Happy New Year Old Friend!
Happy New Year New Friend!
So grateful to each of you for friendship and kindness and love.
I awoke to a steel grey Dallas sky above but I'll watch the sun set in Austin tonight. Jeremiah 33:20 talks about the covenant of the day----and it is the same covenant of promise for me and you this day and forever in 2010. The dawn will break and with each sunset, no one can break that arrangement. Just the same, no one can break the promise of our God to be good to us this year. He will. He will be good to you, no matter what.
Reminded of Oswald Chambers words this New Year's Eve:
Our goal is God Himself.
Not peace, not joy, not even blessings but God Himself!
May we see what is happening in our hearts this year like Peter did. He was a different guy in the Book of Acts. Remember in the Book of John when he cut off the ear of the soldier in spite. Peter didn't see the viciousness of his heart. But he did see his heart in Acts. May I really see and wrestle and deal with the fray of my heart this coming year. There is hope for our sin. A Beautiful Redeemer!
As the moments of 2009 tick off the clock, may you find a Beautiful God, a Wonderful Counselor waiting to show up in your 2010. He's there preparing a place for you.
Happy New Year! God bless my new and old friends!
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Happy New Year Old Friend!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Join us in reading through the Bible this year from Cover to Cover, Genesis to Revelation. Alongside the bible readings, we will read a devotional book, Lawrence Crabb's new book 66 LOVE LETTERS (release date is January 12, 2010). As we read a book of the Bible, we will also read the corresponding chapter in Crabb's book.
We will start January 1st using a One-Year Reading Plan from beginning to end. I invite you to read The Message version this year or you may choose another version. You are invited to comment on my blog "A STRING OF PEARLS" and link us to your own blog comments about your Scripture readings and devotional readings in 66 Love Letters.
There is no commitment. Just an invitation to read and allow the LORD to show up for you. We want to hear what God stirs in your heart as you open his Love Letter. What lingers with you throughout your day?
You can go to www.ewordtoday.com and sign up to receive the one-year reading plan in your e-mail inbox or cell phone. You can purchase Larry Crabb's new book 66 Love Letters from www.amazon.com, available January 12th. "Written in a conversational tone, Dr. Crabb looks at each individual book in Scripture and boils it down to a one-or two-sentence message to us from that particular book." Larry answers the question: What does God want me to hear from this love letter?
I believe the Truth of God's Word---Psalm 51:6--- will sink deep into our hearts and change our lives this year.
Start with us on January 1st. Larry's book will not be available before January 12th. You can jump in or take a break at any time. This invitation is for you to listen to God not to check off boxes that you've read every day. You are invited to post the stirrings of your heart at any time...it may be just be one verse or one thought or even more as we listen to His Love Letters to us in 2010. Or you may just want to read along and not comment.
See you on January 1st on my other blog, A String of Pearls. You won't find any postings on this blog about the 66 Love Letters, only about life with The Brandons. You can access A String of Pearls blog in two ways: 1) click on A String of Pearls in left margin of this blog 2.) go to my profile and click on A String of Pearls.
We would be so delighted for you to join us in listening to what God has to say to each of us in 2010.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 11:29 PM
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
For the past 30 years, I have always sent a Christmas newsletter to let you know what's happening in the Brandon household. About 4 years ago, the length of the letters became briefer than before (made a lot of readers happy). We went through a time of evaluating our lives and what's really important. We have No One Else Like Him to go to in the midst of our suffering but the Beautiful God we so love. John 6:68. As we approach 100 years old (you're supposed to laugh right now), things look a lot different to me than they did 4 years ago. Once again this year, we went through a little more suffering that brought us a step of faith closer to the One Who holds us all together (Col 1:17). God has used so many of you to give me hope and courage as I battled cancer. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Beautiful Fragrance of the Lord Jesus Christ that you have brought to me this year (2 Cor 2:14). My Deep Gratitude, Bev
Here is our 2010 Family Newsletter:
A New December dawns and draws us in to reflect on 2009. A verse that has gripped me for 3 decades---Psalm 27:13-14---took on new meaning this year. I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the Goodness of God. We will remember 2009 for we found a Good God in the midst of difficult days. Groping for that Invisible Hand in dark times, He met me in my weakness 2 Cor 12:9. We are alive in ways we have not been before.
In a few weeks, Bob will marry our oldest son to the love of his life, lovely Lauren Bailey of
Britt is loving his senior year at
It has been one of the scariest years for me in battling cancer but Psalm 18:28 speaks to deep places in me: God is turning my darkness into Light. Learning a bit more to kept still & not fight my own battles. Nahum 1:7 says the LORD is good. He has been my Refuge in times of trouble. I am finding a deeper Rest, growing in a little more dependence on a Sovereign God. Bob serves faithfully on a church staff here in
We hold so much gratitude in our hearts for you. The outpour of God’s Love has been overwhelming---old friends and new friends, even strangers whom God has used to put hope in my hand & heart. God is carrying us through all our ordeals- Isaiah 46:4. We are grateful to be fellow strugglers with you passing through this life to our real home. Take courage, O my soul, and wait upon the LORD, not the solution of our problems, not the closure of sickness, not the escape from trials. We wait on a Beautiful God not on any man nor any circumstance.
Our prayer for you is Isaiah 40: 3-5 - There is a Voice calling in your wilderness. May every valley be raised up & every mountain made low that the glory of God be revealed in you in 2010. We join you in advancing His Kingdom. May we all deal with the competing kingdoms in our hearts. All praise & honor this Christmas to the Beautiful & Invisible & Eternal God Whom we adore! Now unto HIM Who is able to keep us together, Jude 2:24. Holding fast to our Good God and Psalm 46: 5,10 --- God is in our midst; I will not be moved. God will help me when morning dawns every day in 2010. Be still, my heart, and know He is God.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year -
Bob & Bev - Barrett, Brooke, Blair and Britt
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 12:48 PM
Friday, December 18, 2009
I made the nurse repeat it TWICE. B.E.N.I.G.N. Thank YOU God! The suspicious spot on my leg is a benign seborrheic keratosis. Seb k. I've had this barnacle on my shin for about 3 years but it's gone now.
I don't want to live my life encouraged only by my circumstances. LIKE...we finally got our car back after 5 months in the car repair shop; however it doesn't run quite right. Ha. Or, my computer is so messed up that I just went to Fran's blog and it said it was an ATOM XML and I couldn't post on atoms? What in the world does that mean? I think my computer might not recover and I'll be cyber homeless. My Facebook is frozen---but so is every link I have to open.
But I can rejoice when the news is good. And this is good news that the lesion was benign. And I can embrace the Truth when the news is not good. And entering that truth will not only be sadness but can also be joy as we draw near to Him.
For what do want this moment MORE THAN drawing near to God. May we all listen to our hearts and what is really going on inside of us. It matters so much what is happening inside of me. Way more than it matters what I am doing! So grateful to a very good God for bringing me to this place in life.
We read Christmas cards every day and think that people are doing great by what they are DOING---wonder what is really going on in their hearts.
Yesterday I listened to a CD on pondering the Trinity. Relating to God and others takes first place in our lives. Love the LORD with all your heart. Enter the souls of your family and friends to model and invite brokenness.
Everything but drawing near to God is a "second thing" as C.S. Lewis said: Put first things first. There is only One First Thing. Had a conversation with a good friend yesterday about people saying that if you have your health, you have everything. Not so! Our health, our families, even our ministries are all "second things." And some of those, as one of my friends quotes, are "painful doorways to deeper intimacy. "
So as I face my own brokenness this Christmas, I have to face what's going on in my own heart, not how I want my world and people in my world to change. And I will face that I am profoundly not able to be strong enough to love and change anything apart from the power of God. I Cor 2: 2-4.
May we all seek HIM this Christmas in the midst of whatever it is that we face. Draw near to Him and HE will draw near to you. Plead for His Mercy rather than demand that the pain and the hurts go away.
The CD talked about the church being a community of broken people who long to know a Beautiful God and relate like HIM in our world RATHER than being a community of responsible reasonable people trying very hard to do a lot of very good things for the Kingdom. Are we frenetic and frantic for Christmas? Hmmm. Trying to make something happen...which leads to strategy and valuing people that are on board with us rather than offering them grace right where they are.
I'm still Miss Shingles over here (affectionately called by my youngest). Looks to me like I have a mild case of shingles compared to the scary shingle stories I've heard.
I'll post my Christmas letter next. Just wanted to say what was stirring in my heart this grateful morn. For whatever that's worth! I'm very grateful this Texas wintry season (it's 75 degrees outside) that I have the privilege to warmly walk alongside of friends like you!
Signed: Miss Shingles
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 11:54 AM
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Shingle Bells. Shingle Bells. Oh me, oh my! I have the shingles.
