Everyday miracles.

Wednesday night. It’s February 1st — 2/1/12 (cool number date!). Tomorrow is Lee Anne’s birthday — how in the world has it been 25 years since she was born? First point: birth is such an amazing miracle! A new life, with all the wonder and promise and hope of that precious life. When the grandparents-to-be tell the parents-to-be that their lives will never be the same, that is just a huge understatement.

When Lee Anne came into this world, she was an early one — 6 weeks premature. Her due date was March 13th. It was going to be a first in our immediate family to have a March birthday: at that time, we had February birthdays, summer birthdays, but none in March. However, towards the end of January it became clear to my doctor that blood pressure problems had suddenly surfaced and would probably rearrange that schedule. As it turned out, a few days later he had to induce labor to deliver the baby in order to deal with my skyrocketing blood pressure. Don’t know why it happened but it did — my doctor explained that it was a known complication with an unknown cause. And, in this particular case, it was one of those worst-case-scenarios. Even after the birth when we should have both been out of the danger zone, I proceeded to have excessive bleeding complications. The experience is still so clear: I had the absolute knowledge of being present with the Lord, praising Him and thanking Him for my life. I can’t explain exactly, but there was no desire to cling to this life — more a feeling of wonder and gratefulness, and there was no fear, just a confirmation of God’s goodness — His goodness in ALL things.

Even though we may not see “good” from our vantage point, that doesn’t mean that there is no good inherent in a situation or circumstance. Even when the turn-of-events goes the “wrong” way, good can come shining through in unexpected ways. It may take a while, but walking hand-in-hand with the Lord means we can trust that His purpose will prevail.

So many miracles became evident as the days wore on. Like the revelation of how God causes a mother’s body to provide extra-rich milk when there is a premature birth. Like the fact that “Baby Girl” and I were both ready to leave the hospital, about two weeks later, on the same day. Like the fact that there were/are medicines to control blood pressure, and even if they must be taken every day for the rest of my life, I’m so thankful for them! Yes, we actually left the hospital without a name for our new beloved baby girl, but we soon agreed upon a name. However, since we had already left the hospital, we had to sign an official name form, get it notarized, and send it in to a specific State of GA office. For future reference, it’s much easier to name a baby before leaving the hospital!

There were two adorable and adoring big brothers awaiting the new baby when we got home that day. They had to adjust to a mom who was out of commission for quite a while, but time passed and soon our lives were back on track. We just never know what’s ahead — over time, trusting in Christ has become the one essential in order to keep on going forward with hope and purpose.

Just today I visited a friend in the hospital who had to have surgery for a broken hip from an accident with her dog, of all things. We just can’t see these things coming! She exhibited such a positive attitude, portraying her depth of faith that God would help her through this trial, just as He has with other trials in her life before this. As I left the hospital, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to hit the rewind button and undo the accident before it ever happened?” Do you ever think, “Could I just have a ‘redo’ and avoid the very thing that was a mistake?” While we can’t undo life as it unfolds — we can’t anticipate the consequences from certain actions that we or others take or thwart accidents before they happen — we can choose to look upward towards our heavenly father who loves us and causes all things to work together for good, for those who love Him. And that’s when, if we are paying attention, we start noticing the miracles!

Excerpts from Romans 8 (The Message): Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them — living and breathing God! Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God … that person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? I’m absolutely convinced that nothing — nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable — absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

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Reflections, 2011

Saturday morning. December 31st: today it’s 73 degrees — truly gorgeous sunny weather. This is when it’s great to be in Texas! The oppressive heat and record-breaking drought of this past summer seem a distant memory.

It’s New Year’s Eve. Seriously, how did that come upon us so quickly? It seems like the time from Thanksgiving through Christmas and the week-after-Christmas literally flew by. Typically, on New Year’s Eve and throughout the weeks leading up to it, one tends to ponder what the past year has wrought (there’s an archaic term for ya!). For certain, I have been mulling it over.

Jim and I drove over to Dallas from NC on Dec. 10-11 (a two day drive), with our sweet dog who had recently gone through knee surgery just after Thanksgiving. The surgery went well, but it’s a 10-12 week recovery so that’s the real issue. It’s not easy to keep her restrained and inactive, especially as she begins to feel better. And, she is so inactive that we must cut back on her food, so she seems starved by the time we feed her, twice a day. Growing up, we only fed our dogs once a day — but I think that is not so fun for the dog, especially if they love to eat like our Lab does.

We arrived at home two weeks before Christmas. I admit that I was tempted to just put the wreaths on the double front doors and call it a day…. but in the end, we got our Christmas tree out of storage and put the usual Christmas decor all around, so when the day actually arrived, we seemed prepared.

(It’s now Monday night, January 2nd….) Happy New Year!!!

Jack could only be here for three days over Christmas but we loved every minute of it. Rob had more time off from work so he was able to be here almost two weeks. It was wonderful to have time together as a family. Lee Anne seems glad for the chaos of having us back in town.

I’ve been thinking back on 2011, as well as 2010, because they kind of ran together. These past two years have surely left an impression. I’ve always tried to focus on my main “jobs” of being a wife, mother, CEO of family operations, daughter, sister, in-law, staying involved with friends, trying to serve the Lord, and busy with life. Going through the death of both of my parents and then walking through our son’s intense cancer battle with him (wishing all the while it were me suffering the physical and emotional trauma instead of him) took some doing! The only way to have survived intact has been through God’s power, grace, and His daily presence providing the necessary strength to survive. I’d say the family has not only survived but has come out on the other side with more understanding of how to live daily with hope and joy. It’s important to give credit where credit is due: divine intervention.

I’ve also been thinking of the word proud.

In many ways pride has negative connotations – as in pride cometh before the fall. Pride is often the very thing that separates people – as in being too prideful to forgive or apologize.

But, being proud of our kids — doesn’t that fall into a different category? I suppose many parents, as well as grandparents, identify with this trait. As for Rob, he has not only endured and persevered but seems to be accepting his new status as a cancer survivor / amputee as well as anyone possibly could — yes, I’m proud of this quality and achievement of his. And I must add that we are quite proud of all three of our children. While we are happy for their accomplishments, we are ultimately proud of them for who they are and for the values they embrace.

