Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year

I don't know if Joel would call homemade pizza, chili, seeing how many books he can get his family to read him, and how many times he can ride along with his brothers to Tractor Supply a New Year's Resolution...but at least it will be easy for me to plan the menu!

Joel has had about 4 very happy days. He has ate well and played and walked around almost like normal. He's a little wobbly and he's only been knocked over under a whole hand!

This week his hair was shedding so fast, all that was left was a mohawk on top, so I put him on a stool in the garage and popped a few chocolate chips in his mouth and buzzed that off. Our fellows have had buzzes through the summer, so it is not really too big a change for him. He rubbed his head and said, "Mom shaved it off".

On Tuesday we'll head back for the counts to be checked, and if all is in range, we should be admitted on Wednesday for his 2nd round of chemo. I've tried to talk a little about going back to the hospital and he doesn't seem too happy about that - so please pray that he would have a peaceful attitude and feel comfort that Terry and I will be with him!

Psalm 90:12 says, "Teach us so to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom". We really only have today. We have no guarantee of tomorrow, and how vital it is that we cherish each moment that we have with our children. How important it is that we apply our hearts to wisdom in serving the Lord Jesus and loving our families and those around us. Our prayer is that the Lord will be glorified in the midst of this crisis in our lives, and that His truth will go forth from our lives. Once again, Happy New Year.....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"In the shadow of thy wings..."

Psalm 57:1 says, "Have mercy upon me, O God, have mercy upon me; for my soul trusteth in thee, and in the shadow of thy wings will I trust, till these afflictions overpass." This is our desire, that we will trust in the shadow of his wings.

We returned to the clinic today for the pre admit appointment. Joel's counts were within expectations except for his platlet count. His count was below the level that it needs to be for his next round of chemotherapy. The doctor feels that the count will come up on its own over the next few days. We are scheduled for another pre admit appointment on January 2, and then, Lord willing, we will check in to the hospital for the next treatment on January 3.

We know that God is in control and we are resting in that as we deal with this postponement. Joel has had several good days. He has played with his siblings and has walked some around the house. He was entertaining his brothers and sisters last night with a little 'shuffle' in the living room. We are grateful for each day with him. In the midst of this trial you begin to sift out the things that really matter from those things that are temporary.

Please pray that his platlet count will come up over the next few days and that we will be ready for the next hospital stay.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

Greetings in Jesus' name to Family, Friends and so many that we have not yet met.

Psalm 111: "Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and his reghteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant. He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen. The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever."

It is scriptures like this that get us through the trial that we are experiencing. My flesh is so weak and my humaness wants all to be fixed and to have our 'normal' life routine again. Today I found myself in despair and wondering where God was, but it wasn't long until, as one we've heard write, we got back up on the "Rock". May he give us grace for each moment.

We do have plenty and our cup is running over when we stop and count our blessings. Many of you we haven't met yet, so we thought we would give you a peek at our family. And to those who know us you might find out something you didn't know.

The Lord has blessed our family with 13 blessings and desiring all that God has for us, the Lord gave Terry and I grace to build upon the truth that children are his reward. We live on a small farm and have many endeavours that keep a large family busy.

Caleb and Daniel: 19 year old twins. The Lord has blessed them with musical abilities, violin, viola, and piano. They have been taking string lessons from a UCO professor for about seven years. They taught themselves piano and have been playing for 12 years. The Lord has provided a studio here at our home and superior high tech equipment so that they can hopefully produce a CD with music to glorify the Lord. This past summer all the big and little guys built us a barn with a gamble roof.

Recently they have had some small construction jobs with dear friends and right now they are framing houses. They are like having three 'Terry's' around. They can accomplish most any 'job' that mom has for them. They recently purchased a new (to them 1995) Chevy pickup along with Elijah and dad pitched some too!

Bethany-17 years old. She has many projects going on and also is one of my main homeworker helpers. She keeps her family stocked with fresh bread almost daily. Bethany is the keeper of our nubian goat herd of 12. We are milking 2 right now through the winter and possibly we are going to have 12 babies to tend in the spring. Bethany has a vision to breed labs and has a 2 year old female. She has done alot of research and is looking forward to the Lord fulfilling that vision. Bethay enjoys the violin too, although with the schedule we've had in the last 6 months, her practice time has been little or nothing.

