Gigi’s 88th Drive-by Birthday Party

Gigi turned 88 in the midst of Covid-19. Nathan and Melanie planned and beautifully executed a drive-by birthday party for her. 

It turned out to be an exciting evening here as Anna and Mary prepped Christopher’s children with costumes and then decorated their bikes and a wagon since they would be the side walk part of the drive-by celebrating.

Many friends who drove by decorated their cars or carried Happy Birthday posters, adding to the festivities. There were smiles and laughters, waves, Happy Birthday shouts, and socially distanced conversations from vehicles to Gigi’s lawn chair. Andrew loved running to the cars for any cards or gifts to be delivered to Gigi. 

Nathan wisely set up the cupcake stand just beyond the driveway so guests could visit with Gigi, and then pull forward for the birthday dessert.

The amazing Nathan Maxwell family who coordinated and put on the special party!

We were personally blessed to be part of the birthday celebration for Gigi and also by the outpouring of love for her:

>>From Nathan and Melanie thinking of and carrying out the party, right on the heels of a long-distance wedding trip
>>From Gigi’s friends and family who made the effort to leave the comfort of their homes to drive by (some neighbors walked by) and greet her
>>From Anna and Mary’s investment in making it extra special for Gigi and Christopher’s children. Christopher’s children could have just walked over and said, “Happy Birthday, Gigi,” but the costumes and decorated vehicles made it that much better for everyone.

Gigi is a loved part of our family, her church, and our community. 

“One generation shall praise thy works to another,
and shall declare thy mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). 

Home and Reunited

Tonight we’re sharing an update from Anna Marie. Love, Sarah

My blood count started multiplying quickly, and I was discharged from the hospital yesterday at 10 AM! It was such a joy to see Simon Peter in his car seat when he rode along with my mom to pick me up! Needless to say we have enjoyed some good snuggles.

And then this morning, an even more joyful reunion when Christopher arrived! We are so delighted to be together, and so grateful for Maxwell grandparents and aunts taking care of the five children in his absence.

Tomorrow I will go to the cancer clinic, and they will begin the usual routine of drawing labs and then giving me a Vitamin C IV. Once lab results are back (within an hour) my oncologist will decide if I can tolerate another round of chemo or if we need to delay. While I am hopeful we won’t have further setbacks, we also don’t want to push ahead before I’m ready.

I read Psalm 145 today and one of the themes that stood out to me was praising God for his mighty acts and wondrous works. My time in the hospital afforded so many opportunities to share with doctors, nurses, and other staff how the Lord has led and blessed us throughout this cancer journey. He is good, always good—whether we can see it or not—but there have been so many examples and little stories of His faithfulness that we have seen! 

Being in quarantine with no outside visitors meant that I could give undivided attention to conversations with nurses and I truly enjoyed getting to know them. I never would have guessed that I would be so excited by middle-of-the-night fellowship with precious sisters in Christ, while they were checking vital signs and drawing labs. It was a reminder that it is the same God at work in all His people conforming us to the image of His dear Son… “for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). In a way, I hope I don’t have to return to their care; but if I do, I know I will see many friendly and familiar faces!

This is a hymn I was thinking about while in the hospital. Our “little spaces” will all look different at different seasons. But whether it is homeschooling a passel of little ones or sharing Christ from a hospital bed, may we each be content to fill our little space in a way that brings glory to God!

Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me;
The changes that are sure to come,
I do not fear to see:
I ask thee for a present mind,
Intent on pleasing thee.

I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do,
Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child,
And guided where I go.

I ask thee for the daily strength,
To none that ask denied,
A mind to blend with outward life,
While keeping at thy side,
Content to fill a little space,
If thou be glorified.

In service which thy will appoints
There are no bonds for me;
My secret heart is taught the truth
That makes thy children free;
A life of self-renouncing love
Is one of liberty.
    -Anna Waring, 1850

Anna Marie

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that
in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always,
so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether
it be by life, or by death.” Philippians 1:20

Extended Stay

Thank you all for praying for Anna Marie! Here is another update. Love, Sarah

A photo session before I left Kansas

Hi All! This is a kind of long update, so summary up front.

Disappointing news: it looks like I’ll be here for a few more days.

Happy news: Christopher is coming for a visit!!!

Now the details.

It looks like I will be here for a few more days. My ANC (a type of white blood cell count) was not 400 like I thought it was yesterday; it was 192. Today it is 247. And it needs to be 1,000 or above for two days before they will discharge me.

For some reason, my body doesn’t seem to be very responsive to the shots that usually rapidly boost white blood cell counts. The doctor did say though, she’s encouraged that production of blood cells IS starting to go up, because this is the first day my platelet count has also gone up. She said usually the two counts go somewhat hand-in-hand. And she said it can happen like this with sitting and waiting for a while, and then all of a sudden they start multiplying exponentially.

The doctor also put in an “order” to the hospital pharmacy for a few of the blood-boosting natural supplements recommended by my oncologist, so I was able to start taking those again this evening.

