Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rainbow and Promises

All night long I woke up. Each time, I found Chris Quilala's lyrics "Your Love Never Fails" playing in my head. Each time I was prompted to pray. Throughout the night I prayed down my list of friends who are fighting cancer, friends who need a relationship with the Lord, and COF staff members and families.  

After an incredibly long and stressful Monday and Tuesday and a fitful night's sleep, I awoke to a brand new day. As Mark and I drove down the highway this morning we saw a rainbow. It was hard to see, and it was just a piece of the rainbow, but when I saw it I had to smile. Isn't that just like God to send a rainbow when we need to remember who He is?! I was reminded of God's promises to me. I was reminded that He is with me, that He hears my prayers, that He cares about all the details of my life. I was reminded of His faithfulness and His goodness toward me. His love never fails!

"And when the oceans rage
I don't have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me
Your love never fails"

(Chris Quilala / Jesus Culture)

The Battle is On!

Mark and I have served together in ministry since 1982. We have worked side by side for 28 years. Mark's first position was as Pastor of Travis Baptist Church in Travis, Texas. We were students at Baylor University. Travis Baptist Church was a tiny church in a tiny town in the middle of Texas. We would drive out there each weekend and Mark would preach his heart out to the 10 elderly folks who were there, some of them fast asleep in the pew! The first Sunday we showed up, I was asked to play the piano. If you know me at all, you know that I don't really play the piano, so you can just imagine how nice the worship service was! 

From that humble beginning, we went on to serve several churches as Student Minister, Associate Pastor, and Pastor. We served for several years as missionaries in Mexico City. And then we returned to Houston and founded Community of Faith in 2003. 

Through all of the years, and all the challenges and struggles of ministry, I can honestly tell you that I have never seen God's hand at work in such amazing ways as we are seeing take place at Community of Faith. And I can honestly tell you that I have never felt spiritual warfare to the extent that we are experiencing it now. 

God's word tells us that our enemy is on the prowl with the single purpose of stealing, killing, and destroying all that God is doing (John 10:10). I have experienced firsthand the power of your prayers in my life. Will you please join us in praying for Community of Faith, for our staff and families, for the people of our community, and for our ministries around the world? 

I am listing here the names of our staff members and their spouses so that you can pray for them by name. I look forward to seeing God's answer to your prayers!

Aaron and Lisa Thomas                                       
Amos and Rachel Rivera                                      
Amy and Jason Hibbard                                     
Andie and Chris Wyrick                                        
Becky Riggs                                                      
Blake and Robin Jackson                                     
Claude and Kelley Nicondeha                               
Damon and Jackie Shook                                    
David and Sydneyann Shook                               
David and Becky Sanders                              
Derek and Mindy Flint                                         
Donald and Gretchen Butler                               
Donette Terry                  
Jimmy and Cassie Herndon                                  
Kerry and Mauri Johnson                                    
Krystal Honick    
Lance and Kathy Price      
Laura and Mike Kinion
Marco and Carina Monroy
Mark and Laura Shook
Matthew and Elizabeth Crook
Mona and Gary Sills
Nathan and Kaycee White
PJ and Joni Scruggs
Robert Sewell
Samantha and Shane Krantz
Sherry Naron
Tara and Daniel Wainwright
Teri and Brent Longnecker
Student Interns: Mike, Zack, Arianna, Rae

"So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do." 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Thank you!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Same lesson... again

I was recently sitting in a room full of fellow believers and we were given the chance to offer up praises to God. Everyone had their eyes closed. The room was quiet.  Slowly a few of those in the room began to speak, short sentence prayers of praise and gratitude to the God of the universe. 

After experiencing all that I have over the past year, my heart was full of gratitude for all that God has taught me, for the new level of intimacy that I have come to know with Him, for the fact that I am alive today and all the thousands of blessings and miracles that come with each new morning.

