Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Still loving this time of year.  Still listening to Christmas music from sun up 'til sun down.  I think I will absolutely miss everything about Christmas this year.  Usually by this time, I'm ready to put it away.  Not that I'm a scrooge, but all the "stuff" gets to me sooner than later.  But not this year.  I want to never remove our little white lights that illuminate our staircase and keep our Christmas tree standing tall in our family room.  

And I love looking at our Happy Birthday, Jesus signs in our front yard.  I love that everyone who walks past our home knows that we're celebrating His birth.

My parents are coming into town next week and we'll be filling a few orders for these signs.  I thought if any of you would like one (and are within driving distance from us),  we'd be happy to make a few more.  Just an FYI: The sign pictured above is lighter than you will receive.  (I kept the lighter batch).  The new signs will be a deep barn-red color with a scrap of red toile in the corner adorned with holly berries.

They are on sale for $15 and ALL of the money will go into our "can't do cancer without God" account.  It's slowly growing!  And I promise not to spend a dime on the cute navy coat I just saw at Anthropologie yesterday.   (Ed, are you reading this?)

So if you would like one, please email me at  And let this beautiful message grace your front yard too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Happy belated Thanksgiving!  

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the gift of time with your family and friends yesterday.   Every year we make the journey to my in-laws' home.  We're lucky -- they live about 10 miles from us.  They treat all of us to a traditional meal 
made with lots of love.  

And boy, did I enjoy this year more than last.  And I'm not talking about the meal.
Last Thanksgiving, I was recovering from surgery and was having a hard time just standing up.  My family surprised me by coming over the day after Thanksgiving and decorating our house for Christmas.  Half of them did the inside, the other half did the outside.  They were like little elves sent from heaven.  I know there aren’t elves in heaven, but work with me here.
Given that I could hardly lift a stocking, I can remember crying while my Mom was placing our stockings on the mantle.   And, if I recall, I had just bought my first wig that week and hated it once I tried it on again at home.  I looked like a very bad country western singer from the 70s.  But really, the tears were more from being so very touched by their kindness.  But it was a very bad wig.
So this year, I broke out Christmas even before Thanksgiving arrived.  I cranked up the Christmas music on KOST-FM.  They start playing it a week before Thanksgiving, you know.  Some of you may hate that, but I adore it.   Nothing touches my soul like Christmas music.  Oh Holy Night is my favorite.  Doesn’t matter who sings it.  My heart melts every time I hear it.
So I thought I would photograph some of my decorations and share them with you.  I mixed things up a bit this year and had to photograph it anyway.  If you don’t know this tip yet, you might want to use it.  Photograph each part of your home that you decorate and put the photos in a box labeled “dining room”, for instance.  That way, next year, you follow the photos and are done in record time.  Another hint:  I also take a photo of my house before I break out the decorations, so I can put it all back together again in record time.  Do I have OCD?  I think I may.
So, these are just a few of my favorite things... 

Christmas greets us at the front door.

An old platter with "snow", reproduction mercury glass ornaments and a sweet wreath that came atop a gift last year.  

I love to add touches of greenery and berries to most every corner of our house.  I love this frame my girlfriend gave me.  It reads, "A Family Built on Faith."

I added this little peace ornament to our tree to remind me 
of God's peace I felt this year.

And my most favorite addition this year.  An old Pepsi crate filled with a nativity scene and a card that reads, "For Unto Us, a Child is Born."  

I realize that Christmas isn't about the decorations.  
And it's not about the gifts.  
It's about the gift.  
Jesus' birth.  

As you decorate your home this year, remember to celebrate His birth.  Maybe knock a Santa out of his usual position on a side table and place a nativity scene there instead.  

I have another nativity scene that I didn't photograph.  But it's gorgeous.  I bought it this year at Costco for $79.  The best $79 I ever spent.  I placed it on a wooden sideboard that's in our family room.  I added a few glass candle votives and light them at night after turning off all the lights except for those on the Christmas tree.   

I try and imagine what is what like when Jesus was born.  To be there beside Joseph and Mary.  To watch Him sleep.  To see the North star shining above Him.

