Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Update #42 Somewhere In Between

Yesterday I found out that my tumor markers had increased and were now outside the normal range. Today when I went to Roswell, this is the news I heard...

I graduated with a B.S. in Marketing Management & French from Grove City College.
I graduated with an MBA in Marketing and Organizational Strategy from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester.
But I cannot seem to get my graduation papers that say I've completed a "Wait and See" (W&S) degree that's so expertly offered by the School of Cancer.
And so today, once again,  I entered that classroom in this all-demanding school.  And I heard familiar words from my trusted doctor: "Let's wait another month and see what your tumor markers are at that point. If they're still higher than normal, I'll order some scans and we'll make the determination based on those results." do I feel about this? 
Hmmm...better than if the recommendation was to start more aggressive chemo (you know, the no-more-hair, you'll-be-bald-as-a-cue-ball kind of chemo) tomorrow.  Worse than if she said, "Oh my goodness, we made a mistake. The nurse is dyslexic and your markers aren't 41, but 14!"  Somewhere in between is where you'd find me on this. 
Somewhere in between.  
Yes, now that I've typed that, I realize that's exactly where I was when I left that place this morning.  
Somewhere in between being relieved and being on guard.
Between being happy and being sad.
Between smiles and tears.
Between "Thank You, God" and  "I don't understand, God."
It's not a terrible place to be. But its not a great place either.
It's an honest place to be, but it's not a restful place. 
How I am thankful, then, that this isn't a place we were meant to stay.   
On Monday, I was cleaning out a set of drawers that contains the things I'm using when I have my daily time with God; you know, devotional books, my bible, some bible studies, some papers.  (Lots of papers, actually!). And as I was sorting through this stack of papers, I came across an index card I had typed up. 
Although I can't tell you when exactly I typed it, I know that it was in the months before Laura died, when it seemed like everything I thought I knew and believed was being tested.   When I was wrestling with Him about what to do with the seeming disconnect between our circumstances and the bold promises and statements He makes about who He is and what He does.
Promises and statements that are easy to believe when things aren't hard. 
But, promises and statements that are hard to believe when things aren't easy. 
Has it ever happened to you that, during easy times, the promises and statements God makes seem so awesome and cool? And, yet when life is hard, those very same promises can quickly turn into things that we need to wrestle with in order to come down on the side of believing Him? 
Have you ever found yourself not making it all the way to believing Him?  
I know I have. I've found myself staying in the somewhere in between.
Somewhere in between being "all in" and being "cautiously removed."
Somewhere in between being completely dependent and holding back and keeping control.
Somewhere in between being encouraged by The Truth and questioning of The Truth.
Somewhere in between amazed by Him and frustrated by Him.
Oh yes.  I can relate to this today. 
Apparently, I could also relate to this a year ago as Laura's life was getting harder and harder. 
Thus the index card.
You see, I'm a girl who sometimes needs to see things in black & white instead of in shades of gray. I'm a girl who sometimes has to be tough with herself so that she can honestly get to the point of resting in what she knows. I'm a girl who has to clear out all the niceties, who has to strip away all the "I should believes" so that she can see, with starkness, what she's really is believing. 
This index card was my way of doing that. Of asking myself with clarifying harshness in my voice, "Do you or don't you, Kristie? Do You believe God or don't you?"
Is He who He says He is? Or is He not?
Does He do what He says He can? Or does He not?
Is He trustworthy and true? Or is He not?
I needed a gut check then. And I need one today.
I needed to be reminded that somewhere in between - where my emotions may be tempting me to stay - isn't my home.  It isn't the best He has to offer. It's not the best I can do.
No; it's not.  Why?
Because He is
Because He can
Because he does.
So, despite how hard this is, I will not fix my eyes on anything or anyone but Him. can try, but you won't win. 
You may take my life, but you will not take my hope.
You may hurt me, make me cry, make me - just for a moment - question my God, 
but you don't own me.
I don't have to listen to you.
I don't have to say somewhere in between.
That is not my destiny.
Oh Lord, You know. You know how my heart gets weary from this road. How I long to be relieved from this burden, how I long to be running free from this encumbrance.  You know this because, God, I've told you this a million and a half times.  You know all this and You consider it and You lovingly respond that I must trust You - no matter where the journey You've marked out for me takes me.  Thanks for reminding me of the truth that following You doesn't lead to the "less-than existence" of staying somewhere in between.  No, Lord, it leads to one place and one place only: You.  A deeper trust in You, a bolder love for You, a stronger desire for You and the joy of participating in the unfolding of something far greater than I.  May that be more than enough for me today.   In Jesus' Name.  Amen. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Update #41

