Saturday, August 19, 2017

Rain, Rain, It's Okay - Part 3

After 4 months, I'm finally realizing the blessings of the flood. As I was walking by the old house the other night, I found myself thanking God for the flood... for seeing His hands and feet in action by those who helped us move... for the purging we were forced to accomplish... for a house that is on a hill instead of in the "hollow" area... and for Jessika making the brave decision to move into the dorm at college.

I mentioned to my 16 year old son how I can finally see the good in the flood. He agreed! He showed me some artwork he's created for tattoos he'd like to get someday. He wants the Japanese symbols for strength and flood, one on each wrist, to remind him that strength comes after the flood. Wow! He's been processing more than I knew. I'm so glad he's seeing the good!

Alone, these realizations may not seem like much. But after the stress of the flood, moving, and not knowing where we'd end up living, they are like milestones for our family.  I'm thankful I can now consider these trials as joy (James chapter 1). And instead of dreading the rain as something negative, I'm beginning to recognize the imagery of water washing over me as God's cleansing, forgiveness, and grace.

I'm feeling more settled in our house and enjoy making it home. Today I've been doing things that I haven't done since the flood - my Saturday routine of making fruit leather, baking, and hanging out with my family. I've missed those normal things; and even though it's a little bit different in this house, the familiarity is comforting.

I'm thankful for God's mercy that falls like a sweet spring rain!

Strength came after the flood.

Rain, Rain, Go Away - Part 1

Rain, Rain, Go Away - Part 2

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rain, Rain, Go Away - Part 2

Following the flood, we felt very lost and needy. The maintenance department on campus probably got tired of hearing from us, but when a vacant house suddenly gets occupants, things need done... like hooking up the washing machine, repairing the hot water heater, fixing plumbing issues, etc.

It took days to get everything moved out of the flooded house and to get all the wet items washed. It took weeks to sort through tubs and find things trying to figure out how much to unpack and put away not knowing if/when we'll get back to our house. We were hopeful that our house would be repaired so we could move back and carry on as normal. Yeah, right!

Unfortunately, four weeks after the flood, we found out the house was going to be demolished. Even though we don't own the house, it was sad news to hear. We had lived there for almost eight years. Now what? Well, we had to clean out the attic...and the shed... The shed had flooded more than we realized and was a nasty smelly mess. We threw out anything that was wet, moldy, or absorbed the moldy odor - our Christmas tree, books, furniture, memorabilia, etc. We were tired...tired of moving, tired of the wet, tired of the smell...just tired!

We finally had everything moved over to the other house. Would we get to stay? Nothing was decided for almost four more weeks. We were starting to feel at home in the other house. We were fixing things, deep cleaning, painting, doing yard work and landscaping, and enjoying the new neighbors.

Then came the dreaded news that we'd have to another house on campus...a much smaller house than what we had...and by the end of next month!

While the timing and details are being worked out concerning the move, we are searching for the lessons God is wanting us to learn while trying to remain joyful.

The kids are not thrilled to move back to the same area that flooded... in fact, we all cringe a little at the sound of rain and thunder. Jessika is changing her college plans and now moving away for the school year. Jarod is frustrated about losing space for having friends over and a place to hang out and play games. Daryl and I will have to purge and downsize even more.

Those aren't bad things...but they aren't what we want to do. What about our hobbies and collections? Do I give up stamping while we're in the smaller house? How long would that be? Does Jarod's nutcracker collection go in storage? Jessika's books? What about no office space for Daryl? Smaller bedrooms? Less bathrooms? No laundry room? No dishwasher? I know, these are all 1st world problems...but right now they are our problems...

I keep thinking how ironic it is that when we went through cancer, there was nothing to question - we just did what had to be done. So this should be's NOT's just a house... But right now, it's our life and it doesn't feel any more settled than it did eight weeks ago when water started coming in under the back door.

Is God testing our obedience - OR - Is He preparing us for new opportunities?