Obviously, I was hoping to hear that I could go home tomorrow, so this was a little disappointing. But I know God has a plan in all this and is using it for good. I guess it’s really not very often that a mom of six young children has a week in absolute quiet solitude—except for hospital staff in and out, but I enjoy chatting with them. And FaceTime, texting, etc. help me stay in touch and keep me from getting lonely. 

The part I’m really excited about, though, is that Christopher is currently planning to fly out on Monday, May 25th (which happens to be the ten-year anniversary of the morning my parents told me he wanted to come out to meet me and pursue a possible courtship)! I am SO excited to have him coming—a big ‘thank you’ to Aunt Anna and Aunt Mary for enabling this! Please pray I am home from the hospital by Monday, since no visitors are allowed into the hospital.

Since a number of you have enjoyed the hymns I have shared, I’m including one that my sister-in-law shared with me yesterday. These words, penned by a man who knew hardship and suffering, have been a great encouragement to my spirit.

If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whatever betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days:
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.

What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help, if thou bewail thee
O’er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.

Only be still, and wait his leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
And all deserving love hath sent;
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To him who chose us for his own.

All are alike before the highest;
‘Tis easy to our God, we know,
To raise thee up though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low;
True wonders still by him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,
So do thine own part faithfully,
And trust his word, though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee;
God never yet forsook at need
The soul that trusted him indeed.

    -Georg Neumark, 1641; Tr. Catherine Winkworth

Anna Marie

“I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God:
hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD.
O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation,
thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.”
Psalm 140:6-7

Anna Marie is in the Hospital

Anna Marie shares her heart and what’s going on currently. Please pray with us for her! Love, Sarah

Hello Everyone,

I’m writing from the hospital this evening…

Yesterday afternoon, I began to develop a fever, chills, aches, swollen glands in my neck, etc. I thought it was a side effect of a medication I was taking to stimulate white blood cell production; however, when I called the oncology office, they said the side effects should never be that severe and I needed to get to an ER to be tested for COVID-19. Dad drove me and I arrived at the ER around 9 and was the only person in the waiting room—which was nice. (Dad, of course, couldn’t come in due to COVID restrictions.)

They soon got me back and ran a battery of tests. My blood counts were extremely low on every count, and I believe they said I had a neutropenic fever/infection. It sounds like my white blood cells are so low (due to chemo) that my immune system is pretty much gone. They started me on antibiotics and admitted me sometime around 2 AM. The doctors here were in contact with my oncologist, and they jointly agreed that it would be best for me to stay until the infection is subsiding.

The hospital staff has been amazing. It has been hard for Christopher to be away from me; but if he were here, he wouldn’t be able to come into the hospital. It’s a blessing to have FaceTime (and cell phones and text messages) so readily available. 

The COVID-19 test came back negative today, which was a praise! 

I’m feeling somewhat better, though still have a low grade fever and some aches, etc. I have no stamina; it’s an odd feeling to get worn out just texting a few people. 

This means that there will be at least a one week delay in my chemo treatment, something we were hoping to avoid. But God knows and isn’t surprised by any of this. Once again, this isn’t a path I would have chosen, but I’m thankful that God is using it for good in ways we might not know now. God is always good and has been so good to us through this—and I’m thankful that my soul can rest in Him.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: 
His holy will abideth; 
I will be still whate’er he doth; 
And follow where he guideth. 
He is my God: though dark my road. 
He holds me that I shall not fall. 
And so to him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right: 
He never will deceive me. 
He leads me by the proper path; 
I know he will not leave me. 
I take, content, what he hath sent. 
His hand can turn my griefs away, 
And patiently I wait his day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right, 
Though now this cup, in drinking, 
May bitter seem to my faint heart, 
I take it all, unshrinking. 
My God is true; each morn anew. 
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart, 
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right. 
Here shall my stand be taken. 
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine, 
Yet am I not forsaken. 
My Father’s care is round me there. 
He holds me that I shall not fall, 
And so to him I leave it all.
-Samuel Rodigast, 1675; Tr. Catherine Winkworth

Anna Marie

“The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me:
thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever:
forsake not the works of thine own hands”
Psalm 138:8

Monthly Grocery Shopping

Recently a blog reader asked this question: I saw you mentioned doing monthly grocery shopping. Can you give more details? Have you always done this? Do you meal plan?

Our monthly grocery shopping is done at Sams and Costco. We shop at our local grocery store, which is a Kroger affiliated store, weekly.

For monthly shopping, I have a master shopping list where I have all the items from that particular store that I might want to purchase. Then during the month when I know I will need an item, I mark it on that month’s copy of the master list. Before the monthly shopping, I take the list and go through the pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what our supply is of each item. The master list also indicates how many of each item I want to have on hand. That way when I count what I have, I know how many more to purchase.

Because we live 45 minutes from Sams and Costco, we have done that monthly shopping for many years. Our meal planning is on a weekly basis and more affects our weekly grocery shopping. The monthly shopping keeps us supplied with the basics we use all the time. 

I’d love to hear how you organize your shopping and lists to be efficient and economical. I am sure we can learn from each other.

Trusting in Jesus,

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first
begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.
Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” 
(Revelation 1:5