Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Breaths

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away .....

Young bride in white, walking toward my husband at the altar ……

Instantly knowing that new life was growing inside of my body (times three) ........

Locking my eyes with the eyes of each of our three daughters for the first time .......

Holding my grandson to my chest and kissing his head for the first time ........

Clutching and reflecting on a life of love from my parents …....

Walking out of a hospital from Intensive Care Units and breathing in fresh air as I recognized God's faithfulness from delivering me once again (grass never looks so green or the sky so blue as when I emerge from a hospital stay) ……

Glimpsing each of our daughters in their wedding gowns for the first time …..

Swallowing with pride and gratefulness as I watched each of our daughters receive their college diplomas ……

Ocean waves bounding toward me with the mighty roar of God’s power…..

Mountain heights touching the Heavenlies ......

Niagara Falls’ thundering power and presence ……

Beauty and serenity of walking in a snowstorm

…… the hush that the blanket of new-fallen snow emits.

The moments that have taken my breath away …….

I'm Weary

When I contemplate adjectives that best describe my life as I step into another year with leukemia as my cohort, “weary” comes to mind. Weary is defined as “tired; run out of strength, patience or endurance; and exhausted”. Do those words ever illustrate my life right now!

My physical body is tired of over thirteen years with tests and needles, medicines and pain. I long for a day that is free of pain. My mind is tired of researching treatment options and late-breaking research on leukemia. I am tired. Very, very tired.

I am certain that God has compassion on me when He looks from the Heavenlies and sees my weary mind, body and soul. In Matthew 9, when he saw the multitudes, we are told, “…He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary …..” That offers me some comfort and solace. He knows. He sees. He understands.

And while the knowledge that God is aware of my weariness is comforting, I know deep in my heart, that I must continue to battle weariness lest it overwhelm and hijack my life. Galatians 6:9 reminds me: “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” The reality being that when we are weary and running out of the oomph that life demands, we benefit by focusing on doing good for others. It distracts us from our own pain and suffering. And if we do not “lose heart”, we are going to be blessed for our efforts to look after the needs of others.

I believe this is part of the reason that Lil Man has been such a blessing to me. It would be far easier to lay in bed everyday with the pain and exhaustion my body battles each day. Nevertheless, by pulling myself up and chasing after my precious grandson, I am blessed. He is blessed to be watched by family who dearly love him while his Mommy is at work. I am blessed by the distractions he provides for me against pain and leukemia. I must continue to battle this weariness. I do not want it to overcome my life and purpose. I must not lose heart. Lil Man is counting on his Grammy!

Monday, December 28, 2009

One Month Left

Have you ever reflected on what you would do and how you would live if you were told that you had one month to live? If like most people, you have never pondered such concerns. "The end" seems very remote to most souls and their focus remains on living life as though there will be thousands of tomorrows.

A diagnosis of leukemia at age 33 changed my life and immediately, I began living my life as though my days had been numbered and were quickly fading away. I can tell you with authority, being told that your life is finite, and perhaps, quickly finite, will change one's heart and soul. Foremost, I knew that I wanted my life to be pleasing to the Lord. I had professed Him as my Savior for many years, perhaps with a level of mediocrity. With the cancer diagnosis, I knew that each day, I wanted to remain repentant and to keep my heart and soul pleasing to Him. Not knowing the exact moment of our deaths (or the return of Christ at the Rapture) should make each of us aware of that moment when we will meet our Savior face to face to give an account of our lives. And for those who have shunned and denied Jesus as the Lord of their lives, reflecting on the possibility that they have been wrong about eternal life requiring the forgiveness of a Savior

With one month to live, I (and most of my readers) would most likely live those thirty or thirty-one days quite differently than the status quo of our current methods of living life. Let us complete an exercise in visualizing our past week - reflect on decisions we have made; places we have visited; words we have uttered; sins we have committed; or how we have spent each of the 1440 minutes in our days. If we absolutely, positively knew that our last thirty days of our life calendars were ticking away, what would have changed about the way we thought, spoke, or acted in the past month? These are important facts to ponder and contemplate. Let us take a few moments before we close our eyes tonight to consider the ramifications of how we are utilizing each moment of our lives .

Let us review the 139th Psalm.

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
and abhor those who rise up against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Whenever I read this Psalm, I marvel at the depth of intimacy God the Father has with His children. He has known us since the moment of our conception - all of our days were ordained by Him before the first day of our lives arrived. He knows our thoughts, the words about to slide off of our tongues, our going out and coming in, He knows it all. He sees it all. If we are foolish enough to think we can continue living lives of sinful speech, actions, thoughts or deeds that He does not know about, we are lying to ourselves. God loves each of us so much. He longs for our hearts to be dedicated to Him and His Word.

I write these words and share these life stories of mine with the sole intention that God will anoint and breathe on my mortal words so that they will awaken the hearts and souls of men and women around the world. That these mere words, when touched by the Holy Spirit, will burn in the hearts of those who read them and make each one realize that today could be the last day for any of us. Envision our last moments ticking off the eternal clock God has set for each of us and our lives being as filthy rags.

Isaiah 64:5-6

You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

Forgive us, today, Father, for our sins. Make our lives, filthy indeed, to be cleaned and redeemed by the blood of precious Jesus. Empower and equip each of us to live today as though it is our last day before we meet you, face to face. In Jesus' Name I pray. AMEN.

Cotton Candy

Do you recall the pastel colored fluffs of cotton candy that we savored as children at the circus and carnivals? Last night's snow covered bushes and the Christmas lights beneath formed these colored fluffs of "snow candy".


Request for Prayer & Update: December 28, 2009

I haven't updated on my health as I have tried to ignore my nemesis leukemia during the celebrating of Christmas. The trees are down, the gifts are unwrapped, and leukemia is back, stomping its foot and rearing its ugly head, demanding my attention once again.

I had blood drawn today and I absolutely, utterly failed my test! If you know me well, you know that I do not take kindly to failing anything - I am a perfectionist and over-achiever! On today's CBC there were 10 categories of testing and all ten were abnormal. That would be a sort of perfection, wouldn't it? Perfectly horrible!

I am neutropenic again. I have spent the bulk of 2009 with prolonged, chronic neutropenia (low counts of neutrophils, a category of white cells that are vital for fighting infection, especially bacterial infections). It doesn't require a brain surgeon to know what this is representative of a failing bone marrow that is no longer functioning and sustaining my life without medical intervention, in the form of Neupogen injections. I can go about 4-5 days and then I require another injection. I know these injections are contributing to the other sources of the severe bone pain that I am experiencing. Another needle, another day.

I realized that I had not updated after the MRI's and x-rays before Christmas. The chest x-ray was clear for infection and leukemic infiltrates. That is a praise! I experienced a true Christmas miracle in that I was able to complete the MRI's. I am very claustrophobic and can allow doctors to prod my bone marrow with 12 inch needles without sedation, but a painless scan forces shivers down my spine.

I took my praise and worship CD and the technician was a Christian with an IPOD full of Christian music by my favorite artists. She played that for me and talked me through both MRI's - they took over an hour and I kept looking back over the top of my head and could see the ceiling tile grids - they formed a perfect cross over the top of me. I kept telling myself if Jesus could and would hang on a cross for me, surely I could survive the MRI, with His help. And I did!

There were no fractures in the hip structure (due to chronic steroid use). The signals in the marrow were altered and my NIH leukemia specialist suspects that this is caused by the marrow being so impacted by leukemia that the normal fat or hematopoietic (blood forming) cells are not producing normal marrow signals. The NIH is going to review these MRI films and reports to offer us more information.

