Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chasing Rainbows

The water vapor fell in a soft pattern, the fine mist drifting to the earth like snow. The rain sparkled as it hit the surface of the turquoise water in our backyard, dazzling my eyes like the sparkling diamonds in my mother's new Christmas bracelet.

"There must be a rainbow," I thought to myself as I gathered on layers and headed outside, dog in tow. I searched the puffy tufts of white against the shocking backdrop of an exquisite sunrise, rays bursting through in an awesome display of God's handiwork. I left empty-handed of what I came looking for.

As I think back to the expectations I had for Christmas morning's perfection, I come up short. I never say enough of the right thing, temper my manner with enough kind gentleness, smile often enough, express enough gratitude.

I wanted to repair wounds with stuff, yet the tangible never fixes the intangible.

I wanted to give a hundred gifts; instead, I received them.

First it was the morning greeting from my still alive husband. "Merry Christmas," he said to me, groggy from a mixture of the previous night's sleeplessness and the enduring tiredness that chemo and Cancer bring.  Then Santa, Mrs. Claus and their four children visited with a red velvet bag stocked full of goodies from their sleigh. Afterwards, more goodies from my parents, including the gift of their presence. My brother was in a typical mood but it turned around, which was another Christmas blessing. Later, the annual picture was taken, a gifted Christmas ham was consumed, and stories were shared about the past. Phone calls to distant relatives and hugs goodbye punctuated the night.

Then sadness came.

I grieved for the conversations that weren't shared, the constraints of time and, as always, Ryan's illness. Yet, as I looked around, we were all tainted in one way or another - my missing thyroid, my father's diabetes, my brother's Down syndrome, my mother's lung condition, and now this year, Ryan's Cancer.

Ryan grieves annually on this day too, for broken relationships and distant memories of people who have moved on, even though he has not. He grieved anew, wondering if it was the end.

"No this is not the end, not today," I said. "And would God want you to go on depressed and moping for the next ten or twenty or forty Christmases He allows you to have?" I asked.

Sadness remained.

When I see the perfect weather combination to create a rainbow, I can be like Eeyore thinking that me missing one rainbow means I shouldn't bother looking again. Or I can be like the hopeful Pooh bear, who keeps trying, keeps searching.

I choose to be like Pooh bear, and will keep trusting in a God who always has my best interest at heart.

If you can't find me, I'm outside chasing rainbows.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Detours

"Oh, if I could only get them a gift, to thank them for all they've done for us this year, then I could..." I thought to myself as my thoughts trailed off. I was in an internal struggle, a battle of the wills against myself. I want to get out of debt and prepare for that large medical deductible coming up on January 1st, yet I want to show the people who have helped us just how appreciative we are that they have given so much to us this year. As I was going back and forth, I realized something was wrong.

Was that my freeway exit I just passed?

"Oh NO!" I thought. "I just passed the only exit for miles, and now I'll have to go so far out of the way to get to where I want to go!"

Well, I decided not to get upset and just use the time I had to prepare a different route and get some lunch on my detour.

As I munched on my lunch, I thought about my special "day out" with the baby, delivering small tokens of appreciation to the doctors who helped to make Talitha healthy and here, safe and sound. At my first office visit, Dr. Linzey wasn't there. I was pretty disappointed, but thanked the nurses who helped take care of us. Where else could I have such a wonderful and warm conversation with someone holding a tray of shiny speculums?

As I was saying goodbye, a lady with great calves told me with tears in her eyes that she would pray for Ryan and our family. It turns out she's a personal trainer (I want calves like THAT!) and Cancer hits home for her. I was so blessed by our conversation that I knew I had missed my exit today, that God ordained my mistake JUST so I could talk to her.

As I left Dr. Linzey's office and walked down the hallway, I heard the bell of the elevator and got there just to see the doors closing. I was bummed because I've spent many minutes in the past waiting for those doors to open. Then, only ten seconds later, another elevator arrived and when the doors opened, there stood Dr. Linzey!

The baby and I were able to spend a few precious moments with the man who prayed over Ryan as everything was unfolding during my pregnancy. If I had caught the other elevator, I would never have had the opportunity I did to see Dr. Linzey. I was thrilled that God allowed that!