Much to my surprise, only about half of the people in the room actually voiced a prayer of praise that day. Only half could come up with one short sentence to glorify the God who gave everything for us. Only half had the courage to speak what surely must have been in their hearts. After experiencing all that I have over the past year, I also find that, at times, my heart is full of anger. This was one of those days. 

In a new sort of way, I felt fiercely protective of my Savior. I was shocked by the fact that praise and adoration wasn't flowing out of the mouths of everyone in the room! I wanted to run to Jesus and apologize, "I'm sorry! They don't mean to hurt you!" I wanted to scream out at everyone, "Don't you know Him? Don't you see Him? He is all we have! He is everything! Where is your praise? Where is your heart?"

Then God gently reminded me, "Don't judge. They haven't walked your road. They haven't had the experiences you've had. They haven't been where you've been. Their life is not your life. I am teaching them. I am leading them. Don't judge." 

And there it is. The same lesson... again. 

"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone..." John 8:7

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Prayer Request

When I was at the doctor's office yesterday he told me that he would order another PET scan in September. And then he said, "If the insurance company doesn't approve another PET scan, then we will do a CT scan and chest x-ray." He said that my insurance company sometimes doesn't approve another PET scan at this point.

It is hard for me to fathom that a follow-up PET scan at six months for someone who had a diagnosis of stage 3 cancer would not be approved, but I'm sure my oncologist has seen this happen before.  I would really prefer to have a PET scan in September. The machine they use at Memorial Hermann Radiation Center is the most accurate machine out there and the test is targeted to find cancer cells. 

So, this is where you come in! Please begin to pray now that my insurance company will approve a PET scan in September when they are contacted for that approval. Thank you!

Update on Tony:
Many of you have been praying for my friend, Tony, for several months. Mark and I had the pleasure of visiting with Tony and his wife, Debbie, last Friday. Tony continues to take part in a medical study for treatment of his cancer. He has had positive results as far as the shrinking of most of his tumors, however the side effects have been pretty rough on Tony. He continues to lose weight. He is in pretty constant pain. On Monday he was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot in his leg. While physically he is struggling, emotionally and spiritually he is doing well. He is hoping and trusting in the Lord and depending on Him for strength and perseverance. Tony and Debbie thank you for your prayers and ask you to please keep praying for Tony's healing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

All Systems Go!

I had an appointment with the oncologist today. It had been three months since my last visit. As I drove to his office today I realized that I wasn't nervous or worried at all. I fully expected all the reports to be good today.

It was strange to walk into the building. It brought back so many memories, not all pleasant, and it was great to walk in feeling good!  I saw some of my "chemo friends" today - still coming to the office for regular chemotherapy treatments, still experiencing uncomfortable side effects, still fighting for one more day of life. How thankful I am that those days are behind me! I am reminded to pray for these sweet friends daily.

The doctor reviewed all my lab work and test results, performed a physical exam, and then declared that everything is NORMAL!!  I'm normal!  He said that he will order a another PET scan for September to make sure that I am still disease-free.

As I left his office and started the drive home I began to think about the PET scan planned for September, and the fact that we won't know if there has been any recurrence until that time. Suddenly, the fear monster reared his head and threatened to take over... I started doing deep breathing exercises, telling myself the truth.  As I did so, I heard God whisper to my heart, "I got this." Immediately the fear disappeared and a huge smile spread across my face! My God has this under control! The almighty, all-knowing, all-loving, faithful creator of all things has me in his hands!

I felt like shouting all the way home! I'm pretty sure my feet never touched the ground for the rest of the day!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Island of Misfits

Remember "Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys"? Lately I have been feeling that I have become a misfit. In Rudolph, this island is where all the defective and unwanted toys are sent. While I don't think I am defective or unwanted, I sure do feel like a misfit. I feel like a very different person than the one who began this whole cancer journey. And I still struggle to find my place in my own life now! 

Here are words from my journal today:
Lord, I feel like such a misfit. I keep thinking I should just be happy that I am healthy and get to keep living; and most days I feel great. But then there are moments like these when the tears come again, or the anger, or the grief. 