The MRI on my lower back revealed complete loss of bone marrow signal intensity. If my bones are this impacted by the leukemia, no wonder I am in such pain. Three herniated discs are also contributing to my pain concerns. The radiologist did not feel the discs were such that steroid injections into the nerve roots would be beneficial for me, so that pain relief option is off the table.

Please pray for 2010 to bring me another year of life, no matter the battles I must face and fight. Please pray for God to be merciful and to hear our cries to protect me from life-threatening infections and bone marrow failure.

"Twas the Night Before Christmas Revisited

.....Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

How many times have I read and recited this classic to my children? Too many times to enumerate. Although the classic represents the secular Santa side of Christmas, the words enthrall children and adults alike.

......Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

This year my husband purchased the Hallmark version of Twas the Night Before Christmas. New to the time honored classic was the recordable features of the story book. The purchaser of the Hallmark book is able to read and record themselves as they recite the story. In theory, we thought it would be a wonderful, timeless gift for our Grandson if I recorded myself reading the book to him.

......The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

Little did I know what a challenge to my spirit recording this book would pose. Each week of December I added "Record Book" to my Outlook reminders. And each week would pass and I would glance at the book and tear up, pondering if this reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas would be my final reading of it for my grandson. After all, May 2009 delivered the label, "end stage leukemia" to me and I knew, apart from God's intervention, Christmas 2009 could very well be my final Christmas.

........In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there

After ignoring the Outlook reminders too many times, December 24th arrived and the book sat on the counter, unread, unrecorded and unwrapped. At the urging of my husband, I sat down near midnight and opened the book before me. For a second, I choked up and had one of my moments of doubt when I wondered if another Christmas would be blessed upon me.

....The children were nestled all snug in their beds

I mustered the strength and fortitude that I could in and of myself, then I cried out to God to enable me to complete this recording and to be able to present this priceless gift to my grandson. The tears dried up, my voice stopped quivering and with the love and excitement that I read this story to my own children through the years, I read it, once again for Lil Man. I thank God for giving me the ability to read the story - on this past Christmas Eve and hopefully, for many, many more Christmas Eves in my future will I be able to read this classic, in person, to Lil Man.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow-blanketed Poinsettias

Photograph copyright Stacie

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Strike

I have been composing my "Review of 2009" for my blog. I am truly marveling at all that I have been through this year and all that God has brought me through this year. If you believe you have never witnessed or known a miracle of God - take a moment to reflect on all of the serious situations from which He has delivered me this year. He has been so faithful and good to me.

A part of me became very heavy hearted and fatigued just reading and reviewing how much time, effort, and resources that leukemia has robbed from me in 2009. Upon my review of 2009's blog entries, I made an executive decision today - I am going ON STRIKE from all medical appointments, lab draws, and injections for two days - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I called the doctor's office and told them to cancel my Christmas Eve blood draw appointment. The receptionist, I believe, was concerned and questioned my logic (kind wording for sanity). I assured her that I have decided I am going to take my Neupogen injection tonight (instead of tomorrow) at home, thus, helping to ward off any spells of neutropenia over the Christmas celebrations.

So, I am officially, ON STRIKE from all medical interventions to celebrate Christmas. I might like this strike so well that I may never return to the world of doctors, treatments, and hospitals.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Enchanted Christmas Forest

This evergreen vignette holds numerous Christmas memories for me. The wooden sleigh and rocking horse ornaments were purchased on our honeymoon some 27 years ago. The Christmas Mouse (low center) was one of the few drug store ornaments placed on our first Christmas tree as newlyweds (I now ponder who would want mice on their Christmas tree?) The white snowflake ornament also partook in our first Christmas tree. My brother (only 11 years old on our first Christmas together) took it off of my parents' Christmas tree and brought it to our house. I believe he was concerned we wouldn't have decorations at our new home. It has been
on our tree every year since he donated it to our cause!
I adore Christmas - the perfect time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We fill our home with decorated trees. The twinkling lights on each one,
remind us of the Light of the World whose birth we are celebrating. The ornaments and decorations, all hold special memories, stories, and meaning to me. This photo shows our formal living room tree's ornaments - crosses, scrolls with Scripture, and other decorations that represent the True meaning of Christmas. This is a full-length photo of the living room tree. My Christmas present from my husband was a new digital camera and I am still mastering the lighting and functions on the camera.
This tree is one of my favorites and is in our Great Room. It is bedecked with ornaments that each tell a story. Some were handmade by our daughters when they were young. Others were gifts from family and friends. Wooden bead garlands are reminiscent of trees from bygone eras. This tree warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes as I treasure each ornament's memories.
Snow speaks to my spirit. The hush of a night-time snowfall invites me to walk in it as the flakes tumble from Heaven onto my little piece of earth. A childlike portion of my heart becomes extremely excited for snow on Christmas. These ornaments hang on my snowman themed Christmas tree. My newest tree addition was made last Christmas. It can be found in the nursery at our home for our baby grandson. This is one of his ornaments on his baby blue tree decorated with all ornaments related to a baby boy.
Our kitchen Christmas tree is decorated with gingerbread boys and girls and candy garlands.
This tree is decorated with angels. Many of the angels are little girls, purchased when our three daughters were at home - they even have curly hair if you look closely. It is a reminder to me of the golden streets, lined with angels and the Light of the World who will welcome me when I enter the gates of Heaven. On the Angel Tree, we have a photo of our beloved Golden Retriever, who passed away a few years ago. We had raised her from a tiny puppy of 5 weeks to 12 years of age. She brought great joy to our home and she is an angel in our memories and on this Christmas tree.












Monday, December 21, 2009

New York City




Our daughter and son-in-law (after numerous travel delays), returned home early this morning after their trip to New York City. I thought I would post a few more of their photographs.

TOP: SpongeBob Meets Son-in-Law
BOTTOM: Daughter in Central Park after Saturday's Snowfall

Climate Comedy


A fellow leukemia warrior shared this photo with me entitled:
THOUSANDS PROTEST GLOBAL WARMING SUMMIT


The President of the United States traveled to Copenhagen for a summit on global warming.

And, it was estimated that Air Force One emitted 196 tons of carbon to carry the President on the round trip to Copenhagen to banter about global warming.

Thus, a Canadian company committed to plant 1,176 trees to offset the carbon emitted by Air Force One.

And, on the return to Washington, DC, Air Force One struggled to land in an historical snowfall in DC that welcomed back the President from his discussions on global warming's effects on the planet.

Mortal men at work, believing they can control and dictate the weather, the environment, the atmosphere and everything else in this world forgot,

"When He utters His voice— There is a multitude of waters in the heavens: “ He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries (Jeremiah 51:16).”

I found it quite comical to watch this global discussion on global warming to conclude with the President returning to Washington, DC's deepest snowfall in 70 years. Forget it, counters of carbon emissions, God's in control of this earth - not you!

Prayer Requests for Others

In accordance to James 5:16, I post these requests for prayer for others. This Scripture instructs us: "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

I have become acquainted online with four leukemia patients' wives. The five of us were all diagnosed within a couple of years of each other (1996-1998 for the most part)with the same leukemia. The battles are raging and all of our bodies are failing and faltering. Please pray collectively for our group. I know each of their wives have stood by these men and would appreciate your prayers. I am concerned we will not all live to see next Christmas.

Mike - Currently hospitalized. Has had serious infection. Bone marrow struggling to produce cells. Will try another attempt at saving his life tomorrow with a new treatment. Please pray for his wife Cindy as she must be weary.