During my last stop I was able to see the wonderful staff at my In Vitro clinic, HOPE IVF, and say hi to Dr. Wong. They loved seeing the baby and just how much she's grown since I brought her in March. The little token of appreciation I brought them pales in comparison to the gift both God and they gave me in Talitha.

Looking back on the experience, I think about how it took me six years and a few surgeries in order to be ready to have a baby. I was very frustrated that it took so long to get pregnant, that I had to use In Vitro to achieve it in the first place and then even more upset that Ryan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Stomach Cancer during my ninth month of pregnancy.

"Are you sure this is how it should be, God?" I asked Him. "Doesn't it seem a bit strange that after all the years of waiting I would get pregnant and have a baby all at the time that Ryan got his Cancer diagnosis?" I questioned God, wondering about the timing of everything.

"Anna, I don't make mistakes," the Holy Spirit whispered to me.

Then I had images flash through my mind of Ryan's joy when he held Talitha in his arms, or he laughed as she made a funny noise with a big grin on her face, even though he had Cancer. No, I was the one who made the mistake. God's timing is perfect, every time.

I am so grateful that my big God doesn't waste any opportunities for me to learn something He wants to teach me. Those agenda items that I see as detours are really divinely planned opportunities!

This reminded me of Proverbs 16:9:

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

What divine 'detour' is God using in your life to teach you an important lesson?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Split Life

As I learn more and more about Cancer, my world feels as though it is getting smaller. Before, I was lost in a sea of unknowns, fumbling through the darkness of unanswered questions and future unknowns. Even though I still don't have answers, we have been through enough similar doctor appointments to know, for the most part, what to expect.

Imagine your life split into two realities - one week where life continues as it did before the Cancer diagnosis, with work, dinner plans, limited social events, church and raising a child.

But the other week is a different story. Ryan knows what it feels like to be THAT sick on chemo, and he anticipates it as Tuesday draws near. He says he would rather endure these treatments every other week for the rest of his life, potentially years and years, if it means he gets to stay here to be my husband a much-needed father to his daughter. I cannot even imagine the dread I'd feel. I really despise being sick, yet he wants to do that for me. For us.

Love.

That's the only way I can explain it to myself because if it were me I think I would give up. I wouldn't want to live being so sick I couldn't function for five days straight every other week of my life. I wouldn't want to endure the insomnia, nausea, weight loss, numbness and fear. But what is the alternative? What choices does Ryan really have?

Love.

It motivates him to continue on, to keep working and keep fighting this Cancer. We're living our lives as best we can, and that means many quiet nights and a stunted social calendar. I am learning to focus on what blessings I have rather than what we've lost. And I see the love of Jesus Christ as well as the love of my husband.

I am blessed, so very blessed. I have a husband who fights through the fog of chemo, the uncertain future, and the difficulties of living with Cancer all to shine God's glory and share God's love.

In my split life, I still know I am so blessed.


The Gift Exchange

"Oh, I think I'll take that," I heard as the woman "stole" my beloved stuffed cow out of my hands at a gift exchange years ago. I was so heartbroken that I actually cried right then and there. I went home devastated over losing a large, used stuffed animal, rather than focusing on the joy of getting to know people and have fun at a party. Ryan bought me two large stuffed animals the next day, yet I still mourned the loss of THAT cow. Sadly, I was 28.

Last night I was at another gift exchange and this time I was a lot less attached to what I got because I knew it could be "stolen" from me at any moment. As I looked around at the women enjoying themselves, laughing (or fake crying) when things got "stolen" (including the blue scarf I "stole" from someone else), I saw that they were truly enjoying themselves because they didn't take it so seriously. Many of them picked from unopened gifts rather than stealing something opened from someone else because the idea of something new was more exciting. And everyone left the Christmas party with a smile on their face.

This group of women, as with the other people at gift exchange I attended many years ago, definitely knew how to have fun and how to receive gifts well. As every present opened, there was an "Ooh" or "Ahh" in response. I loved watching people opening and wearing their accessory gifts.

