Friday, November 30, 2007

Nike's recent thoughts on Heaven

When we were leaving my parents house the other night (after the cherished conversation with my dad), Nikelle made an inquiry. “Mommy, when will Papa be able to go to the farm again?” I tried to keep the emotion out of my voice as I simply stated, “I don’t know, Nikelle. Papa has to get better first.”

Why was I blessed with a child that treasures moments as much as I do? It would be so much easier if I could just be alone in my thoughts. “Mommy?” I made myself listen to her rather than entertain my consuming thoughts of sadness. “If God has a farm in heaven, that’s where Papa would want to be.” It was more of a statement than a question. I shook my head in wonderment as the tears began to come, “You’re right, Nike. Papa would want to be at God’s farm.”

Where do these thoughts come from? “Yeah,” she continued. “He would have pigs… and goats... and sheep... and...” The excitement coming from her voice made it medicating for my heart. “There’d be cows at the farm, too… and roosters.” She was amplifying what my dad told me earlier. “If I die, I’ll be going to a better place.”

“Mommy, why don’t we hear roosters when we wake up?” I allowed myself to come back from my thoughts to live in the moment as Nikelle continued with her thoughts. So we talked about people waking up to rooster calls.



(On a side note: Her imagination runs wild. There aren't even any animals or buildings for that matter at Papa's farm yet. It's just some property with a picnic shelter and some ponds.)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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 21:1-4

Caution

Rod and I have seen the previews for the movie, The Golden Compass, numerous times. It looks very appealing...especially after seeing Narnia and the similar effects they seem to use. However, this is the second e-mail I've received on this movie so it's worth the caution:

I thought you would like to know some info about The Golden Compass....
The Golden Compass, a new movie targeted at children, will be released Dec. 7. This movie is based on a first book of a trilogy by atheist Philip Pullman. In the final book a boy and girl kill God so they can do as they please. Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that "My books are about killing God."The movie is a watered down version of the first book and is designed to be very attractive in the hope unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the movie and that the children will want the books for Christmas.The movie has a well known cast, including Niclole Kidman, Kevin Bacon, and Sam Elliott. It will probably be advertised extensively, so it is crucial that we get word out to warn parents (grandparents) to avoid this movie. You can research this for yourself. Start with this article on Snopes.com, then go to Google. http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

I was also able to find this http://www.family.org/entertainment/A000001212.cfm on Focus on the Family's website.

Just a little FYI in case you haven't received this caution.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Conversation with Dad

Nikelle loves surprises. As I dropped her off at school yesterday, I informed her that there would be a surprise when I came back to pick her up. I told Jaycie of our plans after she woke up from her nap. When Nike walked out of her classroom and inquired of her surprise, I encouraged Jaycie to share it with her. “What is it JJ?” Nike squatted down to inquire of her little sister. “Papa”, Jaycie whispered. Nikelle’s eyes lit up the same way Jaycie’s did when hearing of the news. There were no complaints about not being able to play on the hill after school, as we jumped in the van to see my parents.

Mom called earlier in the day to tell me to bring my VCR with me. Dad had just cleaned theirs and it was working better. Since we have the same players, he thought he would do the same for ours if I would just bring it along. This little gesture lifted my heart in a way I cannot explain in words. Dad fixing my VCR: this is normal and there are so many days I just long for a little feeling of normal.

As the girls and I drove to Mokena, we sang songs. My heart just hasn’t been into the Christmas music this year as it generally is. For the first time this Christmas season, my heart was with the music yesterday. Christmas and my Dad. They almost go hand-in-hand.

This is something Dad talked to me about. Whether he should live or die, he wants us to remember to celebrate Christmas. He’s looking forward to celebrating with us this year. Still, the reality of the aggressiveness of this cancer looms. I informed him that I remember everything about the Christmas traditions he held so tightly to. I’ve already been writing them down this year for comfort.

Mom played with my girls in the dining room. I sat a distance away from Dad and talked with him for quite some time. (The room is set up so he has his sofa and we can come visit as long as we don’t have close contact with him.) One topic of conversation was “the farm”. Tears fell from my eyes as I informed him that I honestly don’t see myself enjoying the farm without him. The tears well up in my eyes even now at the thought.

Life without my dad: it’s a reality I do my best not to think about. He quoted Philippians 1:21 “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” While it is a comfort to know there is the hope of heaven, I shared with him that it’s us left here on earth for which my heart aches. He responded with “You’ll blink and this life will be over. Time on earth here will pass quickly. Really, it will.” (Today I read 2 Peter 3:8 in the One-Year-Bible reading which states “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” That was comfort straight from God confirming Dad’s words yesterday.)

Still, I hate that this reality is in our face every day. My heart hurts continually when I think of what tomorrow might hold. As I reiterated to him last night, I can only live for today. I at least find comfort that this is Biblical (Matthew 6:34). My heart and mind cannot cope with the future. He said it’s the potential for pain that makes it so difficult to think past today. I’m pretty sure he’s hit the nail on the head.

There was conversation about God’s power and how we know He can heal Dad if He chooses to. I shared with Dad how I am praying for God to show us that “He is the Lord” by healing him. Dad asked me what it means if he doesn’t survive this battle with cancer. He wants to be certain that I realize God is God even if he leaves this earth. I gave him assurance that I know God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). I do understand the reality that he may not be with us next year. Yet, I still choose this hope to carry me through today (James 5:15-16).

I will forever treasure this conversation with my Dad last night whether I can continue to have more conversations like these or not with him.