Went for a second opinion for a suspicious spot on my shin. The dermatologist did a biopsy on my leg right there on the spot! Didn't have time to text anyone to pray. The most wonderful thing was that God was right there with me holding my hand. Psalm 15:8. He had just brought to my mind Psalm 112:7 an hour before. I was waiting with another friend for their pathology to come back. No fear of bad news for our hearts are steadfast, trusting HIM alone, not the closure of unwanted circumstances.
The word "biopsy" strikes fear in me. "Can I call my husband before you do it?" I could have scheduled it for the future. No, take it out right now. She removed the whole lesion. But God continues to remove lesions from my heart. He reached down on Tuesday and took hold of me and drew me out of some deep waters of fear. Psalm 18:16. The pathology report comes back on Friday.
I've been thinking a lot lately about personal holiness. You know, the kind of holiness that trumps impact. We can get so caught up in wanting to be somebody and make a mark and change the world for Christ, that we miss dealing with this present moment of our own stuff. We will be advancing the Kingdom if we are dealing with what is going on inside of our hearts. So grateful to Him for bringing me to a place where I'm aware that the Love of Christ is more important than any ministry. Oh, I don't know. I wish I could better verbalize what's going on inside of me. Dealing with some pretty dark feelings and learning a bit more what it means to let them go.
So the doctor proceeds to check me from head to toe...OH NO...you have SHINGLES ON YOUR BACK. And I thought I was there for my shin! But actually I was probably there for my sin for our Beautiful God rescues us because He delights in us, Psalm 18:19, and He won't let us stay in our sin. So surprised by a sin of quiet demandingness that one more thing does not need to happen to me before this year ends. And what about starting deductibles over again in January with multitudinous doctor bills? What about trusting He will take care of it all? It is the Kindness of our God that leads us to repentance. Romans 2:4. What do I want more than the Love of my Christ? The good life...so what would that look like? SHINGLE BELLS. SHINGLE BELLS.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 1:36 PM
Monday, November 16, 2009
The news on Friday was not what I had hoped. I will undergo more scans and tests because of the cancer in my chest wall. I sat in St. David's Hospital on Friday and panic washed over me as I listened to the doctor's concerns. So, how should I think? How should I live? Acts 17:26 came to my mind that God has appointed my times and boundaries that I should reach out for Him and grope in the darkness and find Him. The verse says HE is closer than we all know.
I am in the midst of several trials right now. So is Bob and Britt---that's our whole household. Sometimes, it just happens that way. It's my birthday today and I sit and reflect this morning on another year. It's been hard. I just read this quote in Crabb's book Real Church: "It's hard to set the panic aside; to move through the pain; to delay gratification; to live feeling empty, worthless, betrayed, and to ask: Okay, what's the big picture here? What kind of person do I want to be for my kids, for my friends, for me, for my God in the middle of this mess? What kind of values do I want to uphold? What matters the most at any cost to me? What is my life really all about right now and what fire is still burning in me that can keep me moving toward something truly good?" Yes!
Yes, I am struggling lots and sometimes struggling better in some moments than others. I'm kind of a mess right now. But I am a glorious mess! And, with tears streaming down my face, I can say there is a fire burning within me that no circumstance, no trial can put out. "There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones and I am weary with holding it in and I cannot." Jer. 20:9. And for that, I praise Him! He is the fire that burns within you and me. I'm so grateful on this day for the ways God has used each of you in my life to stir up such good things inside of me. So grateful on this birth day for a beautiful God Who keeps showing up and stirring me up.
There was another quote in the book that jumped out at me as I read: "Every good thing you used to cling to, you come to see what it is in reality: a mere drop of pleasure in an ocean of joy, a drop you can lose without really losing anything." So, as I let go of some things even on this birth day---things like unfulfilled desires and expectations, I hear some incredible joy bells ringing in my heart. I don't want to spend another day, another year clinging to worthless stuff! Jonah 2:8. Let the joy bells ring! I'm dancing on an ocean floor of joy.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 8:58 AM
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Locked out of my own car! Actually, it's the mechanics fixxer-upper car I was locked out of---our Pathfinder is still in the shop since June 17th---ha! I saw the car keys on the seat as I swung the door shut! Waiting 2 hours on the curb of the Hyde Park Post Office for Mr. Pop-A-Lock...and a friend calls to tell me a quote: Hmmmm. I found a piece of paper and a pen on the ground and jotted the Crabb quote down: "Life gets steeper so that strength must increase as weakness intensifies."
I have been struggling over here with my health on these new cancer meds. I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Working full-time and totally exhausted. That's why I haven't been online---just can't do it right now. But, I think that I am struggling well not wanting to improve my life but to invite the beautiful God I so adore into my mess and invest in what lasts forever. It has been a very difficult two months in so many ways. More trials than usual. I thought if only I could get through the 36 radiation treatments this summer, I'd be okay. But, no, Acts 14:22 says it is necessary that we encounter a few troubles on the way into the Kingdom. And we never know when those troubles may come.
My health decline as well as my circumstances have only exacerbated the mess in my own heart. I have been fainting again in the middle of the night. Low blood pressure that sinks way too low. It only lasts a second or two but the experience is horrific as I lose control of my body and even have a tiny bit of paralysis where I cannot talk or think straight. I'm always able to fall right back asleep but it is such a scary thing to go through. It has been happening about every other night. God is giving me courage. I did the Susan G. Komen Race---20,000 runners. I ran smack into one of my oncologists who ran a mile with me and gave me unbelievable counsel as to what was going on. It was as though God was standing right there reaching out to me! Acts 17:26---HE has appointed our times and boundaries so we will seek Him and reach out to HIM and find Him. And I am! And it doesn't get any better than that!
Here's where it gets exciting. I'm entering a rest I have never known before. There's an unlocked door in my heart that my Defender, my Savior, my good God is inviting me into. HE is the Doorkeeper. HE is the one engineering everything. And we are on our way into the Kingdom!
I cannot thank you enough for all of your texts, notes, comments and calls, lately. They have meant a lot to me at a time where I have not been able to respond back because of several health issues. I had a bone scan this week because I have continued to bruise easily. A minor accident turned major.
This coming Friday begins my first three-day examination since being diagnosed with cancer. I'll know by Friday at 5:00pm if the cancer is still there. After my third surgery, cancer was still present and the plan was to attack it with radiation. We'll see if that plan worked. If you think about me on Friday, please pray for Peace from a good God Whom I so trust. John 16:33---in ME, you will have Peace, not in the escape or solution of our issues. I think I am doing well in the midst of some hard times over here. I don't know. I just know that a very good God keeps showing up at Post Office curbs and Komen 10K races and at a tiny apartment on the southside of town. Looking up! So grateful for your friendship! My Love to each of you!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 2:18 PM
Sunday, September 13, 2009
About the moment I jogged up the steps of the Foot Bridge over the Colorado River, a hymn came on my Ipod that I had never heard before. "Do Not Pass Me By." I stopped at a familiar rail overlooking the still south span of the river. My tears spilled into the reservoir and I looked to see if they made a mark. No, not at all from 30 feet up. I knelt by my rail on that 20-foot wide walking bridge. No one even noticed. To my left sat a homeless guy, torn and tumultuous. To my right sat a pristine pony-tailed lady with tiny twin terriers in dog clothing. Some of my tears were for them both.
But most of my tears this morning had to do with those unfamiliar words in my ears. "While on others, You are smiling, do not pass me by." And I cried out to the beautiful God I so adore that HE would not pass me by. I want to end my life well and not miss the grace of God. I think a lot about Jonah 2:8---the guy in the whale who was not FRANTIC or FRENETIC but He was crying out to his good God, in the midst of guts and gore inside a LARGE animal's stomach, that he would not forfeit the grace of God for worthless stuff, idols. And Jonah never knew if he would even ever hold another worthless thing in his hand again. God draws me in through Jonah's words. As I am caught in the midst of life's circumstances, am I missing a larger Story? What am I alive to this morning?
You see, I think it is terribly easy for us all to get lost in our circumstances of life. He knows. I started new meds for cancer treatment on the day I returned from The Cove. Letrozole has affected my body with a whirlwind of symptoms, exhausting me to where I have had to pull back again, physically. It's why I haven't posted. I can't quite catch up since I've finished radiation.
I came back from one of the most stirring conferences for me at The Cove. Came back to live broken not better before a beautiful good God. Is my deepest desire to hurt less or to live in brokenness? But I'm back to a life where things break down, like my car. Still working on a home for Macy---she's extended her stay at The Hill's. I so want her with me but financial priorities prevent it. Let the dog go, Bev! Our car has been in the shop to repair the transmission since June 17th---that's awful long. My son and I share a car with no a/c. It's been hot in Texas! And now I have a cyst on my right hand and the cancer treatments/meds have caused it damage---it's infected and hurts when I move my hand. So, what is God doing in my life? What is stirring inside of me? What is most alive?
