Friday, May 8, 2015

To give thanks

8 hours of chemo in the IV, 112 chemo pills, scores of nausea pills, vitamins, and the occasional sleeping pill all in four weeks time.  Two times a day he sits at the kitchen table, pills lined up, fingers tapping as he wills another one down with a swig of gingered drink.  In a month I think back to all the family meals where he smiled and tried to eat a bite of what his boys inhaled at a speed only growing boys can accomplish.  Late mornings and early nights, the grey furred blanket wrapped around him tight.  You can get lost in the pill counting, hour counting, the blur of getting through another day, week, and round.  His hair will stay, and his crinkled eyed smile will also.  And apart from a much skinnier, more mellow Jeff, he still banters with the boys, and asks me how my heart is really doing.
One of the things we have changed in as a family is how much we give thanks.  Focusing on what has been given in the day instead of what feels taken.  We have always been thankful for our life here in Scotland.  But now we are saying them out loud.  A verbal record of the good and not just the hard. 

 A morning talk with mugs of tea between us.  Sipping and talking, lingering at the sunlit table after the line of pills has been swallowed.  
The days he feels well and comes down with his collar shirt buttoned, bag slung over a shoulder and keys in his hand ready to meet with students and leaders.  
The walk with Levi, their heads disappearing from my view from the kitchen window.  How is Levi almost as tall as the father that always towered above him? 
 Luke asking questions about prayer and love.  Jeff's brow knitting to match Luke as they talk.  Two thinkers trying to figure out life together.  
Ian rushing in to show dad his latest drawing, Lego build, or story.  He reminds me often that he is not my son, only dad can call him son, but I can call him my Ian.    
YL Open Mic Night in St.Andrews.  Students singing, staff friends helping, and leaders shining.
A date night filled with fancy food and sharing our hearts, remembering, and hoping together.
Lion King on family movie night.  I left during the sad parts, Ian yelling after that the sad parts aren't that sad because it is all about love and the circle of life.  
  Shoulders that are still broad to lean on, a hand that engulfs mine in its grasp.
We are noticing the flowers blooming, and grass changing to the brightest green.  
The people surrounding our days, the ones that spill out love, and encouragement, and prayers.  
There is so much more to count.  To recall and to thank God for everything we have been given is impossible. But our humble attempts are shaping our hearts in a season we did not expect.

Jeff got back from round two late Saturday night.  His best friend from High School, Nick, flew out to be with him this time.  What a gift we have in friendships.  Jeff seems to be tolerating this round better than last.  Though trying to explain his days is like trying to describe the ocean in one word.  What could be still and calm in the morning can turn into foam topped waves by midday.  And so this morning was good.  And good for this morning meant that Jeff played Uno with the older boys and connect four with Ian even though he was fatigued and achy.  Good was that he ate two eggs, baked beans, and black pudding for breakfast and he didn't feel like he would lose it later.  Good is him now sleeping soundly upstairs as I type this.  And good later today would be that he can send out some e-mails and make some phone calls before three boys bound into the office to talk of their latest adventures.

This week when people ask how things are, I say our feet have finally found the ground again.  We are moving forward expecting a good God to give exactly what we will need for each moment of each day.  We are laughing, crying, and praying together more than ever before.  And we know God will accomplish more than we could ever ask or hope for in this season.  
In a week in a half we will have two uncles, one aunt, two nieces, and five other close friends come to our little village to love on  Jeff and the boys.  Jeff had a great idea when all of this hit that is now being put into action and I can't wait to share it with you as it unfolds.  
Thank you for all the love and prayers.  Thank you for walking with us as we thank God for the beautiful gifts along this hard road. 
Love, Becca

