Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Update from Alberta

Please continue in prayer for our friends Juanita and Terry in the aftermath of the murder of their daughter, Emily. They have been a tremendous witness to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They humble me.

This week is going to be a tough one for them. Please pray for courage and peace, sleep and rest and comfort.

Here and here are a few current news items with public updates.

A mutual friend of ours posted the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism this morning. It also hangs on our livingroom wall in beautiful calligraphy, given to us by our pastor when Dave was undergoing his cancer treatments. What truth it holds, and what comfort it brings!

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Monday, September 29, 2008

War of words

Today I struggled with what my pastor is fond of calling the "hunk of meat in my mouth," my tongue. Ever had one of those days? Got up late, yelled at husband, hurried, felt lousy about everything...

Well, providentially, I ran across a post to Desiring God's recent conference lectures and videos. One of the last ones was entitled "War of Words" by Paul Tripp. That is also the title of one of his books, which I have been wanting to read. I thought, "That might be interesting!" Silly me.

It was interesting. It was also extremely convicting. In a good way. It broke my selfish heart and took all the wind out of my sails of self-righteousness. I listened to it TWICE today. Here are a few of my favorite ideas, but you should listen to or watch the talk. Dr. Tripp says them much better than I. And I plan to read the book, also.

*God was the first to speak, and all words belong to Him.
*We think of our every day responses as little, mundane things, but if God is not ruling our mundane, then He doesn't rule us. Our words are never neutral: they bring life or they bring death.
*Jesus said the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. It can only come out of the mouth if it is in the heart first.
*We want to convince ourselves that our biggest problems exist outside of ourselves, but the truth is, it is inside: I am my greatest communication problem.
*We often try to change what we say, when what needs changing is what's in our hearts.
*Sin makes me obsessed with my wants, my needs, my feelings. It causes me to love me above everything else. I am a vast vat of want, expectancy and entitlement. I am so self-focused and full of my self-oriented agenda that it is impossible for others to even serve me, much less me serve anyone else.
*I live in the claustrophobic confines of my own, little, self-defined kingdom, and want everyone else to join me there. When people get in my way I speak unkindly to them because I reduce people either to a vehicle to get what I want, or an obstacle keeping me from my wants. But either way, I stop treating them as people. I love me more than I love them.
*God didn't give me grace to build my kingdom: He gave me grace to live in and build his expansive, big-sky kingdom. Which kingdom do my words serve?
*It's only when I love God above all else that I can love others more than myself; when I am filled with gratitude instead of want.
*Much of what we call love is not love at all, but the excitement of having others worship us in our little kingdom.
*Biblical love is not an abstract concept, but an act: the crucifixion. Biblical love is willing self-sacrifice for the redemptive good of another that does not demand reciprocation or demand that the other person be deserving.
*The biggest hindrance to loving others with a Biblical love is me.
*Christ has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Why do we live as paupers in our claustrophobic kingdoms, when we can live as princes in God's big-sky kingdom?

Phew. It slew me. May the Lord grant me wisdom in applying this to my own heart!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Yesterday, just before bed, I received one of the most painful e-mails I have ever received. My friend, Juanita and her husband, Terry, have been cyber friends for several years, both through my classical education loop and through their blogs (which you can find here and here. Terry pastors a church in Edson, Alberta, Canada, and Juanita homeschools their four children. Juanita was the dear friend who arranged a home in Montreal for Tim and Nikki to stay at when they had to visit the consulate there a few months ago.

Juanita's e-mail was stark. Their 14 year old daughter, Emily, had been out for a walk in the late afternoon, and was attacked and killed. She said they were trusting God, and that Emily was in the arms of Jesus.

I have rarely been so shocked or horrified. I wept and prayed until about 3:00 this morning, and have continued to lift this dear family in prayer ever since, my heart overflowing with love and sympathy, and the temptation to ungodly anger and outrage. I believe anger and outrage are appropriate responses to this situation, but my flesh is too ready to seek vengeance, and that is the province of the Lord alone. I want this man caught, but I should also want God to give this man a new heart.

I struggled in prayer during the early hours of the morning. The first question that often comes to mind at times like this is, "Where was God when such a thing was happening?" I know the answer to that one. God was right there, with Emily. The second question that follows on the first is, "Why would God allow such a thing?". That one, I have no real answer to, except that we know what God is like, and that He promises to work all things (the good, the bad, and the horrific) together for our good as His children, and for His own glory. I cannot see how He will accomplish this in this instance, how He can possibly bring something good out of so ugly a fact. But I can walk by faith, knowing He is good, and a keeper of His promises. I am left to trust that He knows what He is doing, even when I can't understand.

