Tuesday, December 31, 2013

HAPPY 2014

A new year looms before me. The digit 13 will change to 14. It begs some thought on my part. I should never have seen the digit change to 12. I was projected to die in 2011. And now I will see 14. So many more months of life that I have been able to treasure with my husband and son and parents and brothers and friends..... God has been amazingly good to me.

Today I am offered the question, Was this the life you would have chosen? And the answer is No, of course not!! I would not have chosen lung cancer. I would not have chosen vitreous detachments. Looking even further back, no, I would not have chosen 6 years of infertility or bouts of depression. I did not sign up for any of that.

But do any of us ever really live the life the thought we would have? For better or for worse, most of our lives are not what germinated in our brains as children and teens and young adults. Some of us got hit really hard. Some of us got blessed abundantly. But I think most of us have had a modicum of both, and much of it was not planned.

The life I thought I would have did not have incurable cancer written into its middle chapters. Everything about that feels so very wrong. But the life I thought I would have did not include a husband who is both a secure, solid rock and a gentle loving servant. I did not think I would have one amazing child who fills me with unspeakable joy. I did not think I would have an army of friends who have loved me in spite of seeing the worst in me. 

Life is what life is. It is riddled with much of what I never anticipated. And were it not for the grace of God, I would not be able to absorb the pain and disappointment that is laced into the blessings I never expected.

It makes me think of the iconic song by Garth Brooks, The Dance:

          And now I'm glad I didn't know

          The way it all would end, the way it all would go
          Our lives are better left to chance,
          I could have missed the pain, 
          but I'd have had to miss the dance.

If someone had asked me at age 20, if, knowing what pain was ahead, would I still want to "do life," I'm not sure what I would have said. At 20, we are trying to hitch our wagons to stars, and the thought of infertility or cancer or depression or any number of other issues I have had to face may have seemed like life would not be worth living. 

All these years later, now painting my life with the colors of middle age, I could say to the 20-year-old me, DO IT. Don't miss the dance. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is grief and disappointment and struggle, but oh, there is the dance.....

The dance of being loved and loving. The dance of nurturing and molding a tiny new life. The dance of living with your Savior and Shepherd who gives all that you need. The dance of summers at the cabin and wonderful books and friends flocking around you in prayer and love. The dance of seeing the eyes of your students light up with a new realization they have just made through your words. The dance of seeing answers to prayers so deeply prayed that they could be nothing less than miracles. 

Ah, the dance. We cannot forego the pain to miss the dance.

God has allowed pain in my life. He has allowed even greater joy. No, this life I lead is not the life I saw as a North Dakota teenager. It has been different. It has been much harder. It has been much better. But for my faith in God's sovereignty, the "harder" parts may have stolen my very breath away. But I am still walking forward in this different-than-expected life I have been given.

I do not know what is ahead. For even tomorrow. And I do not want to know. History tells me that in 2014, I will both cry and rejoice. Conventional wisdom says that hands down, I will encounter joys and pains I never envisioned once in a little girl's dream.

Perhaps it is the great secret of the universe, that in the end, none of our lives really resemble what we dreamed about. And perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves in this new year is letting go of the life we planned in order to embrace the life that we now have.....the life that maybe we were meant to live all along. 


Thursday, December 26, 2013


We have had a wonderful week! A weekend full of friends and fun (Sam has such great friends!) was followed by a stirring Christmas Eve service and a sweet relaxed Christmas with just our family. God is so good. We are so blessed.

Sam's girlfriend Gretchen and two of his best friends and roomies, Lee and Sam. 

Sam and Gretchen going to the wedding of Sam's friend Zach.

Sam's best friend James and his new wife Meredith (and pup Molly)
were able to come on Sunday on their way to their new home in Nebraska.

Ekstrom tradition.....baking and decorating cookies for Christmas Eve.

Sam liked his new Kevin Love shirt.

I got a great tee from Sam....a Vikings/KFAN shirt with Paul Allen's
twitter hash tag!!

We had our next door neighbors Burt and Jeanette over for Christmas
night dessert and hot chocolate. They are great friends and awesome neighbors.

Sam has left for a week, but will be home for 2 more weeks after that and we intend to cram them with more family memories. Our extended time together is waning, as graduation and a future full-time job loom in his future. We will make the most of every day! 

Wishing all who read this a very blessed 2014.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Dick and I just returned from our oncology appointment getting the PET scan results from last week. We always go in expecting God will show His hand with divine healing, and we will never waver from that expectation because we believe it will happen. So anything less than that is always initially a bit of a disappointment.

That said, we are encouraged that my tumor has not grown since January, and the metabolic uptake has decreased 25% so the cancer activity has been tamed a bit. All positive news. For a Plan B, we'll take it!! God is good. ALL THE TIME!!

After 4 weeks of viral bronchitis, I am finally well with only a bit of a lingering cough which may last for a couple more weeks, but I finally have gained some stamina back and hope to make a complete recovery. I am trying my best to gain back part of the 5 pounds I lost over the past 2 weeks, but I am highly unsuccessful at that task. Why don't they write books about weight GAIN???

Sam comes home for his break on Thursday night and we couldn't be happier that the family will be all together for a few weeks!