Lady Di's husband - Di refers to her husband and me as the CLL Twins. Our cases have been amazingly similar. He completed a round of half-dose treatment around the same time I completed half-dose Rituxan this summer. Both of us knew that full dose chemotherapy would be suicidal. He is currently on oxygen and struggling with low oxygen levels.

Bruce - Hospitalized in Canada, undergoing his SECOND stem cell transplant. He has developed many complications this past week. Please pray that the doctors will be able to save his life.

Tom - Very ill and struggling with infections and other complications of a long-term leukemia battle.

In addition, to the five of us leukemia warriors needing prayer, I request that you pray for our son-in-law's brother. Our son-in-law was in end stage kidney failure (from a genetic kidney disorder) and he received a perfect kidney transplant two years ago and is thriving. However, his older brother is very ill. He is a minister of the Gospel and in need of a Christmas miracle. He is facing many challenges right now and thus far, a kidney has not become available for his transplant.

Thank you for your prayers.

God's Positioning System (GPS)

I have been reflecting on the dependence upon GPS systems nowadays. Global Positioning Satellites are installed on blackberries, in automobiles, and via other electronic devices. The Atlas in the car or maps folded up in the glove compartment are bygones of another era. Travelers and newcomers to a region, simply type in the address or destination and the GPS will tell the driver where to turn, how far to go, when to stop, and when to go. While in Washington, DC this year, the GPS quickly redirected us when we become lost in Friday evening rush hour traffic.

In all truthfulness, the GPS is not a new concept. God has given His children the Holy Spirit and His Holy Bible to guide us and direct us through life - the God Positioning Systems (GPS). As with an electronic GPS, God's Positioning Systems can be turned off. Sin can turn off our connection to the Holy Spirit. Not taking enough time to be quiet and listen for the directions of the Holy Spirit causes the GPS to be ineffective. And when we fail to attempt to live obedient lives for Him, He allows the GPS to be blocked - we find ourselves making poor decisions for ourselves, over and over. We make wrong turns and find ourselves on a dead end street, heading no where that we want to go with our lives.

A purchased, electronic GPS will eventually become outdated or quit working. No fear of these concerns with God's Positioning Systems - Psalm 48:14 tells us: "For this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide. Even to death." Compare that guarantee to what the man-made GPS will offer.

Proverbs 3:6 instructs us: "In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." What better offer than that could we ever receive? We don't require the assistance of electrical devices or human instructions to direct our paths when we have God Almighty guiding our steps. I trust Him so much more to never fail me and to keep me driving down the path of life that he ordained for me.

So think twice if you purchased me a GPS for Christmas. I am going to stick with God's Positioning System for my life - Psalm 119:105: "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

A Creature of Habit

Today, I am receiving my IVIG treatment that I receive every 28 days to support my immune system. It is an emotional day for me. I spent a decade at the previous cancer center - same chemo chair, same nurses, same routine. Then a couple of years ago, a new cancer center was constructed, affiliated with one of the two local hospitals. So, I made that move to the new center. I was traumatized. My parking spot and chemo chair location of ten years were gone. I had to adjust and adapt to a new cancer environment.

If you know me well, you know that I thrive on an organized, stable, unchanging schedule and routine. This move was upsetting to me, however, I gradually settled in. After experimenting with several different chemo chairs, my compromised immune system decided for me that I would receive the chair in the private room, apart from other patients and germs. Over the past two years, this cubicle has become my home away from home. I have celebrated good reports and victories here and I have wept tears over concerning reports. My same five chemo nurses who have administered almost every drip of chemotherapy and other treatments into my veins remained with me and I readjusted.

Today, another transition looms. I am sad today. This is my last day in this facility. The other local hospital is building a new cancer infusion center and my local oncologist has opted to be affiliated with it. So, once again, I have lived long enough as a cancer patient to be facing yet another move by this practice. The search for another chemo chair will begin. Since I spend so much time here, this becomes a sort of "home away from home" for me. Gone will be my fine window view. And I have learned that two of the five nurses will no longer be performing the infusions for me. That rips and tears at my heart. These women have done so much to help me over the many years - they have sacrificed Christmas, Easter, July 4th and many weekends with their families to come to administer treatments for me. Those type of sacrifices are never forgotten. Also, this cancer facility houses several different oncology-related practices and with it came a chaplain. Sister Betty and I are similar creatures and have shared many prayers and rich conversations over a drip of IV or antibiotics. This morning, we shared our last time of prayer and reflection.

Some believe that change is positive. This morning it doesn't feel very positive to me. My routine will once again be rattled and my second decade of battling leukemia will be rearranged once again. Please pray for my relocation after the first of the year to be replete with peace and without sorrow.

Christmas Reflections

"Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas."
--Dale Evans Rogers

"The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart."
--Helen Keller

"The star of Bethlehem was a star of hope that led the wise men to the fulfillment of their expectations, the success of their expedition. Nothing in this world is more fundamental for success in life than hope, and this star pointed to our only source for true hope: Jesus Christ."
--Dr. D. James Kennedy

The Reason for the Season: Luke 2:9-14

And behold,an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”



Saturday, December 19, 2009

FOX Fan


Knowing that I am a FOX news viewer and fan, here is our son-in-law pictured in front of the FOX news studios in New York City.

Stranded in the Big Apple?


Our daughter and son-in-law are in New York City this weekend. If you have viewed the weather forecast for the Big Apple, you are aware that a monstrous winter storm is headed their direction - possibly over a foot of snow. Their flight home tomorrow night might be cancelled due to the weather.

They are having a wonderful time sight-seeing and I will post some photos that they have sent me thus far. One especially meaningful one is at St. Patrick's Cathedral where my daughter lit a healing candle in my honor. She said until my candle burns out, someone will be praying for my healing. Thanks, Sis!


We have had some good laughs as they consider being stranded in New York City. In the event stores and restaurants close and they don't have access to food, they are prepared (I guess her Girl Scout training to BE PREPARED is praying off!) They have purchased bottled water, Ramen noodles, granola bars, and the world's largest Reece's Peanut Butter Cup! At least I know they won't starve.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lying

With the recent media blitz into the life of Tiger Woods, I am reminded of how damaging lying is in the lives of every person. Advertising sponsors, onlookers, the paparazzi and media are all making Tiger out to be a monster. Yes, he has sinned and horribly harmed his loved ones and my heart breaks for his wife and children. However, Tiger is no different than millions of people who are living lives of deception everyday. The difference being he is under the scrutiny of the world due to his celebrity status.

I am very saddened for his wife and children yet I am reminded that lying is common fodder in this world. Spouses lie to each other. Children lie to parents. Employees lie to employers. I would venture to state that nearly everyone has lied in his or her life. Sometimes lies are labeled “white lies” in an attempt to lessen the seriousness of the transgressions.

However, God takes lying very seriously. Let us take a moment to review what God’s Word has to state about lying and deception. John 8:44 teaches us that the Devil is
“the father of lies”. The next time we are tempted to tell a falsehood or to be dishonest, let us pause to reflecton this truth. The originator and planter of the desire to lie in our minds and hearts is Satan himself. Knowing this, believers, can battle this urge to be deceptive in the spiritual realm through prayer and hurling God’s Words back at the father of deception.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible states: “Let us learn the importance of truth and sincerity, in all the affairs of life. Liars and murderers resemble the devil …” Those are powerful words to reflect upon and consider the next time we are tempted to launch into a lie. It is obvious from these comments that no area of our lives is exempt from needing to be saturated in truthfulness. And who wants to resemble the Devil or grouped in the same circuit as murderers?