Elijah - 16 years old. Elijah is a stout, hard and industrias worker. He has a vision in the mornings and by evening he sees great new things that can happen around here! Elijah has recently purchased two registered limousin heifers. One is bred and due in March and the other is around 10 months. He hopes to show the 10 month in spring. Elijah has a talent of fixing things and making things from scratch. He is handy to have on the farm. Elijah is very sensitive to the needs of others and seeks out how he can bring a smooth path to his mom. We need to mention that Elijah rode a bull this summer at a youth rodeo. His parents hope that might be the last ride. (It was short, but he did it!)

Anna - 14 years old. Anna, our gracious Anna, she seems to float around our home on wings to meet the needs of her brothers and sisters. Sometimes I don't know if she can stretch any more, but she always comes through. Anna makes our goat cheese and keeps big brothers stocked up on desserts for their lunch. Anna enjoys spending time with Joel and taking care of baby Mercy! She has a big, I mean big, black Golden Retriever/Lab that she enjoys playing with on the farm.

Micah - 12 years old. Micah is one of 'mom's men' when the big guys are off to work. He enjoys farm jobs outside that his dad gives him, and he and Josh are in charge of our chickens. Micah has a vision of cattle too, although he is a little behind Elijah on getting his herd started. I've seen spiritaul growth in Micah this year and I praise the Lord for that.

Andrew - 10 years old. 'Dewey' (Andrew's nickname) is a hard worker too! He works with Bethany around the goats and is a professional goat milker! Andrew likes horses even though we don't have one right now.

Joshua - 8 years old. Just give Josh a BB gun and a pack of BB's and he will be fixed up. Joshua is dad's main garden worker.

Jeremiah - 6 years old. We call Josh and Jeremiah, the two J's - Jeremiah is an adventuresome fella. He likes to hunt and jump on the trampoline - he calls it Bull riding because he rides his big brother Elijah.

Hosanna - almost 5. She is our sweet little 'daughter of Eve'. Hosanna already knows how to take care of babies and all about being a 'home worker'. She loves taking care of Mercy and is also one of dad's garden helpers as well!

Joel and Josiah - 3 year old twins. What a pair. Joel, even though he is the first born twin, tends to be a little more laid back and Josiah wants to run the show. Joel calls Josiah, 'Siah', and Josiah calls Joel, 'Balley'. They have great fun together, they enjoyed helping dad plant the garden this past summer. Josiah doesn't seem too sad about his twin's situation. He has alot of playmates to fill in the gap. It's mostly hard on mom, because she remembers all the things they have done together. They loved swinging toether this past summer and fall and jumping on the trampoline. They would ride on Elijah with their one arm waving in the air. They would push their dumptrucks together at high speed along the beaten paths, when all was well with Joel - they certainly were buddies stuck together. They still have fun together, but since Joel can't manuever like Josiah, Josiah brings laughter and smiles to Joel. It has been so sweet to hear Josiah pray for Joel. "Oh Lord, heal Balley", repeating after his mom.
Mercy-9 months. What a joy is this little girl. She is adored by her brothers and sisters and is a wonderful blessing to all of us. She is carried around and pampered by all of the older children. There are times when she is almost pulled apart by her older brothers trying to be the first to hold the little lou lou, (one of her nicknames). She is crawling around and trying to put everything she can in her mouth. She is standing up and almost ready to start walking.

Terry is still at Sara Lee in OKC. What a tremendous boss that he has, and co-workers. Their support and understanding in our time of need has been a blessing to our family. Thank you, thank you! He has also enjoyed leading our little home church along with the other two fathers. He is seeking to return to the simplicity of the new testament, and the 'church that is in thy house'.

As for me, I'm blessed and I want to be more like Jesus - my how our trials show us our true state and our lack of faith. O Lord, refine me....