Sunday, December 8, 2013


If you asked me if I ever have a chink in my armor of faith for healing, I would say rarely. But when it comes, it is almost always on top of a physical illness which has laid me flat and just before my next PET scan. Both are the case right now, and I am struggling with Satan. When I am depleted from illness, I am so vulnerable to the devil's lies, and knowing my next scan is Tuesday (first PET since January) somehow allows his voice into my head even more insidiously.

This is the beginning of the end, Mary. You lost 4 more pounds this week and you really do look haggard. Wait until you are skin and bones in death. What songs should they sing at your funeral? Sam won't even miss you when you are dead. Maybe you should tell Dick your plans for burial or cremation this week. It's not too soon. Slow deaths are ugly, Mary. You dying is really going to kill off your parents. Dick is tired of having a sick wife around the house. Better that you were gone.

And that is just for starters. I am tired from it all. And I start to believe it. And that gets me down. And then that makes my physical recovery slower.

Why can't the devil just leave me alone for awhile? I feel as if I have been attacked weekly or daily for 3 years.

My bronchitis has finally turned a corner I think, but I had a bad side effect from Mucinex which lasted 3 days (nausea and plummeting blood pressure) until we figured out that it was the drug. That has set me back a bit. I have no immune system anymore and what used to be a week's bronchitis is now a 3-week event and recovery. My body is weary of fighting everything so hard.

I know Satan does not hold my future. I know that I am in God's sovereign will, but these past days have been really hard. Any warfare prayers you have for me are appreciated.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


You might have guessed that I have been sick yet again.

Bronchitis has invaded my lungs, and with a compromised immune system from chemo and compromised lungs from cancer, this has taken a bite out of me. We had a wedding over Thanksgiving in northern MN.....a wedding I wouldn't have missed for the world. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed home in bed and rested and let the guys go alone, but I had to be there to see Sam's best friend get married. God graciously gave me a pocket of grace during that 4-hour period. It really was pretty uncanny. My cough was under control and I did not feel fevered and even felt like dancing a bit. However, the minute we got back to the motel, my whole system took a nosedive and I have felt worse than ever.

The doctor said she has seen this last 3-4 weeks, and I am praying I will be the exception. I am camped out on the sofa, coughing like crazy, bored, and unable to exert any energy at all. My sweet husband has not had a home-cooked meal for 2 weeks. I am grateful for Dick who just quietly steps up to the plate and takes over when I am out of commission.

It is difficult to find anything to be thankful for when you feel so awful, but it is in those bored, sick moments all day long that I need to focus on all I DO have, including a brand new great-niece, Hazel, born a week ago, healthy and adorable. I can't wait to meet her.

Thank you in advance for prayers for my health. I keep telling the Lord I need new lungs! RIght now, I need patience as I fight this bronchial battle!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


It's been said to me. It's most likely been said to you. It's engraved on key chains, wood plaques and bumper stickers.


I can barely type the words. It is a cliche' I have come to loathe. Here's why.

First of all, it is biblically inaccurate. Our Creator God, who lavishly loves His children, is not sitting on His throne with a magic pain-metered wand meting out heartache, illness and devastation.

The trite saying implies that God gives us just so much sorrow or cancer or financial ruin or emotional abuse and then He stops when we are surely struck down, but not quite destroyed.

What theological misspeak has been preached for generations that makes people think God originates pain? That, my friends, is Satan's MO. He has an army of terrorists prowling about like lions waiting to devour (1 Pet 5:8) God's kids, poised at all times to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).

Satan's MO. Not God's.

Does God allow hardship when He can prevent it? Yes. And I don't know God's mind so I don't know that WHY any better than you do. Sometimes I think he sees what Satan means for great evil, He will be able to turn to much good. Other times, I think God just lets our fallen, sinful world spin around itself, letting natural consequences land where they will.

OK, so what if the cliche' was reworded to: GOD DOESN'T ALLOW MORE THAN WE CAN HANDLE.

I still choke on it. Why? 

BECAUSE HE DOES allow more than we can handle sometimes. 

Can not all of you reading this proclaim that truth? That there have been moments so raw and so black that you thought you would never be able to crawl out of the darkness?

Ask the young widow with 3 children who watched her husband be incinerated in the Twin Towers. Ask my niece Rachel who saw the soft beating hearts of 4 unborn babies, none of which she got to hold. Ask the Filipino family this week, wandering in hunger and thirst having NOTHING left. No possessions, no home, no livelihood, no security, no community. Ask my aunt and uncle who buried their active vibrant son a mere 6 weeks after hearing a cancer diagnosis.

You ASK these people. Just ASK THEM. Was it more than you could handle? I can tell you what any of them would say: "Damn straight it was."

Can't all of us cite people (ourselves included) we know who have simply had too much to handle.....a plate handed to them overflowing with pain? I think we can.

And in that very dark place, I believe God knows that the ones who love Him will turn to Him to seek their sanity, their footing, their peace, and their comfort. They will trust Him to bring them back to a place where they CAN handle the pain. It is probably only in that knowledge....that He knows what He can do to rescue us....that God can stand by and watch what this shaken world and the master of it can dish out to His beloved followers.

If we never had more than we can handle, would we need God at all? If we never went over the edge into the abyss of heartache, would we ever really cherish God's provisions and healing?

