Our Hearts Are Being Refreshed

macarons xxx

It’s early.  I woke before dawn and watched daylight break through the darkness.  I glance at the cup a dear friend sent to me and read the prayer printed on it.

“May God grant you courage, and through His grace provide the peace that lies in knowing He’s always at your side.”

More than ever I need to know this.  We, my husband and I, need to know this.

My friend sent two different but special mugs.  One for me and one for Bob.

The other mug says:

FAITH, is being sure of what we hope for.  Hebrews 11:1

Our hope is in the Lord.  Our hope is knowing that He will give us strength and courage to walk through this valley.  And as the prayer on the cup says…and through His grace provide the peace that lies in knowing He’s always at our side.

We believe.

Bob went to sleep with those words on his lips last night:  “I believe.”

There have been bursts of glory knowing God is near as His overwhelming presence carries us.  It’s actually more than knowing it.  We’re experiencing it.

We arrived here in this place, 170 miles and three hours away from our home, at the end of August.

It is the beginning of December now and we are still here in our home away from home.  In this apartment 2 miles away from the hospital where Bob is being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, we are living our new normal.

Bob spent 34 days in the hospital during his induction treatment.  Now he is having his treatments out patient as we wait for news about a stem cell/bone marrow transplant.

A donor match hasn’t been found.

We’re running against time and soon the transplant team will be making a decision to do either an umbilical cord blood transplant or use a 1/2 match from a family member in an attempt to save Bob’s life.

Chemotherapy alone will not keep the aggressive fast growing cancer in remission.

Without the quick decisions and chemotherapy program that Bob’s doctors designed for him, he may not be here today.

We were whisked away within days to begin his treatment.  They didn’t waste any time.

Bob is in remission receiving chemo to keep it there until a transplant can be done.

rose x

A couple of weeks ago, we found flowers on the doorstep of the apartment where we’re living.  A gift from friends back home.  I clipped and arranged them, put them in a vase and they have been giving us many days of joy.

As we look around at the gifts and cards that so many friends have sent we’re overwhelmed with gratitude.

My sister and her husband have been coming at least once a week.  Dave stays with Bob and Judy takes me out for a while.  My other sister, Diane and her husband Andy visit and Diane meets Judy and I for lunch often.

The doctors and nurses ask me, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?”  It’s easy to forget that if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be able to care for Bob.

My sisters have been lifesavers for me, rescuers who won’t let me slip into depression or neglect my emotional or mental health.

Our sons; our daughter-in-law ~ ~ they’re like life-saving medicine to our hearts.

My brothers, my parents, many friends ~ their cards, their calls, their texts, their visits, their prayers are bathing us with hope and courage. We have an army of prayer warriors standing with us in prayer.

We arrived here in the summer…

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Saw the beauty of autumn come…

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then slowly slip away…

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droplets

and stood amazed at the winter wonderland of our first snowfall…

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Through the seasons of change and waiting, we are refreshed by the love and prayers of so many people.

In the fights of life, people can be conduits of great joy and deep refreshment.  Margaret Feinberg

There are many friends and family members fighting this fight with us.

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Philemon 1:7

Blessings,

Nancy ❤

(All photos were taken by me in or near our home away from home.  I believe God has given us the ability to find and create beauty in the middle of this messy often painful world.  I hang tight to Him and to His promises and will continue my search for beauty through my lens)

When God sends messengers

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My husband, Bob, has been in the hospital for a little over two weeks. He’s already had 4 rounds of intravenous chemo and they just changed his oral chemo med tonight. The oral chemo targets the Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.  The intravenous chemo targets the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  The CML mutated into ALL but the CML still exists.  The doctors tell us that both cancers have the Philadelphia Chromosome, which makes his condition rare and difficult to treat.  Since they don’t have much data to fall back on with this rare combination, his medical team came up with what they are referring to as a “hybrid treatment plan.”

He’ll receive round 5 of intravenous chemo this Thursday.

All his blood counts are in the range that the doctors expected them to be this week and overall his doctors are happy with how Bob is responding.

About 4:00pm yesterday, Bob’s chemo nurse told him that he would be receiving another chemo drug by injection on Friday and that his doctors would explain more about it in the morning.

Bob wasn’t expecting to receive anything on Friday so the news was overwhelming and hard for him to hear.  He slipped into depression.

I wasn’t there when he heard the news. I returned at 5:00pm.

I usually park in the parking garage but decided to go in the emergency entrance when I got back to the hospital.

As I entered, there was a man sitting in a wheel chair by the door. He looked at me and asked if I was a volunteer. I said no. He asked, “Do you work here?” I replied, “No, I’m on my way up to the 5th. floor to visit my husband. The man asked, “What’s your husband’s name?” I responded, “Robert”. “Can you give Robert a message for me?” he asked. I nodded. Then he said, “You tell Robert that I’m praying for him and to keep the faith!” I smiled, thanked him and told him that I’d definitely give him the message. As I approached the elevator, he yelled out “You both keep the faith!”

How can we not keep the faith when God sends messengers (perhaps even angels) to encourage us daily?