And then I recall the words from Oh Holy Night:

"Oh holy night.  The stars are brightly shining.  
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth."

May you and your family celebrate the night of our dear Savior's birth. 
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hold the Mayo...

Yesterday I went down to Cedars for my routine cat scan, blood work and doctor appointment.  I also had to have an ultrasound for my recent kidney surgery.  It was a very long day.  So long that I didn't look forward to ending my day with my favorite exams - the lovely pelvic and rectal exams.   As I was waiting for my doctor to come in and examine me, I had mentioned to someone that I think Dr. Karlan should consider the fact that I’ve been here all day, underwent all these procedures, and that I shouldn’t have to go undergo two more exams. I was kind of kidding, but kind of not.  As Dr. Karlan walked in, she greeted me with a big smile and, “Happy Thanksgiving!  No exams today.  You’ve been through enough.”  A little birdie had told her what I had said.  She threw in a Christmas gift too - foregoing a December exam because I’m doing so well.  
With all that good news, I should have popped the champagne cork when I got home.  Such good news needs to be celebrated.  But my personality isn’t to summon all my friends and do so.  Instead, I sit before God and thank Him with tears streaming down my face.
When I got home last night, I read through some emails.   My nurse had sent me Sunday's L.A. Times article about Cedar’s recent ovarian cancer walk.  In it, it mentioned that a woman had organized the annual event in honor of her mom who was also diagnosed with my stage of cancer.  Only the mom wasn’t at the event.  I think you can figure out why.  And all of a sudden, my joy from such a great day turned to tears again, but this time, for a different reason.
When I was diagnosed last year, I felt I received an expiration date on myself.  I felt like a jar of mayonnaise.  And I get that we all are walking around with expiration dates -- some just not as faded and hard to read as others.  
But what I need to remember is that God will give me my expiration date.  Not medicine.  I know several cancer survivors who should not be here today.  I should not have seen one at my bible study this week. I should not have had lunch with one last week. And I should not have received an encouraging card from another last month.  All of their oncologists are probably scratching their heads and wondering why they beat the odds they were given.  But they’re here.  Because it’s God’s will for them to be here.  He will determine our expiration date.
My daughter’s sweet teacher (also a cancer survivor) gave me a verse of scripture before my last surgery.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  -- Psalm 20:7.
She added, “Substitute doctors, hospitals, chemo, whatever, in place of chariots and horses.”
So true.
So from bad, comes good -- right?  After shedding some tears and then remembering that my life is in God’s hands, I was flooded with perspective.  As I walked into my family room and could hardly find the surface of my coffee table because of dirty soccer socks, shin guards, a lap top, school papers, water bottles (you get the messy picture), my old ways fell away.  
I would have barked at my kids for being kids.  For not cleaning up the mess they left behind.  Instead, I walked into the kitchen to find them making dinner for themselves.  Milk, cheese, bread, cereal, you name it, it was everywhere.  And it wasn’t pretty.  It was gorgeous.  I just stood there and stared at them with tears in my eyes.  Taking it all in.  
Messy counter, and all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If I had a Rose Bush...

