Holding On

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I wrote the following words on January 11, 2015 in my piece titled, Our Spring is coming

“We are looking forward to the end of this storm, this winter that we are in.  We are looking forward to seeing all the signs of spring and new life…The crocus’ poking up from beneath the snow, the sun shining brighter, the patches of snow disappearing and the grass greening.

We are looking forward to spring with the hope of being home where we can live out what the medical staff is calling our new normal.”

As spring and the promise of new life arrived, we received the results of Bob’s spinal fluid and bone marrow biopsies, CANCER FREE!  Two of the most beautiful words that we’ve ever heard!

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Through the sovereignty of God and our son, Scott, agreeing to God’s plan through his bone marrow donation, Bob received a second chance at life; a rebirth so to speak.

After 8 months in this medical community, we thought by now we could make plans to return home but Bob is fighting an intestinal infection.  The transplant knocked down his immune system so it will be an uphill climb for a year from the date of his transplant.  The complete recovery process, at times, is grueling.  What would be a minor illness for you or me, becomes serious for Bob.

What we have learned through this experience, right from the beginning, is that we never know what tomorrow may bring so we must hold tight to the ONE who holds tomorrow in His hands.

In the middle of our own medical odyssey, my dad had a heart attack and a stroke and is recovering nearby.

We’re a little battle fatigued but remain hopeful.

Our hope lies in the one who holds tomorrow in His hands and those hands are holding both of the special men in my life…my husband and my father.

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I wrote a poem years ago that I completely forgot about until I received a letter in the mail recently.  The letter came from a mission publication stating that they were going to publish my poem.  It was an unexpected surprise.  A gift of God’s timing.  Here are those words:

Rejoice and Be Glad

Springtime brings new energy
And all nature is refreshed;
The veil of winter lifted,
Feeling by the sun, to be caressed.

The earth begins to come alive
As presenting a new song
And all that is within us
Begins to sing along.

God paints the earth with greenery
And colors every flower,
Showcasing birds against blue skies
With a demonstration of His power.

Somewhere deep within the heart
There’s a joy we can’t contain;
Surrounded by spring’s newness,
Hope and happiness remain.

Skipping to the beat of spring
Floods the soul with peace.
After the wilderness of winter,
God brings us sweet relief.

God is bringing us sweet relief slowly from our winter wilderness.  What was buried beneath the winter of our souls, is emerging stronger, resilient, joyful and thankful.

Many of you have been part of this second chance at life for Bob — especially through your prayers — and for that we are thankful.  We are thankful to God and to all of you.  And now we wait in hope for God to clear up Bob’s infection and make his recovery complete.

Blessings,

Nancy

In Our Trouble

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“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Trouble.  Jesus promises us trouble.  He didn’t say you might have trouble or there is a possibility of having trouble.  He tells us we will have trouble.

His words are recorded at the end of chapter 16 in the gospel of John.  Right smack dab at the end of His teaching to the disciples–which was meant to prepare them for His impending death and resurrection–He tells them what to expect and that it wasn’t going to be easy or comfortable.

He taught them but they really didn’t get it.  He also promised them a gift…the gift of the Holy Spirit.  When they received that gift after His resurrection, they understood and they received power to live as overcomers.

Jesus overcame death through the resurrection.  And His followers will too.  “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

But what does all this mean for me today in the here and now?

In my present situation, it means that when the doctor tells me that I will be my husband’s nurse–post bone marrow transplant–and there will be daily infusions to give him in his chest catheter, flushing the 3 lines with saline and heparin, taking his blood pressure, temperature and watching him closely for signs of disease…I tremble!  This is trouble!

And I cry out to God and I overcome my fears, not by bailing out, but by sticking in there with the help of the Holy Spirit.

When I am at my weakest, when I feel helpless and I look at Bob who is even more helpless, this is trouble!

And I cry out to God and somehow I’m uplifted and given strength that I could never muster up myself.

