Into the Middle Ages

The blog has been quiet since January!  We’ve been keeping on with full academics, but our Tapestry of Grace Humanities Studies took a back seat as I’ve juggled new health challenges.  (More on that in a later post, but for now, I’ll just share that my breast cancer returned in other organs, and is now Stage IV.) Despite–and even amid–the health challenges, we are blessed abundantly; Life, while undeniably altered, is still rich and full, but my already lagging blog slips further into the backseat (or maybe even the trunk or hatch-back?) as academics, excursions, music lessons, dance lessons, swimming, electives, social outings, fellowship, chemotherapy, natural treatments, and often just crashing on the couch, take precedence.

Returning to our formal humanities studies, we pick up where we left off before Christmas. (I neglected to post our final set of late-Roman-empire books.)  The great Roman Empire has fractured and crumbled, and Britain is rising.  This is an exciting era to study.  The children are already planing jousts and medieval feasts!  Below is a sampling of books from this first three weeks (of ten weeks total) in the Middle Ages.

(If you are reading through a feed-reader and can’t see the widgets showing our book selections, click on through to the blog.)

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Springtime in Wyoming

Our area of Wyoming welcomed the month of May with a huge snowstorm!

Outside my back door: May 1, 2013

Outside my back door: May 1, 2013

It was the second enormous snowstorm in a few weeks time. (The first even delayed my surgery several hours because the anesthesiologist was stuck due to road closures!)

We have fickle weather here, and in between the two storms we had a taste of spring. We enjoyed a day in short-sleeves at the botanic gardens in the same week that the children went sledding.

The picture above was taken on May first–this past Wednesday. A few days prior, on Sunday, the children were riding bikes and welcoming spring. In fact, just last week Kieran and Kiffanie mastered bike riding! Last fall, they almost had it, but apparently needed the winter months to develop their motor skills just a little bit more, and now–they are unstoppable!

Kieran and Kiffanie, honing their new skills.

Kieran and Kiffanie, honing their new skills.

Well, not quite unstoppable, they still have occasional tumbles:

Kieran takes a spill.

Kieran takes a spill.

Kiffanie, riding with pride.

Kiffanie, riding with pride.

For those who posted their prayers and encouragement regarding my cancer diagnosis, surgery went great, and recovery has been easier than I imagined possible. Pain from the beginning was minimal. I had one dose of painkiller after surgery, and that’s it! They sent me home with a pain prescription, but we never bothered filling it. I’m amazed at God’s mercy on me through this.  (I hope to do a blog post about the surgery and weeks immediately afterward soon.)  I’m still taking it slow, and we’ve been enjoying the love and care of family, church family, and other dear friends who have provided meals and helped in a myriad of ways.  It’s humbling, but so amazing to experience times like these where life seems magnified and I’m aware of all the small joys so easily taken for granted in life’s onward rushing.

Due to the surgical success, the low return rate of this cancer, and my age (which is the young-side for breast cancer), we will not do chemo or irradiate—both seem superfluous in this situation. We are doing several naturopathic things to decrease likelihood of cancer returning, and focusing on getting me strong to serve in the positions God’s given to me of wife and mother for whatever time He has ordained. He alone numbers our days, but it’s looking likely that my family will likely be “stuck” with me here for a long, long time!  Thank you for praying for us on this journey.

Good Friday’s Perspective

The timing of Resurrection Sunday and the focus on our risen Lord was so perfect for me.  In a few minutes I’ll post Easter pictures, but first, Friday:

Friday I underwent a small procedure we planned to avoid.  Because the ultrasound diagnosis was clear on my tumor’s malignancy, puncturing the enclosed mass of cancer cells for biopsy was unnecessary.  Every medical professional involved admitted that they would glean no new or helpful information from biopsy.  It was solely to satisfy insurance which refused to accept the ultrasound diagnosis alone.  Desiring to be a good steward of my health, I fought hard for a way around it–to no avail.  Ultimately I faced the fact that to proceed toward surgery, biopsy was inevitable.

To say that I don’t accept bureaucracy and red tape well is a gross understatement.  I may look docile, but I’m also assertive and determined–even rebelliously independent.   I was raised to think for myself, with an unspoken motto of “always question authority.”  I was miffed (ok, furious might be the more honest word choice) that I’d have to have this useless, and potentially damaging procedure.  I was firmly polite on the outside about all of it, but I felt wronged.

