Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Miracles happen!

Yesterday I called one of my dearest friends, Rose, to tell her the news.  Mark and I have known Rose and her family for 22 years.  They took us in and loved on us when we were in our first full-time ministry position.  They have loved my three children as their own.  They were at the hospital for the birth of both of our girls.  I had avoided making this phone call for a while.  These aren’t phone calls I like to make.  

Rose's response to my voice on the phone:  “What a great surprise to talk to you!” 

My thought:  “Not so much, really,” knowing what I am about to tell her.  

Of course, I made her day (said with much sarcasm!).  I left her at work, heading out to show houses to clients, in tears.  Great day.  Thanks, Laura.  She called me later and was still crying; I assured her that everything is going to be all right!  And she assured me of the same thing!

Rose and her family lived through the nightmare and miracle of cancer just a couple of years ago.  She called me back that night to share with me the verses she hung on to during that time:

"They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly."  Psalm 112:7-8

"Miracles fill the space that is given to them.  They can be as small as a twinkle or larger than the midnight sky.  However, unlike dreams, miracles come to life.  they are powered by the smile of an Almighty God and profoundly change all who are touched by them.  Many have said, "Seeing is believing," when in reality just the opposite is true: "Believing is seeing." (Hope Rising by Kim Meeder)

Thank you, Rose, for reminding me again that our God is a God of miracles!  I love you!

"What is faith?  It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.  It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see."  Hebrews 11:1

Monday, June 29, 2009

Peter's chances...

Sunday morning I woke up determined to go to church.  I knew three back-to-back services would tire me out physically, but I also knew that I needed the spiritual and emotional encouragement of being with my COF family.  If you have never been to Community of Faith, I just want to tell you that we have the most amazing church, and I invite you to come!  (www.communityoffaith.tv) 

After my mini meltdown on Saturday night, I needed to be reminded of God's goodness and His love for me.  Boy was I ever!  As I was standing in the lobby between services, a friend came up to me and said, “You know what the chances were that Peter could walk on water?”  And then he made a big zero with his hand.  Oh my gosh!  What a profound moment for me!  0% chance that Peter could walk on water...but he did!!  Thank you God for a new perspective!  Thank you for encouraging me!

Then another friend, Kyleigh,  says to me, “Hey, I want to show you the flag I made for middle school camp.”  Kyleigh is a team leader at camp this week.  She pulls the flag out of her backpack and unfolds it.  It is a giant blue flag and in the center is the name, “Bob” and it is crossed out!!  Her team at camp is the “Stop Bob” team!  How cool is that!  I love my friends!  That is the sweetest thing ever!  To think about me, and to compete in my honor at middle school camp!  I sure hope they win!! 

Thank you, Community of Faith, for letting God shine through you today!  

"So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it."  1 Thessalonians 5:11

"Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching."  Hebrews 10:25

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Statistics show that only 54% of people with stage 3 rectal cancer survive 5 years.  That sucks.  And honestly, it makes me want to vomit.  I don’t usually think about the numbers because they freak me out. And I know the numbers don’t really apply to one person, a person who is young and otherwise healthy.  I honestly believe that I am part of the 54%, that God’s plan is for me to live to be old with Mark, to see my girls get married, to rock my grandchildren, to continue to go into the world and love on people because that’s what Jesus would do.  But every once in a while, it creeps into my thoughts again.  It is overwhelming.  I don’t want to die yet.  And I panic, wondering…


Have I loved my children enough?  Enough so that if I’m not here it will carry them through their life?  I hope so.  Because I love them so much my heart feels like it will burst inside my chest.  I hope they know. 


And have I taught them enough?  Do they know how good God is?  Do they know He will never leave them?  Do they know they can trust Him completely, no matter what happens in their life?  Even if their mother dies.  Do they know? 


I had similar thoughts the night before each of them entered kindergarten! Had I prepared them to face the world? Funny how life comes back around.  And again as we left the country to be missionaries in Mexico, would my kids be OK?  Every time God assured me that I could trust Him to take care of my kids.  He reminds me again. 


Isaiah 54:13 “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.”