Ephesians 4:25 reminder is “put away lying”. May we each be encouraged by this admonition to strive for honesty and truthfulness in every area of our lives. Liars never believe that they will be “found out”. Just ask Tiger about that philosophy. He never thought he would be under this public microscope.

Peace on Earth

Jehovah-Shalom. The Lord Send Peace
by William Cowper

Jesus! whose blood so freely stream'd
To satisfy the law's demand;
By Thee from guilt and wrath redeem'd,
Before the Father's face I stand.

To reconcile offending man,
Make Justice drop her angry rod;
What creature could have form'd the plan,
Or who fulfil it but a God?

No drop remains of all the curse,
For wretches who deserved the whole;
No arrows dipt in wrath to pierce
The guilty, but returning soul.

Peace by such means so dearly bought,
What rebel could have hoped to see?
Peace by his injured Sovereign wrought,
His Sovereign fasten'd to a tree.

Now, Lord, Thy feeble worm prepare!
For strife with earth and hell begins;
Conform and gird me for the war;
They hate the soul that hates his sins.

Let them in horrid league agree!
They may assault, they may distress;
But cannot quench Thy love to me,
Nor rob me of the Lord my peace.

Request for Prayer & Update: December 17, 2009

I continue to struggle with intense bone pain, infections and chronic neutropenia. In addition, my hemoglobin and iron levels are low, so my energy levels are very low - not a good trait to have during the Christmas season.

I continue with the Neupogen injections, which Kevin is giving to me at home. These help to prevent serious infections while my own body is not doing a very good job fighting infections. We do not yet have final culture reports from the samples obtained from the November 9th sinus scope.

Tomorrow, I am scheduled for a chest x-ray due to a lingering cough to be certain that I do not have Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP - a very deadly form of lung infection for the immune compromised patient). Also, I will have MRI's performed on my lower back and hip. Due to the severity of this pain, we need to be certain that the leukemia has not infiltrated into my bones. I have never been able to complete an MRI due to the very enclosed equipment. Please pray that I will be able to complete the MRI's tomorrow as we need this information. If there is not leukemia in the bones, and the pain is from the ongoing herniated discs, I am probably going to have to have steroid injections put into my spine to help me live with this pain.

My monthly IVIG infusion will take place all day Monday. Please pray that I do not have any serious reactions with that and that it helps and not harms me.

My trusted family physician is going home to Iowa for a week beginning this Saturday. Please especially pray that I do not become ill or need hospitalized while she is away.

Kolach




Since I was a young girl, a delicious Christmas delicacy that our family knew as "Kolach", has visited our homes and delighted our taste buds. This recipe was handed down from my Aunt Joyce and her family. I believe that her heritage was from Lithuania and this recipe descended from there. When I was younger, I recall that our only loaf of Kolach was the one Aunt Joyce baked and delivered to our family. Then my Mom learned how to bake it and she provided it for my siblings and me. Finally, once our girls began growing up, I learned how to bake it and taught our girls. It is definitely a recipe with a rich heritage.

Christmas would not be the same for our family without this special treat that we share each Christmas morning. To bake the six loaves, takes almost an entire day. Given all of my medical setbacks this past month, I began to ponder and doubt if this would be the Kolach-less Christmas!

Today, Lil Man is spending the day with his Dad, so Grammy was given a vacation day. Just the time I needed to bake this yeast and nut filled delight! I have read other Kolach recipes online but never found one quite like this.

Aunt Joyce's Kolach Recipe

DOUGH:

2 cups warm milk (warm enough to melt butter)
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter(softened)
2 packages of yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water)
8 cups flour
3 eggs
1 stick of butter for brushing loaves

Pour warmed milk over sugar, salt, and butter and stir until the butter melts.
Add 4 cups of the flour, stir well.
Add dissolved yeast/water mixture and eggs to flour mixture. Stir well.
Add 4 additional cups of the flour - kneading in flour until the dough does not cling to hands.
Brush with melted butter and let rise for 2 hours. Punch down the dough after 2 hours and let rise for another hour. Divide the dough into 6 same sized pieces and let rest and rise for another 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

FILLING:

3 cups finely chopped walnuts
6 1/2 ounces of finely ground cocktail peanuts
2 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick melted butter

Mix all of these filling ingredients together.

Roll one section of dough at a time into a thin, 12" circle. Brush with melted butter. Spread a thin layer of filling on dough, roll up tightly jelly-roll style, tucking ends underneath. Put on greased cookie sheet, seam side down and brush outside with butter. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes per loaf. Remove from over and brush with butter. Cool. This freezes well and it tastes best when served warm.

YIELDS: 6 loaves

A Prayer for Today: December 17, 2009

Precious Father,

We humbly bow before You and praise You for Your presence and power in each of our lives. We are in awe of Your goodness and mercy that is extended to each of Your children. We are not deserving of a Savior sent to this earth to save us from ourselves.

This is a beautiful time of year - the celebration of Christ's birth. However, in 2010, I pray that each of us will maintain that very sense of celebration and gratitude for Christ on each and everyday.

Strengthen those of us who are so weak, for the upcoming Christmas celebrations.

Grant times of love and forgiveness, flooding through each family this Christmas. Bring restoration where it is needed.

For those who are undergoing medical treatment away from family or who are serving in the military away from their families, be their Comforter.

For those who are very ill, going in and out of hospitals and traveling for treatment, provide each need and the strength to win the battle.

Isaiah 9:6 reminds us:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

May You continue to be each of these attributes to each of us -

Counselor when we are confused and uncertain as to what medical or other life decisions we must make.

Mighty God when we are downtrodden and overwhelmed by a seemingly impossible situation.

Prince of Peace when the devastations of this world and the deceptions of the enemy try to rob us of our peace and joy.

In Jesus' Name I pray. AMEN.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

15 Months Old Today

Lil Man is growing by leaps and bounds before our eyes. He turns fifteen months old today. I cannot fathom where the time has evaporated. He will always be Grammy's Lil Man, no matter how the months add to his age or the inches add to his stature. The tiny baby who locked eyes with me for the first time fifteen months ago and stole my heart at that very moment, grows nearer and dearer to my heart with each passing moment.

He is a loving, kind little boy. He wraps his tiny arms around my neck and offers the best hugs. His kisses are plentiful and precious. He waves at me with a big grin when he sees me in the mornings and sometimes he sheds a tear when he leaves me in the evening.

We share many hours and special events together. This month we shared in his awe when he walked into Grammy's Christmas Wonderland of decorated trees in nearly every room and a dancing, singing Santa. We played in the snow and made snowballs for the first time. We watched birds flock to the feeders for seed on snowy days. We clap, sing, run, hug, and make wonderful memories together.

Happy Birthday, Lil Man!
XOXO
Grammy

2000 Decembers Ago

Pause for a moment to listen to this song and absorb these lyrics. Imagine being witness to the birth of the Christ Child - born to be the King of kings, Lord of lords.

