Link to January 2015 video: https://vimeo.com/115013190


Link to September 2016 video: https://vimeo.com/c3media/review/185699250/24bdbf13d2

Monday, January 7, 2019

Happy New Year!

Sandy wanted to write a Christmas letter or a New Year letter, but it just hasn't happened yet. So I'm posting a quick update until she has time to formulate her message. Maybe a Valentine's Day message? Easter message? :)

Christmas went well. The kids enjoyed our family traditions, including soups for dinner, the left-right game, acting out the Christmas story, and singing carols as Grandma Sandy played the piano. Papa Rod received a brick for one of his presents...poor guy.

Sandy continues to have fluid drained from her abdomen every few weeks, the most recent time being last Friday, when they removed 1.8 gallons (about 15 pounds). When that was finished, she went to the infusion center and received a blood transfusion because her lab results from earlier in the week indicated very low hemoglobin. She felt much better by Saturday. Tomorrow (Tuesday) she has an EGD (upper GI endoscopy) to see how things are doing.

Her final semester of teaching is about to begin! It is bittersweet for sure. She has started the process of sorting and organizing in her office...you can pray that it goes much better than she is anticipating! It is very hard to throw away materials, lesson plans, and notes that have been so important for all these years; even though those items have served their purpose, it can feel wasteful. She will enjoy continuing to bless other teachers with whatever they can use.

One prayer request is that her hands will stop being plagued by cramping. It's possibly caused by electrolyte imbalances, which makes sense considering the fluid that builds up and then is removed time and time again.

While many people are making New Year's resolutions, let's remember that God promises that His mercies are new every morning. Not just once a year or even quarterly, but every single morning we are given new mercies.  What a gift!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thanksgiving Update

Sandy saw both girls and their families on Thanksgiving.  Katie hosted dinner, and Sandy especially enjoyed dressing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin custard, all of which are on the approved food list!  This Thanksgiving she’s been overwhelmed by the abundance of God’s blessings both big and small. 
She continues to be thankful for her current doctors and medical support team, all of whom are very responsive and available. Not having to wait months, weeks, or even days for answers and direction is such a blessing. She is also extremely thankful to have Rod by her side, faithfully helping her in a myriad of ways. Last week Sandy mentioned something she wanted to have done but couldn't do herself. Minutes later, Rod had taken care of it! Now if he could just train the kids....
There have been some really rough days this fall, yet Sandy is focusing on turning all things into gratitude – including her thoughts. It is a habit, and it is strengthened by repetition. 
For example: the lights inside her van don’t work correctly, and it can be annoying to be in the dark...but she is very thankful to have a working van.
On her way to work a few weeks ago, she hit a deer – it ran off, and Sandy's fine, though she didn’t realize the extent of the damage to the van until she reached school and couldn’t open the door. Thankfully the van will be fixed at the end of this semester, and Rod, along with one of his friends, was able to tweak the door enough for it to open so she doesn't have to crawl across the seats...not a good idea for someone with drains, tubes, and less strength than she'd like to have.
It is so easy to take for granted "little" things, like a warm house, a pillow, running water, laundry machines, shoes, and more toilet paper in the cupboard when one roll runs out. If we're glad for those things, let us turn that to thanksgiving! We can practice the habit of gratitude on the easy things, building our gratitude muscles so they can handle tougher tasks, like being thankful in the midst of hardship, crisis, or long-suffering.
Since the last update, Sandy has had a drain exchange as well as three procedures to drain excess fluid from her abdominal area – each time removing approximately 5 liters, which is 1.3 gallons. While she typically feels much relief after a procedure (called a paracentesis), a few times she has experienced residual pain. She is thankful for pants of many sizes and belts to assist with her ever-changing waist size.
Rod and Sandy, the girls and their husbands, and all the grandkids gathered for family pictures several weeks ago. It is always fun seeing how the kids grow year to year, and everyone treasures the physical reminders of the blessing of family.
Sandy is enjoying listening to a cd of songs that have to do with joy. Some are upbeat while others are soothing. Music is one of Sandy's favorite things, and it is a great way for her to move her thoughts from her circumstances and onto God's promises. Sometimes we need to sing the truths our hearts can't quite say. 
Her Christmas tree is up, the singing stuffed animals are in their places, and other decorations representing years of memories are slowly finding just the right spots for the next month. The kids have started talking about the annual Christmas Story play...we'll see how the newest two members of the bunch change things up...last year they were both too small to participate, but this year they just might be too mobile NOT to participate!
Looking ahead – Sandy is thankful to be able to finish out this fall semester; the last final is Dec 10. Her goal is to teach this spring and then retire; we’ll see if God’s plan is the same. 
Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." God's idea of straight is sometimes very different than our idea of straight. What seems crazy to us makes perfect sense to Him. What feels out of the way, a waste of time, or circuitous is straight to Him. 
Sandy wanted to share this verse with you: "Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it." 1 Peter 2:10
Has your life been changed by God's kindness? It's a promise that we absolutely will experience when we trust Him with our lives, including the parts that are hard and don't make sense.
Thanksgiving might officially be over, but the habit of gratitude need not end. We challenge you to write down 5 things every day for which you are thankful. Sandy would be happy to read your list and rejoice with you in the big or small ways you've been impacted by God's kindness. Remember, it's a promise!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Inspiration

Many people have commented along this journey that Sandy inspires so many. While it's true that many are inspired to trust God, choose joy, not complain, and serve others by watching her life choices, she'd be the first to tell you that anything good in her is 100% the Lord. Her human nature is as strong as the next person, though she has many years of strengthening the habit of accepting God's will regardless of how pleasing (or not pleasing) it seems to be. She has times of discouragement, visits to the pit of despair, disappointment, and frustration. But she chooses, by the grace of God, not to stay there. The great news is that each of us has that same option! We can be the boss of our emotions, giving them space but not authority to dictate how we will believe or live. Nothing we feel is wrong - it's what we do with what we feel that crosses into right or wrong. It can be a minute by minute battle at times, repeating truth to ourselves when our situation screams otherwise.