Do our kids sacrifice again for our ministry - OR - Do we make changes for them?

Thankfully, we love and serve a mighty God who loves us and already knows how this is all going to work out for good!

Finally finished at the old house!

Be sure to read Part 1

Rain, Rain, Go Away - Part 1

I'm a creature of habit... even bad habits... And I'd rather be at home than anywhere... So when our house flooded and we were forced to move out, I was immediately way out of my comfort zone and happy place.

On April 29, I was enjoying a lazy Saturday morning at home with my family during a spring storm. The ground was saturated from a previous rain, and we watched the normally dry little creek bed fill with run-off water and quickly overflow. Since we've seen it overflow before and never reach our house, we didn't take the flash flood warnings very seriously.

Daryl was fixing breakfast while I made my morning cup of coffee. I went to look out back again, started to take a sip of coffee, and saw muddy water coming in under the door. The only words I could form were, "Oh, crap! Oh, crap! Oh, crap!" I grabbed all the towels I could find in the laundry room and tried to stop the water from going into the kitchen. Yeah, right!

Towels did not work...

My daughter Jessika was still in bed and jumped up to see what was going on. The bathroom across the hall from her room was already filling with water. In what seemed like a few seconds, water was everywhere! It was coming in the back door and flowing out the front door... and it must have come through the floor and walls! Our carpet appeared to be floating.


I was frantically going through the rooms trying to get stuff up off the floor while Jessika was trying to keep Buddy (the dog) from getting swept down stream! Daryl and our son Jarod worked on unplugging all the electronics. Daryl was zapped when he touched a power strip while standing in his flooded office! The table, counters, beds, furniture, and even bathtubs were piled with stuff, and water continued coming in. We called a friend to bring us a shop vac. Yeah, right!

My bed...

We were still getting stuff up off the floor when we were told to evacuate. We each quickly packed a bag and carefully waded out to our neighbor's pick-up that was high enough to still get through the water. Before we left... not knowing how high the water would get or how long it would stay... Daryl and Jarod kept me from having a total melt down by moving the cedar chest (hand made by my dad for my 21st birthday) up on the coffee table. I just couldn't leave with that piece of my dad sitting in nasty flood water to be ruined!

The end of our road!

We've never even thought about what to do in a flood. I figured we were going to be homeless and everything inside the house was going to be destroyed. Thankfully my mom suggested bed risers or even cinder blocks to put under our furniture. That got our brains working! We found a stack of bed risers, so later that afternoon when the water went down enough to walk back to the house, we put our main furniture up on the risers and then put trash bags under other items. Our piano is on wheels, so I rolled it forward, put down plastic lids, and then rolled the piano back onto the lids so it wasn't directly on the soaked carpet. The house already smelled bad, and the carpets sloshed. We tried using the shop vac again. Yeah, right!

Thankful for bed risers!

Because we live on the campus of Cookson Hills, we had lots of offers for places to stay. Since we were dragging along our freaked out wet dog, we decided to camp out in the former preschool room - it was carpeted and had access to a bathroom! Plus, we were soaked and more than a little frazzled with so much to process... we knew we wouldn't be very good company. It was nice to be with just the four of us - and the dog.

Our survival kit!

Sunday morning we headed to Walmart for tubs - lots of tubs. Not knowing if/when we'd be able to stay in the house, we decided to pack up things that we didn't want to get damp and smelly - like all of our books! Then we saved Jarod's nutcracker collection! While people on campus were helping two other flood victims get moved out of their wet homes, we found out they were coming to help us next. An empty house on the other side of campus was going to be our temporary home.

How in the world do you wrap your head around moving out of your house in ONE DAY??? I just stood on the sloshy carpet looking around at the total chaos of stuff piled everywhere. I was overwhelmed... with the smell... with all our stuff... and knowing people were on their way... The horror of people seeing ALL my stuff quickly faded when they walked in to help at the flooded house while others were getting the temporary house ready for us.