2000 Decembers Ago
By Joy Williams

Did it feel like a night any different
Then at least a million before
Was there any rare expectation
Like there was some kind of somethin' in store
Did the sky have to hold back the thunder
Did the moon find new reasons to glow
Could the children somehow sense the wonder
2000 Decembers Ago

Were the sheep as amazed as the shepherds
At the new star that lite up the sky
Did the willow trees whisper excitement
To the rivers and streams passing by
Did the joy ricochet off the mountains
'Til it filled up the valleys below
Did all the world sense love abounding
2000 Decembers Ago

Was anyone able to look at the stable
And not see a child but a King
I wish I could hear back over the years
As heaven & nature sing, heaven and nature sing.
Did the walls of the barn start to tremble
With a glory they could not contain
Did anyone wake with the feeling
Of peace that they could not explain
Oh the love must have been overwhelming
As it warmed everyone in its flow
For all of the earth is still telling
Of 2000 Decembers ago

Was anyone able to look at the stable
And not see a child but a king
I wish I could hear back over the years
As heaven and nature sing, heaven and nature sing
Oh the love must have been overwhelming
2000 Decembers Ago

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W8K3OhxVSw

I Need a Silent Night

Are you feeling a bit rushed and pressured from your Christmas schedule and "to do" list? I can relate. Every year the demands of Christmas activities, shopping, decorating, baking, and wrapping seem more and more overwhelming. My heart longs for the simplistic peace of Christmases of yesteryear. Today, I listened to the Amy Grant song, I Need a Silent Night. The lyrics voiced my feelings about Christmas. All of the activities that barter for our time and attention are not worthy of either.

Christmas - the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ - is not about Christmas parties and cookies and presents. God wants us to find that silent night, to sit and read His Word or to have a heart to heart time of prayer with Him. He longs to hear our voices sing out our praises for Him. He longs for us to eliminate stress associated with His Celebration - Christmas. God wants us hear His voice through the chaos of the season, created by man but just easily eradicated by man. It is our choice to decide on what is truly meaningful to the celebration of Christmas and to grasp those traditions and dismiss and disregard all of the others.

LYRICS:

I've made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush
It breaks me till I push and shove

Children are crying while mothers are trying
To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line
What can I say?

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth, good will toward men?
Every shepherd's out in the field
Keeping watch over their clock by night

And the glory of the Lord shone around them
And they were so afraid
And the angels said fear not for behold
I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people
For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
To end this crazy day with a silent night

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OowjEFrSWfs

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dancing Through Life's Storms

I read the other day - Life isn't about how you survived the storm ..... it's about how you danced in the rain! Truth abounds in this statement. Life will always be saturated with storms. God's Word (the book of Acts) even tells us this fact - “We must, through many tribulations, enter the kingdom of God.”

All of us will suffer heartache, financial set-backs, illnesses, loss of love ones, or a multitude of life-changing, heart-breaking events. What allows some to walk victoriously through life's storms versus being ultimately defeated and destroyed, is certainly determined by HOW we dance in the rain of those storms.

My adult life has encountered many violent storms. We have nearly lost our daughters to medical happenings. We suffered a great financial loss due to the company going bankrupt for which my husband worked. A blood clot in my lung nearly killed me when I was 27 years old and five years later I learned that I had leukemia. My heart has broken as I've watched loved ones turn their backs on God. It's certainly not been a life paved with ease. Yet, I continue to dance. I continue to praise God in all of my life storms. I continue to have faith and allow God's peace and joy to infiltrate my heart, soul, and body. Thank You, Lord, for not allowing the torrential downpours of my life sweep me away from Your presence. AMEN.

An Update for Today: December 7, 2009

Thank you for your continued prayers. I am still awaiting the sinus culture results obtained nearly a month ago. Ugh! Fungal cultures take so long to grow out, be identified, and determine which drug is the most effective. I have had a cough and something lurking in my lungs for a couple of weeks now. It has not sounded like pneumonia to my doctor, so we continue to keep a close eye (and ear) on it.

I continue to battle the neutropenia (low neutrophils that fight infection). We are spacing the Neupogen injections to every 3-4 days, trying to get the most "bang for the buck"! Each injection costs over $400. We calculated the other day that our prescription card, through our insurance company, is paying for over $15,000 worth of medications per month for me (not counting our co-pays that we pay). I imagine I am on the insurance company's "we hope this patient dies before she bankrupts us" list.

Pain continues to be a troubling concern. I am battling pain on multiple fronts and without any narcotics pain medications (yet). Only by God's grace and strength can I endure it. There are days when I have to repeat over and over, "God help me. God help me." I know He hears this one-lined prayer breathed by His suffering child. And He does keep me going, somehow, someway.

Most concerning prayer requests that I currently have are: (1) tonight a red lump has arisen on my left eyelid and that is a new problem (infection?); (2) my hemoglobin was down in the 9 range on my last lab report. This makes breathing difficult and causes one to be extremely fatigued since hemoglobin carries the oxygen to the different organs and tissues of the body; (3) my platelets have dropped below the 100 level, so that promptly kicks me back to Stage IV leukemia.

Christmas Traditions


I treasure keeping traditions alive at Christmas. Just ask my family - I receive a great deal of harassment because I do not like to change the way we do things at the holidays. I believe our family traditions are precious gifts that I pass onto my children and grandchild. When I leave this earth, they will know what I did, why I did it, how I celebrated Christmas, what recipes I always cooked, and the events that I orchestrated each year for my family.

I have fallen behind with blogging, given the hecticness of all things Christmas! Last Friday night our middle daughter and son-in-law went to a favorite Christmas event with us. The flu outbreak has lessened a bit, so after discussing it with my doctor, I decided I would venture out (with a mask and gloves). I hadn't been anywhere since October 1 (except for doctors' appointments) so it was a delight!

Each year, a park about a 40 minute drive from us, opens its Pioneer Christmas Village. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a deep longing to have lived in pioneer days. I am a big fan of Little House on the Prairie, so this annual event combines many of my favorite things - family, log cabins decorated for Christmas, cold weather (and sometimes snow), and reflections of a simpler way of life.

It was 20 degrees by 7 PM last Friday. My hemoglobin is in the 9 range (very low which makes me short of breath and light headed). However, we trudged on - "over the river and through the woods" - to the cabins (well, we didn't cross a river). Candlelight welcomed us into the different cabins where families in period costumes decorated their trees or cooked caramel apples in Dutch Ovens over their fires. Fresh pine boughs decorated candle arrangements. My mind and eyes absorbed the simplistic beauty of it all.

We returned to our covered wagon, oops, I mean to our car and departed the village and returned to the highways. Cold we were - so cold that our daughter's mouth and brain disconnected for a moment and she informed us, "My froes are tozen!" (That would be "toes are frozen"!)

The evening reminded me of my favorite Little House on the Prairie episode, Christmas at Plum Creek.

Gingerbread Memories


Last night our oldest daughter and son-in-law visited. They arrived with supplies for us each to construct a gingerbread house. Our son-in-law, who has a bottomless pit for a stomach, requested homemade caramel corn. After locating my recipe, we began popping corn, making caramel corn, mixing royal icing for the gingerbread houses, and multiple other tasks. The kitchen began to take on the appearance of Mrs. Claus' kitchen (only much messier since I am certain the elves keep her kitchen neat and tidy despite multiple projects underway).

A couple of photos of my gingerbread house appear above.

Christ-Mas

I have never been politically correct and never regret it. I am proud to declare MERRY CHRISTMAS to all I encounter. There is no other reason for this season - except for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No matter what the government decides or changes in our country, I will always know the One True Reson for Christmas - Christ's arrival on this sinful earth to save each of our souls.

Many signs of the season have arrived. Today, I played in the season's first snow with my baby grandson. At fourteen months, it was the first time we made snowballs together and walked in the snow. Heaven on earth could have been no more precious. God's created snowfall blanketing our earth. Tiny hands created by Him, touching the snow, flinching at the cold, and trying to understand where the green grass had disappeared. He smiled at me. I smiled at him. And I know God was smiling down on both of us.

