Thursday, July 6, 2017

When Storms are in the Forecast



Fellow Strugglers,
Life is always throwing curve balls, right?  We watch the 10 p.m. news attentively and wait for the weather forecast so we can know how to plan for the next day and if storms are predicted, we make sure and pack that purse-sized umbrella with the colored polka-dots just in case.  We plan, using our smartphones, and double-check at the last minute, to avoid being caught off guard and returning home a dripping wet pile of clothes. But even our best planning and intentions can throw something at us we are NOT prepared for and sometimes the storm is just too darn big for our purse-sized umbrella and what we have left is a gigantic puddle of muddy mess right inside the front door.



I guess that more or less sums up what it is like dealing with chronic disease. After months of feeling not only perfectly fine, but even better than in a long time, I received the news none of us wants to hear..ever.....the cancer has returned.  How can that be?  I don't "feel" sick at all.  But, tests don't lie and my scan showed a couple small spots on my liver. When the radiologist cancelled the biopsy because there was "nothing large enough to biopsy", I was relieved and the sun peeked back out from the clouds.  It felt warm and soothing.....until my oncologist said he wanted me to begin another chemo treatment again.  BANG!  Thunder and lightening!

After talking and praying, talking and praying and talking and praying some more, we decided to seek a second opinion.  I mean, I had been through chemo once...and it wasn't so much fun....wasn't wanting to just jump back in, you know, if it wasn't absolutely necessary.  That led to a trip up to Rochester, Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic.  We met with the oncologist who had taken my case, had a biopsy and other tests and procedures and was scheduled for an ablation.  Not that I was excited about them sticking my liver again, but compared with the other option, this one looked really good. I need to mention, that I have never been so taken aback by the Body of Christ as I was surrounding our, what ended up being two trips to Mayo.  Those wonderful people really know how to be the feet and hands of Jesus and we were so completely loved and well cared for up there, I found it sad when we were sent home!

our friend, Arlene's garden where I breathed in the beauty and exhaled slowly.
looking at downtown Rochester from L'Abri.

Mayo's outdoor garden where we spent a lot of time in between appointments.

Relaxing on the Pasch's deck where we stayed while at Mayo.  

As it turned out, the ablation was also cancelled because a preliminary MRI showed a couple more small spots, one of which was too close to a bile duct to do the procedure safely.  I have now been cancelled on twice!  Feels like storms are in the air again.....I can smell that dusty smell of rain all around me.    Trying not to fear.     Reminding myself of what I know to be true...that I am loved, that God will never forsake me, that all His plans for me are good, that He will bring me through this storm as well, because He has always been faithful.  I repeated those words over...and over...and over...whenever I got my eyes on the dark clouds instead of on Jesus.

The Mayo oncologist suggested a clinical trial that was also available at MD Anderson.  Due to the stringent requirements of the trials, it wouldn't have been possible for me to enroll at Mayo.  When we were waiting at the very small, but very friendly Rochester airport waiting to board our flight back to Austin, I was looking around trying not to fall apart.  The last thing I wanted to have to do was start over with another oncologist.  I have never been a fan of going to the doctor anyway, and fortunately until cancer made its unwelcome arrival, I didn't need to.  Now, hospitals feel like second homes and doctors become friends and currently, my mission field has become where all the dear ones are that are afraid and feel like hope is a dream, are in doubt that God exists and if He does, then He is not at all nice, and are desperately trying to make some sense of what is happening to their bodies.  I can identify with the struggles because I know most of them intimately, but my heart is certain that God is still good, even when it doesn't feel like it.

Now to current events:
Last week, we had our first appointment with my new oncologist at MD Anderson.  I honestly hope  I can weather the storm here, with this doctor.  We talked and talked about options for me and he has recommended another clinical trial that has had positive results so far. Fortunately, my cancer is growing slowly, so we have time to explore other options.  I have learned to love the word: options.  I think right now, it is my favorite word!  We filled out the forms and just today I received a call to schedule my preliminary tests.  I am enjoying a day in the sunshine. I have learned to enjoy the sun while it is shining.