Bob’s words after he heard the message? “Our God is good. He is reminding me that He’s right here with me and He’ll never leave me.”  His spirits lifted.

Peace returned to Bob’s heart and he rested well last night.

Blessings,

Nancy

(I snapped the above photo from Bob’s hospital room)

Your answer could be right around the corner

hills 3 x - Copy wdpI tossed and turned most of the night knowing what was ahead of us in the morning.  At 5:30am, my eyes opened.  I stared at the ceiling for a while then rolled over and closed my eyes.  My husband’s arm wrapped around me and grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze.  This would be the last time we’d be this close for many months.  As tears rolled down my cheeks, I drifted off to sleep for half an hour.

Bob’s cancer is mutating. He not only has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia but, through a bone marrow biopsy, his doctors detected Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  An extremely rare combination. The only hope for a cure is through a bone marrow transplant or what is commonly known today as a stem cell transplant. That process begins today.

We will travel 170 miles from home where he will enter the hospital for a month to receive extensive chemotherapy treatments — both orally and intravenously to try and bring both cancers into remission.  This will begin the process to move him toward the transplant.

I’m moving into an apartment near the hospital where I will be close to him.  It could be 6 months or longer before we can return home.

It’s been a whirlwind.  We just heard the news last week and we’re already being whisked away.

Bob has a wonderful medical team at one of the best hospitals in our state but our trust is in God.  He has been our guide and strength through this long and winding road.  If we had to depend on ourselves, we’d be incapable.

We heard the news on Thursday and they wanted him admitted the following Monday.  Where will I live?  How can we manage this so far from home?  Those were questions that I kept asking God.

We stopped at a café to eat lunch after we met with the medical team last Thursday.

Scrambling through the internet looking for rentals, proved futile.  We were trying to find a place, in a college town, near a University Hospital.  Bob’s doctors and staff at the hospital told us that it would be extremely hard to find an apartment there.

Concern for Bob flooded me.  I didn’t want him admitted into the hospital on Monday with this weight on his shoulders.  His concern was over me having to deal with this alone after Monday.

We had to get back to our home 170 miles away to get ready, pack and prepare for Monday.

As we left the café, we turned the corner and drove less than a block and saw a “Now leasing” sign.   We pulled in.  They had a 2 bedroom apartment available.  The people living there were moving out on Monday.  It was the only unit available.

The leasing agent showed us the place, in a quiet and quaint area, and said it was ours if we could give her a deposit that day.  We did and it’s now ours.  The extra bedroom will come in handy for family visits.

Our answer was right around the corner!  God had the place picked out for us long before we knew that we would need an apartment in that area.

He hasn’t brought us this far to leave us and we know that ultimately He is in total control.  We are leaning on Him for strength through this storm and praying for Bob’s healing.

God is good.  He’s always good even in the middle of a storm.

Blessings,

Nancy

(I took the photo in this post in New Mexico a couple of years ago)

When Ink Drips and Camera Clicks

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I put my pen to journal and begin to write, I see an oriole outside my window and I grab my camera.  I click to capture the moment and return to my writing.

With my mind and emotions wrapped up in so much lately, I finally feel my soul return to its rightful place.

The uneasiness began last week with a phone call.  It was a peaceful day, we were enjoying the sunshine, the newness of spring and Bob’s cancer wasn’t in our thoughts.

My husband doesn’t let it define him and as I walk this journey beside him I won’t let it define me either.

We go on, not thinking much about it, finding joy in the simple things.  Then reality breaks through and we must face it once again.

Bob’s cell phone rang while we were having lunch at a small cafe.

“The Leukemia markers have increased a little in your blood,”  came the words over the phone.

“It looks like you may need another bone marrow biopsy but we’ll check again in a few months.  For now, just stay on the chemo med and we’ll explore further at your next visit.”

I study Bob’s expression, watch him for a few days.  He remains strong, steadfast (at least outwardly) and is hopeful that the markers will go down again, if not with the medication he’s taking now, then with another one.

My heart and prayers surround him and if there’s any way to test the oneness in marriage and to experience it at a deeper level it’s in times like this.

So together we wait, pray and wonder.

This past year has been like a roller coaster ride through the steep upward climbs and the wild racing down and then back up through the twists and turns of this crazy journey of medical tests and doctor visits.

After the latest blood test results, the what ifs, the uncertainty, fearful thoughts, the all-consuming questions race through me.

I get stuck there for a couple of days.

But today I grabbed my pen, my journal and a hot cup of coffee.

Here I sit writing my prayers, my thoughts, my dreams for me; for us.

One by one I write out the gifts that I’ve been given in life.

Not just the big ones like God, faith, family, friends, provision…those are obviously important but I’m recalling and writing down the little things today.

I’m focusing on all those small miracles that we often overlook and how in the overlooking we forfeit great joy.  It’s the simple pleasures in life that surprise us with the greatest joy.

So my focus shifts from the what ifs and fearful thoughts to being present in the moment and enjoying the gifts God has for me today…a gentle breeze blowing through an open window, waking up to the orioles singing on my deck,  spring flowers popping up all over my yard, the patter of rain on my rooftop, the sunshine poking through tree branches after the rain, barren branches finally sprouting leaves, the smell of coffee brewing and sugar cookies baking, the wonder in a child’s eyes, a child’s laughter, singing, praying, the sunsets… and on and on the list goes.

