Sunday, August 31, 2008

30 Days of Prayer

Tomorrow begins the month of Ramadan on the Muslim calendar: a time of fasting and feasting and holy days. You can pray for the Muslim world with other Christians by going to this site. They offer e-mails with prayer requests for the month, as well as many other important resources. May the lord be pleased to draw many to prayer, and then to answer those prayers by drawing many to Himself!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A visit

Today Mom and Dad Hanson, along with my youngest sister, Annie (at left in photo), and her friend Katie (at right in photo), stopped by for lunch. It was great to see Annie, and meet Katie, and spend a few hours together. We told family stories and laughed. And Matt, if you are reading this, we decided I need to post coded messages to you here, since this seems to be our main way of communicating (me posting and you reading...)

Almost all my family will be attending Tim and Nikki's wedding, just TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY. With only 5 MORE RADIATION TREATMENTS LEFT, I am beginning to turn my thoughts to the precious time when we will gather with family and dear friends in Grand Rapids to celebrate. God is very good to me!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

She's Here!

After 2.5 hours of waiting and 30 minutes of paperwork and questions, Nikki and all her belongings are legally residing in the US! Hurrah! Thank you to all of you who have prayed for this to happen! Now it's full-steam-ahead to the wedding in 2.5 weeks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our alien fiancee makes her entrance...

Well, tomorrow is the day that Tim and his fiancee, Nikki, and Nikki's dad, along with two fully loaded vehicles, attempt to cross the border between Canada and the US. When they cross they will request "Early Parole" (which means she will be given permission to return to Canada to visit her family) and a work visa for Nikki. But these are apparently rarely granted, and instead must be filed and waited for along with the permanent residence visa (which can be filed after their wedding, and usually take in excess of a year of waiting.) They will present the sealed envelope from the American consulate which contains everything they *should* need for Nikki to cross the border and begin living in the US. Please pray that the border folks would look on them all with favor, and not give any trouble or find anything lacking in the paperwork and preparations.

Additionally, Tim has received one job offer from Raytheon in Tucson which looks great, and he is finishing up the interview process with Booz Allen Hamilton in Virginia as well, and it is looking promising. Please ask the Lord to guide Tim and Nikki as they make decisions, and carry out all the final wedding preparations. The wedding is two weeks from Saturday (the same day as Lynne's Anna!!) and so there are lots of things to finish. And they would love to know where they are going to be living after the honeymoon!

We leave, Lord willing, two weeks from today for the wedding. I began the "booster" part of my treatment today, and have just 7 more treatments left. The best thing is that I now have one circle mark left, and I get to start the process of removing the the one that would show on my sternum when I wear my dress to the wedding! Please pray for continued minimal side-effects and the course to finish on time (last day should be Monday, Sept. 8).

Thanks, friends, for your love and support and prayers!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another step closer

Today I completed my 25th radiation treatment: the last of the whole-breast irradiation treatments. This is significant! It not only means that there are only 8 treatments left, but that they are designed as a booster around my scar and tumor-removal area. It means I can begin washing away all the black lines on my chest, and keep only some small green ones for the next couple of weeks. It means I am almost done with this phase of treatment!

As I drug my weary old body on my walk this morning, I feasted on scripture songs about God's care for us, His call on our lives, and His goodness. Maybe it sounds a bit crazy, but I am so very thankful. My prognosis is so good, especially in light of the battle others have waged and are waging, and my treatment has been so minimal. I'm mostly just sore and tired. I could have had things much harder, but for reasons I may never understand, God, in His grace and goodness to me, planned for this to be easy for me. I don't deserve it. I didn't merit it in any way. And yet, here is blessing upon blessing. Please join me in thanking God for His providential care over me! And here are a few other specifics:

*Praise Him for the completion of the first phase of the radiation with very minimal skin involvement and minimal pain.
*Ask Him to continue to be with me on the upcoming tests {hysteriosonogram on Sept. 4, two sets of other blood/hormone work-ups in late September, and a PETScan/CT for October 1.} Ask God to give me the grace to trust Him as we await results, and accept whatever results come to me from His hand. Please pray for clear results. And feel free to pray for good, clean, cancer-free results, too!
*Ask Him to help me live within the limits currently upon me in regards to my lack of energy. I especially ask for your prayers for the upcoming wedding, where I would very much like to do much more than I will be able to do, and I will need to recognize my limits instead of my desires.