“Therefore, I will always remind you about these things – even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught. And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live. For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life, so I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone.” – 2 Peter 1:12-15

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

For Sentimental Reasons

Next weekend is the Lifetime Fitness Reindeer Run that I talked Dad into completing with me last year (the picture I have plastered everywhere is from that run). I want to run it again this year but it looks like I’ll be doing it alone. I wanted a family member to run with me for sentimental reasons. I had talked my niece into it until she did a practice run outside in the cold. Not something she’s up for and I don’t blame her. It’s an adjustment learning to run in the cold. My sister-in-law, Fiona, would do it with me but unfortunately, she is still having issues with her IT band from our marathon training and cannot run. I want to run the 3.1 miles. Dad was pushing me to do my best last year and I want to keep that mentality this year.

My solution is to wake Rod and the girls up nice and early and drag them with me so I have family there at the start and finish of the race. During the race, they can enjoy the race day festivities with Santa or watch a DVD in the van.

I’m grateful I have such a supportive husband. I doubt there is another man in the world that would put up with me. God knew what he was doing when He gave Rod to me. I’m so grateful that God allowed Rod to get this job where he doesn’t travel anymore. I need him with me during this season of life and although he still has to work long hours, he’s home. The grass often looks greener on the other side but if we look closely, we would realize it is pretty darn good right where we are. We just need to appreciate it. Oftentimes, I take Rod’s love for granted. He lives the words “I love you” every day and because of him, I know what those words mean.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dad's Home

I just received a phone call from my mom that they're home again! Dad actually drove home from the hospital and wanted to stop at McDonald's for some breakfast. It's good to hear that his spirits are up. Now they are getting ready to watch Christmas movies. My heart swells to hear this report. Every bit of good news is something I cling to. He still has quite the battle and I'm certain he's far from feeling good but it does something for my heart to know he is home and excited to be there. Thank you for your continued prayers!

I love you?

I was asked a question the other day that got me thinking. When we say the words "I love you" what do we mean? My first reaction was "I love you" means "I love you", kind of obvious, don't you think? Then I thought about it a little more. "I love food." "I love that song." "I love that outfit." "Love it!" "I love you." No wonder the question was raised. If you told someone those three words, "I love you" and they followed up with "What does that mean?" how would you answer them? I figured out my answer and shared my response with my inquirer. It was good to ponder as those words can be thrown around without meaning so easily. What are behind the words "I love you" when you say them?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dad Update 11-26-07

Dad is on his final chemo for this week. He is very hopeful that he will be able to go home tomorrow. Last night they took him off fluids and his weight was down to 144 pounds. He's fighting a very terrible disease and it's little reminders like these that keep us facing reality. At the same time, we are still very hopeful. Mom just went out to get him Portillo's for dinner. He has continued eating some things and that is an answer to prayer.

He will begin steroids tomorrow along with nuprigin. The prayer is that he can go home, get his blood counts back up, that the cancer stays away and that he is able to put on some weight again and avoid infection.

God is so unbelievably good to us!

Get Over It!

Overeating. It’s a word most of us can relate to coming off the Thanksgiving holiday. In my mind, I had planned out the food I would eat over the holiday so I could feel good about myself heading into this week. My plan quickly unraveled and I failed. I can beat myself up over my bad choices or I can learn from them.

I am slowly learning different triggers that cause me to overeat. When I am overtired, I eat mindlessly hoping I will get some energy as a result. Being over hungry prevents my mind from registering “full”. I eat whatever is convenient when I am overscheduled. And when life is overstressed I eat whatever comfort foods I can find in my pantry, fridge, or anywhere for that matter.

Overtired. Over hungry. Overscheduled. Overstressed. If I am facing one of these struggles, it is possible to overcome my bad eating habits. These past few days, however, have been jam-packed. Numerous times throughout this week, I’ve been struggling to keep my energy up. I’ve been overtired. We haven’t been eating at home and therefore, have not been eating at my usual mealtimes leaving me with that over hungry feeling. Overscheduled is an understatement as I haven’t been home for much reason other than to sleep since Thanksgiving morning. And facing the holidays and life in general has created stress that is over the top. My response is to overeat.

I wake up in the morning with every intention to eat well and yet lately I’ve eaten everything in sight: doughnuts, pizza, numerous Thanksgiving meals; birthday cake; leftover Halloween candy; etc. For a stretch, I will eat very well. I’ll be mindful of what I put into my mouth and avoid empty calories. Then there are these days where I can’t get control, have no time to plan and give in to every temptation I’m faced with.

Today, I’m choosing to move on. Every moment is a choice. I am able to control what I put into my mouth. I can continue to make excuses and beat myself over my bad choices. Instead, I will identify my trigger points and get over it! After all, every day is a fresh start.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dad Update 11-25-07

Dad will finish his last continual 24-hour chemo drip today around noon. Mom expects that today will be a fairly uneventful day which is good.

Tomorrow dad will receive another IV boost of chemo as well as a new chemo that he has not had before. This new chemo has the potential of some serious side effects. Please pray that he can avoid any side effects once again. He would really like to go home on Tuesday. The doctors have told him it will all depend on how his body responds to this new chemotherapy.

They took dad off his antibiotics a couple days ago. So far, so good. The fever must have been just accompanying the cancer and is gone now that the chemo is being effective. Dad said the lumps are dissipating as well. His white blood cell counts are dropping like expected with the chemotherapy. Please pray he will avoid infections.

So far, everything is going as well as can be expected. God has clearly been protecting my dad from terrible side effects as well as infections so far.

I received a phone call from him yesterday for my birthday. (I don't normally speak directly to him.) It was good to talk with him. He said he is very weak and the nights are rough. Still, he is alive and fighting. That's the important thing.

"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:6

A Little Perk

My body simply does not adjust to this “fall back” time change. No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot keep my eyes open past 8:00 p.m. It’s pathetic, I know. My poor husband gets zero time with me. The only way I survive past the time when the little hand reaches the 8 on the clock is if I am out for the evening. Even then, I struggle to stay awake and others pay for it in the days following because I’m so crabby from losing sleep. (Not to mention it’s also an excuse for me to eat too much. There’s really a connection between being overtired and overeating for me. But that’s another topic.)

