Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sewing, Cleaning, and Sharing.....

"Hey Aunt Julie. I have a job interview tomorrow and I was wondering if you could hem up a pair of pants that I bought today for the interview?"

It's is amazing how much has changed here in such a short time. Just a few weeks ago I was 'Grandpa's other daughter' and the name 'Aunt' was a respectful formality that came and went at will. But now time and testimony have given way to relationship and acceptance. If anyone would have told me it would be like this even 6 months or 6 weeks ago I would have laughed. And yet, here we are.

I don't even know where to keep writing with that thought so for now I will change directions......

It has been a big week and time has gone by fast. I began the week with taking doggy #4 to the vet for a check up and some concerns that I had. Now little Paloma is also on medication and I am giving out medicines to 4 of the 5 dogs here every day. The 3 girls only need their medicine for a period of time so it isn't that big of a deal.

In the mail yesterday there was a postcard addressed to Daddy and me. Here is what it said...

Julie, Joe, and loved ones
I am right there with you
And I am holding your hand
I will never leave you
Love Jesus
Isaiah 42:6,7

What a treasured surprise. It caught Daddy off guard and then he smiled with great pleasure. I hung it up on his bathroom mirror today so that he can see it often. The funny thing is that when my cousin went in to wash her hands it caught her off guard too. She called down the hallway, "Oh my gosh! You and Jesus really are close! He even sends you mail!"

Yesterday we spent the morning at the hospital doing a check up. Oh my goodness I forgot how much different it is to be in a military hospital instead of a civilian one. I am very grateful to have the best of both worlds at home.....military insurance and civilian doctors. I don't mean it to sound like military doctors are any less. I respect them very much. It is just the "hurry up and wait" mentality that is characteristic of any and every military happenings that I forgot about.

While Daddy was getting some lab work done, I spent 2 hours going to 3 different (on site) pharmacies to fill his prescriptions. While I waited with my cousin for things to be processed, we got into a wonderful discussion about God's miracles and presence all around us.
I shared with him some of the miracles I have seen, about angel feathers and heavenly visitations and I could tell that it is building a deeper and tangible faith for him.

God is so real and so NOW. It is a lie from the enemy that we trick ourselves into believing that God is only a lofty powerful being that sits in a great throne in the heavens surrounded on all sides by clouds and quiet angels. He is around all of us and in us, with every step we take and every breath we breathe, feeling everything that we feel and seeing everything that we see.
God You are SO amazing!

Daddy has been steadily feeling more energy the past few days with not having any treatments for 2 weeks. He has felt good enough that he hasn't wanted me to make him as much medicine doses throughout the day. That thought has backfired on him though and he has been so violently sick to his stomach today. Gosh it is so painful to hear him wretch for so long. The tumor is mostly in the way of letting his body do what it craves to do so it can take 15 minutes or so before his muscles calm down. He and I agreed tonight that for a while we should not back off any of the doses so that we can stay ahead of his symptoms.
I too was sick last night. I had eaten something that didn't agree with me and....oh my goodness what an awful feeling. It made me pray for him all the more.

Tomorrow one cousin is going to stay with Daddy for a while and my other cousin is going to take me to something of a Hispanic market square. She told me the name but it escapes me just now. It sounds like it will be an interesting day and I should have at least one story to tell later on.

Monday Daddy starts his next round of chemotherapy. I am praying that without the radiation it will be an easier week for him. He will begin the morning with a 6 hour dose of chemo at the hospital and then he will be sent home with a pump that will continually dispense more of the chemo meds for more 4 days.

I received a book in the mail today from my pastor titled Experiencing Father's Embrace by Jack Frost. Maybe this next week Daddy might like for me to read it to him......

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.
God bless you!

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Ahhh.......the house is quiet and Daddy is napping.
My step-brother came over today with his 3 kiddos and new wife. It was nice to see everyone but the combustive energy of 3 children under age 5 is a lot for Daddy to handle in large amounts. Plus their visit brought out my step-sister and her 2 grown girls......and friends from out of town are here this weekend and stopping in for short visits.
Now everyone is gone and the dogs are settling in for an afternoon siesta.
One of the friends gave Daddy a long foot and head rub so he is very peacefully now.