Several weeks ago, I lost a dear student at the age of 16. She had fought a year-long battle with lymphoma. That year had been a tough one for Becca and her family. But I never knew, until yesterday, to thank God for the grace he extended them by giving Becca that year, and giving the rest of us time to understand and to grieve.

Please pray for this dear family, who was not given time, but can be given the peace of God that passes all understanding. Pray for Terry and Juanita, for the stresses now upon their marriage and family, and as they lead Emily's older brother and two younger sisters through this time of shock and grief. Pray that they can rest and sleep. And pray that as details become known in the next few days, that whatever they are told, God would prepare them and uphold them. Pray for the church where Terry pastors, that they will not grow weary in doing good, and that they will be the hands and arms and feet of Christ, as His Body ought to be. And pray for the man who attacked Emily, and in a short period of time robbed this world of more precious than he can possibly imagine.

If you would like to see more about Emily, you can read a student profile of her here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Battling discouragement

Some time in the middle of the night last night, I began having pain in my neck and shoulder which I know is a result of irritating muscles around a ruptured disc I have in my neck. It may have been irritated by my walk around White Rock yesterday, running errands with an ill-fitting back pack on, or it may have had more to do with me falling asleep in the bathtub during the evening, in an uncomfortable position, while reading a Harry Potter novel (and luckily I didn't douse the book!) Whatever the cause, I awoke with pain, and limited ability to move my neck, around 4:30. That is still night in my book. Add that to this week's interesting development of extremely tender feet and ankles for no known reason, and I was rather miserable.

At 5:15 I rose to heat my oat bag for my neck, and eat a banana so I could take a handful of ibuprofen (well, only 3 actually), and then crawled back into bed feeling utterly discouraged. Here I am, I thought, finished with treatments for almost three weeks, supposed to be improving, and I am miserable! That's when I started feeling sorry for myself, and had a little self-pity cry time.

Dave was awake by this time (though in truth, this is close to his normal time for rising), and I asked him, "So what are your weapons for battling feeling discouraged? What do you do?" His answer was simple, but profound. He said, "I try to think of all the things I should be thankful for."


Count your blessings. What could be simpler? The truth is, once you start really thinking about all you have to be grateful for, all that God has given you that you didn't deserve, you may not feel any better physically, but your heart is cheered. The hard part is getting out of the pit of self-pity long enough to remember what you should do to wage war against the discouragement! So here are a few things I was thankful for in the wee hours of this morning:
*For a God who is wise, powerful, just, holy, good, merciful and true
*For salvation through Christ when I didn't do a thing to either deserve or earn it
*For my pain as a reminder of the temporary and broken nature of this present reality
*For the promise of a perfect future where every pain is gone and every tear is dried
*For a godly and loving husband
*For four wonderful children who love the Lord
*For a loving extended family
*For a church family that cares about one another and seeks to represent Christ
*For a pastor who preaches consistently the truth of the Scriptures
*For the opportunity to teach young people about this world the Lord has created
*For waking up and breathing

What ways do you battle discouragement? Well, the old "Count your blessings" is a good tool to that end.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.


Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.


When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.


~Johnson Oatman, Jr

Friday, September 26, 2008

Walking and words

As I walk most mornings, I enjoy listening to audio books on my mP3 player. I am also a cheap person, so most of what I listen to are theological titles from the monthly free offerings at christianaudio.com (Check out their monthly free downloads: they are fabulous!) But earlier this week, I listened to a poem I had downloaded elsewhere (can't remember right now where). I decided it was time to re-tackle T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland. I read this poem last in college, and felt that I liked it and understood it then. But my poetry reading hasn't been as deep and wide lately as it should be. So I took the plunge into Eliot, and soon found myself in over my head.

It didn't help, of course, that being the technology neophyte that I am, somehow my mP3 player is on "shuffle" and I can't get it off. The poem is broken into 3-4 minute audio "chapters", and when it began, it was shuffling them up. It was very chaotic! Once I realized what it was doing, I clicked each time we ended a "chapter" and started the right one. {Anyone know how to turn the "shuffle" off?}

Once I heard it in order, it made more sense to me, but only slightly. Of course, there were the famous lines (April is the cruelest month...) and the words of Eliot are often musical and lovely, and the allusions are sometimes accessible to me. But when I got home, still clueless about much of the poem (except the third man image, which seemed pretty clear to me...), I pulled out my old Oxford Anthology of British Literature. There I found the poem, and an introduction, with my own notes scribbled all around in the margines. But reading my notes and the introduction didn't help. The introductions of the 80's, it seems, were largely a Freudian/Jungian affair, and they were pushing the "There is no order in the poem" premise. Well, I just didn't buy it.