Our friends and co-workers were definitely the hands and feet of Jesus. They were so kind and willing to serve by supplying tubs, packing and moving, and providing food and drinks. They knew when to let us cry and when to give us hugs! If we were going to be flooded, we were at a good place for it to happen.

Those two days felt like forever, but we were just beginning our time of being unsettled! be continued...

Here's Part 2

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We Have This Hope

What is this hope? Not the kind of hope we throw around in casual conversation...

"I hope tomorrow is a nice day."

"I hope I get a letter in the mail."

"We hope things turn out for the best."

I'm talking about the hope we have in Christ - for salvation and eternal life!

This hope can easily be taken for granted. Growing up in a Christian home and being at church whenever the doors were open, sometimes hope was a given. It just was. And it wasn't until facing cancer that I realized the power of this hope - this hope in Christ. Because without the promise of salvation and eternal life, a diagnosis is meaningless... healing is meaningless... and life is meaningless...

I was sweetly reminded of this incredible hope while representing Cookson Hills during a missions weekend at our church. I admit, I tend to tune out when it comes to talking about missions or listening to missionaries. A lot of us probably have images of huts in the bush with memories of boring slide shows... But it's a whole new world out there!!! Missions is everything from children's homes and schools to coffee houses and libraries!

The weekend gave me a new appreciation for today's missionaries and the importance of sharing this HOPE with people. In fact, I came away with four distinct observations:

1. Persecution of Christians is Real

We can easily distance ourselves from the persecution of Christians around the world because it's so far away and isn't personal. Our speaker for the missions weekend was very real and had been very persecuted in his home country. The government caused a wreck that injured his son, injured his wife, and killed his unborn child. His home was invaded and belongings least twice. He and his family were harassed and received death threats to the point that they were forced to escape the country for their safety. They are now based in the United States where they work with Gospel Wave Media Ministry and share Jesus via satellite.

2. Heart Language

People need to hear Jesus in their heart language or mother tongue. Our speaker shared that watching the Jesus film years ago put out by CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) and hearing Jesus speak in his heart language was the turning point for him. Jesus is for ALL people, so we need to share Jesus in ALL cultures... not just our "American" ways.

3. Technology Rules

Did you know most people around the world have cell phones or satellite? Even in the desert??? And in the slums??? People may not have electricity, but they have solar powered chargers for their phones! Or someone in town may have a generator and collect a fee to let people use it to charge their devices. Technology has opened up a whole new opportunity to reach people in closed countries. People may not be allowed to meet in person for church, but they can meet in chat rooms on-line.

4. Israel is Vital

Praying for the peace of Israel is obviously important for the people of Israel, but it is also vital for spreading the gospel to the world. It is a satellite hub for many ministries. Gospel Wave uploads their programming to Israel where it is then sent to closed countries.

So... what does this hope mean for those who don't know Christ? What if they worship Allah or another god? What if they worship L. Ron Hubbard or another person? What if they do more good works than I will ever do? It doesn't matter how much they believe in their god or how good they are, they have NO HOPE without this HOPE!

Jesus is the only way to salvation!
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6
People need to know about this hope, and we need to tell them!
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. - Hebrews 6:19-20

Friday, December 30, 2016

My Two Words

It's time to pick my word for 2017... Last year I tried to focus on the word SIMPLIFY. I wanted to simplify my commitments and my stuff. I'd say it was probably the most successful year as far as sticking to my resolutions and goals. No, I wasn't perfect, but I was mindful and purposeful. I mean, I used a scrapbooking app (Project Life) and documented EVERY week this whole year! WHAT!!! Of course, I still need to get them printed...

My main resolution was to quit saying yes to things out of obligation or guilt. I think I did pretty well. I did not take on anything new that required me to be in charge. I did not join every activity that presented itself to me. And I was able to say no when I didn't feel like it was the best yes! Talk about freeing!!!