"Dear God, please heal Aunt Kristie and please let us not be too sad about Mom."

Not sure what words you heard last night, but this is what I heard as I tucked Laura and John's youngest child into her sleeping bag.

Words that brought a smile to my face at the same time they made me sad.  Words that caused me to catch my breath and wonder at how a child who has lost so much in the last few months - both her mom and gramma - could still turn an honest heart toward Her Heavenly Father and pray.

Or Katie-Ru, as I like to call her.

She's got the gift of making even the grumpiest of us - caught in our most grumpiest of times - smile.  Big, bright blue eyes so alive with joy. Blonde hair that never stays quite combed the right way because, as soon as it is, she's off running and twirling and dancing and tossing her head about so that it gets adorably messed up again.  A grin that extends beyond her whole face, and into her entire body.  I swear I can see Kate smile even when her back is fully toward me and her face is hidden.  

She's a gem of a kid.
I love her.

I love her for the way she lights up a room. I love her for the way she comes full-speed at you for an arms-wrapped-tight hug.  I love her for the way that she honestly shares how she feels.  I love her for the way God has used her to encourage my heart when my heart needs to be encouraged.

And I love hearing her talk to God.
What's it like to hear that?

Oh, I could tell you easily what it's like for me.
But this morning - as the three Rider kiddos and my 2 wonders are happily playing and as all feels both right and wrong at the same time in my life - here's what I wonder:
I wonder what it's like for God to hear her.
I wonder how He attentively bends His ear to her voice.
I wonder how He waits patiently for her to gather her thoughts and offer them up to Him.
I wonder how He captures each and every word and receives it as sweet incense, a pleasing aroma.
I wonder how He delights to hear the honest wonderings of a little girl whom He knows so intimately, treasures so carefully, dreams over so boldly.

But, I must admit that I also wonder...
God, do you cry? 
Does Your heart break for her like mine does? 
Do you hear those words from a little girl without her mom and a part of You - however that may work - is overwhelmed with the difficulty of it all for her?

And God, as long as I'm here asking you a few question, I've got one more for you:  what's it like for You when You have full power to make things different, yet You know that that is not how Your perfect storyline must play out?  What do you do about that? 

Hmmm.  I'd love to tell you that I have the answer to that one, but I don't. 

All I know this morning is that I think I have a lot to learn from Kate.
Actually, I think I have even more to learn from her mom.

You see, the reason Kate offers up her honest, expectant prayers to Her Heavenly Father is because she has been taught to do so by her mom and dad since before she could speak. She was taught - both by example and with words - to offer up honest, expectant prayers and to entrust them to the God who promises to, one day, set all things right.  She - and Sarah and Jack too - was taught this because her mom (and dad) took God seriously when He said: 

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!
Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts.
Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.
Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street;
Talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.
Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder;
inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 MSG)

So - as I just got word that my tumor markers are still in the normal range and as I sit here listening to laughing, crazy kids wreaking havoc in my house - I am thankful. Thankful certainly for the easy news, but even more thankful that I get to see with my own eyes the blessings that are coming from Laura taking God at His word.  Blessings from believing that the foundation she, as a mother, was building for her children will matter in the future.  Blessings from the countless prayers offered up on behalf of her children. Blessings from the countless hours spent teaching them truths about Him and countless hours spent modeling for them what a life sold out to Christ looks like.  