C.S. Lewis wrote that the sweetest experience God gives us in this life is our desire for Him. A desire for God seems so alive in me even in the midst of all my mess. My struggles with circumstances reveal such a spirit of entitlement in me. Can I have break please?
I think some of the tears spilled into the Colorado River because I'm wrestling with fleshly desires. My battle is with my flesh and wanting to rise above my circumstances. But there's a deeper battle always going on. More than just wanting to be visible. More than wanting "a place in the sun, a place in our world." More than wanting to get ahead in life. The real battle that Ephesians 6 talks about is how our struggle is not against flesh and blood. It's not against our circumstances, our boss, our friend who ignites us. We are contending against world rulers of this present darkness. I am reading Buechner's The Magnificent Defeat and he writes about the battle: "to become at peace inside our skins, to become human. To be set free from our darkness. A darkness we never fully see nor fully understand nor feel fully responsible for---heaven knows we are responsible."
So what is my beautiful God doing in the chores of my life? I'm not sure, but this I know. God is bringing a little tiny ray of Light into my darkness. And HE has used so many of you to stir me up. Just like in Gen 1:3 where the Spirit of God was moving---Buechner says the word in the Hebrew means "brood"--- hovering over my darkness, "brooding" over my darkness---like a bird "brooding" over its nest til new life stirs beneath the sheltering wings. I don't know what's happening but I do know this. God is so moving in my mess of it all and stirring up new life in me as I go through some tough times. Do not pass me by, my good God. And if I think You are smiling on others and not on me, help me repent and respond to what you are doing in me. Sweet release not relief. The speaker at The Cove put it this way: "Love never allows more suffering unless to achieve the well-being of the beloved." YOU, O God, are brooding over my darkness til I become a little more alive.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 7:30 AM
Thursday, August 13, 2009
My 3 radiation therapists rushed into the radiation room today and said: "It's over, Bev. Look up." Made me think of raising my eyes to the mountains from where my Help comes from. Psalm 121:1 From the skylight, colored confetti fell all over me. My therapist, Sarah, said: "You're a strong woman, Bev." All I could respond was that I was probably one of the weakest patients they had. "I live out a theology of weakness, Sarah. When I am weak, He is strong---if you see any strength in me, it's because of God." You see, Sarah saw me cry every single time I went into the machine and every time I came out for 34 times. That is, until this Tuesday...
On Monday, it was the most terrifying experience I have had yet ... the sounds shook me deeply. But, I lay still and embraced my loss, listening and longing for my beautiful God. I had burned over the reprieve of the weekend and Monday meant more burns. But, it was the sounds of the machine on that moody Monday that gripped me in terror. I asked Him do His perfect work while I lay still. Only God could help me keep still and keep from running away. When I'm tempted, I want to self-destruct and beat myself up for sinning, then go serve and do something really nice. That's called a theology of "good works." Doesn't work. God promised me Gen 15:1 in going through those rads, that HE is my Shield. Sometimes, I think I sound kind of mystical but I have found great comfort knowing that my Good God is shielding me from all harm, even cancer.
I went to my Breast Cancer Support Group on Monday at noon. Something happened to me in that meeting. Can't explain it. Merry shared that God had given her Jeremiah 17:14 for us. "Heal me and I will be healed. Save me and I will be saved. And I will praise you." The verses stirred my faith so, strengthened me so. And here comes a miracle...I came home to start on my daily regimen of 4 meds but the burns were healing and reversing. Tuesday, when I went into the machine, there was no temptation to be afraid any more. Something was way so different. It happened again Wednesday and Thursday. I listened to "My Tribute" on my Ipod for this very last day. No fear. No terror. To God Be the Glory for everything HE has done for me in these 38 treatments. HE has peeled back layers of skin and a heart not trusting Him to keep me safe. 2 Chron 32:22 "God is taking care of me on every side. He is watching my back." "He made my valleys full of water." 2Kings 3:16. Little by Little. Exo 23:30.
On the day we moved to Austin last year, I wrote in my journal that God spoke to me through 3 verses. I read that journal entry this a.m. as I finished radiation. Here were the 3 verses: Rev 2:10 --- "Don't be afraid for what you are about to suffer." Rev. 2:10. Oh my! The next one said: "Go to Austin. Not knowing what will happen to you there, but go to finish your race and testify of my Grace." Acts 20. Oh my! And the 3rd verse penned by my hand: "Powerless. But my eyes are on you!" 2 Chron 20:12. And that verse became the constant theme of these past five months. "When we don't know what to do, our eyes are on you." The teachers inscribed the verse on a necklace for me.
It was the "prayers of many" that got me through these past 5 months. 2Cor 1:11. I am overwhelmed that there were people praying for me that I didn't even know, have never met. I am so indebted to each of you for your comments, your character, your compassion that has so stirred my faith. You've let me borrow some of your faith. Some of you have reached deeply into the pockets of your heart and given to us in abundance. And you have prayed and moved the Hands of God for me. I can't thank you enough!
The hospital and doctor bills have mounted and we are trying to stretch every dollar. Bob wants me to "let go" of my dog, Macy, cause we'd have to pay to keep her in our apartment. She had been living with Barrett in Fort Worth. We brought her here to Austin when Barrett went to France to compete over the summer. Lindsay has been "dog sitting" and we owe her big time. But, alas, the time has come and I need to give Macy to a good home. She has been with us for 8 years. I'd love it if someone in Austin could take her, so I can have visiting rights. We just came back from walking her tonight under a full moon. She's such a loving dog, as far as dogs go. You can have a "trial" run at your home---give her back, if she is not a fit. E-mail me at: sixbrandons(at)sbcglobal.net if you know of a good home. A really good home for my sweet border collie!
Radiation is over. I'm exhausted but I actually feel pretty good. I start aromatase inhibitors next week. Femara for 5 years to kill all the estrogen in my body. So grateful to a very good God that this radiation chapter is closed forever. Cancer is frightening, but I would do it all over again because of what it did for me, detaching me from dependence on things, on this world. I hope I don't have to travel it again. God never intended for me to be attached to anything but Him. Not ambition. Not success. Not approval. Not anything nor any focus on this world. "We were made for another world." Suffering has brought me to a different place in my heart and I hope I stay there and not go back to what?? When we've seen Divine Love, how can we go back, but yet we all wallow back at times. Falling forward though. The Spirit of God has disrupted my life and enticed me so! There is no other good but Him. He is our Final Good. He knows my cancer cells that remain, my DNA--- and He has changed it a bit---to know Him more and be like Him.
There's a little light in my darkness tonight. When we drove away from Fort Worth one year ago, there was a rainbow arching over Cowtown. It appeared again tonight at the Quarries in Austin, as I sat and watched my son's first football game. #19. So grateful to God for only He could have brought me through radiation. Psalm 18:28 God has illuminated my darkness. I so want to keep on listening for His Voice --- not to solve my many problems or make them go away, but to know Him better. I'm off to The Cove in North Carolina for a week. Sorry this is SO LONG! Pray for me at The Cove: 2 Kings 6:17 that God would open my eyes to see what He is up to in my life and be caught up in advancing His Kingdom! Love to you all very much!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:54 PM
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I just read the 19 comments from my last post all at once and am sitting here weeping, literally. I so wrestle with my weaknesses and see places in my heart that I think maybe the Gospel has not touched (that's a Paula Rinehart quote). I so long for Him and see how far I am sometimes. Then, even as I sit here, I see places in my heart where He has so shown up for me. I couldn't be any more grateful this night for what HE has done in my heart during these past six weeks of radiation. My Good God is making me a little less demanding, a little more dependent, a little less detached from anything for my Source other than Him. One more week of radiation to go.
I thought radiation would get easier as I adjusted. And I feel a pressure that if I was really walking with God, it would be better. Well, I am walking with God---He has me in tight places. My God is abundantly available in very tight places! Psalm 46:1-3. This past week was the hardest yet, partly because they upped the dosage of radiation for the end, since my margins were not clear and cancer remained in my chest wall. Sometimes I am exhausted to the point of collapsing. But the sheer terror inside of the machine is what gets to me. And the sheer terror of encountering a beautiful God is so there every single day. I have cried more tears this week than any other. This morning, Bob preached and he shared a quote from the Willow Creek Conference that he and Brooke attended this week. It went like this..."God will wipe away our tears and the sweat of our brow at the same time." A tender thought to me. Jesus sweat drops of blood to resist temptation---something we all know not.
I've been trying to remember all day what song we sang in church this morning that made me so want to worship Him. As I sat to write this post, the song just came on my Ipod (out of about 300 songs) and I didn't even know it was on there. God keeps doing that! "Open up the skies, fall down like rain. We don't want blessings. We want YOU." I sang it from the depths of my heart this morning and again tonight. I have so been touched by Divine Love in that radiation machine for 33 times, I can't explain it. "Here we go, let's go the Throne. To the place where we belong. Right into His Arms." All I can say is that He has so carried me through these six weeks in His Arms. And I pray that He will fall on me this week, fall down like rain, so I can finish what seems impossible to me.
