Butterfly Sparks Designs

Thursday, December 31, 2009

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

2009 is moments from completion. Just a few ticks of the clock and it will wash away under the bridge of "today". 2010 stands at the brink and appears shiny, new and very alluring.

I'm trying to remember if 2009 looked alluring to me? I'm sure it did. If I had known the territory ahead, I wouldn't have wanted to go forward. Thank God we don't know what each season holds - the responsibility and the weight would be too much for us.

As I review and take stock of 2009, I can't help but experience mixed emotions - it truly was both the worst and best of my life.

The worst? Well, there was great hardship. Pain, fatigue, discouragement, loss, confusion, threats. They were all there.

The best? I am so grateful that cancer was found! Not for the cancer - but I am grateful that what was hidden was revealed. Darkness was brought to light. Warriors arose on every front. The Word became my lifeline and navigator in a whole new way. Truly what was meant for evil - has brought me some of the greatest blessings of my life - clearer vision, better priorities, more realistic pace, renewed hope, better health - wellness.

I'm looking ahead with a little more caution, a little more discernment, hopefully with a little more wisdom. I am not afraid. I am not unrealistic. As a matter of fact, I am feeling a little courageous. I now know that regardless of the costs, the advancement in my spirit will be worth it! I can go through. I am able. Even in great trial, His blessings are abundant and sufficient.

You - my family and friends - are by far the greatest blessing of this season. Thank you for journeying with me - for arising quickly, staying long and consistently speaking hope, health and love.

In 2010, I am excited about the chance to serve YOU with love and compassion. I care not whether it is to stand long around the fire of trial or to cheer you on in the moment of opportunity. I look forward to seeing God victorious in your circumstance. When the call is sounded - I'm on your team, in your corner, cheering on your behalf.

May this season bring you great joy, abundant hope and courage beyond yourself. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Weekend Trip to Abilene

Our home away from home.

This week I joined Mark and the boys on a trip to Abilene to visit the deer lease. We drove out on Saturday morning. Got to visit with our friends - the Schuman's - then picked up the RV and went straight to the state park to set up. The boys went hunting twice while I watched movies, slept late and got to catch up on some reading. In the afternoon on Sunday they did a little trout fishing and then we packed up and headed home. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures from the weekend.

Mark and I went out for Sunday lunch by ourselves to Perini Ranch. The food was good but the bread pudding was amazing! Love this picture of Mark...

Here's Matthew and Mark on the fishing dock. They had just stocked the pond with trout, but we didn't catch much. Wish we had, love pan fried trout!

Here's Luke! Looking cool for the camera.

This is my first time to spend the night in the RV since we lived in it for 6 months in Biloxi, Mississippi. Mark was deployed to the area immediately following Hurricane Katrina.

The first month we were in Biloxi was crazy. Mark was navigating the emotionally devastating landscape. I was managing the emotionally devastating life change. After a month or so we put our kids in a local private school and we began to settle down. Once we had some semblance of family life, I began to enjoy the lack of activity. It was just us and our kids. Things got really simple, really fast.

I used to get up in the morning – go outside the door – pull the boys school uniforms out of plastic tubs – come back inside and make a nutritious breakfast (cereal in paper bowls). Then we'd drive them to school, go the library to pay some bills or maybe stop at the grocery store. Come back to the trailer. Clean (30 minutes). Start a load of laundry (this included a walk with the dog and a couple of trips back and forth). Now what? Make a few phone calls for Mark, schedule a few appointments, and fill out a paper or two. When all of my household “chores” were done then the best part of the day would come – reading! I read a lot of books in Mississippi. The library was near by and free. Our life was quiet, uncluttered, and peaceful.

You didn’t complain in that season. After all, we owned a beautiful new trailer with 4 bunks and a slide. We picked it out ourselves, stocked it top to bottom and stored everything else we owned. We managed to find an RV park where the electricity and cable TV were restored. If we really wanted to – we could pack up and drive away.

Families all around us were staying in tiny trailers where the bed and the table were one and the same. They had no clothes except what they were given off the Wal-Mart parking lot. Their friends were scattered. Their schools were destroyed. Their jobs were lost. Yet, almost everyone we met was nice, helpful, smiling and in general uncomplaining. We learned to focus on them and not on ourselves.

