The Heartbeat of the Martyr

I sat in church this past week and sang the hymn:  “Nearer my God to Thee”.

I never hear that hymn but that my thoughts do not go directly to the story of the Titanic.  I think about those going down on the sinking ship hearing the notes of that song played as the events of that horrific night unfolded.  I think of wives kissing their husbands goodbye; children clinging to their mothers as they climbed into life boats, and the fear that must have flooded the hearts of each passenger aboard.    I think of the prayers that must have been prayed that cold night.    

Nearer, my God to Thee, nearer to Thee
Even thought it be a cross that raiseth me:
Still all my song would be nearer my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee!

I sat this past week dressed in my Sunday best – complete with heels.  As we went about the normal order of service, the air conditioner cooled the hot air in the auditorium of  my small church in North Carolina.  As we sang I held my husband’s hand.  On my right side sat my youngest daughter; as we sang she laid her head against my arm and squeezed tight as if to say, "I love you, Mom!"  My sons sat down the pew from me and sang along the words of that old hymn.    My second oldest daughter in the orchestra played the notes on her cello as the song director held up his hand to indicate to us to sing verse two; my oldest a few rows back sat with a friend. A normal Sunday morning for our family.    I looked back down at the hymn book and started singing the second verse:

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God to Thee, nearer to Thee!

My thoughts changed as I sang the verse.  I thought not only of the peril of the people on the Titanic; but of the peril of those on the news in recent days.  Never in my lifetime have I heard the word ‘beheaded’ used as much in news stories as I have heard in the last few weeks.  I have watched the video clips of those burying children – some the same age as my daughter.  I have heard of the persecution of the Christians in the Middle East refusing to convert to Islam – their choice costing them their very lives – or the lives of loved ones.  Some sentenced to something more horrible than death:  watching as their children die for the choice they have been forced to make.    

I wondered as the song went on if perhaps at that very moment while I was seated in the comfort of my church surrounded by my family – if somewhere – as I sang the words of this hymn – there was a mother watching the beheading of her own child.  I wondered if, as she stands fast in her faith in Christ, she has found herself able to, “Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen”.  Could it be, I wondered, at the same time when I am living life as routinely and normally as I am accustomed to living and worshiping on any given Sunday, that there is a mother kneeling somewhere in hot sand, tears streaming down her face affirming in her heart:  “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”? 

Then let the way appear steps unto Heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God to Thee,
Nearer, my God to Thee, Nearer to Thee!

I sat there and sang and wondered if in my life time that type of persecution will come to our household. Could  it be that persecution will come to America and I will find that I am that mother?   I cringed at the thought.    “Oh God, I want to be able to endure to the end – but I know me!”  The question that has haunted me so many times in the past several weeks was asked again within my heart:   “Would I be able to stand true to Christ till the end – no matter the cost?”  I wish I knew with full assurance the answer to that question.  I do not!   What I do know is that some have had to make that very choice, and as I stand in my pew thousands of miles away from the persecution,  some are enduring.   There are Christians at this very time in history, perhaps at the same moment I was singing in church, who have found the power and grace to stand.  

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony grief’s, Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be, nearer, my God to Thee,
Nearer, my God to Thee, Nearer to Thee!

I finished the song, and in my mind I pondered the thought of  how near God must be to those who are dying for their faith in Him.  His presence - their very hope to be able to endure to the end.  I think of the abundant grace they must experience at the very moment when their faith costs them all they have on this earth.   How strong His embrace as He welcomes them home; and declares them “good and faithful”.  Indeed, the very trial of their faith must envelope them deeper into His embrace; so deep they almost feel His arms about them.  I am sure that all Christians who die a martyr’s death – no matter the dialect of their tongue share the same heart beat:  “Nearer my God to Thee, Nearer to Thee!”  

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  Matthew 16:24-25

Prognosis / Puzzle Pieces / PET Scans

We met with the doctor this week to discuss treatment options and follow up care.  It was a good visit.  We were encouraged again by how good the prognosis is; and how upbeat the doctors are about the outcome.  God is good.  We also were able to understand more fully exactly what happened to bring on the tumor so quickly.  It is neat to see the puzzle pieces come together and bring even more understanding.

When the tumor appeared on Rob’s neck it became visible overnight.  Rob had been working in the garden the day before and felt something “pop” in his neck area.  The next morning the tumor was visible and quite large. After several doctor's visits surgery was scheduled (it felt like an eternity).   During the surgery the doctor found that the tumor was not invading the neck as it would if it was the aggressive cancer and her thoughts were that the surgery had been successful in removing the tumor (an another unknown tumor on the other side of the thyroid)  and that we would wait to see what the pathologist found after the biopsy.   The pathologist found a lot of blood in the tumor when he did the biopsy after the surgery.  What they have pieced together is that while he was working in the garden the day before, he pulled a muscle or did some type of damage to his neck that caused internal bleeding.  The bleeding went into the tumor and caused the tumor to swell.  So while the size of the tumor was large when they removed it, it had actually gotten bigger (where we could actually see it on the neck) overnight because of the bleeding in the neck.  They also said that the trauma to the neck is what brought on the fevers and night sweats – not the cancer.  So, the doctors figure that the tumor had probably been there for some time but did not become visible until he hurt his neck.  That is good news because it means that the cancer is a slow moving cancer and not an aggressive cancer as they had once thought.   

