Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mesothelioma

What do I know about cancer? Not much and a whole bunch. Yeah, my daughter had kidney cancer at only thirteen months old.

What do I know about mesothelioma? Not much and a whole bunch. Yeah.

I recently had a message on my blog, asking me to contact this particular family. My first thoughtoh, no, is this stranger trying to break into my computer system? Will my email be used for harm? Yeah, I thought that. People hurt people. It's hard to understand. It's hard not to have your guard up in a world where intentional computer virusesdiseasesgo down.

The family asked, "Will you share our story? It's a messy story ... a diseased story ... a mesothelioma story. And Mesothelioma Awareness Day is coming up ... September 26, 2014. Will you be our voice?"

I thought immediately about my dad. Coming back from Disney one year, I got a phone call sharing that he was in the hospital. He was critical. And he was. He has extreme damage to his lungs due to asbestos. Nothing was intentionally done to harm him, but he worked in a pipe factory all his life. He went to work there probably at the age of 19 ... and he retired there. He gave his life there. He gave his days there. I don't actually know the extent of his lung damage. You see, he didn't even tell us he had prostate cancer until he had completed his radiation therapy and was well on the way to recovery. He's a private man. Even to his girl. But his trouble breathing is obvious. And I know he's under doctor's care.

With all that in mind, I knew I had to share Heather Von St. James's story. I don't know her, but I know she has endured much. She was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2005 at only 36 years old, after her daughter's birth.


She's had a long road of surgery and chemotherapy. That's a long, tough road for anyone. For any child, for any adult. And she's a survivor.
 
And I am honored to help raise awareness in this month of September.
 
With 3,000 people being diagnosed yearly, mesothelioma is "an aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen." It is caused by asbestos, whether you worked in it, or you contracted it from the substance being brought home by another (second hand exposure).
 
There is no cure. But the pain can be reduced and one's life prolonged. Early awareness, early diagnosis is critical, as in all cancers, all diseases.

Please be in prayer for Heather and her family.


And Heather, thank you for sharing your life and story with so many. Your voice outshines the rest.
 
And from one surviving family to another
 
God, please bless and keep them.


*****


"Symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, chronic cough, effusions of the chest and abdomen, and the presence of blood in lung fluid."

"About 60% of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma experience lower back pain or side chest pain, and there are frequent reports of shortness of breath. Lower numbers of people may experience difficulty swallowing, or have a persistent cough, fever, weight loss or fatigue. Additional symptoms that some patients experience are muscle weakness, loss of sensory capability, coughing up blood, facial and arm swelling, and hoarseness" (Mesothelioma.com).
 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Messy

So yeah, what happens when your life feels like a muddle mess? I ask myself, lying on that table in the doctor's office.

Giving blood had not totally buckled my knees since my 20s. What happened?

I try to make sense of it all. My right arm hasn't been the same since after my surgery, when I became so dehydrated. I had cautioned the nurse to use my other arm. But she felt sure all would be fine. "The vein looks great," she said. She dug around a bit trying to get the vein to work before heading over to my left arm. I was the wrong person to dig.

My strength and arms began to feel a bit battered.

I couldn't stand up. My vision blurred, my hearing muffled. I scrambled for consciousness.

I'm escorted to a room across the hall to lie down.

So yeah, what happens when your life feels like a muddle mess?

I look across the room at my daughter sitting there with me.

I feel ridiculous. I'm looking straight into the eyes of a fourteen year old cancer survivor ... one who has to give her blood yearly to evaluate her body's progress, ensuring no signs of cancer ... one who smiles through it all. She really smiles. She giggles. She amazes me. I've never been that strong.

And I've been blessed to have had her sit on my lap through every single vial of blood drawn. That baby girl will never be too big or too old to sit on my lap. Yeah, that comment came from my grandmother.


The nurse walks in and gives me a sugar tablet. She places a cool cloth on my forehead. She fetches water. You know, I need ... a teaspoon of this, a teaspoon of that .... She marks in my chart that blood is never to be drawn from me unless I'm lying down. Bless her sweet heart.

My daughter waits patiently for my strength to return ... so we can leave. I, the pitiful mess I am, look her way ...

"I'm sorry," I say.

"It's okay, Mom," she replies. She smiles.

Seeing her endure cancer treatments throughout the years took my weakness and threw it into the waste basket. She made me stronger. Or so I thought. Lord, what has happened to me? Why am I so weak? Is this due to my recent health issues/surgery?

Yeah, what happens when life feels messy?


