Then Sings My Soul

>> Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"
~Carl Gustaf Boberg and Stuart K. Hine

First and foremost, I'd like to extend a heartfelt "thank you" to all who have shared your sweet words of concern and encouragement here on my blog, in emails, and on Facebook. My mom, my family, and I have been deeply touched by the outpouring of love and kindness from relatives, from friends, and from those we have yet to meet. My sincere gratitude to everyone who has lifted my mom in prayer. I cannot fully express how much it has meant to me; suffice it to say that my cup runneth over. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

As for my mom's progress, it has been a trying journey to say the very least. After about three weeks of daily chemotherapy and radiation treatments, we began to see a decline in both my mom's physical state and her emotional well-being. The treatments were grueling. She lost over 20 pounds in one month. She suffered nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, dehydration, pain, apathy, and loss of appetite. She was hospitalized twice, and received a blood transfusion during her last stay.

I can't begin to know or understand what my mom went through or how much she suffered during her 6+ weeks of chemo/radiation treatment. But for those of us who love her, watching her go through all that she did was heart-wrenching, and probably the most difficult experience any of us have gone through. The intense feeling of helplessness is something I'm sure most cancer families can relate to. The last day she was in the hospital, I remember standing near her bed, watching someone else's blood make its way through the plastic tubing and into my mom's tiny, frail arm. I remember seeing something different in her eyes, a dullness, a loss of hope, and I cried as I wished silently that she and I could change places, even for just a day, so that she could find some rest.

Three days later, she was back home at my sister's house. That morning, when I picked up the phone, I could hear in my dad's voice that he was crying. "Your mom", he stammered, "cooked for herself! She fed herself!" The tears of joy were contagious. Apparently my mom, who had grown so weak that my dad had to feed her, felt hungry in the middle of the night and proceeded to cook for herself. A small yet sweetly significant triumph, and one we won't soon forget.

A few weeks ago, my mom, my sister, and I were sitting together talking. She began to tell us about her last trip to the hospital, when she was saved. "I had a talk with God", she said. "I told Him that if it was my time to go, I'd understand." With her cheeks wet with tears, my mom continued to tell us how she had asked for His forgiveness ... and for a second chance. "I made a promise to God", she explained, "that if He could forgive me for all of the mistakes I've made and give me another chance in this life, then I would be a better person and serve Him in the way He planned for me." With a genuine happiness in her eyes, she calmly told us about her intentions to become much more involved in her church, and about all the other ways she wanted to help people in need.

Since then, my mom has not been burdened with any of the symptoms she experienced before or during her chemo/radiation therapy. She cooks every day. She eats regularly. She has gained some weight. She exercises to build up strength for her upcoming surgery. She fusses over us and dotes on her grandchildren. She does everything with more affection, greater understanding, and strengthened determination. And she shows each of us how much she loves us every single day.

In his book, The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World, Billy Graham writes, "God never removes something from our lives without replacing it with something far better. It might not seem so at the time, but later you will understand - and you will marvel at God's wisdom and goodness."

My mom will have surgery on Monday to remove whatever is left of the tumor. But I believe that it's already gone. Last month, I feared that my mom might not make it through the debilitating regimen of daily chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Today, I watch her perform the most mundane of tasks with deliberation and a renewed sense of purpose. It truly lifts my soul.

I have witnessed the true meaning of unconditional love in the way my dad has taken care of my mom; feeding her, reading to her, cooking for her, helping her use the bathroom, cleaning up after her - all without a single complaint. Sometimes, I would worry about his own strength, but he always managed to provide enough for both of them, and when he would kiss her forehead, it would simply warm my soul.

And I am incredibly amazed at the goodness and kindness of strangers; that so many of you would take time out of your busy schedules to send a note or say a prayer for a woman most of you have never met. I think my dear friend, Ginny, said it best in her comment on my last post. "Today the internet seems so inadequate", she wrote, " I wish I could just reach out & give you a hug & hold your hand." The caring, sweet, endearing words that you have shared with my family just fill my soul. I wish I could give each and every one of you a warm hug. Thank you for showering our family with hope, kindness, and sweet friendship. Thank you most of all for showing us the love and greatness of God.


We found a large mass...

>> Sunday, August 2, 2009

I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. ~Og Mandino

Hello friends and family. I apologize for not being around the last few months. It has been a hectic and difficult summer for us, to say the least. My first-born and only daughter, Maysie, graduated from high school in June (more on that later). We lost one brother-in-law to a heartbreaking divorce and another to the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. But by far, the most trying event hit us about a month ago and to be honest, I still find myself trying to process all that has happened.

