Maggie’s Blog

It’s been almost two years since I posted, since Jason, our son-in-law got sick. Going through cancer with him took me off-line with my blogging, and in some ways, with my heart. There was so much to do, so many feelings, I didn’t blog.

I still don’t have answers, but decided to start posting again. I’ve been going through Psalms, rich in emotion and meaning, writing observations. Enjoy!

Maggie

 

 



What a Difference a Week Makes

IMG_1905Jason is responding to the chemo! If this keeps up, he’ll qualify for the bone marrow transplant. We have much to be excited about!

I can help but think about what a difference a week makes.

A week ago we had little good news, little hope. Today it is totally different.

It seems as if I have crashed headlong into Easter week. We were suppose to be in Naples, with Roger’s brother, this weekend, relaxing on the beach. We cancelled the trip in light of all that is going on (a wise decision) but as a result, Easter snuck up on us.

Today is Good Friday, the day the people called for his death, the day he suffered and died.

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day the people called him “King.”

What a difference a week made — to being received to rejected, from being followed to abandoned, from loyalty to betrayal.

As I go through the emotions of the last couple of weeks, I can only image how Jesus and his followers felt. It’s a whirlwind. No wonder his disciples went back to fishing. I know how comforting cleaning house and making meals has been for me. It’s doing something stable, something I know, while internally processing fears about all I don’t know.

Thank you for your prayers. I know I’m not the only one in a whirlwind. Many enter this season with their lives turned upside-down. Pray for them also.

What a difference the next three days made!

Fearful Forward

2011-5-22 Great WallIt’s such an innocent word, forward. When I picked it as my word for the year, I was thinking that I wanted the opposite of backwards, something that would not push me too much out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t like courage or boldness, right?

And yet it is, because it encompasses those words and even more.

You see, when you pick a work like forward, you don’t know where it is going. It may take courage or boldness or waiting or patience. I think I was hoping more for the waiting and patience.

But this week, in order to move forward, I’m going to need the courage and boldness. You see, I’ve been working on a book. Shhh…I’m scared to even write it, to hope for it. It started last year in the midst of cancer treatment. So many ask how I live in the middle of life and death. So I started writing things down, moving forward.

Then, at chapter 5, I got scared.

What if I die before it’s completed? What if no one wants to publish it? What if they do? What if it’s not “good? What if it is good and sells a ton and they want me to do interviews? The “what if’s” were overwhelming me. In fact, the more affirmation I got on the project, the more fearful I became.

I took a break from the project, but it didn’t gone away. I need to move forward.

New week is the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I signed up for it months ago. I’ve been assigned 2 publishers and a seminar leader to pick up at the airport. I can’t back out. Look what this “moving forward” has gotten me into!

Now I have to move forward — I can’t leave people at the airport! But my little introverted self is terrified. Just as I am working myself into a full blown panic attack, a blogger I follow wrote

I think being gentle with my soul looks like grace. It looks like taking a deep breath and enjoying the moment. It looks like letting go of the should’s and ought’s and could have’s. It looks like smiling at the mistakes and moving on. It looks like compassion for ourselves.(Gina Butz)

I should have picked the word “grace” or “compassion” for this year. But since I picked forward, pray I will “enjoy the moment” and keep moving ahead.

What scares you? How would giving yourself grace make a difference?

 

Forward — Taking off Rules

2011-5-22 Great WallI’ve been surprised lately with the effect rules have in my life. A broken leg and then fighting cancer have forced adjustments the last couple of years, but as I think about “forward,” I’m realizing the deeper role they have played.

I didn’t see them coming at first. I was just doing what made sense. I couldn’t walk so I made a “rule” to hobble along on my walker. A walker doesn’t do stairs, so I made a “rule” to delegate the reason I mainly went upstairs — the laundry. I got tired at night, so I made a “rule” to take a nap in the afternoon.

But then, rules begat rules. If I took a nap late in the afternoon, I couldn’t fall asleep at night. So…the rule became, take a nap by 3 pm. And as I began to walk again, I made a “rule” that I could work on the laundry, just not carry it up and down the stairs. I began to see how the Pharisees got into their legalism!

Rules then became subconscious. I became tired mid-afternoon, whether or not I needed a nap. I didn’t try to carry laundry even when I was able to walk stairs. I was limiting myself without realizing I was doing it.

And I think I made a “rule” not to expect to move forward. Maintaining status quo was hard enough. In fact, just not dying felt pretty good.

So right now I’m feeling like a train who just realized it’s not moving. It’s all coupled up to freight cars, but not going anywhere. Between not remembering what it is like to move (what comes first, second, etc.) it’s not sure it should move (is it on the schedule to move? What track should it be on? What is the destination? Should I toot the horn or not?)

So I have a choice…to stay where I am or to move forward. There is risk involved. I might fail. It takes effort to do what use to come naturally.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

I know what it is like to be enslaved to sin and freed. Our physical frailties also enslave us. They can be healed and we can be freed again. Emotional fears can be even stronger than physical limitations, but it’s as I exercise my muscles in faith, I can feel His strength.