Monday, August 25, 2008

You give and take away

This afternoon, after a full morning of radiation treatments, a CTscan, and a doctor's visit, Dave and I attended the memorial service for my former student, Rebecca Carlson. She entered her real home a week ago Saturday, at the age of 16, after a year's difficult battle with lymphoma. It was good to grieve with brothers and sisters in Christ, and to remember this dear little sister in the Lord, reflect upon her brief journey, and marvel at what the Lord did in and through her. Hugging her parents in person today, after so many months of hugging them in my heart, was like a balm to my soul, as were the tears that I couldn't seem to stop shedding. Jennie and Neil, Becca's parents, went out of their way to make sure others were thanked and appreciated, even in this, their time of incredible grief. Christ just shone from them.

Pastor Mark Lincoln gave an encouraging message of Truth. He reminded us that God is, indeed, sovereign, even over every single cancer cell that destroyed Becca's life. We walk by faith, believing He did this for our good and His glory, but Becca is now in the realm of sight. She is in the presence of the Lord. But even that is not our final hope: she will be raised in a new body when Christ returns, along with us all who belong to Christ, and we will be together. That is why we can grieve, but at the same time have hope. He pointed out that our "present light and momentary afflictions", as 2 Cor. 4 puts it, do not always look so light and momentary to us. But now Becca has eternity's perspective. THey are light and momentary for her as she has received the great weight of glory reserved for her in Jesus. What a glorious thought!

So we cried, and worshiped our great God. We sang and hugged, and remembered. It was a blessed time of rich fellowship.

One of the songs we sang was especially requested by Becca to be sung at this service. That gave the words even more focus and meaning!

Blessed Be Your Name

Blessed be your name,
In the land that is plentiful,
Where your streams of abundance flow,
Blessed be your name.

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place,
Though I walk through the wilderness,
Blessed be your name.

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me,
When the world's all as it should be,
Blessed be your name.

Blessed be your name,
On the road marked with suffering,
Though there's pain in the offering,
Blessed be your name.

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say,
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Blessed be your holy name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Blessed be your glorious name.

You give and take away,
You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say,
Lord blessed be your name!

Goodbye, sweet Becca, until we meet in eternity.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

No more tears

Yesterday morning, after 10 hours of deep sleep, I had a tough time facing the day. There wasn't anything at all in the day to dread. It was just one of those days when staying in bed a few extra hours...or days...or years... seemed to have its advantages. I soon realized that this was a spiritual battle, and instead of wallowing I'd better get busy fighting. So, I listened to my psalms for the day, and pulled out Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. The entry from the morning of August 23 really ministered to me, and reminded me that I can get out of bed because there will come a time when everything is made new. This is just temporary. I copy it below for your edification on this Sabbath day. There are several places you can access this classic online, but the place I found this is here.

"The voice of weeping shall be no more heard."
--Isaiah 65:19

The glorified weep no more, for all outward a causes of grief are gone. There are no broken friendships, nor blighted prospects in heaven. Poverty, famine, peril, persecution, and slander, are unknown there. No pain distresses, no thought of death or bereavement saddens. They weep no more, for they are perfectly sanctified. No "evil heart of unbelief" prompts them to depart from the living God; they are without fault before His thrown, and are fully conformed to His image. Well may they cease to mourn who have ceased to sin. They weep no more, because all fear of change is past. They know that they are eternally secure. Sin is shut out, and they are shut in. They dwell within a city which shall never be stormed; they bask in a sun which shall never set; they drink of a river which shall never dry; they pluck fruit from a tree which shall never wither. Countless cycles may revolve, but eternity shall not be exhausted, and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness shall co-exist with it. They are for ever with the Lord. They weep no more, because every desire is fulfilled. They cannot wish for anything which they have not in possession. Eye and ear, heart and hand, judgment, imagination, hope, desire, will, all the faculties, are completely satisfied; and imperfect as our present ideas are of the things which God hath prepared for them that love him, yet we know enough, by the revelation of the Spirit, that the saints above are supremely blessed. The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fulness of delight, is in them. They bathe themselves in the bottomless, shoreless sea of infinite beatitude. That same joyful rest remains for us. It may not be far distant. Ere long the weeping willow shall be exchanged for the palm-branch of victory, and sorrow's dewdrops will be transformed into the pearls of everlasting bliss. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

