Missionary Monday

We have several family members currently serving missions around the world. Mondays are the days we usually get letters from them. It was very difficult for them to hear of their uncle’s death when they are so far away and unable to return.

Our nephew, Justin, got permission to call me from France. His call was so comforting. He bore his testimony in French then English of the plan of salvation, the love of God and that death is not the end.

McKenna says, “Needless to say, I’m taking this one hard but I’m continually reminded about how this separation we are going to experience with Amos is so small in the eternal plan of God. But the growth and closeness we will gain with our Savior is immeasurable. I have so much respect for the Abplanalp family and their continued faith. Not only did they have enough faith for him to be spared; they also had enough faith for him not to be. This is the kind of faith that is required from the Saints of God.”

Carlie’s letter from Texas said in part, “Hillary and Abplanalp family I LOVE YOU! I know there is literally nothing I can say to make this easier but I know that the power of Christ and His atonement is beyond anything we encounter here.”

Sheridan sent these words… “When I entered the MTC I decided I wanted to improve my prayers. I made it a goal and was working really hard at it. When Elder Anderson visited us he promised that as I prayed for strength I would know that the Lord lives. I was also blessed at the MTC to know that God knows me and loves me. When I got to Vegas I just felt a lot of adversity and really doubtful of myself and lonely.

On Saturday night I read my emails and was told my uncle Amos passed away. The neighbors underneath us were blasting Rihanna and my talk was unwritten and my companion was in the other room writing in her journal. Even though I didn’t feel like it I got on my knees and prayed for strength for myself and my family. I know my Savior lives and I know Amos will live again. I know God knows me and my family, it was one of the most powerful prayers in my life. I’m not a very outwardly emotional person but I sobbed.”

I love these missionaries and their faith strengthens me and buoys me up in these dark days.

I was up in the night tracking hurricane Irma. Amos’s dad was hit but is ok. They lost a lemon tree and went without power but they were unharmed and we are so thankful.

My childhood friend, Adrian, sent me this beautiful picture of my family. I love it so much and it reflects the letters of our sweet missionaries and their testimonies of the Savior and eternal families.

Our Dads

 

I have a memory of being a little girl and being with my dad when our car broke down. We had to walk a long way and my legs were tired. I don’t know if he remembers carrying me on his shoulders, but it seemed like we were walking all day. I’m not sure where my 8 siblings were but it was just me and dad. I wasn’t afraid because I trusted him to keep me safe. I have so many memories of my dad and the sacrifices he made for our family. Mostly I remember that he loved my mom and would do anything for her. I am so blessed to have a husband who loves me the same way. He has two amazing dads and I’m so thankful for both of them and the things I have learned from them. Happy Father’s Day Evan, Dean and Daddy! Honoring the amazing men in my life is something I should do every day but I’m grateful for a special day for them. #gratitude

Two men in our ward spoke in church today and I was a waterfall of emotions as they shared their humility and strength and the power that comes from honoring the sacred calling to be a father. Thank you Tyler and Sean. Sean shared a touching story about being a home teacher who was called to give a blessing to a woman before her husband took her to the hospital. The words of the blessing indicated that she would have more time on earth and that this would not be her time to go. The woman’s husband called Sean to tell him that she had passed away on the way to the hospital. He was confused because he knew that the prompting to say those things had come from the spirit and not from his own desire for her to live. He felt peace and the next call he got was the husband calling back to say that she had been revived and was alright. She lived for many years after that night. I want to show gratitude today for my brothers in law, bishopric counselors all the other priesthood holders who have given Amos blessings through this journey. I know our Father in Heaven keeps his promises and I count on those blessings every day.

We are resting today to gear up for a crazy week. My sister Missie just arrived from Utah and we are so happy to have her here to help.

Amos is not feeling well and not getting enough nutrition through his system to keep his energy up but he made it through the Father’s Day celebrations and church today. He is dealing with so many other people’s burdens on top of his own but he is holding strong. He said he wished he would have smiled in this picture rather than letting his pain show through.

Why Do We Do It?

I’ve never witnessed Amos in such pain while on the stand at church before and he was on heavy pain meds. He had to leave his seat during the choir number to throw up so his last pill might have been lost.

Someone asked me why I still hold choir practice and why Amos even comes to church. I get asked all the time why he doesn’t just ask to be released as bishop.

I suppose our motivation might not be what some might believe. For us, it is about building on the relationship of trust we already have with God. We aren’t trying to win a marathon or pay anyone back or prove we are better than someone else.

Many believe that living our religion or any religion to its fullest is too difficult. I have friends who once believed but admit they gave up because it’s too hard to “try to do all that.”