Battling something that there is no cure for is not easy.  If Jesus doesn't come back soon, we may eventually find something that works and get to the bottom of this and people may end up with different battles to fight.  I am sure that there will always be battles though, and storms, and umbrellas that give out against the power of the wind and the wind will continue to blow where it will and it won't give up or give in until we all end up looking  just.like.Jesus.  I am actually a bit excited about the idea of a clinical trial, of being a part of something that will either help a good many people or else will provide the doctors with important information so that they can keep searching elsewhere. Seems to me like a win-win.  And I am certainly thankful that I have this option now!

Truth is, God is good...ALL the time....in EVERY situation and in spite of whatever circumstance AND He is faithful to continue to lead us through this storm like He has led us through others. There will always be storms, BUT there is always God...very present, and hands with scars to remind us of His unending love for us and if we want to be like Him, really like Him, it certainly won't be painless, or storm-free, but it will always be good.

Some other images of Mayo...images that remind me of God's beauty and love.

A statue made by a blind artist who was grateful for the care he had received and donated this work that is meant to be touched.  I closed my eyes and touched it; cool, smooth and flawless.

A free concert that we happened upon.  All given for the enjoyment of patients.  Music is healing to the soul.

Another garden area.  As you can see, we did a lot of walking!  So much beauty to soothe the tired hearts everywhere. This bronze girl reminds me that joy stands defiant in the face of adversity, it lifts it's hands in worship and dances.



Today's forecast: sun is shining.

pam



Friday, March 10, 2017

Not enough in the land of plenty

Hello fellow souls,

Ever struggled with feeling like you were drowning in a sea of "not enough"?  Maybe you personally felt like you weren't enough or there wasn't enough at the end of the month to cover the expenses? Yeah, me, too.  Everywhere you look the message is the same....you are not enough.....you are "just" a mom and wife, you are several sizes too big, you don't have the latest tech-y thing...and you NEED it, or you don't have a nice enough house, or the latest fashion or the coolest label on the seat of your jeans or....or.....or.  And as a believer in Jesus, you are fully aware that you shouldn't give in to any of those destructive thoughts lingering in your head, but they are there and you doubt yourself for a myriad of reasons and you doubt God.  Truth.  We are human and like it or not, we haven't arrived yet.


So, here is a true confession.....I loathe support-raising.  As an introvert, it takes every drop of courage I can muster up to face a group, be it a ladies' bible study or heaven forbid, to stand up in front of an entire church!  Even the little kids can be a bit frightening, but I have found that they are much better at lavishing grace than we are, especially after a few colored goldfish!  Hence, Jesus saying that the Kingdom belongs to people like this.(those who lavish grace, not necessarily who eat colored goldfish, however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with goldfish.)  I often feel like I am supposed to be selling something....myself, Rick, or a ministry and I am a terrible salesperson!  I have tried several different sales options to bring in some extra $$$ over the years of our marriage and I failed....miserably....every time.  Not a saleswoman......not at all. Tempted to feel like we are not enough or the ministry we are called to somehow is not enough.


However...

I am learning that whenever I am tempted to cave to feelings like this, I must preach the gospel to myself...preach what I know to be true to myself...because "myself" is veering off the path....the narrow one, the one Jesus put me on and then said, "Follow Me".  Here's what I KNOW to be true:

I am enough because I am in Jesus and He is absolutely perfect and His perfection has been given to me as a gift of His love. (Heavenly reality...earthly reality not yet, but in process and granted, sometimes the process seems very s-l-o-w.)

There is no lack of resources, no bottom of the bucket, because my Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills, He is the supreme King over all of creation. He supplies when He calls, and ultimately, He is the supplier, even though He uses all of us as instruments of His gracious generosity.

I can face my deepest and darkest fears because my God is with me and He is for me and He will never leave me nor forsake me and all His plans for me are good. (even when it doesn't feel so good)

His Word is full to overflowing with reminders of His sufficiency and His deep, deep love for us. These are just a few that come to mind.

Therefore:

My feelings do not represent what is true, so I will not continue to let them rule me.  (Lord, I need grace....much grace for this part!)  I will not be a slave to what is false.

I can do whatever God calls me to do because it is He who works in and through me and He is enough....He is more than enough.  (Give me your strength, Lord!)  The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in me!  Lives in me! Utterly amazing!