If I finish on Friday, I will leave on Monday to go to The Cove in North Carolina for a conference. It's been in the plans for 3 years, Lord willing, and I don't know if I can make it. I'm burned from the higher dosages. But, I'm asking! I cannot thank you all enough for praying for me. I keep hearing about people I don't even know who are praying for me and that touches me so deeply. I've thought about the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 a lot lately. You've bound my wounds, you've poured your words and love on me, you've taken me into your heart, you've paid for things for me, you've taken care of me. And some of you have never laid eyes on me. Jesus asked the lawyer in the story, "Who proved to be a neighbor?" It's you!
My sweet girl Brooke is sitting two feet away from me as I type. It's been such a precious 2 weeks with her here. She has so helped me---cleaning out my closets, driving me everywhere, doing daily loads of clothes and dishes and stuff for her mommy. But more than that, she has made me laugh in the midst of my tears. She leaves in the morning for her stateside missionary assignment in Arlington, Texas. Brooke will be serving on the staff of a college ministry, mobilizing college students to do mission work. She'll be close this year and that makes this mom pretty happy. The IMB will provide her needs, except that she does need to find her own car for the year. I think we should say that God needs to find her a car! If you know of anyone who would like to donate a car to a non-profit or loan one out for a year, let us know. That's a big request---out of our reach! May Brookie bring these students the Word as it is in her heart! My prayer for my sweet girl: Joshua 14:7.
And it is my prayer for each of you this beautiful night. May you bring the Living Word to many, as it is on your heart!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:22 PM
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Brooke is back. So grateful to our good God for giving her the best three years in Chiang-Mai Thailand. Jamie introduced Brooke to a world far away and a great God Who was so present for her there. Brooke sacrificed much to go, but received way more! And she left a big part of her heart there. Being with her this weekend has brought me great joy, way down deep. She's a Texan once again. My girl's back!
I thought Thursday was the worst radiation treatment ever but, no, Friday afternoon was indescribably horrific for me. I cry even writing this. I want to pretend nothing anymore. I panicked while in the machine and I don't know why. But I knew if I screamed, I would have to start over again. And if I moved, the radiation beam would radiate the wrong place. I lay silently still suffering. Maybe it's my own fault. All I know is this. God continues to expose areas in my heart and what is really happening inside of me as I lay it down before HIM to Whom we all give account.
I fear that moments like that is intolerable, simply overpowering. And I can't put it back together again either. Only the Great Physician can hold me together and sew me back with his surgery knife in His Hand. He can repair me and empower me to move back into my world, even powerless, to face and embrace what is happening inside of me as I lay still. One day, there will be no more tears. But this day, there are many.
But more than that physical stillness, as I lay still in my heart, I realize that nothing I can do will help me to recover the good life like it was in the Garden of Eden. I feel how desperately I long for God to let me find Him on that radiation table. And with a longing beyond words like in Romans 8:26, we all groan for Him. In that moment, I was afraid to look up for I wanted Him to leave me alone and make the panic stop but at the same second, I hoped against hope that HE would move and have mercy on me. It was a terrifying beyond imagination few minutes.
The therapists are aware when I'm really struggling as they see the tears spilling out of tightly closed eyes as they watch me on their video cam on the other side of the two-foot thick door. They bolted in to grab me and watch me sob. Paula kept saying over and over---"What can I do for you?" Nothing. And it's over...and a peace came over me as I exited the Friday afternoon machine that I can't explain. Always does, the minute I am out of it. The frantic pressure to handle a panic attack is relieved for I can't even do that--- and I am reduced to wanting my God more than ever whether in the machine or out---there is such Hope within me.
And my God began to speak to my heart. He spoke to me through the story of Gideon. Gideon was reduced to panic and fear yet God called him out of it. Brooke saw her mom's tears and looked with such compassion as we walked out. The battery was dead in our borrowed car so we had to wait a while for a "jump" and it was really okay. My car has been in the shop for 5 weeks now---can't seem to fix it. It's okay. God is doing a deep work in my life.
I read and re-read this weekend the story of Gideon in Judges 6: 12-24. "The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valour." And God said those words to a fearful, hiding Gideon, working hard to gather up food, and make his life bearable. Gideon's response is priceless for our day: If God is with with us, then why is all this stuff happening to me? We measure a good life by what? If everything is going smoothly and our family cooperating with God and our success in our ministry? "Peace be with you Gideon, do not fear." My peace comes from God not from the resolution of my problems. I have a tingling passion of anticipation that I will find Him again this week at 8:40am. He's a good God and I'm learning so much about myself and life. Still scared but surrendered. If you think about me at 8:40am---I have 3 more weeks to go in the machine. 4 weeks down. Joel 3:10 - "Let the weak say, I am a warrior." I'm in a battle and I won't give up. Be still and know that I am God!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:10 PM
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Bring Back my Brookie to me...
Brooke arrives in about 10 hours from Chiang-Mai, Thailand. I'll be in the radiation machine when her sweet "old" college roommates pick her up at the Austin airport tomorrow morning. She's home for good, Lord willing. She spent the past three years of her life bringing good news and binding up the brokenhearted in a land that was foreign to her. Isaiah 61:1. Thailand became like home to her and she so loved those people.
Today marked the halfway mark for my radiation treatments. Being in the radiation machine today was another new startling experience for me. All I can say is that it was the hardest one yet. Wonder why. Is the absence of temptation victory? Is the absence of conquering my fear in the machine defeat? Hardly so. I must not measure maturity by performance. It's not when I get comfortable doing something so unnatural to us all. Because my beautiful God is doing such a good work in me as I wrestle with the question of whether I am "safe." Providential suffering is a paved pathway to a Person who safely holds us together. Col 1:17. That's it. Those Unseen Eyes are watching our every thought and tear... and holding us.
While Bob was in ICU last week, I received a document of foreclosure on our home in Fort Worth. Quite unexpected. Our mortgage was paid up and we had applied for a loan to pay our taxes when I was diagnosed with cancer April 1st. The loan was approved and we even made our first payment. Yet, the house was foreclosed. A computer glitch, they said. So, cancel the foreclosure! Crazy! Seems like the enemy of our soul wants to discourage us. But we look to Him Who is Unseen. This is not about how strong I am to do this either. We cry to Him and He bends His Ear right down to me. He's listening. He sees it all. He's working on our behalf.
Our outer self is wasting away every day, but our inner self is being renewed day by day by day. For our light momentary afflictions are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the Things that are Unseen. 2 Cor 4:16. Somehow, in that radiation machine, I have to believe that there is much more going on in that Room than the unpredictable methodical clicking of that terrifying ton of a machine.
I don't know how I can endure 19 more treatments. All I know is the One Who promises to be there for me. And HE has to this day. People say you are a survivor if you pass a certain point. The word "survivor" means statistics to me. I've been thinking about Romans 8:37 that we are more than "conquerors" through Christ Who loves us so. I think every day that we live for HIM, we are more than a conqueror. And my Christ will help me go through the second half of this. "He helps us in our weakness..." Rom 8:26.
So, as I hit the halfway mark, I just want to say to each of you that read this blog that I am so grateful that God has brought you alongside of us to walk with us through this. I couldn't do it alone. From my brand new friend, Rose, to my lifelong friend Mindy, you all have touched deep places in my heart. Your words have given me hope. Your actions have given me love! Your friendship has given me courage! I cannot thank you enough!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:51 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Bob was released from ICU tonight and is home resting well. After undergoing two days of tests in the critical care unit, all of his heart structures are in very good shape. While they are not sure what caused him to faint at the wheel, the diagnosis remains bradycardia---slow heart rate. Not that uncommon for athletes to have a really low heart rate. We are so grateful to God for His evident Hand on Bob during the accident.
Bob will wear a heart monitor throughout this weekend. He has recovered well from the surgical procedure he had this afternoon, an electrophysiological study. They couldn't sedate him cause he had just eaten so he thinks he was privileged to watch the Electrophysiologist do the cauterization procedure up us legs into his heart---ask him about it. Oh my. Not me!
And I just have to add that it looked completely impossible for me to do two radiation treatments today to stay on course. Some complications with my skin had come up. My oncologist is closed tomorrow. But I was so overwhelmed with the goodness of God this afternoon. God physically strengthened my weary body as I walked into the radiation oncologist's office again at 3pm to submit to the machine. A verse that meant much to me these 2 days was Exodus 14:14 that God will fight our battles, we just need to keep still. And the word "still" in the Hebrew meant to surrender, to let go---and know that He is God in the midst of our circumstances. Be still and know that I am God - Psalm 46:10.