As I think of all the gift giving exchanges that will take place in the month of December, I think about the one gift that will truly make a difference and cannot be stolen during this holiday season: the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. I don't need to focus on all the hoopla at the mall, rather I need to focus on heaven promised by the Son of Man. Even if I cannot give much monetarily, I know that I tell others of the free gift of spending eternity with God. The best part is that you get to exchange your old life for one that is brand new and don't have to do anything yourself but accept his free gift!

If you don't already know Christ as your Lord and Savior, let me tell you about him. He's saved me, changed my life dramatically, and has also given me a new hope for an eternal destination after I am done with this life. If you already know him, please share what he's done in your life in a comment below!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Twelve Years Ago

DELETE

I hit the delete button. I knew it would upset my parents that I'd given up on taking the GRE for the fourth time, but I knew my score wasn't going to improve anyway. Besides, I felt like Cinderella because I had to get to the singles dance at Saddleback Church and it started in 15 minutes!

I rushed home, got dressed up in a floor length black dress I wore for my choir performances and left in my powder blue 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass. I looked at the hunter green flier that I'd picked up the previous Sunday to double check the date and make sure I was going on the right night. As I drove to the dance, I hoped that I would have a good time praying to God that He would allow me to honor him in everything I said and did.

As I got out of my car, two gentlemen my dad's age greeted me. The younger looking man had short, wavy black hair and looked a little like Elvis Costello. "Elvis" asked if I had an escort to the door and I said no. He asked if they could escort me and I said yes. We chatted pleasantly until we got to the door.

The woman taking tickets at the door was my Mom's age. I didn't think anything about it until I walked into the sanctuary and saw most everyone had grey hair. Everyone, not just the men I met and the ticket taker, was over 55 because it was the 55+ singles dance!!! Well, I'd paid $20 to get in, so I thought I would just make the best of it.

I saw a gentleman from my roommates Bible study whom I'd met about a month previous. I walked up to him and said hi. He was from Kentucky, approximately 10 years older than me, and was about my height with sandy brown hair. I was not interested in getting to know him to have a dating relationship with him but he was the only person I knew in the room. We were about three sentences into our conversation when a tall, dark and handsome man walked by me.

This man was wearing a swing dance style shirt, with a grey panel down the middle of a mostly black shirt. He wore dark grey corduroy pants that almost matched. It made me laugh because I dressed in a very similar fashion. I watched where he sat down and made a mental note that I had to talk to him.

Then a swing dance song came on. The DJ for the night was a woman who insisted that there were not enough people on the dance floor and it was a sign that the women in the room had to start being bold and asking the men to get out there and dance. I was still talking to Mr. Kentucky when, by the fourth announcement for the women to be bold, I decided to go for it.

"I'm sorry, I need to go," I said to him.

I walked right up to him.

"Do you know how to swing dance?" I asked.

"Uh, yeah," he said. (Was he really talking to a redhead?)

"Great!" I said as I grabbed his hand and led him to the dance floor.

We started dancing and after the third song went back to the table and talked. His Dad Dale was there with a date, and he introduced me to him. I was so excited, nervous, and flustered. I couldn't wait to get to talk to Ryan more, even though we were sitting there together!

We joked about forgetting each other's names, learned that both of us had motorcycle licenses (except he was the only one with two motorcycles) and he pretended not to want to talk to me anymore because I didn't know how to speak Swahili.

After much conversation we got some snacks and went outside. We ended up standing on a well lit balcony and threw strawberries at bunnies.

When we went back inside we danced some more, shared more jokes and laughter and obviously hit it off. When we returned to the table, I learned that Ryan's Dad had won the door prize to go to the Newport Harbor Parade of Lights. Dale passed the tickets over to Ryan so we could go together. And I was glad Dale had talked Ryan into getting snacks instead of going home to work on his remote control helicopters because otherwise we would never have met!

Ryan formally asked me out on a date and I said yes. I was very excited, to say the least!

At the end of the night he walked me to my car, and told me he drove a baby poop brown 1971 Datsun 510 station wagon. (When his roommate at the time found out about my car, he said we were a "match made in heaven.")  As he hugged me, he clapped me on the back like I was another man and I said, "I don't need to be burped!" He knew he was in trouble and I knew I was in love.

I called my Mom that night and told her I'd found the man I would someday marry, God's perfect match for me.

