Archive for the ‘Just say Node’ Category
Once upon a time, there was a girl who wasn’t a runner. She decided one day to start not running and she didn’t like it so much, she kept not doing it. After awhile, another friend started not running with her, and eventually – in January, 2012 - they didn’t run a 5K together: The American Cancer Society’s inaugural Relay for Life Fight Back 5K.
The next year, the two of them decided not to run this same 5K again, but this time with their families. On this chilly, grey winter morning, they didn’t get up early and meet at Stonebridge United Methodist Church for the American Cancer Society’s 2nd annual Relay for Life Fight Back 5K.
The girl who doesn’t run didn’t stand in line to pick up her son’s registration packet, and she didn’t help him get his bib number attached to the front of his sweatshirt.
Her friends and family didn’t stand in the cold, impatiently waiting for the starting gun’s signal.
When the gun sounded, the girl who doesn’t run started out first. Knowing that she *really* hadn’t run in over a month, her main concern was simply finishing. She *really* wasn’t trying for a personal record, and since last year’s event ended with plantar fasciitis in both feet, she knew she would easily beat her previous time. But also recognizing the significance of this cause – fighting back against cancer – and having a personal connection to it, she also wanted to push herself…to “fight back” in her own way. The course was hilly and challenging, every step reminding her why she doesn’t run. But as she found herself surrounded by other non-runners, she discovered that strength, that desire, that thirst for victory, for personal achievement, for making it count.
So she didn’t push herself to run hard, and she didn’t keep running when she felt like walking, and she certainly didn’t dig deep running up those steep hills.
And when she didn’t cross the finish line at exactly 32:00, it wasn’t a mere 30 seconds off her official PR from last year. She certainly wasn’t proud of herself.
Her husband wasn’t pumped about the chance to participate in his very first 5K.
And he definitely wasn’t excited to do his victory dance over cancer.
Her family didn’t enjoy the chance to walk/run with friends along the course.
And when they didn’t cross the finish line, they certainly weren’t proud of their accomplishments…or ready for the breakfast of champions at McDonald’s.
In fact, it wasn’t so much fun, they can’t wait to not do it again next year, when perhaps they’ll all be a little better at not running.
You know, there are some verses in the Bible that frighten me.
It’s not the ones about the wrath of God, or His mighty arm of justice, or the consequences of sin.Â I can live with all those.
No, it’s ones like this:
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Â 2 Corinthians 12:9
Or this one:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.Â James 1:2-3
And especially this one:
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.Â John 15:2
Frankly, verses like that make my stomach a little fluttery.Â If I really allow those words to penetrate my heart and sink into my mind, I find myself getting a little weak in the knees.Â Honestly – dare I say it? – these passages scare the hell out of me. (pun intended)
I know it sounds crazy.Â I know you must think I’m playing a few cards short of a full deck here…I’m a few ants short of a picnic…the lights are on but no one’s home.Â Whatever. Throw out any cliche’ you want.Â “Why?” you ask.Â Why would passages like that strike fear in my heart?
Because those verses represent the moment I surrender all control and open myself to whatever – and I mean WHAT.EV.ER – God wants to do with me.Â Suddenly my life becomes not so much about me and what I want and what I think is best for me and the choices I want to make, but rather what God wants to do with me, what He thinks is best for me, and the choices He wants me to make.Â And sometimes, that process is painful.Â It means I allow God to do what is necessary to shape me and mold me into His image.Â It means that the road may get bumpy.Â It means He may choose to test my faith.Â It means He may allow me to undergo some fiery trials to refine and purify my heart, my thoughts, my actions.
And that’s not often a pleasant process.
So, today was one of those days.Â I admit, I was a little fearful when Matt went to his oncologist appointment.Â Certainly, I’m always a little nervous.Â That’s natural.Â Though the risk of relapse is small, there’s always that chance that his cancer could come back.Â It could come back and not be as treatable, as easily cured as it was the first time.Â It could metastasize and show up differently and be a different kind of cancer…the list goes on and on.Â Most of the time I can keep it in check just knowing how God healed Matt.Â But this time things were a little different.Â With Matt being laid off, I know we’re in a time of testing.Â We’re in the refiner’s fire.Â And I was afraid that at this appointment something just might “show up”…to further our testing, to put not just our feet to the fire, but our whole bodies.
That’s what made the good news of Matt’s appointment today so extra-special.Â No worries.Â No concerns about how to handle a major illness without health insurance or benefits.Â No fear over how we’re going to pay for testing and treatment without a steady paycheck.Â No stress about doctor’s appointments and hospital stays while in the midst of job interviews.
Maybe I need to focus a little more on some other verses.Â You know, like this one:
And my God will supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.Â Philippians 4:19
That one doesn’t seem frightening at all.