Entry taken from Morning and Evening, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892).

Friday, August 22, 2008

10 to go

After today's treatment, I have just 10 radiation treatments left, Lord willing! Hurrah! The end really is in sight!

I am experiencing more fatigue, though is comes and goes. I also have a bit more discomfort/pain. All this is to be expected, and has stayed rather mild, all things considered! God has been very gracious to me. (He knows what a wimp I am about pain!) The rash I have been fighting with since before treatments began is finally starting to improve, and my skin is a little red, but looks great. So I am overwhelmed by God's gentleness to me!

On Monday I will have a CT scan to plan the last part of my treatments. After having whole-breast irradiation for most of the time, the last 7 or 8 treatments will focus on a smaller area around just my scar and the area where the tumor was. The CT Scan will help with the calculations for this smaller treatment area, and then the smaller treatments should start next Wednesday or so, if the Lord wills. I am grateful to be moving into this stage of the treatment, and though the rides from friends have really helped the time to move along, I will be glad not to travel to Santa Fe every day.

About a Month after the radiation ends, on October 1, I will have another PETscan/CT to compare to the one that I had prior to my surgeries. They will be checking for any cancer spread, but also looking at the pesky lymph nodes from the first scan, and checking the adenoma that is on my adrenal gland (this is likely nothing at all, and I will do a non-invasive follow-up test on that in October as well, along with a test to look at the lining of my uterus. Phew. I feel tired just thinking of it!) The uterine test (a hysteriosonogram) is needed because of some possible side-effects from the tamoxifen that I am taking.

In all these things I am grateful to live in a time when they can test and treat so much... even if the treatment is often difficult. God has been gracious, and I thank each of you for your prayers!

And here are some specifics for your continued prayers:
*Praise God for how well my skin has tolerated the radiation
*Praise God for the gift of treatment and good prognosis
*Praise God for the army of friends that has prayed, helped with rides, and continues to lift my spirits with e-mails, cards, notes, etc.
*Ask God to make the treatments effective, the side-effects few, and my recovery rapid
*Ask God to allow the treatments to finish on schedule

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The peace of sleep

Sleep is a blessed thing.

This afternoon when I returned home from my treatment, I was really tired. A friend described the fatigue of radiation as a tired that permeates every fiber of your being. That about covers it.

I ate some lunch while watching some Olympic equestrian event, then caught up on e-mail, then laid down with a couple of good books. Somewhere after about 30 minutes of reading, I fell soundly asleep. And I mean SOUNDLY.

The phone rang, and I must have jumped straight up in bed, knocking my books and glasses who knows where. I reached for the phone, but as is my custom, I had neglected to return it to its cradle, and in a blind stupor (because I could not find my glasses) went running around trying to locate the ringer by its sound. I discovered that my sense of hearing is not very acute. I did eventually find the phone, and since it was my dear husband, he patiently waited while I located my glasses on the floor, and allowed my heart rate to return to normal. I had been dead to the world for well over an hour. In the middle of the day. I haven't been able to do that since I used to nap with my toddlers (yes, the ones now married or soon to be!)