Last month, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. During a routine check-up, the doctor noticed a large mass that was later determined to be cancerous. Because of the depth of the tumor and positive lymph node involvement, she will undergo six weeks of daily chemotherapy and radiation treatment in an attempt to shrink the tumor down prior to surgical excision. Her first week of treatment started this past Monday. Tomorrow, week two begins.
My mom has truly surprised me. She does not complain. She does not feel sorry for herself. She feels fortunate that the doctors found the tumor before it spread to other organs in her body. She laughs much more than she cries. She gets up every morning ready to take on the day. She says love is always worth the fight. She thanks God that she is surrounded by family and friends who love and take care of her. She is affectionate and strong and loving. And she is grateful to be alive.

I don't think there is any way to fully prepare ourselves for all of the curve balls life decides to throw at us. All we can do is say a prayer, keep our eye on the ball, and swing as hard as we can. My mom is a profile in courage. Her optimism is contagious. You would never know that she is a cancer patient, or that she is in pain, or exhausted, or sad. Her winning spirit is what holds our family together; her sweet smile a beacon of hope. She amazes me, inspires me, humbles me. I have never been more proud.

I believe my mom can win this battle. But much like baseball, surviving cancer can't be achieved alone. In many ways, it is a team sport. I am truly grateful for the group of compassionate and competent doctors that care for her. And I know this would be much more difficult for her to endure without my dad's constant encouragement and unconditional love. Our family is completely dedicated to my mom's recovery, but I also believe in the power of prayer.

So I ask of anyone reading my blog, a simple request: please keep my mom in your prayers; that she remain steadfast and strong, and that hope and peace continue to fill her heart.

Thank you so much and God bless.


Leading Him to Christ

>> Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let me hear Your loving kindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; teach me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You. ~Psalm 143:8

It seems like just yesterday that he was baptized; a darling four-month-old with quite a set of lungs when jolted from a nap. Two Sundays ago, he experienced his first Holy Communion; a quiet and well-behaved eight-year-old boy who shyly sang with his peers, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus in the morning, Jesus at the noon-time. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus when the sun goes down."

Yes, of course I cried. I cried at how quickly he had grown from an adventurous toddler to a sweet little boy. I cried with gratitude for the tender heart and affectionate soul that I always knew we shared. I cried at the sound of his quiet little voice whispering, "Amen", before he took the Body of Christ. I cried as I watched his little hand form the Sign of the Cross over his forehead and chest. And I cried when he turned around to find me, smiling proudly as he caught my eye, as if to let me know not to worry anymore because Jesus was with him.

In a troubled and quickly changing world, it's often difficult not to be cynical. It's hard to know who to trust or where to put your faith. Uncertainty can easily take over hope for the future, especially in a country divided. But as I watched my son smiling that day, I realized that there is no reason for uncertainty; there is no reason to search for someone to trust, a leader who can unite us all for the common good. He is already here, and He is all we really need.

The months preceding Dayton's First Communion were filled with games, lessons, and activities that helped explain the Holy Eucharist to 7 and 8 year olds. Ironically, though I tried my best to guide him along, it was he who led me back to Christ. The innocence of a quiet little boy, whose knowledge of the world did not extend past the narrow roads of our small town; who had no worries about anything else...because Jesus was with him.

So I think I'll follow my son's lead and try not to let the world overwhelm me. Because the Hope that I believe in has never changed, and I need not look further than my own heart to find Him.


My Take on Sketch #80

>> Thursday, April 16, 2009

Here is a sketch from the Got Sketch blog and my layout inspired by the sketch. So fun! For more takes on this sketch, as well as other creative sketches, click here.


Holy Week, Monday: Our Ransom is Paid

>> Monday, April 6, 2009

Jesus said, "For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." ~Mark 10:45

I have to admit, I never fully understood what Mark wrote in his Gospel until recently. Like so many, I have always been quick to judge my own actions and determine my own fate, believing that a difficult or painful event was a consequence of my sins. But I was wrong, because even when we do sin, the Bible says, "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love". (~Psalm 145:8) It was my own insecurity that stood in the way of truly appreciating the free gift of Christ's death and resurrection. For most of us, it is hard to believe that we would just be given the gift of our salvation without any conditions. But that is exactly what happened: Jesus paid our ransom IN FULL, and that is a truth many of us find difficult to live by.

In The Journey, author Billy Graham explains, "Eternal life is a gift. Many misunderstand this and still think they must earn their salvation by their own good works. But we can never be good enough to earn our way into heaven, because God's standard is perfection. Our only hope is Christ." He continues, "Few things cripple a Christian quicker than a lack of assurance about his or her salvation... Who is responsible for His [Jesus] death? We all are. Because He voluntarily went to the cross for one reason: to become the final and complete sacrifice for our sins. If we had never sinned, He never would have needed to die".

