Monday, October 30, 2017

Who Is Your Father?

"How's Ed doing?" I'm asked the question often. And what should I say?

Do I say he is doing fine?

But GBM is not something that you just recover from and go on your merry way. Not without a miracle. But Ed is feeling great. His latest blood work shows that all his labs are within the normal range. Ed has been tired recently, but he has also been coming home, gulping down supper, and spending his evenings working in his home business in the basement. With those long work hours he has an excuse to feel tired.

But I think most valuable of all is that we truly have a peace about the future. We know that our lives are in God's hands. We can wake up each morning, do what we are called to do for the day, and not worry about the future.

A few weeks ago we had a visitor to our church who shared the morning message. (Many of you may know Timo Miller from Nicaragua.) He gave a very simple but clear message from Matthew 6.

Most of us can quote the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6. "Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, They will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread..."

Several times during the message Timo asked, "Who is your Father? Is He trustworthy?"

So simple, yet so powerful. God will give us daily bread - everything I need - so why do I worry about tomorrow? When I truly claim God as my Father and understand His character, His power, His dependability, His love - I have peace.

The last few weeks have been busy. We bought a new van (a story for another day). My twelve-year-old son took part, for the first time, in the great Pennsylvania sport of deer hunting and brought home his first white-tail. (Yes, that also means he is fully recovered from his lawn mower accident.)

We have also had some not-so-good things these last weeks. We mourn to learn of a friend's diagnosis of glioblastoma. Several other friends have had serious illnesses and long hospital stays.

On the minor but still not fun category - our youngest daughter contracted a terrible rash. She had huge blisters around her mouth and covering a large portion of her legs. I suspected hand-foot-and-mouth disease since I knew she had been exposed, but this rash looked so unlike the typical rash that I took her to the doctor. Two doctors examined her and said they had never saw a rash like hers. We still don't know what she had, but thankfully she recovered quickly.

I love living in a place with the beauty of October. Maybe I enjoyed it more this year because we don't take even a day for granted.

We also had some fun events the last weeks. Here are a few photo highlights.



 One afternoon we went with a few friends to a pumpkin farm that has activities for children.


Such as slides...


And huge trampolines.


I took the older children on the corn maze, 


While the younger ones enjoyed the corn bin.


 What is more beautiful than the brilliant blue skies of October?


My whole family spent a weekend camping together. 


As always, food is a highlight of camping.


Saturday brunch was fritatta made in dutch ovens and coffee cake.


The barn was the site of lots of game playing.




Grilling chicken for more fabulous eating.


 Corn hole tournament.


Making music.


Sunday morning pancakes.


But the highlight for me was the service Sunday morning.


We sat around a circle and sang together. The men shared some insights from Scripture and then we joined together in prayer for my brother who is serving God in Iraq.


October, with all its beauty, only gives a glimpse of our Heavenly Father who pours out the blessing of grace and peace.

Who is your Father?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bookmarks: Picture Books on the Middle East

I think a well-written picture book is the perfect way to show my children how others live - all without a passport or airline ticket. 

I shared a list of picture books about refugees a few months ago, but since my brother is serving refugees in the Middle East right now, we have been looking for books on both refugees and the Middle East. Here is a few of our favorites.





Sami and the Time of the Troubles by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heidi Gillilard, illustrated by Ted Lewin
For children like Sami, most of their lives have been spent hiding in dark basements in fear of the violence in the streets. Rich paintings show life in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon and the hope that someday the troubles will end.



Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah da Costa, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright
Two boys in Jerusalem's Old City care for a white stray cat. Living in separate quarters, the white cat helps the boys cross boundaries and form a friendship. Lovely water-color illustrations take you on a trip through Jerusalem's streets.
 

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes, illustrated by Sue Cornelison
Another cat story - but this one is true. Sura risks everything to take her children safety. With their beloved cat, they travel across the Iraq mountains and across the sea to Greece. When they become separated from their cat they expect to ever see him again.