Thanks, God, for giving me fresh glimpse of this. Thanks for mixing the bitter and the sweet and using that mixture as a reminder that my choices today as a mom have a lasting impact on my children.   That my prayers on their behalf matter. That the truths I teach them - whether by word or by example - matter. That the foundation that I'm helping build for them can protect them from the harshest storms and the most bitter winds.  Thanks for the reminder that You, Lord, really do bring beauty from ashes and turn mourning into dancing.

With love,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No Update, But...

No, I don't know the results of my scans yet.  Tomorrow 9 AM.  
But I realized that, on (NFL!) Sunday, I neglected to share something with you.  And, although I'm a bit hesitant to share it with you today  - because today is a day when our nation remembers a terribly, terribly difficult tragedy and this could, at first, seem a little out of place - I've decided to share it with you because...well...I guess because it is September 11. And perhaps there's not a better day than this to make this known to you all.
Last fall, as Laura's day-to-day life was getting harder and harder, I believe God was directing me to write a bible study.  Although I still don't fully understand why He would ask such a thing, out of obedience I did it.  And I began to take all that came from the many, many conversations Laura and I had about God - His promises, who we are in Him, the things we loved about Him, the things that we didn't understand about Him, our fears, frustrations, joys... - and used that to write the materials for my Tuesday morning bible study.  
So all throughout that semester, we spent each week pouring ourselves into studying 40 statements of promise that God makes to us. Statements that we need to know at any time. But especially when our circumstances are anything but easy.  Statements like:  Even now, I love you; I know what it feels like; I'm worth it; I am enough; I am good.  And we studied 10 people in the Bible who walked through some amazingly difficult circumstances and we imagined what it would have been like for them to trust God in the midst.  
Just like we were watching Laura trust God as she walked. 
Honestly.  With real emotions, real questions, real frustrations. 
Yet with real faith, real joy, and with real hope. 
Determined hope, as Laura would put it.  
This study isn't a study on on cancer.
It's not a study of Laura life and it's certainly not a study on Kristie's life.   
It's a study on better understanding a God who is worth trusting even when everything in our circumstances might tempt us to believe otherwise.
So perhaps that's why today, September 11th, is a good day to let you know that - after encouragement and prodding from a handful of people (and after making some very necessary edits to clean up the million and five typos and confusing questions) - I've finished up a second edition of this study and am now making it available to anyone who would like to have a copy.
Whether you knew Laura well and want to understand better the God in whom she believed, or whether you are in your own tough place and are asking God some pretty stinkin' hard questions yourself, I hope that the words that you read and study in it will be an encouragement to you, as it has been an encouragement to me.
If you'd like to purchase a copy of The View Beyond the Hill, you can order one on-line for $12.96 plus shipping.  All net proceeds will benefit the Ana Duo Charitable Fund in honor of Laura.  If you are unfamiliar with the purpose of Ana Duo, please visit to learn more.
Full Disclosure: This is a study geared for women!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Update #39 (For Real)

Can you feel the excitement? 
Is it as palpable in your house as it is in ours?

Oh barely 27's the start of NFL Sunday.

The joy of putting that flat screen to good use.
The giddiness of watching grown men hit each other with all their might and sweat profusely trying to either move a ball forward or stop it from moving forward.
The eager anticipation of a great season that must certainly be ahead, right?

(Notice I said the anticipation of a great season and not the promise of one!. In Buffalo, that has - historically - been a pretty big difference!)

I know today is a special, special day in the homes of many of those who are reading this email. And, as such, I won't take up much of your time.  

But I did want to give you all a heads-up that I'll be headed to Roswell for scans tomorrow and then I will hear the results of those scans on Wednesday.  Although for the past year my body has responded well to the daily chemo pills I've been taking (with minimal - thank God - side effects), my body has been sending me some signals that things might be changing in not-such-an-easy way. 

