the mind of man

After chemotherapy was completed the oncologists gave us a double sided, three page document detailing the recovery plan.  Each future appointment was noted with corresponding tests to evaluate her health at appropriate stages.  Sometimes there are scribbles and changes.  Sometimes we just follow the charted course.  

Today at Clara’s 18 month post-treatment check they pulled out her plan.  

“Let’s check your Road Map, Clara,” the nurse stated.

Clara looked at me with big eyes.  “I sure wouldn’t have put cancer on my Road Map, mom.”

Yeah.  Me either.  

Proverbs 16:9
The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps.

Today, Clara’s scans all looked great.  Her remaining kidney continues to grow to compensate for the missing one (isn’t the human body amazing?).  The X-rays remain spot free.  It was even a blessedly poke-free visit. 

As the kids say, Woot!

We will keep chugging away at the long term road map as the doctors tell us, but I keep my eye on the path in front of me knowing that the best steps are the ones He directs.  


Caring Bridge Farewell

Two years ago on December 4th I tried to write my very first CaringBridge post.  Sitting on the terribly uncomfortable grey bench/bed on the 8th floor at Children’s, I opened up a page and with fingers on the keyboard I stared.  How was this my new reality?  

When we initially walked the oncology hallway with Clara on a gurney, cancerous tumor leaking inside her, I thought that the other parents had peculiar expressions on their faces when they watched us enter.  How do I describe it?  Almost an envy mixed with pity.  

A few months later I understood.  They knew that our journey had only started.  We were still living with one foot in Healthy Child Land.  Clara still had all her hair.  She had not yet been ravaged by radiation and chemo.  She was still a normal little girl with baby fat, color in her cheeks, eyelashes.  

I felt anything but enviable. 

Recently a lovely singer, Jenn Alexander has written and recorded a song entitled “Clara’s Song.”  The verses talk about Roads, Rivers, Storms.  Places we are lead to that we must travel down - want to or not.  Clara shared her struggle with Jenn, saying “I don’t want to go.  I have to, but I don’t want to.”  

Two years ago I stood in the oncology ward and surveyed the path.  I didn’t like what I saw in front of us.  Signs on doors “no entry without mask,” kids walking attached to IV poles, teens with weary looks and puffy steroid faces, parents so remarkably numb.  

“This road, Lord?”  

Writing a journal update on CaringBridge seemed impossible.  I handed the computer to Brian.  “You write it.”  

It turns out that the road Clara walked was the road I walked.  The road Brian walked.  The road Stephen and Abbie walked.  The road all of Clara’s grandparents, her extended family, her friends, her church, her school ... 


In a way you have all walked this cancer road with Clara.  Maybe a piece of it was laden with rocks, or steep, or maybe you struggled as you watched.  Maybe you asked, as I did, “This road, Lord?”

As a people we are designed to be communities intertwined in wonderful ways.  I was often struck during Clara’s illness at the depth and breadth of impact a 6 year old could have.  I will always walk my children’s journey.  Sometimes I get to hold their hands, sometimes I will put my hands together and pray and watch.  But their journeys?  They are attached to mine.  

What sweet mercy that we don’t all have to physically have cancer to know the cancer road.   

This Christmas I wonder if any of you are walking down paths of pain that aren’t ones of your choosing?  Roads of intense pain and open wounds.  You don’t want to go but you have to.  

Not everyone gets a CaringBridge.  

Would you invite others in to walk alongside you in your journey?  We need each other.  You may well find that your path has twice as many blessings as curses - ours did.  Would you share?  

And if you aren’t riding the rapids yourself right now, please know that the way you opened your eyes a little wider, listened a little longer, unfolded your arms to us was an enormous blessing, and perhaps one that you are called to provide again to someone in your midst.  Sometimes it’s the attentive ears and compassionate smile that allows a friend to exhale.  Know that their journey will be a part of your journey, like it or not.  Sometimes the mess is in our lives for a reason.  Let it be there, and let it be messy.

As we look back at the road through the valley of cancer, I have decided to stop writing Caring Bridge updates.  Because Clara is well!  She is healed!  Her cheeks are rosy, hair thick and full, no orthodics, no side effects.  For all of us it’s time to embrace health.

I will continue to write on my blog and occasionally post updates on Clara’s oncology visits as she will have those until she is 18.  If you’d like to hear Jenn Alexander’s album, you can pre-order it here, or download it on itunes on December 10th.  She’s a delight and all around fantastic.  The amazing melody she has put to the thoughts Clara expressed ... it’s something to behold.  

Is it possible to thank each of you enough?  I don’t feel like it.  You have walked this road with us gracefully, crying with us, picking up after us, praying and pleading through long nights for us.  Our hearts will never fully express our gratitude towards you.  

Clara has been mis-singing the lyrics of Silent Night lately.  She sings, “holy infinite, tender and mild.”  Interesting, no?  God the infinite, is tender and mild.  Two thoughts I hadn’t connected until her little voice sang it across the house.  

The infinite God who knows the infinite value in rocky paths is tender and mild enough to walk each step with us - especially when we don’t want to go.  



Christmas Card

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Christmas Quotes

I love books.  
Scratch that, I love words.  
Any words that edify, jump off the page into my heart, that make me think hard or change my perspective.  

At Christmas I love pulling out Christmas books and setting them out on the coffee table.  Kids books for my children, Dikens and Alcott for me.  When I was small my mom did the same and curling up to Amy Grant I would read all the parables and look at the beautiful artistry.  

Last year I found a clearance book designed specifically for coffee tables and knew I had to get it.  Christmas on this holy night is a collection of quotes and Bible verses with gorgeous fonts and colors. 