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

After the Wave

When the giant wave pulled back into the sea, and the knowledge of Jeff's condition settled into our mind and hearts, we were grateful for the enormous amount of prayers being offered up on our behalf.  We have swam through debris and dark waters these past few weeks.  Questions, decisions, next steps, sickness, and treatment options swirled around us as we tried to figure how to communicate to the boys and each other.  How to begin to move forward.  In the beginning it was hard not to despair.  A second opinion in London gave the same options, the same time lines.  Reality sunk deep into our bones and each morning we had to realize again that this is the path we will now walk.
Jeff would ask if I was afraid, and I wasn't, friends asked if I was angry, and I felt no anger.  We read countless articles, books, and emails filled with options and opinions.  Many of them helped.  We are both art majors but I am pretty sure we could minor in Cancer treatments and nutrition.  We choose to go with the targeted Chemo treatment, Herceptin, Xeloda, and Cisplatin.  That along with diet, vitamins, and essential oils.  We also decided to start treatment in London for now.  They were able to start immediately and use better diagnostics and genetic testing for future treatment options.     
Jeff made the appointment for the first round of testing and Chemo resulting in a five day visit to London just as friends were arriving from America.  Luke and Levi became sick and fevers came back every night as I kept them upstairs and hydrated.  Ian then came down with high fevers and my heart broke.  Sickness surrounded us.  I jumped from boy to boy to boy and Jeff called a dear friend Will to see if he could meet him in London instead.  The day before Jeff left I felt fear and anger begin to swell for the first time.  I sent out messages to friends asking for an SOS prayers.  I didn't sleep and Ian didn't get better.  I called a friend the day Jeff left to and blurted out my brokenness, my fears.  I asked why God would send His children out to battle naked and bruised.  I couldn't see the good God I knew.  
And this is why I know we are not meant to walk this alone.   With gentle, bold words of truth she said it is not God who seeks to steal, destroy, or kill.  That our God is called Healer, Life giver, Comforter, Prince of Peace,  Provider, and Creator.  I hung up and helped Jeff pack for the train.  Our neighbors came to watch the boys as I drove him to the station and said goodbye.  Each day Jeff was gone Ian became more sick as the older boys slowly recovered.  Our friends visiting took Luke and Levi on adventures while I watched Ian and prayed for a heart that trusts.  Ian's fever broke for the final time the night before Jeff got home.  I scrubbed all surfaces and washed all sheets.  My heart softened and the fear subsided.  
A couple from church are letting us stay in their cabin on the Isle of Arran this week.  The boys are on their second week off of school for spring break.  We are soaking up the beautiful views and surroundings.  We go on walks when Jeff is feeling up for it and we watch movies and build with legos when he is not.  We are learning to take each moment as it comes and to trust the One who gives them.  We are not grieving the future or the unknown.  We may grieve small moments in the day, but we will not grieve what has yet to happen.  We will live fully each day given, even if that day is filled with "Natigue", our new word for when Jeff feels both nauseous and fatigued.  I honestly can't imagine what this season would be like without all the prayers and words of truth and encouragement.  We are not meant to walk alone and we are so grateful for the many many people that are walking with us.  Love, Becca

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Update, 28/3/15

I keep hearing my dad's voice saying, "He doesn't trick His children Becca.  He doesn't give them snakes and rocks instead of fish and bread.  He is good, He has never let me down even in my darkest hours.  He has never abandoned me.  He has a plan and it is good, trust Him."  He repeated this through the whole process of going overseas, when the doors to Spain closed, when we had to come back for visas, when his health was failing...this is what I would hear.  
When Jeff and I sat in the small office and we heard the words cancer, terminal, spread to lungs a tsunami hit.  And we knew even then that this tsunami would cause a thousand waves into the hearts and minds of the people we love most.   We still wake each night and morning in a free fall.  Stomach tightening as we remember again and again where we are, what path we are now walking.  We move from despair to hope over and over.  

