Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bless the LORD, O my Soul...

June 10, 2008

God is so good! We give Him all praise and glory for what He has taken us through. Granted, these past 6 months may have been nothing in comparison to our many brothers and sisters who have undergone heavier trials and distresses than we, but thanks be to God, who has given us exactly what we can handle in order to glorify Him.

By way of a quick update: Paul is going back to work tomorrow!!! Hooray!!! With his oncologist giving him a clean bill of health and recording on his medical file, “Former Lymphoma Patient,” plus his eye specialist giving him the green light to go back to work after a prolonged recovery of 3 ½ months in lieu of the 6 weeks time frame, we are definitely easing our way back into our old routine. Paul will need to go for follow-up appointments to his oncologist every three months to keep tabs on the Lymphoma. He'll also need to go back to his eye doctor in two months to see if his eyes are still healthy, which is a miracle in itself! Presently, Paul's eye pressure is at a low "2" which normally would indicate a higher danger of having folds in the retina if the pressure remained that low. Yet after Dr. Lee closely watched the condition of his eye for another month, he was told that though his pressure was 2, the health in the back of the eye looked like it was a "10 with no folds or wrinkles." Is this so like our God or what!? All the doctor could say was, "It's unusual, but I guess this is your new norm." Once again thank you for your prayers and encouragement throughout this entire chapter of our lives! He's a prayer-answering and healing God who is so worthy to be praised!

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion. -Psalm 103:2-4

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thou Hast Taught Me to Say...

It's been over a month and a half since our last update..time sure flies! We so appreciate all the prayers, encouragement, and support even till now...as it's been over four months since we first got the news of Paul's cancer.

In a nutshell, Paul's radiation plan was increased to 20 treatments rather than the 15 we were originally told, which he will complete by tomorrow. YAY!! Praise God! And apart from a very dry, painful, raw feeling down his throat, he's been trying to hang in there. Sleeping and eating has been a chore, and it's been a challenge to find something that he can put down without too much pain. Applesauce and mashed potatoes don't cut it. Yogurt burns, fruit smoothies are too cold and acidic, even water is tough to swallow! Mashed bananas, noodle soup, soft scrambled eggs-we've tried it all! (He's definitely losing the weight he gained from not working for over 4 months!)

This last week of radiation has left Paul feeling more fatigued as expected but it doesn't help that in the past 5 days, he's been running a 102-103 fever with a cough, the classic flu symptoms. Silas also got a fever lasting about 4 days and had to stay home from school. Thankfully, today, Paul's fever has left and we were able to pick up a prescription that somewhat eases the pain so he can at least sip a room temperature milkshake but unfortunately leaves him very drowsy and tired.

As far as his left eye goes, it still hasn't gotten any better though it hasn't gotten any worse either....just kind of at a stand still in its healing process. If this Wednesday's appointment still shows no dramatic progress, Dr. Lee may either tell us to continue to wait some more before Paul can resume normal physical activity for work, or decide to perform a reversal operation to "tighten" things up again (which will mean another 6 weeks of recovery.)

With his post-ops being more follow up intensive, the burning side effects of radiation down his throat, battling the flu with uncontrollable coughing, and the many other unmentionable things life has thrown our way this past month, I'm sure many of you can relate of having had to undergo multiple trials simultaneously, too. Don't you sometimes wish that trials would just come one at a time? I must confess, it's been tough for me as I keep trying to rush in thinking that things can go back to normal when they're not. I am in such great need of endurance & patience....(and I'm technically not the one going through it!) Please pray for me to not lose heart though I must admit I've been battling discouragement. How I know I need to wait patiently and place all my expectations on Him, who knows what's best and when it's best. I am so grateful that when my mind turns heavenward, He captivates my attention and reminds me that this is only temporary and makes the longing for His very presence my heart's desire above all else. "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3).

For Paul, he's had to remind himself more and more that this trial is for our good and His glory as he's been battling despair, being stuck either in bed or on the couch in painful discomfort. The song that keeps running through his mind is the well-loved hymn, "It Is Well with My Soul," specifically the following verse: When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, "It is well, It is well, with my soul!"

He's had to consciously say, when he's been feeling so out of it, in the delirium of his fever, often in the middle of a sleepless night, "I am not giving up on you Lord!" It has prompted him to dwell on God's faithfulness, pray for His mercy and healing, and fervently plead for the salvation of our children and loved ones all the more.