On Friday afternoon I lay on the exam table in a hospital gown, while a technician prepared me for my procedure.  I was cheery and chatty, and my blood pressure still characteristically low, but inwardly, resentment brewed.  I was about to get a stab that might dislodge diseased cells and could infect my healthy flesh.  I wanted to scream, “This is wrong!”  Suddenly though, it hit me–it was Friday–two days before Easter–Good Friday!  Suddenly, my own pettiness was placed in perspective!  I opted into this as a bartering tool that insurance might pay for other procedures for my own benefit; Christ was stabbed (and worse) for me, with no benefit to himself.  I was concerned about cancerous cells infecting healthy tissue; but Christ took our cancerous sin upon His holy and pure spirit!   How arrogantly ironic–that I should fume about an unjust stab on this day of all days.

The radiologist’s needle went in, once, then twice, guided by ultrasound and extracting samples of the infected tissue, and I bled–the nurse was surprised at the amount–but somehow, it seemed more trivial to me now–on Good Friday.

As I changed my bandages over the next few days, my heart returned to God’s sovereignty.  How easily I become focused on the temporal and lose sight of eternity. God is sovereign over the insurance companies, the medical maze, and every cell in my body, and He lovingly reminds me to focus on the eternal.  We serve a risen savor!  Christ has conquered death!  I don’t know his plans for me on this cancer journey, but I can trust Him.  My prayer remains that He will be glorified in each step of the process.

A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night….

No, actually, it wasn’t.  It was a fresh, bright, balmy morning, unseasonably warm for early March in Wyoming.  I walked across well-kept grounds toward my appointment and checked my watch.  Ten minutes early; just enough time to enjoy the fresh breeze and watch the ornamental grasses dance!  I walked around the building a few times, just drinking in the sunshine and enjoying rare moments alone.  Ken was home, serving breakfast to the children, and moments of silence–even for dull appointments–are music to a busy mom.

Finally, I entered the doors of a beautiful, downtown building.  Leisurely, I filled out some forms, gazing out the window.  So enchanted was I with the weather, that when the technician came to walk me back, I chatted with her, inquiring whether she was able to take her lunch-break outside.

I had an ultrasound that morning.  The monitor revealed a large (3cm x 4cm)  breast tumor, with every indication of malignancy possible.  Walking back out into the sunshine, many concerns flooded my mind, and yet, in surreal juxtaposition, there was peace.  Somehow, despite swirling thoughts of treatments and statistics, God enabled me to still register the beauty around me in all it’s sparkling vividness.  Ornamental grasses still swayed in gentle testimony to beauty and order in the universe, and the morning sun glinted on the windshields in the parking lot. Yes, I was surprised–staggered even–at this diagnosis, but God, loving, sovereign and omniscient, was not surprised.  It is part of His design.  Just as I’d done upon entering, I strolled around the grounds once more, amazed at the blessings in my life, at my loving husband, dear friends, and the beautiful children who fill our hearts and home!  My eyes misted with tears at the unknowns, yet, I knew I was also smiling; poignantly aware of myriad joys.

I don’t mean this to sound like I’m blithely floating on euphoric clouds.  There is, however, a gift of eternal perspective that accompanies such life-altering news.   A wise friend’s note in my morning inbox expressed it so poetically:

“We understand the mindset you might be in right now… clinging to God, taking every thought captive, striving with self to not be overcome with the “What if” possibilities. Everything is in focus: the little blessings of home life, all that the children do & say. Clearly you could count your blessings from the rising of the sun til it’s setting! Oh! That we could be this aware of our standing in Christ daily. But we get bogged down until times like this come along and we are reminded that we live and move and have our being by God’s good pleasure and to fulfill His timing and purposes!” -S

My deep assurance is that God is sovereign and loving even amid the moments of just plain weariness when I’m so aware of my own insufficiency.  Indeed, awareness of my insufficiency reminds me of God’s supreme sufficiency. I’ve played the song, Worn, by Tenth Avenue North almost daily, for it captures both the gritty, in-the-trenches aspects, and the assurance that redemption wins!

(*Scroll past the video to keep reading, but then, scroll back up and hit the “play” button, because it’s a beautiful song.)

In the few weeks since that early morning diagnosis, I’ve had other appointments to formulate a treatment plan. It’s a serious condition, and we are taking it very seriously–yet, we can’t ignore the beautiful sunshine of truth that there is sense and order in this–even if the purpose eludes my finite comprehension.  God is faithful and good.

We’d appreciate prayers as we navigate the turbulence ahead.  We have a great team of doctors, both in conventional practice and in our amazing naturopath.  Most importantly, we ultimately rest in the knowledge that Our God is the Great Physician, our loving Father, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Dark and stormy nights may bluster, but even the wind and waves obey Him.