Jesus said He will be with me....always....forever.  I am never alone.  (Lord, help me to know your presence every moment; to be constantly aware that You are with me and in me.)



So, where do we go from here?  Well, there still is the lack we have to deal with in our support account.  Preaching the gospel to ourselves, does not change the earthly reality, it changes our heart so we can face the reality with strength and courage and hopefully glean all from it that God wants us to glean so that we will know Him better, and as a result, love Him more and be able to help others do the same.  I also believe very strongly in the prayers of the saints, that we are called to intercede for one another so that the Kingdom will come, His will be done, here on earth as it is in Heaven.....so that one day, the Heavenly reality and the earthly reality will be one.  Would you be willing to pray for us as we put feet on the ground and go where Jesus calls us to go and do what He calls us to do?  I believe when we pray together, God hears.  He says He does.

Rick and I are very excited to be part of a ministry that is making biblical teaching accessible to people all over the globe for free.  What could be better than that?  We sure would like to get started, but there's this roadblock in the way so we pray and we wait and we pray and we wait.  If God should move in your heart to give, or give more, here is the link to our donation page. Just copy and paste it into your browser:


https://mtw.org/missionaries/details/rick-and-pam-box



And if you happen to be one of those people that can do fundraising campaigns and God calls you to be a champion, there is a link for that, too.  I can't even imagine, but our God is amazing and He gives all kinds of amazing gifts to His people.  That is why we are not all hands or feet or eyes or ears, but we need each other.  We should never forget that we need each other.  Never.

For those of you who have given faithfully for many years or maybe just for a month or two, we want you to know that we are so thankful for you!  We are also thankful for those of you who have prayed for us faithfully.  And I am also thankful for those of you who actually read my blog to the end each time I send it out.  Giving, praying and taking time to read in the midst of a world who yells at us to be selfish and spend our time on lesser things are all fruit of love and obedience to the One who loves us without bounds, has given Himself completely, and always has time to bend low when His children speak.  Your love and obedience challenges us to be more like Jesus every day.

So, here I am...
A work in progress, 
Pam






Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hey! Unto you a child is born!


Yes, it is my favorite Christmas story of all time and one we read every year without fail to our girls during Advent.  It is "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson and if you haven't read it yet, you really need to!  I found my last copy in a used bookstore for a whole $2.50, so no one has an excuse.  Go out......NOW......and get your copy and then read it, but be sure to have tissues handy and totally required that you do the different voices for all the Herdmans because it just doesn't have the same effect without the different voices.  It will change how you look at the Christmas story.  It will make it more real and raw and you get to laugh until you cry and who doesn't need more to laugh about these days?



We hope that no matter what may be going on right now, that you will take the time to breathe, to reflect on just how gloriously special this moment in history was.....when the God of Angel Armies left His home in Heaven and entered a young virgin's womb, just like any other ordinary human, spent 9 long months helplessly being until the appointed time when Glory was to make His earthly appearance. Glory came in a dirty, stable and was wrapped in cloths.  How does one wrap up Glory anyway?


Maybe they really looked more like this?



Wishing you...



Merry Christmas!
With love and in hope from Pam, Rick and Fergus




Thursday, November 17, 2016

Like a valley of dry bones...

God told Isaiah, 

"Be alert, 
be present. 
I’m about to do something brand-new (43:19)."

I feel like there have been a lot of "brand-news" in my life in the past couple years. Remember the saying, "the only constant is change?".......guess that must be a biblical concept.  New things are always a part of change. Sometimes, we love the changes and sometimes we don't so much. So, here it comes, true confession:  I dread, DREAD, support raising. And this is where God has us at this moment, here......at a place that is at the very least uncomfortable for my introverted self and more truthfully, the place of utter fright, kind of like when you are sitting in the movie theater watching your husband's favorite kind of movie, the kind that includes dragons and peasants and thatched huts, and out of nowhere in the sky appears a huge fire-breathing scaled creature swooping down on all the unsuspecting and defenseless serfs below.  They scream in utter terror, but to no avail....the beast is too big and the fire too hot. Ok, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but just a slight one.  I feel anxious just thinking about it.