There is actually a perk to my predicament. I wake up early. I have an internal alarm clock that wakes me up for some reason. Every day this week I’ve been up between 3:00 – 5:00 a.m. At this point, I’m certain some of you are struggling to see how there can be any sort of perk involved. Really, there is.

I love time by myself in the morning. During this time slot I can be fairly certain the girls will continue to sleep for at least another hour or more. So, I go into our bathroom, sit on the floor and open my Bible. The bathroom is just my one place I can go to be free of interruptions (at least when Rod is home to prevent them from bolting in).

The bathroom is my sanctuary. I like to turn on the space heater, get toasty warm, read, write and pray. God has met me there every morning this week. Honestly, if I simply make the time to join Him, I believe He’s always there waiting for me. Not necessarily in my bathroom per se. He’ll meet me wherever I go to find Him.

I could share so many verses I’ve been reading that have brought comfort to my heart this week. In future posts, I probably will. Today, however, I found Psalm 119:74 inspiring. It’s from our One-Year-Bible reading.

“May all who fear You find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in Your Word.”

What would it be like to know your hope in God allow others to find in you a cause for joy? I want this for myself. There are many verses I would like to be able to have applied to my life in the end. This is definitely another one I’m adding to the list.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Revelation

Growing up, I was always the youngest. At home, I was the baby of the family. My classmates at school were all older than me due to the later birthday cut-off date. Once again, I was the youngest of my "peers" in our small church youth group. (The ages ranged from 13-22, as the college-aged group was included as well.)

Needless to say, when I married Rod, I was able to keep this “young” complex. (Rod is 7 years older than I am.) As we’ve met new friends and gotten involved in different small groups, I’ve always been one of the youngest. Until recently, that is.

It was one of our first small group meetings this year that it dawned on me. The newlyweds in our group were talking about college. Another couple with a toddler could relate well to this “era” being discussed. I honestly was not hearing much of what was said at that point. Calculations were going on in my head as I realized I was no longer part of the “young” crowd.

Today, it’s official. I turn 30. To be honest, I’m not the least bit upset about turning 30. Yes, this number confirms the recent revelation I’ve had that I’m no longer “young” but I’m far from upset.

For me, my birthday still remains to be two things:

1. This is a day we all celebrate my birth. What gets better than a day about me? and

2. This is a day where I can personally thank God for another year of life. It is another reminder to thank Him for the many blessings He has rained down upon me in the past years.

My dad used to read verses in church prior to leading the congregational singing. One day, in particular, I recall a verse he read for my mom’s birthday. Today, I thought it was appropriate to sum up my own:

“I was young and now I am old.” – Psalm 37:25a

I am so thankful for another year of life!

Friday, November 23, 2007

From the Harvest to the Hope

Yesterday we spent the day at my brother, Trent's. He and his wife had a wonderful spread. They do a great job on the food. We always have more than enough. He does an incredible job with the meat! He has a smoker grill that he uses and douses a lot of it with brown sugar. Yum! Needless to say, I ate more than I needed to.

Today I woke up early to catch some shopping deals. I was able to get everything I was looking for and even had time to pick up my two oldest nieces for a few hours of shopping (a Christmas tradition) and some lunch.

Tomorrow we transform my parents house from the Harvest to Christmas. We are hopeful that Dad will be able to come home later in the week and we'd like him to be able to enjoy some of his favorite Christmas movies with the decor surrounding him.

The good news is that this new round of chemotherapy looks like it is being effective. He still has one more round of the 24-hour IV drip after this one and then a big day on Monday with more chemo. He's really hoping to go home on Tuesday. Our prayer is that complications continue to stay away and that all will go well so this can happen.

It was a strange holiday with him at Loyola. At the same time, it made me appreciate my siblings a little more.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Psalm 100

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 all generations.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dad Update 11-21-07

Dad is still on his first 24-hour chemo IV drip. So far, the medication he is taking is keeping the nausea at bay. We are thankful for that. Later today, he will have a 4-hour infusion of more chemotherapy so we will see how his body responds to that. He is still continuing the 24-hour chemo drips through the weekend. Doctors have him on the lasix pills to help reduce the amount of water retention in his body. So far, so good.

There was a power outage in Maywood last night. That means no ice in his water this morning. That's a bit disappointing for him. Normally, I'd say "Oh, well. It's just ice." With this situation, I feel a bit disappointed with him. There's not too much that he enjoys these days so when something small like that is unavailable I want it for him. They'll have it for him soon. The ice machine just needs to be cleaned out and restarted before he can have it.

Just little things to appreciate and be thankful for.

Forbidden Christmas

I hate the way Christmas is commercialized so early in the year. My dad has taught me to appreciate every little thing about Christmas and that is hard to do when it’s put in front of you before you even take the kids trick-or-treating.

Dad knew how to keep the holidays special. Anything Christmas was forbidden in our home until we were on our way home from the Thanksgiving feast. That’s when Christmas broke loose! Christmas music. Christmas movies. Decorations. Shopping. They were all kept special because of this.

That might be why my heart always sinks a bit every time I see a Christmas display or hear Christmas music prior to Thanksgiving. It makes me want to avoid shopping all together... until Friday that is!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dad Update 11-20-07

I just had a lengthy conversation with my mom. It’s always comforting to me to be able to have those talks with her because they generally include the Bible. It’s just something that I need.

Today dad begins a continual 24-hour drip chemotherapy that he will receive all the way through Saturday (it will end Saturday night). His body is really experiencing the effects of this cancer. He sweats constantly (his clothes get drenched). He is taking in all kinds of fluids but doesn’t get much fluid out (other than the sweating). His stomach is bloated and his ankles are swollen from all the fluid in his body. Previously, we had been told that the fluids protect his organs from the chemotherapy and so he just needs to deal with it. At the same time, doctors are considering giving him some more lasix pills to help combat this problem. The cancer and all the drugs affect his mind as well. He told my mom this morning that it takes him a while to remember where he is and what is going on. This is such a terrible disease. My heart just hurts that he has to experience all of this.