So, I turned to my T.S. Eliot-loving, literature-loving children, Ben and Elsa. I sent an e-mail that basically said, "OK, guys, I'm' lost. Sum up the structure and meaning for me, will ya?" I got a delightful e-mail back quickly, with many lovely ideas on form and meaning, and that was followed up with a lovely phone conversation, filled with more ideas about Eliot, his relationship with Ezra Pound, his imitation of Dante and Virgil, his references to the Arthurian legend, other works of his I should read, and much other amicable word-talk. It was delightful, and made me grateful for many things: that I can read and enjoy literature and poetry, that I have knowledgeable children who can explain it to me, that Ben and Elsa can converse on the same level and challenge one another in these intellectual things, and that they think I kind of understand what they are saying (though that often involves giving me too much credit!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ben's affirmation

Yesterday Ben received word that he passed his PhD Latin literature comprehensive exams. Congratulations, Ben! He sat for the test a few weeks ago, and this is one major hurdle down on the way to his PhD! He still gets to look forward to comps in Latin translation, Greek lit, Greek translation, and a special author test, along with his thesis. He already has some good ideas for the thesis. Way to go, Ben!

Obviously, unlike his physical prowess, he continues to receive affirmation that Classical studies is his calling! May the Lord have a particular, and even peculiar, place in His kingdom for this classicist!

And speaking of his physical state, thank you to all who prayed for Ben! It appears his fall resulted in sprains and bruises, but no breaks, and he is already feeling much better!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ben's affliction

Everyone who knows our eldest son, Ben, even a little, will know that he is gifted in many areas, but one area where he is not incredibly gifted is in the performance of physical activities requiring any physical coordination. I'm afraid he received his physical coordination from me.

As a child, Ben could fall down standing in the middle of a room, with no reason apparent. We attended YEARS of weekly road races where he fell, week-after-week, year-after-year. He actually has a gift for doing things normal people can't do, like dropping a glass from a refrigerator just right to break a toe (his own toe, of course!) But his own hurt is not the only outcome of his spectacular feats. He once tossed a rock over his head, not realizing that Tim had stopped farther behind to tie his shoe. Ben beaned Tim on the top of the head by accident: a feat he could not have accomplished if he had been trying! As a matter of fact, every childhood injury Tim received growing up had something to do with his big brother.

Well, yesterday, Ben was walking down a flight of stairs outside the Student Union Building at Indiana University. He somehow slipped and did a several stage roll down the flight of steps. It must have been spectacular because a woman coming behind him rushed to his aid, saying, "You had better sit down! That looked *really* painful!) She proceeded to get ice for him, and he limped to the bus station and got himself home. When I spoke to him last night, he didn't think he had broken anything, but he had kept one ankle iced and elevated all day.

Poor Ben! Please remember him in your prayers!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bearing afflictions well

Today is the first official day of autumn. It is everywhere: the asters are blooming, the trees are changing, the breeze if fresh and cool, the vegetable garden is drying up, the roses are in their last glory. The summer of my treatment is behind me.

Today I got the thumbs up from the surgeon: my incisions are all healing well, and I don't have to return to him until next May for my one-year check-up. He did say i would need a mammogram soon, and i asked if the 20 or so I had in the spring couldn't last at least a few more months. He laughed and said my oncologist could plan those.

I did blood work last week, and will do a PET/CT scan next week, and follow-up on my adrenal adenoma and my unpleasant test (the one that was canceled- see here)sometime later in the month, and then back to the endocrinologist at the end of October, and I think maybe I'll actually get a little time off then, Lord willing!

My radiation area is peeling and red, but not as tender as it was. And I am beginning to notice a slight lessening of weariness and fatigue-- probably just enough to start over-doing it! Physically, everything is coming along well.

Emotionally, I am still recovering. I was explaining to someone at church yesterday that I feel as if I have little emotional reserve...that my raw emotions are only a quarter-inch deep, and if you scratch me just a little, it all comes bursting out. Dave overheard this, and added, "She's exaggerating. It's only an eighth of an inch deep!"