The next time a typhoon of immeasurable devastation floods my life and somebody says to me, "You know God won't give you more than you can handle," I am armed with an answer quite different than my usual passive nods have been in the past. 

I will say, "You know what, my friend? That platitude holds only dead air. This grief IS more than I can handle. It is simply too much for me to bear right now, but God did not put ANY of this anguish on me. It is not His doing. And I have all the faith in the world that He will carry me to the place where I CAN someday handle it."

Seems about time that we Christians start having a voice about who our God is and who He is NOT. 

Monday, November 11, 2013


It has been a very difficult 2 weeks since the vitreous detachment in my good eye. Trying to adjust to the shadows and the blur and the "busyness" in my field of vision has taken me off my game. I am trying to learn a new normal, but the pleasure in reading or walking or driving or movies is quite limited. 

The specialist said nothing new. There is a surgery they can do which is 98% effective in helping reduce the floating vitreous, however, if you are in the 2% with a bad outcome, it would be far worse. Let's just say my odds for health have not been that great in the past 3 years. He wants me to see if my brain can do any accommodating to it first. It would be a tough decision, even at 98%. (Plus, most people who have it done need cataract surgery within 2 years)

On the heels of that, I had 8 days of bad stomach pain and pleurisy to deal with. Both of those things have cleared up for the most part, so I am left now with just trying to live this new life with limited clear vision. 

Sometimes I think that I have had my share, thank you very much, of attacks and problems, and I wish it would all just stop already. But I need to deal with what is.

I know God is my Healer and I have given Him yet another issue to heal, and to get glory from. I do not know His timing, but my faith is steadfast. Jesus was, after all, an eye healer. His specialty was blindness and eye disorders, so my faith is in the right person.

It is in the waiting on Him that I need strength and courage, and feel I have had little of both the past 2 weeks.

How I wished I had thanked the Lord every day of my life for my vision.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Continued from yesterday.....

I thought I had 36 hours of waiting. Sam, in his usual decisive way, shortened the wait.

My son was born with an opinion. I don't mean that he was willful or challenging. He was THE most compliant, sweet, loving, sensitive toddler and little boy I have ever known. He just always knew what he wanted and could express it well. If I asked him which lullaby tape to put on at bedtime, he immediately told me which out of about 25 he wanted. What kind of cookies should we bake together today? Which (of about 35) Thomas the Tank engines are you gonna put on the track today? Always an instant answer. He has always known what he desires, dislikes, and needs.

And he wanted to decide his own birth date.

He apparently felt that a Tuesday the 5th was more to his taste than a Wednesday the 6th.

At 3:00 AM on the morning of the 5th, my water broke and it quickly became the beginning of the end of waiting.

Back labor is something they don't teach you about. There are no stomach contractions to "breathe through." It is just constant back pain. I thought Dick's arms would fall off from all the pushing and massaging of my back that he did for all those hours. 

For a first baby, my labor was not long. At 11:21 that morning, our 5 lb 12.5 oz baby boy took his first breath and we stepped into parenting.

Nothing can prepare you.


There was no love we could equate with the love we felt for this tiny human. It was beyond any explanation anyone could have tried to impart to us. There were no words in the English language that could express the fierce, overpowering love we felt for this gift from God.

There still aren't.

Today at 11:21, Sam turns 22. He is still all that he was then----- sensitive, self-aware, loving-----and so much more. He is a young man of integrity and hard work. He loves the Lord. He is smart and funny and generous. 

Most importantly, 22 years later, the three of us are still woven into a family fabric that cannot fray.

We were only given one child. God gave us, on that cold and snowy election Tuesday, more than we could ever have asked.

Happy birthday, Sam! You bring us as much joy today as you did 22 years ago and every day in between.

We love you to the moon and back!!

Monday, November 4, 2013


Duluth was embalmed in snow. Like today, it was another Monday morning, November 4. 

22 years ago.

The 3 day "Blizzard of '91" had just dropped its last flakes of snow and the city was still paralyzed. 36 inches of snow, immense drifts everywhere.

I was grateful that I hadn't gone into labor over the weekend, as we would have needed a snowmobile to get me to the hospital.

My regular doctor's appointment was mid-morning on Monday and we knew that to get the car, Dick would need to shovel at least 4 feet of snow starting at our back door all the way to our garage which was probably 30 feet away. I was in no shape to help him. If we could just drive 50 feet downhill, we could be on a main drag and get to the clinic.

Yes, these are real pictures of that day!

We got to the clinic (my doctor was late because she had trouble navigating the streets) and I told her I didn't think I could take much more back labor. It had been a week since she took me off the Terbutaline to quell my pre-term contractions. After laying in bed for 6 weeks, I had been hopeful to have a quasi-normal period of time before the arrival of "Boomer." But I immediately started back labor and spent the week in great back pain, sleepless, delusional at night (the '91 World Series was fresh in my mind and I thought my pillow was Kirby Puckett.......wish we had THAT Twins team back.....I digress).

My doctor agreed that enough was enough and even though the baby would be almost 3 weeks early, she knew he was at least 5 pounds and she felt it was safe to induce. We set it all up for Wednesday, November 6. I was glad we would be able to get out to vote on Tuesday, the 5th, as the plows would have all the major arteries open. Our son was to be born on November 6!

