Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I do not want to be a widow

I can't imagine me without Mel by my side.



I can't imagine it going from the two of us to just me. 

I can't imagine us going from a party of 4 

to one of 3

And yet I see my husband confined to a hospital bed. I heard the words of the doctors tell us there was nothing else they could do. I witnessed as the salvage drug destroyed his nerves and left him paralyzed. And I have seen the wound that began in the hospital get worse despite all we are doing to treat it. I was there when the nurse practitioner told us things were not looking very good. I see my husband's body weakened as a result of the toxic chemo that he had over the last two years.


And I don't want to be a widow.

As millions were siting around a dinner table for Thanksgiving I wondered if it would be the last Thanksgiving I had with my husband. I was reminded of the Thanksgiving 9 years prior where we met. And I wondered if I would go from being a wife to becoming a widow. The thoughts were not a result of my lack of faith in God. I know it is never too late for a miracle. I know the situation is never too bleak for God to step in. I understand that my eyes do not see nor do they comprehend the plan of God. I go into my prayer closet on a daily basis and I praise God in spite of our situation. I worship God for who He is. I bring to Him our petitions because I know that He can do anything.


 But I also know that there are times God chooses not to heal. We sing songs about heaven. We declare that we want to go there one day. The earth is not our home. And so if God chose to call my husband home he didn't lose his battle. It did not end in defeat. He would have won the race. He would have finished it strong. It would have ended in victory.



 But I don't want to be a widow. I can't imagine never being able to hold my husband's hand again. I can't imagine not being able to lay on his chest as I fall asleep. I can't imagine not being able to tell him about my day. He tells me I am pretty even when my hair is a wild mess. He tells me I am beautiful even though I am not a size 2 like I was when we met. He listens to my stories as though they were the most interesting things he has heard. And he encourages me so much. He has never once made me feel as though I was not loved by him. And I can't imagine it being me without him.

I can't imagine Malachi not having his dad teach him how to ride his bike without training wheels. I can't imagine him not being able to tell his dad about his first crush. I can't imagine Malachi not have his dad there to teach him how to play an instrument. I can't imagine him not having his dad there when he graduates from college, falls in love and gets married.


I can't imagine Hannah not having her dad there to cuddle with at night before she goes to bed. I can't imagine her not having her dad there telling her how wonderful, smart and beautiful she is. I can't imagine Hannah not having her dad there when she graduates from high school and choses a major in colleges. And I can't imagine him not being there to walk her down the aisle when she gets married.
I see my husband get weaker as the days go by. I see him confined to a bed for the last three months with no signs of improvement. He can't move his hands. He can't move his feet. And I don't want to be a widow.

And so I pray for the miracle. I pray for the healing. I declare promises over my husband's body. I speak healing to the nerves. I speak healing to the wound. I lay my hand on my husband's spine. I believe that just like Jesus raised the dead, opened the blinded eyes, allowed the lame to walk that He can declare the word and my husband can rise up out of the bed. I believe that just like He spoke life into existence God can speak life to the nerves that have died. I believe that just like He enabled a woman, unable to conceive, to give birth, God can take our barren situation and turn everything around. I believe that with one word God can mend the wound that has deepened on my husband's back. I believe with one word God can command the muscles to regain strength. I am not giving up hope.

But if God chooses not to heal I will never stop praising Him. I will never stop serving Him. I will never stop living for Him. My heart will be shattered. My life forever changed. But God will remain good.



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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Would you still say yes?

Some people want to be used BY God if it means platform, position or prestige. But what if God told you that He wanted to use you but it would require pain, tears and times where you wouldn't understand the purpose? Would you still say "I am available, use me?" Many people want to be used by God if it means applause, recognition and acceptable. But what if God told you that He wanted to use you but it would require you to climb the tallest mountain? What if God told you that He was going to use you but you would have to endure the driest season of your life? What if He told you that He was going to use you and place you in a position where Satan would taunt you and try to convince you that God was nowhere to be found? Would you still say "I am available?" What if God told you there wasn't going to be recognition but there was going to be a prison like situation like Joseph had? A wilderness like situation like David endured? A den full of lions like Daniel faced? A period of barrenness like Hannah had? Would you still say "I am available?" What if GOD said there wasn't going to be a microphone in your hand, there wasn't going to be a platform to stand and there wasn't going to be applause but rather there was going to be a cancer diagnosis, there was going to be a period of financial instability, there was going to be a season of closed doors rather than opened ones?