The old Puritan, Henry Scudder, in his amazing book, The Christian's Daily Walk, discusses, among many other things, the way to bear afflictions well. He says,

...(W)hether your crosses and afflictions be imaginary only, or real; whether from God immediately, or from man, whether light or heavy, follow these directions:
1. Be not transported with passion and anger, like proud Lamech, and froward Jonah.
2. Be not overwhelmed, or sullen with grief, like covetous Ahab and foolish Nabal.
3. But, bear them cheerfully and thankfully.
4. Bear them fruitfully.
~H. Scudder, The Christian's Daily Walk, pp.136-137

It sounds so easy when it's in a neat little list like that! But it's so hard to live it out in the day-by-day.

So, here are some praise reports and some prayer requests that I covet you to make on my behalf. Thank you for your faithfulness in praying for me!

Praise God for:
*Increasing strength and stamina
*Decreasing tenderness
*Mild side-effects over all
*A sweet husband with a great sense of humor
*The great time I enjoyed with my kids and family at the wedding in MI

And please petition God for:
*Excellent results from my tests in October and no new issues or malignancies to deal with
*Rest and continued recuperation, stamina and strength
*The ability to pick up my teaching duties near the beginning of October, and the ability to communicate Christ to my students
*That I would learn the important lesson of dying to self and serving others, like Christ did, instead of feeling sorry for myself, as I often do.
*That I would bear my afflictions cheerfully, thankfully, and fruitfully.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The blessings of family

One of God's greatest blessings is our families. They love us, comfort us, rejoice with us, sharpen us, knock off our rough edges. And in my case, they traipse all over the country to attend weddings!

Here are Nikki and Tim with Grandma Finnegan (Marilyn, Dave's mom), on the way to do something important in Grand Rapids, before the rains came.

And here are Grandpa and Grandma Hanson (Jack and Shirley Hanson, Chris's parents), after they braved the first day of rain and made it to the rehearsal. All the grandparents travelled from New Mexico.

This is my brother Jeff, his daughter Rachel, and wife Marsha. They trooped all the way from Cedar Falls, IA, and were a blessing to us!

My youngest brother Matt, His wife Maria, and daughter Zoe drove over from Chicago. They put together an amazing slide show for the reception, and Matt videotaped the wedding. Thanks for your love and support, guys!

Here is Dave with my sister, Jeni, who came from Cedar Rapids, IA. Jeni stayed at the reception until the ship went down to make sure I had help if I needed it. Love you, Jen!

And my sisters Gwen (and her family) and Anne weren't able to make it this time around, and were very much missed. But they made it, along with all these wonderful family members, to Minnesota last December for Ben and Elsa's wedding. We feel very blessed and very loved by you all!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rejoicing in my children

I recently finished reading Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (again). As with any great work of literature, new things impressed me this time through, probably because of the change in my life experience since I last read it 15 years ago or so . As Christiana is being called to cross the river in the end of Part II, and enter the land of the King, Bunyan writes this:

Then she called for her children, and gave them her blessing; and told them that she yet read with comfort the mark that was set in their foreheads; and was glad to see them with her there; and that they had kept their garments so white.

I found myself crying as I read those words. I knew exactly how comforting that was to Christiana, as she looked towards the end of life in this world. I, too, take the same comforts. My children have that mark upon their foreheads that sets them apart as the Lord's. They re not marked because they were smart, or because I was a great parent, but because God, in His grace, gave them (and me) this gift.

And their white garments: to have made their way to a godly marriages, free of the stain of premarital promiscuity, and now delighting in the wives and husbands of their youth is another gift of God's grace, and a rare one in our day. And more than that, the garment of the righteousness of Christ is theirs through faith, and His garments cannot be soiled by us. He covers us.

Bunyan finishes the above paragraph this way:
Lastly, she bequeathed to the poor that little she had; and commanded her sons and daughters to be ready against the messenger should come for them.

Ben and Elsa and Tim and Nikki, I am so proud of you, and so comforted by your faith and love! Stand firm in these lives you have started together. Be ready against that messenger who can come at any time and require your presence in heaven. Remember that mark on your forehead, and keep your eyes on the Celestial City.

I love you!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Angela and The Summer of Ten-Thousand Mothers

This is my friend, Angela. Angela befriended me when I moved from Minnesota to Southern Ohio in the middle of my freshman year of high school. She translated for me when I couldn't understand my Kentucky-born-and-bred algebra teacher, Mr. Bivens. {He kept referring to "lackderms", which I just couldn't figure out until I was told these were "like terms"...} We were in youth group together, and grew in the Lord together, and despaired together as many from our youth group fell away from the Lord during college. We skipped classes together, were in honor society together, and enjoyed one another's company always. After we headed in different directions for college, we would exchange notes or calls from time to time, or see each other every few years. We never lost total track of each other, but we didn't keep in close contact either.