(Hey I did it...I updated the blog..finally!! And now you know how you can specifically pray for us in this last stretch...thank you so much!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Our Hearts Are Fixed, Trusting in the LORD

It's been a full week since Paul's left eye surgery. We just returned from his 2nd post-op appt today and found out that his eye pressure, which was at a scary "40" three weeks ago is now down to a dangerous "0"! Post-op recovery has left Paul's eye red, sore, irritated, blurry, and very sensitive to light which is all normal & expected, but to go and find out that there is actually a small leak at the suture site, definitely took us by surprise. Isn't that funny? You would think that with all the surprises we've had these past couple of months we would be pros at receiving unexpected news! Not really! As we sat there and processed the information Dr. Lee was relaying to us calmly and professionally, we were a bit stunned..okay...shocked. With his right eye surgery, everything went so smoothly. The doctor did not have to "tweak" his eye..not even once during those 6 weeks of post-op appts.! Everything healed perfectly. His left eye is definitely not following the same recovery path.

Today, Dr. Lee swiped some dye over the surgical site, and through her magnifying lens, was able to see the tiny leak. She placed a "bandage" contact lens to cover his iris, most of his sclera, and even the surgical site under his eye lid in hopes that the tiny hole that was made from the suture needle would heal up within the week. Though at a "0", she pointed out that apparently the eye is still reacting positively as it has not rejected the procedure. "Your eye just needs to heal up over that tiny leak near the suture," she said. If not, next Wednesday Paul may have another mini-surgery to close it up tighter.
On our 30 minute drive home from Richmond, we both were quiet; we both were deep in thought. Lose hope? Despair? NO!! Psalm 27:13-14 says:

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I
would see
the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take
courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Our hearts took courage as choruses of praise and trust in our Lord came to mind:

"Find rest, my soul, in Christ alone, know His power, in quietness and trust...
When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm.
Father, You are King over the flood. I will be still and know You are God!"

Earlier this week, I was reading about the Israelites and how God delivered them out of the oppressive hand of the Egyptians and brought them safely through the midst of the Red Sea on dry land. What an incredible story. (Exodus 14) I am amazed over and over again how mighty and powerful my God is. Can you imagine those mighty walls of water heaped up on both sides which God held in place as more than a million people walked across on dry land? He held it perfectly in place so that even the smallest child could cross, and at the right time He let go of the flood gates to overthrow the Egyptians who were in hot pursuit after the Israelites. Why? So that the people would know that He is the LORD and He is to be honored and glorified!
Is He in control over the mighty seas? Yes!
Is He in control over a tiny microscopic leak? Of course!

Spurgeon said it well when he commented on Psalm 112:7:
"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings;
his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD."

"Faith is the cure for this condition...The Lord by His Spirit settles the mind in holy serenity, and all fear is gone as to the future as well as the present. This fixedness of heart is..to be diligently sought after. Let the morrow be what it may, our God is the God of tomorrow. Our Jehovah is God of the unknown as well as the known. We are determined to trust the LORD, come what may. If the worst should happen, our God is still the greatest and best. Therefore we will not fear...The Lord liveth, and what can his children fear?"
-portions from Feb 27's daily reading from the Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith by C.H. Spurgeon

Praise/Prayer Updates:

  • Tomorrow is Paul's third and last chemotherapy treatment! We praise God that Dr. Shwartz gave the green light to proceed with the treatment even though his white blood count is at its lowest -2.4- since we started this cancer journey. (Last week it was at 6.)

  • We praise God that Paul still has not gotten sick! Pray for continued protection of health.
  • We praise God that the Lord gave us a day to enjoy a leisurely bike ride when his chemo side effects tapered off before his eye surgery and before he was unable to do any physical activities, lifting, straining, bending, driving, etc. for at least a month. So much fun!

  • Please pray that God would mercifully heal the tiny leak in Paul's left eye.

  • We anticipate that this next week will be pretty rough with the fresh onset of chemo side effects plus the uncertainties of a very irritated, sore, blurry, leaky eye, plus low blood counts... Please pray for us in every way...