Sleep is a gift God gives us. Our bodies crave it. Our souls need it. I am grateful for it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The burden of work

As I post this, Tim is on his way to Tucson, AZ for a job interview tomorrow. Then he flies to Virginia on Monday of next week for the same. For some months he has been feeling the burden of finding a good entry-level engineering job to support the family he will have in just a few weeks, but the job offers have not been coming. These two jobs seem perfectly suited to him, the employers seem pretty pleased with him, and we hope the burden of finding a job will soon be behind him, and the burden of the work itself be undertaken. Please pray with us for these interviews, and for Tim and Nikki to be moving to the place where God wants them to be.

Their wedding is fast approaching, too. Please pray for the last-few-weeks details involving moving, wedding plans, border crossings, leaving family, etc. We can't wait to be in MI with Tim and Nikki and so many of our wonderful friends!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The blessing of a good man

I was reminded recently by a dear friend that these years of finishing our homeschooling journey and shuffling off our kids into adult life are stressful on marriages. They are. Change is stressful, and there sure is lots of it going on as we complete our primary vocation as moms, finish up our primary job of educating our children at home, and adjust to life face-to-face for the first time in decades with our husbands. It is very quiet, after not being quiet for years. There seems to be a dirth of meaningful activity for a while.

I have sometimes worried about how life would be, now that I am "grown up", and Dave and I don't have the boys around any more. It is such a change in dynamics! But during this cancer trial, Dave has been so amazing, that at least for the moment (since my faithless heart forgets so easily) I am no longer afraid that our relationship won't be enough. I have been blessed with a godly husband who loves me like Christ loves the church, and lays down his life for me. The most amazing things have happened recently...

The fatigue that comes with radiation is strange. I can go from feeling great and relatively "normal", to complete melt-down, blubbering mass in a matter of minutes. Nine times out of ten, when the fatigue is hitting me and making itself known to my mind, Dave walks up and says, "Time to get home!" or "Time to lay down for a while!" He watches and notices the signs, pretty much before I do. How is that for loving your wife well?

Another aspect of breast cancer is that with all the surgery and radiation, the black marks and X's everywhere, I rarely feel very beautiful. Dave seems to notice this, too, and will say quietly while giving me a hug, "You're still my girl!" This always makes me smile, and often makes me cry. What a relief and blessing to belong to someone, and continue to be his girl after 28 years of marriage, cancer and scars for both of us, children grown and gone, and changes everywhere on the horizon!

I am thankful to God for this great blessing of a good and godly man. And Dave, I'm thankful to you, too, for the choices you make every day that preserve our marriage, and show a picture of Christ and His church to the broken world. I love you!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hurricanes and other storms

We have good friends in Brandenton, Florida, not far from Anna Maria Island, who are under a warning for Tropical Storm Fay to move their way. I think they have battened down the hatches, brought in supplies, and now just wait for whatever come in the next 24-48 hours. They can't change the path of that storm. But they know the One who can, and can rest in Him through it. What a comfort that is!

On Saturday, we attended a lovely reception for a former student and son of a dear friend. He has a new wife, and we celebrated together what God has done in the live of Eric and Mary, which recently resulted in their marriage and their beginning to serve the lord together as a family. It was a lovely, joyous event, with gale-force winds of happiness blowing everywhere as we rejoiced in what the Lord has done.

While at the reception, we received word that my student, Becca, had left this world, laying aside her struggle against lymphoma, and entering the presence of her Lord. As we grieved together, I looked at the happy, rejoicing family before me, and thought about the different road God has called Becca's family to walk, it was as if those winds shifted direction and began blowing strongly in a new direction. Now we comforted one another, and reminded ourselves and each other that God's plan was just as evident in one of these events as the other. But the winds seemed to be blowing so very hard!

All of these windy times remind me of Psalm 46:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields [b] with fire.

