Thursday, November 27, 2014

T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L



A day of Thanksgiving.  A day of embracing.  A day of remembering... and a day of looking forward. A day of sitting underneath an umbrella and journaling.  I am thankful to have started up journaling. It's been a month and it has been so good to bring fingers to a pen and to write.  There has been much to write about.... and it's a muscle that I've been yearning to grow again.  And through writing, my soul has ventured through the ravines and paths of life.  Processing and praising.... remembering and preparing...crying and laughing.  It has been good and I am thankful.   And so here I sit....about to do what so many will do today as they share a meal with family and loved ones.  I am about to share the things that I am thankful for.



videoWatching as Ketty moved her pointer finger this morning.  It was a clear movement and a testimony too the reality that the radiation is shrinking/reducing (and God willing killing) the tumors within her brain.  The movement in her thumb and her pointer finger were the first to go... and seeing her pointer finger move this morning was huge.  Her movements in her arm, while still weak, are improving.  The movements are increasingly fluid.... not as spastic as they were.  We do not know how the story will end.... but today I am thankful for the movement in her finger.... a testimony to the gift of HIS power... HIS ability to use medicine to do what seemed impossible.  

I am thankful for the many, many who have stood by me this year.... through words of encouragement, prayers, and financial support.  I still can't believe that I am being used by Him in a small community in Uganda. I often can't believe it... but stink, I am so thankful.... so  so thankful!  

most (but not all) of my brothers
and sisters! 
I am thankful for the many friends that I have back in the States... and here in Uganda
Allie.... friends since 7th grade! 
U. Michael and A. Sarah




 And there are so many, many pictures of family and friends I COULD post.   Just putting up a few... though I wish I could put up so many more!



 So thankful! It has been a year full of hard things... but just as equally, it has been a year full of laughter and joy.  A testimony of HIM in me.  SO THANKFUL! 
Ketty and I .... along with the giraffe's (and Pat, of course!) 
Rebecca and I..... she has since
delivered a healthy baby girl.  
Wizeye being all goofy for the picture.
After this shot, he took a less goofy one. ( c : 







Thankful for the many children that I have had the honor of loving on.... and either sending them back to school or to the sick bay for more care.  What an honor to walk with these precious children...to take care of their not only their physical bodies, but their hearts as well!   My coworkers... we have walked through hard things this year... but God has sustained us and has not only strengthened us as a team.. but He has united us... and for them, I am thankful.  

















Having the honor of knowing the kids in my family group.... for times to sit and chat leaning back against a hut.... or cooking food together in the kitchen.  Thankful to know them.... to go on snake hunts with them.... or holding them as they share their hearts.  









Momma Wizeye 
minutes before my grams memorial
service.

And thankful for my grams and for Wizeye.... two individuals I was very close with who went home to heaven within a handful of days.  It's been over a month and I still find myself thinking of them both... wondering how heaven is treating em.... and just thankful for them.  It's been a walk through a hard patch in the journey of life..... but not a journey I would ever exchange... I've learned in my life that it is often in the really really hard where I come out knowing Him a bit more

   


And did I mention that I killed my first snake this year?  It was a black mamba and with sweet baby Norah behind me and a team member... and the snake slithering away.... there was no time to let a man be a hero.  Picking up a bat.... I started beating the poor thing.... and beating it... and beating it.... until it was dead.... very, very dead! Thankful everyone was safe and that no one got hurt.  Black Mambas are very dangerous.  






 And I am thankful for my British friends and the flags that I obtained... and have had fun utilizing them this year.  ( c :  Oh..... so fun! I have learned to enjoy tea.... and have been blessed by my friends who are proudly citizens of England! ( c :









And opportunities to teach within the community..... where we talked about viruses and bacteria, malaria and fevers, and other topics.  They were a little timid in the beginning... but after pulling out some Luganda and engaging them... they loosened up pretty quickly.... I was thankful for their openness to learning and for the opportunity to share.  









 And the dryness of the day... makes one very thankful for water...   (that's water down in a cistern.  My friend Hannah and I are looking down taking a picture off the reflection of the water)





And by His provision through many of you, I was able to get a car this year.  It has already proven to be such a gift! It has gone on multiple trips to and from the hospital, on a journey through the bush, and has just been a blessing! I am thankful!










And I could continue on with other things I am thankful..as I know many of us could.  With one step in 2014 and one step preparing to step into 2015... I stand in a moment of reflection.  A year that has been stretching and rich.  I am thankful! And I am thankful for you all who have journeyed along with me.  I choose to dwell in the hope that we have in HIM and to rest in HIS promise.  He's got it all.... and He's got me!




 "I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope." 
Acts 2:25b-26




 Happy Thanksgiving Day to you All (truth be told this is a dead rooster.... but it still seemed appropriate for the day!)

















