June 23, 2012

Camera giveaway from GroopDealz!

I've been interested in photography since I was a teen. I borrowed my dad's 35mm camera (back with they actually used film) and shot a few pictures here and there, but it was an expensive hobby. Between my sophomore and junior years, I took a few classes at a yearbook camp at Northern Arizona University, where we even developed our own film.

I've grown to love taking pictures even more over the years, but I'm limited to my iPod Touch or my instant digital. They both do a decent job, but certainly don't offer the flexibility of a Real Camera. And when I visit blogs like this and this, there's always a possibility of envy issues. 

I'd just love to win this camera... of course, then I'd have to learn how to use it!

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June 17, 2012

The Yo-Yo Man, or...

"The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps."
Prov 16:9 (ESV)

My husband was asked recently if he felt like the Yo-Yo Man.

On our last trip to NIH, one of the doctor's on Michele's team asked Jeff if he would be willing to come back one more time for one more donation -- this time he would donate granulocytes, a type of white blood cell that would be helpful to Michele post-transplant while stem cells begin their work.

NIH contacted us to schedule not one donation, but two. We scheduled the trip, the rescheduled it based on the needs of both our family and NIH. We planned to leave on Saturday, June 9, and return on the following Saturday. Then, on Thursday afternoon, one of the team doctors called to let Jeff know that, based on the progress of the patients ahead of Michele in the protocol, they didn't anticipate needing his granulocytes after all. The next day, June 8, about 4:00, that same doctor called back to say things had changed. Michele had been spiking fevers, and they were concerned that she may need the granulocytes, after all. This was only Day 3 post-transplant. Thankfully, Cecilia (Jeff's other sister) was with us when we got the call, and she immediately mobilized to make it possible for Jeff and I to leave on Sunday.

We drove all day on Sunday (well, we did have about an hour's pit stop at Reynolds Plantation to accommodate an impromtu kidney stone), arriving at the Fisher House that night. Mom had some very welcome homemade soup waiting for us.

Jeff went to his check-in appointment at NIH on Monday morning and completed all the medical history paperwork, only to be told that Michele had improved so much over the weekend that his granulocytes would probably not be needed after all. But, just in case, stick around for a few days.

Michele's condition was kind of up and down, also like a yo-yo, over the next couple of days. Her cells had not yet "declared" (they were not yet measurable), and the team would not feel comfortable until they could see her count steadily climbing. By Thursday, the counts were obviously climbing and, while she was having some fever and skin issues, her body was finally fighting back. By Friday, the counts had climbed significantly.

When we stopped by to visit and say good-bye on Friday, Michele was just heading out for a walk. We decided to tag along with her and her IV pole (which we affectionately call the Christmas tree).

First stop was the coffee shop downstairs to pick up her current favorite drink: Lipton Diet Green Tea.

Then we decided to make a lap around the courtyard. Michele was so happy to go outside, remove her mask, and inhale some fresh air!

Then it was back through the lobby to the elevators...

And upstairs to meet Mom and Dad in the room.

And on Saturday, the Yo-Yo Man (aka Stem Cell Stud) and I returned home.

Please continue to pray for Michele as the doctor's monitor her progress. We're all hopeful that she'll be able to move back to the Fisher House by the end of the month. You can follow Michele on her CaringBridge page.

Especially for Jeff...

Because I've spent most every moment of the last two weeks with my hubby, I've not been able to search out the perfect Father's Day card. Please excuse me as I turn this post into a one-of-a-kind card just for him!

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for asking me to tag along on your on-again / off-again trip to Washington DC this week. While the week did not at all turn out as we expected (for which we are thankful!), I'm thankful for the time I've had with you.
  • Time for quiet moments to spend alone.
  • Time to spend with you and your parents.
  • Time to encourage Tim and Michele together.
  • Time to watch you study and work to communicate your faith as you completed an extensive church search questionnaire.
  • Time to watch you respond to the week's ups and downs in a godly way.
  • Time to be silly together.
  • Time to be ministered to by you (because kidney stones sometimes have very poor timing).
Thanks for helping me to be a better mother, wife, woman every day. I couldn't want for a better father for my children.


Jeff with our two still-at-homes

June 12, 2012

How's your marrow?

If you've stopped by my blog lately, you know I've been writing a lot about my sister-in-law's stem cell transplant (which is also commonly referred to as a bone marrow transplant). I wrote about it here, here, and here. I gave a description of the process here. I shared a link to a video about help from the Fisher House at Andrews AFB here, and wrote about marriage in the midst of a debilitating illness here.