On Jan. 1st, 2010, I had no inkling what that year would hold, and as for Jan. 1st, 2011, being in the midst of Rob’s cancer treatment in New York, I wasn’t thinking far ahead at all — all we could do was deal with what was immediately on our plate. Actually, it was a good lesson on how to live in the moment. Now, as 2012 gets underway, if we’re honest, we have absolutely no idea what lies ahead.

So, as we embark on another year, how shall we face it? Shall we not all adopt an attitude of joy? There’s good reason to hope, good reason to make resolutions, good reason to give God all the glory, as He provides daily for our most important needs.

What are our most important needs? What are our most important tasks? 2012 will unfold and then things will become clear.

Psalm 36:5-6 — Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.

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Having enough.

Monday morning. It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving — Cyber Monday, apparently. I am getting bombarded with e-mails alerting me to the fact that IF I will order items online, I can get all sorts of percentages off of the purchases AND free shipping! However, I’m not spending time shopping online today, nor did I tackle shopping on Black Friday. I’m planning to start back on some important paperwork that has waited patiently for me to get back to it.

We’ve had a house-full of family here at the beach for the entire Thanksgiving week and it’s been wonderful — thank you, Lord! My cup runneth over. All three kids were here, as well as Jim’s mom and sister. We also were able to see many of the NC cousins on Saturday night, as there was a Flotilla and Fireworks celebration at Wrightsville Beach, and it just so happened that our upper deck proved to be the place-to-be for excellent viewing!

There is so much to be thankful for — I’ve spent the past week being deeply cognizant of just how far we’ve come since a year ago, when we were at the start of Rob’s chemo, just about to move into our NY apartment, and there was so much unknown territory still ahead of us. NOW — Rob has survived an intense and tough battle with cancer. The fact that he is minus his right leg is difficult, but it’s truly amazing to witness his continuing courage as he has endured cancer and amputation, and now as he is enduring the aftermath. Living daily with challenges is an ongoing deal — in other words, it’s not “over” when the final chemo is done, when the medi-port is removed, when the first hair cut is required… as there are still hurdles that must be faced. Rob is presently experiencing intense nerve pain, different from phantom pain which comes and goes with regularity. Following amputation, the nerves can continue to grow in the residual limb. If this happens, then they can bunch up and become a bundle-of-nerves (funny, that “saying” describes an all-pervasive state of mind, and he’s having the literal experience of it!). This bundle is extremely painful, so much so that Rob has been unable to wear his prosthesis for many weeks now. The problem there is that the longer he goes without wearing it, the less likely that he can fit back into it, etc., etc — it’s a vicious cycle. So, the first order of business for him upon returning to Atlanta this week is to try to get this nerve pain squelched so he can get back to wearing his prosthesis as soon as possible. Time becomes an enemy now — the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to get back to the place he needs to be. So, he’s focused on getting it fixed.

This reminds me of the story of Jonah (I’ve recently completed an excellent Bible study on Jonah, by Priscilla Shirer) — we make our plans, but life can definitely come along and disrupt those plans. It’s best to be open to alternate plans at all times! This isn’t easy, of course. And, as a mom, I would choose every time to shelter my kids from life’s tough blows. Surely Rob has been through enough over the past year, so now — does this seem fair? Shouldn’t things go smoothly for him? Hasn’t he shown his fortitude and stamina and good attitude through it all and now — shouldn’t he be rewarded by having some smooth sailing? Well, that’s just magical thinking. And to be honest, none of us are promised smooth sailing. If it is happening now for you, be very, very thankful! Yet, be ever on alert (maybe it’s more accurate to say, “Be ready!”) for the winds may (will) change! Of course, I’m not saying we should live fearing the future, because that’s no way to live. On the contrary, trusting God with our lives means that we can anticipate with hope what is ahead, even though we can’t see farther than this moment in time.

The fact that God is in control relieves all sorts of anxious thoughts. It would be most scary if I thought I had to be the one in charge — I’m quite sure I’d make a mess of it. If we could write a script, wouldn’t it include: no sickness, for sure – no cancer, no sadness, no famines, no tragedies of any proportion, no destructive hurricanes/tornadoes/fires/droughts/floods/earthquakes/tsunamis/typhoons/avalanches…? The list could go on and on. Well, that’s not the way this life goes, and so we must always look farther than our own comfort for the deeper joys. And we must look farther than this life for the ultimate healing. It was expressed in a recent sermon that we should always hope and pray for “enough” for those we love: enough of what we deem “good” and enough of what we’d regard as “bad” — for without both we wouldn’t have any understanding or appreciation at all.

I remember as a child when I would on occasion begin to whine and complain about whatever it is that little girls whine and complain about, my mother would somehow gently bring the conversation back around to the point of counting our blessings, and to just look at how many blessings we did have. It’s the best way to see that whatever deficits we may perceive, we truly have more than enough. (More-than-enough: that includes too much food during Thanksgiving week…)

I Peter 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In God’s great mercy he has caused us to be born again into a living hope, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Now we hope for the blessings God has for his children. These blessings, which cannot be destroyed or be spoiled or lose their beauty, are kept in heaven for you.

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Homecoming.

Thursday. I used to always associate home with where my parents lived, where my sister and I grew up. That was home.

I recently looked up the definition of home: the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household; a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.

The definition includes the idea that home is not only where one originates, it’s where one flourishes. Not every home is perfect — well, not even one is perfect. But, in the midst of all the imperfections and stumbles, mistakes and apologies, it’s a true blessing when love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness are there — that’s when flourishing takes place.

Homecoming: Jim and I traveled over to Winston-Salem for Homecoming at Wake Forest the weekend before last. Interesting how “at home” we feel on the college campus after all these years! And I am just certain that the reason Homecomings are celebrated in the fall is because that’s when the weather is generally spectacular with blue, blue skies, crisp weather, amazingly colorful leaves that have not, as yet, fallen from the trees. The campus seemed to hum with excitement, filled with returning alumni strolling around, rekindling old memories while creating new ones. Then at church this past Sunday, it was Homecoming Sunday. The service was highlighted by a sermon from a former beloved pastor who camped on the whole idea of coming home. He gave a definition of home as the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in. Let’s hope that the opening-of-the-door includes some happiness that you have arrived!