One True God

I base my current life and future life on the One True God. There is no other God besides Him. Scriptures from the Old Testament to the New Testament remind us of this vital truth. It is a truth that is empirical to the foundations of our faith. Deuteronomy 4:39 reminds us: "Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other."

Isaiah 45:5 declares: "I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God."

God is a jealous God. He is jealous for our souls and for our lives - He does not want to share our lives, our hearts, our passions with anything or anyone. Exodus 20:5 states, "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God." Pretty straight-forward declaration, isn't it? 2 Corinthians 11:2 instructs, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy."

The Mark Harris song, One True God, reminds of us the sole deity Whom we are to worship and serve. These lyrics remind us of the magnitude of God's power, creation, love, and forgiveness. All other deities pale in comparison. Listen to this song and its vivid reminders to each of us - the children God loves so dearly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXxHjsmmjdw

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Are We Too Busy?

I received this writing from a friend. There is so much truth in these words that I decided to post it on my Blog. I do not know the author. Our lives have become too busy. I pray that these words will speak loudly to each of our souls and remind us (especially at this hectic time of year) to take time to spend with the Lord. Satan wants nothing anymore than to distract and detour us from time spent with Him, in the Word, and in prayer.

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons.
In his opening address he said,

"We can't keep Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth..... We can't even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their SAVIOR. Once they gain that connection with JESUS, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners,
BUT steal their time, so they don't have time to develop a relationship with JESUS CHRIST."

"This is what I want you to do," said the devil:

"Distract them from gaining hold of their SAVIOR and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!"

"How shall we do this?" his demons shouted.

"Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds," he answered....

"Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow."

"Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles."

"Keep them from spending time with their children."

"As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!"

"Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice."

"Entice them to play the radio or I-Pod whenever they drive."
To keep the TV, DVDs, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly."
"This will jam their minds and break that union with CHRIST."

"Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers."
"Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day."
"Invade their driving moments with billboards."
"Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes."

"Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so their husbands will believe that outward beauty is what's important, and they'll become dissatisfied with their wives. "

"Give them Santa Claus to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas.

"Give them an Easter bunny so they won't talk about HIS resurrection and power over sin and death..."

"Even in their recreation, let them be excessive."

"Have them return from their recreation exhausted."

"Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on GOD'S creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead."

"Keep them busy, busy, busy!" "And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences."

"Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from JESUS."

"Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause."

"It will work!" "It will work!"

It was quite a plan! The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

Having little time for their GOD or their families.. Having no time to tell others about the power of JESUS to change lives.

I guess the question is…has the devil been successful in his schemes? You be the judge!!!!!

Does "BUSY" mean: B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-oke?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanking God

On this day when the spirit of thanksgiving runs throughout our nation, may each of us pause to thank God Almighty. I am thankful beyond description to my Heavenly Father for all He is to me and for all He has done for me. I don't often read The Message version of the Bible, but I like this Scripture as presented in The Message.

Colossians 3:14-15

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Thanksgiving Proclamation 1863

I stand in awe when I read speeches, proclamations and other writings by past Presidents of the United States. This Thanksgiving Proclamation, penned by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, is rich in references to God Almighty. How far our Great Nation has fallen in a century and a half. Consider the chance that a current government leader would author such a document today. Our country truly was founded on Christian principles. In God, I will trust, no matter the mess that is being made by leaders with hearts far from our Lord and Savior.

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the field of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than theretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony wherof I have herunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Patient Empowerment & Advocacy

Last month, while at the hospital to have blood cultures drawn, I had a discussion with the phlebotomist. After my routine orders to her to be cautious with sterile techniques to prevent contaminants in the cultures, the young woman asked me if I had lymphoma. I told her my official diagnosis is a leukemia/lymphoma diagnosis (CLL/SLL). She proceeded to tell me that her mother had recently had a stem cell transplant for lymphoma. A bond between us was instantly knitted as we shared the common connection of these vile diseases.

I was struck with concern and outrage when she told me that her doctors told her mother not to be on the Internet or researching her disease as she would have a worse outcome. My blood boiled. Had the Holy Spirit not opened my eyes to the wealth of medical knowledge and contacts available to me on the Internet, I believe I never would have lived this long. Most times, if a physician tells the patient something to this effect, he or she does not want the patient learning about his or her disease and challenging the physician.

I am empowered by gaining knowledge about my body, my disease, treatment options, the interpretation of laboratory and radiology reports, and the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infections. My family physician is one of the best physicians I have ever encountered. She has supported me and encouraged me as I have advocated for myself. I constantly maintain an active role in the management of my disease. She has encouraged me to enlist the use of alternative and complementary medicine. Despite declining health, we partner together to prevent other diseases and to support my body in every way possible.

Ongoing research, its findings now made more convenient and accessible by the Internet, is critical to surviving disease, procedures, and infections. Online drug interaction programs allow patients to double check their medications to be certain no interactions or warnings have been overlooked. Research being released is quickly available to the patient community. I use many online resources to remain abreast on late-breaking leukemia developments. Despite local oncologists' best efforts, we must remember that they are treating multiple types of cancer. There is no possible way for these physicians to remain abreast of every new drug or development for every type of cancer.

Compliant patients are easy for physicians. They just walk the course charted by the physician, never questioning, never doubting, never going against the flow of what the specific physician feels is in the best interest of the patient. With a serious diagnosis such as cancer, too much can be lost by not involving ourselves in our care.

It is not a comfortable task to become your own advocate in the world of health care. For generations, we have been instructed to go to the doctor, be examined, take our medications, and obey every order that is given. While hospitalized, we have been expected to lay in the beds and question not. Take a moment to review how many patients are killed each year by medication or medical errors, hospital acquired infections, and other mis-steps by the medical community. You will be enlightened.

As the threat of government run health care looms larger and larger, I will speak with certainty that each of us will be well advised to become stronger, more vocal health care advocates for ourselves. The squeaky wheel gets greased, so goes the old adage. Take for example, the Neupogen injections I take to support my immune function when my battered bone marrow cannot or will not produce neutrophils. Normally, I travel daily to the cancer center for these injections. And in the process, I walk into a doctor's office, exposing myself to germs I would rather avoid. Last week when I learned that I was in need of Neupogen again, I called the doctor's office, my insurance case manager, the pharmacy and the claims processor. I explained to them that it is in my best interest to self-inject this medication at home. After multiple conversations, I accomplished this task. Had I not advocated for what was best for me (avoiding daily trips to the cancer center), no one else would have done this for me.

I will tell you with complete confidence, if I had not gained the courage to become my own best health advocate, I would be dead today. I have unhooked my own IV and walked out of the local hospital in the middle of the night due to the negligent care I was receiving. I have turned down the recommendations of many oncologists over this 13+ year cancer journey. I have been told that if I refused treatment, that my bone marrow would fail in 3-6 months and I would be dead, dead, dead (that comment was made in 1999 when I refused treatment).

Mainstream medicine has mocked my treatments from Mexico, the Ukraine, and Canada. It has been critical of my use of acupuncture, Chinese massage and the use of multiple herbs, vitamins and other supplements. Yet, I have outlived the predictions of any physician.

Obviously, I give God all of the credit and glory for my longevity with cancer. By His courage and peace that the Holy Spirit imparts to me, I am able to stand up for myself and make my own decisions regarding all medical options.

I have learned that I (with God's guidance) can improve my medical outcomes by being an informed, empowered patient. I have a multi-faced collaborative team - God is the CEO; my family physician is the Company President; my varied physicians are all Department Heads; and my nurses organize, orchestrate, and assist me, the Chairwoman of the Board!