It wasn't always easy for her, you know. In those early days, we were never more thankful for bubbles and baby M&M's candies. And her favorite pink baby blanket named "Blanka." And prayer.

In those early days, there were tears. Being poked and prodded was scary to a tiny tot. And to me - for her and for me.

Being an eye witness - to the mess that crumbled our plans for her life, for her baby days - singed this heart.


Yeah, when life seems messy, it's tempting to wonder if there is purpose. God, what are you doing with me? What are you doing with my life? What are you doing with her life?


When the heat's turned up, we must trust that the Lord, who made the universe and sustains all things, is capable of sustaining us.

We must trust that there is a plan for change. The kind of change that turns us inside out ... that disrupts our lives ... that takes us to our knees ... that mixes us up ... that forms us ... that shapes us ... that makes us whole ... that makes us more like Jesus. Father, thank for not abandoning us to ourselves.



And if we stick with God, we'll see over time that we are better. We are stronger. Maybe not physically but spiritually. We've been refined. We can rise and walk. And we become something beautiful. We become something worth holding onto ... something worth keeping ... something worth displaying ... something to make God proud ... something He can use.


When our muddle mess becomes something worth keeping, it's only then that we have something worthy of ourselves to give away.


"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Birthday

And my soul cries, thank you, thank you, Father, for another beautiful year. I don't deserve it. Sometimes I wonder when my time to be called home will come. Is it today? Tomorrow? Will I live to be an old lady sitting on a front porch, rocking in a chair? Does that question ever cross your mind? It's bittersweet, isn't it? We'll miss so many but rejoin so many. Our heavenly birthday.
 
Going through a rather dry season in my life, I don't feel like I have much to offer. Not much to offer anyone.

Though so thankful for my healing thus far  thank you, Father my mother and I agreed that I've always been on the frail side. We look each other straight in the eye, nodding our heads. Strong in mind and determination, but weak in physical strength. I find it ridiculous to say that my surgery in March has crippled my strength to this day, and I'm scrambling to gain it back. Lord, let me gain it back.
 
And the person who called me every birthday is with Jesus. I'll always love you, Ma-Maw.
 
My girls spend the day before my birthday working hard. For me. Baking, blowing up balloons. They love me. They know me.

I am led by a precious hand, eyes shut tight, barely peeking not to stub a toe, into a room with streamers to view this

"Open your eyes, Momma ..."


My eyes go immediately to the work they've created, spent hours creating, and my heart smiles. Why, it's a book. It's a cake book. For me. They do know their momma. God, thank you for my girlsnot of my body but of all my heart. Oh, God, my heart aches with love for them. I pray I show it like I should.
























I open cards from my dad and uncle with joyful expectation over reading the words. You see, they don't just pick any card. They spend time searching for that one perfect card that says that one perfect line. They are cancer survivors who rarely take life for granted. Thank you, God, for their love.

We agree to call my beautiful momma to see if she'll go to the zoo with us another cancer survivor who rarely takes life for granted. 

When it's tempting to keep celebrations just the four of us, I remember how short time is. Life is to be celebrated with those we love. And in spite of her foot's injured tendon, she comes along with us anyway, bearing gifts as always ... she gives her time, because she feels the same. Is our time today? Is it tomorrow?


























Though I walk that zoo lagging behind all, I'm grateful to have my momma at my side. With her a little older and limping on a testy tendon, we keep in perfect step. Together. Her weakness and mine.

The zoo's misters refresh our weary selves from the heat. I'm way past caring about my appearance, and I bask in it. Wet my hair. Throw out my arms to greet it. My hubby reminds me it's not wet t-shirt day. I laugh. Yeah, me, right.

The mist fans remind me of my mother's daddy the box fan he had in the wall by his bed. It really was built into the wall. You could see clear outside when it wasn't turned on. Momma said when she was a little girl, after taking a shower, she'd go lie down on his bed ... soak in that huge fan. Relief. Relief from Texas style heat. I loved my momma's daddy, who was not a cancer survivor. I miss him.

I mention her mother.

"She died in her mid-fifties," Momma says.

"Too young," I say.


Rosie, second from left, holding her bitty baby. My momma's grandmother Rose first on left.







Her heart. Rough life she had ... bad health, one of her babies died. I was little when she died, only eight, but I remember her. Sweet memories. God, thank you for memories. Her passing is dated in my children's Bible. I dated it.




Momma can't mention her without tears welling up. She catches her broken breath. She misses her terribly. God, thank you for Momma.




And with the Texas day's heat up to 98 degrees, one little girl places ice cubes in her hat to keep herself cool. At only fourteen, she's another cancer survivor who rarely takes life for granted. She laughs. Her laughter is contagious.


