Author: Sandy

Tickle your fancy!

karina

The one thing that bothers Warner physically more than anything else is the loss of feeling in his hands and feet.  He has neuropathy.  I don’t think that I had even heard that word before 2012 when it became a side effect from Warner’s chemo.  It was the reason he couldn’t finish all of his treatments.  Since then, neuropathy has been an ever present ball and chain dragging Warner down.   He hates it.  It is what he prays most fervently for God to heal.

The official diagnosis is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).  This is an often irreversible condition that afflicts between 30 and 40 percent of patients undergoing chemotherapy.  The numbness is usually resistant to treatment.  Its cause is unknown.

I can’t even imagine Warner’s frustration.  How devastating it must be for this strong, proud and self-assured man to have to look down as he walks, to hold on to the railings, or to me.  For the most part, he has learned how to compensate so that other people can’t tell that anything is wrong.   But each time he has to ask for help to tie his shoes or do some other menial task requiring hand or foot dexterity he is reminded that his body is less than it was.   He feels old and feeble

My dear friend Heather told me about doTerra’s Aromatouch essential oil blend used for neuropathy.  In her diligent research to help us, she also found several massage protocols to use in applying it.

I began to massage his legs from the calf to his feet according to the protocol.  Now it is part of our daily routine.  As I massage, sometimes Warner tells stories from his childhood, family and career.  I turn the recorder on so that I can save these cherished stories to better remember them.  That man has more incredible stories than anyone I’ve ever known!

Other times he just listens to old gospel hymns. Sometimes he does Sudoku or watches TV.  I massage.  And I pray.  I listen to his stories, laughing, learning, understanding him more.  And I pray.  I sing along with the hymns.  And I pray.  I feel every bump, every muscle, every nuance of each leg.  And I pray.  Sometimes I cry quietly.  And I pray.

The other day as I was massaging his foot, he tensed his leg and jerked his foot up.  I asked him what was wrong and he said, “It tickles.”  It tickles?  It tickles!  We both just looked at each other and then laughed.  I tickled his foot.  He has feeling in his feet!  After all this time of suffering from neuropathy, we have massaged our way to a miracle.  It IS a miracle, a joyous, wonderful miracle.

His feeling isn’t completely back.  It is still less than half of what it was before “chemo 2012.”  But his walk has changed.  He can lift his head and look up when he walks.  He doesn’t have to focus on the ground below, deliberately plodding one foot in front of the other.  He can see the road ahead. He can look around while he walks.  There is a confidence in his gait that I thought was gone for good.  But it was just dormant, waiting for me to massage it awake.  It’s been a long time coming…..

Although we may not have visible neuropathy in our hands or feet, many of us do have neuropathy of the heart or the soul or the mind.  We walk around numb and unfeeling.  Our heads are down.  Our hearts are turned off.  Our minds are consumed with trivialities.  We are the living dead. Like Warner, we may hide it so that others can’t tell that anything is wrong.  But we know.  We know.

The only lasting way to come awake is through the presence of the living God in our lives.  It’s so much more than asking Jesus “into our hearts.”  It’s allowing him to be our leader, our life force.  We don’t know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power because we do not invite him to work in us.  Or we invite him and then put him in a corner, ignored.  He won’t force himself.  Yet He longs for us to come awake in Him so that we may experience the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

This makes me think of David and his lament in Psalm 17.  He begins the psalm asking for God’s vindication for the wrongdoings against him that have caused him such suffering.  Yet he ends on the other side of bitterness and resentment. David concludes with confidence and anticipation of eternity with God, awake and satisfied.

 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.  Psalm 17:15

 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre!   I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.  Psalm 57:7-9

 I am smiling right now as Matt Maher’s lyrics just popped into my brain: “Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave! Oh Church, come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night! Christ is risen from the dead, we are one with him again. Come awake, come awake….”

Cold Showers…..

cold shower pic 001

I could not have been more excited when Warner told me we were moving to Peru. It was as if it was God answering a prayer I had never even dared to think, much less verbalize. It opened my mind to a dream I hadn’t taken the risk to envision for fear of disappointment. For the past 14 years we have served in Peru from a distance with occasional short term mission trips there each year. In many ways it seems more like home to me than here. But move there, live there every day??!!? What a strange and wonderful thought…….

PERU!! I love the people – greeting everyone with a hug and a kiss and a “Dios te bendiga!” I love their openness and lack of pretense, the passionate animated conversations, the heartfelt prayers. I love the sounds – roosters crowing at 5am, vendors peddling their goods through megaphones at 6am, horns honking, music blasting and dogs barking at all hours – the total absence of quiet. I love the way that folks add all kinds of color to transform nature’s dust and brownness that surrounds them. I love the crowded busses, the language, the food. I love staying up at all hours, carrying hand sanitizer and toilet paper in my purse, the lack of toilet seats. I love it all……except for cold showers.

I know, I know. I’m spoiled. But I really hate cold showers. From my point of view, they are brutal and just plain wrong. Understanding that it was something I was going to face, probably more times than not, I determined to conquer this one thing that I actually dreaded about moving to Peru.

Beginning the 1st of September, every morning I turned the water as hot as I could handle for my shower. I wanted to get my fill of hot water – enough to last a year or more. As I stepped in, I began my prayer time by thanking God for hot water and then asking for Him to prepare me to learn to love to go without it. My shower time was transformed into a sacred moment of worship. Totally transparent and bare before the Lord (literally and figuratively!) I used that time to lay down my weaknesses and lift up all my petitions, questions, ideas, concerns and thoughts related to the SCA ministry and each person involved in it in Peru. I used the time to listen to the Lord and really hear Him. My shower time went from a 5 minute “in and out” to over a ½ hour, by far the best part of the day.