The outpouring of love and support is overwhelming.  On days when the path feels too hard to walk we pour over the songs, scripture, and all the love written out.  And little by little we are sharing with the boys the messages.  One night as Luke tossed and turned in bed I went in to talk.  He started with "Mom, can I ask you a question?"  Sure I said, bracing for the hard.  "Do you ever doubt God?  I mean with all the stuff that has happened this year, do you ever want to ask why me, why us?" But here is the beauty in the hard.  We began to list all of the things we had been given this year alone and by the time we got to this past week it was easier to see a good God, a kind Father.   We have a rule right now that every time they ask something about the cancer, future, or our faith we will answer them.  Even if the answer is hard or it is that we don't know.  But every single answer, even the I don't knows, are bookended with our great love for them.  How we would give anything for them to know they were created in love and with purpose.  And that our love is a thimble full compared to the vast ocean of God's love.  And each time we speak this truth to them, we feel it  grow deeper in our own hearts.

Jeff and I were flown to London this past week to get more testing and a second opinion.  Jeff also got tested for HER2.  This is a protein in cancer cells that make it very aggressive and fast growing.  I had a feeling Jeff would test positive because of how quickly the doctors think it has spread.  We found out last night that he did test HER2 positive.  This will change his treatments to a much more targeted one.  We are very confident that for the time being we are to stay in Scotland and that he is to start HCX as soon as possible.  We are grateful the other option of basic chemotherapy (EOX) is now off the table.  This new combination has way fewer side affects and he is hoping to continue doing what he does best.  We have had to make a lot of decisions and more are to come as we walk this out.  Please keep praying for wisdom in all of these areas.  We are surrounded by an incredible local community here that have been the hands and feet in so many ways.  And the prayers and encouragement from the state side community has held us up in  these last two weeks when we were ready to wave the white flag.

We have read every email, text, and face book message.  There is not nearly enough time with three life loving boys to be able to respond  to them all just now,  Each one has left of a mark on our hearts and helped bring light into dark parts.  Thank you.
Ian's favorite song right now is You Make Beautiful Things, by Gungor.  Each night after prayers he asks if we can sing it together.  The first few nights I couldn't, but he kept asking.  We always start quietly and end up yelling it more than singing it on the last go.  While I was typing this earlier he made a video of himself singing it much to my delight.  Now you can sing along with us!  We are trusting that He will make beautiful things out of dust, beautiful things out of us.
Love, Becca

Friday, March 20, 2015

Update: March 20th, 2015

     I have not written since going home to be with my dad to be with him as he passed from earth into heaven.  I wanted to process with family and friends and not broadcast that part of the journey.  God is good and walked with me through grief and deeper trust.  I write now because we know we can't walk this path alone.  We would love your prayers.  We still trust in a good God who created us in love and with a purpose.  Here is an e-mail Jeff sent out yesterday.  The news about Jeff is still fresh as we process this with each other and the boys.  Please know we will read every e-mail and message sent, we may just not be able to respond to them each day.  Ian is learning to ride a bike today and we are then heading to the new Young Life camp for a work crew weekend.  Life is as full as ever as we move forward.  Love, Becca

Hi friends.  Team Stables is in shock.  You should probably not write group emails to faithful friends and supporters while you are in shock, but here I am doing it.

Wednesday I was diagnosed with stage 4 Esophageal cancer.  Its worked its way into the lungs and is considered incurable.  So we are weighing options about palliative care treatment (slowing it, and managing pain etc)   The Lord is allowing us to get second and third opinions from some of the best in the world.  The survival times for this type are measured in months not years, but all the averages are based on 70 year olds so nobody really knows.

But I know a guy.  His name is Jesus.  We are welcoming all prayers.  Especially the absolutely ridiculous ones.

For now, the plan is to stay in Scotland and continue ministry.  In addition to your prayers we would love for you to continue your financial support.  You can pray for the timing of possible trips home to see family and friends.  

This isnt how I would have written the story.  But the writer always makes sure He gets glory in the end.  The good news is still good news, and its still the most real reality.  Im anxious to see the ways He intends to use this part of our story.  

My health is good right now.  I got in 12 miles running last week.  If Im honest, Im scared of the breakdown of the body.  Whole new appreciation for the faith and courage required in those seasons by so many of the saints that have gone before us.