Saturday, November 22, 2014

Standing Firm....

It's late Saturday night... and by late... It's just a little past 9:30 PM  Yes, surely I am getting old.  I need to be awake till a little past 10 so that I can give Ketty her medications.  She is sound asleep in her bed near me.  Her music is blasting.  I have my own music on my computer.  My earplugs are channeling the music directly to my ears and into my mind.  I am listening to Keith and Kristyn Getty and their song, "By Faith".  




By faith we see the hand of God 
In the light of creation's grand design 
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness 
Who walk by faith and not by sight  

By faith our fathers roamed the earth 
With the power of His promise in their hearts 
Of a holy city built by God's own hand 
A place where peace and justice reign  

We will stand as children of the promise 
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul's reward 
Till the race is finished and the work is done 
We'll walk by faith and not by sight  

By faith the prophets saw a day 
When the longed-for Messiah would appear 
With the power to break the chains of sin and death 
And rise triumphant from the grave  

By faith the church was called to go 
In the power of the Spirit to the lost 
To deliver captives and to preach good news 
In every corner of the earth  

We will stand...  

By faith this mountain shall be moved 
And the power of the gospel shall prevail 
For we know in Christ all things are possible 
For all who call upon His name  


We will stand...  

And stand we will.  That has been one of the things that we have intentionally decided to do.   God calls us to stand.... while He fights the battle.  And so she stands.  And so I stand.  And so do countless others in support of Ketty. God's got this. And no matter how the story ends, we will stand and rest in HIS character and HIS goodness.   We ask for physical healing.  We trust in whatever He decides. 





And while we stand... we will also rest in HIM.
Ketty has completed two of her ten scheduled radiation treatments.  


2 Chronicles 20:17
17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holding on, a plan, and preparing for radiation treatment #1

Ketty is sound asleep a few feet away from me.  She fell quickly asleep.  It won't be long before sleep finds me.  But, before that happens, I wanted to bring fingers to the keyboard and let you know what happened today at the doctor's appointment.  It was slated to happen at 2:30 PM, but it was just a few minutes before 5 before we actually saw him.  Ketty and I both sat and people watched, dozed, and chatted.  Our hearts anticipated, but I believe that we both had a strong peace.  Just earlier this morning, Ketty and I sat and reviewed the questions that we wanted to ask.  And we came prepared with CT scans, medical documents, and questions.  We came knowing that not only was Jesus at our side... but we also came with the prayer support of countless others.  We were not alone.  Dr. Abwao, Ketty's oncologist here in Nairobi, greeted us warmly.  He took time reviewing the paperwork, listening to us talk, and looking at her CT scans.  He was upfront and honest.  The overall sense was that he was hopeful.  Before we left, we talked about the next steps... 

His recommendations... 2 weeks of radiation to her brain followed by chemotherapy.  A month after she finishes the radiation, she will have another scan.  At that time... we will know how her body has responded to the treatment.  

A plan.  And next steps.  And continued trust in our God.  

As I often say, we don't know how the story ends.  And I would be so blunt to say.... we don't always understand the different paths that God brings us on.  BUT we do know that He is good.  That He is sovereign.  And He knows what He is doing.  And so, we pull in to Him.... and continue to walk as He leads.  He's got this and we choose to rest in that.  

This afternoon, a bit before Ketty and I saw the doctor, I came across this verse.  And I immediately thought of Ketty.   As I have had the honor to walk with her (as so many have), my own heart has been challenged in HUGE ways.  Ketty's left side is weak.... and in helping her walk, I support her from the right side.  I love the assurance that these passages bring and even the reminder that He is supporting His Ketty.... and His Kimberly... and His                 .   He's got us and with Him at our side, we do NOT need to be shaken.  Our tongues can rejoice and we can dwell in hope.  And in His presence, we can be full of gladness.  


Acts 2:25-28English Standard Version (ESV)

25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.
And so, this day comes to an end.  We have been given the next steps of the journey and so we walk.... knowing that He is at our side.  


And so on that promising note, I bring my fingers to a pause and prepare to go to sleep.  Thank you to the many, many who are journeying along Ketty.  Your words of encouragement and your prayers are a gift to her.... for sure! I read her your messages.  I do need to have an email party to respond to you all.... and I will. But in the meantime, know that she hears your words and her heart is encouraged.  

More later for sure.  I feel like I could write a novel.... and maybe one day I will.  But for tonight, I'll write a few quick emails and head off to sleep.   Peaceful sleep.   

Tomorrow, Ketty will have a marking scan of her brain.  And then... after the doctor reviews the scanning, she will have her first radiation treatment.  #1 of 10.  






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Flying Estward..... trusting Him....