Then the dream died. Warner’s cancer is back. We are not going to Peru. We are battling stage 4 colon cancer that is spreading throughout Warner’s body. I didn’t need to pray for courage to sustain a cold shower after all. That issue had been resolved. My morning shower became a time of crying out to the Lord, begging for the comfort that only the Holy Spirit can give.

A few days before Lent I had an “ah ha!” moment – I realized what I’m certain is obvious to everyone else. I didn’t have to go to Peru for a cold shower. I could take cold showers right here at home! My strong Puritan ethic kicked in and, of course that’s what I decided to do. The changes in diet and routine, the doctor appointments, chemo, and emotional roller coasters as we adjusted to life with cancer weren’t enough. I had to blow away what had become the best part of my day. I had to be the martyr. I had to suffer through, prove I could.

It only lasted 5 days. On two of these I actually didn’t shower and felt guilty all day. I was a grouch on the three that I did shower. I was a pitiful, wimpy mess. Until… I understood that during all those months of begging God to teach me to bear one moment of difficulty a day, He was actually preparing me for a figurative rather than a literal cold shower. He was teaching me the intimate joy and safety in bringing my weaknesses and limitations to Him, trusting Him to magnify himself in them through his immeasurable, loving, gracious power. And He is doing this, every single day. Great is His faithfulness.

God has given me an overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe in this season of sadness, physical suffering and mental duress. No, I’m not in Peru. Yes, my life feels like a cold shower more times than not. But I am learning to appreciate these “showers,” to truly experience  them and allow God to use them to do His great work in me through them.

What about you? Are you running from a cold shower? Are you about to step into one? Are you drowning in one? I encourage you to consider that they may be from God, part of His covenant of peace, “I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing (Ezekiel 34:26).”

Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit, let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the Lord have created it. Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, “What are you making?” or “Your work has no handles?” Isaiah 45:8, 9

Resilience!

P1080011March 16, 2014

 

Hey there dear friends and family!  Thank you so much for your expressions of love and concern toward us.  We appreciate each prayer, each word, each call, each thought.

 

As you may have noticed, I’ve been pretty much out of contact since the news J.  We went ahead and took our vacation the 1st 10 days of March – it had been planned as a time of rest and refreshment (and no internet!!!!) before our move to Peru.  Instead it was strange and hard.

 

We got back last Sunday and quite frankly, I just haven’t been up to email.  I feel like I’ve been wandering in a fog all week.  None of the things that were on my “to do” list before are pertinent anymore and I can’t seem to focus.  It’s hard to see people.  The casual question “hey, how are you doing?” that everyone asks as a greeting has taken on a new awkwardness.  I don’t know how to respond.  

 

Warner’s shingles are still bothering him.  On the other hand, his unique sense of humor remains intact.  Friday night he was standing in line to serve his plate at a get together.  Clay Jeffries, his long time sparring buddy, was in front of him.  Clay was moving a little slow for Warner’s taste.  So Warner nudged him and jokingly said, “I’ve got 2 months left.  Just take your time.”  After some awkward reactions and then lots of laughter, it freed everyone up to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

 

Tomorrow at 6a he gets his port put in and then Tuesday he starts chemo.  This time it seems so different.  We’ve danced this dance before.  We know the tune.  We’ve sung the song….

 

And yet my new word is re•sil•ience (rɪˈzɪl yəns) 1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. 2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

I just can’t get over how resilient we can be –crying one moment and smiling (really, sincerely) the next….  It is so very odd.

 

Certainly God is speaking through His Word in all of this.  I have gone to Exodus 33 again and again, particularly where Moses responds to God when God tells him to leave Egypt and go to the promised land.  Moses told God, “if your presence will not go with me do not bring us up from here.  For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight….is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct from every other people on the face of the earth (vs. 15, 16)?”  Warner and I have are so acutely aware that we don’t want to move another step without His presence.  Praise God we rest in the assurance that He lives in us.  Praise God that this world is not our home.

 

Other verses that I have clung to in the past couple of weeks are:  

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.  Psalm 37:23, 24  

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.  Micah 7:8

…Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Romans 8:24, 25.

 

With grateful hearts, we continue to beg for your prayers.  We love you.

 

The day after…

February 26, 2014

 

Well, yesterday was the day we had so looked forward to for the “green light” from Warner’s oncologist.  We have been waiting and waiting and waiting to book our tickets to Peru and the moment had finally arrived.

 

But the light was not green.  Warner has been officially pegged with stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.  The tumor near his chin (that he had taken out last Thursday) was cancerous.  Cancer is in his lungs, pelvis, seminal vesicle and sigmoid colon.  

 

As an added treat, he has shingles and is in tremendous pain.

 

The first words out of his mouth when he heard the news was “Well, I guess that means we aren’t going to Peru.”  Death of a dream comes hard.  We are grieving.  We are sad.  We are confused.  We need your prayers, we beg you to pray with us.  

 

But, at the same time, we are not without hope.  We are trusting God to sustain us and carry us through this, to keep us very present in the pain and not stuff or hide.  We trust Him to give us the ability to love each other well to keep us from being self absorbed.  We are believing Him to keep us cognizant of our weakness so that we continually lean into His strength.  We long for Him to shine His marvelous light in and through us, to glorify Himself even in this dark time.