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Saturday, October 5, 2019

Making Wishes Come True...

He loves cruising.

He's been on more cruises than we can count!

And... he had one wish for his Birthday this year.   Can you guess where we've been??

A Big, Fun, Crazy-Happy Family Cruise.  And it has been a monumental task.  Getting Dad to Miami and on that Cruise ship.  It took a combined Family effort to make it happen... but happen it did!  And the smiles were the sweetest reward.

So, if you're wondering how one actually makes wishes come true?  Here's the scoop... It's a whole lot of sacrifice and a whole lot of work!!

The logistics of traveling with an elderly parent, who is dealing with end-stage COPD is one part daring and two parts just plain grit.

It helps that everyone in our family loves to travel.

Tropical ports of call?  Yes, please!

But as the reality of traveling with dad sunk in we all took a deep breath and asked the same question all of you are probably asking... were we crazy? 

Insane does factor somewhere in there.

And it crossed my mind with increasing frequency as the trip got closer and the packing began...

The list was long and multiplied the stress and anxiety!  Nebulizers and inhalers, perscriptions and oxygen, extra batteries and his Bipap machine, wheelchairs and passports... plus clothes and shoes and... I was exhausted before we even left!

Dad's doctors happily signed off on the trip and sent extra meds and had us fill a script for antibiotics (just in case they said...) 

And then we arrived at the airport and hit the TSA line... this would be where the staying power of old-fashioned grit factored in!  It was ugly... enough said.

Once we finally got on that plane and buckled up, the smiles kicked in!

And they never stopped!

Making wishes come true simply blesses the giver and receiver alike!

The week melted into a gracious time of laughter and relaxing
and making memories...
worth every minute of the sweat, worry and grit that got us here!

 We cooked with the Chef at Emilio's Plantation on St. Maarten...

And toured the top of the Island...

Explored historic San Juan...

And braved the water slides!

Dad met the officers on the ship and pretty much loved every minute...

Including the Best Birthday Celebration!

His wish come true...
Simply the best!

Brought to you be good, old-fashioned determination and grit!
Sometimes we need to be Brave and Fierce in order to
Become the Gift!

Be Kind to Someone Today!
It makes all the difference in the world!

Blessings, Always,

Saturday, September 7, 2019

An Autumn Celebration

And today the mercury topped 100... again!   It is September, right??!!

Have mercy!

Longing for some sweater wearing, bonfire snuggling, cider brewing weather...

Please remind me come January how much I love chilly days and nights ;-)

Persevering thru the heat, blessed with family and cupcakes to ring in a Birthday Celebration for Poppy...84 years young!

Happy Birthday Poppy!
You make us smile!!

We Love You! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Revolutionizing Cancer Treatment

He was 10 years old when his mother died from Lymphoma.

Last year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking work on Immunotherapy as a revolutionary new cancer treatment.

Meet Dr. James Allison.

In a nutshell, immunotherapy is all about freeing the immune system to attack tumors. Specifically, Dr. Allison's work takes the brakes off  the T cells, the "soldier's" of the immune system, allowing them to battle invading cancer cells.

His work has led to the development of a class of drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors.  One drug, called Yervoy, has been approved for late-stage melanoma, and has already yielded unprecedented results.  20% of the patients with advanced melanoma cancer now live for at least 3 years, and many live 10 years or longer. That's beyond exciting news!

Dr. Allison feels that immunotherapy is quickly becoming the "fourth pillar" of cancer therapy, joining the traditional treatments of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

And while immunotherapy doesn't replace traditional treatment, it can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation to offer patients a strong offense in the cancer fight.  And one other exciting aspect of immunotherapy is that it appears to continue working even after treatment has stopped.

Research continues to investigate treating other cancers with this new type of immunotherapy.  These clinical trials offer a hope that is desperately needed on the cancer battlefield.

We are holding our breath to hear that pancreatic cancer has been spotlighted... so far, the research has focused on lung, kidney, bladder, gastric, liver, cervical, colorectal, head and neck, and lymphoma cancers.

The excitement is not lost on Dr. Allison:

"It's a great, emotional privilege to meet cancer patients who've been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade.  They are living proof of the power of basic science, of following our urge to learn and to understand how things work."

That 10 year old boy channeled his loss into extraordinary gains in the fight against cancer.

The president of MD Anderson, Dr. Peter Pisters, believes that "Jim Allison's research has led to life-saving treatments for people who otherwise would have little hope."

And that's some exciting news for the cancer fight!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019



He just slithered up to check out the progress on our log cabin...

And not just your ordinary, every day slithery kind of rat snake.  No, we grow 'em big and mean in Texas...

You might know from previous posts that we are a No-Kill Zone here at the farm.  But y'all... He was a Timber Rattlesnake.

On our back porch!  Like, in broad daylight. Right where we have walked a thousand times cutting lumber and tile for that crazy dream of a cabin. (And yes, we are still building that dream... and it's glorious and hard and Slow! Lol!)  And should not include stories about venomous snakes. Y'all... We almost stepped on him to get to the chop saw!


Now he's a dead Timber Rattlesnake.

