Monday, December 23, 2013

The never-ending Christmas, projects, health updates, and waiting

Today's post is a four-parter.  I am clearing my mental clip board of things I want to say here before we head out on our next great adventure.

1.  The never-ending Christmas: We celebrated our first Christmas this year over Thanksgiving.  With both of our boys and their families here, we exchanged our gifts and enjoyed being together in the opening of them.  Then, little Ezra started causing problems, meaning Tim and Nikki's long-anticipated trip to Canada needed to be canceled, and we decided to go hang out with them over the holiday (what a hardship for us!)  So yesterday we had our home Christmas with Marilyn.  Tonight we have our Christmas with the Hansons in Rio Rancho.  And by Christmas Eve we will be back in Tucson for another Arizona Christmas.  What a wonderful, drawn-put season of celebrating for us!




2.  Projects: I am posting a few more Christmas project photos below.I made picnic quilts for both the boys and their families.  The first is "Canadian Picnic" for Tim and Nikki.  The second is "Gateway to a Picnic" for Ben and Elsa.






3. Health updates: My first remicade injection went off without a hitch, and the combo of being off the cyclosporine and on the remicade looks like a winner-- at least concerning how I feel.  There has been a marked return of energy for which I am very grateful to God.  I am not waking up every morning (as I have for the last 2 years) and wondering how I can possibly make it through the day, and that is something to celebrate.  It remains to be seen if it is doing the job of getting my eye disease into remission.  My next infusion is scheduled for January 3, and then one for January 31.  After that I should see my eye doc and be re-tested some time in March, and set up a recurring treatment schedule based on that outcome. Thanks so much for your prayers, Gentle Reader!

And down in Tucson, Ezra is staying put for the time being.  Mommy, Nikki, is a trooper on full bed rest and medication, and Ezra appears to be doing well.  He has passed the 24-week mark, which is considered the point of viability, but has a long way to go.  Please join me in praying for him to stay put at least 35 weeks-- or 37 or 38 would be even better!



4. Waiting: This is advent.  We wait for our redemption in the unlikely birth of a real baby boy, born to a real girl who was still a virgin.  What an unlikely source for redemption.  I am reminded this year in particular of the poignancy of that story. Of a young girl who trusted God, and a kind man who thought he would put her away quietly to spare her scandal, but believed God instead, and named that baby Jesus.

As we look at our spring with so much up-in-the-air that we cannot really plan any of it,  I am often tempted to despair over my lack of control.  What a beautiful reminder Advent is that God is always in control, and I can wait on Him with patience.  He will be good and true to His word, and send redemption in His perfect timing.  I can wait in confidence, though I can't see how everything will work out.  I can rest because He is sure while nothing else appears to be so.

As you wait this advent season, Gentle Reader, may your mind be fixed on the source of our great redemption, and find rest there.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013!

Well, the Christmas postcards are being addressed, which means it is time to update everyone here on all the Lord has done this year, and the ways He continues to go before us. So here is a snapshot of the Finnegans as 2013 comes to a close.

It is always special and fitting in this season of waiting to be waiting for a baby ourselves.  Tim and nikki and Emma, in Tucson, are awaiting the arrival of Baby Ezra, our first grandson!  Ezra is trying to make an early appearance, but Nikki and her doctors are working to keep him where he is until closer to his due date in April, and the rest of us are doing what we can to support that! The church family at Rincon Mountain are serving and supporting them well. Emma turned 3 in August, and is always bright and busy, and Pampa is her favorite.  She'll make a fabulous big sister. Tim continues to enjoy working as an electrical engineer for Raytheon.


Ben, Elsa, and Ada continue to reside in Peoria, AZ, north of Phoenix.  Ben continues to enjoy both teaching Latin and coaching flag football at the Basis school there, and Elsa cares well for him and Ada.  Ada keeps us laughing with her funny sayings and facial expressions.  And Pampa is her favorite.  Do we see a pattern here?


All the New Mexico extended family are also doing well here at the turning of the year.  Marilyn continues to volunteer at the nursing home, walk with a friend several times a week, and participate in a  Silver Sneakers exercise class at the YMCA, along with being our church librarian.   Chris' parents, Jack and Shirley Hanson, had a rough fall- illness, roof problems, and plumbing problems, are now settled down, and we hope the New year brings quiet and calm.  And we enjoy seeing Gwen, Chris' sister, and her family from Edgewood when we can work it out.  Hallie is getting ready to graduate from high school, and it's hard to believe Atalie will be heading into high school!  The years are flying by! Below, we met up with the whole contingent for a day in Los Alamos, playing putt-putt and hanging out.


This year has been a year of both struggle and blessing for us.  We have watched God go before us and prepare the way where we didn't think there was a way, and enjoyed rich blessings. To Him be all the honor and glory this season and always!  As this year closes, I continue to fight my eye disease and will begin anew medication later this week, and we both deal with aging and post-cancer-treatment problems.  But we still love each other, rejoice in our family and friends, and look forward to the adventures ahead.