We did not have a name for him, but we had his birth date. Nervous excitement blanketed us and as Dick left me at home and went to work, I was filled with wonder that the time was imminent and questions that all of a sudden surfaced:

What would my sweet boy look like?
Would I be a good mom?
Would Mom and Dad be able to make it into Duluth?
Would breast-feeding go OK? 
Would the nursery ever get done?

I had about 36 more hours of life as I knew it, but I had no idea that the life awaiting us after this baby boy would slide from my womb would be so amazing, so joyous.

I had no idea.

On that November 4th morning, I simply was anxious to have labor and delivery over and to see our son. 

The waiting began.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


I have put myself in self-imposed seclusion this week. It is my own personal rescue operation. I am spending many hours talking with the Lord, reading Scripture, dusting myself off from the grief of Sunday's reality, and trying to get back on the faith horse. I am spending time doing "normal" things that need to be tried with the "new eyes".....reading, writing, walking, watching TV. I am training myself in the new normal, praying for God to remove the intense self-awareness of the "greasy blobs" floating around in my vision. 

The bottom line has been God's question posed to me: MARY, CAN YOU TRUST ME? That is the fundamental question right now, and one that I have taken days to answer. 

I wish I could say that the doubts did not creep in. They did. But this period of seclusion with God from the outside world has helped me toss them out. 

Here's where I am. If I have complete faith in the Word of God which promises healing for my cancer and my right eye, why wouldn't I have faith for both eyes? Like God is only Healer enough for one side of my face? I mean, how shallow would my faith be? There are no limits on my God of abundance for total healing, and I expect it. BOTH EYES. LUNG TUMOR. ALL of it.

So with that backbone in place again, I now just pray that God will help me adjust to living with the blurriness until the day He chooses the healing. I welcome any prayers along that line. 

Appreciate your vision, friends. Every day. Every hour. It is more precious than you know.

Monday, October 28, 2013


I do not blame my son who says, even tongue-in-cheek, that he fears for his life because his mother has become Job. Job lost everything, and then lost his entire family. Don't think that Satan is incapable of doing that again. Seriously, he is out to claim victory over me.

On Saturday, I had a second large vitreous detachment in my one good eye, the eye I have relied on heavily the past year since my right eye has been so compromised from last November's vitreous detachment. It is almost too much to tell about the grief I feel over the need to learn how to do life without clear vision.

I spent my birthday on Sunday at the eye doctor, and in tears, trying to absorb the immediate reality of this loss. I ask you, Satan, what more will you attempt to steal, kill and destroy of mine?

I have not tried to drive. If I cannot, I can no longer drive to Fargo to visit my parents or even go into the city to do errands. This loss would be huge.

It is clear in Scripture that the Lord ALLOWED Satan to take everything from Job. He clearly has allowed Satan to do it to me as well. God could have prevented this. I do not understand His ways....they are always far above my own ways and thoughts. But I thought perhaps He knew that I have already reached my limit of endurance the past 3 years.

I had to cancel my long-awaited and planned-for flight to Georgia today. Another huge loss.

When Dick came in the house for lunch this noon, he said, "Mary, the word I got from the Lord is that you are to rejoice in all things, in all circumstances, and that He will get all the glory when He heals your eyes. And He WILL heal your eyes, because God's promises for healing are His word, and He cannot lie."

So, for right now, I am resting in God's arms, trying to muster up the courage to praise Him in this, letting the Holy Spirit just minister to me, and praying for strength to accept what feels unacceptable.

And the well-known verse from Job that I carry in my heart right now? 23:10. AFTER HE HAS TESTED ME, I SHALL COME FORTH AS GOLD.

May it be so.

Friday, October 25, 2013


I've had a really tough month of chemo side effects-----all in the form of the classic chemo-plug up. Yet again. Except this time I fear that my peristalsis is permanently damaged. I have had exactly 4 bowel movements in one month, all brought on by "excessive" efforts. The treatment that has been working so well for 5 months all of a sudden has stopped. If you need something to pray for, please pray that God would heal my peristalsis and that my bowels would be able to tolerate the chemo without me having to be wiped out for 2 days every week with treatment.

That said, I refuse to see that one large problem as being more significant than all of the smaller things to be grateful for, that make me smile, that impress me. So many good things have happened this week that overshadow my chemo-complaints.

***Those of you who know me well know I HATE to shop, and that a trip to the city to run errands is always a pained day. But this week I needed to go buy a new freezer because ours  (yes, full of fish and berries) was found dead one night this week. I had 4 other errands and each went swimmingly well. Each store either took my return without question, had exactly what I needed, offered me free gift wrapping, or just happened to have an item (on clearance) that I had been needing for a long time. It was not a pained day. It was really OK. That made me smile.

***I was so impressed to receive a thank you from my niece Tamela within 13 days of her wedding. Not too many young people today understand the importance of thank yous, and some come months after the fact. Tam knows her social graces. Kudos to her for being so thoughtful.

***I was asked to be a part of a team of people from church to design the new website, and I am so excited to be a part of this. I asked Sam's girlfriend Gretchen for any advice she had for the team, as she is passionate about this type of thing and works in marketing. She had done an internship at a church and worked on this same thing. She gave us a boatload of great suggestions and points to ponder. I was so impressed by all her knowledge and was so proud of her input!

