This post has been mulling around in my thoughts since last week… Enjoy

We have a young woman from Northern Ireland staying with us right now, a family friend, and last week she had come downtown with us to hang out in Toronto for the day. We met up after the appointments and were deciding how to spend the rest of the day. Our choices were to be tourists in Toronto and catch a Jays game or to head out to Niagara Falls for the afternoon and evening.

We chose Niagara Falls and I’m so glad we did. I’ve only been to Niagara Falls a few times in my life but I am always surprised by the enormity of the Falls and their beauty. After walking by the American Falls and taking all the touristy photos we considered taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist. I’ve always wanted to go on this boat/ride/attraction but I had never had the opportunity to until now. We decided this would be our attraction for the day.

Now we had already seen the beauty and majesty of the Falls from the safety of the roadway but now we were going to venture into the very heart of the rushing water. Dressed in our blue ponchos we were ready for the adventure.

Even as we left the dock I was surprised by the vividness of colour found in the rainbow, at times just parts of a rainbow, at times a full brilliant rainbow and even more than that, at times a full double rainbow. I’ve never seen anything like it. And the rainbows didn’t just stop on top of the water, it was at times as though the rainbows were diving deep into the waters to create a full circle. Perhaps it was just a trick of the eyes but I have a feeling that it was more than that.

My favourite Bible story is that of Noah and the Promise of the Rainbow. I have a house full of Noah’s Arks as a constant reminder to me that God is Faithful and a Keeper of Promises.

As we were heading into the heart of the Falls I spent some time in prayer (with my eyes open since I didn’t want to miss a thing!) starting my prayer Creator God…

The song God of Wonders began to come to mind.

God of all creation
Water, earth and sky
The heavens are your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on High

God of wonders
Beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy

The universe declares your majesty
You are holy, holy

***

There I was at the side of the boat, looking at the brilliance of the rainbows, listening to the roar of the water and feeling the coolness of the mist on my face. I was in the middle of my favourite song, the Creation Song, the universe declaring, announcing His majesty. And not just to me but to all who were there around me on the boat, on the shores. There was no escaping this stanza of the Creation Song. Every day, all day announcing, making God known. Now of course not everyone has the eyes to see or the ears to hear this song for what it is but there it was for all to experience. I was in awe.

I was also reminded of Psalm 19:1-6

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

***

I was years ago that I stumbled upon what I call The Creation Song.  I would be driving home after church in the evening on country roads with my windows down and the deafening sound of the crickets and the other night animals made me think about how all creation sings to God.  There are many  variations of this song. Even now I am listening to the early morning chorus of the birds as they sing their part, make their announcement… You are Holy. You are Majestic.  This song always brings a smile to my face and I love hearing new variations of it.  The chorus of the Falls has left me with a strong impression. It won’t be forgotten.

And with that, Heather

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Dear Family and Friends,

I want to write an update this morning that will bring you up to speed on all that has been happening in the last few weeks.  I haven’t written much here in the last few weeks in part because I have been processing all that has gone on and all the new information that we have been given.

After such a great celebration report after my lung biopsy in June, we got some news that set me/us on a detour.  After another lung CT scan and comparing it to the previous scans I was admitted into hospital for the weekend because while some of the nodules had shrunk and disappeared (this was the cause of our celebration of God’s healing…) there were other nodules that still remained. More than that, these nodules were growing and it was undetermined as to what they were.  The weekend in hospital allowed a host of doctors from a variety of specialties to see me and talk about my case.  When I was discharged from the hospital I was followed again by my bone marrow team at PMH and the infectious disease department at TGH.

I must admit that this detour was a surprise to me and made me spend some time in conversation with God about my healing celebrations the week prior.  In a facebook note to a friend I wrote these words:

***

I know that you have been in this spot before. I’ve been mulling over my next blog post and I think it will be an update along with some thoughts on what happens to our faith when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we have asked Him to. Does that change who God is? Does that change my faith turning it to disbelief? Does God still care? Does he see? The answer of course is that God remains the same, my faith is challenged and depending on the foundation on which my faith is built, it grows and relies deeper on the One who loves me and knows me best. He cares for me most and never takes his eyes off of me.

I know that this is hard to understand. It’s hard for me to understand after years of practicing this type of faith. I know that there will be some who won’t understand this, both those who know Jesus and those who don’t. There will be others who will examine their own faith and grow in their understanding of who God is.

***

So that brings me to yesterday.  The final results of the lung biopsy came in and while the results reveal a lot and point us in one direction, they were inconclusive.  I was referred back to the Oncology team, Dr. Crump and Dr. Kurvella, that followed my case prior to transplant because the biopsy results suggest that I have post transplant lymphoma in my lungs. As we discussed a few options yesterday about how to proceed we decided that there was enough information and markers in place to go ahead and treat this as though it is post transplant lymphoma even though the results are inconclusive.  Options were discussed and I will begin a 4 week IV treatment next week to fight the lymphoma. I will go down to PMH once a week for this treatment, administered by IV.  This is not a chemotherapy treatment although we have forgotten the category that this treatment falls under.  I will be monitored closely by Dr. Crump and his team and I am thankful for the history that I have with them and their great care for me, my best treatment plan and for my family.

