Sunday, August 20, 2017

Complete in Thee

I spent Friday and Saturday at a ladies' retreat. I had registered earlier this summer since I figured by August I might need an Oasis. Even though our summer has been so much better than I expected I'm still glad I went. I feel like I was able to stand underneath a waterfall and be thoroughly refreshed.

I loved the practical workshops. I enjoyed the hours of conversation (with many of you!) uninterrupted by children and other distractions. I enjoyed the meals and special touches of beauty. The singing was marvelous, though far too often I was deep in conversation and forgot the time and missed the beginning of the singing.

But best of all were the main sessions. The topic was Complete In Christ. There was so much life-giving truth shared about how we can bring our brokenness to Christ to be healed by Jesus.

Here are a few of the songs shared this weekend that ministered to me.




Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Off the Shelf

It has been months. . .umm. . .make that a year, since I've listed the books I'm enjoying. The last "Off the Shelf" post was last June. Sometimes it seems that all I get read is prereading books for my children, but I still usually have a book or two of my own that I'm reading.

Here is a glimpse into the books that have captured my attention in the last year.




Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa Terkeurst
I wouldn't normally read a book about weight loss, but, wow, this book is so much more. It made me consider my obsessions, my pity parties, and if there anything I seek to find strength besides God.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.



Upstairs in the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West
The head usher shares stories of his job in the White House under five presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon. I felt like I was able to walk the stairs of that famous house. This is an old book and doesn't contain all the sleazy details that a modern book would maybe feel compelled to share.



Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
I love food writing and this book was a treat as I followed Reichl as she started her new job as restaurant critic for the New York Times and found that her photo was in every restaurant kitchen in NYC. With disguises, she managed to get inside restaurants without being detected. I enjoyed her writing so much that I read Tender to the Bone where Reichl writes of her own personal food history beginning in her dysfunctional home. I loved the insights into growing up in the 60's though Reichl does not at all write from a Christian perspective.



There's Got to Be More by Melissa Eby
But after reading about expensive restaurant meals, this books was a refreshment. A young farming couple in the midwest wondered if there was more to life than a successful business and a happy family. A farming accident took Rueben's leg but didn't stop him from seeking more ways to serve God. Spending time at a home from handicapped children in VA and far-flung spots such as Haiti, Pakistan, Israel, and Bangladesh, a missing limb never slowed down this couple from sharing the love of Christ. An inspiring true story.



84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff
Immediately after World War 2, a small newspaper ad began a correspondence between a money-strapped writer in NYC and an antique bookseller in London. This short classic collects those letters and gives a window into post-war London. To learn the rest of the story, I picked up Q's Legacy by the same author that tells of her writing journey.



Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
I'm fascinated with the topic of habits and how to make permanent life changes. Since I loved the Heaths' Made to Stick, I thought they'd do this topic well. And they did. Their many varied stories and illustrations encouraged me as a parent to work at finding the bright spots, encouraging a growth mindset, and shaping a path to build good habits.



The Day the World Came to Town by Jim Defede
What happens when the US air space is closed and dozens of planes over the Atlantic are rerounted to Canada? On September 11, 2001, the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland hosted thousands of unexpected guests. This warm story describes events and the people who were caught in the drama of that historic day.



In the Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord
The five years that McCord spent in Afghanistan gave her a love from the women of that country and she shares that love with her readers. Full of her conversations around the tea tables behind the tall walls, I gained an appreciation for the hope I have in Christ that so many in this world lack. Though it tells some sad stories, it isn't the kind of book that makes me wish I could scrub a few scenes from my mind. This book was a gift to me from a Home Joys reader who thought I'd love it - and she was right.



David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
In Gladwell's typical style, he takes us on a journey to visit a familiar Bible story, war-torn Ireland, college campuses, a children's cancer ward, and Birmingham to expose connections that I would have never uncovered. And as always, the trip is a joy.