Speaking of home: our house in TX is on the market. It’s been our home for the past 16 years, although we’ve been largely absent over the past five and a half years. Still, the memories of our lives lived under that roof (which, yes, we did replace…) will always evoke home to us. It’s been unusual for us to live in one place for so many years; heretofore, we’ve moved every two to three years. Our first move, in 1983, was just two hours up the road. In some ways it was the hardest one as the adjustments required were not familiar to me yet. Over the years, some things about moving became routine — having to learn my way around in a new city (not so easy for those of us who are directionally challenged!), jumping into activities before knowing anyone just to meet people, having to step outside of my comfort zone, finding out that I could do things I didn’t know I could do…. Establishing a home: it’s not so much about the house, condo, apartment, or tent, even — it’s the love of those who dwell within which defines it and provides the anchor.

With our house on the market, Jim and I are temporarily in NC for the fall months. I guess it’s caused me to think a lot about where home actually is. Growing up, “home” seemed so permanent, since we did not move all around the globe. But my kids have had a different experience. I am guessing they see “home” as more temporary in nature. Or they look deeper for the permanence. I remember one time asking Jack what his answer would be when asked where he was from. He had just returned from summer camp, and we had only lived in Dallas for a year. He said he always answered wherever he lived, so his answer was Dallas, even though he had lived in seven different homes in other cities… and I thought, “good answer!” *(sidenote: tonight my brother-in-law, sister, and I got to talking about the proverbial tortoise and the hare, and we all had a good laugh when he pointed out how lucky the tortoise is that he never has to pay a mortgage since he carries his home on his back. He is always at home, no matter where he goes! Ha!)

I love the Carrie Underwood song — the words go something like this: “this is my temporary home, it’s not where I belong… just a stop on the way to where I’m going…” Yes! It’s so true! No matter where we originated, grew up, lived the longest, live presently, may move — there is a temporary nature to home in this life. We have a destination ahead, not on this earth, and that is our true home! Just remembering this important fact helps me to feel God’s anchor, no matter where we are.

Psalm 84: 1-4 How lovely is Your dwelling place, LORD of Hosts. I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young near Your altars, LORD of Hosts, my King and my God. How happy are those who reside in Your house, who praise You continually.

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Fighting battles.

Friday. To quote my son: “Cancer is an interesting thing. It takes you on a journey into the depths of who you are and really makes you look at what is important in life…” (a quote from his blog, survivingsarcoma.com). Interesting, indeed! He’s so right, of course. He has been there. While I was right beside him, trying to live it “with” him, wishing I could live it “for” him, he was the one actually down in the trenches. He is the one who can now identify with anyone who is battling or has battled cancer. For sure, the treatment is like waging war. For sure, the whole routine is invasive in a way that nothing else is — the chemo invades the body to attack it and kill off all the new growth of cells. The definition of chemotherapy is the treatment of disease by the use of chemical substances, especially the treatment of cancer by cytotoxic and other drugs. The word “toxic” kinda jumps off the page, and it is the main purpose of chemo — toxicity being injected into the bloodstream in an attempt to stop the progression of the other deadly poison that is present: a malignancy.

I think that once someone has entered that room where only cancer patients are admitted, often they develop a certain mindset, complete with extra compassion and a true burden for others. It comes with the territory. It’s not a bad thing, either. As a Christian, I am called to be burdened for others — yet, there’s no teacher as effective as experience. The thorns-in-the-flesh of all sorts should deepen us and grow us into becoming more caring and compassionate people, even to the point of considering it a privilege… (James 1).

My nephew, Cole, will be heading into a different type of battle next week. He is being deployed to Afghanistan. While I feel at a loss for words for him, I will be praying non-stop for his safety while traveling over there, while there, and that he will safely return back home. This is my nephew whom I love going there, and I’m feeling a little over-protective right now, wishing he wouldn’t go! Haven’t told him that, of course. And, I surely am not even coming close to the same feelings that his parents have. My sister and her husband are quite proud of him, rightly so; and they know that this is exactly what Cole has trained for and chosen to do — serve his country in the military. I speak for my whole family when I say that we are so very proud of him. Yet, he’s soon to be “in the trenches” as a deployed soldier. As I see it, all of those deployed and serving in our military are heroes, willing to go into battle. No matter what their role, they are brave beyond measure.

So, is there a connection between cancer treatment and deployment to Afghanistan? Well, by the time Cole returns, he’ll be changed — he’ll identify with other soldiers in a way that those who haven’t served cannot do. He’ll be deeper in his understanding of the thin line between life and death. He’ll have faced the hard reality of danger. He’ll have had to call upon God for strength, endurance, help, and salvation.

Yes, I believe there is a connection.

James 1:2-5 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.

Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 12 I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.

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Travel mercies.

Saturday. It’s 9-10-11! Cool number date today!

Such a fast week we’ve had this past week! It was one of those weeks that flew by way too quickly — I wished for it to stretch out as long as possible. The opposite hasn’t been happening much lately, but I remember days long ago that felt as slow as molasses, back in those younger years when time felt vast and plentiful.

Today Jack, Jim, and I are driving over to attend the Wake/NC State game in Winston-Salem. It’s a sunny, low-humidity, 84 degree day, and we are hoping for a victory.

I noticed when Rob was with us last weekend that, after his chemo-induced baldness, his hair has now fully returned. Initially it seemed to come back the same as before chemo — until he got a haircut. After the hair trim, somehow it is now curly! Obviously I’m biased since I’m his mom, but I must say he looks rather handsome with curly hair! He is still working with the new prosthetist in Atlanta, trying to get a socket that doesn’t hurt so much. When we initially heard it could take up to a year to have a stabilized leg size, I guess that wasn’t an exaggeration.

– It’s now Saturday night: Wake won! It was a great game, and went down to the wire, as Wake tends to do. Just keeping it dramatic so we fans don’t lose interest.

Today, when asked what our immediate plans are, I found myself describing it this way: it feels like we are being swept along in a fast-flowing current. It’s hard to predict what is around the corner, but things are fast-changing, so the best thing to do is to settle down in the boat, try to relax, and enjoy the ride!