Then, in 1992, Dave had a recurrence of his melanoma. We had been fighting his cancer for about 6 or 7 years at that point, and Ben and Tim were 7 and 8 years old. After the surgeon sent us home to make Dave comfortable until he died (likely within 6 months), our oncologist sent us to M. D. Anderson in Houston. Dave entered an experimental treatment there. And we all packed into our car and drove to a huge, distant city, and tried to figure out how to cope. Dave needed an adult in hospital with him 24/7, and I couldn't be both with him and with my children. My siblings came, one at a time, to help with the kids, help move to an apartment, etc. One would come for a week, then leave when the next arrived. People from local Houston churches helped out, and entertained and cared for our boys. Many sweet and loving family members and friends became mothers for short periods of time to the boys. Then, Angela called me. She had been praying about it, and was currently unemployed and staying with her folks. She would come. And she would stay. She would become mother to our children, and not leave us until we were home and settled. And what a blessing she was!

Angela kept the boys at the apartment provided by Catholic Charities for Anderson patients (and bravely battled the cockroaches!) She would bring the boys for a visit each day, along with with clean laundry for Dave and me, and take the dirty laundry home with the kids in the evening. When we were able to be home, she laughed and cried with me, and never flinched over our circumstances. And in-between times she helped and ministered to the family in the next apartment. At one point I was explaining to her that I just couldn't get involved with the family next door: I was already spread too thin emotionally, and I just couldn't do it. I'll never forget her answer: "I don't think Scripture says anywhere that we can stay away because it's painful." She was right, and she was living proof of it. She got up with Ben when he had nightmares, and distracted the boys when life was frightening, and took turns with me going into the bathroom and turning on the shower so the boys would not hear us crying. She was, as Scripture says, a friend who was closer than a brother.

Angela and I began calling the summer of 1992 "The Summer of Ten-Thousand Mothers", because we figured one day Ben would write a book about his childhood suffering, and it would make a great title. And then, the following year, Angela's dear father was diagnosed with advanced melanoma, and she providentially headed back to Houston with her parents, already knowing the churches and the hospital and the city. And after living our success story, she lived the tragic story of her dad's death.

And Angela helped Dave's mother move out to live with us after Dave's dad died.

And Angela came to the college graduations of both of our boys.

And Angela came to the wedding.

Angela always comes when you need her.

And now Angela works meeting needs at City Gospel Mission in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Thank you, Ang, for being such a blessing in our lives!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The wealth of friends

Our wedding over the weekend was a delightful effort brought off in large part by our dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who not only came from long distances, but put forth extraordinary effort. I can't possibly name them all here, but here are a few who made the weekend wonderful that I happen to have photos of.

Randy is an old friend (and if you want to see just how old, see here.) He and his wife Barb and son Colin drove all the way from Florida so Randy, pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Bradenton, could officiate at the wedding. I even got to tease him about being "somber and dull". What a special blessing the Greenwalds (along with their daughter-in-law, Alissa) were to us!

Our friends Bob and Rachel and Lauri are all past Los Alamos connections. Bob and Rachel are from Valparaiso, IN, but spent about 15 summers in Los Alamos, so they qualify as old friends as well. Lauri and her husband, Greg (my famous, world-class radiologist friend whom you will know from my cancer posts) lived for several years in Los Alamos, but are now in Hershey, PA. They swooped in, took over many jobs for me, ran errands, and served us in many gracious ways. Thanks, guys!

These are our dear friends, the Lawrences. They moved to Maryland after 12 years in Los Alamos, and headed to MI after being in their new home less than two weeks. We knew David and Amy as newlyweds, who thought we were crazy for homeschooling our children. We had the pleasure over 12 years of watching Noah and Molly and Benjamin and Lillie come along and thrive in the Lawrence's homeschool. Now Baby #5 is on the way, and will grow up in MD without us, which makes us sad. But what a blessing they were to us in MI: helping, encouraging, enjoying, crying, running errands...We love you!

These were my girls: my daughter-in-law Elsa, Rachel Baer from Los Alamos, and Emily Thomson from Los ALamos via Patrick Henry College in Virginia. They helped, encouraged, hugged, and made the weekend a joy. Thank you, ladies!