This is the group that is taking Joel's journey along with him. Joel has had an up and down weekend. He did not eat very well until Sunday afternoon. He seems to have lost some weight and we really ask that you pray for his appetite to increase. He is due to go back to the clinic on Wednesday to see the doctor, and if all is well he will be admitted to the hospital on Thursday for his next round of chemotherapy. He has enjoyed riding in his brother's truck, and he is also entertaining his grandparents from Texas for the next few days.

May you all be blessed with the presence of the Christ of Christmas, the one who was born in a manger and proclaimed by the angels to be the savior of the world.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow

Our hearts are giving praise to God, Joel had a good report at his checkup on Thursday. All is steady and climbing back up. His red count was 8.9. We are prayerfully desiring him to hold on to that til next week when he has his chemo treatment. His white count was in the 7000 range which the shots we are giving him has increased, Monday it was 38. A normal healthy person's range would be 15,000, we will give him shots for three more nights and that will give him a good boost for next week. He ate very well yesterday which was a praise. So overall the checkup was great! We are also thankful that there has not been any fevers. God has surely had mercy upon us.

Joel is holding up well, since he's not very active he is loosing his muscle and meat, so he does look very thin even though his weight remains steady. He takes several short naps during the day and continues to interact with his brothers and sisters.

Our whole household is suffering with coughs, colds, runny noses and sore throats, so that would be a special request, that the Lord would strengthen our immune systems and grant heath quickly. Baby Mercy has been pretty sick too.

For many of you who know the cancer journey with friends and family it seems sometimes to be a rollercoaster ride. I guess the thing that I want to be enabled to do is to keep focused on the Lord and stay upon Jehovah, to have a thankfulness, to be a joyful mother of children and to seek to be Terry's helpmeet. It all is so overwhelming when the enemy blinds me to look at my circumstances instead of the Saviour.

The rest of the children are doing well. Bethany and Anna are Mom's right hand young ladies. Many times Joel only wants one of them. They are seeking to serve their family too.

With the CBC checks twice a week which takes about 3 hours out of the day (travel time included) it is an adjustment to the schedules of our home. We sometimes get backed up on chores, laundry and food preperation. So that would be an extra prayer also that the Lord would give us grace, patience and brotherly love amidst our own family.

We are looking forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus and being together. Again we are filled with gratful hearts for your investing in our family through prayers, cards, emails, gifts, and much more. I don't know if I can ever get all the thank you cards out, but please know we thank you and pray a special blessing your way.

Rejoicing in God's Mercy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Through much tribulation...

Monday was CBC day for Joel, his red count was 9.3 and his white count was 38. Extremely low, but normal for a chemo patient. The nurse said he might go even lower before he starts climbing back up. Our big prayer is that he would not get a fever as that will be a trip to the E.R. for 48 hours to determine if he has an infection or not.

He is holding up well, playing with siblings, eating small meals and still exhibiting the sin nature, he could really use some discipline at times, but it is hard on Mom and Dad in this condition. So may the Lord give us wisdom to carry out that as needed.

We go back on Thursday for another CBC and will have to figure out because of Christmas on Monday and his scheduled chemo treatment on Thursday the 28th (a hospital stay of 3 days) whether or not he will have to have another transfusion. They do not want him to get lower than an 8 on his red count, so it's very likely he will have one Friday or Saturday. We'll give another update Thursday sometime.

Again we are so humbled with all the support of prayer, the encouraging stories that many have shared, and the fun things that Joel has received, has been a blessing. Also the way God is providing for our daily needs. What a mighty God we serve. It is so comforting that he is in control and is orchestrating all this for his glory and his kingdom. It is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.

I'm praying for you all, that the Lord would make your cups spill over with great grace because you all have blessed us so much! Keep praying for this little soldier! With much love and thanksgiving to each of you!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"God is our refuge..."

Joel spent the weekend taking medicine and receiving his shot each night to help increase his white blood cell count to fight infection. He was up and outside at times but he was also resting at intervals during the day. Tomorrow he is scheduled to have another CBC check to monintor his blood counts. He does not seem to have alot of strength. We pray that his appetite will increase so that he can gain back as much strenghth as possible before the next round of chemo.