It was December 15, 2000, exactly twelve years ago today.

Friday, December 14, 2012

v17 The Love Box

"Tell us your story," the Bible study leader said to me yesterday. I proceeded to talk about how Ryan was ill only a little over a year ago, with fatigue and back pain signalling a new pathway for our lives, leading us down the road to Cancer. As I told my story, I thought about how our marriage began.

On our wedding day, I never thought I would see Ryan get sick with Cancer. Never.

I never thought after our nine year wedding anniversary Ryan would be lying in bed very sick, and we would both be crying when we thought about him dying and leaving me here to fend for our family alone. I never thought I would snuggle up to him and feel weight loss. I never thought finding a now over-sized belt to hold on the two-sizes too big pants he wears would be a very important daily event.

How could I anticipate making three trips to the hospital (sometimes four) every other week, driving an hour to get there without traffic and another hour to return home? When could I have dreamed about people coming to help us, giving us their love, prayers, phone calls, text messages, gifts for the baby or a listening ear? Could I have dreamed that Riverwalk Pet Resort would care for Bean as though he was their own when I was too overwhelmed with my responsibilities, strangers would deliver meals twice a week to our home through Soup's On, our church family would come together to complete our kitchen remodel or a family who owns a karate shop would ask their clients families to donate diapers to Talitha? Who could have told me I would grow close to a handful of women whom I would meet with on Mondays or that an entire Bible study of women who, for the most part, I don't even know would get together and shower my family with prayers and gifts, wrapped in a "Love Box?" Would I have believed it?

As the women from this Bible study laid hands on Talitha and I, I felt blessed by their prayers, my aching heart soothed by their petitions sent up to God to heal my ailing husband. They included me in their Christmas party, treating me like one of them. They invited me to join their study in the new year, too.

As I ate the delicious meal that was provided within a gorgeous, well-decorated house, I thought of my own home. The quiet hum of our refrigerator and soft Christmas music are frequently the only sounds here when the baby is sleeping and I could hear the melodious sounds echoing in my mind. I wondered how Ryan was feeling, probably still trying to sleep away the awful effects from the seventeenth round of chemo still lingering in his system. I felt a pang of guilt at enjoying myself so much while my husband laid in bed ill because it was one of the few times I left the house while Ryan was on chemo.

The vibrant and lively conversations of women who clearly care for one another reminded me of times past in my other two Monday Bible studies with fantastic fellowship and serene surroundings. I have always loved the fellowship of other women, except for the time after we say goodbye. I take a very detailed and critical look at everything I say and do wrong and it is hard to face the fact that I make so many mistakes daily. But I'm glad that God forgives me continuously and teaches others to forgive someone like me, too.

As I finished telling my story about Ryan becoming sick with Cancer, I sat in awe of God's goodness. Here, during Christmas, these women probably wanted to think about happy times and carefree living. Instead they were listening to my story and sharing their own trials. One woman was miraculously healed from a bad car accident. Another needed prayers for her sick daughter. She reminded me of one of the women in my Monday Bible study whose son is sick, too, and her joyful attitude is amazing. I was struck by how the suffering these women endured in their own lives didn't steal their joy one bit!

In fact, they were living proof of 1 Peter 4:13, which says:

1 Peter 4:13
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

My heart is overflowing with love from God through God's people and I am grateful for His provision and prayers through others. I am so blessed and cannot wait for the time when we are in the position to give back to others and pass along the Love Box.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

v17 D is for... Daddy

I stared out our new kitchen window at the view of the lovely hanging flower basket filled with pink Geraniums on our patio. My mind was wandering as I munched on some toast with homemade strawberry jam and thought about a game we like to play with our baby. One of my roommates from when I lived in San Francisco gave Baby T some foamy letters and we liked to call out words with the letter she stuck in her mouth. Most recently, she was sucking on the letter "D." Even though she was in bed, I thought it might be fun to think of words that start with D.

"D is for dread," I thought to myself, considering a different outcome for a future CT scan. I kept going... "D is for dreary, dark, dismal,... despair." Then I continued, "D is for difficult, dread, depressing, dank, daunting, disgusting, dumb, dead, Devil." As I felt my heart sinking, I stopped there. I knew where this train of thought was headed and needed to de-rail that train!