***We went to our last "Parents' Weekend" at Dordt last weekend. 'Twas bittersweet! Got to sit with Sam in the booth as he broadcasted the hockey game. Then we went to the Alumni-Varsity basketball game together, took in some of the Praise and Worship hour at the student center, took him out for something to eat, and then came home. We were so incredibly moved and impressed by Dordt's Praise Team. Wow. Talk about real worship. When I said to Sam, "You mean, THIS is what you have gotten for the past 3 years," he said, "Yeah, I've been spoiled, haven't I." Dick and I are so grateful for this Christian culture he has been able to wrap himself in for 4 years of his life.

***Sam has his last broadcast of our high school football team next Tuesday. Anyone who would like to listen to him... he is at www.equalizeronline.com, click on the red Red Eye Sports box along the top, then click into the game listed on the right side. The game will probably start at 6:45 or 7:00. (It will be listed in a few days). We are so proud of his work. He has been asked to broadcast the Tanagers' basketball season too. Anything that brings him home for an hour, or even an overnight, we are excited about!


I am headed to Georgia for a week to see my best friend. I hate to fly like I hate to shop, but once I get there, it'll be great to be together again!

Monday, October 21, 2013


Any of you who have been following this blog for any length of time will know that I have been given an amazing gift of faith for my healing. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes through hearing the word of God, and indeed, that was all I needed to stake my faith in His promises. I have been taking God at His word, not knowing the timing of when He would reveal the healing, but believing it was mine before I saw any physical manifestation of it.

I have had faith for the healing of my vitreous detachment, which has given my right eye very blurry vision, my cancer, and my knee pain.

And tonight, I can tell you that God has healed one of those. My knee pain is gone. After 3 orthopedic evaluations and an MRI, none of which yielded the cause, and 19 months of 24/7 pain and locking, my knee is healed. 

Today I can put my legs together with my toes pointed forward for the first time in 19 months. Today I can walk without pain. Today I have no locking. Today I can put all my weight on my right leg for the first time in nearly 2 years.

Praise God.

In late August, I told Dick that I had better make that appointment for the arthroscopy that they recommended in May. He told me not to. He told me to wait.

And 3 weeks ago, I began noticing the change. And the healing seems to be complete.

I love what Jesus said to Martha when they were about to roll away Lazarus' stone. He said, "Didn't I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

Jesus says it to me, and He says it to you. 

If you believe (and when you wait on Him) in His word, you will be able to proclaim His glory for what He will do for you.

I serve an awesome God. And because of His power and authority and faithfulness to His own promises, I have my knee healing.

All glory to my Creator.

Monday, October 14, 2013


I have come to the point of feeling that one of the greatest frustrations for me spiritually is listening to people talk about healing who adhere to the gross Christian misrepresentation that God is glorified in illness.

It was at my women's Bible study, and the subject came up as a spider-webbed side-track. As much as I would have loved to share the truth in Scripture about this, it would have taken our study in a direction it is not meant to go. So I just listened, and remembered that I used to be all of them. I used to buy into Satan's great lie that God is glorified in sickness.

Oh, how sad it is when people believe this.

There is NOTHING in the gospels anywhere which supports this. Not in one instance did Jesus EVER say, "No, your leprosy glorifies my Father, so you need to hang onto that," or " 'Fraid not, sonny, your blindness brings God so much glory.....I just can't consider healing you."

Jesus came to earth to do his Father's will. He was the exact representation of the Father's will here on earth. He did nothing but his Father's will. 

And he healed.

Everyone who asked.

"Oh, you poor thing.....bleeding for so many years.....I know you touched my garment in hopes that I would heal you....but that bleeding does my Father in heaven so much good... he is so glorified by it that I have to let you continue to bleed."


I wanted to tell my Bible study-mates that God is no more glorified by illness than He is by sin. He does not tell people to continue to wallow in sin because it glorifies His father. And He does not tell people to continue to be sick because it glorifies His father.

As if His work on earth was not tell-tale enough for Christians to read and discern for themselves that healing is the thing that glorifies God, Jesus made one epic comment which should seal the deal for any doubters.

Lazarus had died and Jesus went there at the urging of his sisters. They blamed Him for not coming earlier. 

Did Jesus say that Lazarus' sickness and death was glorifying God? NO! 

When he heard the sisters' grief, Jesus told the family that Lazarus' life would not end with this illness, but that Lazarus' resurrection/ healing would glorify God, and in turn glorify Himself, God's son. It was the HEALING that would do the glorifying!

How much clearer can it be that Jesus got no honor and praise for sickness. He got no honor for sin either. He hated both sin and sickness and healed and saved all who asked Him.

If sickness glorifies God more than healing, then any attempt Christians make to get well would be an effort to rob God of the glory we should want Him to have.

If sickness glorifies God, then we should rather be sick than well.

If sickness glorifies God, Jesus robbed His Father of all the glory He possibly could by healing everyone.

We do not glorify God in our spirit by remaining in sin, and we do not glorify God in our body by remaining sick.

If I had bought into this theological misspeak 3 years ago, I would be long dead by now. I used to believe this, until I studied God's Word about the whole issue. The Bible clears this up pretty easily, and I am so thankful that He led me to the truth.