It's obviously been on my mind lately.

And I've learned a lot about stem cells and bone marrow, although only a thimbleful of the ocean there is to know about them.

Here's the main idea: bone marrow is the true lifeblood of the human body. It is the source from which the critical, day-to-day elements are created. After years of dealing with other auto-immune disorders, Michele developed MDS, which means that her bone marrow did not produce enough blood for the body. This led to anemia, lack of the ability to fight infection, and easy bleeding. Allowed to continue, it would likely have developed into myelogenous leukemia, fast growing cancer of the blood and marrow.

Moral of the story: healthy marrow produces healthy blood, which helps the body to become stronger and fight off its enemies. Unhealthy marrow weakens the body, leaving it susceptible to attacks and, ultimately, death.

In the midst of learning about all of this, a verse came to mind:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
Guess what. We all have a problem. We are all born with a diseased system. The disease is sin.
"...None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-11 ESV)
It has taken dozens of doctors years to diagnose Michele's disease. And over those years, the bad marrow continued to do a poor job of generating all of the critical elements that comprise what we call blood, causing who knows how many other issues in Michele's frail body. We have a similar struggle as we try to self-diagnose our disease.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
And yet, the writer of Hebrews tells us that God's word cuts right to the chase, right to the source of my spiritual problem: the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

John Piper says it much better than I ever could:
The writer gives an analogy: it's like dividing joints and marrow. Joints are the thick, hard, outer part of the bone. Marrow is the soft, tender, living, inner part of the bone. That is an analogy of "soul and spirit." The word of God is like a sword that is sharp enough to cut right through the outer, hard, tough part of a bone to the inner, soft, living part of the bone. Some swords, less sharp, may strike a bone and glance off and not penetrate. Some swords may penetrate part way through the tough, thick joint of a bone. But a very sharp, powerful double-edged sword (sharp on each side of the point) will penetrate the joint all the way to the marrow.
What then is the point saying that the "word of God" pierces to the "division of soul and spirit"? The point is that it's the word of God that reveals to us our true selves. Are we spiritual or are we natural? Are we born of God and spiritually alive, or are we deceiving ourselves and spiritually dead? Are the "thoughts and intentions of our heart" spiritual thoughts and intentions or only natural thoughts and intentions. Only the "word of God" can "judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" as Hebrews 4:12 says.

Practically speaking, when we read or hear "the word of God," we sense ourselves pierced. The effect of this piercing is to reveal whether there is spirit or not. Is there marrow and life in our bones? Or are we only a "skeleton" with no living marrow? Is there "spirit," or only "soul"? The word of God pierces deep enough to show us the truth of our thoughts and our motives and our selves.
But that's not the end of the story. Just as Michele received a transplant which is, hopefully, giving her new bone marrow which will produce new blood, creating a new immune system which can fight off the enemies of her body, we've been promised a new spirit which creates something amazing within us:
A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you . . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes. (Ezekial 36:26-27 ESV)
 Again, John Piper helps us to understand what this means for the believer...
Ultimately, all the good inclinations or preferences or desires that we have are given by the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit we are mere flesh. And Paul said in Romans 7:18, "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing." Apart from the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, none of our inclinations or desires is holy or good, "for the mind of the flesh is hostile to God's law and does not submit to it because it cannot" (Romans 8:7). The new birth is the coming into our life of the Holy Spirit to create a whole new array of desires and loves and yearnings and longings. And when these desires are stronger than the opposing desires of the flesh, then we are "walking by the Spirit." For we always act according to our strongest desires.
The Holy Spirit produces in us desires for God's way that are stronger than our fleshly desires, and thus he causes us to walk in God's statutes.
As the Psalmist before me, I rejoice over this gracious gift and pray that it continues in my life.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:14, 23-24 ESV )

If you'd like to know more about the cure for your sin disease, here is a great place to start. Also, I always love to hear from those who stop by my blog, but I'd especially love to know if this post in particular has been an encouragement to you.

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June 9, 2012

Timing is everything {or, faith is for the birds}

During this time of transition for our family, we've visited a number of churches in our area. But recently, we've made the decision to commute to a church we've grown to love over the years. And a couple of Sundays ago, the sermon was confirmation that we've made the right decision, at least for as long as the Lord allows.

The pastor, John, preached about worry. And I was so thankful that, right at the onset, he made clear that he was preaching to himself, as he had dealt with the weight of worry earlier that week. And, of course, I know that he is preaching through the Gospel of Matthew and, specifically, the Sermon on the Mount, so Matthew 6:25-30 was the next passage to be covered. Otherwise, I might have suspected he's been reading my mail (or my mind)!