I had such a good week and so many good things happened, and I saw your hand at work. And then today I feel like a misfit. I'm just different. I feel most at home when I am with other cancer survivors. There is an immediate kinship between us, a knowing...

I am one of the dwindling few who still read the Sunday newspaper.  I was feeling these things again today when I opened up the Houston Chronicle and found Parade Magazine to have a special report called "Cancer in America." According to the article below, I'm not the only cancer survivor who feels like a misfit. Maybe we all do.

Living After Cancer

"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous, you surround them with your favor as with a shield."  Psalm 5:11-12

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Day at the Outlet Mall

Well, I definitely have my strength back since completing all my cancer treatment. The following story is my proof:

Once upon a time there was a young woman named Laura. Laura was so happy that she didn't have cancer anymore. She was feeling strong and healthy. 

One day Laura went shopping with her daughter, Ashley, at the Houston Premium Outlet Mall. They were shopping for kitchen supplies for Ashley's new apartment. They entered the Pyrex and Corningware store and were amazed at the multitude of kitchen supplies! There were things they had never seen or heard of before! 

Laura and Ashley purchased a box of pyrex and the store clerk asked if they would like to pick up their purchase at the back door. Thinking that this would be easier than carrying the box through the mall, Laura agreed. 

Laura pulled her car up to the back door of the store. Ashley got out of the car and tried to open the door. It seemed to be stuck. Ashley knocked and there was no response. Ashley rang the bell and there was no response. Sensible Laura thought to herself, "The door is just stuck, I'll get out of the car and help Ashley pull it open." And so she did.

Laura grabbed the door handle and gave it a strong pull. In that instant she heard the store clerk shout, "Don't do that!" It was too late. Laura was already in motion. The door locking pin bent 90 degrees, the door swung open, and the store alarm started blaring throughout the mall and across the parking lot. 

Laura and Ashley stood there, eyes wide, mouths agape. 

"I'm sorry," Laura stammered. 

"You broke it." said the store clerk.

Ashley grabbed the box of pyrex, put it in the back seat. Laura and Ashley jumped in the car and sped out of the parking lot and away from the sound of the screeching alarm.

The End.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just thinking...

Just thinking...

During the whole time that I was sick and focused on fighting a deadly enemy, life went on without me. Mark continued to go to work, the kids went to school, Community of Faith continued on. The only thing that mattered during that time was my relationship with Christ. I was desperate to have Him close, to know He was with me, to hear his words, and to be comforted and strengthened by his presence. He gave me life and hope. He was all I needed. It was the only thing that mattered.

Now that life is going on WITH me, shouldn't it still be the same? My relationship with Christ should still be the one thing that really matters. If that continues to be my focus then everything else will fall into place.

"It is not circumstances that need altering first, but yourselves, and then the conditions will naturally alter. Spare no effort to become all I would have you. Follow every leading. I am your only Guide." (God Calling)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Forgetting I had cancer?

Mark and I had dinner with some friends tonight. We shared a lot of laughs and as we drove home I thought to myself, "That was so much fun, I even forgot I had cancer."  That is significant to me. Although I don't want to ever forget where I've been or what I experienced or learned, I also don't want cancer to be a constant presence in my life. I was happy that I wasn't living with cancer lurking in the background or peering over my shoulder. 

But as soon as I had those thoughts, I had these:  "You just spent your whole dinner discussing cancer - symptoms, treatments, side effects, etc. etc. etc.!!  You were eating dinner with another family who is battling this disease!"  I didn't forget I had cancer - but I experienced the freedom to talk about it in all its gory detail with someone else who understood. What a special gift!

Medical update:
I received a call today from the surgeon's office with the results of the genetic testing that was done. All the results came back negative, meaning that I do not have a mutated gene that would make me, and possibly my children, more susceptible to colorectal cancer. That's good news for all of us!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Glory Reflected

I am still amazed at the kindness of people toward me. 