Having gone through various trials recently, it keeps me mindful of the many folks with whom we have had the privilege of coming into contact who are still in the midst of their difficult days. Humbly I pray for God’s help and strength for each of them. There are so many, but the Lord knows them all as well as their individual struggles. Please join me in praying for them: Marty, Scott, Mike, Jarret, Yaprak, John’s family, and many others….

Excerpts from Psalm 33 (v. 13-14, 20-22) The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

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Milestones.

Thursday night. As a little girl, I was afraid of the dark. I don’t think I made a big thing of it, but I remember needing to have a night-light turned on somewhere, or a closet light turned on with the door cracked, or some source of light coming into my dark bedroom in order to feel safe enough to settle down and go to sleep. You just never knew who or what might have been lurking… and then there was always the dreaded area under the bed, where strange things might have come out if the room was too dark…. There was a sense of safety that the light provided which disappeared if the room was too dark.

Yesterday was Jack’s birthday — and he is still here in Wrightsville Beach with us for the week. It’s the best way to celebrate a birthday — all week long! However, there’s no way he’s enjoying it as much as Jim and I are! Last weekend, all three kids + Ashley came here for the Labor Day weekend, so Jim and I bee-lined it over here as soon as we could get all our ducks-in-a-row in TX! We arrived on Sunday afternoon, making the 2-day drive with Scout, who seems quite thrilled to be back on the beach. I wonder if she had a sense of where she was going when we started the long drive from TX to NC?

Today marks one-year: it was one year ago today that my mother died. I’m trying not to re-live the details of just how shocked and grief-stricken I was that particular night upon hearing the news, but instead, trying to focus on how much I loved her and how glad I am that she was my mother. Fanester thinks it’s not particularly good or healthy to celebrate death dates as if they are birthdays, and I tend to agree with her. But, any way you look at it, the first year is a milestone, including the first Mother’s Day & Father’s Day without my parents, the first Christmas, as well as their birthdays and my birthday — days that would have been so different had they still been living. Jim’s father died 12 years ago in a few days… it hardly seems possible that it’s been that long ago. I’m so thankful that our kids were able to know and love and be loved by all four of their grandparents. Neither Jim nor I knew our grandfathers — they died before we were born.

Having both my parents live well into their elderly years was not only a blessing, but for me, I guess it was rather like having that night-light on — providing a sense of safety, just enough light so as to not become afraid. Even in taking on the caregiver role, I felt aligned with the ones who had, for all my life, protected me from the darkness. Thankfully, knowing Christ means that I can still feel fully protected, truly safe, knowing the One who not only provides the light — He IS the light!

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 9:5 But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.

John 12:46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.

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The weather.

Saturday night. Weather extremes: today Hurricane Irene has been wreaking havoc on the eastern coast of the US, but it is also just another way-above-100-degrees-day in Texas, where there has been NO rain to speak of in I-don’t-know-how-long! Not far away, there is way too much rain, and here in TX there is a desperate need for rain. But, as we all know, there is just nothing to be done about the weather but to stand in awe of it and to know we are not the ones in control. The “weather channel” folks seem to relish times like this: people cannot get enough of the news when there is a weather event, such as Irene.

Our place in NC has apparently survived. Thanks to a fine fellow who does our house repairs, our windows are covered with storm shutters and the outside deck furniture has been moved indoors, all done before Irene arrived. We’ve learned that we lost roof shingles and had some flooding, as well as some other minor things which can all be fixed. I think the area is also without electrical power. So, we’ll return soon to get started on those repairs, and finish up the lingering repairs from the lightning strike. We’ve now had this happen twice — once four years ago in Plano, and this one in NC at the end of June (with less resulting damage). Strange that we’ve had two homes get struck by lightning. We were not at home either time. Thankfully, they did not burn to the ground!

Rob is still focused on getting a good socket fit for his prosthesis — it continues to hurt him quite a bit, so that’s an ongoing work-in-progress. But, he’ll be so thrilled when it does finally fit him well — he will never take it for granted, that’s for certain!

Lee Anne is now employed — it’s in the photography field, which she loves. It dawned on me the other day that right now, all three of our kids are employed and enjoying their jobs… another reason to give God praise!

Praying for the East Coast folks as they continue to weather the storm and the aftermath of Irene….

– from Psalm 148
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you large sea animals and all the oceans,
8 lightning and hail, snow and mist, and stormy winds that obey him,
9 mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle, crawling animals and birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations, princes and all rulers of the earth,
12 young men and women, old people and children.
13 Praise the Lord, because he alone is great.

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Re-entry.

Saturday night. Jim and I have been back in Texas for 13 days now…. and it’s been very hot! We have witnessed the end of the consecutive-days-over-100-degrees which occurred on Thursday. If it had held up through today, I think we would have either tied or broken the record set in 1980. Oh, well! Suffice it to say, it’s been very hot in Dallas, TX!

The most important news I have is this: Rob had his first follow-up scan on Monday, and the results came back clear! Thank you, Lord! When sarcoma spreads, it tends to show up first in the lungs. His last scan, done in May, showed a small spot in his lungs which Dr. Rosen felt was not anything more than blood vessels converging, but he said that the next scan would clarify it. Thankfully, the news was good! Rob will continue to have scans every three months for the time being.

Scout (our yellow Lab) continues to shed her coat like there’s no tomorrow. She seems to have some sort of skin allergy to the ocean. Last summer she did this after spending several weeks at the beach, and it started again this year when she came with us to the beach in July. She loves riding on the boat, running on the beach, jumping over the waves, swimming, etc. But, her skin seems to have rebelled — she sheds and sheds and sheds, as well as getting crazily itchy. The vet in NC said that this is not all that uncommon. After three weeks of pills the shedding seemed to slow down a bit, but now it has returned. It’s amazing that she has any fur left, and it’s wonderful that someone invented the Swiffer.

This past week has included several doctor appointments — we’re playing catch-up since we’ve kind of ignored our own health issues over the past year or so. I’ve posted all sorts of reminder notes on the refrigerator to make sure that the various appointments don’t get all muddled up! And, speaking of things getting muddled up, today even Jim admitted that he’s having trouble remembering where everything is in our kitchen — it made me feel better about my own confusion! I guess we are such creatures of habit that when we go this long without reinforcement, habits are broken…. so, just where is that can opener?