Rather than just setting it out on the table I decided to pull out several of the quotes 
I really liked (and fit!) and put them in frames.  

And viola!  One of my new favorite decorations!  

The quotes are as follows:

  • "The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God" C.S. Lewis
  • "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;  And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6
  • "Christmas is the most stunning rescue story of all time" Anonymous
  • "One night ... among the wrinkled hills of Bethlehem ... God, who knows no before or after, entered time and space.  God who knows no boundaries, took on the shocking confines of a baby's skin, the ominous restraints of mortality."  Philip Yancey
  • "This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation;  we are not alone on our journey."  Henri Nouwen
Favorite Christmas books for old and young (italicized are particular favorites):
  • Christmas Stories by Max Lucado
  • Why the Nativity? by David Jeremiah
  • Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
  • Mystery in the Stable by Lisa Flinn and Barbara Younger
  • The Littlest Magi by Chris Auer
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
  • Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschev
  • The Niht before Christmas (I like the one illustrated by Leonard Weisgard)
  • The Nutcracker, by E.T.A. Hoffman, I like the one illustrated by Don Daily and the one illustrated by Vladmir Vagin.  They both name the main character Clara rather than Marie.  As we have a Clara I prefer those!  
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The Quiet Little Woman; A Christmas Story by Louisa May Alcott
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
  • The Chimes by Charles Dickens

What are some of your favorite Christmas Books?

May you have a blessed Christmas season surrounded by reminders of 
His sacrifice and blessed companionship.  - R


Try it maybe {Monday}


Hate it or love it, you still have to do it.

How about this idea?

Rather than giving your kids a laundry basket that catches most of the dirty (and sometimes the clean clothes they don't want to put away - can I get an amen?) and hauling it down once a week ...

And then sorting it ....

{Maybe give each kid two baskets.}

One for lights and one for darks.  On a day you feel like getting a little laundry done have the kids each bring their whites down, or just their darks.  It takes a while for them to get it all correct during their pre-sort but it's worth it and teaches a skill along the way.

Here's some info on laundry in case you're looking for any basic tips.  I always forget about the empty pockets part.

pssssttt .... as an FYI - 
Nintendo DS games can survive a wash and dry. 
 Tootsie rolls and a deck of cards cannot.  



Confession:  I ride the Mommy teeter totter.  

Teeter:  On one side, there is the almost irresistible instinct to shield my children from every harm that might befall them, to go before them and prepare the way.  

Totter:  The knowledge that they must themselves be prepared to enter the world and able to handle the blows that will undoubtedly come their ways.  

At a playdate my little one was 4.  All excited, arms and legs moving, mouth yelling and hollering in free delight.  Running upstairs to meet friends only to encounter a door slammed in his face.  

“We don’t want you.”  

Standing on the landing, play sword dangling, eyes filling with tears he looked down at me.  My emotions formed quicker than my thoughts.  

Instinctively I gathered our things and we left.  

Was I protecting him?  

Or me?  

Each situation I now wonder:  Is this something designed for real-world training, or a time I need to protect them?  Are my responses fueled by a desire to be the best parent for them or am I safeguarding my mommy heart?  Or even worse - my mommy pride?

My child at 7 is beautiful and fun and feisty; willing to play and laugh with anyone.  I watched her playing a rousing game of tag with some classmates while her sibling participated in a soccer game.  Slowly the mood of the group started to shift from play to teasing and then disintegrated into unkind.

The only one unaware of the change was my daughter, and I was painfully mindful that she was becoming the brunt of a new game that would not end well.  I walked to the group and as my presence was felt the kids looked at me sheepishly and scattered.  My little girl glared at me in frustration.  

She wondered why I couldn’t let her enjoy this moment of blessed community.  It has always been the ache of her soul to have a gaggle of friends and giggles and attention.  To her, I was the killjoy with a mission to keep her from friendships. 

Her irritation quickly moved to anger.  “Why do you always ruin everything, mom?”

I knew that to alert her to my protection was to shine a light on the fraudulent camaraderie.  

I smiled small and let her pout.  

Conferences came around and the teacher slowly pointed out that my second grader had not turned in any of her math homework.  We were surprised that there even was any schoolwork at all.  None had made it to the kitchen table during homework rounds.  
The teacher hadn’t alerted us sooner because “I just thought that was the way things went at your house.”

Should I have not allowed the natural consequences?  Should I have been cushioning her in school from the repercussions that she needed to feel?  Or would it just preserve my pride in being the mommy that has it all together?  

Maybe I read the entire situation all wrong?  

The tension of the teeter totter shifts quicker than I can anticipate.  They change.  I change.  The world races along at an adult pace willing the kids to grow quickly.  

“Catch up,” it seems to call!

I grasp and balance and try to offset the uncertainty.  Sometimes it works, sometimes I tumble into the sandbox.  Always I find peace when speaking truth.  

Dusting myself off after a fall:  “He knows the plans He has for them, plans for a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Shifting to regain balance:  “I give thanks to you, Jesus, for they are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

Fearful that God’s plans will overwhelm them:  “He can make a mountain into a highway” (Isaiah 49:11)

It’s in the realization that I serve Him

not the sweet children I have (whose hearts are so tender), 

not my husband (who I long to please and honor), 

not myself (and the pride that rears its head).  

Jesus is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow.  He never teeters or shifts or reacts from rash emotion or pride.  He gives me eyes to see and grace when I fail.  And He is the one who will be glorified.  

Long absence

Where I've been ...

Caring Bridge

Video that I put together chronicling the journey

Clip of Clara reading a story.

And the journey continues ....

- Rachel