10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Whether it is the winds of a tropical storm, or the gales of amazing happiness, or the force of tremendous grief, we can know a shelter, a place where we can be still, and know our God. That is good news, indeed.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rebecca Carlson (1991-2008)

13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

God's purposes in suffering

This morning after my walk I was reading a bit in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, and am reading the chapter entitled "Why God Appoints Suffering for His Servants" by John Piper. In typical Piperesque fashion, he has distilled this difficult topic into six easy points, each backed by a plethora of Scripture verses. Piper says there are six basic reasons God appoints His children to suffer:
1. Suffering deepens faith and holiness.
2. Suffering makes your cup increase (here, Piper discusses the riches we obtain in eternity when we suffer for Christ)
3. Suffering is the price of making others bold for Christ.
4. Suffering fills up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.
5. Suffering enforces the missionary command to go.
6. The supremacy of Christ is manifest in suffering.

This has reminded me, on the one hand, to be grateful for my suffering. I praise God for the wealth and depth of my relationship to Him that has come because of the difficult things in my life. I thank Him for keeping me from the "inertia of ease and the apathy of abundance", as Piper calls it. I praise Him for pointing out to me over and over again, how to hold this world loosely, and for reminding me to keep the priority of my life in serving Him.

On the other hand, I am almost stunned to see the depth of His mercy in making my suffering so trivial and easy to bear. Yes, I have had to fight fear, and now I grow frustrated with fatigue. But these are, truly, light and momentary afflictions, especially when compared to those in tougher places. So I am praying for God's grace for my friends, the Carlsons, as they watch their teen-age daughter succumb to lymphoma. And I pray for my friend Jeannie as she watches cancer devastate her mother and struggles to learn how to stand in that place of difficult service. And I pray for Natasha, who is learning to raise her young daughter with the looming specter of metastatic disease ever before her. My way is very easy, and the least I can do is be bold before the throne of grace for these dear ones!

So, today I am mostly thankful in heart that though this world is fraught with perils and suffering, the One who made us and redeemed us is big enough for them all.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Half way there

Today I completed radiation treatment #17 of 33. I am half-way through! Hurrah! Projected finish date right now is Monday, September 8. I am beginning to experience a little more tenderness and pain, though it is still very bearable. I am also having more fatigue, and hence getting very little done other than getting to Santa Fe and back every day. But I am grateful for the treatments, grateful for my good prognosis, grateful for the many good friends who are giving me rides so I can rest to and from Santa Fe. God is being very good to me!

Some prayer specifics:
*Praise God that I have made it this far, with so few interruptions so far!
*Praise God for the helpers he has raised up to drive me almost every day.
*Praise God for the friends who stop by or call and bring me cheer-- I am rich in God's blessing of friends!
*Ask God to use the radiation to effectively treat any remaining cancer.
*Ask God to keep the side-effects minimal, and let there be no damage to my lung.
*Ask the Lord to help clear up a little rash I've developed so that it will not become a problem with treatment.
*Please be in prayer now for upcoming tests in October (a hormone test to follow up on an adenoma on my adrenal gland, a uterine test to check for frequent problems caused by the tamoxifen I am taking, and another PET/CT scan to get a look at both my cancer situation and my pesky lymph nodes. All these tests will take place after I'm done with treatment and after Tim's wedding.
*Please also pray that I could serve God in this place, with the energy I have. I hope to resume teaching in October-- pray that I would follow God's leading there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A new venture for Ben

These are my kids in Indiana. Aren't they cute? They are smart and love the Lord, too. What parent could ask for anything more?!

Ben is beginning a new venture... or at least checking to see if he can start a new venture: offering online tutoring in his beloved classics! Below is a summary of what he's doing, and how to get in touch with him if you are interested. I think he is making a fine teacher!

My name is Ben Finnegan. I am a former homeschooler (all through elementary, middle, and high school), and, having finished my Master's degree, I am currently working for my PhD in Classical Studies at Indiana University. I'm looking for more teaching experience in an environment that I know and enjoy, so I thought I would offer Greek, Latin, and Classical Culture classes or tutoring to members of the homeschool community.

I would be willing to do a larger cooperative class or smaller tutoring sessions in any of these subjects. I must say that, given the difficulty of the material and my expectations as a teacher, these classes are generally limited to those of high school age, though if a student is well developed enough and has a good work ethic I would be willing to accept younger children as well.