"Why don't you come over here and read your Bible?" Ryan called out to me. I was surprised to hear his voice because he usually stayed in bed for days after being hooked up to chemo. 'Read my Bible,' I thought to myself. 'That would mean that D is for Daddy.' My heavenly Father had disengaged that pattern of thought that led nowhere good and sent my mind in a new direction.

After eating some food and spending some time with Ryan, I felt much better, and some other words came to mind. "D is for determined, developed, distinct, disciplined,... disciple." Snuggled in bed with my sick husband on his 17th round of chemo, I started to dream about the Cancer as a distant memory.


v17 Squirt

"Is this as far as this thing goes?" Ryan asked. I looked at him, puzzled because I was intent on winning the carnival game and had turned my attention to get my water gun aimed perfectly. 

"On your marks, get set - GO!" the carnival worker shouted at us as the loud bell rang. I took a competitive stance and leaned into the game, watching my little whale move on the stationary waves, heading toward the finish line with my whale just in front of Ryan's. As I approached the finish line toward victory...

PSSSSHHHHHHHH! The water from Ryan's water gun splashed hard against my face making a loud splashing noise. Shocked, I dropped my water gun with my mouth gaping open - unable to believe that Ryan would do that to me. I was instantly soaking wet and clearly unable to focus on anything at that moment.

I was still in shock as he stopped squirting me and turned his attention back to the game, his whale splashing past mine and his voice exclaiming his win. 

Just as he won, I thought to myself, "Wait a minute, I could get him back!" I turned my water gun toward his face, pulled the trigger and watched as the water was shutting off, the spray barely getting his shoe wet before the arch of the decreasing water completely dried up. We laughed so hard we could hardly stand up.

He asked me which prize I would like, and I picked out a stuffed pink pig. We named her 'Squirt.'

I think we talked about it all afternoon, and every time we see Squirt perched atop some piece of furniture in our house, we laugh about the story again. 

I can remember the absolute shock I felt when that water hit my face. This is similar to the shock I felt when I learned about what the Son of God Jesus Christ did for me, when he died on the cross for my sins. He paid the penalty for me so I do not have to live eternally separated from Him. It is a shocking truth that is written in the words of the Bible. John 14:6 says:

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me..."

I see the same shocked expression on my face when I look at the picture of my baptism, too. 

I've been thinking about death a lot lately because of Ryan's Cancer and also because Christmas reminds us how Jesus came into the world to die for us. I know it's not time for Ryan to go yet, and we are praying for many more years to celebrate Christmas together. But I wonder how Mary felt, watching her firstborn Son die. And I cannot help but cry when I look at the pictures of friends and strangers who have buried their children as small babies. I am also sad when I think about my new friend who lost her husband to Parkinson's disease three years ago today. I know I shouldn't be thinking about death during Christmas, but it's hard not to right now.

Eternity, like being shot in the face with water, is shocking to think about. Do you know where you will go when you die?                                                                                                                                                            

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

v17 'Tis the Season


Dear Friend,

I suppose it's that time of the year, so I must write a holiday newsletter to update you on how our 2012 went, even though I know you already know the details. I want to be filled with joy during Christmas, yet my heart is more sad this year than it has ever been. Oh, I know I am blessed beyond measure and I'm grateful that I get to spend Christmas with Ryan this year. But Cancer hurts my heart in ways that are unforgettable.

At the beginning of this year, Ryan began to show signs of his Cancer, as he got more and more tired, was able to work less and lost weight. Eating was a battle and even small amounts of food caused him pain. He had a continual bloated feeling and we knew something wasn't right. His two local doctors, Dr. Christensen and Dr. Choi the Gastroenterologist, found the Stage IV Stomach Cancer on 2/24/12, just five days before we had our baby girl Talitha.

The birth of our daughter was overshadowed by Ryan's illness, but it was a bright beacon of hope in the grey weather pattern in our lives. Talitha Rose Waters was born on 2/29/12 at 1:15 a.m. weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces and was 21 inches long. She came into the world via emergency c-section, screaming with gusto but calmed by her Dad's loving hands. We spent five peaceful and amazing days at St. Joseph's Hospital, where the staff cared for all three of us because Ryan was so weak and tired. We didn't want to leave because we were so taken care of! The care continued for another two weeks at home, however, because Ryan's Mom stayed with us. Then our friends and my parents came with meals and stories about parenthood. Overall it was a wonderful distraction from the reality of Ryan's Cancer.

