Saturday, January 30, 2010


Life is still much the same, as in the same as it would be without cancer.

I’m still doing all of the things I love. I still have to do the things I don’t want to do. I’m doing some things that I wasn’t thinking about doing a year and two months ago, like writing a will and getting a joint title for my car so it can be sold easily. But mostly, it’s relatively normal.

Right now I’m feeling pretty well most of the time. I’ve had some stuff to deal with here and there, but overall, I’m feeling better than I have in a long time.

I still hate cooking. I’m pretty sure in Heaven we’ll be on some sort of a barter system instead of a currency system, so I’m looking forward to trading my artistic skills for some of your cooking skills when we’re there...

I’m still enjoying a lot of good music, songs like THIS and THIS.

I’m still messing up big time with many, many things. Heaven’s going to be nice, with not messing up anymore...

I’m still being thrilled on a fairly regular basis by my students. This week it was a second grade boy. I’ve been trying very hard to be patient with him but felt like I had exhausted my options for engaging him in a positive way. He told me recently that he’d rather copy definitions from an art textbook that do any artwork. What do you do with that??? Last week we started a project on insects and suddenly this guy was drawing beautifully, intensely engaged in his work, coming up with clever solutions for sharing a paper with a classmate, and just being delightful in general. His blue beetle is awesome too. When I saw him smiling later in the hallway, he said, “You liked that beetle I drew, didn’t you!?!”

I’m designing a new tattoo. Actually, my students designed it and I’m just sort of arranging the elements they drew. I’m using various flowers and butterflies my students have drawn for me over the years and combining them to make a garden that will go around my arm. It’ll look like a child’s garden. I’m pretty sure I’ll get to keep my tattoos on my resurrected body. I’m hoping that when Jesus comes for me He’ll transform the few bits and pieces of shading that aren’t perfect. He said He makes all things new, right?

The bottom line, which is a phrase I might be using way too much recently, is that life is still very much normal. It’s just that along with the normal there is a strong sense of the profound. There is a sense that I would describe as an awareness of the greater reality in which I’m living. There is also sense that this is what I’m supposed to be doing now but that there will be a time, possibly soon, possibly in six or eight months or a year, when things will change forever.

Right now, I need to go clean my house and trim my dog’s nails.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Death's" Door

You can click on the picture to make it bigger...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Unnatural Disasters

I’ve been overwhelmed by grief over what has happened to the people of Haiti. I’ve been overwhelmed with grief for what they’ve lost, what they’ve experienced, and what lies ahead of them—not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically as well.

I’ve been angry. I’ve been angry with God. I’ve wanted to understand why such a horrifying thing could be allowed to happen. I want to know why my brother and his wife and each of the other human beings in Haiti had to experience this horror.

I think now I finally understand what people looking at my life feel as they see what is happening to my body. I think now I can feel what they are feeling.

It’s all fine and good for me when it’s my body—I can see why this cancer is happening, I can see how it makes sense, I can see how God is using it to draw me and many others closer to Him.

What did not really make complete sense to me until today is that this cancer is my body showing the effects of sin and the Fall in the Garden. Before the Fall, those first two bodies ever made were perfect. They were flawless. There was not a single cell doing the wrong thing in either of those bodies.

What did not make sense to me until today, is that since the Fall, the earth itself is also subjected to the Curse of sin and death and parts of it are doing the wrong thing. Parts of it are creating earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes and drought. These are the cancers of the earth. These are the parts of the earth that are such immense sources of pain and suffering. These cancers of the earth are what Romans 8:22 is about: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

This bondage to disasters is not how God originally designed the earth. It is not how the earth will be forever. It is not natural.

As I’ve been looking forward to Jesus coming for me and healing my body so it no longer shows the effects of sin and dying, I haven’t been looking as much at the bigger picture, at how He is also going to heal the earth.

There WILL be a day when there are no fault lines, when there is no part of the earth that causes human beings to be killed in horrific unnatural disasters. This is what Romans 8:21 is all about: “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

Until then, until the perfect healing and restoration of all things, it is our responsibility to use the resources He has given us—to me and you individually, to us as a nation, to the world as a international community—to bring as much hope and as much relief as possible to the people who are our neighbors both in our immediate physical space and in the rest of the world.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Brother

Today I listened to my brother talk about his and his wife's experiences in Haiti post-earthquake. You can listen to his podcast here:

My reaction is too strong for words right now.

We need to help Haiti. We need to take care of our neighbors. We need to give out of whatever we have, even if it hurts, to help relieve the suffering of the Haitian people.