--Beginning Latin
Using the venerable and exacting Wheelock's Latin Course, this course of study would introduce students to learning foreign language in general by close grammatical study, and would provide the same amount of Latin as one semester of College language study.

--Intermediate Latin
With this offering, I would ask for a diagnostic meeting with any prospective students in order to ascertain at what level their Latin is. This course would work towards greater reading comprehension and analytical grasp of the Latin language.

--Advanced Latin
As with the above, a diagnostic meeting would be required. I would give students an overview of several types of Latin literature (poetry, history, drama, oratory), and then move on to intensive translation and study of particular authors and works, dependent on the interests of the student. Books for this class would likely be more expensive than any of the other offerings, given the high price of original language texts.

--Beginning Classical Greek
The study of Greek is a difficult but rewarding enterprise. This class would be at a much slower pace than any of my Latin classes, as the material is much more demanding. The textbook used would be Chase and Phillips' course for Classical Greek

--Beginning Koine (New Testament) Greek
For those who do not wish to embroil themselves in Ancient Greek literature, but would like to approach the Bible and other Late Classical and Patriarchal authors. Koine is a slimmed-down, simplified form of Greek. The text used would be the beginning text written by the great J. Gresham Machen.

--Greek Literature in Translation
This class avoids the problems of a second language altogether, but still gives a larger cultural and historical grasp of Ancient Greece. With this class, I would read at least one work by all the major authors, and at least one work of each literary genre. The emphasis here would be on religious, political, historical, and cultural ideas viewed through the lens of beginning literary criticism and a good understanding of the Greek world-view. A word of warning, though: much of Greek literature deals with troubling themes of violence and sexuality. While I will avoid the lewd and obscene, these currents are too strong for any class in Greek literature to avoid completely. So please consider this offering only for those spiritually and emotionally mature enough to discuss these subjects from a Biblical world and life view

--Latin Literature in Translation
Like the above class, this will deal with English translations of the great works of Latin literature. Again, the emphasis in this class would be on developing a good understanding of the Roman world-view through literary-critical reading and involving discussions of the Roman religious, political, historical, and literary world. As with Greek literature, much of Latin literature is filled with themes of violence and sexuality. Again, I would avoid the more lascivious of the works, but the history of Rome is filled with too much corruption and deviance for any course to completely avoid the actions of immoral men and women.

These classes would be offered twice a week beginning in September and continuing through early December for the first term, and beginning in February and ending in May. The exact schedule of the classes will depend on interest and enrollment. I can accept a maximum of 18 students per session because of the software that I will be using.

At this point, I do not want to settle on a price, as that will depend on demand and the number of students. Books for each course should be readily available at an online bookseller, and would average about $40-60 per class, depending on the class. My rates for each class will be negotiable, but as a ball-park idea, in the past I have been paid $15-20 per hour of one-on-one tutoring, $12-18 per hour of class with less than five students, and $8-15 per hour of class with more than five students. However, I am perfectly willing to work with anyone who wants to come to a reasonable price that they find more appropriate for the services rendered.

If you are interested in any of these classes please either e-mail me at: or call 505-690-8936.

References available upon request.

Some clever, funny poetry for Wednesday

My ddil, Elsa, sent me some fun and cheery poems yesterday, and I thought I'd share them here. It seems always easier for me to write about the hard things right now, and all of you, gentle readers, deserve something fun and cheery from time to time...

These poems were written by Elsa while she was at Hillsdale, taking a lyric poetry class from Dr. Whalen. The first poem is a limerick just for him:

There once was a teacher named Whalen
Who terrified students of Hillsdale in
Their poetry class,
Which they're hoping to pass
With an A, or at least avoid failin'.

The next was written as an assignment. Apparently Dr. Whalen assigned a particular type of poem to be written, and said that the topic was unimportant. "You could write about how to make an egg"... Well, Elsa did. And here it is:

Instructions on an Omelet

It's not an easy task by far
to make an omelet well.
Misinformation wrecks the skill,
though cook might quick excel.

