A Vessel of Hope

When I visited the Cancer Center at Pali Momi for the first time, I met Sonia. Sonia is a greeter there and boy oh boy is she good at what she does! Sonia smiles, she encourages, she spreads hope and love and does everything within her to uplift each and every person who passes through the lobby. Sonia is the type of person whose enthusiasm and gratitude for life overflows with joy.

Sonia not only encouraged me on the way in to treatment but also waited with me while my daughter brought the car around at the end of my treatment. While we waited, she talked with me and helped me to stay positive and strong. I had only met her that day but I instantly knew that she was someone whom I’d love to bless with some Stampin’ Up! cards that she could give to others. Sonia has a God given gift to encourage others, so why not give her an opportunity to share her gift in a hand stamped card! I made the decision that the next time I saw Sonia I would definitely need to bring her some cards.

It just so happened that a few days after my treatment, my friend Cindy’s daughter, Raymee told me that her school had asked her to do some type of community service project and Raymee thought it would be a good idea to ask me if I needed any help with any of my projects. What perfect timing! I told Raymee about my new friend Sonia and how I wanted to gift her some cards. Raymee thought this was a great idea so we quickly got to work. Raymee loves to craft and has often been my little helper at classes and events over the years. Since I have not been working due to needing time to rest while going through chemo, it felt great to have a reason to go into my stamp room to help Raymee get started on a project that she could call her own.

Make a card, Make a difference!

Make a card, Make a difference!

As I showed her the card and told her what she was going to make, I said, “You are about to have the MOST fun you have ever had in your life making these cards to bless Sonia” and Raymee just smiled at me. I hope she still smiles like that when she turns 18 and can officially become a part of my Stamped With Aloha team, LOL.

Cindy and Raymee

Cindy and Raymee

I designed a quick and simple card using products from the Come Sail Away Suite. Because I knew the type of people Sonia would be inspiring with these cards, I wanted the message to be uplifting and filled with hope. The message I used on this card says, “Let HOPE be your anchor through the storms of life”.

Come Sail Away Card of Hope

Come Sail Away Card of Hope



Raymee packaged her cards in a cello bag and tied it with a long piece of our Navy Denim Ribbon.

Come Sail Away Cards

Come Sail Away Cards

When I went back to the Cancer Center for my next appointment I saw Sonia and gave her this package. She was SO encouraged and told me how much she LOVES cards! She said, “I will use all of these”. Sonia even asked to send a card to Raymee to say thank you as she was so touched by the thoughtful gesture.

Sonia and Cindy

Sonia and Cindy

Since receiving by diagnosis, I have been so inspired by the way people have encouraged me with love, support and hope. I have been encouraged by so many people. Some who I’ve known for a long time and others like Sonia who I have just met. I’ve even been encouraged by some whom I’ve never met at all.

A couple weeks ago I got a package from my demonstrator friend Colleen who is a part of the Vessels of Hope ministry from River Oak Church in Virginia. Inside the box was this beautiful soft pineapple knotted blanket, a card filled with words of encouragement, and a devotional book called, “Praying Through Cancer”. The note inside the card said, “each knot tied on our blanket represents a prayer that has been said for you”.

This just made me cry and feel so special. As I held that blanket I felt the prayers from not only Colleen but also from the group of loving sisters who surrounded her and were a part of tying knots and saying prayers for me as they assembled this blanket. I felt humbled, honored, uplifted and INSPIRED! I want to make others feel the way they made me feel when I was down. I want to be a Vessel of Hope!

Blanket from the Vessels of Hope Ministry

Blanket from the Vessels of Hope Ministry

I think God wants all of us to be vessels of hope. We all struggle and at some point or another will find ourselves in the midst of a storm. When we come together and encourage each other, pray for each other, have each other’s backs, it’s such a beautiful example of the love that Jesus has for all of us.

I am thankful that I met Sonia, who showed me what it looks like to be a vessel of hope.

I am grateful to Colleen and the Vessels of Hope ministry for reminding me of what is most important in the world today, to be a vessel of hope to everyone, even people I don’t know.

I am blessed that I had time with Raymee to teach her how to serve others by being a vessel of hope using her creative gifts and talents and amazing Stampin’ Up! products.

I am at peace knowing that the God of hope is transforming me into a vessel of hope to encourage others even during a challenging season.

So, as I close todays post, I hope this verse from psalms will encourage you and fill you with hope no matter what your circumstances are today.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 15:13

Let’s be vessels of hope,

Cindy

God's PERFECT Timing

A few months ago, I was lying on the couch at home alone. A friend texted to check on me and asked, “How are you doing”? I had no strength to text her back. I just lifted the cell phone and took this photo of myself and hit send.

