Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Filled



Mom, everyone says you are SO BRAVE when I tell them what you are going through, Amanda said as she climbed in the car at school pick-up. Mom, how are you so strong?

I choked on a laugh at her question. Amanda, do you know where that strength comes from?

From God, Avery piped in.

Yes, from God, I said. You know how I read my Bible each morning and talk to God? That's what I'm doing....getting my strength. None of what I do is on my own.

Let there not be any secret in that...whatever strength or bravery I may have comes from choosing daily putting my trust and hope in God. Coming before him and laying my fears and doubts and secret longings before him. He is good and can be trusted. He loves me and is walking with me. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~ Romans 15:13

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Aiden The Fish?

Aiden has been quite resistant to Shaun's efforts to teach him how to swim...he's not a risk-taker. So when I saw that the town was offering swim lessons a couple blocks from our house from now until late April, I thought that would be perfect....learning in a group with a non-parent instructor and finishing up in time to put it to good use.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I broke the news to him that I'd signed him up. I mentioned it everyday in the week leading up to Saturday and each time invoked tears. Finally, I asked Shaun to have a man-to-man talk with him, which he did. It was brief and to the point...I'm so jealous of how men do conversation. :)

On Friday Aiden asked if daddy had a basketball game that night. I said no, he's all done....the only sport going on right now is swimming. Then he puffed out his chest a little and started talking trash about how he was going to swim faster than all the other kids in the class. Nice.

Saturday morning he came down dressed and packed to go to swim.  Phew! When we got there he went right to the edge and sat down as instructed and quickly made friends with the kid in the yellow. They were the two biggest, and presumably oldest ones in this "preschool" class, with the least amount of expertise, but they didn't seem to notice or care as they chatted it up the entire time.

I tried not to be smug as I watch two of the parents down there coddling, begging, pleading with their child to participate because...if not for the grace, there go I. :)

They began the class dangling their feet in the water and taking turns being held in the water by the instructor and by the end they were swimming across the pool unassisted, except for a floaty on their back. I was impressed with the progress in one hour.

As I was helping him change in the locker room after he said, You were right Mom..thanks for signing me up for swim lessons! Win!

I will rest easier and he'll have so much more fun this summer with his new-found skill and confidence. Now we need to get him loving his bike with no training wheels. Life on the edge! ;)





Monday, March 2, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 23

In the first month after the diagnosis, things would change by the hour somedays and updating on a weekly basis didn't seem like enough. Now that we're where we are, weekly sometimes seems like too much sharing, especially after twenty-three weeks!

But it means so much to me when I find out people stop by this blog once in a while to check up on us. It actually surprises me too, because...who wants to read about cancer every week?? But you keep caring and you keep praying and I just want to say...thank you. We have more journey left, but we're making our way through!

This week I had the follow-up to my surgery. The incisions look good and Mr. Doctor said I can resume any activities I want. He may also have said something about not overdoing it, but I stopped listening at "you can resume activity". And that is why my people don't trust me to do doctor's appointments by myself. ;)

He did ok radiation, so I went to get re-scanned and re-aligned (they were able to use the previous tattoos). When I walked in at 6:50 AM, the radiologist, who I hadn't met with since October, stepped out to greet me. He gave me such a compassionate look that said, wow...you made it back. And in that split second my mind went through all these months since October and what I've been through to actually make it back. I almost cried, right there in the waiting room.

This week I also did lots of leg work to get my medication. There is a learning curve with our new insurance company and it seems like a lot more work. So I did plenty of phone tag and waiting on hold and being transferred and tracking down money due us from the old insurance company. And while its frustrating (in almost a comical way), I think of the many senior citizens who are alone and trying to mange it all. Its a part-time job! And healthcare is a really, really bad system. No, not system...that implies something that is functioning and working together. Entity, maybe?

Aiden and I went to the hospital to pick up my MRI results and I walked down a hallway that somehow I remember walking down from ER to maternity the night Amanda was born. Weird what our brains remember.

