Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giving Thanks EVERY Day

Giving thanks always and for everything...   Ephesians 5:20

Thanksgiving Day 2014.  Parades.  Family.  Too much good food.  Giving thanks for our many blessings.  Sounds pretty typical, right?  It's been our norm for as long as I can remember.  This year, however, was different.  For our family, thankfulness took on a whole new meaning.  Hit a whole new level.  I knew it was going to hit me at some point--I just didn't realize it would hit when I was praying before our meal.

Lord, we thank you for this day.  We thank you for this time to gather together as a family... Then I lost it.  I held on to Paige and eventually made it through what seemed like the longest prayer ever.  I am not usually one to find myself at a loss for words--in fact, I had plenty to say.  I was just completely overwhelmed.  Our gathering was at home, not a hospital room.  Paige was able to eat--anything she wanted--and didn't have to add anti-nausea meds to the mix.  There was eating.  There was laughing.  And my girl was right in the middle of it all.

I have always been thankful for the blessings God has given me, but this year has taught me what it means to be truly, wholly thankful.  Not just one day, but every single day.  Thankful for God's love, mercy, and amazing grace--that I have seen in abundance over the last ten months.  Thankful He gave me an incredible family growing in strength and faith all the time.  Thankful for the healing happening in my daughter--and the hope for her spectacular future.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts...and with my song I give thanks to Him.   Psalm 28:7

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Crossing a Bridge

I like to run.  There's a shirt I've seen online that says something to the effect of, "I run to burn off the crazy."  Considering the events of the last 11 months, those words ring very true for me.  Running gives me a chance to get moving, take in the beauty of God's creation, and just breathe.  It really does help burn off the crazy, I'm-gonna-lose-it feeling that can try to take over sometimes.

There's a wooden bridge on my usual path that for some reason fascinates me.  I've paused several times to take a quick picture before crossing it.  There's nothing special about the bridge.  The view around it is quite beautiful, but it's just a wooden bridge--or is it?

Bridges take us from one place to another--sometimes from the familiar to the unknown.  There is no way of knowing exactly what lies ahead.  Over the last several months, I've thought of my little bridge as representative of various milestones in Paige's treatment.  Successful recovery from procedures.  Smooth administrations of intense chemotherapy.  These milestones are exciting because they put us one step closer to the finish line, but they can also bring new anxieties over the unknown.  Just gives us more to pray about, I suppose--and a chance to see some pretty amazing glimpses of hope.

A couple of weeks ago we crossed another bridge on this journey when Paige officially began the maintenance phase.  Were we ready for this?  Absolutely.  Almost 10 months of medications that all but destroyed her body in the name of saving her life, it was time to take in some new sights along our path.

The maintenance phase will be the longest leg of this journey, lasting just under two years--yes, two more years.  It goes in three-month cycles, during each of which Paige will receive one lumbar puncture sending a small amount of chemo into the spinal fluid, three short chemo infusions through her port, monthly steroid therapy, and two oral chemo medications--one nightly and one weekly.

Yes, our travels are far from over.  This medication regimen is extremely important in working to rid Paige's body of any tiny, hard-to-detect leukemia cells that may be waiting to cause trouble further down the road.  A bright spot of this very scheduled regimen is that it won't cause Paige's counts to tank like the more intense medications did--meaning she should be able to begin a transition back to school sometime after the first of the year.

Before we get too far into maintenance, Paige must complete 8 treatments of cranial radiation.  Because leukemia cells like to hide in spinal fluid--which leads to the brain--this is considered a preventive measure.  Thankfully, she has never shown any evidence of disease in the spinal fluid, so she is receiving a smaller number of treatments.  The simulation was a few weeks ago, and actual treatment begins next week.  This will be one of the few treatments Paige has to receive without me right there by her side.  I've gotta say--this momma doesn't like that one bit.  I know it's in the name of safety, so it's yet another time I've got to remember she is never alone. God has been with her since this all began, and He will continue to be there every step of the way.

We have crossed the bridge into maintenance and press on toward that finish line.  Yes, it's a couple of years away--but it's there waiting for us nonetheless, and we couldn't be more thankful.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   
Romans 8:25

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Learning How to Pray Differently

Prayer.  Spending time talking (and listening to God).  For as long as I can remember, it's been part of my life.  Of course, the way I pray has changed over the years.  This goes for the rest of my family as well.

Prayers of a child.  These standards taught me to talk to God--the listening part came later on.  Every dinnertime found me saying the usual--God is great, God is good.  Let us thank Him for our food.  Bedtime had its assigned prayer as well--Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  When Paige and Jeremy came along, they learned the routine as well.  These prayers were important and served their purpose.  God heard every one of them--after all, He hears the prayers of all His children, big and small.  The day just comes when you realize it's time for more.  Time to really talk to God.

Prayer grows up.  As I grew up, so did my prayers.  I ditched the 'scripted' routine and focused on what was most relevant to me at the time.  Health and safety.  Wants (that at the time I considered needs).  The future.  We talked to the kids several years back about revising their prayer rhetoric, and it followed a similar pattern.  Keep us healthy and safe.  Please let me do well on a test.  We all got really good at talking to God--but that listening part was still a challenge.  Sure, I'd do okay sometimes.  Other times that I-can-control-all-things part of me would take over.  Then one day, it happened--things got a little too real and a whole lot out of control, and there was nothing I could do to fix it.

Prayer gets real.  My prayer life saw its most significant change about ten months ago--around January 10th.  It was then I discovered a real, crying-out-to-God, on-my-knees kind of prayer.  As parents, we do whatever is in our power to keep our kids safe, healthy, and happy--yet some things are beyond our control.  Take cancer, for example.  Even ten months into this journey, it still seems like a bad dream--and I'll wake up one morning with everything the way it was.  It's nice to think about, but I know that won't happen.  Paige's diagnosis rocked our world in more ways than I can count, but it also gave us strength beyond measure.

One of those boosts--actually, jolts--of strength came in our prayer life.  January 10th had us on our knees--physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We cried almost uncontrollably upon hearing Paige's diagnosis.  When the tears could no longer fall, we cried out for her healing.  And then we did what is so hard for many of us to do--we gave it all over to God.  Our worries, our fears, our absolute trust in His plan for Paige.  I remember telling Him that I knew I couldn't fix this, that I couldn't control what was happening with our daughter.  That we were giving the whole situation completely to Him, knowing He had a plan for Paige we will never fully comprehend.  And I did what I should have done all along.  I sat still and listened.  His response was an overwhelming, mercy-and-grace-raining-down-on-us kind of thing.  And it changed my life.

Prayer becomes specific.  Paige's illness taught me to pray differently.  In many ways, I think I've gotten better at it.  Not only am I specific in my prayer requests (with the cancer chaos, it's become a necessity), I am specific in giving thanks.  For Paige's healing.  For being able to be by her side every step of this journey.  For holding our family together when things could very easily have come unraveled.  The kids have learned as well--praying for our clinic and hospital friends by name (and situation if they know it).  For peace and comfort for friends who have recently lost loved ones--that "they will know God is there with them."  I love that my kids have hearts like this.

Prayer.  As long as I have breath, I will give glory and honor to God for the amazing life He has given me.  Through calm waters and stormy seas.  He is mighty.  He is faithful.  He is worthy.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.   
Jeremiah 29:13