Adjustments are being made in the day to day routine of the Morris family, but it is not easy. The older children and dad made a trip to our home church meeting, while mom stayed home with Joel and the younger children. Baby Mercy went with dad and had a great time.

One scripture that is encouraging to us right now is Psalm 46:1:

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

We seek to rest in this truth as we walk through this difficult time. Please pray for Joel to be strong and for the Lord Jesus to heal his little body according to His will.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Boots for Joel

Praise the Lord we brought Joel home on Tuesday. He has had two good days, and he has eaten small meals and has been playing on the floor with his siblings. Today he came walking around the corner to our living room-he was pretty wobbly-and he said "I'm walking and Micah isn't helping me." We were so excited! That is the first time that he has walked on his own in two weeks. Joel has been cheerful and content at home, except of course when dad has to give him his shot, but more about that later.

Today was also the blood check at the clinic to get his counts-so once again we set off with Joel and Josiah, Joel's twin, to try to get the cowboy boots that we were never able to get the first time. This time we went before the appointment, so they both got their boots and when dad met us at the clinic they were both quite a sight in their cowboy shirts and new boots.

Joel's hemoglobin level was 10.9 and his other counts looked good. He is receiving CFS shots for his white count and platlets. Terry has been giving the shots each evening. He has to get those to boost his immunity for around 12-14 days. After that it is back to the hospital for more chemo.

The Lord has blessed in so many ways, in provisions of making the home run more smoothly by blessing us with an electric dishwasher (we actually have 8 dishwashers-the older children, and sometimes dad). And we have certainly felt the prayers of all the people that are praying for Joel. We are grateful for the e-mails, the words of encouragement, the compassion that is sensed is so comforting. The Lord is giving great grace, and we are grateful. The Psalms have been very encouraging. They are speaking to our hearts and telling us to give thanks, to sing, and to know that God is merciful and he is in control. May the Lord bless all of you, and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you....

Monday, December 11, 2006

One Week Later

Joel had a relatively good day today. He laughed and played with the doctor, which he had not done since the first day or so. He also had a bowel movement which was an answer to prayer. His appetite has not been good today, so please keep praying about that issue.

We have tried to give him his pain medication orally this evening and he has not been able to keep it down. Please pray that his stomach would be settled this evening.

The nurses are saying that we are scheduled to go home tomorrow. We do not yet know what time that will be. Lord willing, we still have to have a session with the home care people on what we have to do at home to take care of our precious Joel.

Our other children have had a real challenge as mom and dad have spent almost the entire time at the hospital. Some of them have come up at times and visited their brother. Josiah, Joel's twin brother, has been up a couple of times. They really love their little brother, so please pray for them as well. We had tremendous help from the children's aunt and cousin from Kansas, and from both sets of grandparents, one pair from Texas and one pair from Arkansas. This has helped the other children get through this difficult time.

On Sunday morning Brian Chatham shared scripture with us, scripture that he had prepared several weeks ago for our home church meeting. Here is part of that scripture:

Isaiah 43:2 "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the floods, that they do not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the very fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." -From the Geneva Bible Translation

Saturday, December 9, 2006

"Every Joy or Trial..."

Our beloved Joel started his chemotherapy on Thursday evening around 9:00 PM. So far he has done well and has not had any side effects. He is resting well and eating well, although he has resisted eating at times. It is very important that he eats well and gets as much nutrition as possible as he endures the chemo. The plan as of today is to continue in the hospital doing the therapy until Tuesday evening. Lord willing, on Tuesday we will bring the little blessing home.

We are so grateful for the wonderful outpouring of love that we have received from so many of our friends and family. We thank you so much for the calls, visits, gifts, encouragement and most of all, prayers.

We are facing 15 weeks of a therapy program that will involve several hospital stays for chemo and many visits to the clinic for monitoring and testing etc. He most likely will also need blood transfusions during this process. We will keep you informed, Lord willing, with the details for those of you who might choose to give blood.