So what have the past few days been like here? I can say with confidence that it is somewhat of a blur and I must confess to locking myself in the bathroom and riding that emotional roller coaster a little bit. I tried to sit down a couple of times to write but felt too depleted to produce a single sentence.

I know that God is in control and God is the Great physician and God can do mightier things than even medicine can explain. I have complete faith for that. But sometimes the weight of the world gets to be too much and clouds everything over.

A couple of nights ago my cousin and I were visiting and going through Daddy's hospital papers. She pushed a packet in my direction and commented that it would be an important one for me to familiarize myself with. Paper after paper passed in front of my face and then all of a sudden I found myself in the middle of a 3 page pathology report and there were diagnosis conclusions stated on there that Daddy never told me. He never told me about what stage he was diagnosed with or the medical findings for the rate of remission and subsequent years before it returns. He has simply always said that people make the percentage of recovery and he will be in that percentage.

My world felt violated.

My cousin kept talking but I wasn't hearing a word she said. Her voice was a background noise to everything swimming in front of me. I willed myself not to cry because I feared not being able to stop once I started and what good would I be to everyone then. Instead I flipped on my auto switch and mechanically answered her questions and jokes. Eventually, "sure I'll go shopping with you even though it is 10:30 at night." I thought maybe the change in scenery and fresh air would do me good. But she kept talking..........
It's not that she said anything wrong or that I didn't enjoy her company. She is a sweetheart. I just didn't want to hear anything.

We walked the store and I went back and forth along the isles thinking there was something I made note of to buy earlier but I just couldn't find that mental sticky note anywhere.
I thought, "God I can't breathe. I need You." I heard Him say, "I am with you. Let me speak to your soul. Sing with Me."
I was too empty to even care what others might think. I started humming and pretty soon I was singing loud enough for the people in the next isle to hear me.

Arise in me, arise in me, arise Arise in me, arise in me, arise Arise in me, arise in me, arise

I felt my spirit lift, my shoulders straighten, and the fog clear in my head. God is so amazing.

Other things God is doing......
*I put soaking music on this morning while doing the morning clean and Daddy tuned into it. Normally he has the tv blaring but it happened to be off. Listening to that music, it was like he was cradled in God's arms. He looked so peaceful. He mumbled, "that is really beautiful....." and drifted off to sleep.

*My step-sister is coming over every day now to talk with me about God and learn more of the peace in having an unconditional relationship with Him that is filled with love instead of law.

Then with the other things I have going on here....namely the dogs...I am now of first name basis with the vet clinic. I feel bad for Daddy's credit card but I keep finding things wrong with the dogs and he has been in no shape to do anything for them. A couple of days ago I took Tia in to get a huge hump on her back and multiple smaller ones around her mid section looked at. The small lumps turned out to be fatty cysts while the large one was a giant water cyst. It was easy to drain with a needle and syringe so I can do it myself when it fills again in time. Then her ears were infected and that needed tending.
Yesterday I took Chica in to get her teeth looked at. I had noticed that she would occasionally yelp when trying to eat. A quick surgery and 7 less teeth later she is like a new girl.

Now I am giving meds twice a day to MiJito for the water that builds around his enlarged elderly heart, twice a day cleaning out Tia's ears and treating them so that they will come into balance, and now giving Chica antibiotics twice a day while her gums heal.
At least with the vigilant stand I have taken with putting all dogs outside every 2-3 hours they are almost accident free now. Everyone teases that "I am the new sheriff in town" and are a bit taken aback when I pick up dogs from their sleepy beds to put them outside. But when you have 6 dogs that have not had opportunity to go out much the past few months is like starting over again.

And good of the dogs leaves tomorrow for a new home. She is one that never actually belonged to Daddy. He was doing a favor of sorts and had been her caregiver for the past 6 years.

Daddy is stirring now so I should go.
Thank you for your prayers and your smiles of love.
Have a blessed and wonderful day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No Roller Coasters Here.....

Watching Daddy go so drastically up and down with his strength is hard. I have to remember to sit on the side lines and not jump on the emotional roller coaster. He woke up this morning so talkative. He cracked jokes and jumped up to do a couple of small things all by himself. Then 3 hours later he crashed and is back to barely able to whisper a handful of words to me. I had to really rouse him to encourage him in letting me hook up his meds and nutrition for the day. That is okay. A nice long nap and he will be more like himself again.

