Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shining the Light

I sit here tonight completely exhausted, both emotionally & physically.  The last week has been a whirlwind.  My sweet mama went to be with Jesus on Tuesday morning.  I was given the great honor and privilege to stand with her at the gates of Heaven.  Maybe one day I will recount all of the goings-on of that morning (and the days leading up to Tuesday), but for now, I want you all to know that she left this world the way she lived - she was worshiping her Savior.  She was barely responsive & had so very little strength left in her body.  I noticed that she kept moving her hands (which wasn't unusual when she would try to clear the secretions from the tumors in her throat).  At some point, it occurred to me that the song playing on her iPod at that moment had said something about "lifting my hands."  So when she tried to move her hand toward her face again, I held her arm up, just as she would have done in worship.  The next few minutes were so raw & tender - but I KNOW my mama was standing at His feet.  There is no doubt in my mind that He took that feeble, weakened hand and brought her right to His side, whole and healed.  I know she was singing out at the top of her lungs - something she hadn't been able to do well since her journey began, and not at all for the last couple of years.  My dad asked me to help him write her obituary, and I just kept thinking, "How do I sum up the rich life she had in one simple paragraph?"  The Lord reminded me that the most important thing to my mama was that the Light of Jesus shine, and that everyone know the hope that is the Gospel.  This morning we had the celebration of her new eternal life - some people say funeral, but I'm telling you right now, that was no funeral.  That entire service was pure worship.  I wouldn't have expected any less, though, because that is exactly the way she wanted it.  She & dad planned out the service together - well, I guess I should say, she told dad what she wanted & he agreed :)  There were two songs that she chose to have two special men sing, both by Chris Tomlin - one was "Amazing Grace - My Chains Are Gone" and the second was "I Will Rise."  I'm not going to try to find a link to them right now, but if you haven't heard them, go find them on YouTube - and be prepared to feel His presence!

I will end for now by posting her obituary (I will omit the parts with our names).  The love and prayers are felt.  There are no words that could express our gratitude for the way that you have all held us up through this journey.

(I also wanted to let you know that I have made my blog private for a while; but when I start writing again, I will open it back up.)
Cathy was born in Panama City, Florida in 1952, 2 months premature.  From the start of her life, it was evident that God’s hand was upon her.  She married her sweetheart John, in 1971 and they were blessed with three children.  After raising her children, Cathy served as the Music Secretary at Mt. Gilead Baptist Church.  She loved her work and served faithfully for 6 years until January, when her cancer forced her to resign.  The only thing more important than her family was her relationship with Jesus.  Throughout her life, she impressed on everyone who knew her an exceptional representation of God’s grace and love.  Throughout her struggle with cancer, she allowed God to use her life to bring glory and honor to Him.  What she desired more than anything was for her Lifesong to sing for Him.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to be made to Mt. Gilead Baptist Church (Walk Through Bethlehem) or Covenant Hospice of Dothan.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Full Circle

Here is a quick update:  I had to quit work earlier than I thought. We've established a wonderful relationship with a local Hospice organization. Their goal has been to keep me comfortable and make sure I have everything I need. One of those being a pain patch which has helped to get my pain level under control. I received a PEG (feeding tube) two weeks ago as it had become impossible to swallow anything by mouth. It has been a bit overwhelming at times but at least I can get nutrition I need. I find myself sleepy or needing naps more frequently, but at least my pain is under control!

It has been hard for family and friends, too. I can see God's hand working this out for many of them. I've tried to share with them that sadness is okay. Jesus had sad moments. I learned a long time ago that God is okay with my human long as I take them to Him. What He doesn't want me to do is wallow in hopelessness, becoming forlorn.  Forlorn: a. Appearing sad or lonely because deserted or abandoned. b. Forsaken or deprived: forlorn of all hope.

That definition in itself takes God completely out of the equation. This emotion in no way brings glory to God as the focus is on self and circumstances that self does not want to tackle. All self effort to pull oneself out of this emotion brings no glory to God. That completely takes one's focus off of Him and His sovereignty. It takes one's trust off of Him. The only way God is going to get glory is to accept that He is sovereign. He can do whatever He wants to do, whenever He wants to. The ultimate goal is always going to be to bring Him glory. There's no use to get bent out of shape about the circumstances I have before me. God designed them. He will be there with me all the way through them. Whatever His choosing, the outcome will be for my good and for His glory.