We wet our faces in the bathroom with cool water and allow ourselves to drip dry. We push aside the temptation to complain. Because, well, it's my birthday, and well, that's a slippery slope. That's a definite floor that's slippery when wet.



And we just soak in the day, the time, the sun, the shade, the two baby elephants, each other ... all we can. Soak in the celebration, in the thoughtfulness of others, and watch to see ... how God will allow the giving back.






















Because life really does get hectic and sometimes we need a shoulder. And sometimes we need to give it.




Celebrating is in the giving. For that's when we really receive.
 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Manuscript

 
Working on my newest projectthe nearly year long work in progressmy heart sinks.

What am I doing?

I look at the pile, the evidence of edit after edit. My hand glides over the tender pagesthe pages of potential, the pages of rejection, the pages of mistakes, the pages of silliness, the pages of my heart, the pages of heart lessons, the pages of time spent with my daughter and working alongside her, the pages of time.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




The tears well up.

Upon closer examination, I ask myself, "Why? Shelli, why? Shelli, why are you doing this?"
 

Time has been stripped from my family, my chores, my duties.

That wasn't the plan.


And with all that taken into consideration, my heart begs the question, "What if this manuscript is nothing more than a learning curve?" I shake my head in defeat. Typical me.
 
And God whispers into my heartno time is wasted if it's time spent with me, for me.
 
I nod. And I know that in everything I do, whether writing, walking, or talking, He wants me. He wants all of me.
 
Even learning curves are beneficial if I'm learning with God. If in the mundane and simplicity of life, I'm seeking Him, nothing is wasted.

He takes all my effort, all my pieces, all my mistakes, all my lessons, all my rejection, all my potential, all my pages, all my timealland molds them into what He's making out of me, His work in progress.
 
I can't see it.


But it's there.
 
All the waste, pain, shreds, stacks, pages, plans, spilled ink, spilled tears, tattered pieces.

And what exactly happens when the Master takes hold of all the tattered pieces, the tattered pages, O soul?
 
We know. It's nothing new. But we often need a gentle reminder. O soul within, remember

The Master scripts His plans, His purposes, Himself on the pages of our hearts and works all the tattered pieces, the tattered pages together over His time into His masterpieceHis manuscriptthat may only be worthy, may only be beautiful to Him

Me.

You.



Thank you, Father.

 
***


"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity." Jeremiah 29:11-14 
 



Friday, August 15, 2014

Belong

I walk by those two babies, the two babies sleeping on the ottoman. They look up at me with this blank stare.
 
You don't feel like you belong, do you?
 
 
Our older cat isn't real fond of them. He misses his kitty sister, who passed away in March. He spent eight long years with her, and suddenly, she is gone. Who are these kittens romping and playing? Uninvited, at that. But God love him, he's accidentally trying.
 
  
 
He hisses and bites at them when they get too close. But then he'll turn and greet nose to nose. You just never know.
 
I'll see them sitting in the corner ... wondering if it's safe to be seen, to be known, to be here, to belong.
 
I bent over and loved on those abandoned babies. I pat their sweet heads, gave them sugars, and asked, "Are you wondering if this is your home?" I get in their sweet faces. "Did you know that this is your forever home? You belong here. We just found you, or so it would seem, but we want you. Get comfortable. You don't have to be invisible. We love you."

I took hold of them and hugged them.


You know, sometimes I feel invisible just like that. I feel different. I don't belong. In the world, and even sometimes at home. If my beloved is not happy with me. If I don't speak the language, their lingo. If I don't blend with the world. If I don't wear this, if I don't wear that. If I don't drink this or smoke that or do that or drive that.
 
God says we weren't meant to fit in. We weren't meant to belong. We are aliens and strangers in this world. But He didn't just find us. He made us. For His glory. And He loves us. He knows us.
 
Ah, to be known. To be truly known.
 
And oh, to find Him.
 
We are not left abandoned.
 
This life is temporary. We won't always feel like strangers. We won't always wonder if it's safe to come out in places across this globe because we believe this and don't believe that. We won't always have to feel different.
 
And one day, we'll be home. Our real home. Our forever home. Where we belong.
 
"He reached down from on high and took hold of me ...." Psalm 18:16
 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sometimes

Sometimes you dig a little too deep.

I finally made that dental appointment. We've moved so many times. It's so hard to find new doctors, new dentists, when you seem to stay on the move. Who can you trust? Who can you trust with your kids?