Last night Daddy asked for a dose of morphine in his evening medicine cocktail. He hadn't taken it before since I have been here so I worried at the thought and questioned if he was really hurting badly. He promised he was only a bit in discomfort and assured me that it wasn't a big enough does that he would get addicted. (I guess if I had toxic poison coursing through my body and a plastic tube implanted in my stomach I would like the edge taken off every now and again too. I made it up the way he requested and stayed up until after midnight just to "casually" watch him before I gave in to sleep. I got up a couple of hours later to peek in on him and created a disaster all by myself. There are gates around the house to keep the dogs in certain areas. My gracefulness (or lack of) miss-judged a gate and the position of a dog and everything in this sentence went flying in different directions. Poor Daddy jumped up so scared and worried for me......while my pride was hurt and I was chastising myself for being such a klutz.
Praise God my back is fine.

I have kept busy looking for things to do. I couldn't help but notice yesterday that the dinning room and formal room smelled really stale. The dogs aren't allowed in there and Daddy never goes that way except to shuffle through the front door to appointments. All the same, I felt it needed an overhaul. This morning I cleaned, dusted, arranged, primed the carpet, vacuumed, swept, and mopped. Then I opened the curtains and let the sun shine in to do it's share of the work. Ahhh......much better now.

Yesterday Daddy insisted that I go to the store to get some crafting items for my hands to work on. He worries about me sitting there watching him sleep. So, what is a girl to do when her Daddy hands over his credit card and demands it be used? I tried so hard not to take advantage but I did have a little fun getting some bead basics. My goodness I forgot how quickly things add up even when I find sales.

My cousin was so patient with me. He took me to 2 bead stores and we went to lunch. 4 hours later we were back home and he was starting to re-assess his blanket statement of, "anything you need, any time just give me a holler". Poor guy. But he never complained.

Here are the projects I worked on last night. It is poor image quality because it's a cell phone picture but this way I can keep it on file for later ideas. I've never made a 3 strand bracelet before and was guessing at what to do but I guess it came out alright. I fashioned it for my cousin. It says "Logan's Grandma" in the beads. I tried very hard to lean towards more of a bohemian style like she gravitates to instead of the pearls and crystals that I like. My step-sister was thrilled with the bookmark I made her and requested one for her friend too.

Earlier this week I experienced a God time where I felt so used and guided. I mean, I know all times are His and I just have to keep my eyes open. But this was one of those times when I listened and saw. She walked in the door crying. The new job was proving to be too physically demanding for her and she had just quit. Because she felt that God had opened the door for her to be hired, she was then beating herself up at the idea of letting God down. That brought on other ideas of past failures and life spiraled. Her shoulders were low and she was a wreck. Oh how I hate it when the enemy gets into peoples thoughts and has a party wrecking havoc.

I hugged her for a long time and re-enforced to her that God loves her with an everlasting love. He is so in love in fact that He will never give up and walk away but will instead ALWAYS move mountains on her behalf. We talked through some ideas about her future job opportunities and God's love, will, and purpose in her life. We visited the scriptures that say how powerful our tongue is and how important it is to speak truth because our spirit believes what it hears. Because we are broken, we gravitate towards breaking ourselves down all the more. It is all too easy to say "I am so stupid" or "Useless me". Those words cut and effect how we view ourselves. Instead we must focus on truth. The truth is that God didn't make us useless or stupid or even a waste of time. He made us in His image to carry His power and glory and fulfill His purpose as we bask in His love and worship Him in gratitude. In Him we are a new and amazing creation. We spent the afternoon watching that Louis Giglio dvd and she was a completely different woman when she left for home.

God I am so grateful for You. I thank You for Your presence and peace. Your majesty and glory shine everywhere and speak a glowing testimony of You. From the complex structure of a single strand of DNA to the idea that clouds are particles of water that band together in the sky defying gravity.....You are everywhere showing Your presence, creativity, and Your love.

Have a blessed and wonderful day today.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Morning.....

