A Decade of Challenges and Miracles

"God uses broken and imperfect people to challenge and inspire others. He utilizes our mistakes and our victories to shine a light on the path, so that others might follow. The transforming power of the gospel in the life of each person is a miracle. What He has done in my life is a miracle too."
Richard Stearns (President, World Vision U.S.)
Author of: The Hole in Our Gospel

I'm reading several books right now. I just finished reading From Jihad to Jesus by Jerry Rassamni. I am more than halfway through the latest biography of Lincoln by David Herbert Donald. I am well into Going Rogue by Sarah Palin, which I'm reading on the new Kindle John gave me for Christmas. And I am reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.

Though the details of these books are different, all four are about broken and imperfect people God has used to challenge and inspire others through their mistakes and their victories. My very favorite kind of books to read, by the way. And my hope for the book I wrote this year, Breaking the Chains is that God might use my brokenness, my imperfection, my mistakes and my victories to challenge and inspire others as well (obviously on a much smaller scale).

I've read quite a few blogs tonight. For most of us, blog or no blog, New Year's Eve brings reflection. On this particular New Year's Eve, we are closing out not only a year but a decade. As I read the reflections of others, I couldn't help but think of how dramatically my life has changed -- and how I have grown -- over this decade.

~In the fall of 2000, at the age of forty, I became a college freshman.
~In August of 2002, to my absolute joy, my only son married an amazing young woman.
~In August of 2002, my first marriage ended.
~In May of 2003, I met John Howerton and my life would never be the same.
~In August of 2003, just after John and I began discussing marriage, we lost his 18-year-old daughter, Brittany, to a fatal asthma attack.
~In January of 2004, John and I were married.
~In May of 2004, I graduated with a BS in Family Relations in the same commencement where my son, Danny, received his MA in Education Administration.
~In June of 2004, my fourth niece, Nicole, was born healthy.
~In November of 2005, my first grandson, Joshua, was born healthy.
~In February of 2007, my second grandson, Andrew, was born healthy.
~In June of 2007, John was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, a treatable but incurable blood cancer.
~From June through October of 2007, I battled depression as I tried to accept an unwelcome diagnosis and an uncertain future.
~In November of 2007, I developed a mild case of shingles and reflux (both, no doubt, brought on by a lot of internalized stress).
~In June of 2008, we tried a mild approach to treating John's constantly swelling lymph nodes (Rituxan, a MAB - not chemo). It was unsuccessful.
~In November of 2008, we went to Israel with a small group of church friends. It was the trip of a lifetime.
~In November of 2008, we lost an expected grandchild to miscarriage.
~In December of 2008, my maternal grandmother died suddenly after a fall (at the age of 91).
~In January of 2009, I began writing a book about my life and testimony.
~In February of 2009, my fifth nephew, Jackson, was born healthy.
~In May of 2009, I finished writing my book and turned fifty years old. John took me to Barbados to celebrate (because I started telling him five years ago that I wanted to do something really special for my fiftieth birthday - and he made sure we did).
~In June of 2009, I began my book's editing process.
~In September of 2009, John began a clinical trial (using chemo in combination with MABs) for his CLL.
~On October 20, 2009, I submitted my finished manuscript to Ingram for self-publishing.
~On November 10, 2009, I received my first shipment of 300 books and embarked upon the new world of "signing and shipping" books.
~On December 1, 2009, we found out that our "impending" grandchild, due in late April, will be a third boy.
~On December 19, 2009, I did my first book-signing at a local book store.
~As of December 31, 2009, I have less than thirty books left from my first printing, more books sold through Amazon than I expected, and four five-star reviews on Amazon.com.
~On December 31, 2009, John completed Round Five of chemo, with one final round to go the last week of January, 2010. And then, God willing, a very long remission will begin.

Tomorrow I may think of something I've left off the list. But at the moment, it looks pretty complete.

Clearly, my life reflects imperfection, brokenness, mistakes, heartaches, and many challenges. But more importantly, there is unmistakable joy, triumph, deliverance, spiritual growth and the ever present miracle of God's mercy at work in me; transforming me, sustaining me.

This New Year's Eve, we spent part of the afternoon with John hooked up to an IV. But thanks to the successful anti-nausea medications of Emend and the Sancuso Patch, he was able to eat a cheeseburger and fries at Pawbowsky's following treatment. Even though he felt really bad, he felt like he could eat (and did). After the first three rounds, his nausea was so overwhelming, he couldn't smell food, talk about food or even think about food without becoming ill. So I'm really thankful he has an appetite at all.

I went grocery shopping after we got home and bought a roast to make for dinner tomorrow, along with mashed potatoes, gravy, sauteed mushrooms, green beans and corn. I have every kind of chip and several varieties of frozen appetizers, tortellini, fresh sourdough bread (for beef melts), biscuits, crescent rolls, homemade Thousand Island dressing and salad fixings, ice cream, and a Publix coconut cream pie (which I have already tried and found rather disappointing).

I'm sure we won't consume my entire stockpile of munchies for the weekend. But I wanted to have options. I rented three movies, which I will probably wind up having to watch by myself (because something tells me there will be endless football on TV the next three days). And I also have my current reading material...the imperfect yet inspiring lives of Lincoln, Stearns and Palin.

Not a bad way to begin 2010 and a new decade.

Happy New Year, loved ones!