Psalm147:10-11 God's delight is not in the legs of a man but the LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His Unfailing Love, no matter what He sends our way. It has been an emotional two days for me and I have been spent in doing radiation and watching my husband in ICU. You know, our suffering is not a curse, but more like a mission to "let go" and honor a God Who has allowed things providentially and always for our good. We have to wrestle with Him until He changes our name. None of us want to suffer. Jesus asked for the cup to pass from Him. But, He also embraced his suffering and walked in it where His Heart brought Him to empty Himself. God is emptying us from things we've held onto that we need to "let go." Detaching us from dependence on anything that brings us Joy but HIM, even our health.
It's 8:30pm and we are on our way to bed. Good night sweet friends. HE has our attention. HE has our hearts. We don't have a definitive answer what went wrong. But we are seeing with eyes wide open precious ways to value learning to love more than resolution of our pain. Our problems are a pathway to our beautiful God. The back of the door of the wardrobe in Narnia opens and offers a journey to come alive in ways we know not.
God leads us into desert places and speaks tenderly there if we listen. Hosea 2:14. HE makes the valley of suffering, a Door of Hope. And it is our privilege to walk alongside of you and embrace those open doors of suffering and joy--- blindly & boldly and with fear & faith. Do I want to learn better to love my husband and my children and my world more than I want the pain to go away? Wondering what it looks like in our lives to open our hearts wider to love.
Our Sincere Gratitude for your Prayers and Love! Overwhelmed in Austin with His Kindness!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 7:30 PM
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My husband passed out this morning for a few minutes while he was driving my son Britt's Scout. He ran off the road and God really protected him. The paramedics took him by ambulance to the hospital and the ambulance broke down on the way to the hospital---they had to get another one. Oh! They took him to St. David's and he has been in ICU all afternoon. They just moved him to ICU to monitor his heart rate which has been in the 40's. Thank you so much for praying! Bev
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 5:30 PM
Sunday, July 12, 2009
A friend of Barrett's was visiting China and looked up and saw this billboard and e-mailed it to Barrett who had no idea he was on a billboard---he raced in China and Korea recently. He did Treasure Island this weekend and I think he did great---he's off to compete for France in three races, France's Grand Prix or something like that. It will be very surreal if Brooke sees her brother on a billboard in China. Brooke is in China---on her way back home to the States. Can't wait to see my girl again! Really!Here is a different billboard where you can see the writing a little more. Can anyone read Chines---what does it say? Did you read about the family whose Christmas card ended up as advertisement on a billboard in Prague?
Tomorrow, Monday morning, I have 2 radiation treatments. 8:40am and 3:10pm. Oh dear me. I am taking life moment by moment. And may I be more concerned about my unholiness than about my pain! There is something that happens to my body every time I go into that radiation machine. My mind is clear and I know that it will not collapse on me nor stab me nor snatch me. My body remembers what my mind does not. Brings me back to my rape. I was unconscious for over 24 hours from alcohol poisoning but was with 4 teen boys for those 24 hours. They laid me unconscious at my family's doorstep the next day and ran. Pretty horrific.
But there is a Great Physician Who is in that room with me continuing a surgery on my heart as I live in the present moment and deal with what is in my heart. And it has caught me off guard how radiation treatments make me want to give my life and energy and passion to pursuing God's purposes and watching out for the contrary agendas within me. And repent. LORD have mercy on me in that thing. God doesn't always give and guarantee us instant comfort but HE never means anything we go through except for my good. I was reading this afternoon: "Our agenda is to fix the world until it can properly take care of us. God's agenda is to bring all things together in Christ until every knee bows before Him." The book went on to say how people equate peace with pleasant circumstances. "God's peace belongs to those who have confidence in His Goodness even when life is tough and their self-esteem is low." "Whenever we place a higher priority on solving our problems than on pursuing God, we are immoral."
Before one of my radiation treatments last week, God placed on my heart to find a homeless person and give them something that day. I usually avoid them---thinking they need to find a job. They are prolific in Austin and the city takes care of them---boggles my mind. I also think they may pull me out of my car. I shared with a clean-cut attractive lady sitting next to me at my radiation oncologist's office that morning that I had been terrified to go in for my radiation treatment that day, but God had given me 2Cor 1:9 that I must rely not on myself and how strong I am but on God Who raises the dead. She began weeping uncontrollably and said that was what her pastor preached on last Sunday and she was struggling immensely because she was a homeless person, living in her car, for the past year---even though she had a full-time job. We talked for about an hour. God's Agenda: every knee shall bow before Him. This is not about solving all our problems but pursuing our beautiful God in the midst. He's good!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 5:01 PM
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Groping for the light switch in the radiation prep room, I decided to pull the string. It was a shrieking strobe alarm that blasted into the darkness. Doctors and nurses came running. Week #2 started off with a stir. Tackling cancer diagnosis and treatments sometimes makes you feel like a junior college transfer student heading to an ivy league school.
I met with my radiation oncologist today to discuss the radiation treatments. I trust this guy with my life---I trust my God with my life. My radiation oncologist said to me that not having a 4th surgery was risky and he was going to make up for it by adding additional radiation treatments. He was stuck between the opinions of my other oncologists. "Caught in the middle." "Risky" was not the word I was hoping to hear today. You realize, in the still of the night, that we are all in His Hands.
Every morning, I jog about a mile or two or three around 6:30am and ask God what He is saying to me in all of this. He is "emptying spaces in my heart that I have filled up with myself" and other stuff. Detaching me from dependence on any source of Joy other than Him. Walking into the Radiation Room is a good thing for me to face. Embrace the suffering of cancer. It's not about finding relief from this Providential suffering. It's all about finding God in the midst. He is so showing up for me. Not because I am so strong. Quite the contrary. My body quakes when they put me through the treatment. I walk in to face this machine sobbing and walk out sobbing even harder. Then it's over for the day. Sometimes 8:40AM passes faster than others---not Wednesdays though. They need a new X-ray every Wednesday. I panicked about half way through this morning yet God so helped me push through. That's all I can say. "Be my Shepherd, carry me forever." Psalm 28:9. He is carrying me through this.
Every evening, I ask my beautiful God to give me His Word to face a new day. Not to claim a verse so everything will be okay... but to meet my God there, the Living Word. I don't want to use HIM to give me power and strength and victory and go on my way. I want to fall forward and find a rest, a peace in these circumstances that doesn't come from relief but relationship.
I read 2 Cor 1:9 where Paul talked about how he despaired of his life because of all the circumstances that happened to him. But Paul wrote that his experiences made him rely not on himself and how strong and positive he could be. What happened to him made him depend on a God Who raises the dead. That verse so spoke to me. What does it look like to depend on God's strength and not my own? Does it mean you just keep your mouth shut? Does it mean the absence of temptation? Does it mean I'll walk without fear? Does it mean I will find relief in all my problems? I don't think it means any of that. Not if I am living in the present moment and facing what is really in my heart. "Though the mountains shake and the hills be removed, My Unfailing Love will not be shaken. My Covenant of Peace to you will not be removed," says the God we so love and adore. The God Who has compassion on me and you.
I am finding a peace I know not. A rest I've not entered before. Small seismic shifts. A little more solid while a lot of chaos as traumas of my past enter my heart and overwhelm me in that machine where I am all alone behind massive sealed doors. But no, I'm never alone. I knew there was no one in the waiting room praying for me today, no one waiting for me. My car was broken and I had to be dropped off so my son could get to where he needed to be. God used that expereince to draw me closer. I had set up to listen to Paul Baloche during the treatment, but instead Darlene Zsech came on singing "He Has Made Me Glad." My Shield. My Strength. My Portion. My Deliverer. My Shelter. Strong Tower. A Very Present Help in Time of Need.
8:40AM Monday through Fridays. I am in a machine that I want to welcome as my friend where I face my fears and embrace the Providential suffering that my God is using to wake me up. 6 down and 31 to go and that makes me quiver---how will I make it? But it's a place where I am hidden in that Radiation Room and covered by His Hand. And I don't know how. But He is giving me courage to live my life truthfully and deal with my feelings of failure rising up. "I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of My Hand." Isaiah 51;16.
If you remember around 8:40AM any day of the week, would you say a prayer for me that God keeps me safe in that Shadow. Love to each of you! Bev
Written at: 4:05:06 on 07.08.09
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 3:00 PM
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I walked a mile under sultry thunderclouds before my first day of radiation this morning. Listened over and over to Mercy Me's "Bring The Rain." Bring me Joy. Bring me Peace. Bring the chance to be Free. Bring me anything that brings you Glory. I know there will be days when life brings me pain and if that's what it takes: Jesus bring the Rain. And rain it did all over Austin and all over this little girl's heart as I faced my fears and traumas of days gone by and walked into that Radiation Room this morning. First, I had to have another CT Scan---you are kidding, right? I jumped on that CT scan table and said: "Let's embrace this fear and believe me---this is not about how strong I am."