We don’t see it that way. We have found that we don’t need to be perfect but that God will meet us where we are and help us grow. It is our responsibility not to turn away or move backwards from where He met us on our journey.

We have simply learned that life is easier when we give God all we have, holding nothing back. Submitting to His will allows us to have the confidence to depend on Him for all the rest.

Life is easier, more joyful and more fulfilling when when we choose His plan for us. We allow the struggles we experience to fortify our foundation, give us clarity of purpose and sanctify us so we can progress.

Amos and I both know we have a long way to go so we are thankful for struggles and opportunities to show the Lord we are still trying and haven’t given up.

I remembered that I promised you all a nerdy video of Porter detailing what is happening with Amos’s Y90 radiation procedure. He is seriously the cutest nerd I have ever seen and I thought he explained it really well.

Amos had a good nap today. I’m sure his good counselors filled in for much of his duties today after church. We enjoyed some Living Scriptures with our kids and tonight we get to attend seminary graduation. Right now Amos pacing with no relief from pain. It always seems worse at the end of the day. He is looking for the motivation to put his suit back on.

He found it.

One Year Anniversary

One year ago today Amos went to the hospital for abdominal pain and was told by the on call ER doctor that he most likely had cancer. Our first miracle was that the ER doctor was a family friend, Sean Barney. Amos had been his home teacher just before we moved to Florence. We felt strongly that another doctor may not have been led to the correct diagnosis so quickly. In such a late stage of cancer, every moment was important for Amos.

Since then, many miracles have come and none of us have been left the same. It has been a year of unity in our family, amazing spiritual growth, increased faith and an incredible outpouring of love and support from our Father in Heaven and people everywhere.

In spite of a 5% chance of survival, Amos has been able to stay in his prison psychology work where he is on a unit with about 700 inmates, and he has been able to continue as bishop caring for a congregation of over 400 members.

As I have witnessed him serve all these people and serve his family, I have seen his focus transfer from his own suffering to the well being of others. These opportunities to serve have become a secret to his survival.

He has endured a massive surgery that left him with an ostomy and internal bleeding. The surgery subdued the immediate threat to his life, but did not remove the tumors. He then endured well for 22 rounds of chemotherapy that have left him without feeling in his hands or feet without diminishing the deadly cancer that had already spread to both sides of his liver.

Last night Amos quietly whispered to me, “I want to be healed now. Is that bad?”

On this day of remembering our trials and our blessings, I will share the advice Amos gave the prisoner who had become depressed because his buddy got released from prison while he was still there. Maybe this will help Amos answer his own question.

He told the inmate to learn to value things that can’t be taken away. They began by making a list of everything he valued and then having him cross off the things that could possibly be taken away and rewriting them as things that can not be taken away.

my family my ability to be a good family member

love my ability to love

freedom my freedom of thought

peace  my inner peace

respect self respect

money/job/car/house/possessions  my ability to work hard

health my healthy habits

power self control

When we place the most value on what we put in to our lives like our faith, our sense of gratitude, our ability to feel compassion for others and our character instead of what we expect from others, then we don’t lose the ground beneath our feet when things go wrong and we can be pleased with our efforts no matter the circumstances.

 

Cancer Markers

Amos’s cancer markers are sadly the highest they’ve ever been.

Cancer Markers 11.7

This was partly expected since this spike happened with the later rounds of his other type of chemo too.

The lowest his numbers have ever been were back in July when they were down to 3.5. Sadly, just going back to the type of chemo they were using then wouldn’t necessarily work. I have a feeling they will do that for a while and continue to switch off if he isn’t a good match for a clinical trial. His doctor did say he would get creative if things started looking bleak. Well, bleak to him. Amos never views life as bleak.

Amos has been having stomach and back pain similar to the pain he experienced when he was first diagnosed. A while after he started the chemo today he said “something is wrong.” He got extreme nausea and dizziness.

His white blood cell counts are down today because of his cold but they weren’t too low to proceed with chemo.

Computers at the cancer center were down for a while today so the wait was very long and we didn’t get the cancer marker number until he had already started the chemo.

He is staying faithful and holding strong through the pain, the difficult news and currently having no good plan or end in sight.

Thank you for your faith and love towards our family and a special thanks to the Elwoods for taking care of our girls while we were at the cancer center today. ♡

Wherefore Didst Thou Doubt?

Amos gave one of the best talks that I’ve ever heard today. It was about simple faith. He helped us glean understanding from the experience Peter had when he walked on the water with the Savior. This doesn’t quite capture the spirit of his talk but I will try to give the main ideas.