It’s been heart-warming to get together with friends upon our return. I’ve discovered that life continued to move forward in our absence, just as it should have. While we were away, a few folks kept us “in the loop” with details about what was going on, while others probably considered that we were far too busy in NY with cancer treatment to care about what was happening back at home. This is what I’d like to address. Hoping to NOT hurt any feelings, let me just say: they couldn’t be more wrong. It’s one thing to be out of town, basically on another planet, dealing with cancer, chemo, radiation, hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, etc. But it’s another thing altogether to feel out of touch. It was actually helpful during those “outer space days” to be reminded of the everyday details of normal life. I loved knowing that things were going along status-quo for my family and friends. Somehow it helped to know that the earth was still spinning on its axis just as it always has — somewhere in the world! So, I hope to remember in the future, when folks I care about will inevitably go through difficult days, that in letting them know that, say, the power went out for over 12 hours, or some other non-essential tidbit of news, it might help them to feel more included and not-so-far-removed from their life as they knew it to be.

Re-entry is defined as “the action or process of re-entering something” (like your country of origin) OR “the return of a spacecraft or missile into the earth’s atmosphere.” We have re-entered, and it feels more like the second definition!

Isaiah 40:26-31 Look at the night skies: who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name — so magnificent! so powerful! — and never overlooks a single one? Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

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Expiration dates.

Tuesday afternoon. It’s August 2nd, the day the government might have come to an end… or something like that. Well, it hasn’t and I don’t suppose it will. It’s rather exhausting to watch the seemingly very-important-folks in our nation’s capital posture and carry on about their very-important-jobs and such. It’s my humble opinion that we all have important jobs to do, and it’s important to do them as well as possible, thereby not letting down those who are depending on us. So, today the government has not expired.

An update: last week Jim took a few days off from work: we fished, went to a movie, played Scrabble, and just generally relaxed. It was a much needed low-key week. On Friday afternoon, we left the beach, driving over to Atlanta to spend some time with family there as we made our way towards Texas. After arriving in Atlanta on Friday evening, Rob (who has undergone a State of GA driving evaluation and is now approved to drive with his left foot) drove us over to a nearby golf range which stays open until 10:30 pm. Jack met us there, and the two of them hit a ton of balls. It was amazing to watch Rob working on his golf swing and to see how well he can hit the ball! (Jack was hitting quite well, also, but he isn’t having to adjust to a new challenge, of course.) Saturday was Joan’s birthday and Fanester’s follows by four days, so we helped them celebrate on Sat. night. We hit the road bright and early on Sunday with Scout, the shedder, in her crate in the back, arriving Sunday evening in Dallas in time to snag Lee Anne and go eat Mexican for dinner!

Having not set foot in my house in ten months (!!!), it goes without saying that there is a lot of work to do. And, one of the first things that seems to grab attention is food, both in the refrigerator and in the pantry. It’s important to assess these things in detail: expiration dates become very relevant. Crackers that were bought fresh and new the last time I was here are now out of date and need to be discarded. I even tasted some of them to make sure — yes, the expiration date was correct: they had become stale. To find the expiration date on some things takes an eagle eye and requires much perseverance and determination. Makes one wonder if the manufacturer takes extra pains to to come up with creative ways to hide those small printed dates. Sometimes, it even seems necessary to utilize a spotlight and magnifying glass to read the details. Then there are the things that don’t have an expiration date on them, begging the question: was this bought way-back-when, in those years before it became common to put a date on everything? Those items require further investigation and probably should be pitched: when in doubt, etc. This process can be rather time-consuming — it took up most of the day yesterday. Now I must move on to the kitchen desk — today’s task. However, being the procrastinator that I am, I figured a blog update was necessary.

Back to expiration dates. I just recently read the book, Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo, which I greatly enjoyed. It is a wonderful reminder that we, unlike crackers, chips, dairy products, canned goods, etc., do not have expiration dates stamped on us or hidden away somewhere. We actually don’t expire at all — well, what I mean is that being a Christian, and knowing and walking with Christ, assures me that my life will continue on even after my earthly body comes to the end of its useful life. This little book is a refreshing confirmation of that fact.

So, now we are in Plano, working to organize ourselves again. To be honest, I can hardly remember where anything is. Having a kitchen in NC, setting up a kitchen in NY, re-organizing the kitchen in my parents’ condo in Atlanta, and now back in TX — just where do we keep the drinking glasses, again?

Psalm 121: 7-8 The Lord will keep you from every kind of harm. He will watch over your life. The Lord will watch over your life no matter where you go, both now and forever.

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A tribute.

Tuesday night. Tomorrow is July 20, a special day because it’s my mother’s birthday. Last year, I drove over to Atlanta from NC to spend the week with her. Besides enjoying a Rhodes Bakery birthday cake together on her special day (the birthday cake in our family while I was growing up…), Cousin Peggy brought over homemade peach ice cream — so yummy! While I grieve that we can’t have a repeat performance this year, it was such a blessing that she lived to be 86. Unfortunately, her final years were very difficult — but what an amazing example she set, remaining steady and grounded, upheld by her strong faith, not giving up because she knew she had a family who loved her. I miss her constantly, and would give most anything to hear her voice….

My mother loved her family, lived with care and concern for others, greatly valued her home and enjoyed decorating it with beautiful things. Yet, when she had to move into a nursing home (her final 2 1/2 years), she graciously accepted the situation. We didn’t talk a lot about it — it must have weighed heavy on her heart, yet she remained steadfast and quietly resolute, accepting a fate that she definitely would not have chosen.

We never know what effect we may be having on others as we live out our lives. I’m sure my mother wasn’t going about living her difficult days thinking that she needed to serve as an example, but she was, and an excellent one at that. Her loving concern was always there — and somehow I still feel it. Her sage counsel stays with me; often it came in the form of reassuring me that I would make the right choice. She didn’t pretend to always have the answer, yet she seemed to point me towards the right answer, time and time again, often encouraging me to seek the answer in prayer. Plus, she just had good common sense! Her love, understanding, and unwavering support generated strength in me in a way that is hard to explain. For all these things I am eternally grateful.

In the end, our treasures are not what we accumulate but the ones who love us and whom we love. My cup runneth over with glorious treasures, and I pray that you, too, have them in your life! (My youngest treasure is flying back to TX tonight — please, Lord, watch over her and keep her safe.)