And, again, I surrender to Your plan.  I want to live.  I don’t want my children to hurt.  But more than anything I want You to do what’s best for them.  I want You to do whatever will bring honor and glory to Your name; whatever will accomplish Your purpose in our lives.  And I say, “Come Kingdom of God, Be done will of God” in my life, and in the life of my family.  

Friday, June 26, 2009

Half way!

I finished week #3 of chemo and radiation today!  As of yesterday, I am half way through my treatments!!  The most amazing thing is how good I feel!  If you didn't know I had cancer, you wouldn't be able to tell that I am sick at all.  Several friends have been bringing meals for us during the week, and I feel almost guilty for them to do so.  I told Mark that maybe I should act sick or limp or something when they come to the house with food so that they will feel like they are actually bringing food to someone who needs it!!  

I had appointments today with both the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist.  You can see in both of their faces a look of wonder.  They are surprised that I am not feeling badly.  The medical oncologist keeps asking me about my  medication to make sure I am taking it correctly. They can't figure out why I look and feel so well.  

And I smile.  Because I know.  I know that you are praying for me daily.  I know that you are praying specifically for the destruction of cancer cells, the protection of healthy cells, and for minimal side effects.  I know that you are praying for strength and for peace.  And I know that our God listens, that He has heard your prayers, and He has answered in a miraculous way!  

So, thank you.  Thank you for your faithfulness to pray for me.  Thank you for putting your trust in an awesome God.  Thank you for loving me and my family.  Thank you for standing with us as we watch God perform miracles. 

And thank you for the delicious food! : )  It really has been a great help to us!

"You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth,"  Psalm 65:5

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Music in my head today:  Addison Road - "Everything rides on hope now. Everything rides on faith somehow. When the world has broken me down, Your love sets me free."

Last weekend I met two more ladies at our church who were recently diagnosed with cancer and are fighting for their lives.  The interesting thing about these women, and about everyone I've met who is battling cancer, is the hope that they express.  I've heard it over and over again.  I believe.  I know God is in control.  I trust His plan for me.  And you can see it in their eyes.  A sparkle, as if they know something you don't know, as if they have "insider information" - a special access to the Creator of the Universe.  

I guess it takes actually facing your own mortality to realize that the things we have read about God, and the things we have said about faith really are true.  And there is tremendous hope in that realization.  God IS good, and everything He does is good.  Because of that, we have hope for the future.

I read this statement about hope recently and I like it:  "Hope cannot be destroyed.  It calls us to rise up; it whispers our name.  It draws us to believe that, sometimes, wishes do come true." (Hope Rising, by Kim Meeder).

"Give thanks to Godhe is good and his love never quits."  1 Chronicles 16:34

"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection."  Psalm 91:1-4

"Everything rides on hope now..."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Help me Live

The Shook family is a book family.  All of us enjoy reading.  One of our family's favorite things to do is go to Barnes & Noble and spend a couple of hours browsing through the books.  We even have a room in our house named the "Great Reading Room" (named, of course, after the Great Reading Room at the OU Library!).  So, naturally, after receiving a diagnosis of cancer, we began to search for and buy books about cancer. Books about types of cancer, causes of cancer, treatment of cancer, living with cancer, etc., etc.   I think we now have every book ever published about cancer.  One of them is so thick that I told Mark we wouldn't finish reading it until after I had been well for years.  

Out of all of those books, the one that has been the most helpful is called "Help Me Live - 20 things people with cancer want you to know" by Lori Hope.  If you have a friend or family member  with cancer I strongly recommend that you read this book.  Your friend or family member will be glad you did.  The book is written by a former cancer patient and it is intended to help those dealing with cancer in their circle of family and friends best know how to encourage that person on their journey.  It is literally a list of 20 things, plus several other lists and helpful suggestions.

Here are a few of the top 20 that resonated with me and my comments:
1.  It's OK to say or do the wrong thing. -  In fact you can just say, "I don't know what to say, but I wanted you to know that I love you and I'm praying for you."
2.  I like to hear success stories, not horror stories.  -  You wouldn't believe some of the stories I've heard from well-meaning people!
3.  I need to forget - and laugh.  - Thanks to Cary, Teri, and PJ for always providing the humor!  I love you!
4.  I want compassion, not pity; comfort, not advice.  - Please stop looking at me with pity!  In a moment of frustration today I told Mark, "I am not a weenie sick person!!  I am fine!" I am more than my cancer diagnosis.
5.  I don't know why I got cancer, and I don't want to hear your theory. - This one is pretty self-explanatory!  