Your mother told you, I suspect,
that you should always add
a dash of milk unto your eggs—
Oh! No! it makes me sad.

The milk you add will not improve
the texture of that omelet.
It makes it fluffy, tender, brittle!
'Twill form it into crumblets!

If only scrambled was your goal,
the milk a help would be.
But if you want those eggs to fold,
then leave them liquid-free.

And then your eggs will stick and bend
Like all good omelets ought
To form the case in one whole piece
For fillings tasty hot.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The fall and the cross

My student and friend, Rebecca, and her parents and brothers, have received the kind of news no one wants to hear: "There is nothing more we can do." Up in Denver Children's Hospital, they are living days that I can't even imagine; days filled with struggle and pain, sweet and precious memories, and exhaustion. And here in our town, some 8 hours away, all of us who know and love them are grieving with them.

These are the times when it is hard to miss the fact that God's ways are not our ways. That we don't understand His plan, nor His economy. We have to stand by faith on His promise that He is good because we do not always see it in our circumstances.

This morning one of the blogs I read regularly expressed this very thought. This man is a missionary pilot in Africa,recently in Kenya, but currently in the States as his father is battling leukemia. They recently were given the same news as Becca and her family: there is nothing more the doctors can do. He writes in part:

One afternoon in dad's hospital room, when he wasn't doing too well, mom was sitting by his bedside – scooted up as close as possible – tenderly holding his hand. We were all listening to the music I had set-up for dad as it played in an endless loop on an iPod and a dock:

"What can wash away my sin? What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood. Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Matt Redman was cranking out a particularly earthy and melodious version of the old hymn and mom was singing along. Her head was pressed down into dad's hand and tears rolled out of her eyes past his fingers to the sheets. I watched the spectacle in awe.

I could not articulated then, or now; but somewhere in that spectacle was the answer. The answer to the "problem" of pain. The answer to why God's ways are so unexpected. Even the answer to why dad had leukemia, and why we were now preparing to say goodbye. I saw a glimpse of the mystery that angels long to look into. A picture of the fall, and the cross, mingled together with tears and hope.

You can read the whole post here, and it is worth the reading.

Please pray for the Carlson family.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Acts of God

Today my radiation treatment was canceled. It seems that yesterday, while we were losing our power all over Los Alamos, an electrical transformer near the cancer center in Santa Fe was hit by lightening, and caused two of the cancer center's computers to "blow up". So no treatments today. We are hoping they will be back online by Monday. It also means that my end date moves from September 5 to at least Monday, Sept. 8. We leave for Tim's wedding on September 10. This is not how I wanted things to go. It made feel angry and it made me cry.

But why was I crying and who was I angry with? I don't attribute the kind of power to cause lightening strikes to the staff at the cancer center. Can't be mad at them. God is the only one I know who controls the lightening. And how can I be mad at Him when experience and Scripture both show me that He is not only in control, but He is good. But if I look at my heart more honestly, I was mad at God because He was over-ruling my plan, my wisdom, my desires. What tenuous ground that is to try to stand on. God is God, and I am not. It is testimony to my own foolishness that I ever get angry when He so clearly redirects my plans. So, I had a little cry, preached the truth to myself, and now I begin the work of reminding myself of that truth.

From our puny perspective, it is sometimes hard to see what God has in mind for His children. And if you read Scripture, you can see how tough it can be when you are counted as His friend. As one of the characters in the Princess Bride says, "Life is pain, princess. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell something." God's children get cancer, get robbed, get in accidents, and suffer for His name. Our perspective is too tiny to take in the whole plan. And what keeps me from despair are the glimpses I get of His goodness, and the hope for things unseen that will justify Him in the end. This is walking by faith and not by sight. And it is a painful thing to do, sometimes seeming like pretty cold comfort. But it is comfort all the same. It is Truth, so I either embrace it or wander into a universe without meaning. That would be despair indeed.

