Sunday, November 30, 2014

Project 365, Week 48

I love Thanksgiving, don't you?  Its about recognizing how very blessed we are and spending time with family.  So cool!

We, all of us, are so blessed, so rich.

This week is going to need a separate post or three so I only have one picture per day.  Imagine that!

November 23
Guess who's the birthday girl.  :)

November 24
We are well aware our family is...different??  Crazy?  This Monday night was not typical but certainly not out of our "norm". R called at 5 pm:

R: Um, because of the weather they are predicting for Thursday, our game got moved to Tuesday.
Us: That's great!
R: Yeah, well, we were supposed to have the pre-game pasta dinner on Wednesday but since the game got moved to tomorrow we have no place to do the dinner.
Us: Oh, that's too bad.
R: Yeah.  Well, I was wondering.  Uh, do you think we could do it at our house?
Us: Our house?  When?
R: In about half an hour.  Yeah, I was gonna call before practice started [2 hours ago!] but I couldn't find anyone's phone to borrow.
Us: Ok. Bring them on over.

Then we scrambled!  :)  THANKFULLY, Amy had stopped by to drop some things off for me and the call came just as she was leaving and she graciously stayed til we had things underway.  We also had a couple other friends here who pitched in.  As a team we ran to the store, cleaned up the house (and by that I mean we moved power tools and swept up some of the sawdust) and had dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

I stayed on the other end of the house while the germs football players were here but this was the aftermath I walked into after they'd left.

It really blessed R that we were able to do that and he thanked me half a dozen times. I'm glad our kids know its ok to bring 25 friends over and hang at our house.  One of the many reasons God gave us this gift of a house.

November 25
This little dude was all about legos this week, building ships and aircraft.

November 26
Pre-holiday house projects well underway.  Time for a house project update!
November 27
Happy Thanksgiving!  Sienna and the girls worked diligently on these adorable place cards for the table.
 November 28
Decking the halls.
 November 29
A low-key morning with games and puzzles.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

I've always found it hard to make a list of things I'm thankful for.  The list is so comprehensive that I often think it would be easier to make a list of things I'm not thankful for.
  • mosquitoes
  • ticks
  • child abuse
  • retail stores being open on holidays
  • blizzards
  • soda
  • television
But this year, it feels like there is an especially lot to be thankful for.

Because Thanksgiving is a choice.  An attitude.  A way of life.

Its choosing to see that God is at work.  Its choosing to find the blessings when things are going great and when circumstances cause life to be painful, confusing, lonely, hard.

My list could stretch on for miles, but I thought maybe I could just list a few of them....
  • I know the Creator of the universe personally, and He loves me
  • My husband, who is carrying out the "in sickness and in health" part of his vows with such strength and beauty and faithfulness
  • Family and Friends who love us and pray for us, and then love on us some more
  • My kids...they bring fulness to life.  Little people call me "momma"!
  • Morning sunrises...along with new mercies each day
  • I'm an American and daily I live in freedom that so many have fought for
  • Advil.  It worked well to relieve the pain I had over the summer and each time I took two tablets I thought that most people around the world don't have access to something so simple to alleviate their physical pain
  • Physical pain.  Without it, we may not have found the cancer for some time
  • God's is enough
  • Even numbers, which this bullet makes ;)
Happy Thanksgiving!!

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Gravity of Gratitude

Food for thought...

In the last days there will come times of stress. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful . . . (2 Timothy 3:1–2)
Notice how ingratitude goes with pride, abuse and insubordination.
In another place Paul says, “Let there be no obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking . . . but rather thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). So it seems that gratitude is the opposite of ugliness and violence.
The reason this is so is that the feeling of gratitude is a humble feeling not a proud one. It is other-exalting, not self-exalting. And it is glad-hearted not angry or bitter.
The key to unlocking a heart of gratitude and overcoming bitterness and ugliness and disrespect and violence is a strong belief in God, the Creator and Sustainer and Provider and Hope-giver. If we do not believe we are deeply indebted to God for all we have or hope to have, then the very spring of gratitude has gone dry.
So I conclude that the rise of violence and sacrilege and ugliness and insubordination in the last times is a God-issue. The basic issue is a failure to feel gratitude at the upper levels of our dependence.
When the high spring of gratitude to God fails at the top of the mountain, soon all the pools of thankfulness begin to dry up further down the mountain. And when gratitude goes, the sovereignty of the self condones more and more corruption for its pleasure.
Pray for a great awakening of humble gratitude.
~by John Piper

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mighty Hunter

Yesterday morning I was telling Shaun that my brother, who is always full of surprises, was out hunting for the first time ever.  Aiden's ears perked right up and he wanted to know lots of details about it.