My other resolution was to simplify my stuff. Baby steps, right! I've done some but still have a lot of decluttering to do. Both of these resolutions will carry over to 2017!

I had also set some goals for the year in the areas of Faith, Family, Finance, and Fitness. I posted my Sweet 16 for 2016 goals on my bathroom mirror - which really kept me reminded of what I wanted to accomplish. It takes determination and discipline - neither are easy for me - but I stuck to it pretty well. I have tweaked those goals for 2017 and will keep plugging along!

So now a word to keep me focused and motivated for the new year is actually two words:

One thing my cancer journey is teaching me is that life is to be LIVED! It's okay to step out of my comfort zone and experience new things. It's okay to have fun. It's okay to get rid of obligation and guilt. It's okay to dream BIG.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

~ Ephesians 3:20 NLT 

It's time to come alive and live life filled with the Holy Spirit - to be a soul on fire with the breath of God giving life to my dry bones!

As we call out to dry bones 
come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts 
come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones 
come alive

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Talk About Our Walk

Earlier this month Daryl and I represented TEAM TERRI at the Tulsa Light the Night Walk awards dinner. The top 5 Corporate, Friends & Family, and Individual fundraisers were recognized with a framed team picture taken at the Walk. TEAM TERRI was the #4 Friends & Family team for the Tulsa Walk!!! WOO HOO!!!

When I gave our RSVP for the dinner, the coordinator asked if I would share about why we walk, how we raise funds, and what we appreciate about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I was honored, and this is what I wrote to help me keep my thoughts straight!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

We participate in the Light the Night Walk because blood cancer is now a part of our lives. Four years ago this Christmas, my mom noticed a lump near my collar bone. After several doctor visits, tests, biopsies, and then surgery, I was diagnosed with two types of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma and Follicular Lymphoma. I had six rounds of R-CHOP and am doing well.

At my chemo orientation, the nurse practitioner mentioned the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Since the only thing I knew about lymphoma was that my husband’s grandma died from it over 20 years ago, I was thankful for a reputable organization dedicated to blood cancer. As you know, the internet can be super scary when googling for information, so I tried to stick to LLS as my main resource.

I also took advantage of their Co-Pay Assistance program. When my doctor visits require a 150 mile round trip to Tulsa, being reimbursed for my co-pays is a big help! And I love that LLS has a very involved advocacy program that keeps us updated and provides the information so all we usually have to do is click a link!

At the end of my treatment, I was searching for ways to give back and be involved in awareness efforts. I found information about the Light the Night Walk and knew we had to do it. I appreciate that it’s more intimate than a 5K race – which we’ve also done – and that my whole family can participate with me. TEAM TERRI isn’t huge – it’s just my family – so the Walk is a great way for us to celebrate together and have a meaningful time to reflect on our journey and know that our fundraising is helping others. I love the white lantern and survivor shirt. I love that my husband and kids are recognized with red lanterns as supporters. And I love that my mother-in-law can carry a yellow lantern in memory of her mother. And this year, my father-in-law joined us with a white lantern for his battle with multiple myeloma.

I’m especially proud to be associated with an organization that gives 74% towards research and patient services! Not very many organizations can say that – especially some of the really well-known ones…

Fundraising is a little tricky for us. We live out in the country and work at a non-profit ministry, so we don’t really have the opportunity to use our workplace as a fundraising venue. I keep a “Coins for a Cure” can on my desk year round and had close to $50 by the time of the walk. In the spring I have a garage sale and use the money as a Kick-Off to our TEAM TERRI fundraising. The majority of our fundraising comes from friends and family. I use Facebook as my platform for requesting donations and take advantage of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month. I make sure our Light the Night pages are set up and ready to go by August and then in September post something daily about blood cancer and our walk and include our TEAM TERRI link. It’s great that LLS already has graphics to use – plus my husband is a graphic designer and makes me lots of stuff! I post all year long to keep focus on blood cancer and finding a CURE!

