"It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him." -Daniel 2:22
"Do not fear, for I am with you..." -Isaiah 43:5
"...we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion." -Daniel 9:18

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"I will not let you go unless you bless me..."

"...Then he blessed him there." This was the scripture for today from Genesis 32:26,29 It is from the story of Jacob, as he returns home according to God's command. He spends much time wrestling with God in his anxiousness over his future.
Even though God presented Himself to Jacob in a form that could be wrestled with, ultimately, He was in control. By putting Jacob's thigh out of joint, He showed how quickly and easily He could disable him. So, Jacob had to come to terms with the fact that wrestling with God didn't get him anywhere. You can't force blessings from God.
We have to cease our struggling. Give up our own will and cling to the Father. Cling...not wrestle. In years past I can remember my grandmother talking of spending hours in prayer, wrestling with God. But, I believe, He wants us to just rely upon His judgment. Not to become weary with struggling against Him. This will only hinder His ablity to work in our lives.
This is so where Al and I are right now. Weary from the wrestling and the struggle of trying to force blessings from God. I have been hearing Him say for weeks now that I need to quit being so anxious and just get on with life. Leave the monumental tasks to Him.
Do the dishes, do the laundry, take a nap, feed the dogs, write a blog, get back to a deeper bible study, mow the yard....stay busy and content with the everyday workings that have to get done. When the time is right....He will provide answers and blessings where He sees fit.
He might even change our name to Israel!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

These past few years we have seen the dark clouds continually gather around us. Al's cancer diagnosis, the chemo treatments, the stem cell transplants, the challenges of making it through each day, the loss of his job, the confusion that comes with trying to make sense of such a rapid shift in your entire being, the loss of the baby this past week, the upheaval of packing up everything except the necessities, only to find you aren't going to be moving anytime soon, the frustration in trying to sell a property during these difficult times, the fruitlessness of job hunting in a recession, the mental struggles of being hit with wave after wave of bad, unpleasant or downright heartbreaking things.
We don't know where to go from here, what to do that we haven't already done, there is nothing left to do except wait. When you lose so much in such a short space of time, you can be tempted to just give up. To forget about what you didn't lose. So, you have to say, "What are we left with?". We are left with a home, for now. We are left with our family that have been very supportive. We still have our great friends who have lifted us up in many ways. We still have a deep and abiding faith in our Heavenly Father. It is enough.
I won't lie. The struggle definitely takes it's toll. To do battle every day with anger, resentment, anguish, heartbreak, fear, letdowns, frustration, fatigue, sickness, loneliness, isolation, and so many other emotions - it will get to anyone! I feel myself becoming weary of the battle. But in my weariness, God always sends me words of encouragment. Either through an email, a phone call, a card or my daily devotional. Here are a few excerpts from the past week and you will see what I mean:
From "Streams in the Desert"
May 16 - Do not be afraid, Daniel. since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me 21 days. ~Daniel 10:12-13
Daniel prayed for 21 days, God heard, but Satan stood in the way. Until Satan was defeated, God's blessings were hindered.
May 18 - We were under great pressure...so that we despaired even of life...But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
The pressure of difficult times makes us value life. It makes us more compassionate and understanding of others.
May 22 - Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this. Psalm 37:5
Turn over your burdens to Him and He will do great works on your behalf.
May 23 - They were at their wits' end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and He brought them out of their distress. Psalm 107:27-28
Do not be discouraged - it may be the last key on the ring that opens the door.
May 24 - Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Genesis 21:2
We must be prepared to wait on God's timing. It is precise, for He does things at the very time He has set. The One you wait for will not disappoint you. He will never be even five minutes behind the appointed time.
May 26 - Spring up, O well! Sing about it. Numbers 21:17
The children of Israel needed water. As instructed by God, they gathered together to dig a well. As they dug in the sand, they sang praises for what was to come. They tapped the stream that ran deep below the surface, unseen for a long time. Nothing pleases the Lord as much as praise. Praise in advance of things to come. He will supply our needs, even in the desert.