So, after your household either celebrates the win of your favorite team or mourns the loss and gears up for a "better next week", I would - once again - humbly ask for your prayers.  Specifically your prayers for:
(1)  Another explanation - beside the obvious explanation  - behind the aches in my back
(2) Protection of my mind and my spirit as I await the results. 
(3) My ability to know and trust and be fully satisfied by His presence
(4) Great joy to  be known in the midst of the unknown.

Thanks team...
With love and appreciation,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Update #38 (sort of)

Today would have been Laura's 40th birthday.
If it had been up to me, we would be on a beach in Tahiti with our husbands, sipping on a yummy umbrella drink, celebrating this milestone.


I know that some of you may be thinking, "Is 'ugh' the best word you could come up with to describe how you feel about the fact that you’re not on a beach in Tahiti? That you’re not celebrating this day with her next to you? That you’re not hearing her laugh, that you’re not joking about the growing number of wrinkles on your faces, that you’re not listening to her reflect on the depth of God's goodness to her throughout her life?"

Ugh works.

You know why?  Because I feel as if I could just stop typing now and you would totally understand all that this little, hard-to-tightly-define word means.  Without even consulting Webster's Dictionary (which, by the way, does have this word in it!), you probably already know all that's contained in this one little word and how it almost perfectly reflects how I feel about the hardships of this journey, including not celebrating a birthday in the way that I would like.     

I want to be unbelievably honest with you that there is much about this journey that I don't like.  Don't like at all.  No one will convince me that walking the road I'm on isn't hard.  Yes, it may not be as hard as others' journeys. It may not be as hard your journey.  But it is hard. And costly. And painful. And lonely. And often frustrating.

It's hard to not have access to my best friend who knows me and who knows what it's like to have a diagnosis like I have.  It's hard to watch to her husband grieving his wife and adjusting his life to one that is without her.   It's hard to hang out with her children and know when, and to what degree, I should mention or share a story about their mom.   It's hard to have a summer of fun travels and memory-making moments with my family and not be wondering about the state of my own disease. 

And those just make up the tip of the iceberg.  I would be sobbing my way through this if I listed out all the things that are hard...the things that cause me to stand in the shower, with tears streaming down my face, looking up,  pleading with my Heavenly Father to make the road a little less dangerous. A little less treacherous. A little less painful.

And I don't share this with you because I want your pity, your sympathy, your encouragement.  I don't share this because these are new feelings or because I'm in a "bad" place, or because I'm in despair.  No; that's not why I'm sharing this with you.  I'm sharing this with you so that you, in no way, romanticize or simplify or question if I'm detached from reality when you read the crazy words that I'm about to say to you.  So that you don't think that I'm not being honest with you about the messiness of this journey, about the grief that rises up in unexpected moments, about the moments of anger or deep frustration that I have to work through. 

So what are those crazy words that I have to share with you?

Just this:  there is another side of the story. 
There is another side of the story. And that side wins out.

Tears, grief, frustration, pain, loneliness all are true of my life right now, but they, at the end of the day, don't win out.  
They don't get the final say as to who I am, as to what my life is all about, as to what it's all for.   
They didn't get the final say for Laura and they don't get the final say for me.

Oh they sometimes seem as if they're gaining the upper-hand, pulling ahead in the race, just about ready to kick the game-winning goal...
But. They. Don't. Win. Out.

God wins.
Each and every time. 

His truth wins out. 
His promises win out.
His comfort wins. His peace wins. His joy wins. His grace wins.

Toward the beginning of His ministry, Jesus went to the Temple and was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to read aloud in the service. After He finished reading a portion of it, He made a bold, bold claim: He claimed that He was the One who fulfills perfectly that Scripture.   Here's what He read:

God's Spirit is on me; He's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, 
to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, "This is God's year to act!" 
- (Luke 4:18-19 Message Translation)

On that day in the Temple, He claimed that He fulfilled those words and He proved it time and time again as He completed His ministry on earth.   And, guess what? He still proves it today.