Christmas that year was different. We bought an 18 inch Christmas tree with iridescent lights. Grammy mailed my birthday present to me – it was the willow tree Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. Her note said it was sent with a hope for a future home. We put the nativity (which was almost as big as the tree) on our little table and strung some multi-color lights from the awning outside. That was the extinct of our Christmas decor. We waited to buy gifts until the last minute because there was no place to hide anything or to store any wrapped gifts. It sounds pitiful, but really it was sweet.

Early in the month of December I began to tell God that I really wanted a home again - a house really. It has been almost six months since we pulled out of the city limits of Abilene. I really wanted to get out of the RV and into something with some more space. More than that, I was thirsting for friendship and community; a sense of belonging. I felt like I wanted to stretch out, do something, and make a transition. Finally, right before Christmas Mark was released. Within a few days we drove to the metroplex and began to day by day figure out what and where we were supposed to go next. The rest is history, so they say.

I was so glad to get out of this 32’ trailer that I find now I have forgotten some of its benefits. Things like simplicity and close family and quiet. As I sit here in the trailer, it’s the first time in months I feel like I’ve really been alone. I’ve been alone lots of times, of course, but there’s been a lot of static in my life lately. A lot of background noise and competition for my thought life. As I take a few minutes to record my memories, acknowledge some important lessons and appreciate the friends we made in Abilene, I am made grateful again. It seems that every season and every circumstance has a purpose in God’s master plan. Sometimes that purpose and plan can only be discerned from the rear view mirror.

Looking ahead to the New Year, I wonder what 2010 will hold. I’m almost afraid to ask Him, but then I remember that my word for 2009 has been a lifeline and an anchor for me, even if it did produce wariness when I first received it. Every time I am buffeted by the winds of change and struggle to hear in spite of the static, that word has resonanted in my spirit. I am confident that whatever 2010 holds all will be well. All is not lost, nor are we without hope. He who promised is faithful!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let us hold fast

I am meditating on Hebrews 10:23 this morning: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised."

You may remember that in the beginning of 2009, I asked God for a word for this year for my life. He said "RESOLUTE". Hebrews 10:23 has been my guiding verse about how to be resolute.

I've been pondering some of my "professions" this morning - what I think, what I believe and what I say. The truth is I can be resolute about any old thing. I have all kinds of opinions about all kinds of things that have become "set in stone" for me. They are producing a faith working effect in my life - whether I plan it or not. If my profession is based on truth, then it will lead me to a fruitful place. But if based on lies or misconceptions or wounds or ignorance or countless other thoughtless foundations, it will produce countless amounts of chaos in my life.

I am learning how powerful it is to set my profession of faith on the Word of God. I want to avoid mechanical, mindless professions that produce unfruitful situations and circumstances. Here's my big, exciting, revolutionary strategy for becoming resolute based on what God says:

1) Find a key verse
2) Agree with God
3) Speak it out loud until I believe it
4) Speak it out loud again!

I know...profound, right? It is obvious - but it is so obvious, that I can miss it. Hope you'll join me in taking a moment to intentionally determine what we will hold on to without letting go.

Here's one I'm resolute about all the time:

I will not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord! Ps 118:17


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Parties Past

Hi friends,

I'm getting ready to attend the annual staff Christmas party for Gateway Church. As I'm getting dressed, I'm remembering last year's party and laughing at myself!

I made a total fool of myself at the party - somehow getting selected to participate in a sing-off with Thomas Miller! (It was my own fault! My competitive nature totally got me in trouble.) What a nightmare! I can't sing and I don't know lyrics. Now Thomas - He can sing and knows lyrics! I was destined for defeat! Wish I hadn't panicked and maybe I could have faked my way through - but no - I just struggled and turned a million shades of red. My husband was in the back row laughing his head off. Only me - Miss Extrovert - could get herself in such a mess! We laughed about it for weeks at the office and I vowed would not compete in another group game again!

Well tonight's the night. Remembering last year's fiasco made my mind drift over all that has happened this year and in the end to settle in a place of sheer gratitude. I am so blessed to serve alongside some of the most fun, anointed, passionated God chasers I've ever known. I am amazed by the steps which have caused me to arrive at this destination today. I didn't plan this party in my journey, nor strategize it or even dream it. My path has been God revealed step by step.