There is so much information to take in. I just can’t get it all straight in my head. Basically, the doctors have stepped up to “ramming speed” (if you’ve ever watched Ben Hur – one of my dad’s favorite movies). They need to get this cancer out of his body and there is no time to mess around. He has some very tolling weeks ahead of him. God and God alone will get him through this. I’ve been praying that God will heal my dad and show us all that “He is the Lord”.

Mom told me that they are in a double room at Loyola right now. They don’t foresee anyone joining them this week as it is Thanksgiving and the doctors are trying to get their patients home for the holiday. Therefore, last night, one of the nurses encouraged mom to use the extra bed in the room to sleep on rather than the two chairs she generally forms her bed out of. This is encouraging that she can get some rest as she cares for dad. Please pray that she, too, remains healthy through this battle.

One further note: Dad’s white blood cell count is going to drop. He’s going to be very prone to infection. Great caution is going to need to be taken and visiting won’t be the same. It’s so crazy to think that last year at this time we were celebrating our last Thanksgiving with my Grandpa (Dad's dad). We said that this year Thanksgiving would go back to the way it was in years past. Little did we know... Please continue to pray for my family this holiday season.

Give thanks to Him

To be honest, Thanksgiving this year is not an easy one for me. I need to keep the purpose of the holiday in mind in order to celebrate. Food is a struggle for me so it can't be about the feast. Family will not complete at the celebration so it's hard to say it's about the family. Thankfulness is the constant for this holiday.

I keep saying that we have plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. This morning I asked myself why I say that. Then I started to thank God. It was a detailed list. Again, I say we have plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. What are you thanking God for?

“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 all generations.” – Psalm 100:4,5

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dad Update 11-19-07

As always, thank you for your continued prayers for my Dad. Mom called this morning to tell me that dad will be in the hospital for at least one week. He received an "IV push" this morning and will continue to receive those every Monday through December 10th. He will have some form of chemo every day through Saturday. He will then begin to receive chemo pills on November 26th. Beginning the week of December 3rd he will receive nuprigin every week through December 19th. If his blood counts cooperate, we expect he should be able to go home every now and then after Monday. However, we really don't have any idea how any of this is going to play out. We do know that they will not be looking at the stem cell transplant until at least sometime after the 19th of December. We continue to pray and trust that God will use this set of treatments to beat this disease.

Please pray that he will be able to eat some during all of this as he is still quite thin and weak. Please pray that the chemo will be effective and he will beat this thing! Please pray that infection will stay away as well as complications. Please pray for their spirits. Pray that God will provide them with the strength that they need. Mom asked that any questions and requests for updates be filtered through me as dad is too weak to talk and she's just really not up to updating everyone at this time. Thank you all for your prayers.

We pray you have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving as we know we do.

Rainy Day!

I just took Nikelle to school. I find rainy days so refreshing to my soul! There's something about the cool air and the smell of rain... Am I the only person out there like this?

Some helpful advice...and my scale

I have really received some helpful advice from my previous post “Is there a problem with my scale?” (I had the Morning Star chicken nuggets in my hand at the grocery store, Kelly. I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it.) Some of the advice was sent directly to me through e-mail and I think it was the advice that resonated with me the most. Therefore, I thought I’d share it with you as Thanksgiving is now just days away.

“…The more I told myself no, the more enticing the food became…what I have arrived at is that no food in and of itself is bad food…I normally eat pretty well but if I want a candy bar I eat one. I eat it slowly and enjoy it completely with no guilt. Then I go back to eating well. One thing that has also helped is that 98% of the time I will not eat past the point of "no longer hungry." I stop before "full." Another thing is that if I want to eat something and I know that I've been indulging too much that day I'll tell myself that tomorrow is another day...if I REALLY want that bowl of ice cream but I've already eaten cookies, I say, "tomorrow I can eat ice cream." When I'm at special gatherings I don't eat anything that I normally eat. Like on Thanksgiving I usually don't eat the roll or the mashed potatoes because those are things I can eat anytime. That way I'm not stuffed at the end of the meal even if I have had a nice helping of [insert food here] (I only eat it once a year).”

These have been some thoughts I have really been trying to consider as I’ve faced my struggle with food each day. To be honest, it has helped. Not every time, but overall, it has helped.

Yesterday I attended a baby shower where I encountered the buffet. (It helped that I didn’t have Jaycie with me so that I could think a little more clearly.) I took Nike up to get her food first. (This way I was able to see what there was to eat before I filled my plate.) After I got her all situated, I went back for my salad. I sat down to eat it and enjoyed some good conversation. Then I went up for my meal. I chose some corn, a small amount of smashed potatoes, some beef and chicken. I chose not to eat the skin on the chicken and again enjoyed some good conversation as I ate. I did not feel a need to go back for a second helping even though I kept thinking about it and was encouraged to get more. When it came time for cake, I said I would share a piece with Nikelle. Still, I was given a small piece of chocolate cake to which I did not refuse. I recalled the above advice that I could eat it and enjoy it without guilt because I was at a special occasion. To be honest, I even went home and ate the chocolate covered pretzel stick (a treat I truly enjoy). I figured I had gone for a 30-minute jog prior to church that morning so I was ok.

Bottom line: I feel good about my experience yesterday. I never experienced that “I’m stuffed” feeling that I would normally encounter. I enjoyed a good visit with family and conquered a small battle for one moment that is a constant struggle for me. It’s a good feeling heading into the week of Thanksgiving.