For several years I have coordinated quarterly blood drives at Community of Faith. We work in partnership with the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. Having worked as a nurse I have seen the need for blood products and how they often serve to save the life of those who need them. Just this week a good friend was the recipient of blood products that literally saved his life. So, I am passionate about the need to find new blood donors and to promote our blood drives. 

Today was our summer blood drive. We collected over 60 units of blood with the potential to save 180 lives! That in itself is awesome! But the thing that amazed me the most was the kindness of the Blood Center Team. They have followed my journey over the last year and have always encouraged me along the way. Today when they arrived, their leader made a point to ask about me and how I was doing. I am humbled that they would remember and that they would care enough to ask. Small kindnesses can make a big difference in someone else's life!

I used to get tired of people asking me how I'm doing or how I am feeling; but now things are different! I am so happy to have them ask me because I am so excited to be able to tell them, "I'm GREAT!!" "I feel good!" "I'm not tired anymore!" 

One of the new worships songs that we've been singing at Community of Faith is called Glorious by Paul Baloche:

Glorious Lyrics
By Paul Baloche

Look inside the mystery,
See the empty cross
See the risen Saviour,
Victorious and strong
No one else above Him
None as strong to save
He alone has conquered,
The power of the grave

Glorious, my eyes have the seen the glory of the Lord
Glorious, He stands above the rulers of the earth

Look beyond the tombstone
See the living God
See the resurrected
The ruler of my heart
No one else above him
None to match his worth
The hope of his returning
Fills the universe

Glorious, my eyes have the seen the glory of the Lord 
Glorious, He stands above the rulers of the Earth  
Glorious, glorious 
Lord you  are glorious

Oh You are Glorious
Oh You are Glorious

I love this line in the chorus:  "Glorious, my eyes have seen the glory of the Lord." Every time we sing it I can't help but smile. I HAVE seen the glory of the Lord! I see it every time I look in the mirror! God's glory reflected in my healthy body!  Every new day, every breath I take, every song I sing, I see His glory. He IS glorious and He has shown His glory to me! I can't even tell you the joy I feel in my heart as I worship Him.  What a crazy privilege I've been given to see his glory at work up close and personal! 

My prayer for you this new week is that you too will see the glory of the Lord!

"I ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory -- to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him -- endless energy, boundless strength!" 
Ephesians 1:17-19

Friday, June 11, 2010


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Missing Year

I have started referring to the past year as the "missing year." It feels like my "normal" life paused on May 27, 2009, and wasn't resumed until just recently. The year of cancer was just stuck in there. I notice the "missing year" a lot now, especially when I am out in the community or talking to people I haven't seen in awhile. There are new businesses I haven't seen, restaurants I haven't been to, information and activities that I missed. I feel pretty normal until one of these situations comes up, and then I am reminded that I had cancer, I missed a year.  

On one of the pages in my 2009 journal is a list. That's not unusual for me since I am the ultimate "lister." But this list is different. It's not a "To Do" list. This list is called "Things I have missed." The list includes specific parties and events, worship services, meetings, trips, foods, funerals, celebrations, and activities with friends. It seems funny, now, that I was keeping a list of everything I missed. But it is a stark reminder of the way that cancer invades and takes over every area of your life, not just your physical life. Cancer is uninvited, unwelcome, and it eats away at everything. It changes everything.

As difficult as that experience was, it also forms the backdrop that allows me to enjoy each new day and every new experience now! Every time I am able to visit with a friend, attend a party, go to church, or hang out with my family, I am so grateful for the opportunity to do so! I am happy to be able to hit the "play" button and resume the course of my "normal" life. 

This reality was brought home again this weekend as we celebrated my parents' anniversary and as we celebrated the upcoming birth of a friend's first baby. I was so thankful to be alive to celebrate with them, so thankful to be healthy and able to participate, and so grateful for a God who poured out his mercy and grace on me during the "missing  year." 