Thankfully a week after the baby was born we found hope at City of Hope and Ryan's received treatment from Dr. Lim and Ryan's nurse Eloise ever since. We've been going since March and today marks Chemo Round 17. Ryan's chemo dose has been cut over time, but we'd rather have that than another stay in the hospital! Plus most of his CT scans this year, including today's, have shown that his tumors are remaining unchanged, which is really, really good news. He's had many side effects including peripheral neuropathy in his hands and feet, tiredness, insomnia, dull pain, depression, and a small amount of amnesia. But God has been so faithful to get him through each round of chemo and allow the Cancer to be stable. God has been walking alongside our family and blessing us by bringing others into our lives who have been loving us in many tangible and helpful ways, especially through prayer.

Ryan's been able to work most weeks when he is not on chemo. God has blessed Ryan with the drive and desire to work and it's definitely helped to keep him in higher spirits. He is grateful for the prayers and encouragement from his coworkers at Trinity Automation.

We joined a new church at the beginning this year, Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills, and have been able to get plugged in. We've made some friendships, and both joined Bible Studies. Ryan and I have both been mentored by someone at the church and we are so thankful for that during the most difficult year of our lives. We've gotten to know a few pastors too, and that's been very, very helpful as well. We have never been ones to ask for help and we really haven't had to, but God has opened the door to receive lots of help in so many tangible ways from people who ask us what they can do to ease the burdens in our lives.

One of the most amazing ways we've received help after Ryan's diagnosis was from Ryan's Dad so we didn't have to worry about our medical bills. I stopped spending money frivolously and have paid off a lot of debt, thanks to listening to Dave Ramsey's advice. We received the gift of Financial Peace University from Nathan & Kara Norris and are so grateful  for their assistance in our journey to financial freedom. We still have a ways to go, but we have a goal and a way to meet it.

We've also been blessed by the people at Soup's On, a local organization of people who volunteer to feed people who have sick family members in the Corona area. They have rallied around us with food, tokens of love, prayer, and the graciousness of giving their time to listen to our hurting hearts. We are grateful to Ryan's friend from high school, Joel Muncaster, for getting that set up.

A pleasant "silver lining" to the storm cloud of Cancer has been the reconciliation of two previously strained friendships for both Ryan and me. Ryan having Cancer has taught both of us that life is too short not to fix stuff that's broken.

Our church has graciously offered to help finish what I started three years ago when I tore the backsplash off the kitchen wall because I thought it would take "just a weekend" to change it to tile. We've had many people volunteer their time and talents in our home to repair the mess in our kitchen. We are so grateful for the people at Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills - even loving us enough to help with a "want" of having a kitchen with drywall again! We don't "need" drywall or modifications, but I'm glad it will be there soon. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel with our kitchen remodel.

We were able to go on one date this year, thanks to Ryan's childhood friend John Sparks, his wife Sara, and John's parents, Chris and Pat. They definitely spoiled us by watching the baby (and spoiling her and us like we are part of the family!) and providing the means for our nine year wedding anniversary date on November first. We look forward to going on more dates now that we've "let go" a bit and have gone out once.

Other blessings this year include lots of provision for the baby from friends, co-workers, and family from my baby showers and afterwards. At the beginning of the year, my parents furnished the nursery and gave her the car seat and stroller she uses daily. And throughout the year Ryan's Mom has given sweet gifts to enrich her life so that Baby T is never without. We have been blessed beyond measure.

Lastly, we've learned that the most important thing of all is to spend time with God and each other. We have been fortunate enough to see both Ryan's family as well as mine. The family all loves spending time with Talitha - she is such a joy to be around. Having her, in addition to Ryan having Cancer, has definitely taught us to count our blessings and trust in the One who has given everything to us.

I am so grateful you are in our lives and have been praying for Ryan's health. Thank you and God bless you in the new year. We are excited about all the things God has in store for us, especially because of Jesus Christ our Lord working in our lives daily.