Celebrate.Â Remember.Â Fight back.
Four simple words, filled with meaning: joy, pride, sorrow, loss, determination, courage, strength.Â Tonight was our night to celebrate.Â To remember.Â To honor and rejoice.Â To stand strong with other survivors.Â To join with others in the fight against cancer.Â To support those who are working to find a cure for this horrible disease.
Last year, we were truly overwhelmed with our Relay experience.Â This year, we had a better idea of what to expect, but I still managed to have a few surprises in store for Matt.
Our evening began with a visit to the Survivor’s tent where we feasted on Boston’s pizza, sandwiches from Applebees, chicken crispers from Chili’s, and lots of chips and salsa.Â Having satisfied our rumbly tummies, we then took our tour of the campsites where vendors and relay teams were setting up.Â We visited with Boy Scouts from Troop 303 who were helping unload items for various booths.Â We found the Team McGowen booth and helped set up and decorate the tent area.
As we were setting up, we discovered a new attraction this year:
No, there were no helicopter rides being offered, but it was exciting enough to watch the helicopter take off and circle above us several times.Â The kids had never before been that close to a chopper, so this was a new experience for them!
Then it was time for the opening ceremonies.Â We took our places in the Survivor’s area and watched as McKinney’s Bravest presented the colors and sang the national anthem.
Following the parade of speakers came the moment we had been waiting for: the Survivor’s Roll Call.Â Each survivor was called by name to receive their medal and gather for the Survivor’s Lap.Â This year was especially exciting for Matt as he was presented his medal by none other than Brian Loughmiller, Mayor of the City of McKinney!
As the survivors gathered, we saw familiar faces and heard familiar names of friends who have been blessed with the gift of life.Â We realized we had a small McFBC Survivor’s contingent there, each one a miracle and testimony to the power of God’s healing in their lives.
As the Survivors walked their lap, the rest of us – caregivers, team members, friends and supporters, gathered around the track and cheered them on.Â What an emotional experience, to see the sea of purple shirts and recognize that each one represents A life – and LIFE itself – a gift of another day, another year, another moment to share on this earth with the ones they love.Â My favorite Survivor, of course, was this one:
As the Survivors finished their lap, it was time for the caregivers to join them.Â Even though I was the only one with the official “Caregiver” t-shirt, all of Matt’s caregivers joined to make our victory walk together.
Matt and I took an additional special “victory lap” together without the kids.Â It was a lap to honor another year together, another year of love and living and building our future as husband and wife.Â We cherished every step we took, hand in hand…and then we saw this:
Hmm…Hooters and Nobel Prize Winners.Â Two things I don’t think I’d ever expect to fill the same conversational phrase.Â And with that, the moment was over.
After our victory lap, it was time for some fun and games!Â We headed off to the children’s play area, making new friends along the way:
First it was Ike, the mascot for the Dallas Stars’ AA-Affiliate, the Texas Tornado!
Then it was Deuce from the Texas Rangers’ AA-Affiliate: the Frisco Roughriders!
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to corral Champ, the mascot for the Dallas Mavericks, for a photo op.Â He galloped away before we were able to rein him in.
After the kids had had an opportunity to play a bit on the obstacle course, we headed back to the Team McGowen area just in time for the luminaria ceremony.Â Having had a bit of time to prepare, I was able to purchase one in honor of Matt:
As the lights in the stadium dimmed and the noise level quieted, I led Matt to the area where his luminaria had been placed.Â After seeing name after name on the luminarias lining the track, he was certainly surprised to find one bearing HIS name:
And as in the TV show “Survivor”, the light represents life.Â Matt’s light is still burning.Â The God of all Tribes has spoken, and has blessed him with the gift of complete healing.Â What a moment to celebrate!
By this time it was getting late.Â Knowing we had to be up early the next morning for Go and Be, we decided to call it a night and head home to get a good night’s sleep.Â As we left, we heard the thundering beat of “Eye of the Tiger” by none other than Survivor.Â A great way to conclude a night of celebration.
I really like the sound of that word.Â And I don’t mean the TV show, either.Â That word, “SURVIVOR”, still gives me goosebumps.Â Still brings tears to my eyes.Â Still makes my heart overflow with gratitude, love, and admiration.Â Still makes me remember…and rejoice.
It was one year ago – April 14, 2009 – that we heard another wonderful word given to us by Matt’s oncologist: REMISSION.Â That beautiful word was quickly followed by others:
“No trace of cancer. Anywhere.”
“PET Scan clear.”
“Excellent prognosis.Â Almost zero percent chance of relapse.”