There's an unspoken code of justice here in the country, and that big, venomous snake just crossed the line.  I'm believing that he won't be doing it again in this lifetime.

And here are two free facts for you:

1. The Timber Rattlesnake is often called the Velvet-tailed rattler because of it's black "velvety" tail. Trust me, it is not velvet. (But does look amazing... in a scary, don't get too close kind of way)

2. A rattlesnake adds a new rattle to its tail every time he sheds (roughly 2-3 times a year).  So our rattler was probably a little over 2 years old.  And much bigger than any 2-year old I ever want to see again!

But enough about scary, venomous snakes... we've got work to do!  That dream cabin isn't building itself!

And thankfully our neck of the woods is filled with a sweet beauty that remedies the nightmare visit from our Velvet-tailed rattler!

Blessings this day,
May God's grandeur surprise at every turn!

My Love,

Saturday, July 20, 2019

And Then...

If each of us live long enough, we are bound to encounter seasons of pain and suffering.

I knew that was true.  Sort of.

For the first 51 years of my life, the only real problems I suffered through were inconsequential, the hardships of budgeting for new tires (instead of a new couch) or the 2 year old tantrums that demanded cake (instead of green beans).  Really, to be honest, life was easy. happy. good.  Family Get-Togethers.  Birthday Celebrations.  Job Promotions.  More smiles than tears those first 51 years.

And then... Cancer.

Mom's pancreatic cancer diagnosis shattered that naive, confident, easy-breezy view of life. The problems of the before melted into trivial.  In moment's of sheer honesty, we'd go back in a heartbeat and live an entire lifetime dealing with the tears of 2 year old tantrums instead of the soul-crushing anguish of that cancer journey.

Perhaps you are struggling through a period of profound pain and suffering too.  Could be life has coasted along smoothly...until a Divorce, or Job Loss, or a shattering personal pain.

Cancer ushered in a season of intense grief, heartache and loss in our family.

It was Suffering on a scale that we had never before experienced.

I heard an interview on the radio the other day, didn't catch all of it, but the gist of it was that Suffering can be a Gift.

Caught my attention alright.  Denial was immediate.

Then I started listening (wish I could link the show, but don't have the name, please forgive)... and after a few minutes I was swayed to begin to look at suffering in a new way...

When pain and suffering take us to the end of ourselves... When the hurt and loss push us to question everything we once thought certain... maybe here it is where growth can turn the suffering into gift, the heartache into fruit... maybe...

I listened on to the wise counsel on suffering and began to engage just a bit, perhaps the seasons of hardship and pain can shepherd us to a better place.  And I remembered a quote by Josh Shipp:

You either get bitter - or you get better...

There is a question there... During what seasons have we grown the most?  Seasons of rest and happiness?  Or seasons drawn from pain and suffering?

What season pushed me to choose?  Get Bitter? or Get Better?

For me, it was the cancer journey

And the growth didn't happen all at once, or even in big, mind-boggling ways.  It wasn't like we somehow had arrived at suffering well.  Actually it was quite the opposite.  We fought the suffering part tooth and nail.  I think you could say we were in denial until mom's final breath.


Looking back, I can see now that the growth, the changes, the strengthening... it was happening in so many small ways, hidden lessons in darkness, that have born fruit in the light.

We grew closer to the Lord.  I will never read scripture again without feeling the anguish of Christ's loss at the tomb of Lazarus... or his desolate cry in the garden of Gethesmane... oh Lord, we prayed too that our cup of suffering would pass us by.  There was a growing understanding of the depths of Christ's Love and Compassion.  A trust in His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.  And a growing step of faith to lay down our will for the perfect will of the Fathers.

Our eyes were opened in earnest to those who walked this road of suffering alongside us.  An outpouring of gratitude that we would never have felt if the cancer journey had never happened.  There is a blessing so infinitely sweet in the arms that held us during those grief-filled days and nights.  That Love healed our shattered hearts when I thought we would never smile again.

In walking through that dark Shadow Valley, we learned above all to trust in God's Faithful Goodness.  If we had never experienced the valley road, we wouldn't understand His utter goodness in making a way where there seemed to be no way.  We are confident that His grace walked that road with us and safely brought us though the overwhelming darkness.

And that lesson compels us to continue sharing our story.  The pain and suffering can be redeemed in the Hands of Grace... Greg Laurie speaks it well:

So, perhaps there is a truth in that suffering can be a gift, of sorts.

 And the thought made me dig deeper.  For I would never wish to elevate the cancer... it was the circumstance, yes, that threw us into a year of devastating loss, but I believe the choice to get Better came not from the cancer journey, but from the solid foundation of support surrounding us.

Because, if we are honest, pain and suffering can hollow out a soul and start a spiral down into a dark, dark pit that can swallow us whole.

What makes the difference?  To get Bitter... or get Better?

Time gives perspective as we've journeyed through this season.  It is not the same for everyone, this I know.  We all ride the waves of pain and suffering in very personal ways. Yet, I've seen a common thread in those who seem to suffer well, or as our radio host put it, those who find hope in the midst of suffering.

For us, the hope found root in a network of support. And others echo this truth.