Paul's Calendar of Events for March:

Feb 29th: Last chemotherapy treatment@ 8:00 to 3:00 (VJO)

March 5th: Post-op eye appt. @ 12:00 (RCH)

March 10th: Pre-radiation appt. @ 9:00 (Queen of the Valley, Napa)

March 11th: Post-op eye appt. @ 9:30 (RCH)

March 17th: Post-op eye appt. @ 9:15 (RCH)

March 17-21: 1st week of Radiation begins (QVN)

March24th: Post-op eye appt. @10:30 (RCH)

March 24-28: 2nd week of Radiation (QVN)

March 31st: Post-op eye appt. @ 10:40 (RCH)

March 31-April 4: 3rd and last week of Radiation (QVN)

April 14: Phone appt. w/ Dr. Schwartz to discuss future follow-up plan @ 4:50

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Only One Life, 'Twill Soon be Past..."

On last Wednesday morning at 6:40 am, this poster greeted me as I was pulling out of the garage to take Jenna to school! Isn't this such a sweet sign? It was the handiwork of our sneaky daughter and son-in-law, Jess and Mike, the night before. We didn't even have a clue what was going on outside though we were wondering why Julia and Jenna were so loud and giggly in the kitchen. We thought they were just having a good ol' time baking cookies & doing their chores rather than masking the sounds of the two busy bodies outside! That afternoon, my husband took me out for an enjoyable lunch at Applebees. (Thanks again to Jess and Mike for covering the tab!) We spent our time leisurely reminiscing over the last 20 years of God's faithfulness to us. Wow...time sure flies! And as we looked back on the highlights of our marriage, what came to mind was a quote Paul shared with me from the book he is currently reading called Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper.

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past;
Only what's done for Christ, will last!"

It is true that what is done for Christ is what will last because that was what we found ourselves recalling to mind-the joy of serving Him together over the years: when we were serving in the Youth Ministry before we were engaged, doing puppets in Children's Church Sonshine Street Ministry (you had to have been there at CBC in the 80's), discipleship relationships, the college and career ministry, ministering to the families in our home fellowship group, being part of the missions' team and those first CBC missions trips we participated in....how grateful we are to have had the opportunity to serve our Lord and His Body, and it is with much desire & eagerness that we will continue to serve Him the rest of our days.

It's amazing how trials like this are meant and have the ability to keep us focused on what's truly important and lasting. During our family devotion time over supper a couple nights ago, Paul reminded us of Psalm 39:4-5:

"Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am! Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath."

Through this cancer, the Lord has been gracious to show us in a very real way how transient our lives are before we live out long, full lives and find that we've wasted it on things that weren't so important. He's definitely gotten our attention. It's been purifying to say the least. Perhaps sooner than later, we will be no more. Are we ready to give an account of how we used the "mere breath" of our days to glorify Him? Hmm...don't answer that...let's just get busy!

The following is a link to an article that was passed on to us by a sister who triumphed through a bout with cancer, and it has greatly encouraged us. It's written by John Piper (and David Powlison) when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer entitled, "Don't Waste Your Cancer". We pray that it will encourage you to waste not another day but to live wholly for the glory of God...it is for your good!

Here are the ten main points from John Piper/David Powlison's article, "Don't Waste Your Life." Click on the link above or copy and paste in your browser to access the whole article.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rether than from God.
4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
5. You will waste your cancer if you think that "beating" cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

By John Piper, Desiring God
website: desiringGod.org

Prayer Updates:
  • Paul will be having eye surgery today on his left eye! Praise God! It's the exact surgery he had done on his right eye back in Dec. Please pray for a smooth 6 week recovery and that the effects of his chemotherapy/radiation treatments will not interfere with his eye's healing process.

  • Please pray for continued protection of Paul's health. Last week, Silas had "pink eye" and caught my cold; this week, Julia has laryngitis. Praise God that Paul still hasn't gotten sick from any of us yet.

  • Did you notice Paul's new "do" up above? (He looks good, huh?) Last week, he suffered so much pain from scalp sensitivity...absolutely miserable! With much care, gentleness, and nervousness, I shaved my very first head ever! Paul felt so much better after and the pain eased up quite a bit...he's just got a cold head now!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Lord is My Strength and My Shield

Before I proceed to share with you what’s been going on presently, let me backtrack a couple weeks, since I’ve been a little slow to sit myself long enough in front of the computer. We are so grateful for the body of Christ who has ministered to us and surrounded us with their help and prayers of daily needs that have arisen these past weeks. Though cyberspace is awesome, so glad that “word of mouth” is still the oldest & most personal means to get the word out of what’s been going on! (It was effective for Christ & his apostles and it definitely works for us, too!)