There is much more to say.... but for now, I am running around doing a little of this and a lot of that.  Wanted to get the update out to everyone.  More from me personally..... later.  Will be leaving New Hope around midday today and heading towards the airport.  Flying out a bit after 7 tonight.  Thankful for each and everyone of you and your presence on this journey.  What a year this has been.... yesterday as I was thinking about this year, I thought... this is one of the most challenging years and one of the richest.  A polar of two extremes.... with a lot of life in the middle.
He remains good.... even with the most recent news.  More later....
Kimberly
 
Here is the letter written by Mary Briton, a friend a co-journeyer on this journey.



Less than one month ago we collectively shouted, "HALLELUJAH!" in response to the healing Ketty Okoth received from esophageal cancer. She, her family and the entire New Hope Uganda community, as well as those of you who have stood with us in prayer have enjoyed and celebrated her victory! Indeed, she beat the odds against that onslaught becoming a member of a group of survivors comprising less than 20% of esophageal cancer patients.

Today I write to ask you to again stand with us in prayer and faith. Last week Ketty began experiencing some weakness in her left hand and arm. These symptoms progressed with left shoulder and neck pain followed by weakness in her left leg and an "electrifying" feeling throughout her body. A headache plagued her in increasing measure so on Thursday she was accompanied by her husband and Aunt Gertrude Bakimi to the International Hospital Kampala (IHK). She was admitted that evening after completing blood work and a CT of the head. Results were obtained and reviewed on Friday resulting in what appeared to be swelling and a tumor in the right side of the brain. The final diagnosis made on Saturday between oncologist and neurosurgeon is multiple tumors on both sides of the brain invading both cerebrum and cerebellum. These tumors seem to be of the same type as the esophageal cancer. The surgeon declared them inoperable, and both doctors agreed to refer her back to Nairobi for radiation treatments.

Ketty and Kimberly White, one of our staff nurses, will fly tonight (November 18th) to Nairobi. Their first appointment is tomorrow, Wednesday the 19th at 2:30 p.m with the same oncologist who coordinated her radiation and chemotherapy treatments earlier this year. It is hopeful that radiation to the tumors will sterilize them.

Please be praying for us as this again means Ketty will be separated from her husband and children for an undetermined time. Plans are in the making for both Uncle Okoth and their oldest daughter, Millie, to join her in Nairobi after the initial week or so. But first, Uncle Okoth must complete the process of securing a passport and Millie must finish with her final term exams.

Once Ketty has been evaluated and a treatment plan formulated, we will know more details of this next phase in a journey we thought had come to a close.

We also want to publicly thank the other nurses who work in our clinic who sacrificially postponed some of their leave time to allow Kimberly to be with Ketty for the first week or so in Nairobi. The entire clinic staff have demonstrated a unified effort to care for not only Aunt Ketty these past six months, but gave an extraordinary amount of time to the care for Wizeye Joseph this year. With his passing less than a month ago (he passed on Tuesday, October 22nd and Aunt Ketty was declared cancer free on October 24th--it was an emotional week!) our staff has been working under more demand and stress than usual.

Your prayers are coveted for:

The Okoth family as they desire their wife and mother healed; the children who are in the midst of their final exams and are not wanting to say good-bye to mommy again

Wisdom, strength and stamina for the doctors, nurses, and those of New Hope Uganda making decisions regarding her care and treatment

Necessary facilities for an optimal treatment course

Sufficient and adequate guest house accommodation in Nairobi for the unknown duration of Ketty's stay

Safe travel for all who will be with her in Nairobi

Complete sterilization of the tumors by the radiation treatments

Thank you for your prayers! Ketty was overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayer support and personal messages she received throughout the earlier course of this disease. Please continue your encouragement, prayers, personal messages and words from scripture as all of these tremendously aid her in her faith, peace, joy and healing.

In the words of Ketty's sending oncologist, we'll "trust God for another miracle," and give periodic updates when we have more to share.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

a simple blog... with a twist of seriousness...

I don't know what it is....but my fingers are itching to write.  And so, because you all are along for the journey.... you get to come along with me. Yesterday was  an absolutely productive and lazy day all crammed into one.  I think a more accurate assessment of the day would be that it was very productive... but being able to do different things at a leisurely pace makes it much more enjoyable.  This past Saturday, I was able to FaceTime in to watch my grams memorial service.  My sister set up her iPad which was put in a chair.  So, in many ways, I took a seat and was present with family and friends who came together to celebrate the life of my sweet grams.  I was so thankful that the internet worked so well.  There wasn't one interruption the entire ceremony.  Amen.  Something to be celebrated for sure! The few minutes before the ceremony were spent goofing around with my siblings.  It was so great to see cousins, siblings, my parents, aunt and uncle, and so many others! 

Looking at the program... through the computer screen

Grams and I... just a few years back! 
Chilling with Jonny and Caroline..... 