Psalm 119:11 says, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Over the years I have hidden God’s word in my heart both by memorizing verses and through songs that are based on Bible verses.  At times God brings these verse back to my thoughts to encourage me and remind me of this promises.  As I was looking at the days ahead this song from Nathan’s camp last year came to mind:  Today is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it… And I won’t worry about tomorrow. I’m trusting in what you say. Today is the day.  And then, as Nathan and I were driving back from camp that same day he began to sing a song from my childhood that he had just learned: I’ve got peace like a river… in my soul.  God spoke to me through these childhood songs, comforting my heart and mind.  I didn’t need to worry about the tomorrows because Today is the Day and I can choose to rejoice in it.  This was a joy to my heart and provided the freedom I needed from worry.

I’m not sure what else to say.  I/we are eager to move forward and to put this action plan in place.  We are thankful always for your love, prayers and practical care for us. We know we are loved.

Heather

Dear Family and Friends,

I know that you have been waiting for this news and praying and thinking about us today as we met with the doctors.  We met first with Dr. Rotstein, the Infectious Disease doctor at TGH and he was able to share some of the preliminary results of the lung biospy. They are still waiting on some of the pathology to come back…

He told us that there were no cells indicating the fungal infection! (YAHOO!)

And he told us that the cells were not malignant/cancerous! (DOUBLE YAHOO!)

Some of the cells that they found were infectious, pneumonia (and some other things that had fancy names that I don’t remember) which of course explains why I am still coughing and short of breath.  He prescribed an antibiotic for 14 days that should clear this up or at least put me on the right path.

He also said that he was surprised by some of the results… what was found and what wasn’t found.  I don’t remember all of that conversation because I was so busy thanking God but I did say that we weren’t surprised because of all the prayers that had been given on our behalf.

When he looked at my blood work he noticed that one part where there had been a change for the worse and then for whatever reason… they changed back for the good to where he is no longer concerned.  Out of curiousity (and because of all your prayers and our time with the elders at our church…) I asked when the change began to happen. Looking back to the charts he said that things started to get better around the end of May.  Your focused prayers and our time with the elders was on the May long weekend.  Jeff and I recognize this as the hand of God.

I don’t know what else to say.  I am filled to overflowing with joy, even though I’m still coughing and short of breath. I know that the results could have been much different.  I know that each day of my life is a gift and I’m working hard to live that way.

Thank you all for everything.  Jeff and I have been surrounded by peace as we waited for the biopsy and for the results.  We will continue to wait on God for the healing of these infections that linger in my lungs.

We love you all,

Heather, Jeff and Nathan

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for your prayers, your notes and your thoughts for me, Jeff and Nathan today.  We all slept well and were full of peace as we went downtown this morning for my lung biopsy.  Jeff and I had some great conversation about a book that I’m reading right now (more on that another time) and Nathan was busy singing worship songs from his High Seas Adventure cd (today is the day You have made, I will rejoice and be glad in it…).

We arrived and I was taken into the day unit and the nurse walked me through the procedure and put in my IV.  I am always thankful for nurses who are really great at giving IV’s and able to insert the IV on the first try.  Success!  While I was full of peace about the procedure there were still a few times when I got anxious and started to cry but I was able to control myself and put things back into perspective.

I was taken into the procedure room and set up on the CT table.  The procedure was scheduled to take 60-90 minutes, most of this time was to be taken up by the repeated CT scans.  As expected, the freezing was the the worst part and the part that I was most nervous about (same as getting your gums frozen for a cavity…).  When the doctor gave me the freezing I was surprised that it wasn’t really terrible at all.  The procedure itself wasn’t pain free, but it wasn’t painful.  The biopsy was taken from the back of my left lung.  I was lying on my stomach the entire time, head to the side, arms strapped down so I didn’t move.  The doctor was great, giving me enough information so that I knew that she would be taking a sample, but not so much information that I could picture what she was doing.  I had a blood pressure monitor on my arm that went off every 15 minutes which gave me a way to gauge how much time had passed and how much longer I would have to lie still.  The doctor was able to take a good number of samples both with the fine needle and some core samples.  These will be sent off to the microbiology unit for examination.

Whenever I have a CT scan or any other procedure where I am awake I give a lot of thought into what I am going to spent my time thinking about so that I don’t become overwhelmed in the middle of the procedure.  I often sing songs (quietly or in my head), recite bible verses that I have learned or spend my time in prayer.  I mentioned in my note yesterday how I had been encouraged by the verses in Isaiah about rising up on eagles wings and was reminded of a song that I learned years ago by Steve Bell.  I could only remember part of the words and was thankful to have found them online this morning before the biopsy.

Those who hope in the LORD shall renew their strength

We will walk for miles, we will stand up straight

We will not grow weary, we will not grow faint

On the wings of an eagle we will rise

On the wings of an eagle we will rise

On the wings of an eagle we will rise

For our hope is found in the power of God

On the wings of an eagle we will rise

I sang this over and over along with Great is Thy Faithfulness and the time passed quickly.