Tomorrow

Take courage.
We walk in the wilderness today
and in the Promise Land tomorrow.

--D.L. Moody

Sunday, November 22, 2009

City On Our Knees

"City on Our Knees" is Billboard's top Christian song this week. Its lyrics remind us of the power of prayer and how vital it is for Christians to intercede for our families, our cities, our nation, and our world. Lost people, without a Savior or hope of eternal life, need to hear the message of Christ. They need believers to pray fervently for their lives and hearts to be changed by the power of the Gospel message.

We need to fall to our knees in fervent prayer, with repentant hearts, and faith-filled walks, on behalf of the lost world. As Jesus walked this earth, lives were shaken to the core. He called common, ordinary men to be his disciples. And they listened and followed. Will we do the same? He has given us His instruction to "go make disciples of this world".

Part of these lyrics state "two worlds collide" - if we could only see with our physical eyes, the spiritual battle for each soul. As we take the time and effort to pray for our cities and those who are lost, collisions in the heavenlies occur. Good versus evil. God versus the devil. The hope of eternal life being threatened by a life spent in the pits of hell. Collisions of epic proportion occur.

Today, let us realize the significance and the value of being intercessors for our cities. God will honor our efforts. He will see our hearts' desires to see the lost forgiven and redeemed. Ephesians 6:12 teaches: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." There is a raging battle against the rulers of darkness in our age. Evil permeates movies, television, music, the written word, the spoken language, how lives are lived, all in efforts to rip eternal life from the reach of a prospective believer. God is counting on His children to be prayer warriors against these spiritual hosts.

As His disciples, He calls on us to be His partners - in prayer and in walking lives of holiness. When we fall to our knees for our cities, we will see these powers of wickedness disarmed and triumphed over by God Himself. Amazing opportunities await us as His disciples.

Take time to listen to this song and absord the lyrics. Envision a city falling to its knees, on behalf of those without a Savior or the promise of eternal life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFL2NDxF-CA

Another Birthday - God's Gift to Me

Last week, I celebrated another birthday. For most middle-aged women (on the downward slide toward age 50), another birthday is not always cause for celebration. However, as my November birthday rolls around each year, I am returned to the moment in which a 32 year old younger woman was told she had 3-5 years to live with leukemia. This year, I reflected on my May 2009 doctors' report that informed us that I am "end stage leukemia". Upon these reflections, another birthday becomes a treasure worth far more than silver or gold.

Among many life lessons, leukemia has taught me how to treasure moments, days, weeks, months and years. No matter if the time is fraught with difficulties, life challenges, disappointments, heartache, and pain, it is precious time alive here on earth to share with those I love. I reflect on Moses' death, the account which can be read in Deuteronomy 34: "Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished." That would mean another 74 years for me! And I would truly appreciate some of the natural vigor being restored!

I had a laugh with my hair stylist the other day. We were talking about aging and wrinkling and grey hair. I told her in my 30's, I figured no doctor was counting on me living until 40, so I paid absolutely no attention to face creams or care of my skin - I never thought wrinkles would be anything I would have to address. Wellll...... since I have continued on my life journey, wrinkles are appearing since the creams were ignored. And on my birthday, grey hairs were uncovered by the watchful eye of my youngest daughter (thank you, dear) who proceeded to pluck out the couple she found and then she placed them on my black shirt to verify their grey-ness.

It is true - I am aging with leukemia. I am grateful for the sustaining of my life that only can be attributed to my Heavenly Father. I am thankful for the numerous times, He has breathed new life into my struggling body. Thank You, Lord, for the gift of life.

Request for Prayer & An Update: November 22, 2009

Tomorrow, I will return for my all day IVIG treatment. This is the treatment that helps to support my immune system. And Heaven knows, with H1N1 at pandemic levels, I need all of the protection that I can obtain! A fellow CLL patient died this week from H1N1. This was a very sobering report to learn of and a vivid reminder of how dangerous H1N1 is to immunocompromised leukemia patients. Please pray that all goes well tomorrow.

I completed 10 days of Neupogen on November 14th. By November 16th, I was neutropenic once again (low infection fighting cells). Everyday, I was having to go to the cancer center for these expensive injections. Thus, daily exposing me to germs on the journey. After many telephone calls and another miracle by my insurance angel, the injections were approved for at-home use. Now, Kevin gives me the injections at home. When we went to pick the medication up at the pharmacy, the bill for 10 injections was $4,034. Currently, they are working well and I am not neutropenic.

I have had a cough now for 8 days. My lungs were "raspy" on Wednesday when I saw my doctor. We are keeping a close eye on this as I do not need pneumonia right now (or ever!)

The only other new development is increased pain concerns. I have coped with pain from several sources for sometime now. Fighting diligently, I have wanted to avoid narcotic pain medications and other medications with risks. Chronic, daily pain is very tiring to me. I am wearing multiple pain patches and receiving little benefit. Acupuncture takes the edge off of my pain, however, with all of the flu in the community, I have not been able to go out to the office for my weekly acupuncture.

Your continued prayers are treasured.

A Prayer for Today: November 22, 2009

Gracious Father,

Your Word instructs us: “Rejoice! Celebrate all the good things that God, your God, has given you and your family; you and the Levite and the foreigner who lives with you” (Deuteronomy 26:10). Today may we celebrate Your goodness and what You have done for all of us and our families. Thank You, Lord, for Your protection and provision for our families. Thank You, Lord, for Your loving kindness, forgiveness, and encouragement of all of us.

We are grateful for the mercy and grace You alone extend to us. Numbers 32:23 is clear in its instruction “be sure your sin will find you out”. We cannot hide our sins from an all-knowing God. Forgive us for our sins, Lord. We do not want sin in our lives to hinder our relationships with You.

I pray for my family and friends and as I review the list of needs and requests, my flesh could easily be overwhelmed. Yet, I am confident that these needs are under Your control. In the Message version of The Bible, Philippians 4:6, I find comfort in these words: “Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Thank You, for these Words, Lord. We will pray, and not worry, about each others’ needs. Swell confidence in our hearts so that we will not be shaken during times of great difficulties. Work together for good for each and every life battle of those we love. The list of needs is ever-growing. I lay this collective list at the foot of the cross and intercede for each one, Father. . Displace our worries. Reign supreme in each of our hearts.

In Jesus’ Mighty Name I pray. AMEN AND AMEN.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Update & Request for Prayer: November 13, 2009

We continue to await the culture results from the endoscope procedure I had performed on Monday. These results will influence many treatment decisions.

Tomorrow I will complete my ten day cycle of Neupogen treatments for neutropenia. Today my ANC was over 3000, so that is a definite improvement.

Discussions are underway regarding the possibility that I will have to face surgery inside my sinus cavities. Any type of surgery poses significant risks to me, given my immune status and leukemia (my platelets are currently low).

Please pray that these infections will resolve without surgical intervention and that my counts will improve.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Request for Prayer: November 9, 2009

It has been one of those days (and night). I was awake feeling very poorly all night. I ran a temperature and then would chill. I was very nauseated and had a bad headache.

My family doctor told me to stop by for a CBC and blood cultures. When my regular nurse saw me, she asked the doctor to come see me. The doctor examined me and is concerned. We cannot fathom how I can be taking so many antifungals, antibiotics, and antivirals and be this ill.

She did a flu swab, to err on the safe side, and it was negative (not surprising since I am taking Tamiflu).

She called the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) specialist in Indianapolis and he agreed to see me today at 4. I went onto the cancer center to receive Day 5 of Neupogen (injections that increase infection fighting neutrophils) and then decided there was no way I could drive myself to Indianapolis. My medical chauffeur, Dad, was called into action.