I would ask for special prayer for my Luke, Levi and Ian and my precious wife Becca.  I know God will provide for them in so many different ways.  We will continue to update you as plans settle into place and treatment plans are chosen.  One thing we are grateful for is the authentic community of friends the Lord has surrounded us with here, and the amazing family and friends in the states.

If you choose to respond with encouraging words/prayers etc please know that we will read them and be blessed.  I may not be able to respond to all of them, as we are in a pretty intense season.

Time to go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu man chu.

In Christ,

Jeff Stables
Young Life International
NE Fife Scotland
Area Director
Madras College Chaplaincy

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sufficient Grace

This week did not fly by like the others.  It clunked and clawed and left muddy footprints through the days.  Just when you think you have the steps memorized, have the rhythm worked out you end up on a dance floor without a clue what to do.

Friday though Sunday Jeff was away speaking at a camp with 48 kids from different Young Life areas in Scotland.  In America I would have stopped the juggling act of different hats to go with him.  Giving the mom hat to a grandma to wear and donning only a ministry one.  Here, we aren't quite at the place were we can leave three life loving boys with someone else for more than a couple hours.  So, I stayed and prayed for the kids and leaders instead.  The boys and I took trips to the forest, did Saturday football and visited the Dundee Science museum.  Those are the things I take pictures of to remember and share with family back home.  And on homesick days we sometimes go through the virtual photo album on my phone.  On the hard days, the remembering is so important.

Jeff came home on Sunday evening.  In time to go to our dear neighbor's funeral on Monday.  The neighbor with twinkling eyes, and  knowing smile.  The one that shared a similar story to my dad.  And clouds formed in my heart and head that seemed to muddle all the good things that are given each day.  The things I can usually see and give thanks for.

Jeff left again long before the sun came up Tuesday.  This time for an all staff conference in England.  Another thing in America and with the help of grandma's I would have gone to.  And now Thursday night, the week almost complete I am surrounded by the balls I have dropped.  Two sick kids, three very important phone calls missed, late to pick up Ian twice, late to pick up Levi once, and a parking ticket today.  Laundry is still sitting in piles and dishes have yet to be washed and put away in the same day.  The desk I paint at has sat empty and I have eaten scones almost every day (my new comfort food).

Hours ago I sat down defeated, and pulled up the photos.  Ian sitting next to me and put out a finger to slide the pictures one by one.  By the fifth picture Levi stopped playing Legos and came over to see, and not long after Luke leaned over to get a look also.  The pictures start with all of us standing in front of the mountain of luggage we had packed to move here.  Ian slid his finger past our first weeks here, walking and exploring.  Past our first trips to Dundee, and Perth.  Through the countless playgrounds and forests trips. Their school, and new friends, the Monday night group of Young Life kids, and night of fireworks with neighbors.  He slowed as he reached to the last ones taken.  The trip to the bay.

I had forgotten I had even taken him there after school on Tuesday.  I forgotten I had snapped pictures and then given him the phone to capture images.  My heart and head were still heavy.  Heavy with Ian's questions of why did God have to make germs and sickness anyway.  If He was God why didn't He make the world where people didn't get sick and die?

But the trip to the bay quieted the questions of why for both of us.  I didn't know I was about to flop through the week in a clumsy dance.  In those pictures I clearly remembered how amazing an artist God is.  That in one rain dropped leaf I see more evidence of God than a thousand answered questions.  The goodness of God is surrounding us, His gifts are given daily.  I just can't always see them as clearly.  My kitchen still holds the treasures of the trip.  Sandy stones, and sticks still drying out, bit of bark and a twig of berries to draw later.  The phone flashed low battery and the boys dispersed, Ian saying, "I love our life, and I love when you are late to pick me up because it means I get to look at books!"  Learning to thank God for the days I know the dance and the days I stumble through in His grace.