As I passed the 2-foot walled Door to walk into the Radiation Room, I did sense the Presence of my very good God and his holiness. The Door freaked me out as it shut behind me. Alone. There is a sense that we walk alone with our God. He was there! It took about 15 minutes to take the x-rays and do the first radiation---- that seemed like an hour. The tech said "Close your eyes, really tight." My reply: "I'm even scared of the dark."
All I can say is that God has brought me to this place and He was good to me today even in my terror. I never dreamed I could even look at the 2-foot door but I actually patted it on the way out and said: "You have no power over me to wall me in." This experience is my new friend, James 1:3, and I count it joy to face this trial and ask my beautiful God to free me up in these fears that have gripped my life. No more! May I want His Glory more than my own comfort and sanity.
God was so good to me today. I sobbed as two techs rushed in to rescue me. I had already been rescued and was safe in His Hands. I'll have to take Radiation one day at a time. Tomorrow, July 2nd, is my son's birthday and I will choose to have two radiation treatments 8:40am and 4:20pm since they will be closed on Friday. I could have done just one. No, I will push through this and trust Him! I tried to go to a church staff luncheon after radiation this morning, and made it almost through. I turned to my husband and said: "you have to bring me home right now." I was so exhausted! And I went to sleep around 1pm and slept so sweetly for 4 hours. I cannot thank you enough for praying for me. This was one of the hardest days for me!
Happy Birthday to my precious boy, Britt. He will turn 18 tomorrow, July 2nd. He's at CONA this week, The Conference on National Affairs, with YMCA Youth & Government in Black Mountain, North Carolina having the time of his life. His proposal on Title IX Reform made it to 2nd committee. Woohoo!
Eighteen years ago, I lost three babies in one year. Two were ectopic pregnancies. The doctors said we could never get pregnant again after 7 years of infertility. The next month I became pregnant, my 4th pregnancy in one year, and it was another ectopic pregnancy. I begged the doctors to wait before they took this one. Had to stay close to a hospital cause you can literally bleed to death if they rupture. My friend, Kellie, asked me at our kindergarten class party if she could pray for me in the school hall. Kellie laid her hands on me and asked God to give this baby life. I felt heat come from her hands into my body. So surreal. I went back to my OB doctor the next day and asked for a sonogram to appease me cause we had prayed for this baby to move through the tubes. I'll never forget my OB's words as he scanned over the picture of what was inside of me. "Look at this heart beating. Your baby is safe. He is in no longer in the tubes." His name is Britt and he will be 18 tomorrow.
And the beat of Britt's heart is for his God whom he loves and wrestles with---a God that He is finding hopefully in places like Black Mountain and at his new home, Austin Texas. He has been the joy of my life as my older three left for college several years ago. Never complains. Loves life. Such a hard worker. And he honors this mom who prayed for him. I remember touching his long toes for the first time to see if he was really alive. So grateful to our amazing God for this little big miracle who has grown into a 6'4" frame of His power to save.
God is so working in my heart to free me up and help me live in this present moment. May I be much more concerned with my weak Christianity at times than over any harm that has been done to me. My God will never harm me---even this is for my good. He's a good God! Pray for a double dose of my good God tomorrow at 8:40am and again at 4:20pm. How in the world can I do it? IDK. All I know is that He helped me leap over that 2-foot thick door this morning. HE gave me Hope not Relief in the midst of all I carry in my heavy heart. Your prayers mean more to me than words I can find. I need Him so. Moment by Moment. Little by Little. Exodus 23:27-31.
As we celebrate our Independence Day, may we find our own freedom from fear and harm and life itself. Happy Fourth of July to you and your family. May you find a little more freedom in your heart, this weekend, than you have ever known.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 8:39 PM
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The phone call I've been waiting for just came. All four of my doctors --- surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and pathologist --- all are on the same page and no further surgery is required. No mastectomy (only 3 partial ones!) and no chemo. Thank you God! And since the report lists that there is "exuberant healing" occurring in the biopsy cavity, WELL that just means one thing to me----only God can do that! Thank you God for exuberant healing!
This part of my cancer journey is now history (I think :) and I move to the radiation stage in the morning. Can I just shout out loud to the good God I so adore that even in a few mishaps there were overwhelming Kindnesses from HIM. I'm so grateful to HIM for having made it to the place where I am in my heart of surrender in suffering. Our wills are so dead set against suffering yet my heart has taken me to places I would not go. I had to live in the present and deal with what was going on in my heart for the beautiful God I know that I know that I know was doing surgery on my heart and I thought it was on my body! He led me to use the pain to wrestle more passionately with the character and purposes of God. This life is not about us. It's all about HIM and fulfilling His purposes----why He has us here. I exist for Him. He so wants me fully. He does not exist for me and my world. While the surgery on my body is over; the surgery on my heart continues.
Tomorrow morning at 8:30am I begin radiation treatment. I went in on Monday for a simulation and was not prepared for what happened. I didn't think that the radiation treatments would be difficult for me as they simulated the event. It wasn't. It's impossible for me and what I deal with! My body quaked in the CT Scan and, then again, in the Radiation Room. As the 3-foot thick wall door was closed on me....and when they put the band around my legs to stabilize my spine in the CT Scan, flashbacks of childhood memories of horrific things flooded my mind and I cried out sobbing to our good God. Yes, there is much trauma in my life from what has been done to me but my God will carry me through even this. I don't know how! My good God offers me HOPE not RELIEF in the midst of my suffering. I'll wrestle to find that hope tomorrow morning and ask you to join me in praying that I will be more concerned about my unholiness than any anguish I suffer.
Will I grieve more over my flailing commitment to a majestic Christ than over whatever harsh and horrible treatments I will endure? That's the beat of my heart. Let my Great Physician have his full way in my heart and body. I've dealt with so much surreal fear in my life. He knows the way I take. Our wills are so set against suffering and we don't want our loved ones to suffer. But the reality of the heart living in reality pushes us into an awareness against our will of living in this present moment of suffering and that's so good. No denial. No relief. No one has ever walked in your shoes. No one knows what you have to face. God sees. He knows the way we take. We can trust Him---so what does that look like for me tomorrow?
This is the biggest battle for me. And I embrace this suffering surrendered in trepidation with eyes lifted to the Unseen. For those of you who don't struggle with fears like this, you probably wonder about this. All I know is that when they close that three-foot door on me tomorrow morning, my good God will be in that room with me whether I sense His Presence or not. He will be there. My Great Physician!
My faithful lifelong friend, Mindy, called me this morning when she heard about what I went through on Monday in the radiation simulation. She knows me better than almost anyone except my family. I'm sobbing as I write this. Her voice cracked as she wept and read to me: "Asa cried out to the LORD his God, 'O LORD, there is NO ONE LIKE YOU to help those who are powerless. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your Name, we will come against this.' " 2 Chron 14:11.
Radiation 8:30am Wednesday July 1st and every day for 7 weeks...
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 2:15 PM
Friday, June 26, 2009
FRIDAY UPDATE - Just met with the medical oncologist to finalize chemo. BUT, my medical oncologist's interpretation of the surgical pathology report is that all of my margins re-excised are focally positive with DCIS cancer and that means you need to have a mastectomy. She needs to be convinced by the surgeon about the surgeon's decision on Wednesday to release me and do no further surgery. Here we sit at 5:00pm on a Friday. Wait til Monday. So that's the Friday findings. I will wait til Monday to have them re-hash the mastectomy re-visit between the med oncologist and surgeon and hospital pathologist whose pathology report is quirky according to the two oncologists.
You know, I'm sitting here thinking, what settles us? I don't want to go through another anesthesia anytime soon. And I think in moments like this, it is about Truth settling deep down in our hearts where we really wrestle with the goodness of God. Psalm 51:6---David wrestled with his doubt of a good God, his sin. Is God good only if the report is good? Nope. I didn't question the surgeon til now. Actually, I still don't. I question the hospital pathologist and wonder if we should run the cancerous tumor/tissue slides back to MDAnderson for the third time for interpretation from their pathology department?
And I thought it would all be settled today. And it all started on April 1st. Ha. I'll embrace this weekend and take care of my body like my nutritionist told me to do in my appointment with him this morning. Had a great appointment with this doctor who mapped out a plan for me to build back my serotonin level naturally. He said my serotonin is depleted and we can do it with natural supplements. I've never tried anti-depressants for serotonin depletion and I have never taken supplements until April 1st---amino acids and glutamine and methyl and all-natural products. I have a super nutritionist with Lone Star Oncology who is aggressively treating the health of my body on a bio-molecular level. The supplements he has had me on are tried-and-true clinical findings from research places like Mayo Clinic and Duke University and MDA. My last two surgeries showed that I had exuberant healing occurring--- that's really good.