Forward…taking off the rules.

What rules have you made that limits your moving forward? What are you going to do about it?

Mission Accomplished

2011-5-22 Great WallI took some notes after reading an article in Real Simple (“Mission Accomplished”, September page 145) that seemed appropriate this time of year when I’m thinking about how we to move “forward.”

  • Choose a Goal
    1. Zero in on something specific and measurable
    2. Make it just hard enough (range goals)
    3. Check that the goal is within your control
    4. Review your skills (performance goal vs. learning goal)
  • Master the Logistics
    1. Break down the goal
    2. Create a detailed agenda
  • Stay motivated
    1. Check in frequently (accountability)
    2. Plant daily reminders
    3. Spread the word – when you write it down and share, you are 33% more successful
    4. Learn from your mistakes
    5. Celebrate victories, large and small
    6. Reassess if necessary

It’s not “rocket science” but just good reminders, something I need to sit down and do. I’m still trying to figure out what “forward” looks like. As I do, I’ll post.

After all, I need every 33% advantage I can get!

What goals are you working on this year? How can I celebrate with you?

Medical Update 11/07/14

2011-5-22 Great WallMy oncology appointment went well yesterday. After 4 weeks off chemo because of low white blood cells counts/diarrhea, I’m back on an even lower dose than before. To give perspective, in the last year I’ve gone from 25 to 10 to 5 and now 2.5. Correspondently, my cancer marker went from 12 to 3 and has stabilized at 4.   If I continue to have side effects from the drug but my cancer maker stays the same, there is a glimmer of hope that I could go off any chemo! That would be so nice.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, but I can’t help but smile.

Medical Update 10/13/14

2011-5-22 Great WallJust wanted to let you know about my last doctor’s visit. He took me off the chemo again, before I finished the round, because of low white blood cell counts. It also gave me diarrhea for more than a week (that may be more than you want to know?!?).

The good news was my cancer is remaining stable, even on a low dose of chemo. I go again today for labs, but it sounds as if he’s going to cut my dose in half again, hoping I won’t have the side effects but that it will be enough to keep the cancer stable. In the meantime, I’m keeping my exposure low and getting things done at home (even writing a little bit!).

We have a trip planned on Thursday, so pray that I am healthy enough to go!

Writing Poetry – Psalm 29

2011-5-22 Great WallPeople have asked me how I got started writing poetry. I can’t remember the very beginning, but I know the Psalms have been a great model for me. When I get stuck (like I have been lately), I go to the Psalms for modeling and inspiration.

Last week I read Psalm 29. I couldn’t help but notice the repetition: “Ascribe” 3 times in the first 2 verses, “The voice of the LORD” 7 times verses 3-9, the “LORD sits…gives…bless” at the end. So I re-wrote the Psalm in my own personal version, thinking through what I would “ascribe” to the LORD, etc. It’s not my best poem, nor do I consider it in finished form, but I thought it might encourage others to think it what their personal version would be. And, who knows, maybe you are a poet!?!

Psalm 29 – A Psalm of Maggie

Ascribe to the LORD, Maggie Bruehl, 

Ascribe to the LORD his majesty and mercy.

Ascribe to the LORD the majesty as creator of all;

Worship the LORD in the mercy of forgiveness.

 

The voice of the LORD created the earth

Formless to form

Sun, moon, stars, waters, and land.

The voice of the LORD created life

A spark connecting sun, waters and land

To make earth lush, green, beautiful

The voice of the LORD fed fish and animals

Creating diversity and beauty

Man stumbles to try to duplicate.

The breath of the LORD created the Spirit of man

In an earthly image of himself

For eternal fellowship.

 

The voice of the LORD called out in the Garden

To woo back that which was broken

To clothe naked vulnerability.

The voice of the LORD found one righteous man

With the faith to build an ark

And hope in the midst of darkness.

The voice of the LORD called out to Abraham

Promising the impossible, giving life to a nation

Offering eternal life to all peoples.

 

The voice of the LORD continues to rule the earth

Through thunder and fire

The sweep of waters.

The voice of the LORD allows man the choice of evil

To give his heart to lust and violence

To destroy what God created and loved.

The voice of the LORD continues to call mankind

Offering intimacy and life

Hope and strength.

The voice of the LORD responds to cries of

Repentance begging for

Mercy, hope and strength.

The voice of the Lord embraces, forgives, restores and renews

Promising eternal life in oneness with him

The perfection He created without sin.

 

The LORD sits enthroned as Father, Son and Spirit.

The LORD sits enthroned, scarred hands held out

May the LORD give strength to me, now one of his people

May the LROD bless me and all his people with mercy.

 

Medical Update

DSC_0378We saw the doctor last Friday. I’ve continued to have issues with the chemo crashing my WBC count at the end of the 3 week sessions. Because of that and some other side effects, he is lowering my dose to try to keep it and the platelet counts from going so low. It is holding my cancer number steady, so I hope reducing it doesn’t change that. I go back in 4 weeks.