I am actually ashamed that it reduces me to anxiety because I know that the bottom line is that it is God's thing....He will provide......in His time and in His way.  I know a lot that I don't seem to live by.  Yep, I said that.  My problem is not a lack of knowledge, it is the abyss between my head and my heart. Sometimes, it seems like that road hasn't been forged yet, or at the very least, there are major roadblocks.  And maybe those roadblocks will only be moved by flexing my muscles and moving those gigantic boulders aside.  Hard work. Sweat.  Facing obstacles.  Facing fear.  Just doing the next hard thing.

So, here we are.....having to flex our faith muscles by reminding ourselves that this is God's work, that His supply never runs out, that this is where He has us at this moment and where we will be until He declares it is enough and He will move us to the next new thing.  If you are inclined to pray, please pray with and for us that we would be able to see this as just as much ministry as what comes after.  It feels like this part is just what we have to get through so that we can finally do what God has called us to, but the truth is that this, right now, this moment, is what God is calling us to.  Pray that we can catch glimpses of His glory in the present, have eyes to see Him working in the right now and ordinary feeling moments and to realize how utterly amazing walking with Him is, just being . with . Him.  Being alert.  Being present.


We just had another conference call with our new team - Third Mill Global Opps. We have missed our team in Bogota, so this is that stream in the desert, that mercy, that grace that is abundant and new every morning. We are not meant to be alone, to be islands....we are created for relationship and without it we wither and die.  I have had many episodes of withering since being back "home".  Having lived in Latin America for the past 25+ years, where human relationships are viewed as necessary as the air we breathe, being in this "doing" based culture has left me with some pretty big longings.  I have been changed, I am one of those hidden immigrants, who looks just like everyone else on the outside, but feels like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Jesus surely must have felt like this, too, which brings me more than a little comfort.  But, having a new team to get to know and be a part of is a wonderful thing, a life-giving thing.  We will be traveling to Orlando next month and will be able to see everyone in the flesh, so to speak.  Really looking forward to that!  I think I mentioned in the last blog that we are still with Mission to the World and "on loan" to Third Mill, just in case there might be some misunderstanding.  I have a habit of assuming that you have direct access to what is in my head, so many times leave out pertinent information that ends up as misunderstandings. Let it be known that I am aware of this grievous failing and am attempting to work on it!  I am a miserable work in progress, needing daily forgiveness by a host of different people, possibly most I come in contact with, and improvements seem to come slowly, so please give me the benefit of the doubt, and I commit to do the same for you.  And, if you have any questions, please ask!  I am pretty adept at answering direct questions.....much better at that than trying to figure out what your questions may be.


In my daily devotions this morning I was reading Ezekiel 37 about the valley of dry bones.  I love this! I am a total sucker for things that knock my socks off and this story definitely is one of those.  I mean, can you imagine what this must have been like for Ezekiel?  He's just there looking at death and stink and hopelessness, kind of like me thinking of support-raising (enter smiley face emoji) and God asks if those bones can live and Ezekiel being the smart prophet he is, replies that only God knows that. Honestly, I probably would have said....No, they are dead......and this is why I am not a prophet. Anyway, God told Ezekiel to speak to those bones and that they would come to life and like anything that God says, there was an instant reaction and the creation responded to His Words and there was a rumbling and then a resurrection! Wow!  I so would have liked to see that!  Bone to bone, sinew to bone, muscles, flesh and then the Breath of Life!  I can imagine God also having to pick Ezekiel's mouth off the dusty ground.  

And this is my hope, this is our hope, that all that seems too far gone, too dead, too big, too beyond healing is not, because God is!  God speaks to the dead bones within us and says, LIVE, because it is who He is.  He is life. So I will breathe and keep reminding myself that this is so until it is firmly settled in my heart......60 seconds of every minute, 60 minutes of every hour, 24 hours of every day, 365 days a year until I know it in my heart like I know it in my head.

Praying this for you as well, 
p


Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

To Everything.....There Is a Season.....

