“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
The LORD has done great things for us, we are glad.”
Psalm 126:2a & 3
I have had the most incredible summer! I have been truly blessed and am in awe of God’s provision and care. The prayers of others have had a powerful impact on my circumstances and my physical condition. With humility I celebrate all that has been accomplished, enjoyed, and experienced. And I feel so very well!
My monthly trips to MSKCC have brought only good news thus far. My breathing is normal, the doctor can no longer feel the mass in my liver, and my blood tests results have shown an unbelievable improvement. One cancer antigen test result dropped from a high of 191 on April 15th to 47 on August 5th. Normal is 0 to 36. The other cancer antigen test result is even more astounding. It has dropped from a high of 454.2 on April 15th to 5.9 on August 5th. Normal is 0 to 5!
I have a PET scan scheduled for Wednesday, September 4th, and a meeting with my doctor on Friday, September 6th. Confessing that awaiting these test results is a sobering event, I am trusting in the One Who loves me best to do what best glorifies Him. I was reminded through Pastor Torres’ sermon this past Sunday that God is interested in “our good always.” (Deuteronomy 6:24) Although I pray for an extended period of freedom from symptoms, I know that He does all things well, is totally trustworthy, and loves me beyond anything I can imagine. I humbly pray that I “may be filled with all the fullness of God (grace and truth)” for His purposes and to His glory. (Ephesians 3:19; John 1:14)
During this time, I also had an offer on my house and seriously considered a move, but in the end, I realized that my present situation is the most cost-effective. Joan has finally convinced me that I should not be doing so much maintenance myself. She has become a sort of barometer for gauging how much pressure I should put myself under. She may have finally convinced me!
At the end of May I had told Joan that my attendance at my great nephew’s graduation party was in question, but by the beginning of June I was feeling so much better that I made the drive to Maine, stopping overnight in Freeport on the way there. I had the most wonderful week! Christian’s other set of grandparents made the trip from Las Vegas and his mother and her husband came from North Carolina. In addition to the party, I was treated to wonderful fish dinners, great conversations, and great memories. It was a blessing to be included in every possible way. I felt embraced, accepted, and loved. As a single in a world of non-singles this was very special indeed!
Joan followed through on her offer to return to New York with me and what a time we had! Our main goal was to make those difficult decisions concerning things like my mother’s Aunt Jennie’s hot chocolate set. We accomplished so much! I must confess that knowing I have a terminal disease does give me a valuable mindset concerning the material things in my life. Joan and I were extremely decisive and definitely “on the same page” with everything. And we had fun! There was food involved and a little shopping, but in the end the house was transformed into Vickie’s house – destuffed and a bit blingy. I even came up with a description of the resulting style: primitive, Federalist bling! Someone told me that there is no such thing. Have they not been to my house? In addition to our endeavors we also went to the bank so I could have Joan’s name added to my bank account. It is something my mother did with me before she became seriously ill and, in the end, it made things so much easier.
The following week Paul came with his truck. His multifaceted capability was a great complement to Joan’s artistic eye. He replaced my dining room light fixture, took big things to the transfer station and the Habitat Resale Store, fixed a very unruly closet door, a loose flagpole, and so much more. He was extremely resourceful in disposing of the old microwave oven. After many trials, he used the jack from my car to pry it from the wall! Joan and Paul! What a team! When they left, they filled the truck with things of which to dispose in Maine. Many of those things were returning home!
After she left, I continued to participate in a mix of projects and rest. I am beginning to appreciate the latter in ways I have not before. I am reminded of an extremely impactful devotional I read many years ago. It discussed the fact that we are created with physical limitations, but even our God who has no such limits set the example for us by resting on the seventh day. The devotional pointed out that if we work beyond our limits we are saying that our work is more important than His, as He does a restorative work in our bodies while we rest. I remember the shock in my initial reading of that. But I thought I was serving Him by working so many hours and trying to function on insufficient sleep! To this day it is a battle I fight, but, given my present condition, I am stopping more frequently and respecting the principle.