A Challenging Day

A Challenging Day

I was tired and could barely breathe. I had been out three days prior with procedures at the hospital in town. Two of the procedures were biopsies in which we got results right away. The results left the doctors scratching their heads! They knew something was wrong but all they could see was inflammation! On this day I felt like I was nearing the end of my life. I didn’t know how much longer I could go on struggling to breathe like I was. I thought about my family and then I thought about my grandchildren to be and I tearfully lifted up a prayer, “Lord, I really hoped to one day see my grandchildren”.

The next day we had plans to go out to lunch as a family. Derek wanted to take me to someplace where I could sit outside and get fresh air. He chose my favorite place in Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian because he knows that Diamond Head is my favorite landmark in the world. At the Azure restaurant you can sit outside and eat and enjoy a Diamond Head view.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel

Royal Hawaiian Hotel

I didn’t feel great that day. I had to walk really slow and my breathing was labored most of the time we were there. It was still a beautiful day and I felt blessed to be off the couch and out of the house. The thing that makes me feel the best is just being with my family. We always have such a great time together and its a good distraction to how I was feeling.

As we sat together, Kalani and Joyce surprised us all with a wonderful announcement. They shared that they were going to have a baby. As soon as they showed us the ultra sound picture, the tears began to flow.

Baby Baughman

Baby Baughman

What a precious gift, I could see my first grandchild. I was so touched watching Jess tear up as she realized she was going to be an Aunty and Uncle Brett looked so happy too..

Aunty Jess and Uncle Brett

Aunty Jess and Uncle Brett

Oh what a happy time this is for our growing family. Derek and I are so excited to be Grandparents.

Our Growing Family

Our Growing Family

After lunch, when I got home, I immediately thought of my prayer about hoping to “see” my grandchild. I said, “Lord, can I please rephrase my earlier prayer, I would love it if I could be there to not just see my grandchild but to hold him or her and watch them grow and maybe graduate high school, too”. LOL.

I don't know God’s plan for me. But I know he knows the desire of my heart. I also know that during my most challenging days, I think of this little bundle of joy and it makes me fight harder.

When I think of God’s perfect timing, I”m amazed at the miracle timing of this summer. I got really sick in April. In May and June we knew it was a mass in my lungs and I was having all kinds of crazy symptoms but after several biopsies and hundreds of tests, nothing was diagnosed. People were praying hard and in July, I was healthy enough to travel. I JUST got better!!! However halfway through our 2 week trip to Europe my symptoms came back which only interrupted a day of our travel when I went to a Rome hospital. We were able to get the meds I needed to finish our cruise to Greece and as soon as we returned to Hawaii, we got new test results that required me to have surgery and then the discovery that I had cancer.

Now, I could get upset and say, “why didn’t they find it in June”. If they had, I would have missed out on the MOST AMAZING FAMILY TRIP EVER. They found it however as soon as we got back and now with our grandbaby on the way I have a new reason to fight harder for this miracle healing.

For now I can rest knowing that God is in control I trust His plan and not my own. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you”.

My first chemo treatment was on Tuesday, it went well and 4 days after that treatment I am feeling better than I did before. I’m still tired but I’m not coughing and my breathing is better!!! This is thanks to the prednisone…. and lots and lots of PRAYERS from so many people all over the globe. .

This week, I received a beautiful hand made knit prayer shawl from my friend Martha with a card signed by a whole bunch of people at her church in Tennessee who prayed over it. That blanket is covering me now as I write to you. I feel completely covered and surrounded by so much love.

And now you know another reason you can pray for me, that my prayer to be there for this little baby will be answered. Thank you for your continued love, support and prayers. I am feeling extremely blessed because of you.

Trusting in God’s perfect timing,

Cindy

PS.. Derek wants to be called Papa, but what should I be called? Any suggestions?

Be Patient!

Today I have been meditating on Romans 12:12. It says, Be joyful in hope, PATIENT in affliction and faithful in prayer.

Being patient is not one of my best qualities. So today has been extra challenging as I am still waiting to find out test results that will determine my treatment plan. This result was supposed to be revealed on Friday but there was a delay so we had to push back my treatment start date till tomorrow. However, if I don’t hear something soon, I’m wondering if there will be another delay. So, I continue to TRY and patiently wait for the results to come in.

Romans 12:12 says to be joyful in hope. This weekend I was filled with so much joy and hope! My breathing has been improving. My coughing fits have been happening less. I had the energy to put some dishes away. Imagine that bringing me joy, but it did.