A couple hours later he came down with a bag packed full of gear that he wanted help putting on.  He whispered to me that he was going to go hunting for deer, who would be Trot.

I helped him get his work boots and bright blue jacket on (which has a camouflage material inside) and he set off in the rain with his four-inch stick gun.

Apparently at some point he tired of the hunting and the gun doubled as a ripple-maker.

I guess it would be totally inappropriate for me to say I was disappointed he was unsuccessful in shooting the "deer".  ;)

For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
 God arms me with strength,
    and he makes my way perfect.
 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory.
    Your right hand supports me;
    your help has made me great.
Psalm 18:31-35

Monday, November 24, 2014

Doing Battle, Week 9

When I committed to sharing my cancer story online, I knew it would be challenging.  It is all deeply personal in a way that sharing a picture of my cute kids playing at the park is not.  And there is a lot of inherent ugliness to a cancer journey.

While I've always been honest here, as in, I've never lied, I've been convicted recently that I need to be more forthcoming.

Forthcoming: adj: characterized by openness, candidness

By nature I'm a seek-out-the-good, minimize-the-bad kind of person.  But I wonder if I'm missing an opportunity by not fully sharing my story, not being more vulnerable in this space.  I want to be able to share what God is doing on my good days and the bad ones, when I'm feeling like this ain't no thing and when I'm really, really scared.

It makes no sense that I have cancer.  But since I do, I am confident it is for a purpose and I don't want to miss out on that....I want to play an active role in what gets accomplished!

 In these last weeks when I've attempted to be real about how I'm feeling, what I'm feeling, I've held back.  I don't want to do anything to cause those I love unnecessary pain and worry.  Sometimes I'll go to type something and this scene will pop into my head:
But that's just not fair.  I've gotten nothing but love and support and hands extended and I think being honest and forthcoming is vital in building community and relationships.  So please bear with me as I look for the balance between sharing TMI (too much information) and portraying the perfect Facebook life.

This week really began on Sunday leading up to Round #3.  Because of the allergic reaction I had last time, it was not an option to continue with the drug that caused it.  The thought of starting a new, unknown drug made me very anxious.  Despite my best efforts, I spent much of the day dwelling on it.  What if I had another allergic reaction?  What if the side effects were more than I could take?  In my weakness, the  countdown to the unknown took its toll.

But even with my worrying, Monday came.

When my blood results came back, my white blood cells were low.  (Those are the cells that help your body fight infection.)  The doctor and nurse talked about it and decided it was ok to go ahead with the treatment because they could see my bone marrow had gotten the message that the counts were low and had started to produce in ernest.

A relief!  I don't want to be there, but I also don't want to not be there.  If that makes sense.

Sharon was our nurse again and she's wonderful.  The entire nursing staff is super friendly and helpful.  I've observed that they all seem to have a calling to be there....its more than just a job.  I'm so very thankful for the love and care they give.

 I'm given a 24-hour steroid before the treatments even begin to combat nausea and I have two other drugs to take around the clock at home, but it just didn't do it for me this time.  I stayed in bed for the bulk of the time I had the pump on and Shaun just checked on me every so often in-between trying to get a little work done and getting the kids what they needed.

We were incredibly grateful to not experience any allergic reaction and Shaun says this new chemo mix is only slightly less effective than the first.  And we know the first has been effective because my cancer pain is almost entirely gone.  Thank you Lord!!

Aiden got some good Pop & Kiki time while I was out of commission.  He helped Pop do some man work and they made applesauce together.  He also got to see Uncle Timmy, Trey and Wyatt.  They all helped deliver a treadmill to my house.