And these are my other sons. Joey and Josh grew up with Ben and Tim, and spent many hours at our house, at debate tournaments, at cross country races, and followed us to MI for the big event. Thank you, fellas, for your friendship, love and support.

One friend that I do not have a picture of is Natasha. When she was a fresh Calvin College graduate, Natasha spent a year teaching here in Los ALamos at our church's Christian School, and then moved on to other things, including marriage to Mark in Grand Rapids and a beautiful daughter named Zoe. Natasha is a breast cancer survivor, and is currently fighting a young woman's battle with metastatic disease. She is attempting her fourth chemotherapy regimen. She writes beautifully of her difficult journey, and even before my diagnosis, I was inspired and encouraged by her words. She surprised me with a Saturday visit just before the wedding, and it was such a treat to hug her and catch up for just a few moments.

So, we are rich in friends. God showered us with blessing after blessing this past weekend, and we are grateful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My new daughter-in-love

For many years, I was the only woman in this family. On trips, the botanical gardens and refurbished homes always lost out to the World War I airplane hangars, and docked submarines. Last December, the scales started to tip when Elsa joined the family, and as of Saturday, Nikki has evened up the score in a beautiful way.

Nikki is a person with an open heart and a cheerful disposition. She is ready to serve at a moments notice, notices intuitively the way people are feeling, and is quick to come alongside the hurting or help those who need it. She rejoices with those who rejoice, and weeps with those who mourn. It has been months since we could even think of our family without her in it!

Welcome to the family, sweet Nikki! May your love for the Lord grow daily and bring you closer and closer to Tim as you run this race side by side. We love you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Tim Finnegan

Well, we are home, and they are hitched! The wedding was lovely, and Tim and Nikki should be on their way to Hawaii today! I will try to post some wedding anecdotes over the next couple of days, but if you have a hankering to see my photos, you can check them out here. The problem with my photos is that I was pretty busy as mother of the groom, and didn't take many. But there are about 180-some candid shots taken over our 5 days in Grand Rapids for you to enjoy.

Thanks everyone for your prayers. It was a wonderful time!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We're off...

Well, we are off to the wedding!! My primary care has confirmed that everything looks good (except my allergies, and he's prescribed some drugs for that), I am finishing the packing, and we are heading out tonight. We'll spend the night with my parents outside of Albuquerque, then fly to Chicago in the early morning, and drive over to Grand Rapids. There, we will be with our children, our families, and our dear friends, and see Tim and Nikki started on their marriage journey. We would appreciate prayers for the travel, for health, for rest, and for the newly weds-to-be! I doubt I will be posting while we're gone, so I will catch you all next week when we return!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Radiation is done!

Today I had my LAST radiation treatment for this course of treatments for my breast cancer. Hurrah! This feels pretty significant to me! My dearest Dave brought me the gorgeous roses you see pictured, and also made toffee bar cookies for me to take to the radiation therapists as a thank-you gift for their kind and professional service. When I left my treatment, the therapists had a bubble machine running, and played noise-makers, and gave me a flower to celebrate. And then I went with a friend to get a pedicure this afternoon to celebrate. God has been very good to me, and has answered prayer after prayer. Let's praise Him:
*for allowing me to complete the treatments before we left for the wedding, as we had prayed.
*for keeping my skin from burning badly and keeping other harmful side-effects from happening, as we had prayed.

And let's also ask Him:
*to help me to heal from this treatment quickly, and for my energy to return so I can enjoy the upcoming wedding and resume my teaching a few weeks afterwards.
*to make the treatments very effective against this cancer, that it will be beaten and not return.
*that my scans and other tests scheduled for the end of September and beginning of October would come back without any difficult findings.

Thank you for all of you who have prayed faithfully for me. I have been carried by those prayers!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ill-timed providences

I have, by God's grace, completed (or nearly so) two days free from any unwanted episodes of disorientation and inability to focus my eyes. Dave suggested that perhaps I was pushing a bit hard, and need to step back in my exercise and activity level a little, which I have attempted to do, and perhaps it is really helping! I spent most of the day yesterday trying to touch base with my oncologist for a follow-up, only to find that since there was nothing terrible happening in my brain, she would rather I see my primary care for follow-up on the blood pressure issues, and discuss what to do if I have any recurring episodes. I will see my wonderful primary care on Tuesday morning, just before we hit the road on Tuesday evening. Let's hope he is on board with not doing anything until we get back from the wedding!