Jesus says it perfectly in Matthew 25:
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

It's not an optional nice thing to do, it's our responsibility. What are we waiting for? What am I waiting for? What are you waiting for?
HERE is a link to Doctors without Borders:
HERE is a link to my brother's blog, where you can find a LINK to donate to their organization in Haiti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Please pray for the people of Haiti. Please pray for my family, and all of the families, that have not heard from loved ones in Haiti. My brother and his wife work there and we have not yet heard anything from them, or about them.

Update: My brother and his wife are "accounted for."

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I’ll try not to get on too much of a soapbox here... But I think it’s vital to define death. Dying is what happens before death. Death is the moment when I will transition to my next destination. Randy Alcorn says it best, “Earth leads directly into Heaven or directly into Hell, affording a choice between the two. The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to heaven.” (Heaven p. 28) This is the reason for the hope that I have as I anticipate death. This is the hope that is offered to anyone who asks for it. It’s not the end of all things for me; it is the beginning of an abundant Life— which life here, even it its best moments, can’t come remotely close to. This Life to come is perfect healing, peace that can’t be taken away, and joy that goes on forever without end or interruption. It is love and laughter. It is creativity consummated. It is beauty without compare....

Thinking about it from this perspective, I’m excited about death.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I just want to add one more thought right now--just that I'm living in a state of excitement and anticipation, I can't wait to see what God is going to do.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thoughts and Stuff

So I’ve been having a lot of thoughts over the last few days... And this may be disjointed but I want to try to share them.

First of all, this decision I’ve made is not one I could, or would, make if I were by myself. God has reiterated His promise to never leave me or forsake me many, many times, in many, many ways, and it is very clear to me that He has kept that promise over and over and over and over. So there is no space to doubt Him as I consider what will happen next.

As I’ve watched my life and the path God has brought me down, which has always seemed unusual to me, this cancer thing makes perfect sense as an end goal for this section of my life—the part I’m living here on earth, right now.

Sometimes I sit back and think about the things in my life that have made the least sense, the things that were the most excruciatingly painful, and they all fit together like pieces in a puzzle. This cancer thing is just the final piece. If I view my life outside the framework of this life, and instead view it within the framework of eternity, the puzzle looks perfect. Crazy sounding? Yes. But true.

One recent example, of just one instance, of God preparing me and speaking to me was my birdfeeder. Yes, I know that sounds crazy. But I’m not crazy and I’m not on any mind altering substances. Back to the birdfeeder. When I moved into my house a couple years ago, I hung up a big huge birdfeeder. Within one hour, two at most, it had birds all over it. At some point the bird seed got all wet and mildewy and gross, so I took it down to clean it. By the time I was going to hang it back up, I was anticipating a CT scan on October 30, 2009. Not knowing what the outcome would be, I didn’t want to hang up my birdfeeder and have the birds come to depend on it as a resource that would be snatched away if I found out I had little time left and had to move out of my house. When I found out in early November that I would probably be around for a while, I very hesitantly put up my birdfeeder. There were no birds the first day. There were no birds the second day. There were no birds after a week, or three weeks. And I have only seen one bird on it in the entire almost two months since it has been up. And she, a female cardinal, was having a really hard time holding on to it while she was trying to grab seeds. All through December as I was looking at the birdless birdfeeder and thinking about God’s love for His creation, I kept thinking that He was protecting the birds Himself and that He was using that as a sign to prepare me for the information I would get from my CT scan in the end of December. As it seemed then, so it has actually proved to be.

There have been many, many examples how God has guided my life like this.

Another example is part of how God designed me, and probably one I shouldn’t share, but I’m going to anyway. I have never ever wanted children of my own. I have felt very, very strongly that my calling is to share art with children and love them and minister to their needs in the process. This is something I love doing and my students are a tremendous blessing to me. Last spring, probably in April, as I was surviving chemo and all of its agonies, I realized that I would rather have cancer than be pregnant. And, it’s a darn good thing God designed me that way because I can’t imagine the level of pain I would feel if I were like many women who have intense desires for bearing children, and then had ovarian cancer and a hysterectomy.

An example of how God has been communicating with me was the other night, through verses I “happened” to read a few nights ago, as I literally opened my bible without looking for anything in particular. I opened to Isaiah 14 and the first thing I read was verses 24-27. Check this out:

24The LORD of hosts has sworn: "As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand,
25that I will break the Assyrian in my land,
and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
and his burden from their shoulder."
26This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
27 For the LORD of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back?