On Saturday, we have some friends we had not seen in over 30 years. they were here in Hawaii and we really wanted to get together with them. Since we were not sure how I’d be feeling, we asked them to stop by our home early in the day. I can’t believe how great I felt while they were there. It was so good to talk story and visit with the Barkema’s. We met them when we were a part of an organization called Youth With A Mission in the late 80’s. We all lived in Manoa Valley at the time where Dave, Gina and Derek were a part of the staff. I am thankful to God that he filled me with strength so that we were able to have a really nice time catching up with our friends from so long ago.

Visit with the Barkema’s

Visit with the Barkema’s

Later that day Derek and I went to visit the Cancer Center that I will be going to. I had an appointment to meet with a nurse to go over what treatment would be like. The Cancer Center was really nice. Everyone we met there was so kind. I felt peaceful and comfortable and READY to begin my treatment. Since we don’t know my plan yet, we went over both scenarios of what would happen regarding my treatment. I enjoyed the meeting and it was really helpful to get some questions answered and to see what it is going to be like when I begin treatment. I am thankful that I will be able to be in such a beautiful place surrounded by some very kind people.

On Sunday morning I came downstairs to find my family watching three different football games. Brett loves Green Bay and we love the SeaHawks. I love watching football and the fall season!!!

My favorite player of all time is SeaHawk Quarterback Russell Wilson whom I’ve thought of a lot as I’ve battled cancer because of his work with the Strong Against Cancer Organization. He visits the Seattle Children’s Hospital weekly to lift the spirits of the children hospitalized there. I can’t even imagine going through what I am going through as a child or being the parent of a child who has cancer. Praise God for people like Russell who give so much of themselves to make a difference.

Football Loving Family

Football Loving Family

Well, I am thankful that Russell and the SeaHawks won this weekend are are now 2-0 to begin the season. The Packers won too and have had a great start to their season as well. So, our football loving family had much to celebrate in our home that day!!!

Just after the game a group of our close family friends came by. Unbeknownst to me, a family meeting had organized that I was not allowed to attend. I went upstairs until they called me down to pray over me. I don’t really know what they talked about but it sounded like they were creating a plan to support me during treatment. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to be surrounded by so much love and aloha.

Before she left my house, my friend Cindy gave me the most precious drawing that her son Andrew made for me. Andrew is 7 and when he was younger he used to love coming to my stamp studio to play with my punches. He is super smart and knew the name of every shape. The front of his drawing made me smile as I remembered that special season I shared with him punching shapes.

Andrew’s Shapes

Andrew’s Shapes

When I turned the paper over, Andrew had drawn me the Solar System (something this little 7 year old is passionate about) and it was surrounded by some very sweet and encouraging words. I loved his picture so much that I put it in the front of a binder that I will keep all my treatment information in. I’ll carry it with me to encourage me and give me hope!

Andrews Encouragement

Andrews Encouragement

After the meeting, Derek had to go to work, so I spent the afternoon and evening with Brett and Jess. In the early evening, we decided to borrow my Dad’s small wheelchair and go over to the Lagoons for a walk. It rarely rains in Kapolei but wouldn’t you know as soon as we picked up the chair it started to pour!!!

Rainy Walk at Koolina

Rainy Walk at Koolina

We didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits. We waited till it let up a little and then Brett pushed me through a couple of puddles and we had fun. It felt good to be outside and enjoy some fresh air. Also, it is so beautiful there as it was close to sunset.

Koolina Sunset

Koolina Sunset

Today, I woke up again without a lot of breathing problems. My breath is still short but I have been able to move around more without any major coughing fits. I’m still tired so I still spent most of my time sitting or laying down but I am so grateful because I know so many people are praying and I am feeling strengthend by those prayers.

I have kept my phone close to me all day, anticipating the phone call that will determine what my life will look like over the next few months. As the hours went by I grew more and more anxious. In times like these I knew I needed to get into God’s Word and take my mind off my circumstances. So I was led to read Romans 12:12.

Let me share it with you again but this time the Passion Bible Version.

Let this hope burst forth within you, releasing continual joy! Don’t give up in a time of trouble but commune with God at all times. Romans 12:12 (TPT)

As I reflected on this verse, I’ve focused on the joy I felt over the weekend as I’ve experienced the blessing of being able to breathe better and the joy of being surrounded by loved ones who are doing so much to care for me during this battle.

I’ve tried very hard to not grow impatient, to not complain, but to continue to put my hope in God knowing that his timing is perfect and I just needed to talk with him and tell him how I was feeling The more I grow closer to him, the more peace I feel. I trust that he has a plan so I just prayed that he would reveal it and then did my best to leave it in his hands.

