Saturday, December 31, 2011

Preparing for 2012

I am always amazed at the details of the Christmas story as I read and hear the accounts each December.  This year, I was reminded that Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and Magi had a common thread in the story of the birth of Jesus.  There were some profound lessons to be learned and taken to heart.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to tell her that God had found favor with her and the Lord was with her.  She was to give birth to a son and name him Jesus.  He would be called the Son of the Most High.  God would give him the throne of his father David.  When Mary did not understand, the angel explained that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive and have a baby.  Mary believed and trusted God.

An angel appeared to Joseph, in a dream, and told him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit.  He was to give him the name Jesus.  When he awoke, he did what the angel had told him to do.  Joseph again obeyed when an angel warned him, in a dream, to take Mary and Jesus and escape to Egypt.  While living in Egypt, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to now move to the district of Galilee and lived in the town of Nazareth.

The shepherds were watching their sheep when they were surprised by the angel telling them the news of Jesus’ birth.  Then the angel chorus arrived to join in on the celebration.  Even though they were afraid, they believed the message and went to see the baby they had been told about.  And then they spread the word about what they had been told about Jesus.

The Magi came from the east because they had seen the star in the sky.  After visiting Herod, they continued to follow the star until it stopped over the place where they found Jesus.  They were warned in a dream to go home taking a different route. 

They each
heard God’s message,
listened to what was said,
believed the message,
and acted with obedience. 

And they were assured that they did not need to be afraid.  Sounds like a good plan for 2012, too!

Luke 1:38
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Matthew 1:24
 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Luke 2:15-18
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Matthew 2:12
12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May this Christmas be a blessed one for you as you celebrate with family, friends, and most of all Jesus.

Debbie and Larry

Abby and Scott

Brad and Melinda


And because of Christmas...Easter is on its way.

Galatians 4:4-7
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Celltex Celebration

Larry and I had the privilege of attending the Grand Opening of the Celltex, RNL BIO, Stem Cell Processing Facility in Sugar Land on Thursday afternoon and then the Dinner Reception at The Houstonian afterwards.  It was an amazing experience.  The lab is modeled after the top level lab  built in Seoul, South Korea, for stem cell research.  It is the only lab of its kind in North America where they culture, grow, and bank adult stem cells taken from your own fat cells.  Dr. Ra comes to Houston often to give guidance to the process and Donna, from Celltex, goes to the lab in South Korea so that everything remains in top order.  This facility is where my stem cells are expanded and banked.

Celltex RNL BIO Stem Cell Processing Center
Sugar Land, Texas

Dr. Jeong Chan Ra - Seoul, South Korea, Debbie, Dr. Stanley Jones

Dr. Lotfi, Dr. Ra, Debbie, Dr. Jones
Three amazing, brilliant, gifted doctors.

David Eller, Chairman & CEO of Celltex

In Dr. Ra's remarks here, and at The Houstonian, he gave
God all the glory for what is happening with stem cells.
Dr. Ra is a follower of Jesus and a deacon in the
Baptist Church in Seoul, South Korea.

Thomas Suehs, Executive Commissioner, Texas Department
 of Health and Human Services reading proclamation from
Gov. Rick Perry, & Dr. Jones, Vice Chairman & CMO of Celltex

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Dr. Jones holding the proclamation from Governor Perry
After the ceremony, we were able to take a tour of the facilities.  They have built this lab like the one in South Korea, with windows down the hallway, so you can watch the lab technicians processing the cells. 

My cells are being processed in here for  my next infusion!!!

After the Grand Opening, we went to The Houstonian for the Dinner Reception.  My sister, Micki, and niece, Sarah, were able to share the evening with us.

Rick Hardcastle, Texas House of Representatives, and Debbie
Rick also has MS.  He had a stem cell procedure and has
regained his balance and can now wear his boots again.

Larry led the prayer before dinner.

I was one of three stem cell recipients that shared our stories.

 Psalm 115:1
Not to us, O LORD, not to us
   but to your name be the glory,
   because of your love and faithfulness.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Staying Close Together

Each summer on the first night at camp, after the evening service, we would go with our group to the team meeting site.  Before it was dark, the logs were gathered and set up to make the camp fire.  It was always good to have kids on your team who camped and knew how to get the fire started and then keep it going.  Through the years, I noticed that they kept the logs stacked very close to each other, with a little circulation space in between the logs.  They were very careful to add more logs when needed.  If a log ever rolled away from the stack, it cooled off and produced very little heat as the fire went out.  As we stood around the fire, we enjoyed making and eating Smores and spending time getting to know the teammates for the week.

