Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Sheets household

Dear Friends and Family,
Merry Christmas from our house to yours! We hope you all are enjoying this season. Many of you know how our year has been so we will not bore you with the details. Our capstone statement will be... We learned so much about our weaknesses but, thankfully, far more about God's might and grace towards us. Jon and I have been reflecting over our year and how much God has blessed us with life, healing, jobs, and daily provision. However, His greatest gift is what we celebrate at this time, His Son. Through him we have salvation and an all-satisfying relationship with God. Our Christmas prayer is this, "Gift of Gifts" from the Valley of Vision. We hope you enjoy and have a wonderful Christmas!

Gift of Gifts
O Source of all Good,
What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, Proxy, Surety, Substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
He was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 16.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The death march to the copier...

I have been student teaching for almost three months now. I love the school. I love the schedule. I love the kids. I sincerely look forward to going to work each day. However, there is one thing that I dread… the copier.

Copiers have always made me nervous. They are huge, complicated beings with a fickleness that can make anyone’s day a bad one. Sometimes they work without a problem and they glide fluidly throughout their task. Sometimes they even seem joyful about their assignment and the papers seem to shoot out with excitement. However, there are days when the copiers wake up on the wrong side of whatever they wake up on. They gobble things up and spit things out not at all how you asked. They throw things off center just to be spiteful. And, if they really are repulsed, they scarf up the paper and hide it deep in their mechanical abyss never to be seen again. It is on such occasions that the light flashes in announcement that something has gone dreadfully wrong. It is then that one must perform surgery on this creature, opening up its belly and pulling out its internal organs in search of the lost document. The process is terrifying and complex.

Because of this vacillating nature, I always approach with trepidation. If there was a monster in my closet, I am pretty sure that it would have an odd resemblance of a copier. It can make my day continue on without a problem or it can create a havoc.

Sometimes humans are like copiers; or, perhaps, it is the other way around. We are fickle as well as we allow our moods to determine our interactions with the world around us. Some days we are jovial with others. Some days we are passive. Some days we are gruff and impatient. We can make the days of those around us cloud with the shadows of our sarcastic or curt remarks. Or, we can encourage others with our compassion and willingness to help.

As I walk slowly to the copier, I remember how I dread this temperamental contraption. I do not want to be a person who is dreaded like this copier. Yes, as humans, we are emotional beings. However, I want to approachable and consistent in my love and caring attitude to others. I want to demonstrate a rejoicing spirit.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In honor of those who are still fighting