Stepping into the office, I fumble through our file cabinet to find the name of our last dentist. The new patient paperwork has summoned my time.




Sometimes you search a little too far.

And there it was. The sweet reminder. In a 5x7 manila envelope.

I rarely mention it because I don't want others to think I'm not satisfied, I'm not content. I am. I am so blessed.



Sometimes you look a little too closely.

Because this little reminder brings back tender pangs from another blessing. One I had for a very short time. But one I know will be waiting for me in Heaven.

That's a positive.

And a hallelujah.









Sometimes you try a little too hard.

For days, I lay so still. I did all I could to hang onto this little bit.

On my heart's knees, I held on.

But God had other plans.



Sometimes you feel a little less than.

It was the only pregnancy I'd ever had or would ever have.

But it's in those "Sometimes" ... those less than momentsthe digging, the searching, the looking, the trying, the feelingthat we find the One ...

The One who summons our time ...




The One who encamps over us, guiding our every step.

The One who bids us to dig a little deeper for Him.

The One who promises to be found.

The One who will never let go.

The One who names you.

The One who dates you.

The One trustworthy.

At all times.


"Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out."Numbers 9:20


Monday, August 4, 2014

Rain


When the rains just keep coming, and it's August in Texas, I shake my head in unbelief. We pray for rain. We need it desperately. Always.

So desperate, I throw out my arms to greet it. My hands embrace it. The fragrance fills me.
 
Coming home, my daughter is in the back seat singing these timely words, "Maybe this is how it starts. I find You when I fall apart."

It's truth.
 
The rains can be painful. Branches fall. Leaves fall.

My stomach still isn't back to normal since my surgery. The nurse revealed my height has decreased slightly due to scoliosis, a condition I didn't know I had until this last year. A dear friend is now being aided by Hospice (Update: my friend is with Jesus today, August 7, 2014).
 
That's truth, too.

The rearview mirror gives a beautiful glimpse of my daughter singing. Her tender face. Her tender voice sings the words to her favorite song"How can I come to the end of me and somehow still have all I need?" 

And oh, that baby girl, now 14, has experienced rain. Gut wrenching rain. She doesn't remember it now. She was just a baby. But oh, how I remember. We were never the same. If there was ever a doubt in my mind ... her falling apart sealed my faith.

Yes, the rains can be painful.
 
The cool air brushes through my hair. The thermometer reads 76 degrees. The change is relief to my sun-scorched soul.

More truth.

The rains can be beneficial.
 
When the rains come, refuse to hide. Find God. Throw out your arms to greet Him. Bask in the change. His change. For you. Let Him fill you. Overflow. Let Him refresh your weary soul.

Go out and splash. Go out and play. With Him. For Him. Even if only in your mind.

God's love will spill over to others. The splash is contagious.

That's Jesus truth.

Hope.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 











Take joy in the little things.





































Find rest for your soul, in the Lord.





































Stay on the right path, God's path.





































Keep encouraging friends close.

























Father, thank you for the change that accompanies the rain.

I shake my head ... your greatness, your goodness, you ... You, God ... your unbelievably good.

In loving memory of my friend, Charles Johnson.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Unbolted


Washing my hands at the sink, I eye that little book. I smile. If there was ever a book proven overused ...





































I dry my hands on the frayed towel and reach for it. The binding is loose. The book jacketall that holds it together. Leaning back against the sink, I turn page by tender page.

This page stops me in my tracks
 
"When Noah knew the ark was resting on solid ground, he unbolted the door."





































My mind travels back to my youthful days of faith training, of being encouraged to never open the door to traveling religion salesmen. My tender youth and tender faith weren't strong enough to stand, I was told. But as the years of walking with the Lord press against my heart, my mind unearths what a walk with Christ presents.

I turn a tender page

"Out came Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives."

I turn

"Then followed all the animals."

From the long walk, this life with Christ is not about religion. It's a relationship.

There is no fear of unbolting that door. The relationship is my life, and it's all I have to pour out. And it's all I need. It's the binding, holding me together. It's enough.

It's me, resting on solid ground ... and love unbolted.

Another tender page turns

"God was pleased."

While returning the worn, endearing book on the old shelfboth evidence of my growth, my age, the yearsI notice the words on the back cover

"It rained and rained ...." Oh, the rain in my life.





































Turning to my girls, I wrap each one in a hug goodnight. Their love for Jesus, written on their faces, grows more evident each passing year. In that embrace, tender hands pat my back ever so gently.

I remember and long for the sweet hug pats my grandmother always gave me.

And there is proof, in the simplest of things ...

God's promises unfolded ...

love unbolted.