The structure of community was our lifeline.  Loved ones stood in the gap for us, continually drawing our gaze back to Christ.  When we couldn't find the words, they humbly shouldered the grief and walked out love in our lives.

Within that community of support, we were given valuable coping techniques.  Each one gently offering their own experiences as a map for this valley road. Some tips were spot on, some advice perhaps not as useful to us, but all had merit and showed us a more excellent way to live life well, even in the midst of excruciating pain and suffering. 

One of the things that helped the most was taking a step of courage and meeting with the sweetest grief counselor.  Not easy.  And yes, I spent many of our sessions knee-deep in soggy kleenex, but, oh, the growth that came from those talks.  It was a gift, and a push, and utter encouragement to lay down our circumstances and choose Better, not Bitter.

Each of us will find the path that is right for us... when we make a conscious choice to take the next step... and the next, and the next.  Choosing Better over Bitter when we can.  Choosing to rest in Grace when we can't.  Cry, Breathe, Ask for help, Trust, Take the step... it is the way of living on this valley road.

Perhaps our suffering can be the catalyst for the kind of growth we could never have imagined. 

Trusting in the One who knows our suffering and Chooses Goodness every time.  That perhaps is the greatest gift of all...

Love, Always,

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy 4th of July!

Today we Celebrate our Nation's Freedom
Honor the Brave Men and Women
who have fought to Preserve & Defend it!

Grateful and Humbled every day
for God's outpouring of Grace and Blessing
upon this beautiful land!

Be safe, Be kind,
Be the light someone needs desperately to see,

Love, Always,

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Be strong...

Dream. Struggle. Create. Prevail.
We can all find ourselves somewhere here in the midst...
Are you dreaming? Or Struggling?
Creating? Prevailing...

May Grace give the strength to reach for that which dares our souls.

You are Strong.  You are Brave.
You are so very Loved.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Fear No More...

Sometimes a song can just speak the words we can't find.

Building 429 has nailed it with one of their newest releases, Fear No More... the lyrics stopped me in my tracks the other day.  Speaking a genuine hope over the pain of our cancer journey. We have it on replay here at the lake.

It means even more after hearing the story behind the song...

Those lyrics, the reason this one song has rung truth for me... Cancer has a way of stripping away all the superficial, the inconsequential and trivial things in our lives and makes us face the hard questions... each verse is a glimpse of our struggle, the answers to our cry when it was all out of our hands...


I'm wishing I could see the finish line
Where this ends, where it lands
Guess I lost my vision when the pain set in.


Can I believe
When I don't see
Can I really let it be
Out of my hands
When it's out of my hands


This isn't what I'd choose
But it's where I'm finding you
When I'm broken and undone
Your mercy's just begun
You overcome my doubt
Your hands are reaching out
You hold me through the storm
And I will fear no more.


Can't look into the future but
I know where you have been
Before me, after and always within


Can I believe
When I don't see
Can I really let it be
Out of my hands
When it's out of my hands


This isn't what I'd choose
But it's where I'm finding you
When I'm broken and undone
Your mercy's just begun
You overcome my doubt
Your hands are reaching out
You hold me through the storm
And I will fear no more.


I'm not giving up
I'm giving in
To what You've planned
For Your Glory


This isn't what I'd choose
But it's where I'm finding you
When I'm broken and undone
Your mercy's just begun
You overcome my doubt
Your hands are reaching out
You hold me through the storm
And I will fear no more.

Might you be encouraged this night, for it is true... when we are broken and undone, His mercy has just begun... we need fear no more.

All My Love, Always,

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Finding Grace in the Shadow Valley

How do you even breathe after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis?

The mind and heart can shut right down when this cancer comes to shatter your life.  We know.  It can be a living nightmare... an all-consuming darkness that threatens to extinguish any light of hope. 

If pancreatic cancer has touched your life in some way, then perhaps our book, Finding Grace in the Shadow Valley, will offer hope as you journey.

It is the story of our walk into the dark pit of a terminal cancer diagnosis and the Grace that carried us through...

In November of 2010, cancer interrupted our very comfortable, extremely ordinary lives with a vengeance when our mom was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer.  I believe it was the moment our Shadow Valley walk began.

Finding Grace is written as a diary of sorts… the day to day battles, the difficult decisions, the roller-coaster ride of a cancer treatment… we share our heart, the emotional questions, the hard answers.

We also recount the joy and grace that surrounded us in the midst of the terrifying darkness.

This is the story of Finding Grace in the midst of a cancer diagnosis and the way it changes how we live out our stories.

If you are wondering what it is like to walk this valley road, if you are desperate to find hope for yourself or a loved one, we pray this book will offer a light for your path.

We are humbled to know that mom’s story has resonated with so many.  Perhaps it is as one reader so aptly put, “It is good to know that I am not alone.”

Yes, It is good to know we are not alone.   We are walking hand in hand, taking a journey together that none of us wish to take.  Never doubt that Grace walks that road too, each and every step, right alongside us.

Finding Grace… it is what makes facing those horrific days possible.

And it brings Hope to the Shadow Valley every. single. time.

Available Now