I stopped going to the gym because of the germs and I stopped walking outside because of the cold.  My dad said they had a treadmill they weren't using and I could take it over.  What a blessing to come home and find it in my basement!
This is the pump that we all dislike.  The girls especially are tentative about it.  When they came home Monday, Amanda carefully walked into my bedroom and said, Hello Pump-Girl!  Ha!

We go on Wednesdays to get it taken off and usually by that evening the nausea subsides.  Its also glorious to take a shower after two days.  :)
This is one of Uncle Lee's high school classes who were sweet enough to humor him for a picture to text to me.

Its representative of so many people around this nation who are thinking of me and praying for me...many who have never even met me.

 I'm learning the joy of couch sitting.  In the last two weeks there has been a significant drop in my energy.  It doesn't take much activity for me to feel like I need to sit and rest but its frustrating to not be at the level of activity I'm used to....I'm a doer and love to be busy.  Shaun is quick to tell me its ok, that this is what I need to be doing right now so instead of becoming increasingly frustrated, I am learning to look for the blessings in rest.

A huge one is the kids tend to find me and settle in.  Kids live in the moment and are not concerned with what their to-do list looks like.  They don't mind procrastinating on cleaning their room indefinitely so I'm taking my cues from them.

   My cousin Melody is so diligent about sending me love in many different forms.
My sister keeps me stocked in rolls.  If cancer is ever linked to carb consumption, then I'll finally know how I got this....I'm a life-long bread lover.  :)

 I tried out my new treadmill...I didn't get very far very fast and was tired later in the day but I don't know if that was from my mild exertion or the chemo or the day.  Its all a guessing game and the variables keep changing so I just get up everyday and see what the day holds.

 I'm so, so grateful for the meals that continue to come in...its a beautiful thing for my children to experience community so up close and personal.  We have been on the receiving end for more than a month now and my prayer is that this experience will make our giving all the more powerful when we get back to that position.

Thank you for the thoughts and prayers and the knowing that we have an army standing with us.  It matters.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Project 365, Week 47

This is my first post in almost a week.  Admittedly, its easier to post when I'm feeling well or things are going good....there was a lot of hard in this week.

"On" weeks are not our favorite, but we're tentatively feeling our way through to a new normal.  It makes me sad to look through these photos and see how many were taken looking out at the kids through a window.  Its not how I like to mother....I prefer to go outside, hear what they're up to, work along side them, be involved.  

November 16
Child labor in full force this day.

 November 17
#3.  Smiling for the camera, but there wasn't much of that going on otherwise.  These days are hard.
 November 18
These next two were taken with from my bed, because I didn't leave it....view from my bedroom window....two sweet girls laughing and dancing and swinging after school.
Aiden was at my dad's for a couple days while we did survival mode, so when he was returned (upon request because I missed him!) we did school before bed while the girls were at basketball.  School in bed, in pajamas...the benefits of homeschooling.  :)
 November 19
Craft time with Grammy.
 Didn't take Aiden and Amanda long to find the first ice of the season.
 Reminds me of this Calvin & Hobbes that Shaun and I have referenced for years.

November 20
I went out to check on Aiden who'd been working and working.  He planted three acorns, so if all goes according to plan, we'll have three large trees in this space next spring.  :)
 Same day, later and colder.  He assured me he was plenty warm.
 November 21
Shaun and Aiden were hard at work on the house this week.  Its coming along and we're just about to have the last bedroom completed!
November 22
This was our 10th Annual Saturday-before-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for my side of the family.  Amy did an incredible job seeing to every detail and it was a nice time of being together.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Doing Battle, Week 8

Physically I was feeling better and better this week, though I've noticed my oxygen supply leaves something to be desired.  Mentally I faced a few challenges.

Have you ever see the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray?  So hilarious.  Except this week I felt like I'm living that.  For two months every day has been cancer.  Some of it has been wonderful, some of it has been hard but that same track keeps playing.  

Someone described it like watching a split screen.  Normal life is happening but always there in the corner is the cancer show.  This week I just wanted to watch the normal life show.