Job 28:17-19, 23-28 Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold. Coral and jasper are worthless in trying to get it. The price of wisdom is far above rubies. Precious peridot from Ethiopia cannot be exchanged for it. It’s worth more than the purest gold.
“God alone understands the way to wisdom; he knows where it can be found, for he looks throughout the whole earth and sees everything under the heavens. He decided how hard the winds should blow and how much rain should fall. He made the laws for the rain and laid out a path for the lightning. Then he saw wisdom and evaluated it. He set it in place and examined it thoroughly. And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”

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Regaining equilibrium.

Thursday. Wrightsville Beach, NC. (7/7/11 — a fun number date!) It’s a strange state of affairs when someone you love is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, you find that you are being swept away from the path you were on, and in an instant, you are taking a detour of unknown direction. Before, you were walking along and you thought you knew where you were headed. I emphasize the word thought because — can we ever really know? But, I digress. So, you are suddenly thrown onto a detoured path — you know it’s a detour because nothing at all looks or feels familiar. You must continually remind yourself that you aren’t in a dreamlike state experiencing a strange nightmare. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were so? You could then wake up and it would all dissipate. And, the other part of this is that while you wish it weren’t so, you really wish you could take it away from — your son — and let it be your own cross to bear.

Lessons learned over the course of the past eight months will continue to reveal themselves, but for now I’d say that one clear lesson is: flexibility and optimism have proven to be invaluable! Not knowing what will be the next step can sort of drive you crazy, but both Jim and I are by nature spontaneous people — we’re not ones to make plans very far in advance. I must admit that we are those people who make last minute decisions about things like family vacations, things for which I’ve noticed other families planning for months and even years in advance. I’m going to see this as something positive: flexibility! If we had been less flexible, would we have been able to decide right then and there, all three of us sitting in Dr. Rosen’s office for a consultation on Nov. 1st, to move to New York immediately for Rob to start his first chemo treatment one week from then? There was absolutely no time to mull it over, to sit on the idea and think it over from every angle. As Dr. Rosen put it, the tumor isn’t going to take any time off its pace — it’s plowing on full-steam-ahead, so we needed to get on the fast track to try to put a stop to its malignancy and potential spread.

Optimism — the positive side of attitude: the glass is half full rather than half empty, the sun is still shining on the other side of the clouds on a gray and gloomy day. Thankfully, both Jim and I tend to see the world this way. I believe that our kids have inherited this trait — I hope so, anyway. It makes walking the rough and tumble road of life a much less harrowing experience.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. — Albert Camus. Perhaps therein lies the truth that it’s not until you are in the deep depths that you truly search for and find your strength and faith in God. I believe there’s a correlation between trust and hope: as you place your complete trust in God and His promises, hope “springs eternal” as you navigate through the difficulties that will inevitably come along.

So, as I take a deep breath in, I am trying to once again find that sense of balance, realizing that we have re-entered the main road and are no longer traveling along the detour. And, the great news is that Rob is back living his life in Atlanta — he has found a local prosthetist (very important task!), he has returned to work, driving a car, hitting golf balls… life is getting back to a new normal.

Thank you, Lord, for hope in times of despair… for light in times of darkness… for patience in times of suffering… for assuring me that with You all things are possible. — excerpt from My Beautiful Broken Shell, by Carol Hamblet Adams.

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Driving East.

Wednesday night. Whew — it’s been an absolutely crazy week! But, thanks be to God, we have in one week’s time gotten moved out of our NY apartment, flown to Atlanta (arriving at the condo at 1:30 am), plowed through the closets and cabinets to make room for the arrival of “stuff” coming from NY, made several trips to Goodwill to donate lots of “stuff”, received the NY shipment on Monday, unpacked lots of boxes, repacked several boxes to take “stuff” with us to NC, and did our best to achieve a preliminary state of organization before leaving in an overly-packed vehicle this evening, heading east. Our plan is to spend a few days at the beach over the Fourth weekend. The kids and Jim’s mom & sister are planning to join us there, also. Scout is wedged into a tiny spot in the back of our SUV, not uttering a whimper of complaint. I think she knows where we’re going — her favorite place!

Oh, by the way, Rob’s birthday dinner was very enjoyable, but Mema’s 12-layer cake was tops!

So, my next update will hopefully be written by a more rested version of myself, sitting on our deck at Wrightsville Beach, enjoying a salty-sweet, unique-to-the-coast, ocean breeze…..

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Moving day.

Monday night. Today was “moving day.” We have moved so many times (let’s see, I think the magic number is eleven…), and as I see it, it’s rather like childbirth in that you forget the pain of it after a while and just remember the fact of it. But, the details, the tiring, back-breaking, tedious details of it all — well, I guess I sort of forgot about all of that, until going through it again over the past few days. Not much to complain about other than being bone-tired. The movers were outstanding and very accommodating. We got moved quite quickly, really, which will make it possible for Rob to get himself established back into his life.

Tomorrow is Rob’s 30th birthday — it’s hard to believe it’s been thirty years since he was born! How is it that the time has gone by so fast since he was just a little fellow, diligently working on riding a “two-wheeler,” telling us stories about his friend “Bear,” wanting to wear the same pair of “Jams” every day in the summer months because they were his very favorite? There are so many memories, yet I stop and think: how wonderful it is that we get to help him celebrate another year of life!

I’ve recently seen a commercial on TV from the American Cancer Society showing birthday cakes with lots of candles on them — the premise is “more birthdays” — the ACS is trying to accomplish that with their ongoing research. That’s just what we are living — another birthday for Rob. It puts things into an amazing focus when you realize that each birthday is special, we just cannot take one single day for granted, and life is truly a gift!

Birthdays are not always just about us. Sometimes they are about everyone else in the family, too — the blessing is that they want to share in your special day, they want to enjoy your birthday with you, they want to share in eating that special birthday cake that Mema has made, etc. I think that may be how Rob will feel tomorrow, and I hope his patience will hold out. It’s a hard lesson sometimes to realize that your birthday may just be a darn good excuse for the entire family to throw you a celebration and to come together for a fun time (!!!). My birthday is in August, and as I was growing up, I remember hot summer nights, celebrating with my parents and sister, as well as aunts and uncles and cousins, hand-churning homemade peach ice cream on the back deck of our home, having a fried chicken, creamed corn, summer squash & sliced tomatoes meal. See what I mean? A good excuse for a family get-together! Many times over the past 10-15 years, we have been traveling on my birthday because it was the only way to fit a family vacation into everyone’s schedule. My birthday had become a back-burner issue. But, that’s fine, because if we were traveling, it also meant that we were usually together as a family, which is what I always want for my birthday anyway!