I keep getting the question of when will I be through with the chemo. The answer is that I won’t. I have to remember that my kind of cancer is not something chemo kills/cures. It can knock it back, but does not irradiate it like other cancers. Eventuality, this form of chemo will quit working and we’ll try another one or a transplant. The good news is that they are discovering new drugs for multiple myeloma, increasing my chances of dying from old age. 🙂 In the meantime, I’m enjoying life, volunteering back to Cru and loving’ on my family.

Passing it on: Relationships

2011-5-22 Great WallI read a good article in May 2014 Real Simple: Mother-in-Law & Order and realized it explained some things in my own life about relationships in general (even though the focus is on mother-in-laws). Some observations and thoughts from the article:

1 – When did it get started?  “Mother-in-law issues go back to Year One (or a few decades later), when the Roman satirist Juvenal wrote, ‘Give up all hope of peace so long as your mothering-in-law is alive.'” I wonder if some feelings are affected by the assumption we will not get along?

2 – Why Mother-in-law? Why does it not cross gender lines? “Women spend more time than men analyzing and worrying about relationships.” Good point. “In contrast, men don’t often ruminate, and when conflict arises, they tend to shrug it off rather than address it.” I think I need to learn from the men in my life.

3 – Differing expectations? Expectations of female bonding can create conflict. My mother-in-law called frequently when I first got married and had no idea I hated talking on the phone. We finally figured it out. We also have “superwoman” expectations we put on ourselves and others. When you get married, there is the clash of two cultures (unconscious ways of doing life).

4 – Different dynamics? Mother-in-law relationships catch husbands in the middle. Or, could it be that husbands help create issues by encouraging wives or mothers to meet expectations? I’ve seen situations where the husband hides behind a skirt (“My wife doesn’t want to…”) instead of manning-up to his own feelings.

5 – Humor or Hate? Culture has a huge effect on how we view relationships. I HATE mother-in-law jokes! They are not funny and are discrimination. If you think your mother-in-law will be a problem, she probably will. But if you are determined to believe the best and accept unconditionally, it works much better.

6 – Borders? Comments can feel intrusive and critical (Why do you brown your meat first?). If we’re defensive, we’ll accept comments from that angle. On the other hand, I know I’ve asked my daughter questions about how she does things because I sincerely want to learn from her. Ask a question back to explore your differences. If a question feels prying, a response like, “It’s a personal choice” usually gives a signal to back off.

7 – Tattling? Tattling to someone (usually a husband or family member) so that they will take your side is not good. Talking to others to get insight and perspective can be good. There is a fine line between the two, so check motives and be sensitive about how it will affect the person caught in the middle.

8 – Commitments? I remember when my mother asked me to call her every Sunday night and I just bristled. It felt as if personal freedom was being taken away rather than given, and if I failed, I would be judged (my over-active sense of responsibility). Commitments, just like expectations, need to be negotiated so that they understood and work for everyone.

I’ve been fortunate in my mother-in-law relationships, and the article helped me normalize and understand where some of my feelings (even prejudice) comes from. I’d love to learn from you if you want to leave a comment.

When “Stable” Is Exciting

walkIn the past, “stable” has been a boring word to me. I’m such an action person. In fact, according to the Strength Finder’s assessment, two of my top strengths are “Activator” and “Achiever.” Can you see why “stable” feels like no progress at all? Stable is almost a bad as “maintenance.”

But when it comes to my kind of cancer, “stable” is a close runner-up to “remission.” “Cure” is a word I know I will never hear unless there is an incredible medical breakthrough. And I know there are plenty of negative words I have and could hear. So when the doctor said “stable” last week, it was a good thing.

I’m on my 9th round of chemo since last fall. Initially we knocked the cancer back, killing it faster than it was growing. But that’s tough on the body. Now I’m’m at a lower dose of chemo which basically holds it even — we’re killing it at the same rate it is growing. It still compromises my immune system so I have to be careful, but I can still get around.

So “stable” is a good thing. It means I can go on vacation with my family. It means I can make plans with the awareness that they might have to be changed. It means that I get to have lunch with friends and volunteer for projects within the ministry. It means what I dread is coming, but is still a ways away.

I know others who are not in exciting periods in their lives. Their marriage isn’t exciting right now, but stable. Their job isn’t highly motivational, but stable. When do we accept stablity as a good thing and hope (and trust) for things to get better over time? When is faithfulness in less than exciting circumstances what God wants? I’m glad my doctor has a good handle on when to just wait and enjoy life and when to take aggressive action, even it means pain. I pray the same in the lives of others that they will know.

So I’m excited about being “stable.” Right now, i’m rocking on the porch of a cabin in the mountains, listening to gentle drops of rain on tree leaves nearby. That’s something I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t stable. Roger and I had devotions together this morning. That’s something I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t stable. Kids and grandkids are coming to see us the next few days for fun and frolic, something I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t stable. I’m excited to be alive and have opportunity to share “life” with others.

Stable is exciting!