As healing evangelist T.L.Osborne says, "Let us not stand by the bed of the sick to sympathize with their pains. Let us never insinuate that it must be God's will to "take them," or that "it will teach them patience," or that perhaps "they will be drawn closer to the Lord" through their sickness. Let us rather declare war on every form of sickness and take authority over it through the name of Jesus Christ. Let us minister deliverance to those in need of healing."

The true glory, according to the Bible, that God receives is when his children are saved and healed and redeemed from the devil's schemes and lies.

My spider-webbed side-track here got a little long-winded. But I am alive today to BE long-winded only because I don't think my incurable cancer glorifies God in the least. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


My folks sold and moved out of their condo in May. It was stressful, labor-intensive and emotionally taxing for them as well as my brothers and me, who helped them with the final leave-taking. We laughed some, we cried more, and I’d like to believe we accomplished the task with grace.
          You learn many lessons about the fabric of your family when your parents pack up their home and move out. You hear heartbreaking stories about families being torn apart over “things”…..who gets Dad’s desk or the antique bedroom set or the patio furniture. The experience is a real test of values and relationships and there was an unspoken determination between us kids that this right-of-passage would not generate any splinters between us.
          I am profoundly grateful that my siblings and I didn’t have one contentious word over the division of the home's contents. Mom and Dad could only take so much to their new apartment in a senior living facility, so we three kids got more than we ever even wanted! What remained we donated or left for the new owners. Since my brothers and I have different needs, tastes and amounts of space in our homes, we each chose different things. My folks were so happy to see things being “claimed” that if Dad saw one of us even contemplating an item, he would say, “Take it! It’s yours!”
          My parents have always been unbelievably generous and this move was no exception. They could have pocketed the cash from an estate sale or could have made a big charitable donation and taken an income tax deduction. But they did neither. They wanted us to have anything we wanted. They were so happy for each of us to have the treasures we had always loved from home.
          Being given so much through this move reminded me of what the Lord has told us in Scripture about His own storehouse of “goods.” He has gifts of unspeakable worth that He will mete out to us simply for the asking. (Ask what you wish me to give you! 1 Kings 3:5)  He has promised us gifts such as peace, love, guidance, wisdom, joy, faithfulness, self-control, deliverance from generational strongholds, gentleness, discernment, patience, protection from temptation, paths through pain, healing, our heart’s desires, a purpose, and eternal life.
          I don’t know about you, but occasionally I forget that God is a generous, benevolent father. He wants me to have whatever resources from the heavenly arsenal that I want and need. All I need to do is ask for these things. Yet sometimes I don’t. Instead of praying for patience, I blame myself for lack of it. Instead of looking for his comfort and encouragement in tough times, I resign myself to increased anxiety. I can forget about God’s repository.
          I think my parents would have felt heartbroken if we kids had not wanted any of the cherished family belongings. I believe God feels the same way. 
         The Lord has heaven’s treasures in reserve, waiting for us. If we lack them, it is because we don’t pursue them and claim them. God’s coffers are full. Our credit, if we have faith in Him, is excellent and I imagine He is just yearning to whisper to us, “Take it. It’s yours.”

And we can be confident that He will listen to us whenever 
we ask for anything in line with His will. 
If we know He is listening when we make our requests known, 
we can be sure He will give us what we ask for.
1 John 5:14-15

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Today, I have been married for 30 years. (And where did THAT time go?)

I guess I have some thoughts about the milestone, lessons I've learned along the way....

* I've learned that as much as I would like "to be right" all the time, I'm not.

* Marriage has brought out the best in me----and the worst in me. But I know that no matter how selfish or frustrating or unforgiving I have ever been, there is always forgiveness, always love, on Dick's end. 

* I've learned that contentment in my marriage hasn't been based on what the savings account reads or how many things on the honey-do list are crossed off or how many gifts my husband buys me. It has been based on the fact that we dream the same dreams, love the same things, share the same values, and can catch each other's eye across a room and know the other's thoughts.

* Marriage has both humbled me and given me wings.

* I've learned that the grief we've shared through the valleys of infertility, depression, a bad business deal and a cancer diagnosis has only created a deeper bond between us. I've learned that you don't really know your spouse completely until you see his level of strength, integrity, and faith in the face of the worst life can throw at you.

* I've learned that you don't make it 30 years without a lot of work, compromise, chemistry, and friendship. You don't sustain a marriage without effort. You can have a good marriage without work. You can have a great marriage with work.

* I would never have believed 30 years ago that there are some things about marriage that just keep getting better with age. 'Nuf said.

* I knew I was in love with Dick on our wedding day. I never knew that I would fall in love with him all over again the first time I saw our newborn son sleeping on his chest, or when he made the bold choice to have unwavering faith in my healing.

* Maybe the greatest lesson 30 years of marriage has taught me is that love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is an action and a decision. True love is choosing to honor and respect each other even if there are hours or even days when we don't FEEL loving. It is making an intentional loving choice apart from the fickle brain chemicals we call "feelings."

* I am blessed that with Christ as the center of our relationship, we have had access to every God-given tool and resource we have ever needed to walk hand-in-hand through the unique and winding seasons of our thirty years together. Our partnership has been solid because we have always known that God, not each other, is the most important relationship in our individual lives.

I praise God for 30 years with my husband. I praise Him for refining us and supporting us along the way. I praise Him for blessing these years with an amazing child, jobs, homes and friends.