The end of October is nearing. It has been three months since I was told that I am cancer free. Life seems to be moving on. The plans that were derailed are back on their tracks and chugging along. My body is feeling better. My hair is growing back. Even the foods that I abhorred so much because of the chemo are slightly tempting for me. (Except for the Taco Bell. Those commercials still make me nauseous.) However, for as much of me is moving on, I feel like it has been during these last few months that I have really had to reflect on what the Lord brought me through. It comes to me in spurts. During those hard six months, we just had to keep going, sometimes moving from one hard thing to the next without having the chance to contemplate all that was occurring. Now is the time of contemplation. This does not been a constant dwelling on myself or my story and certainly not a pity party. These few months have been a great contemplation, reflection, and perhaps new realization. There have been moments of repentance, humility, and, most certainly, praise.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. There is pink everywhere. I went through a quirky pink phase as a senior in high school and I am afraid that it is not completely gone. I am attracted to the pink t-shirts, the pink ribbons, the pink icings, and especially the pink Swiffer. However, this month holds more meaning for me beyond my lingering affinity for pink. It reminds me that, although I did not face breast cancer, I have faced cancer. I remember what it was like to be scared in the doctor's examining room. I remember what it felt like to sit on the examining table and feel cold and fragile. I remember the dripping of the chemo medications. I remember the weakness and forgetfulness. I remember the hairs falling. I remember the radiation. I remember.
I remember. However, there are those who are still living this reality. For those that are still fighting, I am praying for you. I am praying for comfort. I am praying that you will hear the doctors say the same words that were said to me, "you are cancer free." Most of all, I am praying that, even though it may feel like you are living a nightmare, you will see that there is a God who provides grace and eternal salvation. He provides comfort. He gives healing, if not in this life than in the eternal life that is to follow before his throne in heaven. He loves you and wants you to have a relationship with Him so that you may be truly satisfied in Him.
I remember staring at myself in the mirror, looking at the lump that was lying below my skin. It amazed me that something inside was my greatest danger. And I could not eradicate it on my own. If left unchecked and unaltered, it would lead to death. Cancer gave me a picture of sin. Like my cancer, it was my greatest danger and would lead to death. I was helpless on my own. But how great the impact of my doctor's words that there was a cure. Suddenly I realized what a great gift I had been given. Your cancer may not have a set and definite cure. However, Christ's death on the cross was the definite cure for our sin. With Him there is surety. We must repent of our sin and turn and surrender to Him out of trust and thankfulness for this great gift. Hearing that there was a cure for my cancer was good news. However, the power of the Gospel, that there is salvation from sin, is truly Good News.
October is about to pass. Soon there will no longer be as many pink labels on the store shelves. Soon I will not cry every time I cut out all of the pink ribbon coupons. However, there will still be those fighting. I will continue to think about you all. I will continue to pray. I will continue to marvel how God can use even a disease as horrible as this for His own purposes and glory.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back in January, I would have never thought this day would come. Sure, I still planned and prepared, however, part of me thought that I would never be here, walking down the aisle to the most amazing man. Little girls often dream about their wedding day. They dream of the dress, the flowers, the colors of the bridesmaids' dresses, and their Prince Charming awaiting them. Most anticipate perfection and bliss. All anticipate the happily ever-after.
Most do not think about cancer.
When I was first diagnosed, I wanted to get married right then and there before all of the treatment happened. Jon was ready too. My parents even gave their blessing. We all thought that undergoing treatment would be somewhat easier if Jon and I were married. I, selfishly, just wanted to look the way I had always dreamed on my wedding day, with hair and all. We made that decision on the night before I was to have my small surgery to insert my port through which I would receive the chemotherapy drugs. The next morning, after the surgery, I woke up to find that the surgery had not worked and they would have to keep me in the hospital to give me my first chemo. When my doctor asked about the wedding decision, I burst into tears. I told her that we had wanted to get married before all of this chemo mess began. She looked at me and said, "Well, we do have a chapel in the downstairs of the hospital." That only made me cry more. It seemed that my wedding was not going to be anything like what I had dreamed of.
My wedding dress hung in my room those six months. My friends came one weekend and asked if I would put it on and show them. I remember putting it on and being disappointed. I did not have my long hair to curl and pull to the side. Instead, I had very little hair and two scars on my neck. I was dreading having to walk down the aisle. I recall praying to God to change my heart from dwelling on the outward appearance. Cancer was doing nothing to bolster my pride about my body; however, God was using it to shape my heart.
Seven months later...here I was on my wedding day. Mom helped me to get in my dress. As I looked in the full length mirror I remarked, "Mom, this is not what I had planned, but this is better." I would walk down the aisle realizing all that I did not deserve but what God was so graciously giving me, a clean bill of health, a chance to move forward, a wonderful husband. My wedding day was not what I had planned. However, it was infinitely better because I realized that this is what God had planned from the beginning of time. Instead of rejoicing at how I had brilliantly pulled off an amazing ceremony and reception, I stood beside Jon at the front of the church, in awe of our God.
The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:3

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Almost there...but I don't know yet

Sorry for not posting in so long. Life has been much busier since treatment ended. Yes, treatment has ended! Radiation is done. I am still waiting for my final scan and doctor's appointment on July 14th. I am praying they say that the scan is clear and this period of life is over. Meanwhile, I am busy tutoring, preparing for the wedding, and watching my hair grow back. (I am thrilled about the hair on my head growing but not so thrilled about the leg hair coming back as well.)
With treatments coming to a close and with an end to all of this in sight, I have been reflecting on the last few months. Many times people say that trials are good. They show you how strong you really are and they make you even stronger. But they don't mention that they expose sin, those deeply entrenched sins. Those sins that even you did not realize had such a grip on you. They don't mention how trials cause you to question or become angry. Or that there will be just as many moments of fear as there are moments of faith. The truth is you come out humbled. Job did. Sometimes you come through it, ending that race in tears or in a desperate collapse. This is no glory moment for you. We are not superheros here.
I remember climbing a mountain in Ecuador called Illinizas. Going up was tough. Next to battling cancer, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. I was trying to cling to the side of this mountain when every rock was falling around me. Nothing seemed safe and I was praying so hard. All of a sudden my "big talk" about scaling this thing had ended and I was praying just to survive. Almost to the very top, I stopped and just clung to the side of the mountain. I thought that I would never make it down. But I did make it down the mountain...on my butt. Talk about not-so-graceful. I scooted down the dusty side of the mountain on my rear end. When I finally got down to where I could walk, I had a huge red dust mark on the back of my jeans.
Sometimes I feel like this is how my journey through cancer has been. I would not change the experience because the Lord has taught me so much about clinging and depending. However, I have been humbled. It has not always been pretty. But God is faithful. There are still marks on my body, like the red mark on my pants, that will remind me of the journey and the struggle. They will always remind me of how small I am and how infinitely loving God is to have guided me through.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Radiation, running, and...ice cream