Recently, my daily Bible reading plan had me going through Ecclesiastes.  Never have loved that book much because I am more of a Pollyanna-ish type and to be honest, the book of Ecclesiastes seems to me like something Solomon jotted down when he was having a really bad day.  You know the kind.....that kind of a day when even your vain attempt to cheer yourself up by ordering a full-fat mocha......venti.....with the cream on the top goes south when you accidentally catch the bottom of the cup on the steering wheel and it goes careening out of control toward the passenger seat and explodes all over you and the entire inside of the car.  All that chocolate and dairy delight wasted on upholstery!  Not to mention, that you are going to have to spend the next few hours searching on Pinterest for a way to get the nasty stains out and then a few more hours seeing if the pin was legit or if you have been hood winkled yet again.  Yes, I think Solomon must have had that kind of a day and instead, went home and said..."think I need to make a journal entry!"

However......there is one part I really do love and that is the "there is a time to_______ and a time to ___________.  I love this because it reminds me that everything has its good purpose even if we can't get our heads and hearts around it at the moment and that if it is my time to do the really hard thing, a time is coming when things won't be so hard.  A time for everything in its season, so says the wisest man who ever lived...... before Jesus, that is.


See, even the Byrds are singing about it!

So, anyway........we have spent what seemed at times like a veritable eternity waiting for our time to know what God was going to do with us.  It has been our time to wait and for the most part, I think, we have done it without getting totally exasperated.  Waiting, as I have said before, is not our forte, but as God is faithful and doesn't give up on us. EVER.....we have survived, learned, grown and now the time has come for the next thing.  It feels like when you find that strategic piece of the puzzle out of the pile of 2,000 that connects that other large bit you were working on that was kind of just floating out there not connected to the whole, but now you can fit in that orphan bit and unite it with its family.  Yeah, like that.

I am including a short letter written by Rick explaining the whys, whats and wheres of it all.  So, here it is:

As many of you already know, shortly after Pam and I returned to the USA from Colombia, South America for a one-year HMA, Pam was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.  She went through a difficult surgery followed by chemotherapy.  After her chemo treatments, she was diagnosed NED (no evidence of disease).  This was a time of great praise and joy for us.  Nevertheless, her oncologist said that, due to her aggressive type of cancer, he needed to see her at least every three months for two years.  He strongly recommended that we not move out of the country during that time. After the two years of three-month checkups, she will need to be checked every six months for two more years.

As missionaries with MTW, this put us in a precarious position.  Through prayer and counsel with our leaders at MTW, God has given us a wonderful opportunity.  We will be able to continue in our passion for discipleship and theological training in Latin America. At least for the next year, Pam and I will be working under MTW in conjunction with Third Mill Ministries to facilitate leadership training and theological education in Latin America.  

Third Mill has developed an excellent, completely reformed theological curriculum in Spanish (as well as other languages).  The studies range from discipleship through complete seminary graduate level. The courses are completely free of cost to the students and can be studied completely online, or on provided USB drives, or DVDs. Our ministry and mission will be to work with churches, pastors, and church leaders in Latin America to acquaint them with the materials, show them how to use them, and help them utilize these reformed studies in their ministries at whatever level they need. The goal is to raise up reformed leadership in churches and ministries throughout Latin America.

Pam and I would like to thank you for your prayers and your patience with us during this trying time.  We praise God for His provision and ask for your prayers and support for us in this new venture.  We would be glad to come  and share with you more about this ministry.  If you would like to hear more about it, please let me know when we can visit with you.

(That last bit was for our individual supporters and supporting churches and we mean it!)



It is wonderful to have the long wait over.....to realize that God really isn't done with you yet, that after waiting out the storm, there is a rainbow, that the gooey, chocolaty mess gets cleaned up, the pieces to the puzzle find their proper place and for "this time" it is good.......it is really good!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Waiting in an "ain't nobody got time for that" world

How much of your life is spent waiting?  We wait in line to check out at the grocery store, we wait in heavy traffic, we wait for a date to arrive, or a friend.  We wait and wait and wait and so, I wonder what is the purpose behind all this waiting?  If it's to teach us patience, I am afraid that for most of us, waiting in heavy traffic while that guy, you know the one, who incessantly weaves back and forth kissing your bumper in the process as if in his weaving he might make an inch of progress, only produces varying levels of anxiety and sometimes, violent explosions of expletives.  And then, you give thanks that in this sweltering heat the windows are rolled up and no one heard you completely lose your head.......well.....except God, and then you ask forgiveness and give thanks for mercy and grace and commit to hold your tongue the next time.  Maybe that lady in the car next to you who glanced right at you when you were in the midst of your fit of patient-less frustration just thought you were carrying on a heated debate with someone on hands free?  Oh well, it is what it is and what it isn't is patient.