Would you still say "I am available?" What if God said that He was going to use you but you would endure the most difficult period of your life? What if He said that the season would last months and possibly years? What if He said the storm clouds would hover and the rain would pound? Would you still say "I am available?" What if He said that people would question whether you had sin in your life? What if He said that people wouldn't envy you but they would feel sorry for you? What if He said you wouldn't be surrounded by the multitude but you would endure a period of loneliness? Would you still say "I am available?"

What if GOD, in the midst of the trial, offered you to get off the train? What if HE said "the purpose hasn't been fulfilled yet but I know it hurts and you can exit?" What if He said "the plan hasn't come to pass yet but I will use someone else?" Would you get off? Would you exit? Would you change your mind about being used by God? Would you be content with just sitting on the pews so you wouldn't have to endure the pain?  What if God said the pain would be brutal and the heartache crushing but through your trial multitudes would come to know Him? What if HE told you that your season of brokenness and barrenness was ministering to more than people than if you had a microphone in your hand speaking behind a pulpit? What if He said that while others may have their names in lights and may have recognition wherever they go your infirmity was restoring those who are wayward? Would you still say "I am still available?"

What if in the midst of the pain God stops speaking? What if He stays silent? What if He doesn't explain the purpose? What if HE doesn't tell you the end? Would you still say you are available?" What if the situation gets worse would you still praise God? What if it seems as though the land is barren and there is no water in sight would you still live for God?


I am available God. Though it hurts I am available. Though tears have been my nourishment I am available. Though it seems as though you are silent I am available. Though I don't understand I am available. Though I don't know how the story is going to end I am available. Though I am not holding a microphone and I don't have recognition and my name is not known to many I am available. Though my heart is breaking I am available. Though the situation seems to be getting worse I am available. Though the pain is intense and the land seems so barren I am available. I believe there is a purpose in this pain. I believe there is a plan in this heartache.

You can use me God. Even though it may hurt you can use me God. Even though I may shed tears you can use me God. Even though there may times when you chose not to speak you can use me God.

You can use me. I won't get off the train even if you stop for me. I won't quit though the mountain is tall. I won't give in though the terrain is harsh.

I am still available God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

God can do all things but He doesn't have to do anything...


God can do all things but He doesn't have to do anything.

We read about all of the miracles that God performed in the Bible. We read about Him parting the Red Sea, speaking life into existence and delivering Daniel from the lion's den. We read about the lame walking, blind seeing and dead raising. We read about so many miracles that God performed. He did it all because He can do all things, but He didn't have to do any of them.

The last two years have been the most challenging two years of my life. Our life has been placed on hold. There are no vacations. There are no care-free days. We don't sit around and plan our future because we have no idea what the future holds. Hundreds of days my husband has spent in the hospital. For the last almost three months he has been unable to walk. It has been two and half months since he has last been able to move his hands. He can't hug his children. He can't play with them. There are no date nights. He can't hold my hand.

And on a daily basis we cry out to God. We ask Him to heal because He is the healer. We ask Him to allow this season to pass from our life and to allow the storm clouds to disappear because we are weary and in an indescribable amount of pain. It hurts and there is no denying the pain. Acknowledging pain isn't denying God's power. Talking about the sorrow and questions we experience doesn't signify a lack of trust in God. For almost 730 days our life has revolved around the cancer diagnosis. We have experienced the pain of relapse. We have felt our heart break when the doctor's told us there was nothing else they could do.

And we know that God can do all things. But we also understand that He doesn't have to do anything.

We ask Him to perform the miracle because we know He can. We ask Him to heal Mel's body. We ask Him to speak life to the nerves and allow my husband to be able to move and walk once again. We pray that He give Mel more years of life so he can see his children grow up. We go to Him with all of our needs because we know that God can do all things. But we also understand that He doesn't have to.

God can heal. He can perform the miracle. He just has to say the word. But sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes He doesn't heal. Sometimes He doesn't perform the miracle. Sometimes He doesn't say the word. Sometimes, even though God can do all things, He doesn't do what you have asked Him. And it is during those times that we are faced with a decision. Are we going to live for God the way we did when life was going to go according to plan? Or are we going to walk away because God chose not to answer the prayer the way we wanted Him to? We are faced with the decision do the words we sing in church only have meaning when life is going great? or do they have meaning when life seems to be falling apart?