Happy Anniversary, Richie. I love you past the moon.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


My insurance requires a yearly fall "health assessment." It is a requirement that you really can't get out of. So I drove down to the university student center where they were held and got matched up with a young nurse named Brian. 

He did his thing and ran a print-off of my results, which he is required to talk to me about. Brian was citing my results and how good they were.....I had "perfect" cholesterol, perfect BMI, perfect blood pressure, perfect weight, no risk for diabetes, etc.

"You have straight A's across the board here, as you can see here. You really do have perfect health."

There aren't many opportunities to have fun with incurable cancer, but I couldn't resist the moment.

I looked at Brian and said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I really don't have perfect health. I have stage 4 cancer."

His jaw dropped and his mouth went agape and he just stared at me. "You DO?"

"I do. But you know what? I have faith that God is healing me and that I WILL have perfect health again, so I accept your assessment wholeheartedly. You have a great day."

I turned around and left him staring at me as I walked out giggling.


I had the opportunity this week to lay hands on someone and pray for their healing. I take the mandate in Mark 16:17-18 seriously that those who are believers in Jesus Christ need to "lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." The verse says nothing about us believers having any power to heal in and of ourselves, but that God can and will use us as His instruments.

It was an employee at my cancer center who was in great pain and I asked her if I could pray for her and she readily said, "Yes, I would love that." She had tears rolling down her cheeks as I prayed and she hugged me afterwards. I left right after that and do not know if her pain subsided, but it is not important for me to know the results. That is all up to God. I am just trying to walk in obedience. It is always such an honor to pray for healing for people and to talk to them about God's promises for healing in the Bible.


Had a good appointment with my oncologist. As much as I think the world of him, I did flat out tell him that I did not think I needed to see him so often. I proposed seeing him 4 times a year (I am grateful to be a doctor's kid who has no hesitation in challenging the care plan of a physician.....no pedestals I see). That's what I wanted and that's what I got!! I also reminded him that he WOULD see me healed one day. I don't think he sees divine healing in his practice.

I intend to be the first.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Sofas and pastors.

I tend to be elated when they are polar opposites.

I few years ago, we went sofa shopping. The first salesman said to us, "What style and color are you looking for?"

"We really don't care about color or style," I answered.

With a questioning look on his face he said, "Well, what ARE you looking for?"

"Comfort," I replied. "That's all we want. It just has to be super comfortable."

"Well," he said, smiling as he walked away, "I guess I really can't help you at all."

This is the same way I used to shop for a church and pastor many years ago. I wanted to feel comfortable. I would venture to guess many people use that same criteria. But I am a convert to uneasiness. I will never again use comfort as a measuring stick to decide where to worship.

Feeling comfortable with the church family and leadership? Of course. There needs to be respect, love, fun, and mutual caring. But beyond that camaraderie? Nope. Comfortable is not in my equation any more. 

I have been in churches that have tried to be so comfortable, so "user friendly," that they either changed their name so as not to offend anyone, watered down the gospel  or became so PC that there were no longer any moral absolutes mentioned. Sure it was comfortable. Nothing was expected of you, nothing was taught to be moved by. Sermons in those churches were Feel Good 101. 

What I know to be true is that we can never be more as Christians and disciples of Christ without heeding those hard sayings, those difficult mandates of Jesus. And doing so does not always feel good.

The pastor that put me on this path was a dynamic young man named Cory who pulled me WAY beyond my comfort zone as I soaked up all he had to share about Jesus and how to be sold out to Him. Cory pointed me to biblical truths that rocked my understandings and dared me to step into a discipleship mode that was nowhere close to comfortable. I had to deal with new understandings in areas like sin, cross-centered living, holiness, and forgiveness. But it grew me in Christ to a depth I had never approached before  Because of his ability to make me squirm, my prayer life was transformed, I fell deeper in love with Jesus, I went on my first mission trip, and I started memorizing verse after verse after verse of Scripture.

Soul-agitation is not like cuddling up into a soft pillowed microfiber sofa.

Scripture is laced with God's declarations that we will experience journeys of despair and affliction and bondage in this life. After all, Satan is in business, open 24/7, and never delegates his schemes to lesser demons. He tries his best to makes believers' lives miserable.

To traverse those jagged and harrowing roads, I know I need the faith-deepening maturity that comes through spiritual discomfort.  "Comfortable" simply does not push me to get "my roots to grow down into Him and draw nourishment from Him so I will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth I was taught." (Col 2:7)

We have a new pastor at our church. I had been feeling way too comfortable in my spiritual walk, and I worried that a new pastor would not "bring the goods" that I really needed right now. Truth be told, we were ready to look at other church options.

Steve has only been here 6 weeks. The verdict was out on him about one week in. We all love him. He is a mover and a shaker. His sermons flow with the Holy Spirit's anointing. He is charismatic and energetic and grounded in the mandates and promises of Jesus. He speaks bottom-line truth about how to practically live out the "hard sayings" of Jesus.

And most importantly for me personally, he has made me squirm. He has brought tears to my eyes. Every Sunday he is reminding us of truths that need to be heeded and internalized, because they are things we all get too complacent about. At least I sure do.

Steve is an amazingly easy person to be comfortable around. But on Sunday mornings, he is not there to make us comfortable. He is there for soul-agitation. Man, that feels good again!! How blessed are we as a church!!