All our love,
Ryan, Anna & Talitha (Bean too, Woof!)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Need Help

The thick fog clung to the road, choking my vision of the offramp. As I cautiously came to a stop at the bottom of the hill, I turned the corner, only to hear a siren wailing behind me. I pulled over to the right shoulder and let the ambulance pass me, the flashing lights dimmed by the dense water vapor in the air. I pulled back onto the road and followed the ambulance. The fog made the vehicle enshrouded in a glow of red and orange emergency lights, and my mind started to wander.

As I turned to make a left, I realized the paramedics were turning the same direction as me. I started to panic, thinking about a concerned neighbor, or Ryan himself calling 911 to ask someone to take him to the hospital because I wasn't home yet. My already knotted stomach lurched as we both neared our street, then the ambulance continued up the road, diverting its attention to someone else's emergency and vanishing into the fog like a disappearing apparition. 

I was both relieved and saddened at the same time. I thought about the people who had the unknown emergency, dealing with something quite serious late in the night. I was glad it wasn't me, until I got home.

Ryan called me because he heard the ambulance and wanted to make sure I was okay. I had to stop on the driveway because the garage door wasn't opening. Ryan was in pain because I could hear it in his voice. I heard the emergency at home through my phone and it broke my heart. I saw him as I drove into the open garage and was immediately alarmed.

"What is wrong?" I asked urgently. "I am really, really in a lot of pain," he said. I rushed to hug him, concerned. "I cannot do things like yesterday anymore, it's just too much," he said. I thought back to the conversation I had with him when we first woke up in the morning. "I need more sleep," he had called out to me when I got up to feed the baby, his voice full of medication. My heart twinged a little. Cancer hurts.

We had an amazing weekend, but it made Ryan stressed out and tired. We are so blessed by all the help we received to finish our kitchen project, yet it reminded Ryan of just how sick he is. On Saturday he wanted to be there and help the entire time, but he had to lay down several times during the day. He felt sick, and his body was not cooperating with what his mind wanted. And two short days later, he was still in pain.

Yesterday, he forgot to bring his pain medication and went without it all day. He went to a job site in Los Angeles, about 45 minutes away, then to his Bible study in Chino Hills at Calvary Chapel. He went to a store and got some Tylenol, but it didn't help. I just cannot imagine what he is going through and I find myself feeling more helpless when he is in pain.

On Sunday, I thought it would be a nice distraction for us to have some people over because the people from our church gave us some food for a Thanksgiving meal - so we had Thanksgiving 2.0. We had such an excellent array of friendship, food, and fellowship. I looked over at Ryan throughout the few hours people were visiting and saw how tired he was. I was excited to take a picture with him and thought we looked so good as a little family until he said, "Wow, I look like a Cancer patient. Oh wait, I am a Cancer patient." I was bummed.

After everyone left, Ryan asked me the source of my insecurity. "Why do you need to entertain and have people over?" he asked me. "I like having people over, but I think I wanted us to feel normal, doing things like we used to," I admitted. After last night, however, I realized that my efforts must be towards helping our home to be a sanctuary for him, a place without things undone or other people around. It needs to be a place of rest and renewal for him. He wants to concentrate on getting better and I want to support that.

I, on the other hand, thrive in a busy, people-filled environment. So we came up with a good compromise. I can focus my entertaining energy on hosting a women's Bible study every other Monday, when he is at his men's Bible study. That way, I get to entertain people and he doesn't have to be involved. It's a win-win situation for both of us.

As Ryan rests, trying to recuperate from the difficult chemo round last week, I am busy making plans about how to make our home peaceful, clean, and organized. I know that it will start with prayer. I looked at Psalm 121 to remind me where I need to look for help:

God the Help of Those Who Seek Him

A Song of Ascents.

121 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

After reading this Scripture, I was convicted. I was focused on being "normal" (again) and doing things around the house in my own power. It's as though the fog of normalcy has been clouding my vision for what is clearly in front of me, much like the fog I encountered on the road last night. The most powerful thing I can do daily is ask for help from the One who made heaven and earth, who holds Ryan in His hands. The fog is lifting. I am going to start praying right now.