We often speak of unconditional love in our family life, in our marriage, and in our friendships. Truth is, by human nature, we are programmed to expect reciprocity: a mutually fulfilling relationship, needing to feel validated, meeting in the middle, I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine. It's a very wonderful concept to strive for, but one that can only come to fruition through a commitment to Christ. Because His love is truly unconditional. He died for us expecting nothing in return. And if we can place our trust solely and completely in the grace of God, perhaps then we can learn to love others without needing to be loved back.

There are people who touch our lives with a simple act of kindness or a word of encouragement, and yet expect nothing in return. I have some dear friends who have made a difference in my life, and oddly enough, I've never even met them:

Lenni P., Lovely Cee, Ginny C., Dawn in NY, Jen McG, Sharon in Australia, Denise B., Amy M. from Colorado, Jennifer S., and Angela L.

I love you guys. Thank you for being you.


Meet Sharon

>> Tuesday, February 24, 2009

There is an art to scraplifting. We all do it; see a layout that we love and feel compelled to create a similar one for our own album. Scraplifting can be as simple as copying a page using the same products, colors, and themes. Or, with a little more effort and ingenuity, a scraplifted layout can become a page that is truly your own.

Meet my sweet friend, Sharon Solomons, from Australia. Sharon has a wonderful knack for taking a scraplifted page and adding her own special touches. She has a great eye for combining papers and accents to suite her photos and to enhance the theme of her page. She recently sent me some photos of layouts she created based on a few of my pages:

my page

Sharon's page
Supplies for "Birthday Girl":Patterned Paper: Making Memories Noteworthy; Ribbons: Making Memories and American Crafts; Stamps: Autumn Leaves; Rub ons: BasicGrey and Making Memories; Cardstock: Bazzill; Tab punch and stamping ink: Stampin' Up! (choc chip)

I love how Sharon has combined patterned papers and ribbons here. I especially love how she used the decorative-edged sheet on the bottom right corner, adding a bit of whimsy to her layout of darling daughter, Ava.

my page

Sharon's page
Supplies for "Santa Baby": Patterned paper: Cosmo Cricket; Chipboard letters: Lil Davis (painted with red Making Memories paint); Fabric letter & metal washer: Making Memories; Stitching rub-ons: Autumn Leaves; Chipboard arrow: Janet's Essentials (lss); Brads: Making Memories, Heidi Swapp and American Crafts; Flowers: Making Memories & Prima; Chipboard heart & clock: Heidi Swapp; Definition sticker: Making Memories; Ceramic bird: Craft Matters; Cardstock: Bazzill; Ink: Black Staz-On; Stamp: Autumn Leaves; Negative strips: Creative Imaginations

Here, Sharon worked her magic by taking elements from my son's soccer page and adding her own special touches to create a Christmas baby layout. Notice her one large photo instead of my four photo collage. Also, the addition of the flowers, heart, and clock make a nice gathering that is well suited for the theme of this layout. Because of these additional embellishments, Sharon moved her title over to the left side, helping to balance out the strong reds on the page.

Thanks, Sharon, for sharing your beautiful work. You take scraplifting to a new level, where the lifted page is just a blueprint...but the signature is all yours :)


Layouts and a Review

>> Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hi everyone! Happy New Year! Just posting some additional layouts before I add them to a new album. These are pages I've done for Internet sites or just for fun.

My daughter, Maysie, at her Catholic Confirmation with her wonderful sponsor and dear family friend, Denise. This is a page I did for Jenni Bowlin Studio using one her amazing kits.My awesome sister-in-law, Monica, with my sweet little guy, Dayton. I layered and fringed the flowers and then attached them to Autumn Leaves tags.
This was based on a cool sketch from Pencil Lines. My daughter, Maysie, with her lovely friend, Emalee, at Girls Nation in Washington D.C.
A fun page of Maysie and I hanging out at our home with our long-time friends, Denise and Dawn.
Maysie's 14th birthday in our backyard. Still love that frosty numbers paper from KI Memories.

And lastly, a friend pointed out this really, really nice review of the Autumn Leaves book Perfectly Clear. The review is written by Kimberly Winston for The Stampers Warehouse in Danville, CA. Thank you for the kind words, Kimberly!


Recommended Reading

  • THE JOURNEY by Billy Graham
  • THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy
  • FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by Daniel Keyes
  • THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
  • EPICENTER by Joel Rosenberg
  • THE SHACK by William Paul Young

Giving Back

Building a better world for children through child sponsorship.
Providing help. Creating hope.
Christians blessing Israel and the Middle East

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