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Gifts.

And when we give thanks for all the little pleasures surrounding us our eyes open to glimpses of God’s glory everywhere.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Even in the midst of this crazy, mixed up, messy, often painful world there is beauty and grace that moves us into thankfulness and being thankful produces joy.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

We can’t give thanks and be fearful, angry or miserable at the same time.  A thankful heart doesn’t have room for that.

Daily we need to find those peaceful places where our bodies, minds, souls can rest.  At least I do.

I’m an introvert.  I thrive and recharge by being alone.

There’s been a flurry of activity surrounding my life lately and unless I can escape into moments of solitude I’m a wreck and when I’m a wreck I can’t fully be there for my loved ones and those I deeply care about.

This introvert finds solace and peace through being alone with her thoughts, her God and her journal.

I not only find peace as my pen drips ink into words on journal pages, I’m also drawn to give thanks through savoring moments with a click of my camera.

Both are gifts.

Whether I’m recording through words or photos, I’m drawn into the presence and wonder of God and, for me, that has become an act of worship.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things…and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Blessings to you and yours,

Nancy

When Light Meets The Dark

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It was that time again–time to travel the 160 miles to the medical center for my husband’s cancer check-up with his oncologist/hematologist.

We left yesterday morning while it was still dark.

The darkness of uncertainty always covers us as we travel east for his appointments but the sun coming up yesterday was a reminder that God’s light would already be there to meet us when we got to the hospital.

Yesterday we received a great report from his doctor.  Bob is still responding well to the chemo drug without side effects.  He has another appointment in August and if the markers of the Leukemia in his blood reach a certain target level he will not need another bone marrow biopsy.

So we travel and trust and we know that no matter what the outcome will be in August the light of God’s presence always goes with us and before us.

We are never alone.

(This post is in response to the Daily Post’s Friday Photo Challenge:  Early Bird)

Blessings,

Nancy

One Word

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As this year draws to a close, I haven’t made one resolution for the upcoming new year but I did pick one word.  My word was actually an umbrella word over 2014 that protected and sheltered me.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  That’s my word.  It had the most overarching effect on me and it brought me to the threshold of 2015 with a sense of being supported and loved.

As a writer, I sometimes wonder if stringing words together on a page is worth the effort, because for me it’s not about using big impressive words or strutting my writing abilities around.  It’s about trying to inspire and move hearts.

At times I look back on my writing and cringe.  As I write on, I’m amazed at how I would choose my words differently just days after I write a piece.

Then a card comes in the mail.  Someone took the time to hand write a note to let me know what my words have meant to them.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  And so I keep writing…

Whether it’s a comment in person, writing or in an uplifting email, I’m always humbled by the encouraging words from people who tell me they’ve enjoyed or been touched by my words.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  And so I keep writing…

I haven’t arrived at a place where I’m completely satisfied with my writing but the beauty of life is that we are in all in process.  No matter what we’re doing or how we use our gifts, we haven’t arrived.  There’s always more to learn.  I change and grow daily and I’m learning to be okay with that and enjoy the process.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  It has pointed me back toward my passion and to remember why I write.

As some of you know, 2014 hasn’t been an easy year for my family.  Cancer came into our life this past summer when my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.

I’ve shared some of our journey in the following posts:

Again the encouragement that we have received from family and friends through the storm has been like a ray of sunshine through the dark and like a flower breaking through the winter.

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God uses people.  All the encouragement that covered my family brought with it the confirmation that God cares and that He will never leave us.

Yesterday we got test results from Bob’s oncologist that the markers for the Leukemia are decreasing in his blood significantly.  At their highest the markers were 89.  In September they were 49.  Yesterday the good news was that they are 6.9.

The goal is to have Bob’s chemo medication reduce the markers until they cannot be seen by the human eye anymore.  Then they will call it remission and he will take the chemo drug for life to try to keep it there.

ENCOURAGEMENT.  I know how much it has benefited me and I want to focus on being a better encourager in 2015.

Words have the power to build up or tear down.  I’d rather be a builder upper!

I will have my eyes open through the new year to look for those I can buoy up and support.

I’m going to scope out my surroundings and attempt to become conscious of:

  • the downtrodden
  • the sad eyed
  • the dejected
  • the ones who have lost hope
  • the struggling
  • the ones who have given up on:
    • their dreams
    • their gifts
    • their talents
    • themselves

I know from my experiences in 2014, just how the right words at just the right time can spur a person on and keep them from losing hope.

Lists of resolutions can seem daunting, most get broken anyway, but one word to carry into the new year is possible.

Now I’d like to ENCOURAGE you.  If you’ve tried making resolutions and said “Eh, that didn’t work,” why not join me and pick just ONE WORD to apply to 2015?  Then let me know what it is and how you’re using your word.  I’d love to hear from you.

Happy and Hopeful New Year to you and yours!

Nancy Janiga©2014