Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- Sigh...

"But You, O Lord, are a shield around me, my GLORY, the one who lifts my head high."  Psalm 3:3

This is Glory, and her mom, Kerry.  I've written about Glory before.  She's a little over a year old, and has spent most of her life in the cardiovascular intensive care unit.  She was born with inadequate pulmonary arteries, and she has undergone multiple surgeries in an attempt to get them to grow.  Today she underwent a full day of surgery to replace two shunts in her heart in an attempt to increase the blood flow to these arteries.  The surgery has finally ended for today, but her oxygen saturation remains low, and even as I write this, her parents are meeting with the surgeon to find out what their next step will be.  My heart is aching for this mom and dad as they have watched their sweet little one go through so much in her young life.


Just this week, I heard about yet another precious little girl here in Arkansas who lost her battle with cancer.  As a matter of fact, the other day I sat down and started to make a list of the children I know by name who are either battling cancer right now, or who have gone to Heaven over the last 2 1/2 years due to cancer.  The list became so long, I finally just had to stop.


Every day as I go to work as a speech pathologist/reading therapist, I encounter children who break my heart.  They come to school dirty, wearing clothes that are several sizes too small or too big, and so many are clearly starving for affection that they are not receiving at home.


You know, after awhile this kind of stuff can really get you down.  You begin to wonder where God is when children suffer.

So I was really thankful for the reminder I got this week as I prepared for last night's "Patriarchs" Bible study.  Beth Moore closed the video with this statement:  "Our comfort can be this:  What is not sorted out here and now is sorted out then and there." 

I don't know about you, but that really is a comfort to me.  God is not asleep, He is not indifferent, He is not unloving.  He is on His throne, He doesn't miss a thing, and He will make it all right in the end.  And for that, I am thankful.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

OBU BlogAbout -- What OBU Means to Me

OK, so I've pretty much been an OBU BlogAbout drop out.  I started out with good intentions...I really did...but I've only actually contributed one post this entire month.  Yes, I know the requirement to post just on Tuesdays was really not asking too much, but I couldn't even manage to pull that off!  I'm going to try to make up for that today by sharing how attending OBU from 1984-1988 impacted my life.

I grew up in a Christian home, had been in church all my life, was a dedicated member of my youth group in high school, but had never really stood on my own two feet as a Christian until I came to OBU.  For the first time ever, it was solely up to me to decide whether I was going to get up and go to church on Sunday, who I was going to associate with, and whether or not I was even going to hold on to the faith of my youth.  Yes, there were some Sundays that I chose to worship at Boxsprings Baptist, especially in those early weeks of freedom, but I quickly realized that I needed the fellowship of other believers to keep me strong. 

I remember going to Richwoods Baptist Church one Sunday when Craig Price, the pastor at that time, preached on Psalm 34:10..."The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."  Did you catch that?  "Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."  That meant if that cute boy I met at Walt's never called me, he must not be a "good thing."  Or if I couldn't get into that class I wanted next semester, it must not be a "good thing."  I can't tell you how many times I applied that verse to different situations that arose in my life.  It was my first real introduction to the concept of God's sovereignty.

Of course, I had no idea at that time how important the concept of God's sovereignty would become to me in the future.  Twenty-four years later, when my 16-year-old daughter, who had always dreamed of going to OBU someday, was diagnosed with cancer, I was able to rest in the knowledge that nothing was outside the sovereignty of God.  Not that it was easy....placing her life into God's hands was one of the hardest things I've ever done...but I was prepared to take that step, partly due to the foundation that had been built while I was a student at Ouachita.

Today, when I visit OBU's campus, I experience a real bittersweetness.  I have so many wonderful memories from my time there...listed in my one and only other BlogAbout post a few weeks ago...but I feel a deep sadness that my daughter, Hannah, is not there.  She would have started her sophomore year a few weeks ago, but instead she is sitting at the feet of Jesus.  And I have to remind myself that as nice as OBU's new dorms are...they ain't got nothin' on Heaven!  

So, happy 125th, OBU!  You'll never know how God uses you to impact the lives of your students.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Mourning -- While We're Waiting Moms' Day

Ahhhhh....Another evening at home with no place to go.  The perfect opportunity to tell you about our most recent While We're Waiting Moms' Day.