When it was time to head back to the cabins, the logs were pushed away from each other, doused with water, and covered with dirt.  It didn’t take long for the fire to go out and the logs to begin cooling.

Logs for a fire aren’t the only things that need to stay close together to fulfill their purpose. We are encouraged, held accountable, have fellowship, and given the privilege of ministering with others when we are together, whether it be at church, at home with our families, or with friends.  Just like the log that separated from the pile and lost its heat and fire, it’s a more difficult journey if we travel alone.

Acts 11:23
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

Hebrews 10:25
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Romans 1:11-12
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

Health Update:  The past few weeks I have been able to increase the weight and/or repetitions on the machines at the gym.  Today, a couple that we see often came over and told us that they had talked about how much progress they have seen in my ability to exercise this year.  I started using the elliptical machine for the first time 3 weeks ago.  Beth said that she was really amazed that I do the elliptical on the steepest setting.  Larry does the machine like that all the time so it was no big deal for him.  He left the setting the same since it didn’t have weights.  I looked at Larry and we all laughed.  But I did it!  I climbed a mountain for exercise today!  (Please pray for Beth and Allen.  They lost everything in an apartment fire four months ago.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Turning Loose and Letting Go

When we were at Camp Tallowood, I realized that it was easier, when going to our team site and recreation activities, to walk over rough areas and keep my balance if I used a walking stick.  That definitely proved beneficial when we had night activities or walked a longer distance.  But it took a while for me to get to the point where I was willing to use a cane to help with walking “In real life”.  To this day, I still have the generic kind you can buy at the pharmacy because I did not want it to seem like it was a permanent fixture.

Then I came to the day that I had to make a decision about riding in the wheelchair.  We had gone to College Station for a Texas A&M football game.  As my symptoms of MS increased, it was getting more difficult to watch the Corps step off from the quadrangle, follow them as they marched through campus, go into the stadium to watch as they marched in review, go outside the stadium to watch E-2 (Brad’s outfit) meet at Reveille’s grave, and then go back into the stadium to watch the game.  I might add that I was taking pictures, or getting Larry to take pictures, all along the way.  The wheelchair had been in the back of the car for other games, but I did not want to use it.  One day, it was really warm.  I took a big breath, sighed, and told Larry I would try using the wheelchair that day.  Oh, my!  It not only saved time, but also energy, and was much safer when in crowds.

Then there was the walker.  I don’t know why I rebelled so much about using a walker.  Maybe it was once again pride.  A lady at the gym had a walker and the trainer had me use it to see if it made it easier to walk.  It has been amazing to look back and see the freedom, balance, safety, and independence the walker has provided over this year.  Besides all that, I can move lots of things around with the walker.

Pride, comfort, trust, and security in what I was accustomed to had the potential of keeping me from trying and accepting what in the long run was better for me.  That may be OK for canes, wheelchairs, and walkers, but it’s not when it comes to what God has in store for me.  There are times, I know, when God has had His “next provision and blessing” ready for me to take, but has had to patiently wait for me to get to the point of letting go of the old so that I can grasp and take hold of the new.  And it is always much better and worth it.  Praying and hoping those times are getting fewer and further between.

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Psalm 31:14
But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

Jeremiah 17:7
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giving Thanks with a Grateful Heart

What a great time of the year!  Even the calendar reminds us that Thanksgiving is a day to express and give thanks.  This week, I recalled the Sunday School and school writing assignments and pictures drawn that depicted that for which I was grateful.  I remember tracing my hand on paper, making it into a turkey and then writing on the “feathers” the things I was thankful for.  The boys did that as well.  I asked Mom if she ever drew the turkey when she was in school and she commented, “Yes, and I can see my hand on the paper right now.”  Whether it is on a drawn hand turkey, in a note of appreciation, in words or music, the practice of expressing thanks is definitely worth passing down from generation to generation.

When Brad and Chad were in 2nd grade, they learned about the Pilgrims and Indians at Thanksgiving and even learned a song in sign language.  They assured me that they could sing it much better at home than at school if they looked more like real Indians.  They spent quite a bit of time “painting” each other for the presentation.  What a treasure!

I’ve already decided that I would have to have more “fingers” on my turkey to list my blessings today and this year…God’s faithfulness and love…Jesus’ sacrifice… salvation…family…friends…answered prayers…hope…home…church…food… medical possibilities…doctors…walkers… infusion of stem cells…gym……

 I pray that my personal calendar will show every day as Thanksgiving and that it will express itself in Thanksliving.