On the drive to Indianapolis, my family doctor called to tell me I am still neutropenic despite 5 days of Neupogen. And my platelets were 77,000. She wasn't certain what the thresh hold would be for the endoscope to be performed.

The ENT said he would go ahead with the endoscope (scope that goes up through the nose into the sinus cavities) with that platelet level. He sampled from the ethmoid sinus (between the eyes). Not a pleasant experience, but nothing compared to the sinus puncturing procedure I have endured many times. He did not see any sign of invasive fungal involvement, which was a relief since fungal infections in an immune compromised host can become invasive and destroy tissue, erode bone, and other nasty tricks.

However, he is of the same thought that we are - why the infections are not resolving with so many medications. We will have the bacterial cultures back late this week but (as we know) the fungal cultures may take a few weeks.

I am waiting to hear back from my family physician to see what the next step will be - trying at all costs to avoid an admission to the hospital.

Please pray for God to protect me from developing sepsis and for the precise drug to be determined to eradicate these long-lasting infections (almost the entire year of 2009 has been filled with fighting these infections).

14 Months & Counting

Today Lil Man turns fourteen months old. I received a video of him driving his John Deere tractor (battery operated) that we purchased for him for Christmas last year. At 14 months (and with the help of a bit of tape under the "gas pedal") he is driving it like a champ!

He is full of new sounds, gestures, and "tricks". He has become a milk aficionado and stands in front of the refrigerator saying, "Millllll"! That is Lil Man lingo for milk! At the mall yesterday, he noticed a baby girl with her milk bottle and kept repeating, "Mil!" He reminds me of his Mommy when she was a baby girl who would request, "Mo Mil" (more milk) when her bottle was empty.
He fills my heart with such joy and happiness. My heart smiles when I see him, hear his voice, and feel his hugs. God has answered many prayers for us and continues to bless Lil Man.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Update & Request for Prayer: November 5, 2009

I received the desensitization for the new antibiotic with no complications. However, I was running a 100 degree fever (with Tylenol) which is very elevated for me.

The urine culture was clear, so the fever is not related to that.

The CBC showed that I am neutropenic again and Neupogen was started -- daily injections to boost my infection-fighting white cells(aka neutrophils). These are the injections that cause me to have severe bone pain and I was just enlisted for a ten day "tour of duty" to receive these.

I am going to attempt to get an order for blood cultures tomorrow. Please pray that we uncover any infection that might be lurking and that these fevers will resolve quickly.

What God Wants

1 John 2:15 (The Message)
Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.


What does God want us to do? Many people stumble through life, never knowing God's road map for our lives is within reach - His Holy Word. Yet, even those who profess Him as their Lord and Savior often fail to read and study these God directives.

This passage of Scripture found in I John 2:15 details instructions for us on how to be "set for eternity". First, don't love the world's ways. What are the world's ways? Anything that is contradictory to God's Word - stealing, murder, drunkenness, vile movies and music, lying, unforgiveness, coveting, immodest dress, speaking contrary to God's Word - are just a few examples.

As this verse indicates, if we love the world's ways, that is going to "squeeze out love for the Father". Think on this ...... have you noticed that when we surround ourselves with those who are strong in the Lord; when we purposefully read and study our Bibles; when we carve out time in our hectic lives to pray; and when we avoid activities that are displeasing to God, how much smoother our life journeys become?

When we are walking in disobedience, we are "isolated from Him". I don't know about you, but with the tremendous needs I have, I do not ever want to be isolated from my Heavenly Father. In my heartache, I don't want to be isolated from His comfort and peace. In a shaky economy, I do not want isolated from His provision and favor. On days when I slip and mess up (sin), I do not want isolated from my Father's forgiveness.

Are the temptations and ideology of this world going to isolate you from God? Nothing in this world is worth that to me. What about you?

Coping: God's Way

I read some informative tips presented by a physician on a cancer website. In his opinion, these tips offer ways in which the cancer patient can cope and maintain sanity on the cancer journey. However, as I reviewed them, I realized that many of the tips were very helpful while others were contradictory to God's Word. The tips are in standard font and my reflections are written in bold, italicized font.

"Make a list of blessing in your life on an index card - what you have to be thankful for. Read it often."

This is not a bad tip at all. In the Bible, God commanded His children to erect memorial stones to be a reminder to them of the great things He had done. Joshua 4 instructed the Israelites: "And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” During many difficult times, I have had to mentally construct my own Memorial Stone - a list of everything God has done for me in my lifetime.

Cancer does not take everything from you, even if the future is unsure.

True enough - cancer has taken a great deal from me, yet I am certain it cannot rob me of everything - my faith, my hope, my eternal destination, and my peace are a few of the untouchables that I will not allow the enemy to take from me. The enemy comes to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10), but God is so much bigger. And our futures can be secure IF we have accepted Christ as our Savior. John 3:15 states: "Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." It is settled, I believe in Him, have confessed my sins and my future is not unsure.

Your activities are as important as your thoughts.

I must disagree with this tip. Our thought life plays such an immense role in the cancer journey. Often times, in the midst of having negative reports spewed at me continually, I must return to those principles God asks us to meditate (think) upon. "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9).

Depression has a lot of trouble finding a moving target, it's outstanding at hitting a stationary one.

This statement is completely accurate. Being able to live life fully in the presence of a cancer diagnosis is a staggering challenge. Our flesh wants to fold and crumple to the floor and remain there. However, God, when asked, will give each of us the fortitude, courage, strength, and will to live life fully - engaged in social, cognitive, and physical activity. By His Words and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, God has enabled me to remain a moving target - one that the enemy's fiery darts struggle to hit.

Crawling into an isolation hole is a huge risk. Try to avoid it.

Isolating ourselves makes us a prime target for the enemy to attack. He sees us isolated, without encouragement from others, and he sends his spirits of doubt, fear, negativity, and hopelessness. God is straight-forward to instruct us "do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25). God is certain that our lives are enriched and enhanced when we have fellowship with family and friends. Stay out of that isolation hole!

Work on your bucket list.

The bucket list philosophy was made famous by the recent movie with the same title. I made a bucket list but achieving its goals proved to just add stress to my life. My Bucket List was just lofty thinking and dreaming, rather than being content with life as I have it today. Contentment ranks high in God's eyes. Philippians reminds us of these vital teachings of the Apostle Paul: "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Update & Request for Prayer: November 4, 2009

I have been running a temperature since yesterday. I do not appear to have the other symptoms of H1N1, so I don't believe that is the cause of the fevers. Nevertheless, tomorrow I will return to the cancer center to be desensitized to yet another drug. This will take about 5 hours. Please pray that I do not have any serious reactions to the new drug and the the fevers will quickly resolve.

I cannot believe that I have not been able to shake these fungal and bacterial sinus/lung infections. I am closing in on one year of this battle. I am currently taking 4 antibiotics and 2 antifungals. I am taking these drugs in pill form, nasal spray form, and two of the drugs using intranasal washings. I pray another round of daily IV treatments is not looming for me.

I will consult with an ENT in Indianapolis on the 16th. I anticipate that he will want to perform an endoscopic examination to collect more samples for culturing.

My WBC has remained in the normal range, however, other counts such as my platelets have moved me back to Stage IV from Stage II. This leukemia is a very strange performer. How can I have a normal WBC yet be in Stage IV? Tomorrow, I will have additional labs drawn to be certain I am not neutropenic while experiencing fevers - not a good combination.

Please pray for our family as H1N1 has hit very close to home.