If you've followed this blog for awhile, you've heard about "While We're Waiting" before.  WWW is a ministry to bereaved parents, and you can read more about it here.  Basically, my husband and I, along with another couple, host retreats for Moms, Dads, and couples who have lost children.  We hosted our first couples' retreat last April, and have another one scheduled for the first weekend in November.  Our first Dads' retreat is coming up October 7-9 (more about that in a future post) and we hosted our first Moms' Day back in June.  These retreats provide an opportunity for Christian parents to meet each other, talk about their children, and discuss issues that grieving, but believing, parents face on a daily basis....all in a safe environment, where they can share whatever is on their hearts without fear of being misunderstood or judged.

So, we had our second Moms' Day this past Saturday.  We have our Moms' Days at my friend Janice's lovely home overlooking Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Our desire is to provide these ladies with beautiful, comfortable surroundings, delicious food, and a time to feel pampered and loved.  Each Mom is given the opportunity to share her child's story, and then she is lifted up in prayer by the group.  We also spend time discussing a variety of topics that grieving Moms deal with on a daily basis.  In the afternoon, a massage therapist comes and gives each Mom a 30-minute private massage, and the highlight of the day is a 5-course gourmet dinner, prepared and served by our own private chef! 

There were five sweet Moms who came last Saturday.  Another Mom had signed up, but she got sick the night before and was unable to come.  As in our previous Moms' Day, their stories varied...from losing a child prior to birth, to losing a premature twin several days after birth, to losing a young child to cancer, to losing a grown child to cancer...and one Mom had even lost her child to murder.  One Mom had lost her son just a month ago, and one Mom had lost her daughter over twenty years ago. 

But once again, as different as our stories and experiences were, we discovered that we had an incredible bond as bereaved Moms.  When you're a bereaved Mom yourself, you find yourself fascinated by other Mom's stories of their children.  And the bond that forms is almost instantaneous...It's a God thing -- that's all I can say.  As we shared our experiences on into the afternoon, a couple of the Moms forfeited their opportunity for a massage...they didn't want to leave the discussion!

Around 4:30, our chef arrived, and at 5:00, we sat down to an amazing dinner.  The last time we had a Moms' Day, the food was excellent, and I honestly did not think that Chef Franklin could do any better than that.  In fact, I would have been very pleased if he had just prepared the same exact meal.  But no, he wanted to do something different...and although I wouldn't have thought it possible, he actually outdid himself!

Like last time, I took some pictures.  You'll have to forgive me, though...a couple of times I got so excited about eating that I forgot to take a picture until I had already taken a bite or two!  So, if these dishes don't look quite as good as last time, it's my fault, not Chef Franklin's!

First, a shot of the beautifully appointed fall table...

The appetizer was melon balls with proscuitto in a sugar-rimmed glass.  Hard to imagine that combination, I know, but trust me, it was amazing!

The salad was an iceberg lettuce wedge topped with raspberries, almond slivers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a basalmic-type dressing (can't remember exactly what he called it)....This is one of those that I started eating before photographing.  It was delicious.

The intermezzo (to cleanse our palates) was a combination of three cherry, pomegranate, and mango.  I'm not really sure if it was meant to be this melty (it wasn't last time), but it didn't affect the taste at all.  In fact, if I wasn't trying to be a proper hostess, I would have turned the bowl up and slurped every last drop.

Next up was the entree.  This was a chicken breast covered with a red and green pepper sauce that was absolutely amazing (and I don't even like peppers), along with a wild rice pilaf with sun dried tomatoes, and sliced zucchini and yellow squash.

And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it was time for dessert.  Dessert was fried ice cream on top of a soft sugar cookie, and covered with a bananas foster sauce.  Can't you just taste it?  Yeah, I took a couple bites of this one before photographing it, too.

Yes, the food was amazing, but that wasn't the best part of the day.  The best part was spending time with other Moms who understood our sorrows and our joys, our tears and our laughter.  And now we have a new group of friends that we know will continue to lift us up in prayer in the days ahead.  I'll close by sharing (with permission) what one Mom said to me in an email after she got home...