OK, so who likes to recover from surgery?  Yeah, not me.  So not me.
It’s not so much the healing of the body I don’t like, it’s the healing of the spirit.
I find I get down -- a lot -- while waiting to recover.  Because while recovering, there are so many limitations.  “Don’t drive.  Don’t lift anything.  Don’t do your usual things.”   That equates to, “Don’t be.”  Well, that’s no fun.
So instead, that leaves me to watch my Mom do 20 loads of laundry in a day and watch my Dad spend more time in his car with my kids than on my couch with a cup of coffee.   Pain is not a sore abdomen, but rather, pain is feeling useless.
And the funny thing is -- I know this feeling very well.  It was something I experienced long before I ever had my first surgery.
For years, I had a heart that wanted to serve, to help others.  But I didn’t know where.  So I never did.  And my heart ached.  It felt hollow.  It was like one of those chocolate Easter bunnies.   You bite off that thick, long chocolate ear only to find there’s nothing inside of it.  That was me.
Looking back, I always felt a natural high when I was able to surprise a hurting friend with a jar full of garden flowers on her front porch -- a favorite past-time of mine.  I love making a friend feel better.  And if I analyze that, I think it’s because giving of oneself to another enables us to feel closer to Jesus.   If He had a mason jar, some ribbon and a few roses, He would have placed them on his friends’ doorsteps too.  It’s sharing love, it’s sharing kindness.  It’s sharing Jesus.
So how do you share Jesus?  
Just last week I read an article about a Mom whose daughter wanted to go on a missions trip, but the family couldn’t afford to send her.  So the Mom had an idea of hosting a garden tour and giving her daughter the money she raised from inviting friends and neighbors over to take a peek at her garden.   She raised enough money to fulfill her daughter's dream.  The following year, the daughter wanted to return, but needed to raise the money again.  So the Mom hosted another garden tour and was able to pay for her trip once more.  The third year, her daughter wanted to return, but this time, she had enough money to send herself.  So the Mom said to God, “Now what am I to do?”  
The Mom prayed about it and felt led to begin her first annual garden faire.  She asked all of her Christian girlfriends to act as docents, her husband parked all of the incoming cars and she made little wooden signs bearing beautiful scriptures to sprinkle throughout her garden.  She was basically sharing her faith through her beautiful 14-acre garden.  
After I read that article, I said to my Mom, “Well, if I had a 14-acre garden, I’d do the same thing.”
And then I caught myself as the words were coming out of my mouth.  “If I had a 14-acre garden.....”
That’s when I realized, you don’t need a 14-acre garden to share your faith.  All you need is a rose bush.  If we all waited until we had 140 rose bushes on 14 acres of land, we’d be waiting and wasting so many opportunities of sharing God’s love with others.   
What do you have to share?  Do you have a rose bush?  Do you have a paintbrush?  Do you have a spoon?  Do you have a hand?

All it takes is one of something to reach many...and to no longer feel useless.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

God is My Umbrella...

Well, this is my last week of eating solid foods and doing sit ups.  At least for awhile.  Starting next Monday, I can only drink my calories in preparation for Wednesday’s surgery.  And then the real fun begins Tuesday afternoon. I get to incorporate magnesium citrate.  Two bottles of it.  Two 10-ounce bottles of it.  Don’t know what this is?  You’re lucky!  The bottle reads, “pasteurized sparkling saline laxative.”  Laxative being the operative word.  Lemon flavor.  Yum.  Can’t wait.  
But I knew this was coming.  My doctors told me that when they found my ovarian cancer, they also believed they found kidney cancer.  They said because it was so small and slow growing (thank God!), they would deal with it in six to twelve months.  Well, it’s been almost a year, and the time has come.  And once it comes, it will soon be over.  Yay!
But what’s more exciting to me is that the time has come for me to share my story of how God has helped me through this storm called cancer.   And not on my blog.  But to a room full of 200 women.  Yes, I will be public speaking.  Ahh!   Me, the girl who freaked out about oral reports in seventh grade, is actually excited to do this.  Slightly terrified, but more excited.
I received my diagnosis when I was in Chelsea Cameron’s 24/7 Family class last year.  I was blessed to be in there, surrounded by women who prayed for me and my family each week, and blessed us with good meals for my kids.   Their kindness will never be forgotten.  I love that group of women.  
Women who strive to put God first in their family and their lives.
So about a month ago, Chelsea asked if I would share my story with this year’s class.  “YES!” was my answer.  I couldn’t believe I didn’t say no.  I couldn’t believe I didn’t want to go home and think about it.  “Yes” is what my heart sang to her request.  Because I really did feel that God would use my cancer to help me reach out to others facing similar storms.  My cancer brought me closer to God.  And to my husband.  And to my kids.  And to my family.  And to my friends.  And to complete and total strangers.  Gotta love it.
And God continues to give me peace.  And strength to tackle my fears.  Did I mention I’m excited to speak in public?  Uh, that’s called a miracle!  And that’s also called an answer to prayer.  
“I can do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens me.”  Phillipians 4:13.