I am sitting here this morning drinking my chai tea and contemplating how best to sum up the past few days. It is slow going....not that I am impatient or restless. Truly I am fine. It is just hard to watch Daddy feel energetic and then pay for it so hard.

Since my last post, he has been very worn out. Saturday my cousin took him to the military base pharmacy to pick up his medication refills. I don't quite understand why the military pharmacy rules DEMAND that he be present for those refills when he is not even on any pain killers. They are in the process of moving everything around on base and changed the location of the pharmacy. It ended up being way too much walking for him. By the evening and through most of yesterday, he was so weak that he could barely talk above a whisper and not in a complete sentence from being so winded. I had to prod him more than ever to get nourishment and medications into him and we got more than a little behind.

He asked me to hook up his IV pump into the port located on his arm yesterday and talked me through it. At first I wished I could get a hold of my cousin (the ICU nurse) and felt panic. But I knew God was right there with me and I didn't need to make it a huge deal. I felt very proud of myself to be able to do that IV bag from start to finish. Later when I told my cousin what I did, she gently scolded me. She had no doubts that I was careful in being super clean and sterile but she was worried about doing a nurse's assessment to make sure he isn't getting too much fluid. Then she backed off and chose to give me a few guide lines in assessment to look for so that I can keep doing it on my own.

We are very blessed to have my cousin so close by. She stops in every day to check on him. The hospital has been VERY gracious to allow us to do these fluid bags at home because she is here so much. If it weren't for that grace, we would be at the hospital every day getting Daddy re-hydrated.
Daddy was so very sick last night. It hurt to hear him retching so hard and long in the restroom. At risk of being overly graphic, I have to explain what is going on with him besides just the general idea of treatment. Because the tumor is in his throat, as the treatments kills those bad cells, gravity takes over and everything drains into his stomach. He has learned to clear much of it out through his gastric tube but there is still a portion that sometimes must come up the other way. I am very grateful that the doctors placed his feeding tube as a bypass straight into his intestine so that he doesn't lose his nutrients.

Once he showed definite signs of improvement, I left for a bit of a walk. My pockets were loaded down with mp3 player, cell phone and pepper spray and Daddy insisted that I carry his walking stick to ward off any of the neighborhood's large dogs. I enjoyed walking and looking. Children were playing like they were all quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys while adults were taking down the last of the Christmas decorations. Being in "big" country, I couldn't help but laugh at the idea of a truck in every driveway.

My mp3 player.....I started off with a bit of Yoyo Ma and then switched over to soaking. I love all of the songs but I have a current favorite. Every time I hear it, I see rain. I don't mean rain like grey sky rain though. It is so hard to describe but it is like a bright liquid gold that God is cleaning everything with.

I did find a christian bookstore the other day and picked up two more of Louis Giglio's Passion dvds. I am hoping Daddy will be awake enough to want to watch them.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.

Have a God filled and blessed day today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vanilla Ice Cream.....

Busy... busy.... busy.....
It has been a busy couple of days.
Yesterday after Daddy finished his radiation treatment, his home nurse and then his physical therapist both came over. He is doing well and it was so good to see him get up for those exercises. I can see he has much determination. Not once did he give in and tell the therapist he had enough. He took a long nap afterwards but that is totally fine.

Today was his last radiation treatment. Now he can concentrate on building up energy before his next chemo appointment on the first of February.

Last night Daddy was able to eat a small serving container of ice cream. He threw it up later but he doesn't need to keep it down right now anyway. The point of swallowing things right now is to make sure his muscles and mind remember how to do it. And he said it wasn't so hard to swallow so that is wonderful.

Yahoo! He was able to take in 5 cans of formula yesterday for nourishment. He gets so tired of being hooked up to that feeding pump all day but we started early in the day to make that quota.

Today I spent a chunk of the morning at the vet clinic. Daddy's little grandpa yorkie has had a bad cough that makes his arthritic body fall over. Turns out he has an enlarged heart and it is putting pressure on his esophageal area. Someone else had taken him in last November to get treated for the same thing but didn't relate that he needs to be on meds continually. I don't blame them. Daddy has been the priority.....not the dogs.

So, I am giving little Jito meds now twice a day, a special food for Baby, and trick training Congito because he is too smart and bored to lay around all day. The going outside to do their business stuff..... I thought I was getting things under control but now that it is raining.....well they are all scared of the rain.

