Thursday, December 20, 2012

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

All the book reports and essays have been graded.  The classes are done.  The Christmas projects that are going to be completed, are completed.  We have a little bit of snow this week, and more expected for Christmas Day.  Today I will be cleaning, baking, and wrapping.  I love Christmas!

The above quilt was sent off weeks ago to Dave's brother and family in Tennessee, and the other handmade projects have been documented for future posting.  And after a few details finished off today, I will be ready to do nothing but enjoy my family!  My children and their families arrive tomorrow evening, and my siblings and their families will be trickling in until Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day at my sister's house, we will number 24 people.  It will be crazy, loud, fun, and precious.  And I can't wait!

I am overwhelmed by the blessings of God.  I completed a semester of teaching, I have an abundant family to gather about me, and my sweet husband has survived a whole year of my various health struggles with me.  Jesus is here, Emmanuel, God is in His heaven, and for a little while anyway, all seems right with my world.  May it be so with your world, too, Gentle Reader!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The pure love of God

I love getting Christmas cards and letters from friends and family.  I love the photos of the children of friends becoming adults, and grandchildren coming.  But one Christmas card this season brought me to tears. Dear friends from graduate school days sent a letter for the first time in a few years.  Those intervening years have brought cancer battles, loss of a beloved son, and many changes. I grieved for them with tears, and I rejoiced for them with tears.

The rejoicing was that as the mom battled cancer, and as they watched their son battle and lose his fight with cancer, they have seen God to be faithful.  What can sometimes break a family apart, instead is drawing them together.  What has crushed their spirits, is now renewing them day by day.  My friend said to me,

I once saw a quote, "Love of God is pure when joy and suffering inspire equal degree of gratitude." I try to keep this in my heart but sometimes it is very difficult."
That "difficult" is an understatement-- nigh on impossible in the midst of circumstances like they have faced.  But not only is the purity of our love for God shown as we rejoice in the midst of our trials as well as our joys; God's amazing and pure love for us is seen in the same way.  It is the purity of His love for us that sent His Son to be born and die for us. It is the purity of His love that sends us His Spirit to be our rest, our comfort, our clarity amidst the chaos suffering brings.  How blessed we are to follow Him.

 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Cor. 13: 12-13

Monday, December 10, 2012

Health Update

On Friday I saw the eye specialist at UNM.  She had some encouraging findings... My vision test has improved significantly (though i am as yet unaware of my vision changing much), the pressure had gone down in both eyes, and the lesions on my retina seem less active.  These are all excellent qualitative signs that the immune suppressant drug is working on my birdshot chorioretinopathy.  next month we will repeat the fluoriscein angiogram to check on the leaking blood vessels.  If they have stopped leaking, we are good to continue on my present dose for 1-2 years.  If they are still leaking, we will either up the dosage of cellcept or add in another drug component.  I very much appreciate your prayers, Gentle reader! God is being good to answer them positively for me. 

The eye doc remains skeptical of my sarcoidosis diagnosis.  She is now suggesting I look into the possibility of paraneoplastic syndrome, which I will follow-up on with my oncologist.  She is wondering whether that might explain my previous lymph node problem and my night-time oxygen problem. Whether we know what to call all of this or not begins to grow less important to me than living my life as God would have me with and in spite of these things.  Whatever it is, the fatigue I feel must be dealt with as best I can, my eyes must be managed, and I want to spend my days serving God in a meaningful way. So we trudge ahead.

Like the Kaibab squirrel above, who watched us as we hiked through the mountains recently, I am trying to sit still and watch. I am waiting to see what God is doing.  2012 has been such a year of struggle physically, and then emotionally and spiritually, that I must refocus as I enter 2013.  I wait on the Lord, and His plan for my new year. What will it be, I wonder?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

And another...

Another version of the song posted earlier- also quite beautiful.  Thanks for  the post, Teri!

Sabbath Song

I love the haunting quality of this Enya version:

O come, o come emmanuel,
To free your captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
O Israel, to you shall
come Emmanuel.

Veni, veni, Emanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!

Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude, gaude, Emanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.

Chanting - Gaude, gaude

Refrain: (2x)
Gaude, gaude, Emanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Come Saturday Morning

I woke up singing this song today for no reason whatsoever, except that it is Saturday, of course.  may you have a Saturday friend to have adventures with, Gentle Reader.  I've been married to my Saturday friend for 32.5 years, and we have been having adventures for more like 36 years.  What a joy.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sabbath Song

There is No Greater Portrait  by Eric Schumacher and Daivd Ward

There is no greater portrait
Of love and sacrifice
Than Jesus leaving glory
And laying down His life.
When I look on the sufferings
My Savior chose to bear,
It fills my heart with sorrow
To think I put Him there.

