Wednesday, May 28, 2014



A 24-hour prayer event for Jen!!

Please click on this fb link to find out more and to sign up if you like.  If you are not on fb but would like to participate, send me an e-mail or comment below.  Thanks!

So touched by our friend Kent who is organizing this and for the many who are committing to pray for a half hour block on behalf of Jenna´s healing.

More info here:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Can we talk about plants?  It appears there are two kinds of people in this world:  those who are good with plants - and those who tend to kill them.

I am part of the latter group.

I don´t pretend to understand this.  I water, I fertilize, I look for proper amounts of sun & shade. (I draw the line at talking or singing to them.)  Somehow, those little suckers defy me every time.  They die off faster than flies on an electric zapper.

Since flowers and plants are high on the ¨gift list¨ for the ill, we have received quite a number of lovely things over the last few months.  Don´t get me wrong, I ADORE plants & flowers.  I LOVE their color, their smell & their life and I have totally enjoyed everything that everyone has brought.  But I break out in a sweat when someone appears with a plant, ¨Because it will last you longer than cut flowers.¨    Not in my house it won´t!

Among my varying responsibilities since Jenna´s diagnosis, caring for these plants & flowers has fallen to me.  Why does God punish me like this?  I do the best I can, but I am slowly killing off these beauties one by one.

It might be ok if people gave us hearty, tough-to-kill plants.  But, no.  Ironically, we seem to receive one of the most delicate plants in the world to care for: orchids.   If you want to give me a plant, do me a favor and give me a fake one!  But NO.  Not only do we get plants.  We get orchids.

I have killed 4 orchids so far.  

I knew I was in trouble with the first one.  The two friends who brought it to Jenna said a bit apologetically, ¨It takes some special care.¨ What does that mean?!  When they came for their second visit, I had to confess to its murder.  They laughingly said the sales lady talked so long about how to take care of it they thought you had to have an MA in Orchids to own one.  Apparently they were right!

In my defense, it has been a tough year with plenty of distractions & other priorities.  When Jenna´s in the hospital it is impossible to keep up with everything.  I can certainly handle ¨Water twice a week.¨ or ¨Give plenty of sun.¨ But ¨Wipe any telltale dust off its leaves delicately with a Q-tip.¨ is quite definitely out of my league.  Especially when there is a lot going on in my life.  If the learning curve for a plant is too steep, it´s only a matter of time ´til it´s pronounced dead at our house.

The annoying thing about orchids at my house is that they´ve lost all their pretty flowers but they still have green leaves.  So we hang on to them.  I read that it can take up to 5 years for an orchid to bloom!    That is entirely too slow for my floral patience scale.  When cut flowers are dead, they get ugly & stink.  You don´t feel bad about throwing them out.  You can have respect for flowers like that.  But these orchids are just hanging on flowerless...haunting me and and taunting my abilities (or lack thereof).  Sometimes we stick some other things with color in them (hearts on a stick, jewels, fake blossoms) to kind of cover up my crime but it´s only a matter of time ´til I´m discovered.

Please, people.  Do any sick friends you have a favor - before you bring them a plant, ask them if they have a green thumb.  Otherwise, stick to fake flowers, cut flowers, or better yet, everyone´s favorite - chocolate!

SPECIAL NOTE:  To the precious friends who have with love & no small effort blessed us with orchids, please be sure that your gesture goes on in my´s just that your flowers have not gone on in this life.  Please forgive me!!!!

P.S.  A couple weeks later a friend gave me this fake orchid!!  It´s PERFECTA, Ginny!! hahaha

Thursday, May 15, 2014

ELEGANT WARRIOR (Thru a Sister´s Eyes)

I´m so happy to have Dani share a post...a lovely tribute to her big sister!  
We are so glad she can be here at this time; she´s been such an encouragement.

Her gaze...
Her contemplative gaze, encompassing the whirling thoughts, desires, and emotions of her heart.  Her distant gaze that reveals only a small fraction of the overflowing thoughts that go on in her mind and  that is more than my mind can process.  Her pensive gaze that reveals, yet simultaneously hides, the secrets of her soul.  Her gaze, that heart wrenching gaze that with profound desire looks through the glass doors that keep her captive inside the hospital walls.

Some may think of her as closed or private, and understandably so, considering the scorching fire life is putting her through at this time. But she is only closed to those who have not watched her closely enough, or long enough, or have not simply sat with her, observing her, looking into her - into her eyes.  Her deep-set eyes are a window into her soul through which she shares many of her deepest secrets. They may not be put into words, but if you look closely enough, her eyes that are so profoundly marked by many kinds of suffering, say all that needs to be said, tell all that needs to be told.

Her smile...
A reflection of her humble acceptance of trying circumstances, blaming no one for her pain.  Her smile, completely void of bitterness, overflows with grace, innocence, and simplicity.  Her graceful and hopeful smile humbles those around her for taking for granted the freedom of life.  She does this with oblivion and without judgment;  it is simply the sweetness of her spirit that brings unknowing conviction.  