And days go by.  Much time is spent in the clinic.  Taking care of the sweet little children who come in including the sweet jaja's (grandma's).  Lots of sweet opportunities to love on, treat, send back to class, and care for.  Lots of coughs, colds, and fevers.  An equal amount of small scratches, upset stomaches with smiling faces, and other similar needs.  Wisdom from above and care no matter the seriousness of the illness.  Lots of opportunities to be faced with things that are completely out of my league... and to lean into my God.  He's got this.  He's got His children.  And He's got me.  Just today, I found myself beating myself up over something.  Questioning my decision and fearing the outcome of my decision.  And the self-doubts came.... the worries... the lies... and the "oh my... am I cut out for this?".... and then it's an opportunity to confess the pride, stand in the truth, and make the choice to rest in HIS goodness.  He has led.  He has brought me here. and I choose to rest in that.  To be brutally honest, it's a bit hard to do.  BUT crucial to do. And something I have the choice to do.  And so I choose to stand in HIM.   If there is something I have seen God do in the past year.... is do the impossible.  The absolute impossible.  Today, sitting beside Ketty as we celebrated her 39th year of life, I was overcome with emotion.  The emotion of significant goodbyes this past month along with  the gift of sitting by a friend who is celebrating another year of physical life.   A friend who has seen her God in sweet and amazing ways and is eager to share HIS goodness with so many others.  And so I choose life .... life in the little details of my heart.... and I rest in the gift that He has given me.... to be His hands and feet to the amazing individuals who come to the clinic each and every day... to each child within my family group.... to my friends who have become like family to me.  My little brief blog post sorta got serious.  But, I am ok with that.  I hope you all are too.  ( c :  

And speaking of life.... check out just some of the sweet, little ones that I get to interact with at the clinic.  Absolutely priceless.  Absolutely Adorable.  Absolutely an honor to walk with em.  

Sweet Izzy... washing hands is A-OK!

Miriab washing her hands.... 


Talking with JaJa Congo
The foot soak.... 

Charting away..... 
the needs of the clinic... pill bottles, coca cola and a pinard
And as I bring this sorta random blog-post to a close.... I share a few Christmas pictures with you all. The other week, I was walking by the Special Needs Building and ran into.... none other than Santa Clause.... who had even put on gumboots.  A necessity during the rainy season.... fo sure!  







I know it's not Christmas.... but all I got to say as I close this blog post is.... Merry Almost Christmas! and the second is....

Deuteronomy 30:19
19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,




Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gracias Katonda!

This isn't going to be a long post.  It might actually just be a few sentences.  Last week at New Hope, a team from Mexico came to serve.   And with them, they brought a huge suitcase of medical supplies and medications.  As a nurse working in a clinic.... these donations are always amazing.  It is always a blessing.  Almost always, we are blessed with more band-aids, gloves, and triple antibiotic creams.  Things that we use on a daily basis.  Things that we never really stop needing.  And almost just as often as we are blessed with things that we use consistently, we are also blessed with things that only God knew we needed.  For example, earlier this year, we were short on hemorrhoid cream.  Not something I had added to our needs list.  And tucked into one of the boxes brought by a team was a good supply of hemorrhoid cream.  I was tickled.  When I said something to the leader, he made a comment alluding to the idea that it was more of a mistake that it came than anything.  I smiled.  God knew it was needed way before it became a need.

And this week was no different.  Except that this time, God brought something specific for me.   I have a rare deficiency requiring daily medication.  It's rare enough that at the hospital I worked at in Fort Wayne, I was told by the pharmacy that filled my prescription that I was the only patient on that medication.  It's a big deal and not a big deal all wrapped up into one.  The key is taking the supplement.  And that's how it is.  I tell you about this because it is the prelude to just how amazing God is and just how into the details He truly is.

So, a team from Mexico comes to Uganda. Tucked in their suitcase of medications and supplies are an ample supply of the VERY medication that I take.  Going through the medications was an adventure in itself.  The medications were all in Spanish.... being looked at by Ugandans whose primary language was Luganda and by yours truly.  Yours truly who thinks more in Luganda now than in Spanish.  I can barely remember basic words.  What comes out is Luganda.  Some would argue that what comes out is "special" Luganda.  But either way, more Luganda than Spanish.

And so as we looked through the treasures.... I was stumped when I saw the medications that I take.  Stumped.  Silenced Really.  I had come with the tablet form of the medication I take... but God had brought the liquid form.  God had sent a medication that He knew I needed with a team from Mexico to Uganda.  How crazy.  How crazy amazing.

The details.  The care.  The reminder in a simple way of "I got you".   He's got me on something I didn't know I needed.  But He did.  And it just tickles my heart.



Matthew 6:26

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap no gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more valuable than they?

And yep, that blog post was a few sentences longer than a few.  ( c :  

Webale Nyo Katonda.  (Thank you very much God).  Gracias Dios (Thank you God)  Thank you very much God.