God can do all things but He doesn't have to do anything. He doesn't have to answer the prayers the way we would like Him to. He doesn't have to perform the miracle our heart so desperately wants Him to perform. He doesn't have to heal when the doctors say there is not anything else they can do. And if He chooses not to, it doesn't diminish His power.  It doesn't mean He doesn't love. It doesn't mean He wasn't in control. It doesn't mean He wasn't moved by our tears. It doesn't mean He didn't have compassion when He saw our broken heart. It doesn't mean He didn't embrace us with His comfort when He saw the intense amount of pain we were in.

Every day we pray for a miracle. And every day we wake up believing that this is the day that God could command the limbs in my husband's body to move. We wake up believing that this is the day that God could heal that wound that developed in the hospital. We wake up believing that this is the day that God could restore all of the nerve damage caused by the chemotherapy. Every day we believe that this is the day that God can perform that miracle. Because God can do all things. But we also know that there is a chance God will chose not to. That doesn't keep up from believing. That doesn't keep us from praying. That doesn't keep us from trusting. That doesn't diminish the faith we have in God. And although if God chose not not to heal my husband, my heart would be shattered and my children will be devastated it won't stop me from living for God. It won't stop me from declaring that He is a healer. It won't stop me from praising Him.

God can do all things but He doesn't have to do anything. And there are times when He chooses not to do what we have cried out in desperation for Him to do. There are times when the hours we have spent in prayer for the miracle doesn't result in a miracle. There are times when the sleepless nights we have cried out to God to change our situation doesn't result in a change of situation. There are times when the story ends in heartbreak not a miracle.

But if that happens....if the miracles doesn't come...if the prayers aren't answered the way we desperately hoped it....if the situation doesn't resolve the way we prayed for hours that it would....

God is still God. And He can still do all things....



Praying for another day like this...


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Thursday, November 17, 2016

When God gives you more than you can bear

People love to say that God won't give you more than you can bear.

I beg to differ.

My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2014...That was more than I could bear.

He endured 8 cycles of chemotherapy in 2015 and was forced to be hospitalized for 2-3 weeks with each cycle of chemotherapy....That was more than I could bear.

He was declared in remission, received 18 doses of radiation and we thought the end of cancer treatment was over.  We were wrong.

In March of 2015 he was hospitalized and told he had Bells Palsy...More than we could bear.

A month later he was hospitalized again with kidney function at less than 25% and told that the cancer returned...More than we could bear.

He spent the summer months receiving salvage chemo which ended up not working and by July the cancer had spread to his bone marrow, his spine and through his body...More than we could bear.

The chemotherapy that was designed to destroy the cancer ultimately left him paralyzed and he is unable to move his hands and his legs...More than we could bear.

He was sent home on hospice and told he had weeks or maybe months to live...More than we could bear.

He developed a wound in the hospital that is not getting better and we were recently told that the wound may get infected and ultimately can take his life...More than we could bear.


The last two years have been full of events that were more than we could bear. They are hard. They break our heart. They cause us much pain. I can't bear the cancer diagnosis. I can't bear the pain that has come with the cancer diagnosis. I can't bear to see my husband crying and my children upset because they can't run around and play with their dad.

And so when people tell me that God won't give me more than I can bear I do beg to differ.

God has given us more than we can bear. But He has not given us more than He can bear. The weight on our shoulders may cause us to crumble and fall but God has taken this situation and placed it upon His shoulders and He holds the world in his hands. The situation is too big for us but it is not too big for God. And so God has given us more than we can bear. He has allowed a situation to take place within our life that is big. We can't bear it. But He can. He has never intended for us to do this on our own. He doesn't expect for us to have to figure things out. We can't bear this on our own.

Instead of saying "God won't give you more than you can bear" we should say "God won't give you more than He can bear." He can handle everything. He can turn the darkest situations around. And when things don't resolve the way we want them to resolve God will give us the strength to endure. He will give us the comfort to make it through difficult nights. He will give us the peace to handle the negative reports we are constantly getting. He will carry us through the darkest of days.