The Day of Ahmed's Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Ted Lewin
Follow Ahmed through the city of Cairo as he travels on his donkey cart to deliver fuel bottles. Cario, Egypt is actually part of Africa but I placed it on this Middle East book list because of the similarities of culture.


SteppingStones: A Refugee Family's Journey by Margriet Ruurs, artwork by Nizar Ali Badr
An incredible book sharing the plight of a young girl fleeing her home. The highlight is the artwork by a Syrian artist who uses sea-washed stones to illustrate the story. A reminder of the experience of thousands of people who are searching for safety for their families.

Do you have any recommendations of picture books that depict either refugees or the Middle East?

(This post contains affiliate links. Clicking through the link to Amazon and making a purchase supports this site with no extra cost to you.)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Jesus Wants Your Weakness

I was blessed today to read this article. 

Suffering has shown me that my strength is not in me.
The raging seas have made me cling to the rock of my salvation. I can say in full conviction, “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought ‘My foot slips’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up (Psalm 94:17–18).”
Read the rest of the article Jesus Wants Your Weakness.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Off the Shelf

A few notes on the books we've been reading recently.



When God Doesn't Fix It by Laura Story

When I asked for recommendations on what I should read next, immediately two of the Home Joys readers answered with When God Doesn't Fix It by Laura Story. One even offered to send me the book.

Laura was a newlywed with dreams for the future when her husband was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Complications from brain surgery left her husband with permanent loss to his memory and vision.

I found When God Doesn't Fix It like a cup of cold water on a summer day. Laura doesn't deny the difficulties when faced with a problem that can't be "fixed."  She is honest about the stress both to her relationship with God and their marriage. But she shares so much truth on how God meets us in the dark places and how God can be glorified by our surrender to Him. Laura reminded me that even when I hate the story of pain and suffering I'm experiencing - this same story can be my greatest offering to God.

I had to push through the last few chapters. I guess I just wasn't all that interested in Laura's career as a worship leader and recording artist, but the first half of the book made it highly worthwhile and highly recommend it - even if you husband doesn't have a brain tumor. We all face dark places where we need reminded that God is still there.



When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A friend recommended When Breath Becomes Air saying that she thought I'd enjoy the book but wasn't sure now was the right time for me to read it because its topic was death. I reserved it from my library and it sat by my bed for a few weeks. But once I started reading, I inhaled the book in a few days.

When Breath Becomes Air is a beautifully written book by a brain surgeon who in his last year of residency found he had lung cancer. So, yes, it is a book about death - but not nearly as morbid as it sounds.

I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into brain surgery and the life-and-death decisions that a doctor must make. Kalanithi examines death, first from the perspective of literature, then as a doctor, and finally as a terminally-ill patient. In many ways his perspective on death echos Ed's. Kalanithi realized that all of us will face death, and even though he was only in his thirties, he decided he wouldn't waste the time he had by fretting over the time he had lost.

The prose and insight in When Breath Becomes Air is lovely, but there is some glaring holes in my opinion. Kalanithi briefly acknowledges God, but he writes from a secular perspective. There is no mention of an after-life or the power of God and prayer when faced with death. For this reason, while I loved the book and was glad I read it, ultimately it wasn't as soul-strengthening as the first book I mentioned.



Following Jesus in Everyday Life by Gary Miller

Have you ever looked for a book that could challenge your whole family to follow Christ in practical areas of life? Our family is reading through Following Jesus in Everyday Life. Written for developing countries, this is a manual designed to teach Biblical business principles along with practical aspects a godly life. With Scriptures, questions, and stories - this manual has been perfect to begin family discussions on a variety of topics. I highly recommend it.

Following Jesus in Everyday Life is available from TGS International.



Another book on the same vein is Create for Work by Bob Schultz which Ed read to the children last winter. Schultz shares stories from his years as a carpenter to show the joy in working for God. Even though it is written for boys - my girls benefited from it also.

Loyalty test

Loyalty Test by Romaine Stauffer

Most of us grew up celebrating George Washington the hero of the Revolutionary War. But what if you were a Christian living in the colonies who believed that God commanded you to honor the king, pay your taxes, and to kill no one?