Bold statement, Kristie.  How do you know that He still proves it true today? 

How I know is because...
I am a girl who sometimes is poor in spirit. 
I am a girl who sometimes feels imprisoned by the constraints of her disease, or even more, by her poor choices.
I am a girl who sometimes is blinded by what she sees (yes, I wrote that correctly).
I am a girl who sometimes feels burdened and battered.
I am a girl who sometimes feels as if God isn't acting .

Oh yes, I am a girl whose ears would have been intently listening to Jesus speak those words in the Temple that day.  Who would have immediately realized that He was speaking directly to her.  Who would have been waiting, with bated breath, to see if He was really able to fulfill all that He claimed He's able to do.

And praise Him that I am able to stand up, today, and say that He can and He does and He will, in full.  I am able to stand up and say there is another side to my story because - and only because - Jesus is who He promised to be and He does what He promised He could do. 

He is creating another side to my story. 
He is creating another ending to my story.

He is taking this poor, imprisoned, blind, burdened girl who questions God's actions/inactions at times and He is refreshing and renewing her. He is making her stand firm, knowing that she can bring her hard story to Him and hear Him say back to her:  
 I bring good news that your King, Kristie, has set, is setting and will set all things right.
I forgive you and I have already set you apart for purposes that are beyond you.
I give you eyes to see beyond the tangible and into the unseen. And I give you cause to trust Me when it still might be blurry to you.
I bring freedom for you to run, without burden, the race I've marked out for you.
And I am at work.  In countless, countless ways.  I will lift your head so that you see Me at work.  On your behalf.  For My glory.

Oh is a day where, if given the choice, I'd be celebrating 30 years of friendship with my 40 year old best friend.  And I absolutely hate the fact that that won't happen. And I won't apologize for that hate or ignore it or pretend it doesn't matter all that much to me.

It does. 
It matters a lot.

But I will also just as honestly declare that that is just part of my story. Part of Laura's story.
There is another side that is authored by and empowered by God.
And that part wins out.
Each and every time.

I hope you see how Christ's words to the people sitting in the temple that day are not just for girls like me, like Laur. But they are for you too.  And I hope that it changes things for you too.  Refreshes you.  Renews you.  Gives you hope and joy and peace and comfort.

So on this day, August 22, 2012, there is only one fitting thing left to say...

Happy Birthday, Laura. I love you.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Update #37

