Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hoping to FULLY hope

words.  thoughts.  feelings.  transitions.  movement.  upgrades.  lost luggage.  reuniting.  unexpected. laughter.  carpet.  tears.  coldness.  fires.  other side of the road driving.  hugs.  boots.  missing.  internet.  realizing.   The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  "The Lord is my portion." says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."thinking.  more thinking.  shopping.  remembering.  being.  sleeping.  staying awake.  choosing.  processing. seeing.  connecting.  listening.  sharing.  realizing more.  living.  mourning.  remembering. living. laughing some more.  
Lamentations 3: 22-24


It may be a four letter word, but in my humble opinion, it is a word that is both fragile and polar.  

It shouldn't be.  But it often feels that way.  

It's a word that has recently been put under the microscope... my microscope.  A word that I have used a thousand times in my life is now said with careful thought.  And more often than before, I pause and hesitate to use it.  

I am on the journey of understanding hope and learning how to understand it more thoroughly... more deeply...

It's something I thought I understood.  And in many areas of my life, I feel like I have understood it.  It feesl like it has flowed naturally out of my mouth.  And yet in a moment, I realized that while there was a freedom with the word and a level of understanding.    In reality, it lacked deeper understanding.. it lacked consistency... it lacked something... something I haven't quite put my finger on.  



The words to the verse floated through my mind in a well known tune a bit over a month ago.  

A few days later, I wrote the words on the front page of my journal.  

I thought the words had more to do with his mercies being new each morning.  I had no idea.  

2014 was a full year.  It was good.  hard. stretching. full.  adventurous.  

There was lots of hope with others.

and it was all an honor.  It was all good... true statement from the pit of my soul.  

Hope.  Something worth clinging to yet at the same time hold on loosely too.  Hope.  To be honest, I don't know how well it stands independent on its own.  It strikes me as a very dependent word.  dependent on emotions.  dependent on circumstances.  dependent on wishes and desires.  


and yet I wonder... should it be independent?  Independent of emotions.  Independent of circumstances.  Independent of wishes and desires.  


Several weeks back, a friend said something to me.  A belief that she had of me and my future.  She spoke the words and as they made the vertical drop from my ears to my heart, I felt myself tighten.  The buffer of hope that I thought was there...wasn't.  In that moment, I realized that somehow, somewhere hope had made it exit.  

I am not talking about all hope in my life..... I am talking about hope in one area of my life.

Maybe we all have an area that struggles to trust.... to hope.... to assume the best....

I know I do.  An area where I choose each moment if I will stand.  Stand in truth.  Stand in faith.  And more recently, figuring out how to stand in hope.

Do I stand in something.  I hope this will happen or that will happen? Or is the standing in something deeper... something more solid, more promising, more assured?

I've been thinking and processing.

That passage in Lamentations that floated through my mind hours before I left New Hope... still goes through my mind.  It was a catalyst for a deeper search.   The words in verse 24 resound in my mind and in my heart.

"therefore I will hope in him."

therefore, I will hope in Him.  in Him.

He is the mediator between my desires and my reality.
My wants and my needs.

I hope in Him to provide me with everything I need.  Everything that is and everything that was.

The journey continues.  I want to understand hope more.  To know what it means to FULLY cling to HIM in hope.  To hope with expectancy.  to hope with trust.

I want those words to flow out of my mouth naturally again.  Naturally because I understand His character a bit more.

 Today, I cling to Him and trust that He will show me how to hope in Him in ALL areas of life.

I continue the journey of understanding Him more and more.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

To HIM be the GLORY

Hello! Hello! This post is a few paragraphs longer than most, but I really think  you will be encouraged by it. Our God can do ANYTHING! 

As many of you know, the journey started in the Spring of 2014.  Ketty was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer.   Ketty was sick and treatment in Uganda was not possible.  We made the decision to go to Kenya.  And go we went.  We went unknowing what would happen...but with the peace and provision of our God.  


Ketty and I hopped a night bus and arrived into Kenya.  It was a long bus ride.... 

full of memories that will last a lifetime.  We arrived at the guest house and we both crashed.  Deep sleep for us both.  Unknowing of what the next day looked like..but knowing that our God was with us.  We knew the vertical presence of our God and the horizontal support of so many.  

We were tired... but we had arrived to the Kenya Cancer Centre.
In no time, Ketty was receiving treatment.

It was a year of journeying.  A year of many unknowns... but through it all we knew several things.
We knew our God was with us.
We knew He was good... no matter how the Story ended.
And we, for sure knew that the journey was not walked alone.  Ketty had many, many peeps walking with her.
She knew that.  I knew that.  And it was a gift!

Ketty was declared cancer free on October  24th.
We celebrated.  We were amazed.
We had just said goodbye to Wizeye.
Wizeye had been healed.  His healing just looked different.
He was in Heaven.
We celebrated the physical healing of Ketty.

A few weeks later.
Ketty started having symptoms.
We quickly realized something was not right.
Her left side was becoming weak.
Increasingly so.
Within a short time, she had a CT of her head.
Identified Cancer free one day.... and identified with brain tumors another.

To say there weren't a mix of emotions would be a lie.

We clung to our God as we processed the many emotions.

the many emotions.

So glad God wants to know our hearts and hear our pains.

We kept walking and we planned.

By Tuesday of the following week, Ketty and I were back on a plane.

Headed to the unknown.
But not unknown by our God.

Ketty was weak.  To be honest, I wasn't sure if the story would include her coming back to Uganda.

We arrived back to the Kenya Cancer Centre.