I love being in this place where God, through my pastor, is free to shake me up and test me and lead me into greater intimacy with Him. When comfort is a gauge, this cannot happen. I want to "keep working toward the day when I will finally be all that Christ save me for and wants me to be." (Phil 3:12)

Sofas? I want cushy and soft. Pastors? I want them to challenge me to squirm and grow.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


After many hours of "working with it," I have mastered as much of Windows 8 as I need for daily life. I'd readily switch back to Windows 7 if it were an option, but it was an inevitable change that I needed to adapt to, and I did. Why do computer engineers try to think of ways of making operating systems MORE complex instead of less?

For as much of a non-techie person as I am, I am proud to have learned it without help (except for one youtube video on how to transfer the control panel to the newly designed desktop without the handy "start" icon....thank you, youtube). My chemo did not take all function from me.


A week ago I was asked to give the afternoon lecture at a gathering of the state meeting of nursing home activity directors. Ahhhh.....it was so good to be teaching gerontology again!

The year of my diagnosis, I gave up pretty much all work as I was dealing with so many medical appointments and procedures and had significant chemo brain which rendered me word-searching and memory-challenged. I was not up for embarrassing myself and worried, frankly, that I may never be able to regain my gerontological knowledge base again.

Last fall our church put on an 8-week seminar on aging and I taught 4 of the 8 sessions. I took the leap of faith and proved to myself that it had all come back. I felt so great to impart the knowledge I have with others needing it.

Last week's talk reminded me again of how much I love practicing my craft and how much I have missed it these past 3 years. I am hoping to get some more training opportunities through people who were at the meeting.

I am so thankful to God for protecting my body and my brain through those nasty first rounds of chemo.

Our family went to a Vikings game this weekend. Though a miserable outcome, we had a blast being a part of the downtown Minneapolis excitement on Sunday morning. Sam's best friend James was able to join us for one last game at Mall of America Field (still the Metrodome to me).

Row 11, 50 yard line seats were amazing. Many thanks to my nephew Billy!


I am planning to celebrate my October birthday by flying to Georgia to see my friend Susan. I am SO excited! If I could just not fly to get there, it would be perfect. But, that's why they created Xanax, right?

Friday, September 13, 2013


And now....the rest of the story.....

My phone rang. It was "Tina" (from last post). I was beyond surprised. She told me that she called to tell me her cousin died. She had been an only child and was very close to this cousin so his death was really hard for her. I asked a few questions and then listened until she had no more to say. 

I said, "I am so very sorry about your loss, Tina, and I am glad you called to tell me so that I can be praying for you and your family."

She softly said, "I knew you would."


To be pegged as a woman who someone could count on to pray for them when they are hurting....... I can live with that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I spent my summer asking God to use me. I have been so blessed in my life and have long felt as if God has never had a real role for me in His business. I've been asking Him to mold me, refine me, open me to His kingdom work here on earth. 

I got my first "assignment" last week.

While on my 2 mile morning walk, the name and face of one of the cashiers at our only large retailer in town came into my mind and would not go away. I knew her name from her name badge and I'd made small talk with her on many occasions. What could possibly have brought her to mind? I was praying for my parents at that particular moment in my walk. But clearly God interrupted my prayers and placed (I'll call her Tina) Tina's name smack on my lips.

"Get your feet wet, Mary. Act in obedience."

"And do WHAT, Lord?"

What was I supposed to do about this sense? I did not know her well. Was I supposed to go to the store and seek her out? And then what? I didn't even know if she was working that day.

"Could you give me a little help here, Lord?"

All I got was, again, "Act in obedience to my nudging. I will walk ahead of you."

I showered, dressed, and headed out to the store, even though I did not need enough items to justify the gas across town. I walked in, grabbed 2 items and headed to the check out area, where I saw her immediately in her lane. She was (no surprise) wide open. I laid down my items, said good morning to and blurted out, "Tina, I was just wondering if there was something you might need prayer for today. God really put you on my heart this morning and I had to ask you."

She just stared at me. Seconds before I started shrinking into the floor from self-consciousness, she started what became a 5 minute monologue about all her current problems. As she was talking, a young woman turned her cart into our line, but (no surprise) stayed way back to read magazines and appeared not to notice us at all, giving Tina more time to talk to me. 

After a couple minutes, Tina started to cry as she finished her "story" and said, "Today I was going to call into that prayer hotline on that 103.3 radio station."

I noticed the woman behind us was now putting her items on the conveyor belt. I wanted Tina to have a minute to compose herself so I felt I should leave. I looked at her and said, "I am so sorry about everything you are going through, and I just want you to know that I will be praying for you and your family about all these things. God does hear your prayers."

She thanked me and I left. I prayed for her all the way home and several times after that.

While my left brain would love to understand the bigger picture in that whole scenario, I must be content with knowing that God trusted me to obey his nudge and act without knowledge of what I was really supposed to do and why. Act without knowing the outcome. I still don't know if I said or did the "right thing."

But I obeyed. Maybe that was the most important thing.

Obedience is not always a clear and organized effort. Sometimes it is just floundering through with nothing more than a hunch, knowing God can use imperfect me and my imperfect attempts to bless others and find moments where I can be, for a few minutes, His hands, feet, or mouthpiece.