I feel like we have been sitting in heavy traffic for some time now so actually put off writing because I was certain that by this time we would have some news to share, some definitive decision made and would be well on our way somewhere with someone by now, but instead, here I sit......waiting.  I have been more than a little frustrated with God's seemingly slow movement on our behalf and have been blatantly honest on that front with Him.  I have prayed for ears to hear, for direction, for wisdom, you know, all the "right" things that you can have confidence that He will answer because they are smack in line with His Word.  So......I have concluded that He is in fact answering, but He is just taking His sweet time about it, which is totally His prerogative since He is God and all.  And that leads me back to the second question above:  What is the purpose behind all this waiting?  'cause honestly, waiting just feels an awful lot like wasting time, doesn't it? Like when you are standing there behind that lady in the grocery line who keeps sending her son out for a few more items that she "forgot" while you switch back and forth from one foot, to the other, while you hold your four items......FOUR ITEMS!  That is why you chose the speedy lane option, because you only had FOUR ITEMS and the lady in front of you had only the maximum 15 when she and her son tooled up, but somehow that number has now grown to at least 50, you are sure.  You glance at your watch and wonder if you got in the wrong line.  Of course you did!  And its all that guy Murphy's fault and his stupid law!  Why does he keep following me around???


All kidding aside, I am sure that there is some good reason for this taking so long, just not so sure what it is.  Maybe its because I have taken the wrong perspective of waiting?  Recently I read a quote (don't remember who authored it), but it stopped me in my tracks.  It equated waiting with work!  Really?  'cause it feels every bit like inactivity and being unproductive and just wasting time.  And at my age, the last thing I want to be caught doing is wasting time!  But.......what if waiting was actually working?  Just a very different kind of working than we are used to...and what if this "work"  produced a very different kind of fruit? After all,  a fruit tree produces fruit by just being there, roots deep within the soil taking in all the nutrients it needs and just standing there under the sun as its leaves soak up all the warm goodness and then, in a little while, we have apples, or peaches or pears. So, learn from the fruit tree, you who feel like such a sluggard in your waiting (spoken to myself, of course, because saying that to you would be a little rude)!


As you have probably gathered by now, we are still in the decision making progress.  The good news is that we have narrowed it down to two or three options for what we should do for the rest of our lives!  I really thought we had figured all this out many years ago, but you just never know what will appear in the road.  In our case, it was a huge boulder, too large to just kick out of the way and it has caused us to detour and now we are walking down an unknown trail not sure exactly where it will lead.  but, the only certainty in life is uncertainty, right?  At least we are now able to see a few places where the road splits and I really believe it won't be long at all until we are able to see things clearly and know which path we are to take.  It is scary and exciting at the same time.



On a definitive note, I had my 6 month post chemo check and am still cancer-free!  I am working on getting my body as healthy as possible through detox, exercise, eating right and getting my heart where it needs to be by putting God first in my daily activities, spending time with Him in prayer and in His word and letting Him provide the spiritual nourishment I so desperately need.....which has probably become painfully evident by now!  Rick and I would like to express our thanks and appreciation to all of you, who have also been extremely patient in the waiting with us.  We never dreamed it would take this long, and for your sake more than our own, we diligently pray that very soon I will be writing again to let you know what God has provided in the way of direction for us as we move forward.  Thank you so much for praying with us through a series of hard things and many changes!  We have never felt alone and we have always felt loved....very much loved and cared for by our Good, Good Father and by you all.

Waiting with expectation of good things,
pam

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Grace and Good-byes

Good-bye.