Yes, it's great to appreciate how wonderful Sandy is in the midst of such difficult circumstances. But please remember the source of her strength, joy, stamina, perseverance, and faithfulness. God promises to enable us to carry out that to which He has called us.

This week has felt long for Sandy, but she's thankful she's been able to teach, visit grandkids, and shop for groceries. She is waiting to hear from her doctor about specific foods she can eat, and she may consult with a dietician in the next few weeks. Please pray for those details and for increased energy and strength. And of course, healing and a liver that functions well!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Home again

Sandy returned home this evening. She is thankful to be in her own house, to sleep in her own bed, to be unhooked from the IV, and to be able to taste foods, though she's currently on a very limited diet. She won't be at church Sunday but plans to teach on Monday. I'm guessing many of you are kind of shaking your heads in a mixture of wonder and confusion about that last part :)

There were many things about the past week that were exceptionally difficult. Sandy might share more about that in a later post. She is thankful for your prayers, calls, texts, flowers, and cards, all of which helped her choose thankfulness in spite of everything going on.  She had her first ever latte on Friday, branching out from her usual black coffee. That's living large, I tell you! She also enjoyed listening to piano hymns and country hymns on Pandora and YouTube. Music can be a powerful way to connect our hearts to God, especially when our minds and emotions are struggling to hold on to hope. She spent some time looking through a picture album of Bible verses, and was reminded that reading God's Word is the antidote to fear, worry, and anxiety - three things that steal our attention from where it ought to be.

Another 4.8L were drained from her abdomen this morning. It's incredible to think that nearly 10L of unnecessary fluid were in her system this week. We're hoping it does not continue accumulating so quickly...or at all!  It is likely caused by the disequilibrium of pressure between the vessels of the liver and the surrounding abdominal area, which is a common side effect of decreased liver function.

We'll leave you with this truth, gleaned from a telecast Sandy heard about today: God is not (ever) withholding good from us. He is preparing us to experience His goodness. We can trust what His hand allows, and forever look with hope and even anticipation toward what He will bring.

Here's a song you might enjoy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k

You unravel me, with a melody You surround me with a song Of deliverance, from my enemies Till all my fears have gone I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God From my mothers womb You have chosen me Love has called my name I've been born again, into a family Your blood flows through my veins
I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God I am surrounded By the arms of the father I am surrounded By songs of deliverance We've been liberated From our bondage We're the sons and the daughters Let us sing our freedom You split the sea So I could walk right through it My fears were drowned in perfect love You rescued me and I Stand and sing I am child of God You split the sea So I could walk right through it You drowned my fears in perfect love You rescued me and I will Stand and sing
I am child of God, yes I am I am child of God I am child of God, yes I am I am child of God, full of faith, yes I am child of God I am child of God I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God I'm no longer a slave to fear I am a child of God

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Getting closer

Sandy anticipates going home Saturday. She is on a clear liquid diet...plus coffee :) Visitors are welcome, just keep in mind that she is still regaining strength and energy, so please keep visits fairly short.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Stent is in!

Around 11 this morning, Sandy went down to radiology. They replaced both drains and inserted a metal stent to keep the intestines open, allowing food to properly process and move through her system. As of 4pm, she was back in her room, eating a lemon icee. This is a huge step in the right direction. Doctors anticipate she'll be in the hospital two more days. There was still barium in her digestive tract, but apparently not too much to impede the placement of the stent. I'm not sure I was clear in a previous update - the barium was given to Sandy on purpose last week Thursday in order to do a test to check on the function of her digestive system. It should have left her body within hours, not days, but because of the extent of her blockage, the barium has just lingered. It isn't good to have barium in your system that long; hopefully this stent will allow any remaining barium to exit.

Please pray for her body to heal, for the stent to work, and for the stent and two drains to remain clear and unblocked. Also pray for her body to correctly process fluid so she does not continue to have the build up of fluid - it is not ideal to need to remove 5 liters as was done yesterday.

Thank you for continuing to support Sandy and our family.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hunting for the Good Things

Latest report is that radiology will take Sandy down at some point on Tuesday to scan her abdomen, checking barium presence and exact proximity of the two drains and the blockage. Assuming all goes well, a stent placement will be attempted on Wednesday.

It was a rough day. Being uncomfortable, with possible hard things ahead, many unknowns, having to make plans for others who cover in your absence, and not having answers you or anyone else wants to know is quite a challenge.

We are striving to look for the good. We're looking to see God at work, whether it looks like we had expected or not.

Specific prayer requests include total removal of barium with zero lasting effects, joy and hope to increase, easy insertion of the stent with immediate positive results, and comfort as she is largely confined to a bed, struggling to reposition in the sea of tubes and ever-tangled bedding.