That's just a sample, the book is full of helpful information.  You can buy it on amazon.com or at your local Barnes & Noble.  Go buy it today!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God is Moving

Here's my Craigslist add:

For Sale:  One adenocarcinoma.  Size: 6 cm. Color: red. Condition: slightly damaged.  Make an offer.  

But wait...there's more!  If you purchase today, we will throw in one lymph node, absolutely free!!

Don't wait!  Call today!

I woke up to music in my head today:  "God is moving, God is moving still. You always have. You always will!"  

My home office has a very tall ceiling and there are windows to let light in around the top of the room.  I was sitting at my desk today and I leaned back in the chair and looked out the windows as I was thinking.  I watched clouds moving quickly across the sky.  They were the kind that were high up in the sky.  The winds were obviously blowing across the atmosphere. And then I looked at the top of the palm tree in our yard.  It wasn't moving at all.  It was perfectly still.  It was interesting to see the two different things play out across the same sky - rushing wind, and perfect stillness - at the same time.  

And then God spoke softly to my heart.  Sometimes all I can see are my circumstances, my concerns, my world - the palm tree.  But God is moving, He is working, He is blowing across the atmosphere.  He is up to something that I can't even comprehend.  How cool is it to know that God is moving still?!  And that gives me the freedom to rest in perfect peace.

"For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think."  Isaiah 55:9

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!" Psalm 139:17-18

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Have you ever received a gift that you didn't ask for or want?  Or maybe a gift that  you weren't sure that you needed? Or you weren't sure how to use it?  Maybe you returned it, or exchanged it, or maybe you saved it hoping that someday it would become useful to you.

That's what cancer feels like to me.  This wasn't what I asked for, not something I wanted, and not what I thought I needed.  I am looking for somewhere that I can "return" it.  I have decided that I don't want cancer anymore. Craigslist, maybe?

I have always been fiercely independent, ever since I was two years old and told my mother, "I can do it myself!"  I feel like that two year old is inside of me now, running around and screaming! I am tired of being told what I can and can't do, what I can and can't eat, what pills to take when, what time to be at what appointment, etc., etc.  I am tired of something else or someone else (God?) controlling my life.  I am angry.

I recognize that this is grief too.  I am so glad that God can handle it, that He's not put off by my questions, by my anger, by my doubts.  He promised to never leave me, and He hasn't.  

I am reminded today that it is impossible to thank God and curse Him at the same time; that thankfulness will make me aware of His presence which overshadows all my problems (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young).

Lord, please help me to be thankful today.  Cancer IS a gift.  I have been given the chance to live what I believe.  

"How kind the Lord is!  How good he is!  So merciful, this God of ours!  The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and then he saved me.  Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me.  He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.  And so I walk in the Lord's presence as I live here on earth! ... I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord."  
Psalm 116:5-9, 17

Good news:  Finished week 2 of chemo and radiation with no side effects except fatigue!
Bad news:  Week 3 started with diarrhea...immodium and Gatorade are my new best friends!  
Good news:  Immodium works!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Copa Laura

My family and I had the amazing opportunity to live in San Jose, Costa Rica for a year before we moved to Mexico City.  Costa Rica is a beautiful country with incredible rain forests and beaches, active volcanoes, and rich wildlife. But the most beautiful thing about Costa Rica is the people. Some of the best friends we have are those we made while living in Costa Rica that year.  

In 2004 Community of Faith built a children's home for orphaned and abandoned children in Costa Rica; and a community center in the very poor neighborhood of La Carpio in San Jose. One of the joys of my life has been the privilege of returning to Costa Rica every year to visit those sites and to visit my friends.  