"I told you Saturday, I thought of every reason in the world not to come but at the same time I knew I was going to. Making plans and telling my family I was coming and trying to talk myself out of it at the same time.. I think one of the things that comforted me Saturday was I came away thinking that God gave me 34 years with my son and I am so thankful. I got to see him graduate, go to college, have a family and become a wonderful adult. So many of you mothers never had that opportunity. I felt so comfortable in Janice's home and with all my new friends.  I could have stayed for days and never run out of things to talk about with all of you.  Hope I didn't talk too much!  Thanks for this wonderful ministry. It was a day I will never forget."  ~Glendon's Mom

Oh, one more thing...Our next While We're Waiting Moms' Day is scheduled for January 28th!  Spread the word!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- A Great Story

Wow...It's Thursday again, and I haven't posted since last Thursday.  Maybe that's because I haven't had an evening at home since that day!  And I'm so tired tonight, I can barely keep my eyes open as I type!

I have so much I want to write about, mainly about our "While We're Waiting" events.  We had our WWW Mom's Day this past Saturday, and it was another amazing day.  We had a fantastic group of Moms, and wow, did we have some good discussion time.  I'm looking forward to sharing more about that...including the obligatory pictures of the incredible food we had to eat...but not tonight.

I also can't wait to tell you all about the While We're Waiting Weekend for Dads we have coming up October 7-9.  We spent the whole day on Wednesday (we were out of school because of parent/teacher conferences the night before) in Yell County planning for this retreat.  Brad and Larry have some great ideas for this event...all stuff that men are going to just love...and I can't wait to tell you all about all of it...but not tonight.

No, I want to save all of that stuff for sometime when I'm fully awake and feeling a little more coherent.  For tonight, I just want to share something that Beth Moore said in the introductory video for her Patriarchs study.  It made me think, and that's what Thoughtful Thursday posts are supposed to be all about.

She said, "Easy lives don't make great stories.  Your life in Christ was meant to be a great story."

Hmmmm....I like that.  I want my life to be a great story, and I bet you do, too.  Why do we want our lives to be great stories?  Because that's our testimony...that's what God uses to draw others to Himself.  It makes it a little easier to accept the difficulties in life when you know that God can use them for His glory.

And that's all I've got for tonight.  Good night!  :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- A Heavy Heart

My heart is heavy tonight as I pray for a young lady from our local area named Morgan.  Morgan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in December of 2010 and has fought an incredibly brave fight for nearly a year now ... and the battle has suddenly grown much more intense. 

I have not personally met Morgan, but she is my Facebook friend.  She friended me because she knew Hannah's story.  Up until just about a week ago, she would post every morning, "Good morning, Facebook!  Hope everyone has a good day!"  This from a little girl facing the monster of cancer and all that goes with it. 

My sorrow is not really for Morgan, because she is going to be just fine, whether God chooses to heal her here or in Heaven.  My heaviness of heart is for those who would miss out on the brightness of her smile and the sweetness of her spirit.  For the world that would never get to know what contribution she might have made.  And mostly, for her family, who would miss her more than words could ever say.  "Miss" is not even the right word for it, but I have concluded that the English language does not contain an adequate word for how a bereaved family member misses a child. 

Morgan is especially partial to ladybugs, and it's been amazing to see Facebook light up with ladybugs in support of her over the last couple of days.  I really don't think I'll ever see a ladybug again without thinking of Miss Morgan and her courage. 

Please join me in praying for Morgan and her family.  Of course, earthly healing is what we would all choose for her.  But if that is not to be, this family is going to need lots of prayer to get through the difficult days ahead.  And I can assure you from personal experience, those prayers really do make a difference.  I don't believe we would have survived as we have without the prayers of God's people.

Please be sure and hug your kids a little tighter, be fully grateful for every blessing you receive, and don't waste time complaining about the little annoyances of life.  And don't ever miss an opportunity to show the love of God to a hurting world.

****Update -- Morgan was eternally healed in the wee hours of Saturday morning, September 17th.  Please continue to pray for her family in the days ahead.****

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Three Things I'm Looking Forward To...

1.  Let me introduce you to two beautiful girls.  Meet Katie Joy and Julia Brooke.  They are my nieces who live in Indonesia...the ones we haven't seen in over two years now.  They were born exactly two years apart, and their parents jokingly say that one is made out of rubber and one is made out of china.  Can you tell which one is which just by looking at them?  I bet you can! 

Katie and Julia (and their parents, of course) will be coming to Arkansas in January!!  My brother, who is a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship has to come back to the States for some training, and they will be here for a few months.  Most of that time will be spent in Idaho, but we'll take whatever time we can get with them!