Jesus  -- "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  2 Cor 12:9

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Our little pocket of the World

     And a month can go by in a blink.  You know when you are getting settled when routines that seems so unreal become familiar.  I still love that I cross over the Firth of Tay when going to get groceries.  One minute I am pulling out of our sleepy little town and the next I am driving over a four lane bridge stretched over two miles of water.  The bridge with a speed limit that changes with how strong the wind gusts are. Dundee is on the other side and it seems as if I am entering another world.
  The boys know and still enjoy the schools they are in.  They wake up at 7 am, uniforms on, breakfast, and teeth brushed.  By 8:30 am shoes and coats are on.  8:40 am helmets and backpacks are on and we wave good bye to Luke and Levi on their bikes (or Levi often catching the school van) By 8:45 I am already heading to the door with Ian to take him in the opposite direction to his school.  Then there are three hours for phone calls, emails and meetings for Young Life.  Mondays are Young Life game nights.  On Tuesdays I get an hour and a half Greek lesson from Bob, my neighbor.  Wednesdays are training days.  Thursdays are one on one meetings.  And on Fridays I have been painting instead of writing a blog post (sorry about that).  Jeff's days are like mine but ten times busier with pastors, head teachers, committees, and students.  It is all becoming more familiar as we grow deeper into the community around us.
    Maybe that is why it seems more important to explain just what that community is.  So here goes.  We are in the Burgh Wormit, If you look at the first map we are the last blue circle on the left that is on the waters edge.  You can see the rail bridge to the left and then the town next to us on the right, Newport.  Newport has the road bridge that I cross over to get to Dundee and groceries.  Further over to the right is Tayport.  These are called the Taybridge area in Fife.  Each of these three areas have their own Primary school.  Kids from age 4 to 11/12  are in primary school.  Then, when these students are done with Primary School they will take double decker buses to St. Andrews to go to Madras College.  Madras College is really a Secondary school (think American middle and high school combined). St. Andrews is the big kidney bean shape at the bottom of the second map.  This is where we are starting Young Life, Madras College.  We have been working with a small group of Madras students that live in the Taybridge area and training University students that attend St. Andrews University.  It may all seem very far away on the map but St. Andrews is only 10-12 miles away.  That is twenty minutes driving in Scotland weather and on their smaller roads.

     We are getting more familiar with each of the areas as we zig zag through our days.  The more we get settled and enjoy where God has planted us the more we are feeling some pangs of homesickness.  Pictures of our friends, family, and even friends pets make us sigh.  A sigh mixed with remembering, and missing.  In a perfect world we would smush Scotland and Virginia together in a big happy family.  Phone calls home make us weepy and grateful.  The connecting with friends and family is harder than we thought it would be.   As the world here grows bigger and deeper in our hearts we are having to figure out how to carve time out of our nights to call or write home.  The homesickness is hard but there is so much to be grateful for.
     Tonight at dinner Luke and Levi described again why school is so amazing.  How welcoming their classmates have been, and how much they enjoy their teachers.  Ian pipes up to say, "I can't wait to be in Primary one!  Next year I will get to finally have a desk and work!  This year I just play and bake cookies and do art", insert frown and Luke and Levi laughing and shaking their heads.  And school is such a big part of their world right now, so I cannot even begin to tell you how much this encourages Jeff and I.  Here is a picture of the boy's schools.  Luke and Levi's is on the left.  Those huge windows look out over the Tay Estuary and the train bridge crossing over it into Dundee.  The field is where they spill out of the school to play on each day from 12-1 pm.  Sometimes Levi will bike home only to change and bike back again to play football (soccer) with kids who don't want the day to end just yet.  Ian is standing under a mosaic at his school.  He will be there just for this year, and it is only a town over.  Next year he will be at Wormit Primary with a desk and big work to do!

 Thank you for all the prayers and encouragement.  We are excited to see what the next months have in store.  We are amazed by His grace in this transition time and can't imagine going through it without all the support and love.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What has stayed the same

I could write everyday to tell of a new word we have learned or a new experience we have had.  Honestly so much has changed it is hard to think about what has stayed the same.  Luke and Levi were both asking why time in Scotland seems to be on super speed.  Jeff and I heartily agree that there are not enough hours to do everything we want to.