This time, radiation of the brain was ordered.

10 radiation treatments.  1 round of chemo.
Almost 3 weeks later...
  We returned back to Uganda.

The lady that left Uganda was not the same lady who returned 3 weeks later.

She was able to move her left side.  The side that barely worked when she had left.

She continued to walk.
Many around the world continued as they had... to walk.
In prayer support.
in Financial Support.
In words of encouragement.

At the end of December I said goodbye.
I was leaving for four months back in America.
Where I am today.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how deep my goodbye was.
Was it for four months?
Was it till we met again in heaven?
The reality is we never know how deep a goodbye is.

Yesterday, I flew to Portland.
The last time I did that.
I received the news that sweet baby Frank had died.
This time around, I awaited to hear the results of Ketty's scans.
I heard.
I took it in.
I didn't do the happy dance.
 I just absorbed.
And just absorbed some more.

God has done something huge.
And huge... not because Ketty is still breathing FREE of tumors.
Though that is REALLY amazing.
But huge.... because it is just really evident that He did it.
Statistically, things should have been different...
But we don't live under statistics.
We live under the POWER of our GOD.
And stink, HE IS POWERFUL!

I talked with Ketty on the phone this morning.
It was a moment of celebration.
A few minutes later, I talked with Mary (with Geoff in the background)
Another moment of celebration.
God's got this.  He always has.
And so we celebrate.
As I know many, many all over will.

What a journey it has been....
That is FOR sure.
HE has done HUGE things.
In HIS time...
in HIS way...
with HIS handprint ALL over it!

A huge Holla Holla to our God!

Following is an update with specifics concerning Ketty's trip to the doctor.  It was written by Mary.  We have been dubbed by Ketty as her doctors.  Not quite.  Not quite at all.  But together, we have loved on Ketty, taken her vitals, discussed her meds, and ensured she was wearing her face mask when needed and taking her meds.  

Dear friends of Aunt Ketty Okoth,

Our meeting with the oncologist began at 7:45 p.m. last night in Kampala. I had the CT scans and written report in my hands at 2 p.m., but the words of the radiologist were ambiguous so I kept my numerous thoughts to myself and didn't share them with Aunt Ketty as I didn't want to speak out of turn.

When we walked out of International Hospital Kampala after 8:30 last night we were beside ourselves with emotion. It had been a very long day. I had been awake since 3:15 a.m.and left for Kampala at 5 a.m., Geoff had taught in Kampala the day before to the Investment Year students and had stayed in town overnight, and Ketty had traveled to town with the Vogt family yesterday who took her to lunch to celebrate God's miracle work in her body--even before any of us knew actual CT results. 

The oncologist's words included: "remarkable improvement", "dramatic", "remarkable response to radiation", and as he provided details in medical terms of what he saw I noticed Ketty's glazed over look. She was not comprehending what was being said. She stopped him and started, "Doctor, forgive me, but if we could go back a little and review, what are you saying? Am I healed of the cancer?" To which he replied, "Yes, Ketty, you have responded well to the radiation and chemotherapy and it appears that the esophagus has no more cancer, and though there is a small spot on the brain, it is most likely scar tissue."  Ketty asked, "So, what does that mean? Are we done? What about my liver and abdomen?" He then gave her the good news that no sign of cancer was seen in any of the organs. Her face was unchanged except for her big eyes and raised eyebrows. She then breathed deeply, shook her head, clapped her hands and said, "God, be praised." The doctor reminded her of their words together before her being sent to Nairobi last November regarding expecting God to continue His healing in her. And so He has! The follow-up plan is to perform CT scans every six months unless she is experiencing symptoms warranting an earlier check. 

On the way home she called her family and I sent notification texts of the great news. Geoff simply tried to drive as safely as possible given that we were caught in Kampala Friday night jams and then were traveling in village darkness coupled with bright oncoming headlights until we reached home around 11:30 p.m. Some of her children and her husband were still awake and enthusiastically greeted her as we pulled up to their home. We fell into bed well after midnight, full of thanksgiving.

THANK YOU for you financial support, your prayers, your messages of encouragement to Ketty and her family and your faith in the LORD GOD's goodness! Please continue to pray for her body to remain free of cancer in the future. 

The follow-up CT scans cost $300 and each doctor consultation appointment costs $30 with transport at $65. Our first follow-up appointment is March 6 and is simply for her to meet with the doctor to discuss her progress. If you desire to be a part of the financial support for these costs you may send monies to New Hope Uganda Ministries, P.O. Box 154  Belle Fourche, South Dakota, 57717 designating it for the Ketty Cancer Fund on a separate piece of paper.

Thank you all so much for your amazing support throughout this journey!!!!!

A few days ago, I went to breakfast with my sis.  
In freezing cold Minnesota.  freezing cold is an understatement.  
Not that Fort Wayne is much warmer.  

At the restaurant... I spotted the millet porridge.
I immediately thought of Ketty.
Ketty LOVES her porridge.
And so I ordered some.
And ate in her honor.

Oh Ketty Okothi.  I love you friend!
SO thankful to have had the HONOR of walking with you.
Today, it's miles and miles away, but I am close to you in heart.
I stand in celebration.  celebration for what He has done in you.
Yes, for what He has done in your body.
But just as equally, if not more... for what He has done in your heart.

God-willing, I'll see you in a short while.

And so with that said... I leave  you with a few pictures from the last year.... 

Lucy, Ketty, and I having fun with the macbook picture taker.... 

We couldn't stop laughing...

This was way back... after the completion of ONE week of treatment...

A more "serious" picture...