The MRI says what my body has confirmed...that I need to start radiation now. And that's what I'll be doing this week. Radiation is five days a week, for six weeks. Seven days a week during those six weeks I will take chemo pills.

I'm excited to get the next step going but I'm not naive anymore. I know this phase will have its own set of challenges and so I'm back in my head doing battle. Battling the fear and the futile wishing I could just be done and not have to do anymore hard. But I can, and I will and God's grace is enough.












We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would 
never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying 
on ourselves and learned to rely on God, who raises the dead. 

2 Cor 4:8b-9

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Project 365, Week 9

I was feeling better this week, post-surgery, and better is good enough for me. I mostly spent the week just being a mom and that's bliss!

Although I won't see a whole lot of him, Shaun is off today, for the first time in over a month. I/We miss him like crazy. Even though tax season happens every year, you still don't get used to it enough for it not to be hard. It is..."taxing", on all involved. ;)

In other news, its Sunday morning and its not snowing! Apparently, its going to wait until this evening to start. Its March 1st (yay!) and most around here are quite ready for spring. Amanda is concerned that the snow won't be gone in time for the Easter egg hunt. I'm being to wonder...

We had some days that weren't arctic cold, so the kids were outside most days. Actually, I think it has more to do with the fact that we're just acclimated to the bitter cold. Boo!

Here's our week in all of its wonderful ordinariness.

February 22
I love quiet mornings when these three can hang out together and play and imagine and be silly.
 Aiden usually gets dressed on his own accord and heads outside to do work.
February 23
Shaun was home for some of the evening! Rummikub has been popular around here since Christmas. Its the only game I've found I can sometime beat Shaun at....comes from the hours I spent playing this growing up. (Avery is setting the timer for Shaun because he tries to cheat. :)

February 24
I suggested to Aiden he could put on more clothes instead of burning his back on the gas fireplace but he said he was good. Also, we've been so thankful for this handed-down lego bin!
February 25
This girl shares my love of books and its fun to chat with her about what she's interested in.
 Not so much for these two. :)
 Working on his tunnel.
February 26
Hot chocolate!

The rule around here is "no job? no cell phone." R has been doing enough work for Shaun that he finally earned enough to get a phone and maintain the monthly costs. Its only talk and text so we don't have to deal with Internet things yet, but we're happy that he's reached this "status". Its quite possible that he was the only one in his senior class to get a phone. In my opinion, its wrong that there is more shame in not having a phone than there is in not having a j-o-b. I'm old-fashioned like that.


My bed has been a popular spot this week...I think that electric throw might be the reason.
February 27
I was treated to lunch with a couple friends and it was so nice to be out, doing something normal. Aiden asked about all those "trophies" on display.

 Sniper-boy, taking out the squirrels in the yard.

February 28
The big news around here is R has a girlfriend! We got to meet her and bring her to church and have her over for dinner. She's adorable and is a new voice in R's head harping about studying and doing well in school. I'm going to do everything I can to keep her around! ;)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Three Years of Fostering

Today marks three years of being licensed foster parents. We could not have known on February 27, 2012 where this road would take us. Its been filled with challenges and blessings, tears and smiles, sins and forgiveness, selfishness and selflessness, questions and answers, compassion and judgments. We've made plenty of mistakes along the way, most of them of the "rookie" variety, but God has always been faithful.

In honor of this day, I'm reposting a piece I wrote on the one-year anniversary of bringing our first foster child, "Z" to live with us. We've had two long-term placements and 11 respite kids, staying for various lengths of time.



April 10th.  I wonder if this day will always be meaningful, or if the significance of it will fade over time.

It marks the day Z, our very first foster child, moved into our house.  It was a day that caught us by surprise in some regards, which we would later learn is par for the course in these dealings.

We officially were licensed on February 27.  On February 28 we got a call that there was a 9-year old boy in need of a place.  Oh, and he also had 1 and 4-year old siblings who would be coming once Z got settled and adjusted.