I wanted to blog today but I thoughts I’d wait until I had an answer. However, as I prayed I felt God tell me to just start to write and share honestly how I was feeling. To let you know that I struggle with patience but that I also trust in God’s timing. God is so faithful, do you know what happened? Just minutes ago, in the midst of writing this post, I got the phone call. I have the answer and now I can share it with you.

Are you ready? Drum Roll please……. our prayers were answered. I do not have the gene so I can begin OUT PATIENT treatments starting tomorrow. This is what we hoped for as doing the more aggressive IN PATIENT treatments would have meant being hospitalized 6 different times over the next couple of months. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who prayed and believed with us for this result. We are rejoicing in this miracle and excited to get the party started tomorrow.

We don’t always understand God’s timing but that’s ok. All that matters is that we trust in His perfect plan and in Him. Since I struggle with being patient, being in this position gave me the opportunity to grow a little more in learning to be patient. This delay also gave me the opportunity to share with any of you who may also struggle with patience! That way, we can learn and grow together and encourage one another to never give up but to continually commune with God who is our every present help in time of need.

Thank you for your prayers. I hope you know that as I go in to begin my treatment I carry with me all of the love, support and prayers you have been sending my way. I feel joyful, strong and ready to take on this next step in my journey knowing God is with me and so are you!

With much love and a heart filled with gratitude,

Cindy

In God's Hands

I sat at the kitchen table at my friend Cindy’s house last week and she helped me to assemble these little favors for my upcoming Bunco. I hadn’t been feeling very well but I was still able to drive and was doing my best to stay positive with hopes to get better soon. Also, spending time with Cindy is always good medicine!

These favors were made with products from our Bird Ballad Suite. Here is what they looked like when completed.

Bird House Favors

Bird House Favors

My friend Zeny helped me a lot by designing this card holder box shaped like a bird house. This was the Aloha Prize for the Bunco event that would be happening at my house over the weekend..

Bird Ballad Card Box

Bird Ballad Card Box

When it is opened, it is just the right side for a few cards with envelopes or maybe a treat like microwave popcorn.

Bird Ballad Card Box (open)

Bird Ballad Card Box (open)

Zeny has blessed me so much during this health crisis I’ve been facing. As the date for Bunco drew near it became apparent that I would be too sick to be there. Zeny graciously offered to step in and host it for me.

Bird and Butterfly Swap Cards

Bird and Butterfly Swap Cards

When this event was over on Sunday, I received messages, cards and photos from the ladies telling me how much they missed me. On Monday, when I returned to my house I saw that the Monday night group had written me messages on the back of their Bunco cards and left me a pile of bird and butterfly cards from the swap they had done. What a blessing!

The next morning when I went into the kitchen, I discovered this beautiful arrangement of baby roses that Zeny had left for me. I was so touched by her incredible kindness to me. The flowers really brightened my day.

Flowers from Zeny

Flowers from Zeny

Later that same day, I went to the doctor. My symptoms were back with a vengeance and I knew I needed to be seen. There was yet one procedure they had talked about doing but I had been resisting it. However, I knew that this was necessary because breathing was becoming increasingly more difficult by the minute and something had to be done.

I checked into the hospital on Friday, October 23rd and had a lung surgery where they collapsed a lung and took out tissues that we would hope would provide a diagnosis and it worked, we FINALLY got one!

The next day I was told that I have stage four high grade B Cell Lymphoma. The diagnosis or staging didn’t catch me by surprise. It was actually somewhat of a relief to finally put a name to the symptoms that have been affecting me over the past four months. I mean don’t get me wrong, when someone says, you have cancer, I didn’t do cartwheels and jump for joy, but there was an underlying peace that finally I could move forward with treatment and out of the world of the unknown.

Recovery in the hospital was tough. Especially day two as I was having problems with the drainage tubes poking me and causing me lots of pain. There was also the heaviness in my lungs making me very short of breath any time I moved or stood up.

Although the process was painful I know that God was at work. Let me tell you of a few things I consider to be miraculous that happened when I was in the hospital.

First, prior to surgery, I had been coughing uncontrollably. It was a dry, irritating cough, one that takes my breath away and makes me feel almost as if I’m going to pass out due to lack of oxygen. My surgeon came into see me after surgery and asked how I was doing. We spoke for a little bit and then he noticed something, he said, “Hey, you’re not coughing!!!”. At that moment I thought of how much it would be hurting my side if I had been coughing. He looked up to the ceiling and raised his hands and said, “THANK, WHOMEVER IS WATCHING OVER YOU THAT THE COUGHING HAS STOPPED!!” Well, I know who that “whomever” was and offered up thanksgiving to God for taking my cough away. This was miracle number one.