2.  Starting this Wednesday night, I'll be leading the Beth Moore Bible study, "The Patriarchs."  Well, technically, I guess Beth will be leading it...I'll just be facilitating it.  I've been studying the materials over the past few weeks, and it's going to be an excellent study.  If you live in the area and don't have a church commitment on Wednesday nights, I'd love for you to come.  It will be from 5:45 to 7:15 at Hot Springs Baptist Church, and will last for 11 weeks.  We'll be doing the introductory session this week.  I'm really looking forward to it!

3.  This Saturday, we'll be hosting our second "While We're Waiting" Mini-Retreat for Bereaved Moms.  Six precious Moms are coming for a day of pampering, Christian fellowship, and encouragement.  We had our final planning meeting at Janice's house Thursday evening, and we left there so energized and encouraged ourselves.  There are two wonderful ladies who have contributed their time and God-given talent to decorate Janice's already-lovely home just for this event....the fall theme they have chosen is just beautiful.  There could not be a more perfect setting for our time together.  I literally cannot wait to spend the day with these Moms on Saturday!

So, there you have it...three things I'm really looking forward to.  You know, when you're in the deepest, darkest days of grief, it's hard to imagine you'll ever look forward to anything again.  So I am very, very thankful for things to look forward to!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth -- Memories of 9/11

Yesterday, Bethany came home from school and told me all about the video she had seen in her American History class about 9/11.  She described watching the planes hit the Twin Towers and the people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors, and how terribly sad it made her feel.  Then she said something that shocked me.  She said, "I've never seen a lot of that before."  In my kindest, most loving Mom voice (...ahem...), I replied, "What are you talking about?  Of course you have!"  And she said, "No, I really haven't!"

That got me to thinking.  How had she not seen the horrific news footage from that day?  It's not like she doesn't know about what happened on 9/11.  Yesterday afternoon we talked about how she remembered, even as a first grader, the reactions of the teachers in her school that day...the white faces, whispering voices, and teary eyes.  She's grown up all her life in the shadow of that day, as all of our children have. 

But as I thought last night about what she said about not having seen that footage before, I realized why that was probably true.  At the time of 9/11, Hannah was in fourth grade, and she was such a worrier.  She had a lot of rather irrational fears, and I knew that if she saw the chaos and terror pouring into our living room through the TV screen, she would be convinced that the next airplane was going to come down on Briarwood Drive in El Dorado.  So we very consciously chose to limit our own viewing of the tragic events of that time until after the girls went to bed every night.  We talked with them about what was happening in our nation, we prayed together about it, but we intentionally chose not to inundate them with the terrifying visual images. 

And then, a couple of weeks after the attacks, TV stations stopped showing the most horrific images of that day.  I'm not sure exactly why, but a variety of reasons were given ... they incited violence against Muslims, they caused too much pain to the victims' families, they were too graphic, etc.  It apparently become politically incorrect to show footage of airplanes intentionally crashing into buildings. 

So I guess that's how my daughter managed to reach the age of sixteen without the horrific images of 9/11 burned into her psyche.  I'm not entirely sure that that's a good thing, though.  I'm glad she's being exposed to them now, and I'm sure we'll watch some of the tenth anniversary commemorations together this weekend.  I believe it's crucial that none of us ever forgets what happened that day, and that the blessings of freedom and liberty we enjoy in this country are just that .... blessings from God, which are not guaranteed for tomorrow.

Well, I almost forgot that I started writing this as a "Ten on the Tenth" post.  So, let me close by sharing ten of my personal memories of 9/11.

1.  First of all, the obligatory "Where I Was On 9/11":  I was working as a speech-pathologist at Norman Junior High School in Crossett, Arkansas.  When the first plane hit, word got around the school quickly, and classrooms with TVs in them became very popular.  Everyone thought it was a horrible accident.

2.  I remember the incredulity I felt when the second plane hit ... How could the same accident happen twice?  And then the growing awareness that it was not an accident.

3.  Then there was the news of the planes hitting the Pentagon and going down in Pennsylvania.  By this point, of course, everyone knew these were not accidents, but the alternative was still just too horrifying to grasp.

4.  I remember how every teacher's face had the same look of shock, nausea, horror, disbelief.  We were the adults in a building full of junior high students ... we had to hold it together and appear unshaken in the midst of a situation like none of us had ever encountered before.

5.  I remember standing in a classroom door with my mouth hanging open watching the buildings fall.  All I could think about were all those rescue workers and fire fighters who had run into those buildings to save everyone from the fire.  What had happened to them?  I could not process the fact that I had just witnessed thousands of people dying on live television.