I had an e-mail from a dear friend today. She said it seems that here, at the end of treatment, with the wedding trip upon us, these troubles seemed so ill-timed. She said it is so comforting that God is with us in the thick and thin of life, whether we understand what is going on or not. This is so true, and while I don't understand all the timing of things, I do trust God to be good in it, no matter what happens. And sometimes I think we get too wrapped up in understanding everything, and not wrapped up enough in the character of God: who He is, and how worthy of praise He is.

I remember hearing a prayer attributed to Luther once, which I thought was simple, but profound. He prayed for the grace not to try to understand, or desire to know, those things that belong only to God. There was a similar passage in Spurgeon last night:

My Lord, I leave the infinite to Thee, and pray Thee to put far from me such a love for the tree of knowledge as might keep me from the tree of life.
~C. H. Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, Sept. 5

These are profound thoughts. I can get carried away with some esoteric point of theology, and loose sight of the big picture. Or I can demand to know why God is doing what He is doing in my life. Either way, I am grasping at being God, instead of humbling myself beneath His hand.

So tonight, I praise God for His mercies to me, and end my day asking Him to give me the grace to love Him without understanding everything He is doing, to trust Him when I can't exactly see what is happening, and magnify His name in my life and this world.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The crook in today's lot

Well, today took a few unexpected turns. Though no less providential than yesterday's turns, they were a bit more exhausting.

Really, the turns started yesterday afternoon, as I drove myself home from my radiation treatments in Santa Fe. I suddenly realized that I could no longer focus my eyes, and felt a bit disoriented. I was able to pull quickly off on the shoulder, and by the time I stopped the car, it was over. Weird. Then this morning, as I took my morning walk, something similar happened: I couldn't focus my eyes, and started feeling a little dizzy, and looked down at the sidewalk to find I was already disoriented and off the sidewalk. I sat on the curb, and by the time i sat down, it was over, so I walked home. But since this was so strange and had happened twice, I decided I should probably ask someone about it.

The radiation techs thought it was a question for my oncologist or primary care. I left a message for my primary care, and talked to my oncologist's nurse on the way to radiation (thankfully, I was being driven by my friend Mary Ann!) On the way home from radiation, my primary care's nurse called, and told me I should make an appointment to see the on-call doc tomorrow. And my oncologists' nurse called to say she wanted me to come in at 2:15 for a brain MRI, and then still keep my ugly test appointment at 4:00. OK. Then I got home, and the primary care nurse called back and had made the appointment for me for tomorrow. And then the oncologist called and asked me to just get a ride straight to the emergency room. Her concern was that the tamoxifen I am taking can cause blood clot problems, and she wanted me thoroughly checked. She would cancel my 4:00 appointment and talk to the ER before I got there. So, Marilyn drove me to the emergency room, where I mostly waited. I did a short neurological run-down with the doc, had blood work done, and had a brain MRI, and also had rather high blood pressure reading (which was very uncharacteristic, and I wonder if it wasn't just White Coat Syndrome...). Marilyn walked over and canceled the appointment with my primary care, since they were giving me a pretty thorough going-over in ER, and Dave joined me for the duration (bless his heart!) All of the tests basically came back normal with no weird spots or problems, and they discovered I DO have a brain after all. I was turned out of the emergency room after about four hours with nothing but mounting bills for my time. I am supposed to "follow-up with my doctor", but it was already too late to do so today, so I will try to talk to her tomorrow. And I think I will stay out from behind the wheel of a car for a while, until I am sure these episodes are not becoming a regular thing.

So tonight I am exhausted. My dreaded test has been postponed until some time in the future. And I am just pooped. But God had purpose somewhere in today, and I am trusting Him for it, even though I don't see it at the moment.

Please pray:
* for rest and recovery as I complete my last two radiation treatments, Lord willing, tomorrow and Monday
*for no more eye/disorientation episodes
*for continued mild side-effects in the treatment area
*for wisdom when I talk to the doc tomorrow- both for my questions and her answers
*for no adverse side-effects from the tamoxifen (like blood clots)
*that the treatments I am receiving would be very effective against this cancer
*that I would be grateful for the care I am receiving and the grace God is extending me
*for a good night's sleep

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sing a new song

Today was one of those tender, vulnerable days right from the start. I am not sure why exactly. But I knew from the time I woke up that I would be on the edge all day, emotionally speaking. It likely had something to do with me doing too much yesterday, and not getting enough rest. Add to that the fact that Dave was headed out of the house early (for prayer with the other elders of our church, as they do every Wednesday morning), and then out of town, while I would head to radiation treatments and have an unpleasant test tomorrow afternoon. I was just feeling the loss of Dave's support keenly, and the weariness of my current journey. I cried when we prayed together this morning. I cried when Dave left. My strain must have showed as I walked and worked out with dear friends, who love me enough to tell me when my tone of voice is too much, and I cried in the bathroom at Curves. Then I cried part of the way down to Santa Fe. *Sigh* I kept asking the Lord to be sufficient for me, to lift my countenance. But it was just one of those days.