I hope the above advice is able to help some others as it has helped me. By the way, I’m hopeful my scale is working as the numbers have gone down slightly. Either way, I was able to comfortably wear an outfit to the baby shower yesterday that I wanted to be able to fit into before my birthday. That, in and of itself, feels very rewarding.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Check It Out

Kelly Newton's post today spoke to my heart. Check it out here:

http://kellynewton.wordpress.com/2007/11/17/two-voices/

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite holidays. Growing up, we always went to my Dad’s parents’ for the feast. All my aunts and uncles and cousins were there and my highlight was always the sweet potatoes! I LOVE sweet potatoes. Maybe that’s a strong word but I do thoroughly enjoy them. When I think of Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes come first on my list – not the pumpkin pie.

Another reason I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving is likely because it usually involved some celebration for my birthday. I was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1977 so I tell everyone that the purpose of our national holiday is to give thanks for me. Yes, I know, I think very highly of myself.

On a more serious note: There is so much to be thankful for this year. The focus of Thanksgiving is to have a grateful heart. What an awesome reminder to give thanks for everything God has done for us. Topping my list this year is good health. It’s a gift. We need to thank God daily.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dad Update 11-16-07

Well, the doctors called my dad and told him he needs to be at the hospital Monday morning for another round of chemotherapy. Although this was not the news we were hoping for, it was expected. Dad's white blood cell counts have been very high and he has noticed a lump growing under his arm once again. He will be in the hospital all week but we know it is necessary. I am grateful that he is still here fighting even if he will not be eating a feast with us on Thanksgiving Day. A lot has been going on with my family. It seems quite overwhelming at times. Still, God does not change. That, in and of itself, is a comfort to me. I know I can place my trust in Him and he will care for all of us.

Thank you for your continued prayers. Please pray for him as he endures this next round of chemo. Pray that infection stays away, that there are no complications and that this will effectively fight off the cancer.

I sincerely thank God for each of you.

The Tuttle Family


Here is my family at "The Farm" over Labor Day weekend.
From Left to Right Bottom: Therin (Trent's son), Nikelle (my daughter), Maty (Will's daughter) and Mongo (one of Trent and Beth's dogs)
From Left to Right Middle Row: Trent (my brother), Will (my brother), Dad (also named Will), Cameron (Traci's son), Tommy (Traci's husband) and Thomas (Traci's son)
From Left to Right Back Row: Beth (Trent's wife), Me, Jaycie (my daughter), Rod (my husband), Fiona (Will's wife), Elena (Will's daughter), Mom (Dorothy), Cassandra (Traci's daughter), Sabrina (Traci's daughter) and Traci (my sister)

I'm the youngest of four siblings. Trent is one year and two days older than I am. Will is next in line and Traci is the oldest. Just thought I'd give you some faces and names to go along with those prayers.

Psalm 34:18

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Seems Appropriate

The lyrics to this song have been going through my head all day. It seems very appropriate that I post them now.

Still I Will Worship You

I know that You are strong
I know You're more than able
to save me from whatever
ever comes my way
I know You are a Healer
I know You can deliver
I know that You can rescue me
but even when I cannot see Your hand
when You move in a way that I would not have planned
still I will worship You
I will worship You in the midnight hour
I will worship You when I'm in the fire
I will worship You when all hope seems gone
I will stand and proclaim that You are my God
I will worship You
I will worship You
I will worship You

The Ache in My Heart

This morning my heart is hurting – a lot. I just found out that my cousin, who had just announced to everyone that she was expecting, had a miscarriage. My heart hurts for her and her husband. It’s a pain I’ve never had to endure firsthand but my heart has more compassion for everyone who must experiences loss these days.

We are in one of those waiting moments with Dad. He had the bone marrow test yesterday and we are hoping for some results by the end of the day on Friday. I know he is extremely concerned. That concerns me. He knows what he is going through. He knows his body. I assume he even likely knows when the cancer is attacking again. He has a fever. This causes him to sweat a lot at night and not sleep well. The doctor didn’t really have anything to say about any of this. That almost makes it more difficult. I hate this part. I really do. I’m scared that if they tell my dad that he needs another round of chemotherapy prior to the stem cell procedure that he’ll want to quit fighting. I know he is feeling as though he cannot handle anymore. At the same time, I know it is only God’s strength that has pulled him through this far and it is only by God’s strength that he will continue to pull through.

Rod asked me the other day if I’m scared to feel happy. He asked if I’m worried that if I feel happy that I’ll have to feel sad as well. My response to him was tears. Later I pulled out some paper and this is what I wrote:

There’s an ache in my heart that continues to tug
But there’s no time to stop; through the day I must plug
The girls need their meals; there’s a schedule to keep
Still the pain in my heart runs so very deep
Numb is the only way I know how to feel
For all other feelings are just all too real
Fear crowds in daily or so it does try
Comfort is found only when to God I do cry
Today is the moment I must live in right now
For strength and peace I ask as my head I now bow

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Power of Prayer

About the time when I was in 5th grade, our two dogs, Tandi and Royal, were lost for 4 days. We lived on 5 acres surrounded by corn and soybean fields. We also had a creek running alongside our property. The dogs had run away numerous times before, but we always found them somewhere down the creek. This time, however, we could not find them.

It was four days of heartache as we looked and prayed. My Uncle made posters announcing a reward if anyone found them. There is one moment, in particular, that I remember from this experience. My mom, siblings and I were sitting around the dining room table praying before Dad got home from work. We prayed that we would be able to find both dogs, that they’d be all right, and that we wouldn’t have to pay the reward.

The next day at school, my sister’s teacher happened to be looking out the window and commented that there were two dogs in the schoolyard. My sister went to the window, asked to call my mom and went back to class (she was always very responsible with her education). We lived in Mokena and the dogs were found at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort (about 8 miles away next to a major road).

I firmly believe God answered our prayer to show a little girl how powerful He is. I have always been able to point back to that moment, despite how silly the request may seem to some.