My very first blog post on May 9, 2007 contained an article by Max Lucado, Peace for Anxious Days. I received this in another email a few weeks ago. Please take time to go back and read it. The message is still very much applicable (almost) 5 years later. You might say God has brought me full circle. I've been told by 2 different doctors that the life expectancy after a diagnosis of this sort would be 2-3 years and 5 years. It has been nearly 8 years. God gave me fabulous doctors that did everything in their power to fight this cancer. I think that rates up there with miraculous.

When I reflect on God's sovereignty in my life, it has to begin with my birth:
*I was born 3 months premature in 1952. I stayed 6 weeks in the hospital before being released to go home with my parents.
*He orchestrated how I would come to know Him through His son, Jesus Christ.
*He gave me the best husband I could ever have.
*He blessed me with 3 wonderful children to raise in understanding the importance of their own personal relationship with Him.
*He moved me to Dothan in order for my relationship in Him to grow to what it is presently.
*He placed me where I had access to some of the best doctors anywhere.
*He has given me peace that passes all understanding in many circumstances. Philippians 4:7

And I'll end this post with a quote by John Piper:
 "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life" (Ps 138:7). When this mercy is full, there'll be one for dying.  

And the words from Broken Praise:
 "If this is where my story ends, 
just give me one more breath to say
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah"

Amen and amen!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I'm running to Your arms

I was watching Passion 2012 livestream today. Kristian Stanfill sang this song, Forever Reign.  I had been wondering how I would title this post. His song gave me the title. And this one by him, Always.

I did see my Birmingham doctor for a follow-up after stopping the clinical trial. I also told him I had been having pain at the surgery site with referred pain to my ear and jaw. He said it could be from scar tissue but could also be a recurrence. He scheduled a CT scan and a biopsy for December 7 with the follow-up visit on December 13.

We didn’t get good news—at all. There is a large tumor at the base of my tongue in the same area as before. There is also a suspicious spot on my voice box just below that. The type of surgery to remove these places is extremely radical. We had a choice of choosing such a radical surgery that would be life altering in itself or choosing quality of life. We chose quality of life. He said there was the possibility of chemo that might shrink the tumors or finding pain management to deal with what I have. Dr. M referred to this cancer as islands. He said he and Dr. H have been removing islands, only for another island to pop up somewhere else. 

This was my Max Lucado devotional just a few days before this appointment: 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.”  Isaiah 43:2-3 NASB
"God knows what is best.  No struggle will come your way apart from his purpose, presence, and permission.  What encouragement this brings!  You are never the victim of nature or the prey of fate.  Chance is eliminated.  You are more than a weather vane whipped about by the winds of fortune.  Would God truly abandon you to the whims of drug-crazed thieves, greedy corporate raiders, or evil leaders?  Perish the thought!

We live beneath the protective palm of a sovereign King who superintends every circumstance of our lives and delights in doing us good.

Nothing comes your way that has not first passed through the filter of his love."

 I was not totally surprised by anything the doctor told us. I had to ask myself and to God: “How do you want me to die?” As my daughter's pastor who has battled pancreatic cancer in the last 3 years said in one of his messages, “Cancer will never have the last word in my life. God will.” I believe that. I might die from an incurable cancer, but it will only be if and when God says so.

Today we met with my oncologist.  He agreed that he probably would not choose the surgery either if it was him.  The options of chemo: The first one he would choose would be hard on a healthy person.  The second one wouldn’t be as hard but would still affect my quality of life.  I chose no chemo.  He said he could begin with pain management.  I had hoped for a patch, but he said it wouldn’t work for me since I’m so thin.  So he started me on another couple of prescriptions to try.  He suggested we go ahead and establish a relationship with hospice.  He wasn’t trying to imply anything by doing that but just knew they can already be helpful to my needs even at an early point.  So the hospice organization we chose will be contacting us.  I was so glad to know God had gone before us, everything went smoothly, and it was going to be okay.  We as a family still have a lot to process, but God has clearly shown He will not leave us to flounder by ourselves. He will be with us every step of the way.

Tammy Trent's Twitter post tonight:  "God has mapped out the path B4 U. He is fully aware of every detail & is committed 2 walk beside U as a guide & comforter so UR never alone"