I know you all have this date circled on your calendar, so it will be no surprise to, Sunday, marks my two-year anniversary of my re-diagnosis of breast cancer. 
Okay, I'm kidding.  I know that most of you probably read that and thought, "My gosh...has it been two years already?" 
Yes, me too. 
Well, sometimes I think that. And other times it feels like an eternity since I have been living as a woman who has received a pretty difficult diagnosis.
Although I won't even begin to try to capture all that this date means to me - or doesn't mean to me, actually - I didn't want to let it pass by without taking time to provide as honest of an update as I am capable of providing to you.  
I've actually been fairly silent since Laura passed away in December.  Whether you have realized it or not, I haven't provided a "real" update - that is, an update that attempts to capture the rawness of this road - to you in a long, long time.
And that is not an accident.
Or an oversight.
Or something that has escaped my attention. 
Not at all. 
I think it's just taken me some time to figure out how much of this battle do I want to continually put before you. How much of it am I capable of living out in the open?  And, perhaps even more so, how much of it do I think you can take hearing?  How much do I expect you to be able to walk with me through this long, drawn out chapter in the storyline that the Author and Perfecter of my faith is writing?
And the no-holds-barred truth is that I thought you needed a break from hearing from me.
I know, I know...some of you will vehemently - and honestly - reject that.  Even some of you might be so bold to challenge me and say, "How dare you, Kristie, determine for me how much of this I can handle." 
And, I would agree; you would be justified for feeling that way.  So, rather than say that to me, I would ask that you forgive me and respond gracefully to my decision to retreat a bit and keep things a little closer to my chest.  (My chest.   Ha. That's a funny one, right?  Breast cancer humor...there's nothing like it!). 
So why have I decided to finally share a bit more with you?  
Because of my day on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, I went to Roswell to hear the results of my latest scans and tumor marker levels.  And the news was easy:  scans show no disease progression (in fact, probable improvement, in my bones) and my tumor markers are in a "normal range."  And because of that news, I get to continue on with daily chemo pills which, in all reality, have little to no impact on my day-to-day life. I am still energetic. I am still a blonde, pony-tailed girl.  I am still considered by strangers to look normal. 
Fabulous, right?   Right.
Something to be thankful for? Right.
A cause for writing an update to you? Nope.
No.  That isn't what triggered me to, once again, be more transparent with you about this road that God has placed me on for this time.  It was something that happened later that day.
Emilie hit a triple in her softball game.
What? What does that have to do with having cancer and opening up your heart?
Oh, so much.  So, so much.
Perhaps a hitting a triple in a 10U softball game doesn't sound like much to you. But it is.  Why?  Because Emilie doesn't believe she's very good at softball. 
Because Emilie struggles with the fact that we've committed her to playing this sport. 
Because Emilie has wanted to quit softball since the day she made the travel team. 
Because Emilie bats at the end of the order. 
Because Emilie is timid running the bases. 
Because Emilie hates being at bat and having the "whole world's eye" on her.  
Because Emilie has seen this aspect of her life as something that is only hard, that is only in her life because she can't convince her parents that she should be done with it, that is only something that she wants to be done with. Yesterday.
And because, on Wednesday night, our little girl -  this sweet, unbelievably talented athlete who lets fear win sometimes and who doesn't fully believe in the gifting she's received - got a taste of the excitement that swells in your heart and causes your adrenaline to pulse through your body when you swing hard and feel the bat impact the ball in a way that just feels right.  She got a taste of what it's like to run around those bases as if you own them.  She got a taste of rounding second and seeing that the throw may get her out at third, but taking the risk and running for it anyway. 
And she got to stand on third, breathing hard, and experiencing the joy of getting a high-five from her coach. Of hearing the screams from the fans.  Of seeing the smiles from her teammates. Of knowing that she just enabled two runs to be scored.
Yes, that....that was the moment that unlocked something for me.  
And I knew that I needed to share with you.   
Because sometimes I have viewed this hard part - this cancer part - of my life as something that I'm only doing because I have to. I see it as hard. As something that tempts me to fear. As something that takes everything I have - and way more that I don't have - in order to walk through it.  I don't expect joy to come from it.  Yes, I expect growth. I expect redemption.  I expect greater coaching from the One and Only Coach we have. 
But I don't expect joy. In it. Through it. Because of it.
And a bona fide triple to the outfield in a 10U softball game showed me that I was wrong.  It showed me that I have been short-changing my expectations of God.  It's funny to me how God reveals Himself to me.  You would think that it would only come at times when I was walking into Roswell, or when I am deep in prayer, or when I am spending time in the morning reading my Bible.  Who knew that, after I made a fool of myself by cheering for my daughter like a crazed parent, God would be so kind to me and whisper a new truth in my ear:   I will bring you such joy from this hard thing.  The very thing that you see as something you would stop in a heartbeat if I released you from it can - and will - bring YOU joy.  Wait for it, Kristie.  I will do it. And I will be cheering for you and rejoicing over you and loving you all the while.
So...that's my update for you all on this lovely afternoon here in Buffalo.  How I pray that, if you too are facing something difficult - something you wouldn't pick for yourself in a million years - how I pray that you are encouraged to know that God has an unparalleled ability to use it and redeem it and bring joy in it and from it...
Many thanks for your love,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Update #36