Then Tim called. He and Nikki have decided to take the job offer in Tucson, and there is great rejoicing over that decision being made. This was a little ray of encouragement! I called Dave to tell him, and he asked, "Would you like me to make the rest of your day?"
"Of course," I replied. He then explained to me that the two people who were to give presentations at the meeting he was organizing had both had to cancel due to last-minute health problems, so he was busy canceling his meeting, and he was staying home after all.

And then I really cried! But this wasn't a "sorry-for-myself" cry, or even a "weary-beyond-belief" cry. It was the tears of joy that the Redeemed of the Lord cry when He cares for them in their need, and exceeds all of their expectations. God, in His awesome providence, said, "I love you and here is your husband to be my hands and arms to you these next couple of days." It doesn't seem to matter to Him that most of my earlier crying was exactly the "sorry-for-myself" and "weary-beyond-belief" kind, with a big dose of dramatic self-pity mixed in for good measure. He delighted in me enough to meet my puny, selfish need of support. That's the kind of God He is.

This all brought me in mind of Isaiah 42, especially the first 16 verses:
1Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen,in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.

5Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6"I am the LORD;I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

7to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them."
10Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
11Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the habitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12Let them give glory to the LORD,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
13The LORD goes out like a mighty man,
like a man of war he stirs up his zeal;
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
he shows himself mighty against his foes.

14For a long time I have held my peace;
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labor;
I will gasp and pant.
15I will lay waste mountains and hills,
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn the rivers into islands,
and dry up the pools.
16 And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.

I am not much of a theologian, but this seems to me to clearly and beautifully point out who God is, and who we are. I was one bruised reed today, and He saw to it that I was not crushed. He takes me by the hand, and makes darkness light before me. And He is the bringer of justice, the Maker of covenants, He who will not forsake His people.

So, on the tender and vulnerable days, I can trust such a God. I can trust Him to providentially intervene on the days I need Him to, and to strengthen and lift me on the days when He doesn't intervene, but lets me walk without such a visible reminder of his care for and delight in me. This is indeed reason to sing a new song of praise to our God!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Fall is in the air, with the aroma of roasting chile (which I believe you had to be born in New Mexico to actually enjoy...), the crisp morning air, the heavy clouds over the mountains, and the beginning of fall allergy season as the chamisa begins to bloom. Today on my way to Santa Fe I saw my first cottonwood tree sporting all yellow leaves! I guess it's true- September is here! I have only 4 more radiation treatments left, my composition class begins on Thursday without me (to their joy and my disappointment), and we leave for Tim's wedding in just about a week.

I want to say that the summer has flown by. But really, it seems like there wasn't really a summer at all this year. The routines of appointments and surgeries and treatment and testing have sucked up the whole summer. And yet, here I am to the fall, preparing to attend my son's wedding, and finishing my radiation treatments with no skin problems! I can easily feel sorry for myself and

I have been spending the last two days working on lists for the wedding: things I need to do, places we need to be, things to remember to pack, people to remember to pick up or drop off at airports... and it seems to me I had better be sure to make a list of the things I am grateful for. So here are a few, in no particular order:

*For my Savior, who redeemed me when I hated Him, and loves me even when I am rebellious
*For minimal side-effects from the radiation with only 4 treatments left
*For two lovely daughters-in-law who love the Lord and love my sons (though, strictly speaking, Nikki won't be one until a week from Saturday!)
*For the physical ability and financial wherewithal to attend this wedding in Michigan in a week.
*For the many friends and family members coming from hither and yon to celebrate with us in Michigan at the wedding
*For my wonderful and supportive husband and best friend, Dave
*For my terrific sons, Ben and Tim, and the joy of watching them follow the Lord and figure out His call on their lives
*For my helpful mother-in-law, Marilyn, who is going out of her way to be helpful to me
*For my supportive parents and siblings
*For wonderful friends who have been and continue to pick up my slack and allow things like composition to get started before I can
*For all of you who have and continue to pray for me. I am blessed beyond measure.