As I struggle with an interruption to my treatment schedule, about 8 hours north of here I have a teenage student engaged in the battle for her life against lymphoma. Her parents are watching, helpless, as their hopes and dreams keep being lost and altered. They have no choice but to hope in the One who made and controls all things to have a better plan for them and their sweet daughter than they can see, or than they do for themselves. I can do no other.

Keep praying for me to walk with the eyes and heart of faith. And please pray for my student and friend, Becca, and her family, as they face the same challenge.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Jobs on the horizon

God has been moving in some amazing ways in Tim's life recently. Not only did Nikki obtain the visa that will allow her legally to marry an American, but there is some promising movement on the job front. Companies in both Arizona and Virginia are making plans to fly Tim to their locations for face-to-face interviews in the next several weeks, and he has several other strong contacts. Would you please pray with us that God would make it clear just where He wants Tim and Nikki to be, and provide the right job for Tim sooner rather than later?

This last spring was a difficult time for Tim. He returned to Calvin to follow his dreams, and discovered that God was dreaming something else for him. Dying dreams are tough to watch. But God has grown Tim and begun the process of preparing him to follow Christ and lead his own family. We are grateful for all God has been doing in Tim, and look expectantly to see what the future holds!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Updates and prayer requests

Well, on this warm afternoon, I decided to update you on some specifics about the family, and simultaneously rest beneath the fan in my bedroom.

Dave and Ben and Elsa are presumably doing well. That is, Dave is doing well, and we presume Ben and Elsa are. When you don't hear much from newlyweds, you assume they are happy! We know they are continuing to plug into their church, and we keep up with some of their church activities through the blog of their pastor.

Tim and Nikki are the exciting ones. Their visa approved, they are full steam ahead for a wedding on September 13. And Tim currently has several promising job possibilities. Isn't God good?!

And I am past the one-third mark in my radiation treatments, and it is all going very well so far! I have enjoyed company most days on my drive down to treatments, and though I need extra rest, have been having little pain and discomfort so far. Hurrah! (I hate pain and discomfort...)

I also thought I'd update my prayer specifics for me and the family. Please praise God with us for His amazing goodness to us, and also ask Him:
*to help Dave as he deals with continued changes at work, and continued long-term effects from his previous cancer treatments.
*to continue to bless Ben and Elsa and help them build their marriage upon Himself.
*to make smooth sailing for the upcoming wedding and the continued negotiations across the border for Tim and Nikki.
*to allow the right job possibility to become an actual job offer for Tim.
*to allow my treatments to be effective against the cancer, but continue to cause few side effects, and not to damage my lung at all.
*to keep us close to Him, and dependent on Him, and rejoicing in Him.

Your prayers an support continue to carry us!

Monday, August 04, 2008

10 down, 23 to go

While tiring, my radiation treatments have become routine. So far, side-effects are pretty minimal: the biggest one being some fatigue. As long as I pay attention to it, and rest when my body tells me to, I can keep slowly getting things done. So, God is being very good to me, and He is answering your prayers as well as mine!

There is something in all this cancer treatment that makes the brokenness of our world so painfully obvious to me, and simultaneously its beauty so excruciating. I haven't yet been able to verbalize what this works in my heart. But I pray the Lord uses it to make me more tender to the broken around me, and more sensitive to the beauty there.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

It's official: viva visa!

We have an official alien fiancee in the family! After four hours of standing in lines, taking numbers, filling out information, and 10 minutes of an interview, God graciously granted Tim and Nikki favor in the eyes of the officials, and they have been officially approved for the fiancee visa. Thanks be to God!!!

So, this means that Nikki has 6 months to cross the border. Once she crosses the border, she has 90 days to get married and apply for a permanent residence visa. When she crosses the border, she can request approval to cross again to visit family, but they do not have to grant her that. Also, at the time of crossing, she may request a work permit of some kind. And if they do not grant her approval to visit her family, then she has to stay in the US until her permanent visa is approved. So don't stop praying for them yet! But rejoice with us. We are really having a wedding on September 13, should the Lord continue to provide! Hurrah!