Radiation... I am now going into my third week of radiation. Only five more treatments to go. I have already been through 10 and I must admit that this experience has been much more pleasant that chemo. After a few doctor's appointments to set me up with a mold of my upper body (I got to feel like Han Solo when they were making this thing) and to line me up underneath the laser, I was ready to go. My routine is that I go in, scan my card, go to the dressing room, get dressed in a gown, the nurses come and get me, put me in my mold (I really do not know how a claustrophobic person would be able to handle that one), and zap me! I am in and out within 10 minutes usually. That is way better than six hours of chemotherapy.
Radiation does make you think though. It was such a surreal experience the first time I went in. You do not feel a things, however, all I could think was, "How in the world did I get here?" I would have never guessed that I would be doing this at the age of twenty-two during my last summer at home. Yet, here I am laying underneath a laser. Thank you, God, for medical technology and please let this take it all away.
Running... I am back to running and working out now. It is a slow process of getting back into shape but I am thoroughly enjoying it. Running makes me feel like I am doing something, that I am fighting something. It is hard to feel like you are fighting a disease when you are horizontal on the couch all of the time. Running is active. It is a struggle. And it makes you feel like you are battling. Exercise is also one of the only things that seems to ward off some of the fatigue that comes with radiation.
Ice cream... Radiation is a cake walk until it comes to the radiation sore throat. Because of where I am receiving radiation (on my neck) it makes my throat feel very sore. The only way I know how to describe it is like swallowing two ping pong balls but they are stuck in the upper part of your throat. It hurts really bad to swallow, so I have been doing soft foods like Jello, pudding, protein shakes, and lots and lots of ice cream. Thankfully, Janie, my sister, works at an ice cream parlor and brings me home ice cream all the time. The throat thing really stinks, but I may never have the opportunity to eat ice cream like this again. Just take joy in the small things!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reflections of a graduate

This past weekend I graduated from college. As I went to graduation practice, met up with friends, and finally walked in commencement, I mulled over what the last four years have been like. Here are some of the lessons I have learned.

* Sometimes, you know where you are going but you do not know exactly why you are going there and that is okay. I could not put my finger on why I was going to High Point University; all I knew is that God was saying "go" and I could not resist.
* Living with someone who is unlike you can be difficult, but you will grow a lot.
* Having good girl friends is essential. Girls, thanks for so many laughs and great conversations.
* We must never think that at any particular moment "we finally got it" or "we arrived at perfection." You will always look back on your freshmen year with fondness but also with the thought that "Man, I was an idiot back then."
* Change happens! and in reference to the above lesson...this is a good thing.
* Creativity in life is a must. In classes, in projects, in entertaining yourself on the weekends, and in reforming dining hall food to look more appealing.
* Spontaneity can be a wonderful thing.
* Late night milk shake runs are a must. Loud music on the car ride there is preferable.
* Studying with someone else leads to great conversations on class material and on life.
* Taking classes with the "crazy" professors is always best. They have more zeal for the subject matter and you will learn in this environment.
* People will enter and exit. Treasure the moments.
* God changes hearts, not you. He calls you to be faithful and He does the work.
* There are moments when you will feel panicked. Whether those moments happen during a late night study session or in having to do something you have never done before. Trust. Not yourself or your abilities. But the Lord.
* Alone time is good.
* Take a fun class every once in a while, something not in your major. At what other time in your life are you going to be able to take a film class.
* Do not sign up for a class just because it sounds challenging. If you do not like Economics or Greek and Roman history, do not sign up for Honors History: the study of the economics of Greek and Roman societies. Poor life choice!
* Encourage one another.
* Grades are not everything.
* Sometimes, things just build up and then the breaking point may be something little and seemingly insignificant like a green bean on your pizza from the dining hall. Prayerfully deal with things as they occur. Do not think you can handle it all.
* College kids like to dress up. Dances always seem to have themes. Therefore, it is important to find a good local thrift store.
* Coffee is necessary. Make friends with the baristas.
* Exam time will always remind you that you are human and not all-knowing.
* Life does not happen just like you visualized or planned. And that is okay.
* There are moments when you realize how awesome God is. It might be on the drive home for fall break as you get to see how the leaves have changed colors. It might be as you study astronomy. It might be as you stand on the side of a volcano during study abroad. It might be while you are alone in your dorm room and you feel small compared to all that is going on around you.

These are just a few lessons. Above all, I realized what Paul said in Philippians; knowing Christ is the highest pursuit. All else changes and fades.
Congratulations graduates!