The second thing that happened was when I was talking to a nurse who had known about all I had been going through. The nurse said,” I’m so sorry you have had to go through so much”. My response to her was, “it’s okay. I know that I am in God’s hands”, I then said, “It’s like what the sticker on the mirror over there says, and its good to be reminded when I get overwhelmed.”

Here is what the sticker on my hospital room mirror said.

In God’s Hands

In God’s Hands

.The nurse said, “Do you know that this is the only room in the entire hospital that has that sticker on the mirror?” That just made me smile as I realized God was there and that I truly was in His hands, that was miracle number two.

The next came in the night, I was really hurting and a nurse came into take care of me. I began to talk to her about how I wasn’t ‘afraid and I told her of the miraculous things God had done in my life in the past, especially when I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. As I shared with her, she was brought to tears and she told me about a struggle she is having in her own life. She really wants to have a baby and has been not been able to conceive. I was glad she was open with me and I felt led to tell her that perhaps the whole reason I was there that night was just to encourage her and pray for her. I reminded her that God is real, that miracles happen and that I would be praying for a miracle to happen in her life. I won’t share her name for privacy reasons but would you please join me in praying for this nurse that God would answer her prayers to have a baby. I consider this divine appointment miracle number three.

The next miracle was so encouraging to me. I had been struggling very badly with pain from the drainage tubes. I was getting nervous about the next morning when they would be removed because moving just one inch was causing me extreme pain. When I woke up I wanted to spend quiet time and listen to worship music. I asked Siri to play praise and worship as I sometimes do. This song came on called Tremble by Bethel worship. Now picture this, I am in this dark room, I am feeling nervous, I am a singer whose lungs are very heavy, I am short of breath, I am hurting and overwhelmed. The song starts and I listen to these two verses:

[Verse 1]
Peace, bring it all to peace
The storms surrounding me
Let it break at Your name

[Verse 2]
Still, call the sea to still
The rage in me to still
Every wave at Your name

Then comes the chorus which says:

[Chorus]
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear
Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus

I just felt God’s peace and His presence as I continued to be still and listen to this song, then came verse 3 which says:

[Verse 3]
Breathe, call these bones to live
Call these lungs to sing
Once again, I will praise

Ok, at this point I almost fell out of the bed. I whispered to my husband who had stayed the night, “did you hear that”? This song is taking about lungs that will sing again! I was so encouraged. This song also reminded me that all I needed to do to silence the fear I was feeling was to call on the name of Jesus who I know was with me.

I was reminded that I was in God’s hands and that he would be with me through this procedure I was dreading. Within the hour, the procedure was done, it wasn’t pleasant, there was pain but when it was over, there was a huge amount of peace and relief!

In the midst of hearing this song, I took a screen shot of my phone so I wouldn’t forget this what I consider to be miracle number four!

Miraculous Song of Encouragement

Miraculous Song of Encouragement

Since receiving my diagnosis things have been quiet overwhelming. I can’t drive for 6 weeks and I can’t lift anything heavier than a newspaper for 6 weeksI My friend Cindy has stepped in to coordinate rides for me since I have had daily appointments with several different doctors. In just a few days after being released from the hospital I’ve already had 4 different people pick me up at the hospital to bring me home. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by loving family and friends. We have been talking with different hospitals and oncologists trying to decide which direction we will go for treatment. The good news is although I am stage four, they believe it is treatable and curable. But you know what, it doesn’t matter what they believe because I am confident in God’s plan for my life and I know I am in His Hands.

Although I have peace I have to say that the past few days have been tougher than any I have ever faced before. But I’m ok! I’m hanging in there, continuing to put my hope and trust in God whom I know has a plan for me that is good. If I can ask for a prayer request I’d ask that you would pray for my lungs to get stronger, I still am dealing with severe shortness of breath anytime I sit up or walk but I truly believe that I will get better with every passing day. Today was better than yesterday, I am just focusing on taking life one day at a time!

Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying for me. Especially for my Mother and Father in law who have been waking up and praying for me in the middle of the night. I can feel the prayers of so many who are fighting with me and believing with me for complete healing. I may not understand it, but I trust in God’s plan for my life.

He has that plan for you too! I hope that no matter what you are facing today you will be reminded that you are in God’s hands, He is for you and not against you and there is nothing that is too difficult for Him. Let’s believe together in His miracle working power as we continue to place our lives in His hands!

Trusting In Him,

Cindy