 

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Praising God when your world has shattered

A year ago this month Mel was getting ready to enter the hospital for his 7th cycle of chemo. We were exhausted as the year had been draining with Mel spending two weeks every month in the hospital getting chemotherapy. But we were also relieved because the cycles of chemo were almost over. The tests revealed that the cancer was gone and after 8 cycles of chemo the oncologist was optimistic that Mel would do good on maintenance drugs.

 (This is when my husband was first diagnosed with cancer. The first of many hospital stays)


We thought the brutality of the storm was over and that the skies were set to get clear....

We were wrong. We entered 2016 and Mel completed 18 days of radiation. We were waiting for his numbers to improve and he was to start maintenance drugs. Unfortunately that didn't happen and in April the cancer had returned. It had invaded his kidney and the doctor told us that Mel needed to start a salvage drug right away and his only hope of survival was a bone marrow transplant. From April through June Mel did 4 cycles of this salvage drug, unaware of the serious complications that the drug caused. There were no full matches but his bone marrow doctor told us that one of his siblings, who was half of a match, could be used for the transplant.

Once again we were optimistic. We thought the rain would stop pounding in our life....

We were wrong. Mel started developing bumps on his head and a biopsy showed the salvage drug wasn't working and the cancer had returned so the bone marrow transplant wasn't an option. He was admitted into the hospital and tests revealed the cancer had spread to his spine, bone marrow and was scattered throughout his body. The doctor told us there was a 50 percent chance that after 3 cycles the cancer may go into remission and we could do the transplant.

 


Yet after only one dose of the chemo tests revealed the cancer was gone. So once again we thought the storm was coming to a close.

We were wrong. Then Mel started losing the ability to walk. And what was supposed to be a 5 day hospital stay in August to do one more cycle chemo before the transplant turned into 6 weeks as my husband lost all ability to use his hands and legs. The salvage drug that he received from April through June caused spinal damage and left my husband paralyzed.  Mel spent 6 weeks in the hospital and saw so many specialists. Finally, the doctors told us there was nothing more they could do. They felt that the damage the spine would only increase and they could not give any more chemotherapy. So they sent my husband home on hospice.



And what was supposed to be a year of maintenance drugs turned into something far more challenging. I would be lying if I said we aren't hurting. And I think at times Christians are afraid of being honest because they are afraid people will tell them they aren't trusting God. My family has been called into a level of trust in God that most people are never called to. My husband has spent hundreds of days in the hospital. He has been hooked up to chemotherapy for 24 hours at a time. His body has been ravaged by both the cancer and the effects of the drugs used to treat the cancer.  He can no longer walk. He can't move his fingers. He needs assistance for absolutely everything.



And what hurts him even more is that he can't hold his children. He can't get on the floor and play with them. He can't go outside and kick a soccer ball with them. He can't take them to the zoo. So it hurts. Our life completely changed on December 30, 2014 when the doctors told us he had cancer. And it hurts. We aren't spending our Saturdays at soccer games. We aren't taking road trips. We aren't going out to eat as a family in the evening. We cry. We have questions. We feel numb at times. Our heart has been shattered. We are in pain.

And it is during these times when the words we sing in church become more than just words. And it is during these times when we are faced with the question or whether we are going to live out what we have preached for years when life was going good or whether we are going to walk away from God because the storm has ravaged our life?



When my husband was told he had cancer on December 30, 2014...

When he started his first cycle of chemo in March of 2015...

When he spent two weeks of every month in the hosptial during 2015 ....

When we were reduced to one income ...

When my children cried because they missed their dad ...

When Mel was unable to finish school ...

When the cancer returned in April of 2016 ....

When the salvage drug wasn't working ....

When he entered the hospital for the 15th time in August of 2016 ...

When what was supposed to be a 5 day hospital stay turned into a 6 week stay ...

When he lost the ability to move his legs and arms ....

When the doctors said there was nothing else to do ....

Those things devastated us. Those things shook us. Those things caused us to cry at night. Those things hurt us. Those things changed us. Those things have left us broken at times.

But those things did  not destroy the faith we have in God. Those things did not cause us to stop praising and worshiping Him. Those things did not make us turn our back on God. We can't just talk about God being in control when things are going our way. When the storm clouds hover over us and the rain pounds relentlessly God is still in control.

While we may not understand why, we trust that God is in control.
While we may be hurting, we know that God gives us peace.
While we may be filled with sorrow, we know that God gives us comfort.
While we may have questions, we know that God hears and still speaks.