Now it’s Tuesday afternoon — Rob’s birthday.

Birthdays make you a whole year older, but they hopefully mean you are that much wiser, as well. Rob’s birthday this year is surely a cause for celebration — he’s come through a hard-fought battle with cancer, ending up with a new “robot leg” to show for all his trouble. He will hopefully feel well-loved and well-celebrated by the time he puts his head on his pillow tonight.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8 Be generous: invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night…. Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. Go to work in the morning and stick to it until evening without watching the clock. You never know from moment to moment how your work will turn out in the end. Oh, how sweet the light of day, and how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour, remembering that there will also be many dark days and that most of what comes your way is smoke.

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Leaving NY

Tuesday morning. Happy Birthday to Janie! She’s, well, she wouldn’t want me to say her age, but she’s two years older than me. Ha! Growing up, the subject always came up about her being born on 1) officially the first day of summer, and 2) the longest day of the year (daylight hours, that is) — and to me, it seemed that she was, indeed, born on a very special day. Well, of course, it is — it’s my sister’s birthday!

It’s down to the wire now — this is almost our last day in NY. Tomorrow (which is really the last day) will be spent “helping” the packers get the contents of our apartment boxed up and moved out. There will no doubt be some cleaning associated with tomorrow’s task, but we’re cleaning today, as well. Also, I’ll be spending today guessing what will be necessary for the next couple of weeks, and I’ll pack all of that into a suitcase or two. It’s surprising how much has accumulated over the past 8 months. But, what a blessing this apartment has been for us — we’ve rallied together and prayed together and laughed together and silently gone through our own ways of dealing with the cancer among us. Praise God — Rob has gotten himself back to Atlanta and has been busy getting back to independent living. The details of his getting back to driving are rather involved, but he’s working on that. Plus, he’s in the midst of meeting with several prosthetists in order to determine the best scenario going forward.

My heart is somewhat torn — happy because leaving NY means that Rob’s cancer treatment has come to an end — that was the reason we came here in the first place, of course // not happy because leaving NY means leaving a place where we’ve become very comfortable and grown to feel at home, where we’ve gone through a lot, arriving on the other side with deeper faith, heartfelt gratitude, and humble acknowledgement that it was God’s grace that carried us through each day.

I am completely amazed, and will spend the rest of my life in awe of God’s power and love. It’s been beyond our wildest dreams how He has worked out so many details for us. Even last week — as Jim was lining up the moving company, he was told the only day they could accommodate the move this week was on Wednesday. So, then the move hinged upon our ability to reserve the apartment building elevator, the utility one that is reserved for people moving in and out. When I started calling the superintendent to reserve the elevator for Wednesday, I was told to call back early the next morning, so I set the alarm and started calling at 8 am on the dot, still couldn’t reach her, so I continued to call back several times. Upon finally reaching her, here is how my request was granted: she said she had gotten a very early phone call, at 8 am. She said she never answers her phone so early, usually waiting until 8:30, but for some reason she did, and the person was canceling their elevator reservation for the very day we needed it — my phone call came immediately after they hung up! Their change of plans worked like a jig-saw-puzzle-piece, fitting exactly into our needs. How can I view this as anything other than God’s complete provision for us, once again?

As we leave NY, we leave a medical world of health care providers whom we’ve come to trust, we leave a church home where we’ve felt embraced and uplifted in prayer, we leave a comfortable living environment where we’ve enjoyed a convenient location within a huge metropolitan city, and I’m also leaving a very good friend. But, if I’ve learned anything from the many moves we’ve made through the years, it’s that you don’t have to lose friends when you move away — you just have to plan your rendezvous more carefully than when you could just run into them in the neighborhood!

Praise be to God for his many blessings.

Deuteronomy 10:21 He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.

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And we thank him….

Tuesday evening.  God is great.  God is good.  And we thank Him for our food.  By His hands, we are fed.  Thank you, Lord, for our daily bread.

First things first…. Rob is safely ensconced back in Atlanta.  He has been busy setting up appointments for the various things that he must get accomplished.  While I am definitely missing him being here in NY with us, we’ll be packing up this apartment soon, returning to Atlanta with all of this stuff.  Back in November, we took enough furniture from Atlanta to set up our NY living scenario — however, I’m not feeling all that confident about fitting it back into place now.  What is it about stuff?  It seems to grow and multiply when you live with it for a while.

Secondly, the Dallas Mavericks — NBA champs!  Yeah!

Lee Anne and I have been touring schools in case she decides on grad school in NY — guess it saves a plane ticket back up here.  Last night, she and I went out for a tempura and soba dinner at Nippon on E. 52nd (I think we were the only non-Japanese there) — Jim was tied up with a business dinner, so he missed out.  She is tentatively scheduled to leave NY on Saturday, so we are trying to make the most of our remaining time.  I’m not sure when Jim and I will be leaving — soon, I expect, but first we must get the move underway.

I am constantly reflecting on our past 8 months — from the moment we heard the results of Rob’s biopsy, hurrying from NC to Atlanta , finding out from IBM’s medical team about Dr. Rosen in NY (as we drove along I-20 W), and then the sudden but unanimous decision to move here for Rob’s treatment.  As Rob stated on his recent blog post (survivingsarcoma.com), while living through these past months, the time was just slowly progressing along, but as we look back on it, the time seems to have flown by.  Why is that?

I remember my grandmother often talked about how fast time would go by — but I was young at the time and felt that time was creeping along.  More and more these days, I find myself identifying with her sentiment about time.  Is that a consequence of getting older?  Thinking about my mother’s mother — it’s fascinating to imagine my own mother now in heaven, reunited with my dad and with her own beloved parents and brothers.  Heaven feels nearer when you have loved ones already there.