My next appointment at PMH is on Friday and I’m pretty sure that they will have some results for me.  I will report back when I know anything concrete.

Again, I am so thankful for your prayers.  We were all held up by them today and surrounded by your love.

Until next time,

Heather

Dear Family and Friends,

I am sending this note to you all because I know you love me/us, care for me/us and pray for me/us regularly.  I am scheduled to have a lung biopsy tomorrow morning at Toronto General Hospital.  I need to be at the hospital early (by 8:00) for bloodwork and then the procedure is scheduled for 9:30.  I will be in hospital for 4-6 hours.

I am having the lung biopsy because the last two CT scans have revealed some nodules that have been growing and both the bmt doctors and the infectious disease doctor don’t know what these are.  The biopsy will give us the answers that we are looking for and give the doctors an action plan.

What is a lung biopsy?  They will take a CT scan, xray or ultrasound of my lungs to get an image and then, using that image as a guide, they will insert a fine needle in order to take a small bit of tissue.  That tissue will be sent to the lab to be analyzed.  The procedure can take 60-90 minutes.  After the procedure I am taken back to the day unit to be monitored and lie down for 1-2 hours. Another chest xray is taken after that.  The info sheet says that complications don’t happen very often.

I want you all to know that I am not worried or scared about this procedure.  That said, I’m not looking forward to it either, but I haven’t spent the last week agonizing over it.  The part that concerns me the most is that I will be awake for the procedure.  Even still, I know that I am in good hands, not only the doctors but God Himself, the One who created me and the One who is my Healer.  I believe in faith that God can heal me completely and that the scan and the tissue could reveal nothing.  That said, my faith in God remains true whatever is revealed.

I have been chatting this week with an old friend and was reminded of these verses in Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I had forgotten that the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness was based on these verses.  What a surprise when we sang this hymn on Sunday morning at church.  “Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see.  All I have needed thy hand has provided, Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”…

I have also been reflecting on Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

And Isaiah 40 (the whole thing but here’s the highlight…)

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Thank you for your prayers for me, Jeff and Nathan.

With love and a heart full of joy and thanksgiving,

Heather

I’ve been working really hard over the last few weeks to start my day off by praying and “dressing myself in love”, making a deliberate decision to choose love over anything else so that my thoughts, actions, words and behaviours would be filtered through love. And as I mentioned before there are times when I have noticed a difference in what my natural response may have been because I was aware of choosing love first.

But then I started to think a little bit more about love.  What is love?  It was just a thought, not exactly a prayer but God was listening and quickly answered back with a verse that I had memorized when I was a kid. This is Jesus speaking to his disciples.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

I was a bit startled by this answer because it really was just a thought across my mind. I wasn’t looking for an answer yet and that seemed pretty big.  In fact, I was just looking for some nice things to do for my family, friends, neighbours and people I come across each day.  I thought the answer was to be more patient,  more forgiving, more kind… But this answer, from the mouth of Jesus no less, seems to be a pretty all-encompassing answer.  Read it again:  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Before I go farther I think it will be helpful to read the verses surrounding this bold statement about love in John 15:9-17.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

So what is love? What does it mean, to lay down your life for a friend?  That answer has come more slowly to me over the past few weeks as I read about love, think about love, act out in love and speak in love.  And the answer has come when I have forgotten about wearing love at all and I have lashed out, become frustrated, not cared for others or put my own needs first. And believe me, it is something that I am still learning!

The thing that I have learned the most is that loving others means an attitude and action of putting others first, their needs before your needs.  And if I’m honest,  it’s hard work and if often reveals my own selfishness and wanting my own way.  But I know that as I pray each day and clothe myself in love that this will become easier and more natural. This is the process of becoming more like Jesus.  It is not by my own good decisions but by the power of the Holy Spirit in me (this will be a post for another day…).

Health Update:  I also want to let you know that since my last post.  My lung biopsy has been scheduled for Tuesday, June 7th.  I need to arrive at Toronto General Hospital for 8:30 and the biopsy is schedule for 9:30.  It will involve a CT scan and an xray to determine where the doctors should do the biopsy.  After the biopsy is reviewed I will be taken to rest for a number of hours and be monitored by the nurses.  It should be a full day downtown before I am released to come home.  I’m am eager to know the results of the test so that we can make an action plan to fight against it.  That said, I’m not all that excited about the procedure itself. I am working hard to not worry and being disciplined to lay this at the feet of Jesus. I have been reminded over and over this week of the verses “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” found in Matthew 11:28-30.  I am also encouraged by these verses from Isaiah 40 

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

My prayer for you today is that you will find rest in Jesus and soar on wings like eagles.

With Love,

Heather

This is one of my favourite Canadian independent wool companies. When I first came out of hospital after my transplant I made a pair of Fiddlehead Mittens for my sister as Christmas present with her wool in the middle of the nights when I couldn’t sleep.
http://tanisfiberarts.blogspot.com/