Loyalty Test tells this unfamiliar side of history through the story of Christian Burkholder, a Mennonite minister living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the mid-1700's. The huge number of footnotes show that Romaine spent a many hours in research before writing this story. I often roll my eyes when reading historical fiction because the fiction is more evident than the history, but this book is an exception.

Our family thoroughly enjoyed Loyalty Test and, in our turbulent political scene today, I think it is a valuable book for anyone to read. We all need to decide whether our loyalty is to God or to a political system.

If you like Loyalty Test, you might want to read the story of how Christian came to America in Hidden Treasure. Both book available from CLP.
Tell me the stories of jesus

Tell Me the Stories of Jesus by Caleb Crider

As a family grows, sometimes things fall through the cracks. That is how I felt this winter when I realized my three-year-old didn't know even the most basic Bible stories. Somehow I had not read as much to her as the other children.

But then we bought Tell Me the Stories of Jesus and it became her favorite book. Soon she was asking me questions such as "Why don't we go visit Jesus? He loves little children." This hard-cover, full-color book is filled with stories from Jesus' life told on an easy-to-understand level. It will definitely be a well-loved book in our family for many years. Available from CLP.

What books are your family enjoying?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Perspective

People have various responses when they hear that Ed has aggressive brain cancer. Of course, those closest to us mourn and grieve. Many have prayed for us, some even fasted, which blessed us immensely.

Often we are pitied. This is completely expected and understandable. Forty is considered young to be faced with a terminal illness. Our friends wish we didn't have to face cancer. Some have walked their own journey with cancer and know the heartache and suffering it brings.

But occasionally we meet an entirely different response - completely shocking because of its sheer opposite view.

Soon after Ed's cancer diagnosis, he met a business friend. After discussing the dim prognosis of glioblastoma, this friend, a committed Christian said, "Ed, I envy you. You may be near heaven."

I am not recommending that you tell every terminally ill person you know that you envy them. Especially if you don't mean it. But those words blessed Ed. Instead of pitying Ed, of mourning the years on earth he may lose, this friend had a Biblical view of eternity.

This earth is all we know and have experienced. This is where we have been born; this is where we fall in love; this is where we dream; this is where we make plans for the future. It is normal to live, love, dream, and plan. It is normal to seek happiness here.

But in looking at Scripture we find that there is far more to life than just what we can see.

The truth is that we are all diagnosed with a terminal illness and will all face death sometime.
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Hebrews 9:27)
The truth is that God is preparing a far better place for His children than earth. Imagine, the perfection of the Garden of Eden without the possibility of Paradise Lost.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:3-5) 
Some of you have shared your stories of heartache with me. I have no answers for the mental illness, abandonment, handicapped children, church problems, broken relationships, and more.

But the truth is that the worst pain we face now will dim in comparison to heaven.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
The truth is, for the believer in Jesus Christ, the best is yet to come. 
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelations 21:4)
The truth is that death is hard for those left on earth but not for the Christian who goes to be with Christ.
 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain... For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." (Philippians 1:21,23-24)
While we pray for healing and try to use each opportunity on earth for God's glory, I don't want to waste time pitying Ed or any other person who gets to reach heaven.

Because I know with certainty, that no one, not a single person, has ever sat in heaven wishing they had a few more years on earth.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Treasuring Each Day

I have been asked how a cancer diagnosis changes your life.  That question deserves a whole post by itself, but obviously a terminal illness helps you evaluate how you spend your time. There is many things that just don't seem important when cancer is in the picture.

Compared to God's time, our time on earth is limited to a few brief years. This awareness can help us treasure each day as a gift from God and hold onto moments spent with our family.

I had a lot of anticipation for September. Fall is one of my favorite seasons. Ed was feeling good and we looked forward to some fun family times.


On Labor Day we helped my parents harvest their potatoes. For the older ones it might be work, but for the younger crowd, digging potatoes is a finding buried treasure. 




Another Saturday was spent making applesauce. I didn't do much gardening and canning this year, but it is nice to have some jars filled for winter.