When I say, “I’m not capable for this task.  I’m not a nurse and if I wanted to be a nurse I would have become a nurse,”  and when I fear doing new things and organizing and administering 13 medications, preparing food that Bob can tolerate, keeping the house fit and sanitized for a transplant patient, and transporting him to hospital visits, I miraculously don’t cave under the weight of it.  Humanly, I think I will.  But I don’t

God knows ‘I can’t’ but through Him I can do all things.  Just like Philippians 4:13 promises.

And in the midst of the trouble there’s even moments of repose, quiet and deep peace.

It doesn’t always come easy but it comes.

God is good in the midst of trouble and in our weakness He is strong.  And that’s how we overcome.

Blessings,

Nancy

(The above photo was taken in our home away from home near the hospital where my husband is being treated.  I have been photographing indoor scenes since I don’t get out in nature much.  My camera is my companion on this journey.  I thought I’d have to give up my photography but how could I?  It’s a gift from God, and all that I photograph are reminders of the small delights and simple pleasures that I have to be thankful for).

New Year; New Hope

bob on beach(I snapped this photo of Bob at the end of January 2015 on the gulf coast of Florida).

Someday, once again, Bob will enjoy the simple pleasures of God’s creation that he loved so much.  I cherish the above photo because to me it’s filled with light and hope.

My one word for 2016 is HOPE.

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After the last 5 difficult months and many more difficult months ahead, 2016 is still filled with so much light and hope

Bob had his bone marrow transplant a couple of weeks ago on January 13, 2016.  As many of you already know our oldest son, Scott, donated his bone marrow to save his dad’s life.  What a gift!

Bob’s discharge from the hospital was on January 27.  Just 2 weeks after the transplant.  The doctors and medical staff stand amazed that the engraftment of the new cells began about 4 or 5 days sooner than anticipated and that allowed his discharge to happen sooner also.

What has been impossible for us to do or the medical staff to do, continues to happen.  We know and hold on to the fact that nothing is impossible with God.

God is shining.  God is receiving the glory through our journey and even though we still have a hard road ahead we know we are not alone and His mercy will sustain us.

Bob is weak.  His immune system is compromised and won’t get better for many months.  The immunosuppressants (or anti-rejection meds) also lower his ability to fight infections so he must be protected like a new born babe.

In many respects, he is like a newborn, with new life and new hope.

One of our favorite verses since Bob’s diagnosis with the chronic form of Leukemia in 2014 and on into 2015 when it transitioned into the more serious acute type of leukemia has been Lamentations 3: 21-23:

hope

Because the Lord’s steadfast love never ceases, we have hope for 2016 and beyond.

Blessings,

Nancy

(To all of you who are praying for my Bob and for our entire family…THANK YOU!  That’s what is moving the hand of God and helping us through this difficult time.  Although we know God knows all things, sees all things, and is present with us, he wants us to pray and uses prayer in a mysterious way to carry out His plan.  We are grateful for the many prayers going up for us).

An Unexpected Gift

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This place so far from home, the one we live in close to the hospital some may call isolation but we call it holy ground.

It’s a new normal.  A place stripped of most of our possessions but here in the quiet we have found God to be more than enough.

His presence is often experienced the most in our deep nights of the soul.

We are experiencing Him in new and profound ways.

That’s a gift.

Cancer.  My husband’s cancer has caused us to go deeper with God, to experience His peace that passes all understanding more frequently.  Especially in times of fear when we feel lost and alone and cry out to Him.  It may not happen immediately but He always lets us know that He hasn’t abandoned us.

We will never be the same.  You can’t go through something like this and ever come out on the other side of it the same as you entered into it.

Often God’s mercies are wrapped in unexpected ways.

Look at Jesus.  Away in a manger no crib for a bed…

Who would have thought God would wrap His most precious gift of love, grace and mercy in swaddling cloths?

Who would have thought God Himself would come to earth in such a lowly, humble way?

Truth is His most precious gifts often come wrapped that way.  In ways that we would never expect.  His gifts are perfect and right on time.

We prayed for 4 months that a bone marrow donor would be found for my husband.

Many have prayed.  Perhaps you prayed too.

The news came that a donor could not be found through the registry.

More chemo.  More waiting.  More praying. More hoping.