My sister’s family just had a similar experience over the past few days. Their youngest, largest dog (Cinnamon) attacked their oldest, smallest dog (Precious). They came home to find blood all over their hallway and “Precious” lying on the floor dead. The dogs never really got along so they always made certain to keep the dogs apart when they were gone. This time, however, the measures just weren’t enough. As Traci was explaining to the kids about what happened, my brother-in-law, Tommy, came up with Precious in his arms telling Traci to call someone because she was still alive! They rushed her to the emergency clinic. Precious had lost huge amounts of blood and was in shock. She has no ears and has a large gash in her neck.

Yesterday, my sister paid us a visit to show us that Precious was better and going home! (She knew Nike had been praying for her - we all were.) I was simply amazed to see Precious walking around. She does look pretty bad. No ears. A large gash in her neck. Shaved. Nikelle couldn’t even handle looking at her and certainly did not want to pet her. Still, Precious was able to walk around and seems very happy to be home again.

The veterinarian said that in all his years of practice, he had never seen an attack to this extent let alone see the animal live! Instantly, our response is “Wow! What a fighter! She’s an amazing dog.” My sister’s response is more accurate, “We have an amazing God.” I believe that my nieces and nephews have learned a lesson in the power of prayer just as I did at a young age.

All of this encourages me as we pray for my Dad. It reminds me that God cares for His creation. He cares for the animals and cares so much more for us. We read this in Matthew 10:29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” We could paraphrase it in my life like this: “Did I not return both the dogs without your having to pay a reward? I protected Precious from death. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered (with losing and gaining and losing and gaining the little hair he has from chemotherapy, these words are very valuable). So don’t be afraid, your Dad is worth far more to Me.”

Reading in the Book of Ezekiel, God has impressed on me that His purpose in everything is so that we will know that He is the Lord. I am praying that He will show us all once again that He is Lord by healing my Dad from this terrible disease. I believe in the power of prayer!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Looking for Input

This past Friday was my parent/teacher conference for Nikelle. I had an informative visit with her teacher and found out my child is an average kid. Thank God for that! At the same time, her teacher informed me that I need to start thinking about first grade! Arghhh! I do not look forward to sending her to school all day. Well, honestly, there might be some perks...but there are so many reasons for my hesitancy. Mainly, it's SO out of my control. It's going to be a huge learning experience in trusting God next year.

So, here are our two options: Pershing and Eisenhower. Both our public schools. Eisenhower you have to test into. Class size is supposed to be smaller. I've already been receiving input from Amy as her children attend(ed) Eisenhower but I'm looking for any other input I can receive. Pershing is much closer (I could just drop her off). Eisenhower she'd take the bus and leave at the crack of dawn (although I know I could always drive her, too)!

I hate having to think about all of this now. I really don't want to but I know it's necessary. Private school is not an option due to finances and I have no patience to home school. I also support the public schools. I felt it was a profitable experience for my relationship with God. I received a lot of ridicule and learned how to take a stand. At the same time, Rod and I have always said we will take things one day at a time and one child at a time. If the school we place them in is not working for them, we'll reconsider our options.

Again, it's between Pershing School and Eisenhower Academy. Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dad Update 11-12-07

Please continue to keep my dad in your prayers. Specifically, my dad's white blood cell counts are quickly on the rise. Although this seems like a good thing, the nurse expressed concern that this could indicate signs of an infection. This morning, my mom told me that dad does have a fever. With a normal person, a fever is no big deal. With dad, there is so much that hangs on this. Please pray that he can fight quickly an infection that may be trying to attack his body. More importantly, please pray that this is not the cancer attempting to attack him again. We so desperately want him to be able to get into the stem cell procedure quickly. Still, we trust God for all things and know he is still in control.

Rest in Hope

Yesterday, we were enjoying our first day of rest in quite some time. I pulled out my scrapbook materials while Rod prepared to watch the Bears game. When his parents called to invite us over for dinner and a visit with some extended family, we knew to accept the invitation. Afterall, who knows what tomorrow will bring? It was a good dinner (that I didn’t have to cook) and a nice visit with Rod’s parents, sister, Aunt, Uncles and cousin, Erin.

Erin is the one who inspired my post for today. As we were talking last night about the many daily struggles we face, we admitted that most of the time, there are always people in worse situations. That’s why she forwarded me this link: http://www.jenniferireland.blogs.com/. This is a blog that details a woman’s courageous battle with cancer as well as the effect of the battle on her husband and two little girls. From what I read, she was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the birth of their second child and lost her battle with cancer early this year. Her girls were only 4 and almost 2 at her death. The pain this family must have endured and yet the posts on this blog still show hope. Tears soak my face as I read through their struggle. Today, I lift a prayer that God would wrap His arms around this family during this holiday season as they experience their first Thanksgiving and Christmas without their loved one.

Hope. It’s’ an amazing gift from God. That was going to be the topic of my post today before receiving this link anyway. I am so grateful for HOPE. Without it, how would we get through one day? I’m hopeful that today will be a day filled with joy. I’m hopeful that Dad will beat this terrible disease. I’m hopeful that even if the holidays are celebrated this year without my Dad present, that we will have many celebrations to come. I’m hopeful for eternity. Eternity is where we will no longer have to say goodbye. Eternity is where we will no longer have tears. In Eternity, rest will be plentiful.

“Faith is being sure of what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dear Friends...

I just finished today's Bible reading from the One-Year Bible. Hebrews 10:23-25 are the verses I'm rereading and thinking on at the moment.

"23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

This is what I love about my friends. I want people who inspire me to walk with God. I love to surround myself with people who encourage me and give me ideas as to how I can reflect God's love to others. I don't want to surround myself with people who are complimenting me left and right. I don't need those people who are just going to make me feel better about being me. I need people who will challenge me! I want to grow! Thank you to each of you who do this for me.