We will continue to praise God.
We will continue to live for God.
We will continue to walk in the path.
We will continue to worship God

And we will continue to believe that as long as this storm hovers over our life, God will give us exactly what we need to make it through.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why we stopped attending church....

My husband has not attended church since August. I stopped attending church in September.

This has been a gradual progression. We didn't just stop attending church. Within the last two years there were many Sunday's and Wednesday's where my husband and I did not attend church. And then in August of this year my husband stopped attending altogether and I followed in September.

It wasn't always like this. Every Sunday before church I would often post an "off to church" picture. My husband played the bass guitar so Sunday's were quite hectic as we would get up early to get to church where my husband would have practice. But each Sunday we would make our way to church. We would do the same every Wednesday. After work, we would rush home, make dinner and then get ready for church.

(One of our many off to church pictures)


But then something changed. And I no longer would I post the "off to church" picture on a regular basis. There were some Sunday's where my husband wouldn't go and then other Sunday's where we both missed.

It isn't what you think though. We weren't skipping church because our son was in a football game. We weren't skipping church because our daughter had a musical recital. We weren't staying home because my husband wanted to watch a soccer game on television. We didn't miss church because we were tired from working all day. We didn't miss church on Sunday because we slept in and wanted to relax before the work week began again on Monday. We didn't stop attending because someone offended us at church.

We stopped attending regularly because cancer entered our home.

The first Sunday we missed church we were in a hospital in California. Our family vacation turned into a tragedy as my husband was diagnosed with cancer. We missed church that Sunday because the doctor's had completed a biopsy of a tumor that was discovered and we were waiting in the hospital for the biopsy results. It would be the first of many Sunday's where my husband was unable to attend church. When the cancer returned in March of 2015 my husband would spend two weeks out of every month in the hospital receiving cancer treatment. So for two Sundays and two Wednesdays he would miss church.

(The week my husband was diagnosed with cancer)

I continued to attend church and instead of the "off to church picture" including 4 people it only included 3. As soon as my husband got released from the hospital though he made sure he was in church the following Sunday. He would often wear a mask as he was neutropenic and his white blood cell count was so low. But he would be in church. After receiving toxic doses of chemo that caused him to get platelet and blood transfusions he would be back on the platform with his bass guitar the Sunday he left the hospital worshiping God as he ministered with the music team. Even as the chemo was causing spinal damage and my husband was in severe pain he would still make it to church.

(As soon as he was released from the hospital he would be on the platform the following Sunday)

And then the cancer relapsed in April of 2016 and the salvage drugs stopped working so in July he entered the hospital for a 21 day stay getting chemo. He spent a week at home in August before returning to the hospital for what was supposed to be a 5 day stay. Unfortunately that stay was extended to six weeks. During the stay he lost all ability to move his legs and arms, a result of the damage caused by the chemo. And so since August he has not attended church. He has missed 3 months of church. And then when the doctors sent my husband home on hospice declaring that there was nothing else they could do, I also stopped attending church because my husband needs a full time care giver.

 (While others were in church this is how we spent Easter Sunday in 2015)


Again the reason isn't because the football game is more important. Nor is the reason because the work week was exhausting and he wants to sleep in. The reason isn't because our child has a sporting event. Nor is the reason because he was offended by a message that was delivered from the platform.

My husband would give anything to be able to sit in a pew on Sunday and worship with other believers. He would give anything to be able to once again sit in a pew on Sunday to hear the Word of God delivered. But he can't. Because he is confined to a bed. Because the chemo has caused damage to his spine. Because he can't move his hands. Because he can't move his feet. He has a reason for not attending church.


 (This is how my husband spends his days...in a hospital bed)

This is not a judgmental post although I am sure some may take it that way. I think though how many times we make any excuse to miss church. We place value over things that have no spiritual value. We skip church because we are tired. We skip church because there is a sporting event on TV. We skip church because our child is involved in athletics. We skip church because we didn't like the way the praise singer looked at us. We skip and justify skipping church all of the time.

But there are people like my husband who would give anything to be in church. There are people in other countries who walk miles, through rough terrain to get to a church service. There are people in other countries who attend church although doing so violates the law and can result in death.

I explained our reasons for missing church....What is your reason?


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