Like I mentioned on an earlier post, Paul’s chemo side effects were minimal, but what threw us for a loop was all the problems with now his left eye! After trying a new gel type of medication, the pressure still went up to 40. That was replaced with yet another kind, in pill form, and after a week his eye pressure went down to 28 but his reaction to it has been making him miserable…worse than the chemo drugs, not to mention that “28” still isn’t good enough to stay away from surgery. His fatigue is extreme, numbness in his hands and feet, and major headaches. Needless to say, his eye specialist and oncologist talked and agreed that surgery should not be delayed and the date is set for February 21st, timed right before his 3rd chemo treatment on Feb 29th, hopefully when his blood count is on the upswing. We, and many others were praying specifically that Paul would be able, if at all possible, to have this surgery done even while in the chemo process since recovery time for it is another 6 weeks with no lifting, straining, bending, etc. We praise God that the eye recovery time and chemo/radiation will (Lord willing) both end, simultaneously around mid-April. We couldn’t have orchestrated that any better….only God!

On the lighter side of family news, God never ceases to amaze us in how He not only knows and meets our needs (and generously, too, through families in our church), but takes note of the things that go beyond our needs, and looks at our heart’s desire. Our church youth group had their annual Winter Discipleship Camp coming up on the calendar (Feb 1-3), and our youngest daughter, Julia, finally became of age to actually attend. But because we’ve had to adjust financially during this time, we knew that we couldn’t entertain it. Yet God did, and the day before the youth group headed for the snow, we received a phone call from a dear couple who works with the youth, and they invited Julia to go, with her way paid in full!! Amazing, isn’t He!

Now we’re caught up to this past weekend! A few days ago, Paul underwent his 2nd chemotherapy treatment. It was two hours shorter than the first time, only 7 hours, and the first couple of hours went smoothly with a lot of goofing around!

I was trying to get a "normal" picture with him but I guess this is as normal as he gets! Oh well, I did warn him fair and square that this would make it into cyberspace if he didn't straighten up!

You see why I love him so? The silly boy keeps me laughing.

But the day seemed to grow longer as the side effects were hitting him quicker and harder while receiving the chemo. Just when Paul was sitting at the edge of his chair, getting a little stir crazy and wanting “out!”, the Lord sent two special visitors our way, Vern and Pat Hendrickson! What a joy to see them and fellowship with them right there in our treatment room. Our dear brother and his wife are going through a similar trial but with lung cancer.
There was nothing sweeter than to see the love of Jesus bubble out of them as they announced to our nurse who we called to take our picture, that “we belong to the same church…we belong to the same God!” Just like Vern was sharing with Paul before they took off, “The Lord knows how to give us exactly what we need!”

(Click on the link for Vern on the side bar as they, too, have given us updates on their journey.)

“R-CHOP”, the acronym for that wonderful blend of 5 medications, has delivered a stronger serving of side effects this time around for my husband. My poor guy! More fatigue, more nausea, heartburn, unsettled stomach, loss of appetite, loss of hair, scalp sensitivity, upper body

quivers, awful taste in his mouth, numbness in hands & feet… And to top it all off, the rest of the family has managed to take turns, each bringing home some type of sickness, be it a fever and severe sore throat (Silas), a fever and cold (Julia), runny nose (Jenna) and presently, yours truly, with a fever in the beginning and head congestion/laryngitis now. It seemed like the kids would come home from school miserably sick, but then Lord would heal them quickly, literally within a couple days. It was so cool..it just blows me away!! My cold, on the other hand, is sticking with me a lot longer, so by Friday, I decided it was time to move out of our bed and into the guest bedroom until I get better. Sad! But more sad I would be if Paul caught what I have! I’m reminded of the verse that Paul shared with me:

“The Lord is my Strength and my Shield, My heart trusts in Him and I am helped, therefore my heart exults and with my song I shall thank Him!” Psalm 28:7

He shared with me the fact that the Lord has been his strength from within and his shield of protection from without (I’ll say! Even from the microscopic cooties we breathe out into the same air we share!), and that he’s gonna keep on trusting Him, exulting in Him and thanking Him!

And on that note, let me share some praises:

  • Praise God for Paul’s protected health thus far from the germs we’ve managed to bring into our home! A recent lab right before his 2nd chemo treatment concluded that his white blood count is lower than the normal range; I’m completely baffled that he hasn’t caught anything yet!

  • Praise God that Paul’s right eye is completely off of all eye drops as of last Thursday and its pressure remains at 9!

  • Praise God for the scheduled eye surgery on his left eye on February 21st.