You know how it is when God is speaking to you...you just don't want to stop reading. I sneaked a peek at tomorrows, too.
May 27 - Bring them here to me. Matthew 14:18
Do you find yourself surrounded with needs, and nearly overwhelmed with difficulties, trials, and emergencies? Each of these is God's way of providing vessels for the Holy Spirit to fill. Remain still before Him and stop your own restless working until He begins to work. Do nothing that He himself has not commanded you to do. Allow God time to work and He surely will. Then the very trials that threatened to overcome you with discouragement and disaster will become God's opportunity to reveal His grace and glory in your life, in ways you have never known before. My God will meet all your needs accoring to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Hallelujah! Right on target.

So let me take this opportunity to praise Him.
Our Heavenly Father, Lord and Master over all, we give thanks and praise to you this day. Thanks for all the blessings you have allowed us to partake of all these years.
Great family, good friends, fellowship, a home, missions, vacations, toys, good work, children, freedom, good health, The Word, learning, trials, grandchildren and so, so much more.
We have not deserved not one minute of all the good things that You have made possible for us to enjoy.
We praise you for who You are. Maker of all things. Our Father, our Counselor, our Redeemer, our Healer, our Savior to come.
Now we thank You for what You are going to do in our lives, if we would but, BE STILL. That You will grow us closer to You through the deep sorrows we are passing through. We trust You, we abide in You, we love You. Amen.

Al's Update: He's doing pretty well. He will not be able to mow yards with his friend Steve for purposes of being disabled. He was not going to be able to hold up physically. Our yard is all he can handle. He is working on paperwork for SS Disability and a retirement from TXU.
He has some serious issues with his teeth. He has been in a lot of pain. Needs several root canals. Blessings on Dr. George for helping out with that.
He has not been feeling really good, but that is probably because he tries to do too much.
I have told him it is okay to throw away the rulebook when it comes to planning his day. He can sleep as late as he needs to. There is no set time when he has to do anything. This will take some getting used to.
It will be a couple of weeks before we go back to the oncologist and find out the results of those tests to see what is going on with the cancer levels.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Streams in the Desert

I just had to share this with everyone. Remember a couple of blogs back I was rambling about being in a desert and stuff? Well, I had also been praying about finding Justin and Charli a devotional to read (if they will).

Today our son, Keith called to get an update on all things Putman. He told me about this devotional he had been reading and how it really spoke to him in their time of trial. (He is unemployed at the moment, living with in-laws). The moment he told me the name, I knew it was the one God wanted me to get for them.

I have not read it myself, but bought myself a copy also. I have since learned that there is an updated version, so I hope they are able to understand the writing of the original. But, I know that God can bring understanding to their hearts and minds. As He did for me when I started reading "My Utmost for His Highest". Another devotional, which I highly recommend.

Please pray with me that when I present this to them tomorrow, they will devour it as they would a chocolate cake. Then crave more each and every day. That God would use the printed words to minister to them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

When the Bottom Drops Out

This is our youngest, Justin. He and Charli have been expecting a baby, until last week. She has been spotting almost from the beginning of the pregnancy. Friday she went to a fetal specialist in Dallas. The baby has a deformed spine and organs outside the body. She is not expected to carry it full term, but if she should, it will not live long outside of the womb.
Another blow to our family. This is a very difficult time. This couple is so young to be having to handle this kind of situation. I pray that they will be strong in their faith and be drawn closer to our Lord, who is the only One who can provide what is necessary to handle this situation.
We are blessed and grateful for all the prayers of those we know and many around the country whom we don't know. We continue to pray for guidance for Justin and Charli, for Al's health, and for our financial situation. Everything about our lives is in limbo.
We give thanks to the One who created us and this baby. We know that the Lord loves us all and this baby. His will is what we seek. He knew us in our mother's womb and He knows this baby.
Praise be to the God of the Universe for His grace and mercy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Crossing the Plateau