God is good!  We would have never known about the two different types of cancer on the thyroid without the neck injury!  It is kind of amazing to see how God worked it all out for us to be able to find out about the cancer.  It is also an amazing thing to be told that you may have cancer that could take your life in a matter of months.  The paradigm shift  that happens is instant and life looks completely different!  We have learned SO much from all of this! 

Photo:  All Posters

We will be doing a PET scan here in the next week or so to check and see if there is cancer anywhere else in the body or if there is indication that it has spread.  After the initial PET scan we will do a course of radioactive iodine (a pill routinely given those with thyroid problems)   followed by another PET scan to see if there is any other indication that the cancer has spread somewhere else.  We will also have routine blood work done every four months (for quite some time)  to measure levels and make sure that they blood work does not indicate that the cancer is growing somewhere else.  There is some indication that it *may* have; but it is not clear if that indication is even accurate.  They said that even if it has spread the prognosis is still excellent because we will be able to take care of it – and because it is not an aggressive cancer. 

We left the visit VERY encouraged.  What a turn around this has been since we first found the tumor.  What appeared to be a life threatening cancer is now something that is manageable and treatable!  We are so thankful.  Rob still has bouts of extreme fatigue as they work at getting the thyroid medication balanced in his system; but otherwise things are starting to get back to normal.  God has been so good to us through this time.  We have seen our faith strengthened and our view of eternity come into a clearer focus. 

Just wanted to give everyone an update on the doctor visit.  Thanks so much for your prayers.  Your notes of encouragement, phone calls and emails have been such a blessing to us.  We know that there have been so many praying for us; and we have found ourselves humbled and acutely aware of the power of prayer.  After going through this, my prayers for those who are struggling with health issues have changed completely!   

Thank you!  Being part of the family of God is such a blessing. 

School Days

Our school year has begun and quite honestly, it is going quite smoothly.  We had to spend quite a lot of time planning out the school year schedule – as the older kids have quite a bit of things they are involved in and we wanted to accommodate so they can do those things and school work.  We will see how it goes.  They have been given a list of "first things to be taken out" if their grades do not stay up and school work is not kept caught up.  We also have had a summer where there has been a lot of surprises!  So, it feels good to be back on a school schedule again.  Rob does have a cancer treatment and some tests coming up which my causes some changes in our day to day for a little bit; but at least this way we have something to aim for.  :)  

Here is our 2014-2015 school schedules:

5:30:  Rachel and I get up and get around for the day

6:00:  Rachel and I - Devotions / James - chicken chores at a nearby farm / Abbey and James then use this hour to get around for the day, eat breakfast and be ready to start their first class at 7)

6:45:  Littles get up and do their Sunshine Chores (make bed, get dressed, put PJ's away, comb hair)  I eat my breakfast at this time

7:00 I do my house cleaning / Rachel supervise the Littles while they get their own breakfast (a change to the schedule that Zak has dubbed:  “The most exciting part of the new schedule – getting to pick my own breakfast!”) Abbey and James start their first class of the day.

7:20:  Littles do their Morning chores (trashes over to the dump, porches swept off, dog fed, towels changed in the bathroom)

7:30:  Littles do their devotions (Zak now can do his devotions independently working out of his Patch book, Anna listens to the Bible on CD with headphones ).

8:00:  School starts with the Littles  (I work an hour with each one – while I am working with one the other one is in at the dining room table doing seat-work and copy work).  James and Abbey and Rachel leave for work on Mon and Thurs.  On the other days they keep working through their school work.  Each class of their classes is one hour in duration.

12:00:  Lunch break 

Until the weather gets too cold we enjoy our lunch on the front porch.

1:00:  History and Science with the Littles

2:00:  Littles have play time / I do my exercise time  / On the days they are home the older kids do their exercise time now – unless James has been hired by someone, somewhere to work for them then he does those jobs now.  It is amazing to me how many people call for James to come work for them.  I kid you not, this kid could have full time work from all of these calls if he did not have to do school work.  (A fact he has brought to both mine and his Dad’s attention from time to time!)

Zak was wondering why JFK only was president for 2 years.  We took time out of Math to go look up JFK.  I LOVE that about homeschool!  Zak was very disappointed to learn the reason. 

3:15:  Writing / Blog time

3:45:  Anna does Piano Practice

4:00 Zak Piano Practice / Anna – Violin Practice / James and Abbey : Classes (M, Th) Instrument Practice (T,W, F)

4:30:  Littles Help with Dinner Prep

5:15:  Family Dinner Time / Devotions

6:00:  Littles Play Time / James and Abbey - Continue school (M,Th) or Afternoon Chores / Email Check    ( T,F)

7:00 James and Abbey continue school or homework / Littles Play / I work on school work or writing / Rob is working on his Master Classes 

8:00 Shower time / Bedtime Prep / Story time with the Littles (We are currently in the middle of Narnia and the witch has just taken care of Asland and evil appears to have prevailed – I am always begged and pleaded with to read “just one more chapter!”  Sometimes I have a little girl who knows how to blink her big brown eyes *just* right while she begs hoping it will persuade me to read on a little further.  Sometimes it works.  

8:30 Littles- Lights Out / I continue with my school work or writing and the house is really quiet – sometimes I just want to go to bed with the Littles.