This little word causes me more angst than any other.  So, I just decided to never say it.  Never.  Most of my last 25+ years have been spent having this word rip my heart out over and over again.  Sure, we were taught that good-byes were going to be many and difficult, but being taught something and then actually living out the truth of what you have been taught are two very different things, right? Like being schooled in some deep, spiritual truth...and, other than feeling really good about the vast amounts of knowledge we have now amassed, until that truth comes face to face with experience, it probably doesn't impact the deeper recesses of our hearts.
(yes, that was a horrible run-on, incomplete sentence.  My sincere apologies to all you grammar nazis out there, but try and accept it under the guise of artistic expression. :)

But, when it does connect.....WHAM!!!  It's like charging head-long into a brick wall.  We are shaken to the very core...every nerve reeling from the effects of it.  There is no tiny or remote corner of our being that escapes.  It HURTS!  And, when it happens over and over and over again, sometimes in rapid succession, it can leave you feeling like you just.can't.keep.on.breathing.

But, what if your heart really needed to say good-bye and you didn't get the chance?  Like, the good-bye was a more final thing than you had realized and you weren't in the right place or the right moment when you left?  Like everything was hurried and there was all this packing and giving away things and selling things, and you let things lead and where it lead you wasn't the place you thought? And you remember all this training about how important it is to "leave well", and you realized you didn't even know you were really leaving at the time...well, not REALLY leaving, but now you are gone. BAM! Right smack in the face!  Can't breathe!  Can't breathe!

Then, grace comes.

It comes, like a trusted and true friend.  It offers you a tight hug, and then another and then another and as many as you need until your reeling heart settles down and you can begin the hard work of grief.  Grace reminds your crushed heart that there is divine goodness in this place called Struggle and that you are not alone.  You.are.not.alone.  You will NEVER be alone. Grace breathes life air into your lungs and keeps pumping life air into your tired body.  Grace holds you up and carries you when you have collapsed from spiritual exhaustion.  And then, grace invites hope to come alongside because a cord of three strands can't be broken, and what you need most in this moment is something to not be broken.  Hope lifts you up beyond the fray and the muck so you can see that this current pain is not all there is.  Up above, you can breathe easier and see clearer.

This change of perspective is where gratitude is born.  It is as much of a miracle as a baby laboring to breathe oxygen outside the womb and reaching out to touch her mother with her tiny, fragile fingers for the first time.  Gratitude is new life being born in us after much struggle and shedding of blood.  It requires blood.  Life requires blood.  And, thankfulness, when it is first born in us is fragile.  If it is not nurtured, it will die.  We are given life air so we can exhale gratitude.

Baby Isabella with parents Brooke and Charlie.  New friends and a fellow warrior.
Grace means not having to fight battles alone.
So...when we left Bogota I didn't say "good-bye" because, remember, I don't say that word...and...our plan was to settle my mom's small estate (does a little frame house beside a quiet lake qualify as an estate?), get some much needed rest, reconnect with our family, friends and supporters and then return.  Our plan was to return.  BUT.........God, in His infinite goodness and wisdom far beyond what this pea brain can conceive, had another plan...a better plan.  A better plan that included, death, cancer, treatment, healing and a whole lot of questions about...well...basically everything.  We are still in the process of trying to figure things out, but one thing became apparent...traveling back and forth from Colombia every three months for my ongoing follow-ups wasn't realistic.  That's when the grief hit...again.  I'm not going back!  But...I didn't say "good-bye"!  I didn't hug my friends' necks and cry my eyes out!  I didn't go to my favorite places for the "last time"!  I didn't get closure!

I cried out to God.

Turns out, that in order for us to get our shipment back here, the shipping company requires a round-trip ticket to Colombia and back to the US, as well as a bunch of other legal documents that can't be done from here, so we will be traveling back for one last time very soon.  It will be a hard trip, but a necessary one.  God is giving us closure.  He heard my heart's cry.  He always hears our hearts' cries. Always.



Beautiful memories of a city and people who captured my heart...

So, please pray for us to be able to do this hard work of leaving well.  The truly holy things require sacrifice and suffering and our hearts being torn into a thousand tiny pieces, but the work of putting those pieces back together and creating something much more beautiful than the original is what God is about doing.  I can endure the pain knowing it wouldn't be hurting if I didn't love deeply and that Jesus will take all the pain and form it into something glorious.  And, then, when we have completed that step, He will reveal the next.....one day at a time.

Thankful and hopeful for the continued adventures,
p