I sat down and took some deep breaths of prayer, then called Shaun at work.  Shaun didn't really hesitate...there was a need, we were able to fill it, what's the discussion?  One of the million reasons I love him.  We did, of course, discuss it, as it was bound to have a major impact on our family and was certainly more than we'd signed up for, but his heart has always been "to whom much is given much is required" and "freely you have received, freely give".

We first went to the safe home on March 20 where Z'd been staying since January.  We met him, talked with the various professionals involved in his case and made the decision that he would be a good fit for us.

The agency we are with is very big on making a placement stick, so there is a due process involved before a child comes to live in the home.  First is the initial meeting, then several "out in the community" outings, then a visit to our home, then an overnight, then a weekend, then the transition happens.

All this happened in the middle of tax season AND the safe home was a 45-minute drive from our home.  It was also around Easter, so we were neck deep in Passion rehearsals and performances.  It was, um....intense.

We'd been pressing the powers that be to move along this transition process, get him out of the safe home and into ours.  We really didn't want him to be there longer than he already had been.  It looked like they would be stretching it out longer, but out of nowhere, on the morning of the 10th, we got the email that it was ok to bring him home.  I remember that (crazy!!) day well, mostly because it happened to be a 10 on 10 day and I have it all recorded.

Remarkably, a year has passed!  It was busier and more full than I had ever previously thought life could be.

We went through (are going through) a learning curve with all things Department of Children & Families and our agency.  Unexpectedly, the administration part of having Z is a part-time job...meetings, emails, phone calls, paperwork, meetings, transportation, supervised visits.


Its been a year of learning and growing for all of us.  Some days are really hard, especially the ones when I turn the focus on ME and my selfishness.  Dozens, maybe hundreds of times, I've had to remind myself, this is NOT about me.  Nearly all of my hurt, frustration and anger can be snuffed out with that fresh knowledge.

It is a painful process to die to yourself.  Painful, and seemingly continual (at least for me), but it is what  Jesus has asked of us and I'm convinced its the only way to truly be happy and fulfilled.

Then Jesus said to all of them, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me."  Luke 9:23

The kids accepted their brother and this unorthodox lifestyle almost immediately and after some innocent, legitimate and awkward questions (Z, why are you wearing those clothes again?) they settled into their new life.


A roller coaster is the best way to describe the journey.  There are some high times, some low times and many jerks around a corner we didn't see (I speak as if I ride real life roller coasters...I don't...just metaphorical ones :).

So much, we've discovered is completely out of our control, which is challenging when you fight it, not so much when you recognize the bureaucracy that is the state and that its not going away anytime soon and you just make up your mind to go with it.

The deal with his siblings is so sad...there are so many things we shake our heads at and wonder why, the fact that they are not all together is among the top.  We've relied on the knowledge that God is ALWAYS good, ALWAYS faithful and we can trust Him.


When I'm crying out to God and asking for forgiveness for the sins in my heart I also sometimes say I told you so.  I told you I'm not a kid person.  I told you I'm selfish and judgmental.  I told you I would get too frustrated with the system.  I told you I'm not an overly loving or compassionate person.  I gave you the list of reasons why I should be disqualified for the the job of foster mom and you ignored it.

But then He gently reminds me that He didn't choose me because I came with a glowing resume or because of my credentials.  He simply chose me because I dared to trust Him.  In that way, He gets the glory, and I love that.

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw hecouldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”  Romans 4:17-18

And so, today is certainly with mixed emotions as our family recognizes this mark in time.  But for sure, my overriding feeling is one of thankfulness.  Thankful to have followed that initial tug God placed in our hearts, thankful for the work He continues to do in our hearts and especially for the undeserved love and grace He pours out to us daily, even sometimes moment by moment.





Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spring, Please

This morning it was 10 degrees. That's 22 degrees warmer than it was yesterday morning. Its nearly March. I don't think there is a way to will spring to arrive, but just in case....





“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.

Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.

Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Monday, February 23, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 22

I tend to be a straightforward person and am not really good at being vague or mysterious. If I was an ambiguous person, I would tell you that I had "a procedure" this week but since I'm a tell-it-like-it-is kind of person, I will risk over-sharing.