The rain....the weather reports are all declaring possible flash floods. This Texas soil doesn't hardly ever see wet weather so when it rains the moisture doesn't absorb very well. They say it will stop tomorrow and I figure it will be cause this flat land is a lot easier to predict than Oregon's NW weather.

While Daddy was at the hospital this morning I put on some music and got heavenly lost. Normally I will try and clean up a bunch of things while he is gone. I do it while he is not around so that he doesn't have to feel bad for not doing it himself. But today I felt I needed to just sit and soak. The music I played is actually called soaking music. It is worship music that is created by musicians whose sole desire is to completely revel in the beauty of God's joy and love while ushering in His presence more fully. Does that make sense? The way I look at it is this.....the more my mind, body, and spirit are focused on God things then the more room He has to be around without me being distracted.
It was a wonderful time and so intoxicating.

I was able to talk with my cousin today for a bit about God and my relationship with Him. I can't remember what all was said and it seems that is par for when God pushes words out of my mouth like that. I do remember that I brought up topics like creation and dinosaurs, law and grace, and the importance of relationship over religion. I remember that he looked at me several times with that look of 'wow I never thought of it that way before' and then fished for more things from me.

God I pray for your continual guidance....I pray for my ears, eyes, thoughts, and heart to keep on Your guidance, Your signs, and Your business. Father God, all these people have been working so hard to care for Daddy. As much as I pray for Daddy to feel Your love and hope.....I ask that they feel it too. I know You brought me here for many reasons and I pray for those things to stay in the foremost of my mind. I thank you for Your courage and strength and peace. You are so amazing!

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.
Have a blessed and wonderful day today.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Amazing Grace....

Everyone has been telling me it is going to rain today. They are excited because this southern area is most always in a stage of water rationing no matter what time of year it is. I felt anticipation at the thought of rain. Being from Oregon, I am very used to it and never complain. I find that the sweet cleansing smells and rhythmic sounds calm me and often remind me of how God cleanses us fresh.

So far though, all I have seen is a slight drizzle that somehow made a few drops fall off the house gutters even though the moisture in the air didn't even compare to a NW coastal fog.

Daddy is doing better today. When I had first arrived late Saturday, he had just had his chemo pump removed and it was such an effort to stay awake even for 15 minutes. Today is his 4th day with radiation only and he has a small spring in his step. He is shuffling around with more confidence and even made playful conversation with the dogs for a few minutes this afternoon. He made obvious effort this morning to walk over and hug me before he left for treatment.

When he came back from treatment I put Louis Giglio's "How Great Is Our God" into the dvd player. As I had hoped, it didn't take long for the message to grab his attention. He stayed awake through the whole thing and hummed in his beautiful baritone resonance during Chris Tomlin's rendition of Amazing Grace. Silent tears ran down my face for both the descriptive wonder of God expressed in the video and also that Daddy had obviously been touched.

That is what I want. My hope and goal is to open the door to Daddy that God is bigger than all of this. God is bigger than the numbers, the treatments, the medicine. God is bigger than the pain and frustration, the doubt and fear. And through it all, I want him to know that God sees him and has never ever left him.

The network of people here all love Daddy and want him to be better. Spiritually they vary in degrees of faith and confidence. There is the one who emphatically says he will get he tries to explain God away with logic. There is another that panics at the thought of what if and so determines he will get better because nothing else is bearable. Then another says that if it is how my Daddy believes then they will support him in that even though medically speaking the numbers aren't good. Others mostly stay away and sometimes call.......because they have busy lives full of family and job.....because time gets away.........maybe because they are too much reminded of watching their mom/grandma suffer through years of cancer and then have her be gone.
Who am I to say.
I just know that I am here with a fresh energy and I have this song going through my head today....

He saves forgives and heals
Takes back what the devil steals
My debts been paid in full
And every day He does miracles
I got dreams turned them into plans
Too big for human hands
Trust Him and see He's got all the power you need.

I am horrid at remembering titles but there are the words.