You bet I’m grateful.Â I’m grateful for every one of the past 365 days.Â They haven’t always been easy or fun, but I’ve had the privilege of having my husband by my side for each of them.Â I’m grateful for God’s healing over Matt physically, that every doctor’s appointment, every bit of lab work, every scan or follow-up procedure confirms: his cancer’s gone.Â I’m grateful that God has restored Matt to life completely and given us opportunities for travel and fun over the past twelve months.Â I’m grateful for God’s provision when our resources were stretched to the breaking point, and for bringing us to a place of financial stability once again.
But most of all, I’m grateful for the future that lies before us.Â For the blank canvas of days ahead, just waiting to be written.Â For the moments we will share as husband and wife, mother and father.Â For the life that is eager to be lived.Â For the experiences that will make us, shape us, and bind us together.Â I’m grateful that as we look out toward that horizon, we stand hand-in-hand, ready to take that first step in that lifetime journey together.
Last week, I had the opportunity to go to the Nasher Sculpture Garden with my mom and my children.Â I’ll let that sink in for a minute: I went to an art museum.Â Willingly.Â And dare I say I even enjoyed it?Â And this time I managed NOT to ask questions like “These are all originals, right?”
Now that you’ve had a moment to compose yourself we can return to the subject at hand.Â While I enjoyed nearly all of the sculptures there, and we had lots of fun taking pictures of us interacting with several pieces, one in particular caught my attention…and held it.
It was simply called “Vertebrae”, and for those of you who know me and know my story, you can appreciate why this was significant to me.Â As I sat there next to this sculpture, with my children gazing into the reflecting pool, I had an emotional moment…a moment where I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s healing.Â For God’s protection.Â For God’s miraculous touch.Â I was reminded again of how different things could have been…but how God in His sovereignty chose this path of wholeness for my life.Â How God put it into a nurse’s head to draw – and carve – a heart out of my body cast, creating a touchstone of God’s love and care.Â And how God used that accident to bring a wonderful and godly man into my life who would eventually become my husband.
But I’m not the only one in my family who has received miraculous healing from Jehovah Rapha.Â It wasn’t too long ago that we were dealing with this:
And though God gave Matt the strength to handle his diagnosis and treatment with humor, dealing with cancer was still stressful.Â There were hard and difficult days.Â There was financial strain.Â There was uncertainty and fear.Â But as we approach the one-year anniversary of Matt’s final chemo treatment, and shortly thereafter his first anniversary as a survivor, I have been reminded to be grateful for the gift of each new day.Â For the gift of my husband and his continued presence in my life.Â For being able to kiss him good night before we go to bed, and each morning before he heads off to work.Â For sharing meals, and going shopping, and attending school functions, and living life together.
The Great Physician has been at work our our precious daughter’s life, too, from her very earliest days:
At the ripe old age of 2 weeks, Crisana was diagnosed with a condition called “hydromyelia”, a cyst in her spinal cord.Â After weeks of x-rays, MRI’s, CT’s and other not-so-fun medical testing, not to mention the risk and uncertainty of her condition and the recommended treatments, she underwent surgery when she was only 4 months old.Â With the help of the Great Physician, she experienced a nearly miraculous recovery less than 2 days later.
And even all these years later, we still have all the personality, all the activity, all the joy that is Crisana.
Standing.Â Running.Â Walking.Â Dancing and leaping and twirling.Â Jumping and swinging and sliding.Â Kicking soccer balls and swimming underwater and roller skating.Â Enjoying the life of a normal, active 7-year-old.Â Each year as we return for her annual follow-up scan, I’m reminded how grateful I am for God’s protection over her.Â For the way He has preserved her and kept her from harm.Â For the way He has restored her to full health.
I’m grateful for those old canvas stretchers, and the lessons we’ve learned about God through those experiences.Â But believe me, I’m equally grateful that we don’t need them any more.
On a hot Saturday afternoon in July sixteen years ago, I stood face-to-face with you and made you a promise.Â I promised to love you – and only you – for the rest of my life.Â I promised that I would stand by you through all the ups and downs that life would bring us.Â I promised to be your biggest supporter, your greatest encourager, and your best friend.Â I promised to care for you in sickness, rejoice with you in good times, cry with you in sad times, and celebrate with you in joyful times.
Over the course of our marriage, we’ve endured every one of those times.Â We’ve definitely had our good times; I think of our honeymoon and our trip to Israel, the moments we found out we were expecting, the days our children were born, the joy of moving out of our apartment from hell into our first home, the excitement of building our second home.Â But we’ve also had some bad times.Â I won’t recount those here – you and I both know all too well the pain of those difficult days.