I haven't been reading a lot of books about cancer this summer. I'm not sure if that is good or bad. A Home Joys reader sent me What Cancer Cannot Do by Phylis Ten Elshof, a small gift book that I found super encouraging. I also read When Cancer  Clouds the Sky by Beverly E. Hannah. Beverly is a local author who recently self-published a book about her personal cancer journey. Since Ed is a printer, he sometimes gets to connect with local authors and it has been a joy to get to know Beverly.

I also bought myself another copy of A Grace Disguised: How a Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser. I had given my copy away and this is one book that I thought I needed to reread this summer. Sittser has so many great insights on grief and God's grace. I haven't gotten to far in rereading it since it got on Ed's side of the bed.

What are you reading? By looking at the books I've enjoyed, do you have a book suggestion for me to read next? That is, after I finish the half dozen books that are presently on my bedside.

(This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase at Amazon, I get a small payment at no additional cost  to you. Thanks.)


Monday, August 7, 2017

Immortal Love

Yesterday morning at church, Ed preached his first sermon in nearly three months. The last time he preached was the day before his intense headaches began. A lot has happened since then.

Ed preached on the will of God, which is a topic he has thought a lot about these last months. Ed has always disliked how easy tears come for him, but I love that he has a soft heart just like his dad. And yesterday I know his audience understood his emotion.

Ed asked the congregation to sing "Immortal Love, Within Whose Righteous Will" which I never remember singing. The words are poignant.

Immortal Love, Within Whose Righteous Will
by Stopford A. Brooke

Immortal love, within whose righteous will
Is always peace,
O pity me, storm-tossed on waves of ill;
Let passion cease;
Come down in  power within my heart to reign,
For I am weak, and striving has been vain.

The days are gone, when far and wide my will
Drove me astray;
And now I fain would climb the arduous hill,
That narrow way,
Which leads through mists and rocks to Thine abode,
Toiling for man, and Thee, Almighty God.

Whate'er of pain They loving hand allot
I gladly bear;
Only, O Lord, let peace be not forgot,
Nor yet Thy care,
Freedom from storms, and wild desires within,
Peace from the fierce oppression of my sin.

So may I, far away, when evening falls
On life and love,
Arrive at last the holy, happy halls,
With Thee above;
Wounded, yet healed, sin grieving, yet forgiv'n,
And sure that Jesus is my hope of heav'n.
Amen.

I could not find a recording of these words with the tune by Charles H. Purday that Hymns of the Church includes. But I did find a video of the same beautiful tune to different (though equally beautiful) words, "Unto the Hills." If you listen to this recording maybe you can sing the above words to the same tune. (If you are reading by email you might need to click over to the website to view the video.)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Celebrate and Praise

Six weeks ago Ed started what seemed to be a daunting treatment regime. Six weeks of daily oral chemo (7 days a week) and radiation (5 days a week.) 

They gave us the list of side effects. The type of chemo he was taking is usually well-tolerated, we were told. But after the first day of violent vomiting, Ed thought six weeks looked long. But with the help of an anti-nausea pill, he never had any nausea after that first day. 

But radiation had a whole list of side effects. We were told to expect that after a few weeks the radiation would cause swelling on Ed's brain and that all the effects he had with his tumor before surgery - the headaches, confusion, fatigue - even the possibility of seizures - would return. He would probably need to go back on steroids to control these effects, which Ed dreaded because it affected his ability to sleep. He was told he wouldn't be able to drive, certainly not work. 

I sat in the cancer center waiting room that first morning and figured I'd get to know that place very well if I'd drive Ed into the office every morning for six weeks. 

But that was the last time I sat in that waiting room. 

Ed has felt good the entire six weeks. Except for that first day, he has driven himself to his radiation appointments at 7:45 a.m. and then went to work. He usually came home from work mid-afternoon ready to take a nap. He still says his strength hasn't fully returned since surgery, but being able to stay busy has certainly helped him feel more sane.