I’m thankful to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for their information and resources, their patient services and co-pay assistance, their advocacy on behalf of blood cancer patients, and especially for funding RESEARCH which is developing new treatments that are saving lives and will someday lead to a CURE! The statistics now compared to 40 years ago are amazing, and I’m thankful to be one of the new numbers! THANK YOU!

Official "team" picture at the Walk
We're on our way to the Walk
Two of my kiddos
Showing off our SURVIVOR shirts
My Sweetie and biggest cheerleader
The beginning of the Walk

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jessika's Heart

I've prayed God would be real to my kids, and He answered! My daughter had an assignment to write about a significant event in her life. I'm very proud of her courage to share from her heart... with her class... and on my blog! She has become one of my biggest encouragers!

The Year that Changed Everything…
Jessika Williams
            It was Christmas Eve 2013. I was just 15 years old. My family and I were at my grandma’s house for Christmas just like every year, opening presents, eating sugar cookies, and watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. We had to head back home that day after presents and Christmas dinner with the family. Before we left my grandma asked my mom what that lump was on her neck. “What is that, Terri?” she asked, pointing to my mom’s neck.
            “What?” my mom asked confused. She put her hand up to her throat and felt a lump. “That’s weird… I’ve never noticed that.”
            “You should probably get that checked out. It could be a swollen lymph node,” my Grandma said matter-of-factly.
            I never thought too much about the lump on my mom’s neck. I knew it couldn’t be anything serious because nothing serious could happen to my family. It wasn’t until later that I realized how wrong I was…
            In the early days of January, my mom went to the doctor for tests and scans of her neck. It felt like weeks before we finally got the news that changed everything. Cancer. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that infects the lymph nodes all over your body.
            My stomach dropped. I barely remember my parents actually telling me that it was cancer. The whole thing was such a blur. My mom has cancer, I thought to myself in disbelief. She started chemotherapy almost immediately after getting diagnosed. It all happened so fast, but in a way, it felt like time was agonizingly slow.
            I had a lot of resentment in the beginning of this never-ending journey, mostly towards God. My family had always gone to church, always been Christians, and I was angry with God for letting this happen to my mom. This is what we get for following you? I asked Him. I hated Him for a long time because he gave my mom cancer.
            I felt like I was in a bad dream. A dream I could not wake my self up from no matter how hard I tried. At school I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me - my teachers, my friends. It’s like everyone was waiting for me to have a nervous breakdown. I acted out in school and almost twice a week or more I was getting sent to the principal’s office for talking in class and being disrespectful. I just didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about school, my grades, how I treated others… I was so full of resentment and sadness.
            My mom was amazing through it all. She had chemo all the time, but still went to work and put on a smile everyday no matter how tired and sick she was feeling. That’s just the kind of person my mom is. She never made us feel scared, and she never resented God. Seeing her become closer to God, when he allowed her to have cancer, amazed me. My dad was just the same. He stepped up and took care of my mom and us kids, and that strengthened our relationships with him. Looking at how they dealt with it made me realize I was reacting in all the wrong ways. I saw that I needed to be there for my parents and siblings and be an encourager rather than a discourager.
            Though I felt a change needed to happen, it took me a long time to even pick up my Bible again. Once I finally did, I found peace. My anger with God began to fade and my relationship with him and my parents grew stronger because of the cancer.
            In a way, I’m thankful for the cancer because it brought something other than just pain and sickness. It brought me a new understanding of love and life. It taught me to cherish every moment I have on this earth and with the people in my life. It brought me closer to my parents and God and it strengthened those relationships. Cancer showed me who my true friends were that would stand by me through the tears and through the happiness.
            Life always brings things we don’t expect. I never thought my family would be troubled with something as awful as cancer, but here we are. Three years later and still working through it. My mom truly is my hero and I’m grateful to have shared our story.

Special encouragement for scan day!