May God be with you in all your new adventures in the coming year, Gentle Reader!  He continues to be with us in ours!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday thought: Steady

After reading John Piper's poem "The Calvinist", I have been contemplating that word he uses to describe someone who trusts in a sovereign God: steady.

I was reminded of an event several years ago when my son, Tim, was running at Div. III cross-country nationals, and my good friend Angela had joined us at the course.  We made the mistake of walking the course the day before the race with the assistant coach (whose job it was to mother the runners).  After 45 minutes of walking the course with a constant commentary of things like, "I bet a hundred runners slip over this stream.  I'll be purposed if we don;t see broken bones..." and "This is a tight spot-- they will be pushing and shoving here,"  I found myself feeling slightly sick to my stomach and very nervous for my dear boy.  The next morning as we waited for the start, I felt positively ill.  And my sweet friend Angela reminded me, "Chris, this is where being a Calvinist is supposed to pay off!"

Holding steady and acting on what you know to be true despite how you feel sounds wonderful in the abstract.  But it is hard work in reality.  It's much easier to let our feelings have their way, and to follow wherever they may blow. As a matter of a fact, I think it would be impossible without God's gift of grace that gently calls us back to himself.

This time of year I am reminded of the steadiness of  Joseph.  He wasn't buying the whole virgin birth story,  but he was kind, and thought to put Mary away quietly to help her avoid scandal.  Then God, in an incredible work of grace, spoke to Joseph in a dream, and steadied him.  He stayed the course after all.

And I think about Mary, who believed the angel, and hid things in her heart.  How did she do that?  We get a glimpse here, in Luke 1: 46-55.  May her song be ours, Gentle Reader:

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and rejoices in God my Savior, for he  has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  For behold, from now on all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy of sfor those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their own hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant, isreal, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.





Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Everywhere you go...

Another Christmas project recently gifted: felt dolls for my grand daughters.  These are like paper dolls, but made of felt.  And I made them to somewhat resemble each girl.  I still have the pattern I made, so I can continue to send clothing.  This was a really fun project!

The dolls are made of felt, with embroidered mouths and french-knot eyes.  Each doll has a little leotard.  The two-layers of doll body,t eh leotard, and the hair are sewn together.


The clothing was cut from a variety of material and attached to felt backing with wonder-under double-sided fusible interfacing.  Then the clothing was sewn around the outlines, and coated with a fray-stop around the edges.


I covered a plastic binder (with the three-ring insert removed) with flannel and added ribbon ties to provide a "sticky" home for the dolls.


Monday, December 09, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot lile Christmas...

Here we are in Advent, there is snow on the ground, and my Christmas decorations are in place.  I love Christmas on so many levels, I thought I would start sharing some projects, memories, and other joys of the season.

Since we celebrated with our children and grandchildren when they were here over Thanksgiving, I can share some project photos to inspire those of you still searching for things to make, or looking for ideas for next year. My first offering of the year is the advent calendar I made for each of my boys' families.  The little quilted wall hanging has pockets with small ornaments for each day of December that can be hung on the little table-top tree, complete with its own little tree skirt.  It was a fun project, and I hope each family will enjoy it for years to come.



!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Further adventures in chronic illness, or, a health update

It's been a while since I posted a health update, so following this last week's adventures, I thought I would catch everyone up to date. The short version is this: I will go off the cyclosporine in January, stay on the cellcept, and add IV- infusion treatments with Remicade to try to quell the disease in my eyes.  If that is enough info for you, feel free to skip the details below...

The last month on my higher dose of cyclosporine has resulted in rebellion by my body.  My kidneys are angry (creatinine levels up more than 50%, BUN numbers rising), my cholesterol is skyrocketing, my blood pressure is erratic, I am dealing with a stubborn virus that won't go away, and I developed a painful mouth ulcer with lots of swelling.  All these taken together mean my body is giving cyclosporine its marching orders.  And my tests (here and here) at UNM in ABQ yesterday showed that  my left eye is mostly quiet, but with some leaking from the blood vessels around the optic nerve still.  The right eye is more stubborn, and while it has improved some with the cyclosporine, it is still leaking.  So, since the cyclosporine is both wreaking havoc and not pushing the disease into remission, we must move along to try something else.

That next-best something is Remicade, along with cellcept.  Once we get the insurance on board and the details worked out, hopefully after the holidays, I will begin with three "upload doses", given every two weeks by IV.  After that we will begin infusions every 8 weeks.  We can increase the dose or the frequency as needed and as I an tolerate to try to force the birdshot into remission.  Once I hit remission, we will continue the infusions for two years, then try reducing and weaning off the drug, and hopefully staying in remission.  Obviously there are many unknowns here, and birdshot is so rare that you won't find the protocol for treating it without a lot of hard searching.  Every drug I use is used "off-label", or for something other than what the label says it can be used for.  So the great adventure continues...