It is only in hind site that I can see that He was positioning me for strength, support and love in one of the most trying seasons of my life. When the diagnosis came, I had no idea that I was so safely positioned to overcome. I am so grateful for His provision, my home church, co co-workers and for the countless friends that I have made over the past three years.

When the storm came I was drawn up in the cleft of the rock - and God used many of those I labor with to shelter me from the worst of the storm. When I am weak, they help share the burden. When I am discouraged, they speak life to me. When I am happy, they rejoice. When I was at my worst, they still believed I had something to contribute. What a gift I have been given!

I am especially thankful for those who walk right next to me each day at Gateway. Ps Debbie - thank you for abundant grace and a continued faith in me. Arnita and Lynda -thanks for always believing I can. Elisa - You bless me everyday, share my space all the time and are a source of great joy to me. Couldn't and wouldn't want to do this season without you. You'll outrun me in the days ahead. Katy, Katy and Megan - you make it fun. You are so brilliant and so much ministry flows through you. Thanks for helping me maximize my time and for making me look good even when I didn't. Chelsea - welcome aboard! I have confidence that the days ahead will be amazing and that we'll get to do some God adventures together. These ladies are all star friends, mentors and faithful encouragers. I am still leaning heavily upon them in this season and they are like rocks for me - a sure foundation.

Mark and I are getting ready for the evening festivities. I'm still committed to avoiding that song competition - but nothing else in me is hidden or held back. My heart is overflowing with thanks and appreciation and gratitude and love for this extended family. God has surely positioned me among kings and generals and drawn my boundaries in pleasant places.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The bluebird of happiness

Today is my birthday.

I hadn't thought about much about my birthday before today. With all that's been going on in our lives, it just hasn't warranted a lot of attention. However, this morning started with a sweet little reminder of just how awesome it is to celebrate another birthday.

Matthew bought me a gift a couple of weeks ago from his 4th grade class auction. Everyone is invited to bring in something from home that they donate to the auction. Then they use "bucks" earned in class to buy the various items. He told me the day of the auction that he used his money to buy me a birthday gift. He brought whatever it was into the house and hid it in his room.

First thing this morning each of my sons said happy birthday when they came down stairs. Matthew came with that, plus kisses and gifts.

First he gave me a valentine bear (from his room). It has a red pillow that says I love you. Really soft and cute! Then he gave me this little bluebird. When you push on it's tummy it actually chirps.

I gave him a hug and made the blue bird chirp. He told me when he got older he would buy me a "real" gift for my birthday. I assured him this was a real gift and that I loved it.

On the way to work, my mother-in-law called. As I shared the story of the bluebird she reminded me of the saying "blue bird of happiness." It has been on my mind throughout the day, so tonight when I got home I goggled the expression. Look what I found!

The mythology of the bluebird of happiness has deep roots that go back thousands of years. Indigenous cultures across the globe hold similar myths and beliefs about the bluebird. It is a widely accepted symbol of cheerfulness, happiness, prosperity, hearth and home, good health, new births, the renewal of springtime, etc. Virtually any positive sentiments may be attached to the bluebird.

It seems my little bluebird has a hidden meaning - a prophetic picture - to share with me. I am indeed filled with cheerfulness, good health and a lot of positive thoughts. When I glance at it I am reminded how blessed I am to experience another birthday.

Hope you have your own bluebird of happiness. If not, you can borrow mine.



Monday, December 7, 2009

The report is good!

Dearest friends and family,

Today the surgeon called and shared the pathology report with us. There is no cancer in the lymph nodes. Even better, the report on the tissue removed during the lumpectomy indicates "no residual carcinoma identified." Just to be sure I asked "What does this mean? She replied, "No cancer in the tissue."

I will visit with both the surgeon and my oncologist on Wednesday of this week. At that time we will discuss the next steps in the plan. I had been told previously more chemo would be needed. I'm not certain if this report changes the situation. At any rate, I know that whatever steps come next are ordained of the Lord and He will give me the strength to proceed.

I am celebrating a little more quietly than that day in Dr. Khan's office when I leaped in the air. I find that this afternoon when the word came, I received it with a deep calmness. I feel as if I was called into the presence of God and all I can do is lay my face at His feet and wait. I am a little undone tonight.