6.  When my work day finally ended, I could not wait to pick my girls up from school and hold them close.  They knew something was up, especially Hannah, mainly because of their teachers' reactions.  We spent a lot of time that evening talking and hugging.  I remember that she had soccer practice that evening, and surprisingly, it was not canceled.  We went to the practice, and I couldn't help glancing up at the sky every few minutes to check for rogue airplanes. (Maybe Hannah wasn't the only worrier in the family!)  All flights had already been grounded by this time, though, and there wasn't a plane in the sky, which was also rather eerie.  

7.  I remember what a strange feeling it was that nobody knew where the president, vice president, or leaders of Congress were.  There were all in separate "Undisclosed Locations."  I do remember hanging on George W. Bush's every word when he finally did appear on television from who knows where to reassure all of us frightened Americans that we were going to be okay.  

8.  I remember the overwhelming displays of national pride that appeared everywhere in the days after 9/11.  There were American flags everywhere...on cars, on mailboxes, in windows, on businesses...literally everywhere!  Everyone was proud to be an American and wanted the world to know it.

9.  I remember how all the TV stations ceased their regular programming for several days and either went silent in respect for the thousands of lives lost, or dedicated their airwaves to coverage of the 9/11 events.  Even the irreverent late-night comedians went dark for several days.

10.  I remember how we were no longer Republicans and Democrats or conservatives and liberals.  We were Americans.  We were united as one against a common enemy.  Churches were filled to overflowing, people gave generously of their possessions and even of their own blood, and strangers extended kindness to one another.  I remember wondering how long it would last.

Several months after 9/11, I was going through some of Hannah's stuff in her room and throwing away trash.  I ran across a piece of paper that caught my eye.  It was a paper from her Sunday School class, and across the top, the teacher had asked the kids to write how they felt about what had happened on 9/11.  Hannah had written several sentences about what happened that day, and then closed by saying, "At first I was really scared, but my Mom told me that God was in control, and then I wasn't scared anymore."

I can still remember how I felt when I read what she had written that day.  I was pleased that she had so easily accepted that God was in control, and that that knowledge had provided comfort to her.  Little did I know that seven years later, she would be diagnosed with cancer, and would have to cling to God's sovereignty with all she had in her.  I really believe that the events of 9/11 may have been her first step in learning to trust Him when faced with her own personal 9/11 in February of 2008.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- In the Dark

Do you remember being a child alone in your bedroom at night?  I remember that I always had to sleep with my door open...I felt so alone if the door was shut.  As a matter of fact, if I was acting up, not wanting to sleep, fussing, or whatever, my parents could always shut me up just by threatening to shut my door.  No way did I want my bedroom door closed.  I think I found a lot of comfort in just hearing their voices in the living room as I was drifting off to sleep.  Now, I can't sleep if the bedroom door is open.  Go figure.

The other day, I was reading the book "Stronger" by Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, and he shared a very interesting illustration.  He was referring to those times in our lives when God seems absent, when we just can't seem to feel His presence.  See if this illustration speaks to you like it does to me...

"I think in this case, it's a little like being a child in your bedroom at night. It's dark, and so black that you can't see anything.  Your door is closed, so you can't hear anything outside your room.  Yet your favorite pillow and nightstand are still there.  Your parents are nearby, too.  They haven't left you.  In fact, your mother is in the kitchen preparing lunch for the next day.  She's humming as she works, because she's baking chocolate chip cookies to surprise you.

It's a simple illustration, but you get the idea -- circumstances may make it hard to sense God's presence, yet He's still there.  He hasn't left us.  And more often than we realize, His "hiddenness" allows Him to work on our behalf in a way that wouldn't be possible if we could see Him.

To take the analogy further, if you're a child in bed at night, you could jump out of bed, turn on the light, and rush into the kitchen to make sure Mom is still around.  You could do that all night long.  But that isn't what's best for you, is it?  It would leave you exhausted the next day, and it would spoil the surprise of the chocolate chip cookies.  You'd be far better off to trust that Mom is there, that she has things under control, and that all you need to do now is go to sleep."

I love that!  What a great reminder to continue trusting God, even when we can't feel His presence.  Or when the bedroom door is closed, and we just don't understand what He is up to in our lives.  Definitely something to think about during the darkest of times.