If you have made it this far, let me give you a few specific prayer requests:

  • Please pray for the details of where, when, and how for the infusions to be worked out quickly and definitively between multiple doctors at different institutions and the insurance company.
  • Please pray that this would be an effective combination and God would use it to bring healing to my body.
  • And most importantly, please pray that I would keep my eyes fixed on Christ, who does all things well and never wastes one bit of our suffering, but works it for our good and His glory.  Pray that I could rest under His frowning providence in this, and know His love and care even as I walk places I didn't want to go.  
Thank you, Gentle Readers, for your love and support and prayers!  My adventure with chronic disease continues.  I pray it pales in comparison to my adventures with a good God who has a bigger plan than any I can imagine.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Thursday thought: trusting in ignorance

This morning I read these words from Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
~Psalm 40: 1-3
It's easy to trust in hindsight.  We look back, and see what God has done in the past, and rejoice.  We see it, remember it, recollect it.  We have experienced it, and gained knowledge of it, and it is good.

But what is the opposite of hindsight?  According to thesaurus.com, the antonym of hindsight is ignorance. And when I look at the future, I am definitely that-- ignorant of what lies ahead. And somehow trusting God when I am in that kind of ignorance-- without knowing what is coming-- is a tougher task.

That's where David in the Psalms is such a comfort.  He understood the connection between hindsight and ignorance.  He knew that looking back at what God has done is exactly how we can trust Him without knowing what the future holds.  We don't trust the future-- or our ignorant selves.  We trust Him.

Praying that we may rest in that trust, despite our ignorance, Gentle Reader, and have a new song in our mouths.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Words for Wednesday




Psalm 42
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God,with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan,the heights of Hermon--from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me-- a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgottenme? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" 10 My bones suffer mortal agonyas my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Thursday thought: Commit

I met with a dear friend this week to work on some music for a future project.  We chatted about the music we were rehearsing-- some of which is a bit out of my comfort zone, but beautiful nevertheless-- and he challenged me to commit to the music.  He may not have seen it as a challenge, but then he is in his element, and I am bringing my folksy, "pure" sound to his jazz.  All the same, it dawned on me that he was right.  I am tentative and uncommitted because I am uncomfortable and it all feels risky to me. After all, why leave a place of ease and wander where you can fail?

As I have practiced my music and reflected on that comment this week, I have had an epiphany of sorts: Those of us who like to skirt along the edges of perfectionism and pietism and legalism by nature have to work to move out of that spot where we can excuse our failures because we didn't really try.  If we are going to do something, we ought to commit to it wholeheartedly, and learn from the successes and the failures. That is to live fully, trusting that God's providential hand has brought you to this day, this time, this challenge. And you have nothing to fear.

And so, here's hoping that you find the courage to commit to your life today, Gentle Reader.  I am quaking in my boots, but I am right behind you.

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Introducing...

Introducing Ezra Jude Finnegan.  He is 16 weeks gestation right now, and running track in his Mommy's tummy.  Emma will have a little brother, and he is due to arrive around April 11.  Join us in rejoicing with Tim and Nikki, and in praying for this little boy to grow and stay right where he should be as long as possible.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five for Friday

Today I offer five fun short stories I will soon be reading with my little composition class.  If you need something enjoyable to read in a doctor's office waiting room, or before you fall asleep, try these titles.  For those that exist online I've tried to give you links.

1.  The Dog that Bit People by James Thurber

2. A Day's Wait by Ernest Hemmingway

3. Rip van Winkle by Washington Irving

4.  Chapter 3 of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  Strictly speaking this is not a short story, of course.  But it is a tight, beautiful piece of writing that can stand on its own, and is a rich example of how a great writer embeds a theme in a narrative.

5. "Red" by Elsa Johnson Finnegan.  This is a wonderful story, but you have to know the author to get a copy.  :-)

What short stories are your favorites, Gentle Reader?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday thought: Peace

Peace can be hard to find at times.  We can become so distracted over even legitimate concerns that peace can get lost in the shuffle. I am thinking Wendell Berry's way to find peace sounds lovely.  May you find such peace today, Gentle Reader.



The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Leaving your finger prints

At a wedding last weekend, the father of the lovely bride and I were sharing memories of that dear girl.  The father gave me a smile, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Your fingerprints are all over my children!"

What a lovely thing to say! My fingerprints--or the effects of my influence and teaching-- had helped to sculpt his children, and he was grateful.

What could be better than helping to form the heart and mind of young people?  Whether it is your own children or someone else's, leave your fingerprints.  Leave them everywhere, Gentle Reader.  You will never regret it.