As we fight back tears all the way to the hospital and while in the waiting room, she throws up without ceasing, or is wrenching in pain while we all sit close by unable to take her pain away - but a smile always follows. Her sweet smile full of acceptance, forgiveness and hope - and completely void of bitterness.

As we all sit around her talking animatedly, telling stories, she looks from face to face with wide eyes full of anticipation, soaking in every word, overcome by the pleasure of being surrounded by those who love her so deeply, trying to cheer her, being with her, accompanying her.

Her peace...
Just like the peace seen on the face of a sleeping baby.  Her face, her body language, her voice, her whole self radiates with a peace that surpasses all understanding – or at least mine.  There is a sweetness about her very being that no matter how hard I try, I cannot understand; simply watching her sleep brings immediate tears to my eyes. I cannot wrap my head around the sweetness that her presence projects.  

However, though peaceful and sweet, it is not weakness. Despite the frailty of her physical condition and her constant awareness of her lack of energy, there is a deep, inner strength that she has, that has been given to her from the One above. It is an animalistic strength that her elegant body disguises, that the sweetness of her spirit overpowers, and the boldness of her smile, amidst the suffering, camouflages. Yet it is bluntly evident to all those who see her fight for her life every day.

From this stems her indescribable beauty. Just as I cannot understand how she can express such integrity through her smile, her gaze, and retain the hope and the peace that she does, so I cannot comprehend how someone can be so naturally beautiful and possess such raw strength. Whether she laughs joyfully, smiles gently, or cries sorrowfully, whether she is awake or asleep, there is an unfathomable and indescribable beauty about her presence, one that must come from the One who abides within her, never leaving nor forsaking her.  

For me, Jenna’s striking beauty and perseverance are a declaration of the glory of God, just as the heavens and the earth are.  The fact that she is a miraculous creation of art is not a topic up for debate - it is a fact. And here I am, holding the privilege of being by her side daily, watching her fight continuously, yet unable to protect her from this pain or take it away from her. I feel completely unworthy to be the sister of such a stunning, elegant warrior, but I praise God for this opportunity, and I praise God for allowing me to see Him through my gorgeous sister who He so beautifully, intricately, and wonderfully knit together.

I love you, Jenna <3

1st Photo on the beach by:  Rachel Donahue

Monday, May 12, 2014


He did it again.

Sent us what we like to call in Spanish ¨un mimo de Dios¨.

This can be loosely translated as an affectionate act of God that is unexpected & undeserved.  Something like a message of TLC.  I LOVE IT WHEN HE DOES THAT!

This last week has hit us like a terrible surprise gone wrong.  Just when everything was finally moving upwards & forwards & while the smile was still upon our lips of celebration at the gaining of 2 kilos, we were back in the soup again.  The tide had finally been turned & Jenna was feeling better, gaining weight and handling the NG tube with grace.  When the vomiting started - and wouldn´t stop - it was hard to not ask Why?  But here we are at the hospital again.

He seems to know just when we need something special.  I´m afraid I´m going to get spoiled!

On Friday evening we watched part of a TV program which is broadcast in England.  The host, a friend who works here in So. Spain, Kurt Kettner-Borough, shared a bit of Jenna´s story and then prayed for her.  There are thousands of viewers and we were super touched that he took time to do that for our family!  That was ¨un mimo de Dios¨ for us!

Then on Sunday, we started receiving photos from 5 friends who ran in a local race for Women Against Cancer here in Málaga.  They all ran for Jenna as their t-shirts and signs proclaim:

This is Daniela on the right with ¨Jenna¨on her t-shirt.  She is a friend from high school.

Here is Lidia, a dear friend who is a nurse and has visited often with Jenna during all of this.  Her sign says:  ¨This race is for you, wishing you a speedy recovery.  We love you so much, Jenna!¨

This is Mel, who in addition to running, set up a Whats App prayer group
 of youth for Jenna that we use all the time to post current requests.

These are 4 from our church in downtown Málaga: L to R: 
 Yolanda, Lidia, Mel & Wendi.  Aren´t they awesome!??!

So, He has encouraged us this week in two very unexpected & unique ways.

He is just the best.

And thanks to ALL of you out there who continually show your love in amazing ways that humble us, bring us to tears, encourage us, bless us, cause us to be filled with thanks to God and give us strength when we think we have no more.  You are all LA CAÑA!!!! (that´s a really cool thing.)

Photo by:  Stephen.James

Friday, May 9, 2014


On Jordan´s birthday in April, I rode a roller coaster with he and his friends.

And that, my friends, is the visual of our life of late.

Up and down, slow then fast, curves and long climbs, heart leaps & flops, scary & exciting all at the same time.

Except that I didn´t pay for this ride.  Or wait in line for it.  Or even want to get on it.

I am stuck on it.