Ed never had any headaches. He didn't need steroids. He has a radiation burn on his forehead and most of his hair fell out, but he has a great appetite, he sleeps well, and he says that if he had not been told differently, he would not know there was anything wrong with him. 

His oncologist says that Ed is doing so well because he is young and in good health. The doctor that is doing the ketogenic study says that the keto diet can help reduce inflammation and the need for steroids.  Maybe they are both right. But Ed and I are quite willing to give the glory to God. We know that so many of you have been praying for Ed. God is able to work a miracle of good health these last six weeks.

But I know that sometimes God doesn't answer our prayers the way we wish. 

Marlita is only in her early twenties and was diagnosed with cancer at about the same time as Ed. She too has a supportive church and a circle of friends and family who know how to pray. But Marlita has spent the last two months in and out of the hospital and her health continues to decline. You can check out Marlita's Caring Bridge. I don't know Marlita personally, but she is a friend of some of my friends. (Edit: On Tuesday, August 1, God answered Marlita's prayers by taking her Home.)
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
What's next for Ed? The plan is for Ed to have five days of chemo every month as a maintenance program. Since Ed responded so well to forty-two straight days chemo, five days looks relatively easy. 

Of course we are eager to find out if the treatment has made any impact on Ed's tumor. Is it growing? Staying the same? Shrinking? But the doctor says that there is no point in doing an MRI now because they can't accurately see the results until several months after radiation when the swelling has decreased. 

So we get to exercise some patience for the next two or three months.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Like a River Glorious

In the early hours of today, a 41-year-old, the father of eight children, slipped into glory after a year-long battle with advanced melanoma.

I didn't know Richard and Christine Zimmerman until a mutual friend told me that he was having brain surgery the day after Ed. Through their contact I was able to have a long phone conversation with his wife. We compared stories, but mostly I wanted to hear from Christine how she has survived the last year. Her testimony of God's grace in the midst of very hard things has been an inspiration to me.


This is a photo of Richard and Christine Zimmerman and their eight children, taken last year before his diagnosis. I ache to think of those six boys without their dad.

I've been thinking of the word to the hymn Like a River Glorious by Frances R. Havergal. In Christine's texts the last couple weeks, as Richard's physical health slipped lower and lower, she continual wrote about the mighty hand of God that was carrying them and of the strength of Richard's faith.  "They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true."

Like a River Glorious
  1. by Frances R. Havergal

  2. Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
    Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
    Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
    Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
    • Refrain:
      Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
      Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
  3. Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
    Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
    Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
    Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
  4. Every joy or trial falleth from above,
    Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
    We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
    They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Glioblastoma and King Asa

Glioblastoma. The word was in the news' headlines last week when Senator John McCain announced that he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable brain cancer.

I remember the day I first read that word. On May 12, two days after a MRI showed a tumor in Ed's brain, I read over Ed's radiology report. I saw the words "Assume glioblastoma until proven otherwise" and a few keystrokes later had googled "glioblastoma." The startling statistics made me quickly exit the page and hope the pathology report would indeed prove otherwise. But ten days later the diagnosis came back: Glioblastoma Multiforme or GBM.

There are some words that almost instantly define who you are. Words like orphan, quadriplegic, blind, refugee, and GBM. For Ed (and for Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, Beau Biden, and so many others) life can become defined as before GBM and after GBM.

I've had lots of time in the past two months to consider our reactions to a health crisis.

The first reaction is often fear. We are confronted with something we cannot fully control. We fear suffering and pain, both physical and emotional. We are afraid of the medical decisions, treatments, side effects, and the unknowns. We fear death and separation.

Anger is another option. When God allows our health to be taken, we find out how important our health is. Sometimes health has stolen the place that belongs to God and become an idol. When we lose something that we think belongs to us, something we think we deserve, it is easy to become bitter.