In this battle with cancer and with life, we were thrown down off our high place at the time of diagnosis. Over the past few years we have struggled to climb back up and we did finally reach the plateau. That place where things level off and it is just a vast expanse before you.
With the latest developments in our lives, we may have been lowered to another plateau, but it is still a plateau. An expanse of seemingly endless desert before us. But it is all a mirage. God only allows us to see what is just in front of us, so we don't see all the things that are to come. There may be mountains, certainly more valleys, but still more plateau.
It can be very frustrating to not be able to see what is up ahead, but that is why we need a sovereign God to lead the way. I believe it is why He made the world round. Do you think that Columbus would have ever ventured to the west if he had seen what a great expanse of ocean he would have to overcome?
We can, however, look back and take comfort. As I look over my shoulder I see the hand of God at work, molding and preparing both Al and I. We could fret over the mistakes we made. If we had only saved more money... If we had only made this decision instead of that one... If we had only prepared for this kind of emergency...we would not be in this situation.
I have caught myself saying, if Al has only kept his job at TXU.... If I had gone back to work years ago.... If we had just sold our property a few years ago, when the economy was booming....
But, it Al had remained at TXU, he would not be who he is today. If I had gone back to work, I would have missed all the ministry opportunities God allowed me to participate in that have radically changed me from who I used to be. Opportunities to work with some of the most awesome, Godly people who showed me how to forgive myself, trust in God and keep moving in His direction!
So....here we are. Crossing the plateau. Sometimes a vast desert. But sometimes an oasis. We are living a DOGS life. (Depending on God's Sovereignty) Knowing He has our backs. He has been preparing us to handle what is up ahead. He will give us what we need, when we need it. He will sell our property, when and if it is part of His plan. He will provide a job for me, if it is part of the plan. All things for His glory, in His time and in His way.
He has prepared us to move forward, each day, living as DOGS.
With lots of help. We have been so blessed by so many friends and family with offers to help. Several have offered to help pay for various things....even though they may not be much better off than we are. We sincerly appreciate all offers, but we are pretty good for the next few weeks.
Al already has a new job! Part-time. Mowing yards with his friend, Steve. If it all works out. We don't want to interfere with any of Steve's family income, so we are hoping they get enough yards to make up for Al's portion. I am concerned about Al being outside in the heat this summer, but hope he only has to work in the morning hours. If he takes good care of himself with sunblock, long-sleeves, hats, and hydration, he should do okay.
Al already has the promise of a vehicle! Steve, again. They have several trucks that might be a candidate for Al to get fixed and running.
We already have a place to move, if the property does not sell in 3-4 months. Steve and Ina. They have a travel trailer we can stay in. Italy. Bank of America told Al - no, they would not work with us on the home equity loan. We can't pay it, so it looks like we will be losing our house, if God does not provide a buyer soon.
We still are not sure what kind of income we will have. It all depends on unemployment and social security. He will have a small pension from TXU. That will not kick in for 3-4 months and will be about 1/4 of his last salary. Not really sure about unemployment, whether he is qualified or not. Not sure if he is classified as disabled if he has not yet filed with SS.
It is all still very murky. Al will be trying to wade through all the paperwork this next week.
Thankfully, the company will be paying for 18 months worth of COBRA, so he will be able to keep up with his chemo & other treatments.
Yesterday was a post-surgery visit to the surgeon. Took x-rays. All good. Back in 6 months. Let him know if anymore pain develops other places.
Also, yesterday, monthly visit to the oncologist. Thought he was going to have to endure a bone marrow biopsy. Didn't happen. (yeah!) They only give a local in the oncologist's. Unlike the transplant office where you get IV meds.
Instead Al has to give them 24 hours worth of urine. Doc says this is more accurate for determining the amount of protein in the body, anyway. Al is like - sign me up for that!
Hope to get some results from that soon. Hopefully, holding the line on that cancer with the Revlimid.
Al's white blood cells had recovered somewhat from the previous month's. Not normal, but better. Red blood cells, not so much. Got another shot of Aranesp.
We are discussing what treatments may come next. Transplant doc wants us to test some people to find our who might be a match for stem cells. Just in case, one day, he needs a transplant with someone else's cells. He can't do one with is own again. With another person's cells, it would be a little different. More like an organ transplant, where the body might reject the cells. More chances for infections and Graft vs Host Diesease. Bad stuff. So we are thinking that will be a "last resort" procedure.
Most likely, if he needs another type treatment, we will go with a new chemo being approved for this summer or one of several others that are already approved for myeloma treatment.
For now, we are crossing that plateau, one step at a time. Living a DOGS life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Turn the Page