  • And here’s a BIGGIE: Praise God, that on February 13th, Paul and I will be celebrating 20 wonderful years of marriage! (Obviously not in Cancun, as we had planned 6 months ago, but nonetheless, gratefully rejoicing in our God’s great faithfulness to us and the deep love that grows sweeter and richer for one another and for our precious Savior with each new day!)

And because it exalts our All-Sufficient God when we come to Him with our requests, please pray along with us:

  • That we’ll be given “green lights” from all the pre-surgery labs, tests, and physical exam for his eye surgery to happen on the 21st of Feb.

  • That the Lord of all Comfort will indeed strengthen Paul physically and spiritually as he deals with all the side effects daily…(perhaps enough to go out on a hot date with his Love on our anniversary!)

  • That I will get better soon and have my voice back..and move out of the guest room!

  • For the two couples who have been close to our hearts and in our prayers as they battle against cancer in its more advanced stages. For Vern, and his wife, Pat. As well as for Paul’s older brother, Dave Miranda who has stage 2, (almost stage 3)-multiple myeloma, and his wife Debra. They have a long road before them and may God be pleased to glorify Himself through their lives as they embrace this opportunity to display to a hopeless world the power and joy of Christ in the midst of their sufferings.

    Paul’s February Calendar of Events:
    Feb 12: Pre surgery Labs and EKG in Richmond (RCH) @ 11:10
    Feb 13: Our 20th Anniversary….Hang out with the Love of his Life!
    Feb 14: Valentine’s Day…."ditto" the day before! ( I love this double whammy stuff!)
    Feb 15: Eye appt, RCH (Dr. Lee) @ 11:15
    Feb 15: Pre surgery Physical Exam, RCH @ 1:30
    Feb 21: Eye Surgery, RCH (Dr. Lee)
    Feb 22: Post-op eye appt, RCH (Dr. Lee) @ 9:15
    Feb 27: Lab tests, VJO
    Feb 28: Oncology appt, VJO (Dr. Schwartz) @ 9:30
    Feb 28: Post-op eye appt., RCH. (Dr. Lee) @ 12:00
    Feb 29: 3rd Chemotherapy treatment, VJO

Saturday, February 9, 2008

You’ll Never Be Alone

Written as I am nursing a yucky cold, can’t sleep, lost my voice, realizing that we’re only ¼ of the way done with Paul’s treatment plan, have to sleep in the guest room because I don't want to infect him, tired & discouraged, and wishing we could be done with it already. Where’s the fast forward button? (yea ..I know…Serious pity party! and I'm the only guest!)
Praise God that He never leaves me to myself!

When you’re in the valley of the shadow of death,
It seems like the journey will last forever;
You almost feel like a change of scenery
Will never happen, never.
The song that used to fill my heart
Is nowhere to be found.
Instead it’s a faded distant hum
No pleasure in its monotonous sound.

I look far into the horizon and
Wish the end would quickly come.
Yet the difficult path in which I tread
Can only be walked and never run.
“But running is so much faster,
is quicker, don’t you see…
Can’t I just run through?
It would be much easier for me!”

Yet the jagged rocks and cracks
Will surely bring me down
And longer in this valley,
I will have to stay around.
For the valley is dark and cold
And there’s no end in sight:
"I hate feeling stuck,
I hate it with all my might

“Look! Many are able to roam about
On those lush plains so free,
They bask in the sun and
Carry on so merrily.
They think, live, and do
without one single thought..
of fear, of illness,
or of suffering loss.”

“Listen, my child, I know you’re tired
And your heart is growing weary,
Sit down here for awhile;
Don’t be in such a hurry!
Let me wipe away your tears
And take away all your frustrations;
Let me hold you close
And remove all your aggravations.”

“I have so much to show you
In this valley that you would not see,
Unless I lead you carefully,
Unless you walk with Me.
Treasures in the darkness
To you I shall unfold.
Yes, child, I know it’s dark,
But don’t let go of My Hold!”

“I’ll teach you how to move through the night,
And trust My eyes instead of yours.
You will not falter one fatal step;
Just trust Me on this rocky course.
I’ll point out all the beauty that abounds
In this valley that you dread.
Vastness of riches, beauty untold
Pleasures for you I’ve prepared!”