After the 15 week induction, we will then have several more months of treatment that will involve bone marrow transplants. The whole program is scheduled to last around 7 months.

The Sunday before we entered the hospital, before we knew what we were about to face, Caleb and Daniel, Joel's twin brothers, picked out the following song to sing at our home church meeting: "Like a River Glorious". Here is the last verse:

Every joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust him fully all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.
Stayed upon Jehovah, Hearts are fully blest-
Finding, as He promised, Perfect peace and rest.

The Lord has used the words of this song to encourage Cindy's and my heart during this time. We know that the Lord Jehovah is faithful, and will see us through.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Two Days After Diagnosis

On the weekend of October 8th Joel experienced a fever that lasted several days. He returned to active play after this fever and was his normal self.

For the next four weeks this cycle continued. Each time our hope was that the fever was gone for good. When the fever returned on the fifth week we took Joel to our family physician. The doctor recommended an iron supplement due to the fact that his red blood count (hemoglobin) was low (approximately 9.7).

The fever returned again along with swelling around his eye. We went back to the doctor to check his blood count and it had dropped even lower. We were then referred to a hemotology specialist at the OU Med Center.

On our initial visit to the specialist, his blood count was back to a 9.2, which is still low (normal for a 3 yr old is at least 10.5). The specialist, due to the fact that all his other counts were within range, recommended that we give time for his blood to rise. He reasoned that the effects of an infection could have caused his bone marrow to temporarily stop production. He scheduled us for weekly blood count checks.

We then went seven days without a fever. We went back for the CBC (blood count check) and it was low again (7.7). He scheduled us back in two days. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving we returned and his blood count was back to a 9.0. He was still low but he seemed to be making progress.

On Thanksgiving day the fever returned and his other eye swelled significantly, and so the next CBC on Monday the 27th was down again to 7.2. We went back on Wednesday the 29th and he was still at 7.

The fever returned again over Thursday/Friday and it was with great concern that we returned to the clinic on Monday 12/4. This time Cindy brought Joel's twin brother to the appointment so that Joel and Josiah could get cowboy boots on the way home.

It was with much heaviness that we received the report that Joel's hemoglobin count was 6.6. Joel has also developed some bulges on the top of his head. The specialist recommended that we check into the hospital immediately in order to pursue further testing. He also recommended an immediate blood transfusion to increase his blood count so that testing could start the next day.

On Tuesday Joel went through intense testing. His bone marrow was extracted on both sides of his hip. He was given a bone scan and a CAT scan. By Tuesday afternoon Dr. McNall, one of the Oncologists for OU Children's Hospital, shared with us that she was 90% sure that Joel has Neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer. We were devastated as she described the disease as a tumor that spreads throughout the body.

Based on the preliminary results of the testing she was rating Joel's case as a stage 4 Neuroblastoma.

On Wednesday after further testing, she confirmed that the tumors had spread into his bones and around his skull area. The tumors were not inside his skull, but were outside the skull pushing out.

The doctor recommended an agressive chemotherapy treatment program as the best chance of recovery for Joel. Without treatment, apart from the Lord's direct intervention, from the medical perspective Joel, according to the doctor, would die.

We chose to move ahead with chemotherapy with the hope that the Lord will use that means to save Joel's life. We know that ultimately our hope is in the Lord Jehovah to heal.

Today Joel received a port through a surgical operation so that he can receive the therapy without having to find veins each time. It was placed just under the skin. He also was given another bone scan and a biopsy was taken from one of his lymphnodes.

Joel has been a real trooper, for a three year old he has been a real soldier. It has been difficult, and there have been many tears that have been shed amongst our family, but we know that God is sovereign and that He is good, and so our trust is in Him.

We begin today a 15 week treatment schedule that will involve several stays in the hospital.
Please pray for:

. Mom and Dad to be strengthened by the Lord.
. All of Joel's brothers and sisters (12 in all) to have special grace.
. Joel's tumors to shrink.
. For Joel to have minimal side affects.
. That the Lord will strengthen his immune system.
. That the bad cells will be destroyed and that the good cells will survive and thrive.

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