And I don't know about you...but I don't want to miss out on the chocolate chip cookies!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ouachita Baptist University Blog-About

Today, I'm participating in the second annual OBU BlogAbout, in honor of my Alma Mater's 125th birthday.  Each Tuesday in September, we blogging OBU alums will be assigned a topic to write about.  Today's assignment is to write about our favorite OBU memory.  As I thought about what to write, I realized it would be impossible for me to single out one memory and designate it as my favorite.  So, instead, I've decided to simply make a list of all the great memories that come to mind when I think of my time at OBU (1984-1988)....

--Moving into Flippen 212 as a freshman and thinking that Gina Baker (Allen) and I had the most awesome dorm room ever.  I don't ever remember feeling like our room was small...but those rooms sure seemed to have shrunk in size when I recently visited OBU!

--Getting mail from home in OBU Box 3084, especially letters from my little brother, Steve, who was starting first grade when I started my freshman year of college.  Last time I was at OBU, I could still open that mailbox...I don't think I'll ever forget the combination.

--Ordering pizza from Domino's and giving our names as "Peg Board" and "Pete Moss".  We would laugh so hard when the pizza would arrive with that name written on the box.

--That computer dating match thing the Kappa Chi's did every year...and always being disappointed with who was on my list!

--Watching "The Jungle Book" in Mitchell Hall, and everybody loudly singing along with all the songs.

--Work study in the history department my freshman year as Dr. Slavens's secretary...Lots of very interesting experiences in that role!

--Strategically choosing which chapels to skip over the course of a semester, based on how long-winded we thought the speaker might be.

--Getting parking tickets for parking illegally while just "running in" to Frances-Crawford for something I forgot.  Not really a good memory, but it's just kind of funny to think back to how those $20 tickets constituted a major financial disaster for a poor college student!

--Conniving all kinds of ways to stay out past curfew so we could stay at the functions until the end like the upperclassmen could.

--Richwoods Baptist Church, especially Van & Julie Barrett's Sunday School class.

--Those PE classes that you didn't really have to go to to get credit.

--The swaying, wobbling, shaking bridge, back in the days before the "gum tree".

--The way Mr. Cole taught a novel, without ever looking at his notes.

--The way Dr. Nesbit jumped off his desk on the first day of class.  I think he was demonstrating something about gravity maybe...

--Serenades and run throughs!  I especially loved serenades after I became a KX little sis...It was so awesome to have them get down and one knee and sing just to me.  And those Kappas could sing!

--The Sigma Alpha Sigma cannon at the football games.

--TWIRP week...even though I was pretty much too shy to ask anybody my freshman year.

--Being a nerd in Tiger Tunes my freshman year.  As freshmen, we really didn't know what Tiger Tunes was all about...I really think our performance was pretty terrible.  We certainly didn't win anything!

--Rush week and pledge week...I loved being a Chi Delta!  My favorite part of rush week was always Wizard of Oz night.  Even pledge week was that I look back on it, anyway!

--Dressing down for Ruby's Truck Stop and dressing up for Harvest Moon.

--When the Red Shirt pledges had to stand and "moo" by the milk machine in Walt's.

--Going to New Orleans with all of the speech pathology majors for the American Speech-Language-Hearing convention. All of us Southern Baptist girls sure got our eyes opened when we walked down Bourbon Street together!

--Hearing Jimmy Carter speak at OBU's 100th anniversary celebration. I honestly don't remember a thing he said, but I sure was fascinated by all the secret service people!

--Being exempt from semester tests...that sure was a good feeling.

--Noonday...especially when a friend was speaking or singing.

--Meeting the man of my dreams at a function at the Arkadelphia skating rink!

--Watching lots and lots of OBU baseball games...the aforementioned man of my dreams was first baseman Brad Sullivan.

--Mom Chu saying, "Sit up, please", whenever I was sitting in the Frances-Crawford lobby with said baseball player.

--No longer hearing Mom Chu say, "Sit up, please", after I married the baseball player the summer before my senior year and his junior year.  We could then snuggle on our own couch all we wanted to!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Mourning -- Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month!  Although nearly everyone can tell you that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, very few people are aware of the significance of September. 

Until Hannah was diagnosed with cancer and we started spending a lot of time in the Hematology/Oncology clinic at Arkansas Children's Hospital, I had no idea how many children were affected by cancer.  Absolutely no idea!  Honestly, I wish I didn't know.  Life was definitely easier before I was brought face-to-face with children with no hair or eyebrows, cheeks swollen from steroids, skin yellowed from chemotherapy. 