It is time to turn the page and get on with the next chapter of our lives. Al was fired from his job yesterday. They say it was because of work slowdown, but we know different. There was never anything in writing, but it was clearly stated verbally that they were tired of him not being able to be at the office full time and did not like the amount of money he was costing them in insurance premiums.
Al is understandably upset about the whole thing, but handling it very well. We had been expecting it and preparing for it, but it was still a blow. We feel good that we heeded God's urging for us to get things done. Clean out the house, put all but the essentials in storage, put the property on the market, move my mom, etc. It has been a small consolation that we were somewhat prepared.
They are going to pay for COBRA for 18 months, but only 1 month salary. After that - who knows? Al has already begun the process to start drawing his retirement from a previous employer and to collect unemployment from this present one. But those things all take time to kick in. He will be applying for disability in the next week or so, but no money there for, at least, 6 months.
It has been said that they probably broke the law in firing him because he is disabled. But, legally, I am not sure if he is classified as disabled or not. He does have a terminal illness, but will that hold up in court? Will they discontinue the COBRA payments if we file a lawsuit against them? Is this the right path to take? Don't know.
Our kids and our friends have been very supportive. Offering to help pay bills and stuff. We really appreciate all the prayers and advice. We are just taking it day to day, minute by minute. Waiting to see what the Lord has for us next.
As we will not be able to pay our home equity loan, we probably have about 3 months before we get evicted from our place. It's possible I could get a job before then or the place could sell. Things are not looking too bright in either of these categories.
I am cross-eyed from job-hunting on-line every day! I try to keep records of what jobs I have applied for, but it is so confusing. The switch you from this website to another and then another, with all kinds of advertments in between. Some of them are quite deceiving, trying to get you to sign up for information on college institutions or ringtones, etc. There are no actual people you can talk to anymore. Your life is in the hands (or keys) of your computer.
So, for the next few weeks we are okay. We just won't look any further down the road than that. My prayer is that Al would not get discouraged in the amount of paperwork it is going to take to get all this stuff underway. That he would not see this situation as a failure on his part. He did the best he could possibly do under the circumstances.
Pray for God to guide us - inch by inch. And that we would LISTEN and act according to what He wants us to do.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy 58th Birthday

Al has made it past another milestone - 58 years old today. The second surgery is behind us and he seems to be recovering well. Down to only one crutch. Off the pain meds, so he can start driving himself to work again tomorrow. I am praying that he will level out on this plateau for many years. This summer they are suppose to be coming out with a new chemo that his oncologist is talking about putting him on. We'll see. As long as the one he is on is working.... Like they say, "If it ain't broke, Don't fix it."

He is due to have a bone marrow biospy this Friday. We will see what has been going on in his blood for the past few months. I pray that the protein levels have remained almost zero, but that his red and white blood cells would start producing some healthy stuff to give him some energy.

He is now vested in his 401(k) at work, so he feels better about if he should get laid off. Haven't heard anymore talk about that lately. You know the drill ... they wait until your sure they aren't going to do anything ... then, WHAM! But, we are trying not to make it a daily habit to worry about all that.

Praise God, I have an interview tomorrow! Not sure what will come of it, but at least it is a sign that there is at least one job out there. Just want to do what God's will is for us. It is with the government, so it would be really good benefits.

No lookers yet on our property. Guess the timing is not right, yet. Just keep us in your prayers for all these issues.