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving thanks.
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I Chronicles 16:8
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Psalm 106:1
Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Ephesians 5:19-20
19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Thessalonians 5:18
18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:32
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Revelation 7:12
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rejoicing with Those who Rejoice

We have had two special family events to celebrate this week.  This past weekend, we went to Lubbock to attend the festivities honoring my brother-in-law, Kirk Lewis.  He was recognized as one of four Texas Tech Distinguished Alumni for 2011.  Kirk is the Superintendent for Pasadena Independent School District.  Because of his commitment and contributions, he is making a difference for students, faculty, staff, families, and the community. 
My mother and 17 members of our family were in Lubbock to celebrate the event.  Randi, our niece from Albuquerque, is a Texas Tech graduate and is now in her third year of pursuing a Doctorate in Audiology and Balance.  We loved getting to visit with her again.  The minister of music and his wife, from South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, were also there to help honor Kirk.
Mom and the grandchildren who could attend

Kevin, Adam, Sarah, Randi, Andrew, Jordan
Adam made sure Texas A&M was represented
at the Texas Tech event with his Gig 'em!

There was a dinner on Friday night at the Merket Alumni Center.  When we arrived, we met in the reception area to visit.  My sister noticed a yearboook on one of the tables and discovered that it was the 1951 La Ventana, the year my parents graduated from Tech!  It was fun to look through the annual and find Mom’s and Dad’s pictures. 
Dad's picture lower left
Carl W. Schoeffler, La Marque

Mom's picture on bottom
Glenna Hackney, Lubbock

After the meal, words of tribute were spoken about each honoree and a video was shown; they were awarded a medallion and plaque.  Then each recipient was given the opportunity to speak.  Kirk’s speech was outstanding and from the heart.  What a proud moment for all of us.

Kirk giving his speech

Kirk and Robin Lewis

We went to the Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma football game on Saturday or rather we visited the stadium.  It was the worst Tech football game is history.  The recognition of the four Distinguished Alumni at halftime was definitely the highlight of the game, but again it would have been the highlight for us even if it had been the best game in Red Raider history.
Halftime Recognition
Kirk is on the far right

Kirk clapping

Kirk and Robin's grandson, Eli, with cousin Sarah
Adam, Eli's Aggie dad, allowed him to wear the
Texas Tech outfit for this event ONLY!

After the game, we visited with my cousin’s family.  It was so good to see Bill, Donna, Tyler, and Justin again.  We also went to see another cousin, Elizabeth and her husband Kirby.

On Tuesday night, we attended a dinner honoring my youngest sister, Micki.

Kevin, Micki, Sarah, Mark
Micki retired from a 30 year career in education.  She taught math for 2 years in Arlington, 1 year in Pasadena, and 27 at Deer Park High School.  She was the High School Math Instructional Specialist the last 3 years.  Micki has also taught math at San Jacinto College and will continue to do that.  Since she retired during the summer, she thought she got by without a big party.  Even though teachers at her school had celebrated with her, some church friends wanted to honor her as well.

Micki visiting after dinner

Micki opening gifts and cards

Micki is one of those people that God has gifted with the ability to teach and make a difference.  Whether it’s math, lessons for life, Sunday School or as a sponsor for church youth camp, youth choir, or a mission trip, she challenges, encourages, and helps kids (and adults) reach their potential.  She is such a joy and blessing to all of us.  What a great week of celebrating and rejoicing with family and friends.

Romans 12:15a
Rejoice with those who rejoice;…

I Corinthians 12:26b
if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Reflection

On October 8th, Texas Tech and Texas A&M played their final college football game, at least for the foreseeable future. The night before the game, some of the A&M busses were vandalized at the team hotel. There have been several versions of what was done to the inside of one bus, as well as what was written on the outside of the busses and with what it was written. Unfortunately, that will probably not be the last case of inappropriate sportsmanship for a college team.

As far as I know, they have not “Caught” the person or people involved in the incident. Even though it has not been confirmed that it was Tech students or someone else from Lubbock, it is assumed that it was a Tech fan. Whether that is true or not, the incident still reflected on Texas Tech. And the reason that bothers me is that I am a Texas Tech graduate. My grandfather, parents, 4 siblings, 3 brothers-in-law, a nephew, a niece, and several other relatives are also Tech graduates. But I also have a son, nephew, and niece who are Texas A&M graduates.