So, what are we doing today to encourage one another and to spur one another on toward love and good deeds?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Food on the Brain

How ironic is it that in my post about rereading this typo appears?


“Even a food is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” – Proverbs 17:28

I think about food when I don't even realize I'm thinking about food!

I've now corrected my last post with the correct wording of the verse:

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” – Proverbs 17:28

Thanks to my dear friend for pointing it out!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Open Mouth; Insert Foot

Do you ever have that feeling seconds after you part a conversation? Why is it that I continually think back upon a conversation and want to duck into a hole? I cannot believe I say certain things. Really. I’m not sure what I’m thinking at times. Did that really come out of my mouth? Did I actually say that to that person? That’s what I love about writing. You can reread and reread and reread before you send it. Whether it’s the old-fashioned letter writing, e-mail or a blog. We can reread what we write before we allow others to "hear". I need to stick more to writing and do a little less talking.

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” – Proverbs 17:28

Dad Update 11-8-07

Dad met with his doctor yesterday. The doctor told him that he must have 9 lives. He will meet with the doctor again next Wednesday (the 14th). A bone marrow test will be done. If the bone marrow shows now signs of the cancer, he will not need the additional chemotherapy. They will be able to put him into the stem cell preparation instead. Please pray that there will be no signs of the cancer so he does not need to go through an additional chemotherapy. Please also pray that he can eat and gain weight. In addition, we are praying for his blood counts to go back up where they need to be. He also needs the strength to exercise. Thank you for your prayers and I will inform you of the results of the bone marrow test when it is received.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Necessary Experience

Back in March I wrote an entry in my journal that went like this:

Tuesday seemed very normal. During swim class, Jaycie went and stayed with Grams because Papa had felt good enough to go to work. Grams took Jaycie to the park and was able to experience a taste of normalcy for a moment. Nike and I returned after swim and we had macaroni and cheese for lunch. Mom and I discussed the Bible. Jaycie went down for a nap and Nikelle and I walked over to the “Mokena park”. Nike enjoyed being “in charge” and leading me all over the park. Great Aunt Harriet and Cousin Richie brought dinner and we watched the girls run, dance, sing and squeal on the upstairs porch waiting for Papa to return home. Once Papa ate dinner, we showed the video from Nikelle’s spring musical he was unable to attend and talked a bit about how he was feeling.

It was a necessary day to experience. Reality quickly flooded in again as the doctors laid out the treatment plan on Wednesday.


Yesterday was another one of those days.

It’s been a month since Jaycie has seen my parents. Every day she asks about “Gaga and Papa”. When she asked yesterday and I told her we were going to their house to visit them, her face lit up with a huge smile. During the drive to Mokena, she asked numerous times for them. Then we pulled into their driveway. “Papa. Gaga. House.” Excitement filled the air.

When my mom opened the door, she was just as excited to see the girls as they were to see her and Papa. “Loud” does not even begin to describe the rest of our visit. Squeal after squeal. Smile after smile. Dominos were spilled all over the wood floor. Imagination turned the Dominos into telephones.

“Papa” just watched from his sofa and smiled. He looked better than he did on Sunday. I told him that. Actually, he looked really good considering. I told him that as well.

More squeals. Coloring. Juice. Playing with the dollhouse. Someone at the door. Great Aunt Harriet came once again and brought dad and mom some blueberry pie. Cousin Richie harvested some more broccoli out of dad’s garden. (It always does dad’s heart good to know people are consuming the food he enjoyed growing. He doesn’t want it to go to waste.)

Singing. Playing the piano. Moving chairs around the room. Medicine.

Oh, yeah. Medicine. Still need to remember all of this in the midst of the moment. Grams went to get Papa’s medicine to warm it up for when it needs to be administered.

J: “Papa meds?”
Me: “Right, Jaycie. That’s Papa’s medicine.”
J: “Papa sick?”
Me: “Right, Jaycie. Papa’s sick.”
J: (Working at folding her hands) “Better?”
Me: “Right, Jaycie. We ask Jesus to make Papa better.”

Back to playing. Squeal. Upstairs. Downstairs. Looking at Photo Albums. Time to get Nike to Awana. Time to meet Daddy at Grandpa and Grandma Carlson’s for some time with them. Driving away.

Nike thinks aloud, “I wonder if Grams will be outside to wave goodbye.”

My heart sinks as I know this ritual is a highlight for the girls. “Probably not, Nike. It’s cold and Grams needs to take care of Papa.”

We drive around the circle drive and I slow down just to be sure.

I smile as I see Grams come out the door and down the stairs. “Bye.” “Bye.” “Bye.” She yells as she waves her arms.

In the midst of everything, she knows the importance of this ritual to my girls.

“Bye.” “Bye.” The girls wave and squeal as we pull away.

My emotions are tangled. Ecstatic that my girls were able to have such a wonderful time with my parents. Disheartened because they are a little too educated on the battle with cancer. Grateful that my girls know who is in control and I pray.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Need a good laugh?

Nikelle attends a Kindergarten at a Lutheran church down the street from us. This week they are talking about baptism. Naturally, Nikelle has raised some questions. Thankfully, I am aware of what they are discussing this week so I could be prepared to answer her.

"Mommy, have I ever been worshipped?"

I held back my laughter as I said, "No, you have not been BAPTIZED."

The more I think about it, the more I laugh.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dad Update 11-6-07

Dad is home again. He will see his doctor tomorrow just to talk and possibly see when things will get scheduled next. Seeing as how they don't have any bone marrow tests scheduled, it's unlikely that we'll know too much until the following week.

Dad is much weaker than before he entered the hospital but I visited him on Sunday and he looks much better than I had expected. There is a good slice of his tongue missing but I was still able to understand everything he said. I can't understand what he's going through in any way. I'm just grateful that God continues to provide him with strength and bring him through all these obstacles that keep coming his way.