“The fragrance you smell that is so sweet
Is not coming from those flowers;
That aroma comes from communing with Me
Delighting in My Presence and My Power.
The water that beckons your parched soul to come
Is not found from that cool stream so clean,
But quench your thirst on the Living Water
Drink me in, My All-Sufficient supply, to lean.”

“The faint beam of light that pierces the darkness
Which you hope will warm you up a might,
Dimly compares to the brightness of My Son,
His glorious radiance will shine through the night!
And when from the chill
you seek shelter in that cave of old,
You will find that your safest refuge is
With you in My Arms enfold.”

“So child don’t run ahead of Me
By My side you must stay,
‘Cause one day when on the heights you stand,
You will cherish this day.
For you have received lessons
That can’t be learned on your own
A lesson that every child of Mine must be taught
Is simply that you’ll never be alone.”

“No matter what this life brings you
Whether in comfort, in need, or in pain,
You will know that I am with You
For I will not forsake My own Name!
I will be Your Refuge,
Your Comforter, Provider and Friend,
Cling to Me, for I will never forsake you,
I Am Faithful to end!”
written by Arlene Miranda, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

Springs in the Midst of the Valleys

Yes. This is how I would describe my past week.
Isaiah 41:17,18, 20 says,

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I the Lord, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel, I will not forsake them.

I will open rivers on the bare heights, and springs in the midst of the valleys, I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water….

That they may see and recognize and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the Lord has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it!”

If it weren’t for the rivers, the springs, and the fountains of water along the way, we would be completely hopeless, hurting, and needy. Yet the Lord Himself is well acquainted with our afflictions and He has seen to it that we are not forsaken. The path we’ve been treading upon has been rocky and even though it would drop down into another deeper valley, God has refreshed us! Springs in the midst of the valleys…that is what He’s given us and the water is sweet and most satisfying.

This week was all about identifying the side effects of chemotherapy and knowing how to treat it before it gets out of hand. The Lord has been so gracious to us. It’s been a full week and the effects still have been minimal: tiredness & fatigue and a heightened sense of smells are the two dominant ones with a little bit of nausea. (I told Paul that this is the closest he’ll get to feeling pregnant! Ha!) What has been more of a concern now is Paul’s left eye. Last week, his eye pressure was at the frightening level of 38. Four days ago, Paul went back for a same day appt at Kaiser Richmond because his eye was not responding to that 5th medication that was prescribed a couple days before. We found out that his eye pressure increased even more to 40. (Paul had lost some peripheral vision on his right eye at this level.) You can call this another valley. What can we do except press hard into Him and trust that He will prove Himself faithful in our uncertainties? Normal eye pressure should be in the low teens; at this point if it stays this high, surgery is imperative. We’re just not sure how that works in with chemo treatments or if that’s even possible at all...we’ll find out at Paul’s appointment with Dr. Lee, the eye specialist. We are grateful that even though her appointment book was jam packed, they still forced us in to her schedule first thing Monday morning! We shall wait expectantly on the Lord to walk us through.

Last week I made mention of our daughter Jenna’s illness. (definitely a deeper valley!) She was diagnosed with an awful virus that we were told would last for 2 weeks to even 3 months or more. Not only that, she had the added complication of some inflammation in her kidneys that caused us to go to the hospital every morning to get blood work done until the kidney specialist was satisfied with the lab results. For Jenna, being this ill was devastating as she was preparing to participate in her school’s first ever Miss Apache Pageant which was just one week away from her present condition. Our hearts were broken as we so wanted to share this fun high school experience with her and hear her sing her heart out for the “talent” phase of the pageant. What else could we do in this valley but cry out to our God who hears and heals? Literally, within 2 days, all her symptoms of tiredness and fatigue, mild night time fever & chills, swollen lymph glands in her neck that made it difficult to swallow let alone sing, all disappeared! Absolutely incredible, isn’t it? I still can't believe that she's all better! We’ve heard of many who have suffered through this virus leaving them debilitated and stuck in bed for months! But our God has made her well and last night, to Him be all the glory, not only did we have the joy of seeing her stand up and sing her heart out, Jenna was crowned Miss Apache 2008!! (Click on the link to see Jenna sing.) http://youtube.com/watch?v=Kt048QmRae8

Miss Apache 2008

...our own Jenna Miranda!

1st runner up: Elizabeth Soto (left) and 2nd runner up: Dawn Faolui (right)

The Fantastic 4

Sophia, Liz, Jenna, and Genevieve..best friends since 9th grade.

Introducing Ms. Jaguar 2000 and Ms. Apache 2008!