(Men, this is your cue to skip down a paragraph. ;) I had what's called an ovarian transposition done. With three one-inch incisions we, meaning the surgeon, moved my ovaries up and out of what will soon be the radiation field. (Apparently this is not a common surgery because the two residents seemed pretty excited to be involved). Doing this is going to prevent the ovaries from being fried, which in turn will prevent menopause from kicking in when radiation starts. When we were told there was a way around doing the menopause-thing at age 40, in addition to all other stuff we have going on, that sounded like a good idea! We are SO very grateful that we made the decision several years ago that we were done having biological children. I imagine it would be devastating to have cancer make that decision for us.

My cousin Melody and I were out of the house at 4:30 AM. We went to Amy's and she and I drove to the hospital while Melody stayed behind with Amy's kids. We went in the main entrance and the first thing I saw was this big, beautiful reminder.


It was a process to get all checked in and hooked up. I'm learning to embrace the IV...its been three times in a row now that they've gotten it on the first try and its so much less painful than the knitting needle they stick in my port and then the flushing rigmarole. I'm a reformed needle-sissy. :)

We met some super sweet, caring doctors and nurses and had some hangout time in between people in and out of my cubicle. I was pretty relaxed, my only other surgery experience (the port placement) having not been a big deal. Also, I wore my SuperGirl shirt. :)


Avery asked me to send her a picture in my hospital gown because I was telling her that as many gowns as I've had on in the last five months (two dozen plus), I don't think any two have been the same. This paper variety was new. What's that you say? My world is small? I know.


The surgery ended up lasting three hours, where we thought it would be more like an hour. My poor Amy was growing more nervous as time dragged and then was given a good freak-out moment when the doctor called her into a private room...to tell her everything had gone fine!

After two more hours in recovery, I was admitted to a room. The first thing I noticed as they wheeled my bed in was the bright sunshine streaming through the window.


The pain was unexpectedly intense but I did everything in my power to move along the process so the nurse would agree to release me before having to spend the night. I have a new appreciation for women who have had c-sections...its no joke!!


These two ladies were superstars! Amy spent ten hours at the hospital just sitting and waiting and then watching me struggle through pain. And Melody was hiding in small spaces with Renna back at the house while they played hide-n-seek. Then they switched and Amy went home and Melody helped me get dressed and loaded up to go home, doing her best to avoid potholes along the way.

As we left the hospital, I couldn't help being so thankful that I was there for a planned, "elective" surgery. Behind those windows are so many hurting people dealing with major challenges, many of them doing it all alone, without God or community.

When we got home Shaun was waiting for us and he helped me get up two flights of stairs to my bedroom. I got into bed and that's where I stayed until Friday morning. At the hospital I tried to decline the prescriptions the doctor wanted to hand out, but Amy made me take the prescriptions and promise to take them around the clock to help the healing process. I did that until Friday when I finally got out of bed. I knew if I was going to be up and about I needed to feel the pain so I wouldn't try to do too much.

I might sound like a crazy person (and maybe I am going crazy) but I was so happy to have pain instead of the chemo mess. Pain is predictable, known, manageable, straightforward. Even still, it was a miserable couple of days, even with bright spots like a friend delivering lunch to my bedroom (a first!) and Avery bringing me coffee in bed (also a first).

On Friday I was out of bed but moving slow...and doing battle in my head....a place where a lot of this battle happens. I spent much of the day wrestling with God in prayer.

God, show me what I'm supposed to be learning in all of this?

God, do you really think its the best use of my time to be laid up all these weeks, able to do so little?

God, you've promised that you'll use everything for good. What good is coming from this?

Give me patience with the process...its wearing thin.

Give me strength...how many times can I get knocked down and get back up again?

I had no resolution that day but the next morning, first thing, I was back seeking God and was reminded of this verse from II Corinthians:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

When my only option is to continue trusting THE God who created the universe and who formed me, then I know I'm in a pretty good place.








Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and for sticking by us all these months. I'm so grateful to have people who know and care and love. A shared burden is so much lighter!