Matt 14:28-33

28  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 

Amos pointed out here that Peter asks the Lord for an invitation to test his faith when he said “bid me come unto thee on the water.” We can also ask for these testing opportunities or mountains as President Kimball used to call them. Amos gave the example of his own mountains and although he didn’t ask for the ones he has, he explained how grateful he is for them every day and the way his personal mountains bring him closer to the Savior.

29  And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

He succeeded here at first because he was focused on the Savior.

30  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

But when he turned his focus from the Savior to the winds and his fear, he sinks, but he immediately called to Him who saves. We can learn here that even the greatest among us will experience fear and our faith will waiver,

31  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

but if we call on him in our weakness, he will lift us . He may lightly rebuke us which is sometimes necessary for our growth as a parent who teaches a child.

I have witnessed Amos grow through this refinement process and lift countless people who have come in contact with him. We begin this Thanksgiving week with gratitude for ways we stretch and grow. When we have Christ as our focus we can overcome any obstacle through faith in Him.

 

 

Our Happy Places

We spent the morning at the hospital which is not one of our happy places. Porter left without eating breakfast because he wasn’t sure if he would make weight for his wrestling tournament. The good thing about a hospital is that they have lots of scales and nice nurses. They were happy to weigh him so he knew he could eat a snack from his backpack while we waited for dad’s 2 hour calcium and magnesium infusion and chemo pump removal.

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Mom: “Chemo pump off for the last time! Time to celebrate!” (fist bump)

Porter: “No.”

Dad: “Why Not?”

Porter: “You can’t have a party till you talk to the doctor and know for sure or you’ll totally jinx it!”

Dad: “Mom has a lot of faith.”

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One of Amos’s happy places is a wrestling match where he is coaching or watching his son wrestle. Porter is still at his tournament which is going late into the night and is all the way out in the West Valley. I’ll be surprised if they make it home before midnight and Porter lost his first two matches. He still has one or two more left. I wish we could have been there for him but it wasn’t possible this time.

It’s about 45 minutes to the temple on back roads and we were running late for our ward temple night. Somehow we made every single green light and got there in 30 minutes. We were able to get into our ward’s session at the very last second. We agreed that if we would have hit a single red light we wouldn’t have made it.  #miracles The temple is definitely one of our happy places especially when we get to hit Cafe Rio afterward with some of our favorite people. img_20161008_202129

Next stop: Home Depot because we needed supplies for Evelyn’s science project. They helped us find exactly what we needed and a store worker named Taylor even released a little propane gas into the store just to make sure Evelyn’s Ruben’s Tube would work. For that Home Depot gets put on our list of happy places today!

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We were dreading our last stop tonight! We normally love our church building but last week was general conference and our ward is in charge of cleaning the building this month. We thought for sure that the families assigned to clean the building would have forgotten. I wanted to cry happy tears when Amos went in and told me the building was clean! #happyplaces

Our happiest place is home and we finally made it after a long day in the car (not a happy place.) Amos is already asleep and I’m waiting up for my wrestling champ. – I have a lot of faith. 🙂

Faith

“Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.”  

Faith Flores quoted this in her beautiful testimony today and it has stuck with me all day.  We are grateful to know that a loving Father in Heaven holds the future and as Kelly Eastham explained, “He isn’t a vengeful or unkind ruler who seeks to trip us up to see if we will really follow him, but he is our all knowing, all understanding Father.” Amos conducted today.  He started the meeting with a testimony of how he has grown closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ these past few months and learned that they care for us individually.  Sister Angeloudis added her adorable testimony on the same topic.  I will be so sad when she returns to Australia.  She has been so perfect for our area.  I was loving the whole meeting.  I lost it when Amber Fitch shared her thoughts as her entire family was at church with her for the first time in a long while.  She must have seen me sobbing.  She is such a strong example of faith for her family and I look up to her so much for the way she gently, but persistently guides them to an understanding of the things she has learned.

We are looking forward to an Independence Day celebration tomorrow and I’m grateful Amos has the day off.  Mondays after chemo are his most difficult days at work. We have more than one reason to celebrate!  Amos’s cancer markers were cut in half for the second time in three months!

Cancer Marker on June 3rd: 6.9

Cancer Marker on July 3rd: 3.5

On July 27th, Amos will have another CT scan so the doctors can see the physical effects of treatment.  We are hoping and praying to discover that the cancer will have been completely wiped out from the liver and other areas outside the colon and that the main tumor will have become operable. Thank you for praying in faith for this specific blessing with us.