This past weekend I was able to go to a Young Lives retreat.  The young moms were from Perth and Dundee and the leader is one of the first Scot to take me around town, out for a proper cup of tea, and ride shotgun while I was still hitting curbs.  The weekend was filled with learning about the truth of God's love, grace, and forgiveness.  We also got to go on one of the largest zip lines and ropes courses I have ever seen.  I am not afraid of heights and love adventure, but my palms were sweating and my heart was pounding as we zipped over towering pines and stepped out onto tight wire stretched between posts.

And that is how life feels right about now.  Up higher than what feels relatively safe, and staring down at what use to be a normal walk in the woods.

So here is what has stayed the same.  We are tied in securely to Christ.  The only reason I would have climbed that high and jumped and swayed through the course is because I was harnessed and clicked into a safety line.  I started the course knowing if I fell I would be caught.  It made the leaping a whole lot easier.  And even though it feels like we are zipping through life at a million miles an hour, He still orders our days.  He has hemmed us in before and behind.

The story of love and redemption is the same.  The scenery is different.  The people surrounding us are different too.  But we are to love and live with intention no matter where we are.  To live poured out and not held back.  I falsely assumed the backdrop would be grey and the people here, reserved.  I cannot believe how wrong I had it.  I have never lived in a place where weather changes every hour on the hour.  Blue skies, white clouds, howling wind, sideways rain, and fog thick as a blanket all in one day.  The people we have met have been generous, open, helpful, and very willing to hear our hearts and story.  The backdrop and people will change through the years but we are so grateful for the story of love and redemption that will never change.

I still fiercely love my family and friends back home.  To leave them was incredibly hard.  To be here feels easier than I thought it would be.  I know that we are exactly where we are suppose to be.  There are few times in our lives that we have felt the pieces click into place so securely.  And we have felt a tremendous amount of grace in the transition.  But when I creak open the boys doors and give them one last kiss goodnight my heart can ache and I can wonder why we are doing this so far from the people we love.  So far from the ones who helped us understand what a family is.  Christmas is coming and I know my dad and mom's visit will have to wait.  I hear my sisters laugh and see pictures of growing nieces and a nephew and it is enough to make me forget that the heart ache is a gift.  To be homesick means we were lucky enough to have had a home.  A place that was filled with laughter and shared memories.  Parents, grand parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles that helped mold and shape us.

I am still trusting that God will use us because we are willing and not because I have turned into a better version of the American me.  I still breakout, talk too much, day dream even more, and play Lego's when I should be doing laundry.  I think being placed in completely new surroundings can make you realize your shortcomings in a new way.  And that can make even the most playful and spirited person feel insecure and quieted.  We have learned to not take ourselves so seriously in this season.  Humility goes a long way in a new country and culture.  And it is way less painful when we remember where our worth and purpose comes from.

So as we learn words like full stop (a period at the end of a sentence), lug (ear), kitchen roll (paper towels), plasters (band-aids), and jotters (notebooks), we are also learning that the best parts of life have stayed the same.

Thank you for all the love and prayers.  Our oldest, Luke leaves on Monday to go to an adventure camp with his Primary 7 class.  They have been covering adventure and quest in literature (think Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe) and now they get to experience some of their own for five days!  We are in the midst of packing his bag and while I am a bit nervous, Luke is not at all.  In his own words:  "Why would I be nervous when it is something this awesome.  Adventure is always worth the risk mom."  We also have started up a leadership program to train some pretty amazing St. Andrews University students to become potential YL leaders.  We are more than excited for this next step and would love pray as we move forward.

"Love must be honest and true.  Hate what is evil.  Hold onto what is good.  Love each other deeply.  Honor others      more than yourselves.  Never let the fire in your heart go out.  Keep it alive.  Serve the Lord.
                                                                            Romans 12:9-11