Faren, Jenna's cousin was the the first to be crowned Ms. Jaguar at Jesse Bethel, too.

(I guess it runs in the family.)

Paul was so thankful to witness this unforgettable moment with us! Yes…he did come with us claiming that love makes you do crazy things like break every rule of chemo treatment warnings of going to crowded public gatherings and restaurants (which we did as well at Applebees...I know, we’re bad but we had to celebrate with our Miss Apache at the restaurant of her choice!) It bordered on being reckless but I was so thankful that the Lord gave Paul peace that his well-being is in the hands of the Almighty and it allowed him to cherish and enjoy this sweet memorable time with our Jenna.

We give the Lord all thanks and praise who has done wondrous things before our eyes. We have seen and recognized that the hand of the Lord has done this! What a gusher of a spring!!

It’s amazing that though there were times not even mentioned this week of being lonely out in the bare heights or the valleys, and feeling lost in the wilderness or dry lands, God has faithfully led us to many rivers, springs, and fountains found richly in His Word as well as in the form of cards, emails, phone calls, meals, rides for our children, groceries & gifts from you, our dear friends and brothers & sisters, who have come alongside us to refresh us. What’s more remarkable is that while in the midst of our valleys, we find ourselves lingering and savoring His abundant provisions. He is so good!

May the Lord give you eyes to see and recognize, to consider and gain insight of the springs He gives you in the midst of your valleys. It is a work of His hands…glorify Him!


1. When You lead me to the valley of vision, I can see You in the heights. And though my humbling wouldn't be my decision, It's here Your glory shines so bright. So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown, To be low is to be high, That the valley's where You make me more like Christ.

Let me find Your grace in the valley. Let me find Your life in my death, Let me find Your joy in my sorrow, Your wealth in my need, That You're near with every breath...In the valley.

2. In the daytime there are stars in the heavens. But they only shine at night. And the deeper that I go into darkness, The more I see their radiant light. So let me learn that my losses are my gain, To be broken is to heal, That the valley's where Your power is revealed.

Let me find Your grace in the valley. Let me find Your life in my death, Let me find Your joy in my sorrow, Your wealth in my need. That You're near with every breath...In the valley.

By Sovereign Grace Praise 2006

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Mercies of God

As I was starting my chemo treatment, Arlene was reading Psalm 18 to me. This verse was such a comfort: "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears." -Psalm 18:6
God always knows what we need to hear! He is actively involved in our moments of distress, and I am so thankful that my cries for help ascend to His ears and He lovingly responded with mercy! My first chemo treatment was successful! They were able to administer all 5 chemical agents and my body received it without any reactions.

It was a long 9 hour process but the LORD carried us through sending us affirmations of His kindness throughout the day. Before I went in to the back while I was registering, the Lord had me cross paths with an old high school friend whose mom had the same exact kind of cancer as me. Her mother was in the advanced stage of this cancer, very frail and sickly and had gained a lot of tumor weight. In fact, she wasn’t diagnosed until 2 weeks before she could have died, and has been undergoing many months of chemotherapy. God used this to reaffirm his merciful kindness to me in how mine was caught early on in its development. Moreover the Lord answered a very specific prayer request from the day before, for Him to set up “divine appointments” for me to be able to minister to those He puts in my path. This friend was also a good friend of Arlene’s in beauty school and in high school. We definitely have been & will be praying for her and her mother as we hope to see her again.

Shortly after I got settled in and hooked up to an IV, our doctor sent us the good news of all my tests. He informed us that the PET scan, sigmoidoscopy and bone marrow biopsy all came back normal! This is HUGE!! This means that I am truly only at stage 1 of my cancer development and will only need the 3 chemo treatments, not 6!! Praise GOD for his infinite mercies!!
The Lord also sent my way a wayward jolly nurse who happened to pop in and introduce herself to us. She stood there and rambled on about other “younger” patients who have had successful treatments with similar types of cancer. How encouraged we were to hear these stories. Again, the Lord knew what I needed to hear as those foreign chemical agents were being pumped into my veins! And as Arlene was going about her business picking up prescriptions and such, she, too, was greeted by familiar faces from church in the hallways to fellowship with and let us know that they are praying.

How we thank the Lord for giving us eyes to see His loving hand of mercy at work in our lives as he takes us through this journey.

Okay, Paul...Let me share some prayer requests! (If you haven’t guessed, Paul is dictating and I’m typing!)