He ran the race before Him
Though it was filled with pain,
And walked the road to glory
In agony and shame.
Then for the joy before Him,
He chose to bear the cross,
Pursued His Father’s pleasure
And counted all else loss.

The Son of Man was lifted
Before creation’s eyes;
Was mocked and scorned by soldiers,
By kings and priests despised.
But now the Son is risen,
Ascended to the skies.
By angels He is worshipped;
By nations glorified.

O Savior, let this sinner
Be ransomed by the flood
Of mercy and forgiveness
Abundant in Your blood.
O Lord, be my salvation,
Your Holy Spirit send
To change my heart and cause me
To love You to the end.

Monday, November 05, 2012

In the end...

Last weekend we attended a family conference at our church.  Two take away ideas for me were these:
  1. The best day of my life will be my last, because I will enter into the presence of my Lord on that day. My time here is short, so I should use it for those things that count.
  2. Your priorities are what you actually do, not what you talk about doing.

This song and these ideas are running through my mind this morning, so I thought I'd share.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sabbath Song

Mercy Speaks by Jesus' Blood
by William Gadsby, 1838
Mercy speaks by Jesus' blood;
Hear and sing, ye sons of God;
Justice satisfied indeed;
Christ has full atonement made.

Jesus' blood speaks loud and sweet;
Here all Deity can meet,
And, without a jarring voice,
Welcome Zion to rejoice.

 Should the law against her roar,
 Jesus' blood still speaks with power,
All her debts were cast on Me,
And she must and shall go free.

Peace of conscience, peace with God,
We obtain through Jesus' blood;
Jesus' blood speaks solid rest;
We believe, and we are blessed.

You can hear a lovely revision of this on RUF's Online Hymnbook website here.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Health Update: I'm almost one in a million...

The windings and turns of my recent health struggles have made it difficult to post updates here of late.  It has been difficult to know what to say as we have gone round and round about a diagnosis for what ails me and how to treat it.  And it has been difficult to find the time amid the myriad of appointments, tests, and travel.  But a little clarity is emerging slowly, so I can now give at least a partial update, and some specific prayer requests. I know many of you are faithful prayer warriors, Gentle Readers, because I see answers to those prayers, and God has been so very good to me in this process.

My breast cancer remains non-existent, praise God! I continue on the drug arimidex to keep my recurrence chances low.

My eyes have continued to be bothersome, and here we have made some progress. We have a firm diagnosis of a rare auto-immune disease called birdshot chorioretinapathy.  This is rare enough that I'm not really one in a million, but there are only about 4 cases in every million people. I will be starting immune-suppressant therapy this weekend, and hope to stop progression of the disease.  Left untreated, this always leads to blindness, but treatment with various drugs can often halt the disease's progress.  And I have found  an excellent physician and we have caught the disease very early. So my hopes are high that we can get this under control.

My continuing fatigue remains mysterious and discouraging.  I also have some funky blood work, and neither it nor the fatigue is explained by either the eye problem or the arimidex I am taking.  So my rheumatologist is continuing to monitor blood work, and the possibility of sarcoidosis is not yet off my table. But the Lord is holding me, and He gives me hope in Him, no matter what the crook in my lot is.  (And if you want to understand what I mean by the crook in your lot, or the bend in your path, and how we ought to respond to such things, listen to the excellent sermon by Rick Steele here.)

If you have not grown weary of praying for me, here are some specific prayer requests:
  • Please pray that I would tolerate the immune-suppressant well, with few side effects, or that I would be able to bear what side effects I have.
  • Please pray that the drug would be very effective in treating this disease.
  • Please pray for the fatigue I feel to lift.  A friend who is also an autoimmune disease sufferer recently sent me this link which does a good job of describing the fatigue if you are interested in understand more about those of us who look fine but are fighting illness. (Thanks for the link, Becki! Dave and I now talk in "spoonfuls".)
  • Please pray that my immune system would be restored, and that I would not continue down the path of constant illness.  And if God determines I need to travel that road, please pray that I would honor Him there, and figure out what it means to glorify and enjoy Him on that journey.
Thank you, Gentle Reader.  I am grateful for you!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Living as broken actors on a broken stage

I was told earlier this week that my medical case is "complicated". It certainly is. But my life is complicated- and so is yours, Gentle Reader. We navigate a world where we don't always understand the suffering that comes our way, or that defines the lives of others.  We are, indeed, broken actors, living on a broken stage, and that brokenness is sometimes horrific, sometimes dark, and always complicated. We all need to remind ourselves what the presence of a sovereign God, a perfect Father,  means as we evaluate our complicated lives.