This cancer journey has been a huge wake-up call for me to take care of my body where I have been lax in what I ate and drank way-too-many cokes every day of my life. Not anymore, not since April 1st. No cokes. No sugar. No fast food. No Oreo's. No ice cream. Diet doesn't heal alone but disrespect of my body and what I put in it isn't healing me either. Don't know how I could have tackled this simple diet without God's help. Don't know how I've done it except maybe I'm desperate because I have cancer in my body and I am going to beat this thing by the grace of God.
So, as our confusing appointment ended, I brought up the word I thought would shoot out of the medical oncologist's mouth first, ---CHEMO. Her response? Absolutely not. Mastectomy, yes. Chemo, no. Your profile and oncotype is way too low. 4% incremental benefit if you take chemo. "Not even a consideration," she blurted out. You are kidding me? I didn't even have to make a decision about chemo. After reading my profile, five different oncologists all have said "no chemo." (The medical oncologist actually did say "chemo" on the last visit but seemed to definitively change her leaning.) So, there you go. She didn't even give me a choice on chemo. The only people who said chemo was MDA---institutional policy for micrometastasis.
I'll post again Monday as I go for my first radiation appointment at 8:30am unless they pull me out to put me on the surgery table again.
Here's another silly story. I left my oncologist's office at 5:00pm and went straight to my surgeon's office next door to leave a handwritten note asking for clarification for my confused soul. While trying to slip the carefully crafted handwritten note in perfect penmanship, face up, under her locked glass door, my hand got caught under the rubber sweep guard that allows you to easily slip mammogram files under her door. My hand was stuck! I burst out laughing so hard---at least I wasn't crying. Don't panic. And you know the rest of the story because my hand is typing this post---I got it out! I could envision Bob eventually wondering where in the world his wife was and coming up to find me laying on the floor rolling laughing in a dark vacant building with my hand stuck in the surgeon's door. Who should we call for help? Bob just kept waiting downstairs in the car for me. Wondered why I took so long.
I'm so bewildered and bothered and bold and bracing myself to fall before God this weekend and let Him carry me through this. All I know to do is cry out to Him moment by moment by moment. Reminds me of Deut 1:31. "There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as parents carry their children. He carried you wherever you went until you came to this place." I am going to keep crying out and ask God to carry me and help me live in the present moment while I wait for Monday to come.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 8:53 PM
Seems to me like the past 12 weeks all comes down to this very day. It's the day we finalize the decision to go the chemo route first, or start radiation on Monday. My surgeon released me. She was not able to completely remove all of the DCIS cancer. It is to my chest wall. No further surgery of any kind can remove that. The surgical pathology report noted that the surgical specimen has positive margins, focally positive for DCIS in all margins. That's the surgical medical diagnosis.
All of the above is just information as my good friend Kathryn says. I am safe, no matter what, in the hands of an Invisible, sometimes Silent, Good and Loving God.
I will see my medical oncologist today to finalize chemo and/or radiation. It's a hazy gray area which way to go. Mathematically, the incremental benefit of taking chemo increases my survival rate by 4%. Only four women out of 100 would benefit from taking chemo.
You know, I believed that after the first surgery, my good surgeon would get all of the cancer out. I believed after the second surgery, she would get all of the cancer out. I believed after the third surgery, she would get all of the cancer out. It didn't happen. So what do I do with that? Some think it's your faith or lack of it. Some think it's the way you handle your problems.
We all have different theologies. I do know this. I am a little more stable, a little more stronger in the LORD, and in love with Him a little more, even after going through a horrendous experience for four days this past weekend where my body violently reacted to the anesthesia. And not being able to sleep longer than a couple of hours each night of this week. It was trauma for me. PTSS is what they say. But my mind is very clear this morning even though my body still is not cooperating. I know Whom I have believed in and I am CONVINCED that He is able to keep me until that day. And no one knows what day that is. I am kept by a Mighty Present God. HE meets us in our weakness. It's my theology of weakness and I hold to it. His Strength is made perfect in my weakness. 2 Cor 12:9. I asked for Him to take away the cancer by surgery and He didn't. I believe He still will and the door of healing is always open. I depend on Him whether I feel like He is listening or I am overwhelmed with sensing His Presence. Both happens to me.
So, I'll end with a silly story on this weighty friday. I drove into the hospital parking lot yesterday and stopped to ask the attendant how much the parking was to make sure I had enough in my wallet. This older gentleman looked me straight in the eyes and said: "FREE. It's free for senior citizens." Ha. I guess my pony tail and blue jeans didn't convince him that I might be in any other category. And yes I am a member of AARP. I got a good laugh out of it, though. I'll post again on Monday and tell you where I am---in a chemo chair or under a beam of radiation.
To have friends walk alongside of me during this difficult time means much to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers, your comments, your support, your cards, your love! HE is lifting up my head!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 8:08 AM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I was walking around Dillard's asking, knocking, and seeking in my heart for the God I so love to show up and speak to me. I've just spent the most horrific four days sedated from anesthesia, paralyzed in fear, frozen in a tiny apartment. Crying out to God! The pieces began to fall in place today that I was over-medicated for a fifteen minute procedure or so I perceive. If you've ever had a PTSD diagnosis, then you know the nightmare when your mind is messed with. I'm not medical but I am asking a whole lot of questions about what went wrong with the anesthesia. I was a mess, but make no mistake, I am one glorious mess! A God Who keeps me together. No matter what, God's arm is never too short and His Hand was still on me, covering me, giving me breath. I thought about deleting my last post, but I think you know it was written while I was very upset and bewildered.
It took four days for the anesthesia to finally clear. So, I'm very slowly walking around Dillard's today waiting for the phone call from the surgeon with the news of Friday's pathology report. We're still pretty new to Austin and I've only been to this mall like twice. Never expected to see anyone I knew. I barely recognized this lady who approached me---I had met her at a luncheon. She told me that she should be home packing for an out-of-town trip, but wondered if God had sent her to the mall to meet up with me. She said God had been telling her for the past 24 hours that she needed to call me and tell me that all I needed is faith as big as a mustard seed. And God wanted me to tell you that you've got more faith than a seed in you. Now I don't know about God telling people other things to show up and tell people at a mall....HOWEVER...it was as though God was standing right there for me enveloping me in His arms. I was desperate. I mean, I had just been asking Him for help with what I had been through the past four days and how I could handle the expected phone call with His strength---the phone call that would ring within a few minutes spilling out news if my body still has cancer cells that remain. And there He was, God met me at Dillard's.
And my cell rang....it was my surgeon with the news of the surgical pathology report.
My margins were clear on the last cancerous tumor excised. But! Yes, they found cancer cells at the chest wall, BUT radiation will get those. And, you do not need any further surgery. No mastectomy. Surgery is finished. That's all.
I blurted out HALLELUJAH. And the doctor said it right back to me.
Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou God is all I could keep saying as I hung up the phone. I called Bob first then drove to the park and fell to my knees as cars whizzed by and I just kept saying thank you over and over again to Him I don't have to face a fourth surgery at this time. I didn't care who was watching. I was one happy girl!
My appointment with the surgeon is at 10:15am tomorrow, and I will find out the rest of the story because she wasn't pleased with the interpretation of the pathology report and has asked for clarification from the pathologist. So things could change. I'm reservedly ecstatic!
Then, it's off to the nutrition oncologist who is going to try to help me with this "GI" problem I am still having. I've lost 8 pounds since June 3rd. Something about eosinophils. Then off to the medical oncologist for a final consult on chemo. Will let you know how it all turns out. I'm so grateful to God Who sees it all unfolding from bizarre anesthesia to mustard seeds of faith growing in my heart. Deeply appreciate your prayers that move the hands of our good God.
PS - On April 7, 2009 when I received the diagnosis of "cancer," I taped a mustard seed into a notebook where I would keep all of my medical records. Then I taped a mustard seed into a brand new pink journal that I would start on that day. I'm always looking at those mustard seeds when I open those books up just about every day.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 10:18 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009
I was sobbing for hours in the darkness hoping for some breakthrough. Never came. Evidence of a new morning slipped into my somber mood. I was reading the Book of Job. I made it to chapter 37 and so wondered what God was saying to me. I decided to try to slip out of bed into the stillness of the night and listen to the last four chapters on my iPod and walk, waiting for the break of dawn. I moved my weary body slowly, methodically, soaking up a sunrise no one had ever seen before. I could only walk at a snail's pace and I listened with every ounce of attention to the reply that God gave to Job and his friends in those last four chapters. I was deeply touched by Job 40:4 "I am unworthy. I put my hand over my mouth. I have no answer." It was such a low point. My body was wrecked from the anesthesia as well as a parasite that has been playing havoc with my gi tract since June 3rd. I've lost eight more pounds. But more than that my trusting heart was in a body that was on overdrive and I couldn't slow it down.