Translated into what God spoke into my heart as I read it, it reads something like this (Sorry in advance for the language—like I said, this is how my heart felt it, not how God had Isaiah write it):

The Lord of the Universe who never breaks His promises,
who has sworn to never leave me or forsake me (and who so clearly never has),
and who has promised to come take me to be where He is,

HE says “As I have planned, so shall it be,
and as I have purposed for your life, so shall it stand,
that I will kick cancer’s ass in MY Martha’s body.

I will annihilate it forever when I come for you,
I will destroy it completely and eternally with the glorious restoration of your body to complete healing.

Cancer’s burden will depart from you, it will fall off your shoulders.

Not only is my plan for your complete restoration,
my plan is for complete restoration of the whole earth,
and NO ONE can change it.”

This is in perfect agreement with several things that I know in my heart to be true;
-What my uncle said to me the other day—that my surrender is to Jesus, not the cancer.
-That God has planned every aspect of my life from giving my parents my name before I was born, all the way up to this cancer thing.
-That His love for me is more intense and more profound that I can possibly imagine.
-That yes, it is perfectly normal to desire that perfect healing which Paul described in 2 Corinthians 5:4, verses my pastor just recently gave me, when Paul said, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
-It is also in complete agreement with what I’ve been learning about how God will create a new Heaven and a New Earth. (Read Heaven, by Randy Alcorn, it’s incredible)

In light of thinking about all of this and trying to articulate it somehow, it kind of blew me away that a dear friend of mine would send me THIS song today. I’d never heard it before, and I don’t generally even like country music, but read the lyrics and you’ll understand. This is another example of God using people in my life as conduits of communication.

And right now, I’m feeling pretty much fine physically in addition to being at peace in all the rest of me—that’s an incredible place to be, and it’s because God is all over this cancer thing and taking perfect care of me.

I can either fight the process and spend all of my energy questioning everything, or I can trust in what I know to be true of the future based on what He has done in the past, and rest in the peace I only find in Him.

The thing is, I’m just as jacked up as anyone else. And it’s not like I’m the only one He offers life and peace to. The reality is that when any person submits his or her life to God totally and completely, He has room to work. His work is painful and slow but there is always a reason for what He does.

Friday, January 1, 2010


THIS song, You Are My Joy by David Crowder, best describes how I feel today, after recovering somewhat, from having gone through what feels like hell and back in the last few days over my treatment decision. The song sounds best really loud.

This is my decision:
Yesterday morning I woke up, after having hardly slept all night, after spending most of the night talking to God about this treatment decision, with a stomach so knotted up with anxiety that I had diarrhea several times and could hardly eat breakfast. I spent my morning reading about treatment options and could hardly eat lunch. Every treatment I looked at made me want to curl up in a fetal position and just hide somewhere far, far away.

As I read about the treatments and the average progression free time patients experienced from it, I kept thinking that the bottom line is that treatment can only extend life at this point, it is palliative rather than curative.

My understanding is that ovarian cancer is the most malignant gynecologic cancer. My understanding is that I have the most aggressive form of ovarian cancer.

It seems to me that if I recurred six weeks or less after I finished chemo, and if my last treatment didn’t stop the cancer, that with or without treatment my life on this earth is going to be short.

I would rather have a few months of doing the things I love and enjoy with the people I love and enjoy, than a few years of struggling with pain and suffering and treatment symptoms.

Last spring when I was fighting through all of the issues of facing death and dying and the suffering involved, God showed me that He would be with me and have mercy on me. I’m not saying that I think it will be free of pain and suffering, I’m very much aware that it might be a very difficult process.

I’m also very much aware that dying can’t last forever, there is an ending point, there has to be an ending point. At that point, I will leave this earth and be more alive than I have ever been, with a perfectly healed body for all eternity.

When I was praying about my treatment decision this morning, I was reminded of John 14 where Jesus tells his loved ones that he is going to prepare a place for them and that he will come again and take his loved ones to himself. He also says, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

I feel like God is using those words to communicate to me again that I am His and that He will come for me, and that He will come for me soon. I don’t know what that looks like in terms of time, but I know what it means in terms of His promise to minister to me and to take me to Himself when it is His time.

I feel like God gave me, and the people around me, this past year as preparation for this decision.

My decision to stop treatment is the only option I feel peace about.

I feel indescribably blessed to have an extremely competent, very compassionate, very understanding medical team to take care of me through this process. I know that God timed my first appointment last December to put me in their hands. I have a phenomenal amount of respect for each of them as people and as medical practitioners. They are doing a wonderful job.

I feel like I’ve done the things I’ve wanted and needed to do. Although I’ve been wanting to go skydiving and may still do that when the air is warm enough.

I feel like I’ve used the gifts God has given me to the best of my ability.

I feel like I’m at peace with God and the people around me.