Just as God provided manna from heaven for the children of Israel centuries ago, He provides for us just what we need each day.  My heart is full of gratitude for the countless ways He has taken care of us, and for all the prayers that so many of our loving friends and family have offered up on our behalf throughout this cancer experience.  Somehow from the very start, I felt sure that God would provide the answers and the strength we would need when we needed them.  He did, He does, and He will.

Exodus 16: 4-5   Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.  The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

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Out of here.

Thursday night.  And, here is the latest:

The Dallas Mavericks won again tonight, which means that they have now won three of the past five games against the Miami Heat — so exciting!  Unfortunately, it’s not a five game series.  The next two games (if it takes two more) will be in Miami — just one Dallas win in Miami will do the trick.

Besides watching the Mavs with the fam, Rob has been busy going to outpatient PT and seeing Ryan on a constant basis in an attempt to get a better fit with his leg socket.  It’s like chasing a speeding bullet, according to Ryan.  The fluctuations in his leg size (not uncommon at all) are proving to make getting a good fit very difficult.

But, the main news here is that there is a purchased one-way plane ticket to Atlanta and Rob’s name is on it — he’s leaving on Saturday.  It’s hard for me, knowing that Jim and I will not be traveling with him — kind of like cutting the umbilical cord all over again!  But, we need to stay for just a little while longer in order to get things closed out here.  Perhaps it’s really best this way — Rob feels he’s ready to be independent once again.  While I’d like to be going along, it’s probably more my want than his need.  There are some important issues to which Rob must attend before going back to work, including getting the car outfitted with a left-foot accelerator, exchanging his TX driver’s license for a GA license, getting a handicap placard for the car, meeting with a new prosthetist in Atlanta, etc., etc.  The list goes on and on, and he can’t do these things from NY.

I’m very proud of him in so many ways — but this independence is a good sign, I think.  He’s feeling ready to spread his wings and test his abilities.  God has carried him through so much already that I simply must trust that He will be with him when I cannot be!  If you are reading this and feel so inclined, please pray with me that Rob will be kept safe and free from harm as he travels and as he embarks on the next part of his surviving sarcoma journey.

Psalm 40, excerpts:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Blessed are those who make the LORD their trust…. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

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Along the way.

Friday.  I Thessalonians 5:11  Encourage one another and build each other up….

I found a devotional that I had cut out somewhere along the way over the past several months.  Here is an excerpt:

We all need help along the way in life, as we try to live as faithful followers of Christ in the midst of the daily struggles and celebrations that come our way.  God’s intent was for us to be in community as disciples because He knew we would need one another for encouragement, accountability, challenge to grow, and for the simple well-being that friendships bring into our lives.

Just wanted to share this.  Helping each other along the way makes everyone’s lives better…..!

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The Mavs.

Tuesday night.  Sunny days in NY for the past several days!  Do wonders never cease?

Tonight we are planning to watch the Mavs play in the NBA finals, and are excited to do so.  Seems we often plan our lives around sports….

Thursday night.  Oh!  I just never finished that, and now it’s Thursday — and yes, the Mavs are playing again tonight.  I just hope there will be a better outcome tonight than there was on Tuesday.

A big step signaling the end of Rob’s chemo treatment occurred yesterday:  his medi-port was removed in an outpatient procedure.  The doctor only used local numbing of the immediate area in his chest where the port was located (it was placed on November 3rd).  The event definitely warranted celebration, so we went out to dinner at JoJo’s, a great little place on E. 64th.

Questions pop up constantly:  what’s next?  What I’m hoping and praying for is a smooth transition over the next days/weeks as we prepare to leave NY.  I still have no idea how, where, when, etc.  The answer is just not there.  But, I remember how many answers have come over the past months, not necessarily before, but just when we needed them.  Remembering, I’ll try to relax, and trust.

(Go, Mavs!!!  They just won Game #2…!)

Proverbs 16: 1-3    We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.  People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.

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Up on the roof.

Saturday night.  We have had another busy week.  Rob met with Ryan twice, as they continue to work towards getting the socket to fit “just so.”  It’s not an easy task.  Rob’s leg has fluctuated in size, which is apparently normal for the first year after an amputation.  Translation:  it takes a lot of patience to be a prosthetist!  Rob also had outpatient physical therapy appointments at Rusk on Tuesday and Thursday.  Then on Friday he had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Rapp, his surgeon.  After seeing Dr. Rapp on the 8th floor of the NYU Cancer Center, we stopped by the 6th floor to see Sarah and the other nurses who have been so outstanding throughout Rob’s chemotherapy treatments.  It’s bittersweet to realize that we will soon be leaving NY and the excellent medical caregivers whom we’ve come to appreciate so much.  We promised to stop by to say a final goodbye before leaving NY.

Jim, who has been out of town since Monday, returned to NY this evening.  To celebrate, the four of us trekked to the roof of our building (elevator ride to the 33rd floor, then a flight of stairs to the roof), took along a bottle of wine, and enjoyed the good view and the sunset.  Rob has gotten very adept at walking with his forearm crutches which is a good thing, since he isn’t comfortable wearing his prosthesis for long hours yet.  He’s definitely hoping to get a well-fitting socket so that he can wear his new C-leg without pain.

Each day we are witnessing the return of Rob’s normal look — his cheeks have a healthy color, once again.  About a week ago, there was just a faint shadow along his hair line, but now his hair is coming in, as well as his beard, returning like a major 5 o’clock shadow.  It’s heartwarming to me to see all of these things, and to know that the chemo is finally gone from his system.

Friday night Lee Anne, Rob, and I ate soba at Nippon, a great Japanese restaurant on 52nd St.  I would probably eat soba every day if I had the chance — like everything else about Japan, it took a little getting-used-to, but soon enough, I became completely hooked.  Also, a week ago, the three of us went to Joe’s Shanghai for soup dumplings.  While they were not as amazing as the dumplings we used to get just across the street from our apartment in Shanghai, they were good and reminiscent of our fun days in China.  When we leave NY, we’ll definitely miss having such a wide variety of good restaurants in close proximity.

I continue to be in awe of God’s provision for us.  And, I must admit, being on the home-stretch feels good!

Psalm 30: 4-5, 11-12    Sing praise to the Lord, all his faithful people!  Remember what the Holy One has done, and give him thanks!  His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime.  Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.  You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy.  So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you.  Lord, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.

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