  • It’s only been 48 hours so far, but we praise God that the only side effects he has been experiencing has been very minimal. He’s sleeping a lot, eating well, and has been able to take nice brisk walks outside with Silas.

  • Regarding the prayer request for the health of our family, last week on Saturday, Jenna came home from work feeling very weak and tired. Her condition seemed to worsen through the weekend into her school week and we had multiple visits to the hospital to get some lab work done. We thought we were in it for the long haul as this bug would need to run its course, but by Friday, the day Paul began chemo, Jenna’s health was on the mend and was actually able to go to school that day and sang the National anthem for the 3 consecutive rallys held at Vallejo High School! We weren’t able to be there of course but her friend was able to tape some of it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFQueRXh2Ok Isn’t God so amazing! Perhaps now we ought to pray that God would guard Paul in the midst of the sicknesses in our own home!

  • Another request would be for Paul’s glaucoma in his left eye. The pressure in his left eye has been stabilized with 4 different eye drops for quite some time but as of last Thursday’s appointment with his ophthalmologist, the pressure has increased from 14 to 38. 38 was the same level that his right eye was at before he needed surgery. Please pray that his eye would respond to the new 5th prescribed medication, that his eye pressure would drop and prevent possible vision damage and/or blindness. The need for surgery on this left eye and chemotherapy would make things complicated, if it’s even possible, due to the effects of chemo and low blood counts.

The Lord has continued to keep us dependent upon Him. We are all dependent upon His mercies, but it has been made more evident to me since He has ordained this trial in my life. This was so clearly stated in a line from a poem a sister (who survived breast cancer recently) at church wrote and gave us this morning: “There is a certain glory of the Master that can only be seen when the wind is contrary, and my ship is being tossed by the waves.”

“Behold we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” James 5:11

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Having Been with Jesus

Thursday, January 17, 2008

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Peter and John were uneducated and untrained men. They were mere fishermen. Yet the people saw something different about them, especially their critics, all who were of high priestly descent (v.6). They saw a confidence and assurance which, they had to acknowledge, came from a source outside of them. They began to recognize them as having been with Jesus! Who can dispute against a changed life? Who can refute against a personal testimony and win? The rulers and elders and scribes of that day couldn’t. Surely it must be true for today, too.

But then I think, “Do I live as one who can be recognized as having been with Jesus? Can people observe the confidence that comes only from You, Lord?” I do pray that this would be true of me; I pray this all the time, it seems! And yet, at times, I still have my doubts. There has been enough circumstances lately that make me feel quite at a loss and not too sure how my weaknesses and inadequacies are supposed to look like God’s strength and power. Sometimes I do get it, usually when someone else is going through a fiery trial and I see that He is their Strength and Refuge but it surely is another thing when I’m going through it and I’m in such great need to experience His very real Presence of Help and Strength and Peace in time of trouble.

“LORD, please gird me with Your strength and put within me Your confidence that I am so desperately in need of!” Everyday I face opposition!
I battle with fear of what’s to come and what to do when the unexpected happens.
I battle with my inability to understand cancer and chemotherapy and its scary side effects.
I battle with time management of what should be my “normal routine” as I feel pulled in different directions. Is there really such a thing as “normal”?
I battle with feelings of inadequacy and ineffectiveness.
I even battle feeling guilty for being so overwhelmed by my present circumstances because I know that there are many whose struggles are far more greater than ours.

But if there was one who could tell you not to worry or be afraid because he’s got everything in control and won’t allow you to have more than you can handle (Matthew 6:27; 1 Corinthians 10:13)
Or if there was one who told you that you don’t have to try to understand it all and become a pharmacist overnight because he’s intimately acquainted with how our body works and knows exactly what it needs (Psalm 139:13-16)
If there was one who told you that he knows all the deeds that must be accomplished by you because he’s ordained them & made you perfectly fitted to do them, not one more nor less (Philippians 1:6, 2:13; Ephesians 2:10; James 1:2-4)
If this one told you that your abilities and accomplishments or lack thereof doesn’t change his love and acceptance of you (Jeremiah 31:3; Titus 3:4-5)
If there was one who told you that every single little care and concern of yours down to losing one single strand of hair was his genuine concern too because he’s compassionate and mindful of our frailty (Matthew 10:30; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 103:13-14; Matthew 6)
Then I would have to say that I do know of One who has told me these things; He told me again of them today. I have been with my Jesus and He’s not going to let me go.