We’ve had our share of celebrations in sixteen years: milestone birthdays, you passing the A.R.E., me earning my master’s degree, holidays and making our own traditions, new jobs, new responsibilities, new ministries.Â It’s been my honor and privilege to share in those milestones with you, to celebrate with you, to be a part of your joy and happiness.Â But it’s also been my honor to share in the sad times with you…to cry with you over the death of your parents, to grieve together the loss of my dad and grandparents, to hold one another as we said goodbye to beloved pets, to mourn the loss of friends and friendships as life – and we – moved and changed.
And I thought I’d already been down the road of caring for you in sickness.Â The whole appendectomy adventure was scary enough…I didn’t want to play with fire any more.Â God saved you once…I wasn’t willing to run the risk of testing Him again.Â But God definitely had other plans for you – for us – this year.Â I never would have dreamed of you having to face cancer like you did.Â And seeing the fear in your eyes as you told me the diagnosis is an image I’ll carry with me forever.Â But you faced it bravely – like you face everything in your life – in a matter-of-fact way, knowing that the future was beyond your control.Â As I watched you endure chemo and all its unpleasantness, I was so proud of you.Â Proud for the way you handled the difficulty with humor.Â Proud for the way you didn’t let it get you down.Â Proud for the way you managed to continue to work, to do projects around the house, to play with your children and be involved in their lives, and still manage to be a husband.Â Proud for the way you didn’t let it rattle your faith, but rather strengthen it.
Now that we’re facing a time of “in health”, I can honestly say I’m grateful for the past year.Â Even with all the difficulties, the stress, the hardship, the lingering medical bills…I’m grateful.Â I’m grateful for the way this trial brought us together, the way we were able to lean on each other, the way we shared every step of the journey.Â I’m grateful for the privilege of honoring those vows I made to you on that July afternoon.Â I’m grateful for the lessons we learned – about God, ourselves, and true friendship – that we might not have learned otherwise.Â And, strange as it may sound, I’m grateful for the possibility of losing you…because it showed me what a treasure I have in you and how deeply I love you, want you, and need you in my life.Â How much I enjoy being around you.Â How much I desperately want to grow old…well, older…with you.Â How much I want to sit beside you as our children graduate from high school, college, and possibly even beyond.Â How much I look forward to seeing you walk our daughter down the aisle and dance at our children’s weddings and hold our grandchildren.Â How I look forward to someday being just the two of us again and creating new adventures together.
I’m so happy to celebrate this day with you.Â I’m glad for all the experiences we’ve shared so far, and I’m excited about what lies ahead.Â But for now, I’m just going to enjoy this day, this time, this moment with you.Â I love you and forever will be
What can I say that I haven’t already said?
This week was all about Relay for Life and the celebration of Matt’s victory over cancer.Â Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.Â Literally.Â And it even says “Survivor.”
What more, honestly, can I be grateful for?Â I have my husband back.Â My worst fears were not realized.Â We are still a famiy of four.Â My children have their dad.
And it looks like it just might stay that way for a lifetime.
You bet I’m grateful.
Welcome to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life – Speer Family style!Â I’ll be your tour guide through an amazing night of celebration, hope, and life…and through an experience that opened my eyes and impacted me deeply. Read the rest of this entry »
Hmmm…lemme see…what am I grateful for this week?
Oh, you mean BESIDES the fact that my husband no longer has CANCER?
That one’s hard to top, for sure.Â I have cried a lot of happy tears this week, humbled and awed by God’s mercy in choosing to heal Matt’s body.Â But there is so much more that I can also be grateful for as we now stand onÂ the other side of this journey:
- I’m grateful for friends who have walked this road with us, who have shared our burden, who have prayed for us and with us, and who are now rejoicing in our blessing.
- I’m grateful for believers across this country and around the world who have been interceding on our behalf, who have been faithfully praying for healing for Matt and for strength for our family.
- I’m grateful for the love that Matt and I share, and the way that this time of trial has strengthened our bond, deepened our commitment, and allowed us to honor our marriage vows to one another.
- I’m grateful for God’s word and the encouragement it is to me, for His promises that He gave to us of hope and healing and strength, for the truth that it speaks and the life that it gives.
- I’m grateful for our neighbors, our life group, and our families, who rallied around us and were truly our lifelines in our most desperate and stressful moments.
- I’m grateful for wonderful health insurance, access to top-notch medical care, and for the blessing of living in a country that is committed to funding research and development toward curing diseases like cancer.
- I’m grateful for our church, for Band of Brothers, for the Worship & Arts and Tech Teams, for the Studio and Promiseland ministries, for allowing us to continue to serve and live out our faith during this process.
- I’m grateful for those who have faithfully worn the purple wristbands – and who continue to do so.
As we climb out of this valley back onto level ground, we can see that even in the dark valley there was beauty.Â I know there will be more valleys in the days and years ahead, but for now, I’m content to dance on this mountaintop, rejoicing in LIFE.