Then the miracle came.

Our oldest son, Scott, tested as over half a match.

Not perfect but good enough.

It’s good enough for a haploidentical bone marrow transplant.

These types of transplants have been done successfully at the University Research Hospital where the transplant will be done.  All transplants come with benefits and risks.  It’s not easy by any means but we trust God with the outcome.

On January 6 my husband will enter the hospital.  His immune system will be suppressed through more chemotherapy and radiation.

On Januray 13, Scott’s bone marrow will be harvested and given to Bob through an IV.

My husband, Bob, will receive the gift of life through the son that he gave life to.  The son we gave birth to is giving his father a second chance at life.

Who would have thought that the answer; the gift would come through our son?

We celebrate the most precious gift ever given in Jesus this month, the one who has given us life eternal.

And we receive with grateful hearts His precious gift of mercy wrapped in the most unexpected way through our son, Scott and we thank our son for his most special offering.  Certainly it’s the best gift that he’s ever given his dad for Christmas.

We are going to have a Merry Christmas knowing that our God knows what He is doing and although a perfect donor match could not be found He is going to give Bob a perfect transplant.

Merry Christmas!

Nancy ❤

( The photo was taken of an angel adorning our beautiful European Cyprus Tree.  Both the tree and ornaments were sent to us by some dear friends)

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)

Celebrate!

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Red, white and blue.  I’ve seen it everywhere this past week.

If you live in the USA, you have too.

There are flags waving, crepe paper adorning, patriotic symbols flashing, celebration of the 4th. of July, our independence day, the birthday of America ring out across our land.

And the celebration continues into Sunday, July 5.

I celebrate my freedom to worship today, to serve the God I love, to live in a country where I can proclaim my faith without fear of persecution.  I celebrate that I can worship openly, not in hiding, like so many fellow believers do in other parts of the world.

Despite my freedom, at times I feel like a fish out of water or a fish in the water swimming upstream, going against the flow.

When I get weary and tired, God’s strength and power gives me the Spiritual muscles to keep swimming even when the current pushes against me.

And He gives me the power to live here, now, at such a time as this but to always remember who I am, where I came from and where I’m headed.

He gives me the power to LOVE. And I hope I will LOVE coming from a humble position.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers. adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Luke 18: 9-14

My prayer is that I will LOVE coming from the humble place of one needing mercy–ah, grace, mercy–I am nothing without it and everything with it.

I’m aware that as a Christ follower I am called to be different, live differently than our culture — to live counter culturally — but I am also called to love differently than is humanly possible in a world that is not my home.  That is hard and impossible without the power of Christ in me.

I don’t want to forget that this is not my home.  I don’t want to forget that I live in a world where I don’t really belong.  I don’t want to ever forget that I am a citizen of Heaven and that I am just passing through.

I am a sojourner.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a sojourner too.

We are not citizens of our world trying to work our way to Heaven.  We are citizens of Heaven allowing Him to complete His work through us.

As I look around at all the red, white and blue.  When I celebrate, join in on the festivities, parades, fireworks, I’m reminded that this celebration can’t compare to the one going on in Heaven when we open our hearts and lives to Jesus–the one who loved us enough to come down into this world to save us.

He’s the one who throws open wide the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven and welcomes us into a new and forever citizenship — a land with similar colors to remember and celebrate.

Jesus bore the red – through His blood, the blue through His bruises and we wear the white.

When God looks at us clothed in Jesus, He sees us as though we have never sinned.  White as snow.  Pure and perfect without blemish or stain.

As I celebrate my freedom here, I’m thankful for my liberty, the freedom to worship, the freedom to express myself.  I celebrate all that and more.

I celebrate the beauty, the glimpses of His glory that surround me daily and I’m truly thankful for all the good and perfect gifts that He’s given to me for my enjoyment.

But I also remember not to get too comfortable and to remember that I will be called to live counter-culturally at times, maybe even be ridiculed for that, possibly be misunderstood,  but I will remain joyful remembering that this is not my home, I’m just passing through.  The best is yet to come.

Blessings,

Nancy