The first week of September was Ed's chemo week. Ed has five days of chemo every month. The doctor increased his dose to see how his body could tolerate it. Ed takes his chemo pills right before bed hoping to sleep off the side affects, but the first night Ed was very sick. The doctor prescribed a stronger anti-nausea medicine and the second night went well. 

But there was a mistake in Ed's chemo prescription and he was only sent enough for two days instead of five. After many phone calls, we finally got the right dosage, weeks later - too late for September. I was rather annoyed. I hate chemo, but since we have chosen to do chemo, it was frustrating to not get the right dosage on time. 

But after our son's accident, I wondered if God had it all planned. Maybe the full dose of chemo would have weakened Ed's body and he wouldn't have felt well on that stressful weekend in the hospital. It was one more time that I needed to lay down my frustration and accept that God's in control. 

Trent's accident required us to cancel our family vacation. We couldn't take a boy to the beach when his leg was wrapped up and couldn't get wet or dirty.

But by the Saturday after his hospital stay Trent was feeling good and we wanted to do something fun as a family even if it wasn't a true vacation.


We rode the Metro into DC which we haven't done for many years. 


Then we spent the day in the Air and Space Museum. Last year we had studied Astronomy in school and we had planned to end the year with a visit to this museum. Ed's illness in the spring had curtailed those plans so it was nice to finally make it happen. 

That Saturday went so well that the next Saturday we ventured back to DC, this time to the National Zoo. 

I was chagrined to find that our eight-year-old couldn't remember being at a zoo. The weather was sunny but cool and perfect for a day outdoors. 



Trent still has a brace on his leg so he can't bend his knee, but he can walk without pain. The surgeon is very pleased with the way his leg is healing. Two weeks after his accident, Trent was thrilled to get permission to take off the dressing each day to take a shower. 

As some of you predicted, I've had trouble keeping Trent down. He hasn't left a leg brace slow him down much. After finding him climbing a tree, this week I decided he could stand on a step-ladder and help me remove a wall paper border. 


Ed and I were dreading this week. Monday was Ed's MRI and this was also his chemo week. This time the chemo dosage would be increased even more. 

Sunday night Ed swallowed his pills. I kept waking up all night long, looking at the clock, and thinking, "he didn't get sick yet." Besides a little queasiness that first night, he wasn't sick all week. But by the end of the week Ed was tired. He came home early on Thursday and took a nap for the first time in many weeks. He says he feels tired and achy - like he was coming down with the flu. He is trying to rest more, but, like Trent, it hasn't slowed him much. Today (Saturday) he spent the day working in his shop and doing various home repair jobs.

The MRI on Monday went well. The machine was as loud as ever. Ed describes it as putting your head in a metal bucket and letting your children hammer on it. But thankfully he made it through without getting sick. 

Then we waited for the results.

The last MRI Ed had was in June right before he started radiation. We had waited several months to get another MRI because we were told that radiation would cause a lot of swelling and the tumor would be much larger just from the radiation swelling. We were hoping that by now the swelling would have decreased and we could get an accurate measurement.

Compared to his June MRI, the MRI this week shows a small (several millimeters) increase in the size of his tumor. The radiologist said that there is still evidence of swelling. Our doctor hopes that this increase in size is radiation-caused swelling and not growth. 

So we really don't know much more than before. Of course we hoped to find that the tumor has shrunk significantly. But until Ed's next MRI in December we won't know for sure if it is growing or shrinking. 

But besides being a little disappointed, Ed and I are not really upset about the results. It is just one more opportunity to trust God who knows exactly what's happening in Ed's head.


And one more opportunity to make the most of each day we have together.

And it could be that the peace we have had in the past weeks, with increased chemo, lawn-mower accidents, prescription mistakes, MRIs - is all a credit to your prayers and God's grace. Thank you.

With each story I hear of yet another person diagnosed with a terminal illness, of conflict in countless places in the world, of Satan working to destroy souls, marriages, families, and churches - all I can say is...

Lord, come quickly. 
(1 Thess. 4:13-18)

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