And boy, is He.
Remember, 20 years ago, I cried out to God and asked Him to use me.  I hope to share with everyone in that room Monday morning that I sometimes thought my prayers fell on deaf ears.  Twenty years is a long time to wait.  And I wanted to give up, but I never stopped praying.  And I never stopped dreaming.  I am honest when I tell you: I am living my dream.  To be used by God is the second greatest gift I have received.  Grace is the first.
So with really short wavy hair that I kind of hate and a pounding heart, I hope I am going to teach others that God is ready, willing and so very able to carry them through their storms of life.   It doesn’t have to be cancer.  It can be a difficult marriage, a sick child, the loss of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of one’s income, of one’s joy.  Anything.
God is my umbrella in life’s storms.  And it’s raining joy.
The next time you see an open umbrella, think of Jesus.  He is there to cover you and protect you when the rain is pouring down.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No Worries...

I’ve missed you guys!  Seems like I haven’t added a post in a long time.  
So as we enjoy the last days of September -- also known as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month -- I think it’s my duty to do a quick public service announcement on the symptoms of this beast.  Between you and me, I was not happy with KNBC’s story that ran a  couple of weeks ago.  It hardly touched on the symptoms.  Symptoms that every woman should know.
So here they are:
Bloating.  Not your average, “Oh, I ate too much” bloating.  But a bloating that encompasses your entire abdomen.  It looked as if someone unzipped my torso and put a tortoise shell in there and zipped it back up.  Bloating with a capital B.  
Fullness.  As soon as I ate a bite of a cookie, I was full.  Remember, I could eat 22 of them back in the day.  Sad, but true.
Frequent urination.  I remember having to go to the bathroom about every hour.  Not normal.
Weight gain.  I was up about five pounds when I was diagnosed.  I thought I ate too many cookies.  Probably did, but I believe the weight gain was due to the bloating and extra fluid in my abdomen.
Constipation.  Enough said on that one.
I know very little about this disease and I’d like to keep it that way.  Some people need to know everything.  That’s not me.  It’s not that I want to be ignorant about something that affects my life, but I’m better off using my energy to focus on the good things about it and not the negative things.  
Good things about ovarian cancer?  Yeah, there’s a couple.  
It still only takes me five minutes to get ready in the morning.  You saw my short hair on tv, right?  Not the cutest style I’ve ever had, but certainly the easiest.
I enjoy my kids like never before.  I just played Catch Phrase with them the other night and had a blast.  Before cancer, I would have been doing laundry.  What an idiot.  
I know God more intimately.  Priceless.  Truly.
I often wonder if I could do a “do over” would I?   I think I’d have to pass on that one.  The biggest downside to cancer, in my opinion, is worrying about the future.  If I cough, I think I have lung cancer.  If I sleep wrong and my neck hurts, I think I have lymphoma.  But I hear this is normal for cancer survivors.  It probably gets easier for some, more difficult for others.  
This week has been difficult.  I find myself worrying.  I was so good at not worrying.   And I wonder why, after 10 months, I’m beginning to struggle with it again.    
I think certain things trigger it.  But I know what will deflate it.  Scripture.
This one is gold to me.  
“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Phillipians 4:6-7.
I experienced God’s peace the moment I received my diagnosis.  I know it’s real.  And I’ve experienced His peace throughout this whole ordeal.  It is amazing.  And there’s nothing that can give a Mom more peace than God’s Word.  No need to look anywhere else but in the Bible sitting on your table.  Now given that I have such a horrible memory (aka "chemo brain"), I don’t remember a thing after I read it.  So I’ve been writing down beautiful verses on index cards.  I need to tape them to my arms.
A friend of mine emailed me today and wrote that my blog has helped her through a tough time in her life.  It brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.  I love that you guys can relate to my journey, even though most of you don’t have cancer.  I think it boils down to: life is hard.  Whether it’s disease, divorce or depression we face, we all need God in our lives.  You know those necklaces I make - can’t do cancer without God.   I have others that read, “can’t do life without God.”    Any takers?
So be aware of your body this month and next.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  And for any of you who don’t get routine breast exams, make that appointment.  I’m making mine.  I just received that little card in the mail that said it was time to have one, and I was hoping my all-too-often cat scans would eliminate that fun little exam, but nooooo.  As a friend of mine says, “Pull up your big girl pants” and make that appointment.
And no worries.  “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”