After the sermon, a very kind family invited us to join them for lunch. We talked about the sermon a bit, and Roger asked Jeff and I which of us were prone to worry more. It was funny: I thought I did, but Jeff felt he did. I think we both worry, but in different ways -- and maybe about different things. As the head of our household, Jeff feels the weight of that leadership heavily; his temptation to worry tends towards breadwinning, leadership, family unity. I think I'm tempted to worry about the details, since many of those things fall to me day by day. Either way, worry is a sin. I knew this, but John's message was such a good reminder... especially because it offered not just admonition, but the antidote.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6:25-30 ESV)
 God is so kind to provide us illustrations in our everyday lives to point us to Him and His will. "Look at the birds of the air..." I've always loved looking at the birds, admiring their unique beauty, their gracefulness, even their busyness and seeming joy.

"...they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns..." That's true, unlike the squirrels who steal food from the feeders to store for the future, the birds immediately eat what they gather.

 "...and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" Wow. Direct hit between the eyes. God cares for me, for me and my family, far more than he cares for the birds. He will provide for my needs, for the needs of my family, for the need of the day.

Should I really want for more?

Note: Don't you just love the photo in this post? This sweet vermillion flycatcher, poised on barbed wire, was photographed by a friend from high school, Muriel Gordon Neddermeyer. You can see more of Muriel's beautiful bird photographer on her Flickr page

I love to hear from my readers, so please leave me a comment below! 

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Six Sisters' Stuff

June 8, 2012

If you give a teen a blog...

If you have a teen-aged daughter, she might just enjoy reading my daughter's blog. And if she enjoys reading my daughter's blog, she might want to check out her Summer-Long Giveaway. And if she enters her Summer-Long Giveaway, she might just win some fun gifts. And if she wins some fun gifts, she might just share with you!

June 6, 2012

Marriage, a noble thing

How long is too long to be married?

"I think the institution of marriage is a noble thing. I think the idea of a partner for life is incredibly romantic. But now we're living to 100. A hundred years ago, people were dying at age 37. Til death do us part was a much different deal."

The quote above astounded me. 

That's Debbie Messing, an apparently successful actress whom I'd never heard of until I picked up the June 2012 issue of Ladies' Home Journal at the dentist office recently. Ms. Messing and her husband were married twelve years ago ("together" for twenty) and have an eight-year-old son. She recently filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.

Then I smilingly thought of Tim and Michele. I know, I've written a lot about Tim and Michele lately -- especially Michele -- but they've been on my heart and mind.

Yesterday, Michele received a stem cell transplant in an effort to cause her body to create new, healthy bone marrow and a new, healthy immune system. Next week, our family travels up to the Washington DC area again for Jeff to donate granulocytes, which should help Michele's body fight off any latent viruses while her system rebuilds.

Today is Tim and Michele's wedding anniversary. Thirty-one years.

(And yes, that's the lovely couple in the lead picture. You can see one of the cute couples in their wedding party here.)

During our last trip to DC, Tim was telling my sixteen-year-old daughter about how hard he had to work to get Michele to go out with him. It was love, or at least extreme interest, at first sight for Tim. It took Michele a bit longer to warm up. But once things clicked, they really clicked; they were married within a year. In fact, Michele graduated from high school, turned eighteen, and married Tim all within two weeks.

The years since have been quite a journey. Two children came along to add some fun along the way. The Fetz family's moves have included homes on both coasts as well as Germany, courtesy of the US Air Force. Ultimately, they've made their home in Middle Georgia. The road hasn't always been smooth but, because their faith informs their love for one another, they are still together.

For years, Michele has been the nurturer and caregiver of the family, raising those kids, managing their home, and loving on her nieces and nephews every chance she got. But the last few years, as Michele's illness has progressed, their roles have shifted a bit. Tim has become an expert caregiver, and someone really should give the guy an honorary medical degree of some point for all the practical knowledge he has acquired.

I'd estimate that Michele has spent at least eight of the last ten months in the hospital. And most of that time, Tim has been right by her side. Through it all, they have been a shining and very vocal testimony of God's goodness to them -- to their doctors, nurses, other patients, anyone who came across their path.

The institution of marriage, the God-defined and God-designed institution of marriage is a noble thing. It can be incredibly romantic, but even when it's not, it still has value. It still has benefit. It's no less a commitment in the hard times than in the glorious.

Thanks, Tim and Michele, for your enduring love for one another, and for God. 

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