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!