Sorry I didn't update you yesterday on the outcome of my visit to Roswell.
Easy day.
Not that I'm a horseracing buff, but it was the trifecta of visits actually:
(1) Most important, my tumor markers are actually even lower than they were last month.
(2) I didn't have to get an infusion because a new bone strengthening drug was just approved by the FDA and it's a shot rather than an IV infusion. 
(3) We made it out of there in record time.  We were in our cars driving home by 10 AM.  That has NEVER happened!
All easy, easy things.  For that, I am grateful. Extremely.
And I realize that it's been a little while since I provided an update on how things are outside of my medical status.  While I'm not going to go super deep with you today, I did want to share with you one little story.  I promise that it will make you smile, perhaps even make you laugh. 
We just got back from a surprise-for-our-kids family vacation to a fabulous home in Delray Beach, FL that a co-worker of Chad graciously offered to us.  It was a wonderful gift and one that provided just the rest and family-time that we really appreciated having, especially given the sadness and stress associated with Laura's death. (I still hate typing those words...still coming to grips with that reality and, quite honestly, I don't like it one bit not having her around and hearing her voice.  Maybe I'll talk more about that at another time.  Not today though.  Today's a day for a funny story!). 
In addition to fun times on the beach, lounging in a hot tub built for 10 (so the kids could actually "swim" in it!), treating ourselves (3 times in 4 days!) to the best, make your own  frozen yogurt desserts....I learned a new thing about my daughter.
I learned that she's a total chicken crossing the street. 
Now Em's a fast girl.  God has gifted her with speed, for sure.  However, she often doesn't like to use that speed.  She could toast almost all of her peers in a footrace, but usually comes in 3rd or 4th because, "Why would I want to get all sweaty just to beat my friends in a race, Mom?" (What?!?!  Where's the competitive Rich/Rush spirit in that statement?!?!).  Well, give that girl a street to cross (and throw in one car driven by a senior citizen that you can barely spot 1/4 mile down the road) and all of a sudden she shows her speediness alright.  She runs like she's being chased by a pack of wild dogs! 
So we're crossing the street at an intersection with crosswalk signals. You know, the signals that show an orange man that tells you to stop and wait and then a white figure that let's you know it's safe to cross.   There isn't a car in sight and we tell the kids they can cross even though the orange guy is telling us to wait. 
Em weighs her options:  "Do I obey my parents or do I obey that orange man?" 
She apparently chose to obey her parents because she takes off like a shot before I take my first step off the curb.  I look up and see the orange guy turn to a white one and I begin to point as I shout to my black daughter who is now halfway across the street, "Look, Em; it's a white man!"   
To make matters worse - but also to make them funnier - my eyes shifted slightly downward and saw an actual "white man" (a Caucasian human, in case you're confused), standing under that crosswalk signal.  A man whose face all of sudden started to look very confused and very uncertain about how he should respond to my sprinting, eyes-filled-with-anxiety daughter who was now just feet away from him and whose mother was yelling about a white man. 
Well, I start laughing; you know the kind of laughing that causes you to just shake because no sound comes out. Chad, of course, heard what I said because I shouted it.  He starts laughing so hard that he has trouble breathing.  And the poor Caucasian man stood there, trying to comprehend our story, not at all knowing what the "politically correct" response was to the situation.  You know that, inside, he was thinking, "Why, oh why, is this mixed-race family pointing out white people?  Do they not think their 10 year old daughter can tell who is black and who is white???" 
(I'm totally laughing as I'm typing this.  It's still totally ridiculous to me that I would say that!)
Chad mumbled through an explanation to the man. I just stood there like a fool laughing. And, all the while, the kids are asking over and over again, "Mom. Mom. Mom.  Why are you laughing? Tell us why you're laughing."  
Oh my gosh. Totally ridiculous. why did I tell you this story?  Well, because it's funny (at least it will forever be a family laugh for Chad and me!)
But I also hope that it reminds you - as it does me - that there is great joy during this challenging time.  I know I've said this before, but it's worth repeating:  there are many, many, many things that happen that cause me  to laugh freely and smile widely as I, at the same time, grieve the loss of Laura and live out the unknowns of our situation.   Yes, this is a hard road. And being a mom walking out this road can be a difficult thing.  But I want you to know that, despite what you may think, being a mom is one of the biggest influences I have to remember that I have to be fully present, fully engaged, fully alive today.  That my children don't need me wondering about and worrying about their future (and my future ability to be their mom).  They need me to be fully present today.  
Laura helped to teach me that.  Her ability to be fully-engaged-in-the-most-important-parts-of-parenting until almost her last breath here on earth was an example worthy to emulate.   She taught her children - because she believed this with her whole being - that her children were entrusted to her for a time. That God loves them more than she does. That her most important role is to be as present and as much of an arrow pointing them toward Christ as she can be.  And that her most important task in living out that role was to pray over her children fervently, consistently and boldly.  Pray for their character. Pray for their belief systems.  Pray for their futures.
How that has encouraged me and challenged me: Live fully present and offer prayers that matter eternally.  So thankful that Laura paved the way in modeling this so that I, too, can choose to live that way and pour that truth over my children. 
And I'm so thankful for you, my friends. 
Thankful for your continued desire and ability to walk alongside of my family and me.  I continue to feel inadequate to express what a blessing you are to us.  
So, enjoy your day.
Hope you had a little laugh.
And, I hope you will never, ever say out loud in a public setting,  "Look! There's a white man!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Update #35

