not be disappointed if the weather is bad and you don’t come. We don’t need everyone sick because I needed support to complete this race. At the same time, if the weather is cooperative, I am excited to see some of you on the sidelines as I race for a cure. Look for me in the purple jersey. Let me know if you’ll have any way for me to find you on the sidelines. Purple and Teal are the Team in Training colors. I’m going to go out to see if I can find poster board that color for Rod to have signs so I can find him. If nothing else, after the race (probably about 5 ½ hours), I will be at the Team in Training Tent in Charity Village so I can always meet up with people there and Rod will have our cell phone with him during the race.

To each of you, thank you for your support through all of this. Monetarily, Prayerfully, Emotionally. With each step I take, you will be with me. I believe wholeheartedly in this cause. Research has come such a long way but it still has a long way to go, too. I just read recently that cases of lymphoma are increasing rapidly. And as I’ve said in the past, there still is no cure for the leukemia my father-in-law battles.

I hear the Cubs will be at Wrigley Field for the playoffs on Sunday. It sounds like Chicago will be the happening place to be for the weekend. I’m glad I already have a hotel room the night before. You might want to consider taking public transportation if you are headed downtown on Sunday. It will be one crowded city. The map of the course can be found at http://www.chicagomarathon.com/.

With a reason bigger than myself, I will cross that finish line this Sunday afternoon!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Eternal Perspective

This morning as I read the Bible, I came to a conclusion about my feelings. It’s not that my feelings aren’t valid. As a matter of fact, they’re quite human. It’s just that there is a bigger picture I have been failing to think about.

Anyone in my shoes would have a difficult time focusing on much other than what’s happening here. My dad is truly fighting for his life and my father-in-law has a battle of his own with this cancer. Daily, we hold our breath as the phone rings. There’s always that possibility that bad news could be coming our way.

At the same time, eternity needs to be my focus. I’m so consumed with wanting my dad to be here on this earth for the way I envisioned it that I’ve lost touch with what truly matters. I have this complete peace when it comes to eternity and my dad. So many do not share that peace. My dad has been so open with all the details of his battle as well as how he imagines greeting Jesus in the end of his life.

Eternity and the souls of men is truly the heart of the matter. This world is only temporary. Whether our dads are with us for 30 days or 30 years, eternity is forever.

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." – Philippians 3:20-21

Monday, October 1, 2007

SURPRISE!

I am still in awe as I think of how oblivious I have been to everything going on around me these days. One of my friends reminded me that I had a few things to think about, but still…I normally pride myself on figuring things out.

As I walked through my front door after a weekend away of shopping with my cousin, I was totally and completely surprised. My home was filled with people that I am so blessed to share life with. “SURPRISE!” was shouted and although it took a few moments for it all to settle in, I just couldn’t believe he pulled it off.

Oftentimes, I inform Rod that he doesn’t “know me well enough”. After 11 years of marriage, I throw into disagreements the “I know the things you enjoy, why can’t you just understand me?” I guess I won’t be doing that for a while. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he knows me…possibly even better than I know myself. Celebrating two months before my 30th birthday never even dawned on me as a possibility. It's actually a good feeling to be surprised. I should allow people the opportunity more often. I suppose I don't always have to be in control.

God has truly blessed me with an incredible husband. He is my absolute best friend and put forth all kinds of planning and effort to surprise me for my 30th birthday. What a memory! There was really only one factor that he had no control over and he didn’t know how it would affect the night. God knew, and my Dad and Mom were both there with us. My eyes fill with tears even now at the thought of it. It had to have taken every last bit of energy my dad had to make it to the party last night and I am forever grateful. My only fear in turning 30 was celebrating without my dad. I still hope and pray he is here to celebrate with me on the actual day but this is a memory I will cherish forever.

Not to minimize all the efforts my friends put in and everyone who came to celebrate, though. As I look at my life, I am so grateful that I am surrounded by a huge support system. I think friendships are proven during difficult times. There are those friends who just know what to do and when to do it: when to call, when to write, when to leave you alone and when to just cry with you. These past months have been extremely difficult and I am so grateful to each of you for loving me and cutting me the slack when I needed it. My heart swells as I think of everyone. I am truly blessed.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” -- Philippians 1:3-11