In July I returned to Maine because my nephew and his family were coming from Japan. With the increase in hotel rates for summer, I drove to Bangor on the first leg and arrived in Calais the following afternoon. It was another great visit! With my other nephew and his family owning the house neighboring Joan and Paul’s property, we were all together except for my niece who is now in Washington State. More good fish, sweet memories, fun times with the kids, another sermon from Paul, special times with the best big sister in the world, and even, believe it or not, shooting some baskets on Joan and Paul’s half-court in the back yard! When someone told me that my basket was not bad, I reminded them that I am sixty-six years old and a three-time cancer survivor with a recent terminal diagnosis. I encouraged them to reassess my shot! There are times when subjectivity may be more appropriate than objectivity!
On my way to Maine on the second trip I received an email from my department chair at MSMC asking if I would be interested in teaching in the new Summer Bridge Program for incoming science majors. It involved three hours of teaching mathematics on each of nine days. It is a testimony to the way in which I am feeling that I responded in the affirmative without even checking my barometer, Joan. I also got word that they had given me a second course for the fall semester. That gave me the same schedule I had in the spring, Tuesday and Thursday from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Who would have thought that I would be up for that! Keep praying, friends!
When I was in Maine, Paul had been encouraging me with my many writing projects. At the conclusion of our last discussion I told him in passing that maybe what I needed was a writer’s retreat. But how could I rationalize the expense. Maybe, I thought, I could arrange my schedule and do it at home. A few days after my return from Maine I received a message from a former colleague offering me a week at the Word of Life Inn in Schroon Lake. I immediately accepted, although I would not be able to leave Newburgh until Tuesday because of a doctor’s appointment on Monday. What a gift! My accommodations were lovely, the speakers were inspiring, and the food was plentiful! Although I often like to visit places in the area that were part of my early life, I committed myself to writing and resting every afternoon. The result was my first blog post in five years! In addition to these abundant blessings, I made a new friend and reconnected with someone with whom I had taught during the first seven years of my career. The faculty at Hackensack Christian Schools were a family. They were some of the most dedicated and godly people with which I have ever served. Such was the case with this individual. Just being with her was a means of God’s ministering to my soul. Another demonstration of God’s amazing choreography! He had my heart dancing!
Arriving home on Saturday afternoon I mowed the lawn and prepared for another visit from Joan and Paul on Sunday evening. They were on their way to Liberty University to drop Christian off for his freshman year. They also had their friend, James, with them. They were dropping him off at Patrick Henry for his freshman year. They all stayed with me and left the next morning. I began teaching in the Summer Bridge program that afternoon. The program required a lot of preparation and was a bit intense, but I really enjoyed it so much. The students were very special.
The program ended the following Thursday and then I attended some of the professional development sessions on Friday at MSMC. After spending some time with Paul’s mother and sisters in South Carolina, Joan and Paul stayed with me once again on their return trip home.
My new semester began on Tuesday, August 27th. I continue to love to teach and I enjoy my students. I am especially cognizant of the classical education goals of pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful. That seems to be a valuable goal for life, as well. Mathematics is a wonderful avenue for this. I truly believe that it cultivates wonder, worship, and wisdom. As God is the source, the study of mathematics reveals His power, purposes, and character. This is my passion. What God will do with this in the time I have left remains to be seen! Another prayer request for guidance?
Thank you again for your powerful prayers, encouragement, and love. I praise God for His presence, faithfulness, and love. The last two weeks we have sung the song, “Yes I Will”, during the Sunday service. It has especially touched my heart and remains with me every day. Although I am not someone who is very demonstrative during worship, the testament to the touch is the pesky tear that has escaped my eye at the same point in the song. I will close with some of the words to that special song by Eddie Hoagland, Jonathan Smith, and Mia Fieldes.
“I count on one thing
The same God who never fails
Will not fail me now
You won’t fail me now
In the waiting
The same God who’s never late
Is working all things out
Is working all things out
Oh, yes I will, lift You high in the lowest valley
Yes I will, bless Your name
Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy
For all my days, oh yes, I will
For all my days, oh yes, I will”