Today a dear friend sent me the talk below because she found it so encouraging as she faces her complicated life.  And it has been an excellent and deep reminder to me of the transcendent and transforming power of God in the midst of our brokenness. I hope you find it encouraging also.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A couple of realizations

This afternoon I found myself on the phone with the diagnostic lab, then the insurance company, then the lab again.  This is just common fare for anyone managing a complicated medical life.  As I was on hold (which is also simply a fact of my life,) I found myself thinking, "Be kind, be forthright, sound assured, don't get angry."  And then realization number one hit me.

I have spent a good deal of my life trying to learn enough to feel self-assured when I speak to people, hoping to attain that wisdom and grace of full age that makes me a joy to talk to and a knowledgeable conversationalist, whether we're discussing Chaucer or philosophy or insurance claims.  And now that I'm well into my fifties, and should be there, I have somehow slipped right past my powerful years and into my dotage.  Now, instead of self-assured and powerful, I need notes to remmber what I want to say, and have to shore up my emotions so I won't slip into old lady tears.  And then realization number two hit.

The vision of age with grace and wisdom, or powerful maturity, is probably the same old illusion I've always had of whatever stage of life I'm not in. The reality is only that I am me, always and anon. Whatever stage I'm in, I always want to be in a different one because I am such a flop at the one I'm in. I simply can't escape me, and i never live up to my own expectations.

So, instead of trusting in my powerful reason or steady voice or amassed wisdom, or whatever greener grass calls to me from afar, when will I just stop it and start trusting Christ no matter what? Now THAT would be wisdom, Gentle Reader!

Monday, October 01, 2012

The delights of teaching

I was recently reminded by a friend that we have much to be thankful for as teachers.  This year is something like my 34th year of teaching, and  I am teaching 37 wonderful students online at Veritas Press Scholars Academy, and I am teaching four wonderful students in my local Worldviews class. And it is a privilege.

In teaching  my 2-year worldviews class 5 or 6 times over the last 12 or 15 years, I am always thankful for the opportunity to reach the hearts of some of my students.  This class changes me, and it sometimes changes them, all by God's grace.  One of the components of class is to bring an item for "Worldview in our World" (WioW).  These items are often picked up at the whole foods market in Santa Fe, the Mecca for New Age folks, or in ads from the Santa Fe Reporter, or bumper stickers seen about town.. the idea is to bring in something from the real world that reveals a worldview or conflicts with a Christian worldview, and discuss where that item, person, or quote is coming from in terms of its worldview and presuppositions. But this current crop of kids is taking WioW to a whole new level.  What they bring to class are the conversations they are having at the local community college, in parking lots, and on their sports teams.  These students are applying what God is teaching them, and I am blessed enough to be the tool of sharing , and to watch as the Holy Spirit matures them.  How amazing is that?! These kids take what I teach them, and do it more consistently and bravely than I ever will.  What a delight to see!

So, Gentle Readers who are called to be teachers/leaders/mentors for young people, don't let the dark times of teaching discourage you.  When you are swamped with essays to grade, or overwhelmed by scheduling conflicts, or are dealing with difficult students or parents, remember the delight of this high calling.  You can be used by God to change lives forever, and thus change this world for Christ's sake.  And that is a delightful calling indeed.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sabbath Song

Today we introduced this version of Psalm 18:1-3 to our congregation.  I wish I could play it as well as Nathan does! You can get a free pdf version of this song here. I am always grateful for Nathan's careful words and beautiful presentation.  If you haven't bought any of his CDs, don't miss them!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Emma in motion

The short video below shows Emma playing in the water feature at a lovely city park in Kanab, Utah. Just before I started filming, her Daddy had told her this was her last time to get the water turned on. With the intercession of her Mommy, she is allowed one more time, and she gets in a bit over her head.  The last resigned statement she grumbles as she walks off camera is, "I OK."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hiking the Narrows

One of my favorite hikes anywhere is up the Virgin River in Zion Canyon into the Narrows.  The slot canyons are spectacular, and the walk through the cold water of the river is treacherous and exhilarating.  I always feel so close to God and His creative power in that place-- I certainly see why the early Mormons entering this canyon called it Zion!  Below are a just a few of my photos from this most recent trip.  I feel so blessed to walk that river once again!