Saturday at 5:00 p.m. was the "Copa Laura" in La Carpio, Costa Rica.  This is one of the sweetest things that has ever been done for me in my life.  My sweet friends in Costa Rica – Steve, Antonio, and the kids of La Carpio – planned an indoor soccer tournament in my honor. They have already dedicated their soccer seasons to me and they pray for me before every game.  I can’t even express the feeling I had when I read Steve’s blog post about the tournament.  How / Why would people love me so much?  God has overwhelmed me with His love through so many people in my life.  I am humbled that they would care enough to even think of me in the midst of their own difficult lives, let alone plan a whole tournament in my honor.  Steve, Antonio, my La Carpio kids, the love of Jesus is shining brightly through you! Thank you for encouraging me today!

La Carpio is one of the first places I will go when I am well, and I am already planning a giant celebration with my sweet Costa Rican family and friends.  God has blessed me “exceeding abundantly beyond all I could ask or think” by bringing you into my life!  I love you all and I can't wait to see you soon!  

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us."  Ephesians 3:20

Sign advertising the tournament:

Winners of the upper division:

Winners of the lower division:

Visit www.lalodelacarpio.blogspot.com to keep up with what's going on in La Carpio.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Meet Bruce

This is my friend Bruce.  Bruce and his family have attended Community of Faith since the beginning.  Bruce is one of our amazing, faithful KidZone volunteers.  Bruce has cancer.  Bruce was diagnosed with colon cancer a few weeks before I received my cancer diagnosis.  He is one of the reasons I followed through with my colonoscopy appointment.  

Bruce called me today to let me know that the results of his latest CT scan were not as positive as mine were.  His cancer has metastasized.  He will begin chemotherapy next week.  

I tell you all this to ask you to pray.  As you pray for me, please pray for Bruce.  Pray for healing. Pray for peace, courage, strength, and perseverance as the road ahead gets dark and difficult before it gets better. Please pray for Bruce's family.  He is married and has three children at home.  

There is a new song called  "Can't Take Away" by Mikeschair being played on the radio recently and the chorus has been stuck in my head today:  

"You can take away everything that I've been holding. 
You can take away the sun. 
You can take away the very air that I've been breathing. 
But you can't take away my God."  

Hang on, Bruce!  Keep fighting!  We all have your back!

"Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with." James 5:16

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"...and the greatest of these is love."

To my dear children,

I want you to know that you have the most amazing father in the whole world!  He is the best husband I could ever dream of.  Ever since I have known him he has encouraged me to be who God created me to be.  He always believes in me.  God has used him repeatedly in my life to give me courage and strength; and He is doing that again during this time. 

I know that he is incredibly stressed.  I really can’t imagine how he must feel, wondering if his spouse of 25 years will live.  Wondering if our dreams of life together will really come true, or if there will be time apart, waiting for a sweet reunion.  Thinking of the two rocking chairs, and life like the O’Briens.  Hoping, dreaming, wishing, praying… And the feeling of helplessness when your loved one has to walk the path alone, wishing you could do it for them. 

But in the midst of it all he has been a rock for me.  He has taken on the job of all the phone calls – to family, to friends, to doctors.  He shields me and protects me from things that might overwhelm me.  He gathers information.  He has assigned himself the job of radiation chauffeur, daily driving me for treatments.  He makes fresh fruit and vegetable juice for me every morning so that my body will have the cancer-fighting nutrients it needs.  He has been a sounding board for my fears, frustrations, anger, hopes, and revelation.  He hasn’t wavered in his faith.  He is consistent in prayer and Bible study, crying out to God and trusting Him for grace whatever comes our way. 

I can’t be in the sun or in the chlorine of the pool during treatment because it could further damage my radiated skin.  Last night as the sun fell into beautiful pinks and blues across the sky Mark went outside and put one of our patio chairs onto the sundeck of the pool.  He told me he made a “Princess Chair” for me so that I could be in the pool with him.  It brought tears to my eyes.  We spent an hour in the pool, Mark all the way in, and me with my feet in, just talking and laughing together.  My favorite way to spend the evening…

Your father is my hero.


“In Our Time” by Robert Sexton

…And when we grow old

I will find two chairs

And set them close

Each sun-lit day

That you and I –

In quiet joy –

May rock the world away.