It has been almost exactly six months since my diagnosis. I find it hard to grasp that at that time I was so sick and didn't know it. In equal measure, tonight I find it hard to grasp that I am so well. My body appears more ill now than ever before. Yet I am being healed from the inside out. It reminds me that it is not the outside of a man that measures his condition, but instead the things that are unseen.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though we are outwardly wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18

Giving thanks tonight for so many things: healing, mercy, hope, faithfulness, steadfastness, perseverance, and love. Also thanking Him for you. I am so grateful for you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Living a grace-filled life!

I live such a grace-filled life! I am so grateful today for Jesus and the abundance of friends, family, and love being poured out on my heart. Just when I reach the end of my own strength or courage - He sends angels (in the form of friends) who stand by me, speak life to me, war on my behalf and stand in the gap for me. GRACEFUL! Grace comes in every circumstance whether joyful or difficult.

Yesterday's surgery was a breeze - at least compared to my concerns. We arrived at the hospital right on schedule and stayed on schedule all day. My sister-in-law Julie, and my in-laws, Juli and Wayne were so gracious to join Mark and me at the hospital. I had great support and good company.

I was most fearful about having some radioactive isotopes injected into my breast prior to the surgery. I had a bad experience when they did my breast biopsy at the beginning of this process - and I was not eager to have anyone sticking needles in private places. However, this was a minor pain and over in just a few moments. I ended up having a little difficulty with the iv - but finally they agreed to put me to sleep and then deal with it. As soon as the anesthesiologist arrived, I apparently checked out! Recovery was easy and I was on my way home in no time at all.

Most importantly, the doctor told Mark she was able to get clear margins and they only removed three lymph nodes. I've had no drainage tubes - only 2 incisions and no significant pain - maybe due to the good drugs. I woke this morning feeling well.

Only one more hurdle in this process to overcome - and that is the final pathology report. The doctor told Mark that the tissue appeared to be dead cells! I am agreeing with her report because I believe it will agree with the Lord's report - a total death to cancer - even at the cellular level. She said she would call on Monday with a report. Praying...believing...waiting!

I've been doing a little puttering around the house, then sat down to feed myself some encouragement. I have been enjoying a book called Sparkling Gems by Rick Renner. My friend, Lynda Grove gave it to me earlier this year. It seems each time I pick it up it speaks to me. I love that it concludes each day with both a prayer and a declarative statement. Today's declarative statement is awesome!

I confess that Jesus loves me and understands me. Even though others may fail to understand the dilemma I am facing in my life, Jesus completely understands. Not only does He understand, but He is also my biggest Helper in my time of need. When I cry out to Jesus in faith, He responds by manifesting His strong Presence at my side. His Presence is with me to assist me, support me and give me the strength I need to conquer all the attacks that come against my life. With Jesus, I can and will endure everything I face in life! I declare this by faith in Jesus' name.
Isn't that awesome? Even in the most scary, difficult or lonely places, He stands right with us - giving us His courage, strength and assistance. I am so in need of Jesus. Maybe you are too! Let's declare that with Him, nothing can overcome us.

Where would I be without my amazing friends and family? Truly, God has poured your love on me in great measure. I have so much to be thankful for! So much that I find my life is "grace-filled"!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Surgery in the morning

Thanks in advance for all your encouraging thoughts and prayers in advance of my surgery in the morning. Tomorrow I will report to Medical Center of Plano for a lumpectomy. Both my surgeon and my oncologist are expecting an easy procedure and good results. Mark is taking me early and I hope to be home by mid-afternoon. If all goes as planned (simple lumpectomy and no lymph node involvement), I'll be up and around in just a few days.

I feel confident about the procedure and I'm just looking forward to being done with this portion of treatment. If you are praying please pray for the results. I'm hoping the tissue will reveal no evidence of cancer. My scans have already given us this report - but now I'm asking for a confirming word - all the way down to the cellular level.

We won't know the final pathology results for a week. I'll be visiting my oncologist on the following Wednesday. At that time, we'll review the results and determine the next level of treatment based upon the findings.

It's been almost six months since I was first diagnosed. I'm grateful to be six months down the road and to have made significant progress in reclaiming my health. I wonder what the next six months will hold...believing for all the best and the strength to stand on His Word!

Thanks for standing with me! I'll post a follow up in the next few days!

Love you all...