Shaun very delicately wondered if the cause of me feeling down might be due to the fact that I haven't run in a month.  I think that is exactly it.  I'm having withdrawals from the endorphins I've been addicted to the majority of my life.  So, we spent some time looking for treadmills.  Hopefully this week...

We got a packet in the mail from our insurance company this week:

Dear Ms. Cour:
We recently notified you that we will move you to a new plan for 2015 that meets all of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Coverage under your current plan ends on December 31, 2014.....

This "Affordable" Care Act has taken our monthly premium and doubled it while increasing our deductible, making our annual out-of-pocket health insurance cost more than $30,000.  I'm having trouble picturing Obama and his people sitting around a table coming up with this new and improved health care system, seeing what it would cost self-employed middle-class citizens, and being ok with that.

Thankfully Shaun has been working with a broker from our church and we are switching plans for 2015.  There is still no part that is "affordable" but we will save a few thousand.

Amy and I went to see a Genetics Counselor, as recommended by the surgeon.  She spoke extensively about chromosomes and genes and DNA, complete with charts and graphs.  With information I provided she was able to put together my family tree.  She took into account me, my siblings, my children (7), my father and his parents and siblings (9), my mother and her parents and siblings (5) and all my first cousins (25) and my (blood) nieces and nephews (14).  

What I thought was quite remarkable is that of those 60 people, just three, including me, have been diagnosed with cancer.   Must be that hearty western blood (my parents were born in Montana and Idaho).  :)

In the end I chose to do the testing (a simple blood draw...from my port, which is completely healed and causes me no pain while sleeping and doing other regular activities), primarily to provide as much information as I can to my siblings and children.  We have over 20,000 genes in our bodies and right now they are only able to test a small handful of those, but at least it will be something.

In the midst of feeling down this week, God recalled these scriptures to my mind even before I was out of bed one day and I've been mediating on them throughout the week.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

From the Message: 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.

This morning in my inbox Christine Caine was using those same scriptures:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Your God is bigger than any challenge you are facing. Our problems that seem so overwhelming will grow small in the light of His greatness. Last time I checked, the devil was small enough to fit under my feet and God is big enough to fill the heavens and earth.

Be encouraged today that our God is well able to do all things! Just focus on Him and His promises.

Today as I go for Round # 3, I choose to focus on His promises.  Did you know there are more than 8,000 in the Bible??  And they are there for you and for me.  He doesn't place them in our hands, but they are within our reach.  Take Him up on His promises...He will NOT fail.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Project 365, Week 46

I was afraid this fall would go by at a snails pace because of my treatments, but instead life continues to move along at a rapid clip.  We enjoyed some warm weather but then towards the end of the week it turned cold and we saw the slightest bit of s-n-o-w.  Boo!  :(

November 9
Shaun took the three younger kids to be part of Pillars of Fire, performing close enough to home.  He reported it was a standing-room-only crowd and the show was powerful.

I took this off of FB...looks like the stage was as small as they said.  Avery fell off during one scene, and even though she was mortified, I heard she played it off like a pro.
 November 10
Lots of work to be done.
 November 11
The kids were off of school but the girls had several engagements throughout the day, so Aiden and I took a walk.  Though we're nearing the end of the pretty part of the season, there is still much beauty to be found (and many leaves to be raked! :).
 November 12
I love watching these two be carefree kids.
 November 13
Slaying dragons by himself in the yard.
Another performance, this time in Massachusetts at a women's retreat with about 800 in attendance.  It was Aiden's first time in this show and Shaun said he did great.  Later, Brent said many commented on his cheeks.  :)  I have pictures from a late ultrasound that show those squeezable, kissable, caressable cheeks.

Amy and I gathered this pictures from Instagram.

 November 14
Thirty-five degrees at game time for R's last home game and also senior night.  I only stayed for the first was cold!!

 His coach took the time to tell Shaun and I what a "fine young man" we have.  Sometimes I feel like I am buried in the day-to-day with him, so its nice to be reminded that he really is a good kid.  He's worked really hard and been very committed this football season and he's learned a lot about life along the way.  Good stuff.

 Like I said...cold.
 November 15
I went to wake Aiden up for church and he was just too sweet lying there sound asleep.