Teri, Krista, Courtney, Becky, Me

"Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
         how good 
God is. Blessed are you who run to him."
Psalm 34:8

Monday, June 7, 2010

Happy 50th Anniversary!

June 7, 1960 a young man from Ada, Oklahoma married his high school sweetheart. Fifty years, 3 children, and 8 grandchildren later, they celebrate their Golden Anniversary!!

The whole family, along with nearly 150 friends and family gathered to celebrate and honor my parents this weekend. There were flowers, there was food, there was music, there was poetry, there was laughter, and there were many hugs. The room was filled with lots of love for two people who have been an amazing example to all of us. Thank you, mom and dad, for always choosing each other, for always choosing faithfulness, and for always choosing to put God first. I am so grateful that God chose you both to be my parents! I love you!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Glimpse of God

I read these words today:

"... no man can see my face and live. The self, the original man, shrivels up and dies, and upon the soul becomes stamped my image."  (God Calling)

I feel like that's what cancer has done - allowed me a tiny glimpse of the face of God - his sovereignty, his kindness, his power, his love, and his mercy. And maybe that's the change I sense in me, and have heard mentioned by so many other cancer patients and survivors. "I'm different now." " Everything has changed." Maybe it's that glimpse of God and his image now stamped on our souls.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I went to see Patricia today. Patricia has taken care of the Shook girls' hair for many years. She is one of my favorite people on the planet! She has a huge heart and treats her clients like family. 

I went by today to let her see that my hair is growing back in. She took one look at me and said, "You need help!" I laughed out loud, agreeing with her that my hair was in need of some Patricia magic! 

I haven't been able to color my hair for a year due to the chemotherapy. I was losing a lot of hair and didn't want to do anything to cause more hair loss.  In the beginning it didn't matter much because my hair wasn't growing at all, but now that I have finished all my treatments, my hair has started to grow again and it was looking pretty bad. 

Patricia took some time to look it over and then said, "You know it is growing in gray, right?" 
"Yes," I replied, "I know. But I'm just happy it's growing!"

Then she went to work, using a special product designed for cancer patients, and brought life back to my dull, graying, suddenly growing locks! By the time she was finished we were all smiling! 

My hair is still very thin, but I have new baby hairs growing in all over my head. At times they are unruly, sticking straight up on top of my head, giving me the appearance of a Cockatiel or a rooster! LOL! But I am celebrating those hairs! They represent life to me and all that goes with it!

Thank you, Patricia, for your love and your faithful friendship!! You are awesome!

Update on John and Ellen:  
John received the results of his latest CT scan today. The good news is that the tumors in his liver are shrinking in response to the chemotherapy! He is tolerating his treatments well. He has been walking for exercise, and the doctor told him today that he could do some light weight lifting. So, please keep praying for his complete healing. God is at work! Thank you!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Broken Watch

My watch died about the same time I was diagnosed with cancer last year. Ordinarily I am one of those people who live by a calendar and a schedule. A broken watch should have thrown my world into chaos, but it seems that had already been accomplished by the three little words, "You have cancer." Due to all the turmoil that ensued, I never replaced my watch. I have lived without one for over a year now, and the funny thing is I kind of like it! 

I find that I am less stressed. I move more slowly. I don't rush to accomplish things. I take time to enjoy people and conversations and nature and quiet. I was thinking about this strange new way of life for me today and wondered if maybe this is in some small way how Jesus lived his life on this earth. I don't imagine he was ever stressed - He knew that everything was ultimately in God's loving hands. I don't think he rushed from town to town - He took his time, stopping to talk to people, to hug children, to heal the sick, to teach the crowds. I don't think he was worried about accomplishing anything except what God gave him to do that day - no one to please, no one to impress - his whole goal to fulfill God's plan for the day. 

I've been thinking about buying a new watch, but the more I think about it, maybe I won't. 

"So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun." Ecclesiastes 8:15