My prayer right now is that through a miracle, he wouldn't have to go through another round of chemotherapy but just go straight to the stem cell procedure. Even still, I know God is faithful and will carry us through whatever is ahead.

Mom has to go to the Board of Review today for their tax appeal. It seems crazy to me that they have to continue to fight things like this amongst everything else they are dealing with. Still, God's hand is shown as Dad is home so it is easier for mom to do this. I'm praying for peace and a fair outcome in this situation.

Monday, November 5, 2007

God First?

I've received a couple of good suggestions on fighting my terrible eating habits. Thanks. I'm always open to more. This past weekend would be considered a success in this area. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were fairly controlled when it came to what I placed into my mouth. Even while having some pizza Saturday night. That Halloween candy still remains in bags in the garage for the girls to choose pieces from every now and then. I did steal their Curves granola bars but I don't believe they'll miss those. Those granola bars were a pretty good choice when there is still that full size Hershey's Bar with Almonds in the trick-or-treat bag. One thing I know is that I cannot allow myself to get overly hungry. I lose all control when I reach that point (the Curves bars were to help prevent that state).

Dennis talked about God First when it comes to our giving this Sunday morning. This made me think a lot about my time. Do I offer my time to God first? I believe this is my biggest struggle. I like to blame it on the kids, but it is my own fault. I will watch t.v., eat, spend my time on the computer, jump on the treadmill, or even just veg out. God needs to be first. This morning, I woke up and pulled out my one-year-Bible and read. That's a good start.

It would also be helpful to have God first when I'm eating. Sure, we pray before mealtime when we sit as a family. To be completely honest, when it's just me and the girls, I don't. This could do a lot to change my relationship with food if I would simply give thanks before I place anything into my mouth. After all, he brought the pie, right?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dear Jesus...

Here’s a picture I don’t want to forget. My girls are eating doughnuts at their little table this morning – praying.

I did not catch the beginning of the prayer but here is what I witnessed:

Their hands are folded as Nikelle thanks God and prays:
“Please help Papa to feel better.”
“Please help Grams to take care of Papa.”
“Please help Papa not to die.”

Jaycie is simply repeating her big sister’s prayer as best as she can:

“Papa. Gaga.”

They are both holding their folded hands at their chins and I see Jaycie looking up (I only see Nike from behind).

“Amen.”

“Amen.”

They unfold their hands and picked up their doughnuts.

Aaah...the heart of a child.

And Jesus said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dad Update 11-3-07

Dad is now out of ICU. His white blood cell count is at 1. Still not good but better. He still has a fever, but again, he's fighting. Things do seem to be improving somewhat. He's been receiving all sorts of different blood transfusions to get his blood counts back to where they need to be. His doctor told him he's in no shape right now to be receiving a stem cell transplant and besides, he thinks he'll likely need one more round of chemotherapy before we reach that step. Please continue to pray that the cancer does not spread while we are waiting on his blood counts.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Is there a problem with my scale?

This morning I stepped on the bathroom scale with hopes that some miracle occurred and I would have lost weight overnight. Here’s why it would have taken nothing shy of a miracle:

I went to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) last night knowing I would be faced with a smorgasbord of delicious food. My goal was to serve myself one plate of food (reasonable) and only one plate of food – that meant not returning for a second helping. Often as I do, however, I went back for that second plate. Deciding I needed to throw my plate in the garbage to prevent me from eating any additional food, I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie and brownie on the way back to my seat. That put me into that “blah” feeling of having eaten too much. Still, when I returned home, I served myself up the leftover (fattening – filled with butter and sugar) sweet potato casserole and watch some television with my husband. (The “Blah” feeling had dissipated by the time I returned home having had a couple hours pass.)

I have an ongoing struggle in this area. My goal at this point in my life is to conquer this sin of gluttony I continually participate in. The difficult part is that I am faced with this temptation many times throughout the day. It is especially difficult for me to stay mindful of what I put into my mouth when I am tired or at a social function.

I’m up for suggestions. I am a lifetime Weight Watchers member and believe in the program. I’m just having a difficult time getting control of my eating habits. It’s not so much about my weight as it is with the amount of food and lack of nutrition I place into my body.

I can make all kinds of excuses but the bottom line is that I enjoy food and eat too much of it. I’m looking for some action steps (or a good kick in the butt). Anyone willing to share some advice?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dad Update 11-1-07

My dad was able to have the breathing tube taken out this morning! Thank God it did not have to be in any longer. With every moment it was in, there was the possibility of infection. Now he just needs to get out of ICU (every moment he's in there is another possibility of infection).

Doctors have determined that all of this drama with his tongue is due to a staff infection. Whether it is from a new staff infection or it is the same MRSA that has been in his body that decided to attack a sore on his tongue, I don't know. The swelling has gone down and the sores have diminished. (Previously his tongue was black and now my mom said it looks fairly normal.)

The concern is that he still has a fever. Cultures are still being grown to see if he has another infection in his blood. My dad is far from being out of the woods but it is incredibly cool to see how awesome God is through all of this!

Thank you for your continued prayers. Please pray he can fight off this infection(s) so that they can return to focusing on beating this cancer!

A childlike heart

We just returned from the doctor's office. Jaycie had her 2-year check-up today. Wow! My baby girl really does not like being held down - especially for shots! Thankfully, children have short memories and a sticker and some nuggets and fries from McDonald's medicated her just fine.

The real heart jerker was when I looked over at Nikelle hiding behind the chair and coats. She decided that it would be easier to hide rather than watch Jaycie receive shots. As I looked over at her during Jaycie's tears, Nike's eyes were clearly welled up. When I asked her if she was ok, she replied, "Yeah, I'm fine. I just don't want my little sister to be sad." Oh, if only everyone could have a heart like my little girl!