Anesthesia went so well for the first two surgeries. What happened? Not so for the third surgery on Friday. It was supposed to be the least invasive surgery. But, I had a new anesthesiologist with a different philosophy. I think he over-medicated me. From the moment I awakened, I began crying out that I felt like I was dying. Can't begin to tell you how badly I have felt all weekend. Extreme exhaustion where I couldn't even get up. Excessive depression that made me feel like I was so unloved. I struggle with that anyway, but this was unreal. My worst fear of anesthesia came true. And I listened hard to those last four chapters of Job. What are you saying to me God?
My friend JoAnn, the nurse, called and encouraged me to attend her breast cancer support group at noon today---she thought God wanted me there. Oh dear! When I went to church yesterday so longing to praise the God I just adore, I began sobbing as the bass of the music went through me and I thought everyone was screaming at me. I sang Praise Adonai and wondered how I could feel so shaken. I haven't even been able to get up out of bed hardly for four days now until this morning's brief walk that did me in. Can't go, JoAnn. She wouldn't take "no" for an answer. "I'll be your nurse and take care of you, Bev!" Maybe it would be good to get out---I'm gonna feel bad here or there. I had no idea what God would hold for me there.
I sat next to an M.D. and shared my horrendous anesthesia experience with her. She unraveled for me a mystery about my body that gave me courage. I was diagnosed with PTSD three years ago when I was separated from treasured friendships I loved then and still do. There are certain drugs you just don't take with PTSD and no one had ever told me that before. It was the exact IV anesthesia and sleep meds that had been given to me. That was why I haven't been able to sleep for three nights, they had made me feel even weirder, so hostile and horrific, such disturbed sleep. That meeting with this doctor was a divine intervention for me that gave me hope that all this anesthesia will continue to wear off. And I will continue to trust God, no matter what. No matter how I feel. It's difficult enough dealing with cancer and so wanting to move on. I will wrestle with our good God to find a rest I know not. I don't know what tomorrow brings. Tomorrow afternoon I will find out if my margins are clear. I am camping in Luke 18---the persistent widow who wants always to pray and not lose heart. I know that I am greatly loved and I'll keep pushing through to love others more than I want to be loved by them. I don't want to live demanding that people treat me a certain way. All I can say is that God is showing up. While I still have very little reserves in my physical body tonight, I believe that God is meeting me in my weaknesses. And I am so humbled that he would arrange an unscheduled free doctor's consult for me this day that unraveled a little more about me.
Seems like people have to have answers in life for things too wonderful. We try to reduce the mystery of this life to "steps" to take to find freedom. All I'm saying is that He is teaching me to live in this present moment of what is really happening in my heart and surrendering to Him, not living for answers but living for his honor. And HE will unwind and unravel and undo all that has been done that's not of Him. I will long remember this day.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:15 PM
Monday, June 15, 2009
UPDATE ON Friday June 19th Surgery: Surgery today went well. I'm in a little more pain than I thought after three surgeries. I had a huge problem recovering from the anesthesia. Versed. Oh my! Felt worse than I could have imagined. They gave me more anesthesia than expected. Thanks so much for praying that our beautiful God remove all the cancer. Trusting Him, no matter what. Romans 8:26. I sent the verse to Abby and she was sending it right back to me---that was so God! The surgical report comes back on Tuesday. Please pray for clear margins!
Britt is doing a CHARITY fundraiser garage sale w/10 families SATURDAY JUNE 20th for children in Chiang-Mai, Thailand at The Horne's---you just have to go by if you live in Austin. Twelve Hyde Park high school students have pulled this off. So disappointed I can't be there to help but the Hornse are amazing in hosting this. The students picked up donated items like wrought iron lawn furniture, designer clothing, furniture, tons of electronics. All the money they make will go to help Nat walk again---he's an 11-year-old that Britt met in one of the villages in Thailand. Brooke took him to the doctor today for an evaluation---it cost $6 for the hospital visit. He will need physical therapy. And the rest of the money raised will help buy clothing and food for tribal village children as Brooke wraps up three years in Thailand---she'll be home July 24th. Pray that people buy lots of stuff and give a few extra dollars to make a difference in the lives of these needy children who are so loved by God.
The Following Post is from Thursday: I can't thank you enough for all of you who stopped to pray for me on Thursday at 8:15pm.
A strange peace came over me as I listened to the mild-mannered unperturbed words of my surgeon this morning. I jotted at the top of my notes "5 loaves and 2 fish." God is going to have to help me get through this appointment. The soliloquy was not the measure of concern that came from the oncologist's pathology report interpretation on Friday. My surgeon was wide awake in surgical strategy actually saying: "Your margins are clear but there is now a second focus of another invasive cancer that is only 3 mm. I removed that new cancerous tiny tumor on Tuesday but those margins are not clear. You now have multi-focal cancer and need final clear margins. I don't recommend a mastectomy at this point, just a partial one. Can we do surgery this Friday at 10:30am to clear those margins?"
Can I please take like a week to mull over this and pray and ponder. No, I can't. I have one minute not one week to wonder. The words spilled out of my mouth with such ease. "Yes, I will submit again to one more surgery this coming Friday." But, I have to be hydrated and over this bacterial infection or I can't do it. So, pray that my body continues to recover. Since the two liters of IV on Friday along with antibiotics, I have been able to keep food down. I have continued to improve every day.
God has continued to open doors for me that are amazing. I'm simply awestruck over here at what He is doing in my heart. I was so upset the day after surgery thinking a "purse thief" took two $20 bills out of my wallet at the hospital. It was my husband who put the money back in the bank since I actually wasn't going anywhere. I thought differently. Funny the things we let bother us rather than choose to love. I asked God to give me back that money and someone at church handed me a normal #11 business envelope with a bunch of $20 bills crammed in it. And here I was, actually surprised at God! It was anonymous---they wanted me to know it was from God. $500 of bills. I think there's more surgery going on in my heart than in my body. Ways I look at things that don't please Him. Sin that comes out of me that so surprises me. And beautiful opportunities to repent before the God Who has taken care of all of our sins. There's hope for my sin!
Attempting Tuesday's surgery while being dehydrated was really devastating. That's the difficult thing in this cancer journey---you manage your own care. I'm not with all the same oncology group---my second and third opinions brought me to other groups. You may ask why---when a radiation oncologist answers my question that his machines are 10 years old, I think I have to find more cutting edge technology. Maybe I'm wrong and it's okay. It does create a medical team that communicates by snail mail. I carry all my own records everywhere, every time. And I'm not medical. But they know I will ask every question that comes to my mind and from my research. And most of the time, I don't know what I'm doing. But this I know----my beautiful God's arm is not too short for me. Isaiah 50:2 - when I called, was there none to answer? Is my arm so short for you? I want to hear Him calling and answer in all my moments, the good ones and the hard ones and the silent ones when I wonder if He is listening.
Bob and I walked out of the surgeon's office looking at each other in amazement with peace. We went straight to the Austin hospital to pick up the tumor, tissue slides. And Bob actually drove my tumor from that Austin hospital to MDAnderson in Houston today for a second opinion on the pathology report. I was not strong enough to take the six-hour round trip. My husband is quite amazing even though he has been accused of being a "purse thief." Isaiah 33:6 describes him well---Christ is the stability of his times and this man offers me so much hope and courage and love, so much!
I am going to take Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and retreat. I'm going to a private place by myself to read and listen and wrestle and wonder and praise the beautiful God Who is so carrying me through this. You won't hear from me over the next three days, only intermittently. I won't be blogging or answering e-mail's or texts or phone calls. He is calling me to fast my words, fast my connections and come to Him.
Then, Thursday night, at 8:15PM at our Mo-Pac apartment, I welcome any of you in Austin to join me and my family to pray for me ---- about 30 minutes. Maybe some of you, like my dear friends Holly and Annette, will slip to your knees where you are some time during that half hour. I know my children will be praying at that moment whether in Thailand or Korea or California or DC---wherever they are. Let me throw in a congratulations to Barrett who came in 10th at a Half Ironman Triathlon in Korea yesterday winning a couple of thousand dollars.
Join us and pray with us, to the same God, Whose arm is not short for me--- even though some of you bloggers will be sitting miles and miles away. God will be listening on Thursday evening to you and your family---send a thought for me. And for any of you close by, just drop by at 8:15pm on Thursday. Call Bob 512.541.5772 for directions to our apartment. It will be the eve of my surgery and I'm asking you to pray. I would be so humbled by your presence before our God for me, whether in body or in spirit. God says in Isaiah 65:24: "Before you even call, I will answer." Please do! I'm still scared but surrendered! Still a mess, but a glorious one! Cannot thank you enough for your praying for me and walking alongside! I need community. I'll talk to you all after my Friday surgery. And maybe I might see some of you on Thursday night---that would be a joy!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:55 PM