I've heard Ed say more than once in the last weeks that we don't think we are that person in James who boasts about what he plans to do. (You can read it here in James 4:13-16.) But when you are told your life, without a miracle, may be measured in months instead of years, you realize that God is right (of course) and that life is truly a vapor. Ed and I are trying to heed the command "For that ye ought to say, 'If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.' " (James 4:15)

I think it is normal and right to desire life. We want to care for our bodies as the temple of God, (1 Cor. 6:19) and God gives us wisdom to research cures for illness. I have spent hours reading medical information on GBM and the fine print of clinical trials. I could possibly find hope in the statistics that say that Ed's age of forty, his good health, and the location of his tumor all are to his advantage. But I think it is wiser to look at our human frailty and place our hope in God alone. 

A few weeks ago a Home Joys reader brought the story of King Asa to my attention. When Asa was a young man faced with an attack from a huge army, he prayed "Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power; help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude." (2 Chron 14:11)  And the Lord delivered Asa from his enemies and he experienced years of peace.

But when Asa was 36 years old, another enemy came against his country. This time, instead of calling on God, Asa took the gold from the temple of God and sent it to a neighboring nation asking for their assistance. And it seemed to work; they were able to drive out the enemy.

But God sent Hanani the prophet to King Asa. Hanani reminded Asa of God's deliverance in the past and told him "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." (2 Chron 16:9) He predicted that Asa would now have wars because he had not turned to God.

Did King Asa repent and turn back to God? No. He was so angry with the prophet that he put Hanani in prison. He also began to oppress his people.

A few years later King Asa had a disease in his feet. The Bible says that it was an "exceeding great" disease. Maybe God was hoping that a physical illness would help Asa see his need for God, but 2 Chronicles 16:12 says that "in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians." At age 41, the king that had started his career serving God and destroying idols, died. 

The lesson is obvious. When we look at the facts of our human weakness, especially evident with a disease like glioblastoma, we must trust God. Sometimes God's best answer to our prayers is a glorious life with Him. We don't have to fear the death of our physical body, but should fear the spiritual death that comes from a soul filled with bitterness. (Matthew 10:28)

O Lord our God, we rest on thee.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Little Get-Away


A few photos of our little anniversary get-away last weekend.


If you are looking for a quiet spot in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, back a long lane, with no cell-phone service or wi-fi, where you can't hear or see any people or vehicles - I recommend the Sweethearts' Country Cottage. 


Ed and I always enjoy cooking together. Brings back memories of our honeymoon cabin in Alaska where we cooked up lots of good eating.


I even wore the dress I wore on our honeymoon - not that Ed would have noticed or remembered. Some of these things we women do for our own enjoyment.


This food blog sure hasn't seen much mention of food the last two months. Ed continues the ketogetic diet, but we are now making our own food instead of the doctor-supplied meals. Being away from home made meals a challenge, we especially missed stopping for ice cream, but we managed to eat well. This night we made garlic-rosemary chicken with bacon and steamed broccoli. 


The weather in the mountains was ten degrees cooler than at home and we could enjoy our coffee on the porch. But we were super glad we had AC.


Breakfast was an omelet with kale, peppers, and onion with bacon which fueled a walk in the woods.


In the past we have always visited the cottage in the winter when it was snow-covered. This time it was fun to explore the area surrounding the cottage. There were amazing stone walls; some higher than my head. We imagined the hardy farmer and his family who stacked the thousands of stones in these walls.


Ed has been missing crunchy snacks so I figured out a way to make cinnamon-roasted pecans slightly sweetened with stevia. I admit to eating more of these than he did.


Lunch was ham salad on a bed of spinach.


Then we went back to civilization and did some shopping. We went out to eat where Ed tried to choose a keto-friendly meal of fish and broccoli. I don't think we did too badly on his diet that weekend, but we weren't rigorously weighing his food and counting carbs like we do at home and his glucose numbers were higher than normal that evening.


Ed continues to lose hair from radiation and he had me shave all that remained so he needed to find a hat to protect his tender scalp.


We ended the day with some mini-golf. Ed felt incredibly good all day, but was tired by evening. By then we were refreshed, blessed, and ready to go home and be with our children again. 

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