Easy-to-hear news today at Roswell:  My tumor markers are down a bit from last time and my bone and CT scans show no progression in disease.  
It's hard to put into words how thankful Chad and I were to hear that today.   While we both know that our hope doesn't rest in a medical test or in a scan - or even in what that test or scan reveals - there is just a sense of being able to breathe a bit more freely when you hear that your tumor markers are down and your scans haven't gotten worse.  
So today's drive home from Roswell was a "yippee" and "an-out-loud-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-yahoo" kind of a drive.  It was a "Thank you, Lord" and "Thank you, Lord, again" kind of a drive.  And I am confident that He is pleased with hearing the sound of His daughter's gleeful - rather than sometimes hard fought, thru tears, out of a choice rather than out of overflowing desire - praise.  
So thanks for continuing on this up and down, right-turn and left-turn journey with Chad, the kiddos, and me.  I will say this again and again until I have no voice left to say (or no fingers left to type!), I am grateful for the times when you all step into the gap and intercede for both me and for those whom I love.  It is humbling and encouraging and, above all, a very tangible reminder of the blessings that pour forth when we let people into our lives and share as openly and as honestly as we know how.  For sure, it makes life messier; but boy, does it make all together richer.
How I pray that today - whether it's out of easy glee or out of hard choice - you also praise Him for who He is and who He declares you to be.
With love and deep-seated appreciation,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Update #34

Hi all...
Here we go again. Ready?
I'm headed to Roswell tomorrow morning (9:15 scheduled appointment, but in reality, who knows when I'll be seen!) to hear the results of the scans that I had on Friday.
I am, once again, not looking forward to tomorrow.  My bones (tailbone and pelvis/hip) have been noticeably achier than they have been so it's been challenging to not dwell on that. I have realized once again just how much I need to continually fill my mind and spirit with the truths of God so that I do not become filled with worries and fears that could so easily become a distraction to truly living the full life that Christ promises. 
So I would ask for prayer, that is, if you are willing to gear up in prayer for me again. And believe me...I know that for those of you who are experiencing the loss of Laura and who aren't quite sure if you're up for entering into someone else's life so intimately again for a little bit...this could be a very hard thing, something that you want to run from.  I get that.  I truly, truly do.  No apologies.  But for those of you who are able, I would very much appreciate a word spoken to Him upon my behalf.  Certainly for easy-to-hear test results, but even more so for a deep sense of His presence and His joy.   
Thanks my friends.
Be back in touch tomorrow sometime.