Daddy asked me to run through all the messages on his full answering machine (didn't think anyone still had one of those) and clear what wasn't necessary. It touched me, hugged me, and shocked me to find he has stored messages on that machine from us. All the times that we have called in the last year to say hi, he stored in his machine. His stored messages only leave room for a handful of new calls but it is obviously important to him to keep it that way. It makes me tear up to imagine him feeling lonely and turning on a message just to hear us.
"Hi Daddy. It's Julie. You must be at work right now. Sorry I missed you. I just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and loving you. Have a blessed day and I will call again."

As soon as payday fills our account, I want to go get the rest of the Louis Giglio series for him. I think he will really like that.

Blessings to you.
Thank you for your encouragment and prayers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Am In Texas....

I am sitting here trying to think of how to start writing again. I've missed it sorely but then when I look at the computer screen, my mind goes blank. I can't believe how much time has gone by. December was packed with making gifts (I took pictures but will have to share later), parties, cooking, meeting the new grand kids (Abbigail is so precious and boy what a new experience to be called "Grandma" by the older step-children), hyper-extending my finger (can't believe how foolish I feel with that one and still trying to heal from), mine and Mom's shared birthday (which was a treasured day as always), the annual New Year's Gaggle Conference at the beach, getting all of my church responsibilities taken care of, and of course then packing for my trip. I would apologise for not writing sooner and make promises to do better but I feel I have said it so many times in the last several months that it must sound pretty empty to you who are faithful to read and check on me.
Instead I want to say thank you for your support and gracious understanding.

My goal over the next several weeks is to make updates on Daddy's progress and try to wrap my brain around my own thoughts. We shall see how it goes eh?

I arrived here late Saturday night so today makes the beginning of my 3rd full day here. It was a strange feeling to pack up for a 6 week window of time and hug my family goodbye. I was/am really feeling the the lack of not having my hubby and girls close by but then at the same time having such excitement and expectation at being here with Daddy.

Daddy started having problems swallowing foods and then liquids sometime last August. It didn't take too long for him to not be able to swallow even his own saliva. Because of that, I was preparing myself for the idea that he would have lost a lot of weight. I knew that the chemo and radiation was zapping away his strength; I could hear it in his voice whenever we talked on the phone. Despite my mental preparation though, I felt an inner gasp at seeing his frail body purpose to get up from his recliner for a loving hug. I barely began the thought of comprehending that the delicate man trying to stand in front of me was once a strapping barrel chested formidable man that no one ever dared to cross......but then I felt God hold me and heard Him say, "he is okay Julie and so are you. You can do this and I am right here with you."
That was when I saw the sparkle in his eyes.

I have spent these last few days just getting acclimated to my surroundings.
I have taken it upon myself to do some cleaning and organising around the house. Then there are the dogs; we call them the fuzzy children. There are currently 6 little ones here and they do take a bit of attention. There are 4 yorkies, a shitzu and a schnauzer that range in ages from 3-16 years old. Most have different degrees of blindness and lack of hearing so it takes a bit of strategy and sign language to get all of them in and out of the house. Because Daddy has been so sick, they have not gotten outside as much as needed and have developed some lazy habits. Yeah........ I am working on that.

The doctors have completely changed Daddy's treatment plan around but I am told that it is a good thing. This is his last week of radiation therapy and because he is responding well to treatment the oncologist wants him to do another couple rounds of chemo. He will have a treatment the end of this month and then we will see what happens. At this stage he probably won't have a PET scan to check the shrinkage of his tumors until March or April.

I have 2 cousins and a step sister here that have been his primary source of transportation, encouragement, and watchful eye. I have been so grateful for their presence with my own brother and I living so far away. At the same time, I worried that they would feel my trip would be some how an intrusive effort on my behalf to take over. Happily, they are all warm and supportive of my being here. (The only way I can possibly express right now why I would ever feel in the way here would be for you to read an old post series I wrote from a few years back titled Heart Journey) They have all patiently showed me how to do Daddy's medications and feeding care and have left the house so that we can have time together. At the same time, they have all pulled me aside and encouraged me that they are here and a phone call away whenever I need anything. And they are even still doing his daily trips to radiation so I don't have to try and learn everything in super speed time.

For now, I am going to close. Between dogs and such, this has taken a couple of hours to write.
Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement.
I will write more later.
Be blessed and have a wonderful God filled day.