But I will say that the cancer-fighting children I've had the privilege to meet (or at least to follow through CaringBridge or other sites), are some of the most amazing kids I've ever known.  I've come to believe that God gives children who are fighting cancer a special absolutely shines out from them.  I don't really know how to describe it...but once you've seen it, you'll always recognize it. 

Lots of progress has been made in fighting childhood cancers.  Take a look at this data from St. Jude that shows Childhood Cancer Survival Rates (defined as survival of 5 years or greater based on national averages over the past 10 years):

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (cancer of the blood):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 4%; today -- 94%

Hodgkin Lymphona (cancer of lymph nodes):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 50%; today -- 90%

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (a malignant tumor):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 7%; today -- 85%

Retinoblastoma (cancer affecting eyes):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 75%; today -- 95%

Neuroblastoma (cancer of peripheral nervous tissue):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 10%; today -- 55%

Wilms Tumor (cancer of the kidney):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 50%; today -- 90%

Osteosarcoma (bone cancer):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 20%; today -- 65%

Rhabdomyosarcoma (solid tumor affecting muscle):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 30%; today -- 70%

Ewing Sarcoma (type of bone cancer):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 5%; today -- 65%

Medulloblastoma (type of brain tumor):  Survival rate in 1962 -- 10%; today -- 85%

Yes, progress has been made...but not enough.  If that were your child with the 55% or 65% survival rate group, would that be enough for you?  I can see the face of a precious child in my mind for nearly every one of these cancer types...multiple faces for several of them. 

How can you help?  You can always donate to St. Jude, or to Arkansas Children's Hospital.  But there's also an event coming up in Little Rock in October that you may want to be part of in some way.  It's called the CureSearch Walk, and it's coming up on Saturday, October 15th.  It will take place at Murray Park, and will run from 8:30 until noon.  Click here to donate or to register for the walk. 

You may have noticed that Hannah's cancer (glioblastoma) was not listed above.  That's because it's not considered a childhood cancer.  And I don't believe the survival rate for glioblastoma has changed much since 1962, hanging in there around 4%.  More about that in May, which is Brain Cancer Awareness month!  For now, let's put the focus on helping these kids!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wacky Wednesday -- A Wacky Family Road Trip

Yes, I realize that it's not really Wednesday.  Sorry about that, but I just had to share about our wacky family road trip coming up. 

Now, this is not a road trip with my current family, Brad and Bethany.  Oh, no....this is a road trip with my original family...the family I was born into. 

My cousin's daughter is getting married in DeMotte, Indiana, on Saturday, and we will be making a very quick trip from Arkansas to Indiana this weekend.  "We" refers to my parents, my older brother, and myself.  Bethany has to cheer at the football game Friday night, and she and Brad have tickets for the Razorback game on Saturday.  My brother's family is also involved with other activities, so it turns out that just the two of us will be making the trip with my parents.  Now, the four of us have spent lots of time in the car together, just not for the last two or three decades.  When we were kids, growing up in Wisconsin, we made made many a trip to Indiana and Illinois to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

I suppose my brother and I were like most kids riding in the back seat on a road trip to visit Grandma.  Remember, these were the days before flip-down TVs, portable DVD players, Nintendo games, iPods, or even Walkman cassette players.  We basically only had each other to keep ourselves entertained.  We rarely never wore seatbelts, and apparently we had trouble staying on our own side of the seat.  At least I seem to remember my father drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the back seat and threatening us within an inch of our lives if either of us dared cross it.  I can't imagine what we did that annoyed him so.

And for the life of me, when I try to picture in my mind what it's going to be like riding in the car all day with my parents, that's how I still see it.  I see my dad driving and my mom in the passenger seat, and my brother and I, both in our mid-forties now, sitting in the back seat whining about who looked at who.  And then my dad slowing down to a crawl, threatening to make us get out and walk the rest of the way to Indiana. 

That visual picture just tickles me.  I suppose that in reality, my brother and I will do most of the driving, and my parents will be sitting in the back seat or taking turns in the front passenger seat.  However it works out, I'm expecting it to be one wacky, but memorable, road trip.  And maybe my brother and I will even take a turn in the back seat, and play a couple rounds of "Rock Paper Scissors"...just for old times' sake.  As long as he doesn't smack my wrist too hard when I lose.  I don't want to have to walk to Indiana.