Last year at our town´s fair I got on a ride with Jordan that I regretted:  the Viking Ship.  When I was younger I could do any ride at all, no problem.  But for some reason I don´t seem to have the same tolerance for those things.  That ride started and at first it was fun...but then it kept going...and going...and going.  It literally would not stop.  I started feeling so sick and I couldn´t wait to get off!  Our town´s fair is next weekend...and I will NOT be getting on the Viking this year!

I´m glad I have that choice.

This cancer journey has definitely been like a roller coaster in many ways.  Except that none of us chose to get on.  Lately we have been up and down so many hills it´s dizzying.  Your emotions get all flopped around.  You´re up one day and down the next.  There´s a successful climb & exciting view and then there´s a plummeting to the depths.  Or sometimes some of us are down while others are still at the top and the varying emotions are conflicting.  One thing we all agree on:  this ride is VERY long.  Way too long.  And we would all like to get off.

We have viewed this journey in 4 stages: big surgery, recovery. chemo, then more recovery.  We just never thought recovery after surgery would ever get so complicated and delay chemo (and thus the end) so long.  We knew she would lose weight but had no idea how difficult it would be to regain it.  We heard her body had to readjust and learn to re-eat again but had no idea how much pain and vomiting and perseverance it would involve.  We heard you have to advocate for the patient but had no idea how exhausting that would be.  We heard there would be good days and bad days - but until you experience them, you really have NO idea.

No two people´s cancer journeys are the same.  And no family can ever be ready for a young person´s illness, can they?  We certainly weren´t.  But her surgery was February 3rd.  That was more than 3 months ago!  And after weeks of struggling to eat by mouth, she is finally on the NG tube getting extra nutrition.  It took us a long time to get to this point.  Now 2 weeks later, we had a great 2 kilo weight gain and then with this week´s vomiting, have lost it all again.

We´re strapped in and stuck here and have to stay on til the train stops.  Some days I want to scream for this train to stop.  But the Conductor must make that call.  He must bring us to the end of this journey.  He must remove the security restraints.  He has to be the One to let us off. 

Until then we ask daily for perseverance, endurance and patience.  We battle against places of discomfort, discouragement & fear.  We thank God for those who hold up our weary arms.  We fight to stick together.

It´s a good thing the Conductor is my Good Shepherd.  Because I would have Houdini´ed my way out of that belt and jumped off a long time ago!

I´m glad this ¨ride¨ is in His hands.

Thanks for hanging with us.

Photo by:  TJ Scott

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


We were supposed to be there.  

We were supposed to be watching her on Saturday, May the 2nd.  We were supposed to be full of pride and joy, of gratitude to God, enjoying a full weekend of  celebration & emotion.  We were supposed to be jetlagged from having flown from Spain to California to watch her receive her diploma - our firstborn's BA in Global Studies with two minors.  We were supposed to celebrate with her and her friends these wonderful, life-changing four years together.  We were supposed to make that memory.

But we didn't.

I think I mourned it more than she did!

But when the pictures started popping up on Facebook it became very real, very hard and felt so very far away.  We saw the weight of the emotion on her face.  We felt both the happiness for friends and the mourning of her own loss.  She has bravely walked up to this day and has maturely embraced that there will be another time for her.  But can we just give her this time to mourn?  Can she just mourn not being part of the rush of all the To Do's for graduation with her dearest friends, of not ordering any announcements or taking photos or personalizing her sash, picking out her outfit, packing up her room, having a million last lunches & coffees & late night talks on campus?  Can we just give her this time to ask tough questions like:  will she be done with chemo in time to finish her last semester and graduate in 2015?  Will her graduation photos be with really short hair?  Will she know many people in the graduating class of 2015?  

We'll give her all the time she wants.

In the meanwhile, God has been doing His God-thing and sent her a really precious gift:


This is Becca.  Another Global Studies major.  She is also one of those crazy TCK's (Third Culture Kid) like Jen who has grown up among various countries & whose world is really big.  She sent this picture to let Jenna know that she wore this ribbon for her throughout graduation.  So did all the others from her Global Studies cohort.  Jen was so touched that she just bawled.  In a way, she was present after all!  She walked the line with them!  She celebrated with them!  She was there!!  Wow.  Such a gift.

So, these special kisses sent from friends, the last minute photos with your dearest groups and your whole graduating class' well wishes were summed up in a little ribbon that said to were missed, you were remembered, you were celebrated...

(cont´d below)

We look forward to the future things God has planned for Jenna.  We know this year is about learning things that cannot be learned in a classroom.  (There are many days she wishes she could be back there!)  But we choose to believe there will be a mark left on her life from this year. A mark on her heart.  A mark on her spirit, on her character, on her soul.  There will be a definite before and after.  A pre-cancer Jenna and a new & changed Jenna.  There are powerful, life-changing things going on that none of us are even really fully aware of right now...It's going to be amazing to see them unfold!  God's curriculum is our most treasured education.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  
Jeremiah 29:11  

Plans to give her hope and a future?  Absolutely!

photo by: Kevin Dooley