The weekend of the game, I felt like I needed to apologize to anyone who was an A&M fan, especially if they knew I went to Tech. In a way, someone else’s actions were a reflection on my school. While I was lamenting that fact to Larry, it was as if the Lord said, “And that is why it is so important that you choose your words and actions carefully. Since you belong to me, your words, actions, and deeds are a reflection of our relationship.” Whereas I have no control over what others do, I do have a choice about my decisions.  Sounds like another good reminder of the importance of practicing the "Golden Rule".

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Proverbs 27:19
As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Infusion #3 and a Season of Waiting

Infusion #3 was on November 1, 2011.  I even made a chocolate chip cake to help us all celebrate the day.  This week it was Dr. Lotfi, Dr. Daneshmand, and Donna Lee and Jennifer, RN from Celltex, Larry and me.  We started the afternoon by holding hands and Larry praying for the procedure and offering thanks for the incredible team that God has used to bless us during this process.  This week, I was reminded, once again, that having Multiple Sclerosis has its blessings.  I doubt I would have ever met these four people otherwise.  Spending 3 hours each week, and even more time with Donna and Jennifer before this, has made these people more than just medical personnel.  They have become cherished friends.  Each one has changed plans and work schedules to add on the stem cell procedure.  All are passionate about the potential and offering of hope this can provide for so many.  My life has been enriched by each one as well as the team in Mexico.

In Houston, 2011

          Dr Lotfi
    Donna Lee                         Derbbie
Dr. Daneshmand            Dr. Lotfi                Debbie     
In Mexico, 2010
Dr. Andrade       Debbie       Larry

Debbie              Antonio                Marilee      
Physical Therapist  

Debbie                     Angelina

Debbie              Cristina              Marilee     
Driver and Helper
This week, I am reading in the book of Jeremiah.  I don’t think that it is just a coincidence that chapter 29 is on the schedule for this week.  This chapter has the same “Verse for the Day” that we read and claimed when I had the stem cell procedure in Mexico.  Now I am treasuring and claiming it during the process here in Houston.

Isaiah 29:11
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.”

And now we have a season of waiting…on the Lord and the stem cells.  It will take up to four months for the cells to fully function.  And while we wait, we’ll continue with the diet I have been on the past few years along with exercising at home and the gym.  The past three times at the gym I have been able to ride the stationary bicycle for 10 minutes at a time.  It has also been somewhat easier to back up off of the equipment, while keeping my balance.  I am by no means graceful, but progress is being made.  We exercised for over an hour on Thursday and added a new machine to the routine.

So with thanksgiving and joy, we will wait with hope. 

Isaiah 40:31
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Infusion #2 and a Grandchild!

The biggest and most joyous news this week is that Scott and Abby have had their home study approved and are now awaiting the adoption of a child from Taiwan!  I read the scripture below, this summer, with new understanding and hope.  
Scott and Abby

  Psalm 113:9 (The Message)
He gives childless couples a family,
      gives them joy as the parents of children.

We arrived early for the second infusion on October 25th.  Although I had been the only one last week, there were two other patients scheduled for treatments this day.  Producer Christopher Cain had flown in from California for his infusion.  We soon realized that this would not be your “typical” day of stem cell infusion.

Donna, from Celltex, arrived and explained that there was a cinematographer and television producer from Hollywood there to record the events of the day.  She asked if I would be willing to be interviewed for a documentary they will produce about stem cell transplants and banking that is being performed in Houston.  So, I had the first hour of the infusion in a room being filmed and interviewed.  I have prayed that God would use me to offer hope for His glory during this process, but I hadn’t quite expected this!

Larry prayed for all of us before the procedure and filming began.  John Ross, the producer, and Hiroki Miyano, the cinematographer, work for Associated Television.  The interview lasted about an hour, with John interviewing and Hiroki filming.   There is no guarantee that any of this will make the “Cut”, but it was a special time for me to reflect and be grateful for God’s continued provision and blessings during this process.

Dr. Matthew preparing the IV

When we went back to the main room for the rest of the infusion, they were interviewing Dr. Lotfi, the neurologist, and Donna Lee from Celltex.  It is so exciting to hear and see results that are happening in other patients with stem cell transplants.  So much for thinking I had figured out this infusion routine.  I can hardly wait for the 3rd and final infusion next Tuesday.  
Hollywood Producer Christopher Cain

Hiroki Miyano                                                John Ross

Christopher Cain and Debbie
Even though the interview was given without previous notice or preparation, I was reminded, once again, of how important it is for me to always be prepared to speak for Christ…with or without notice.

I Peter 3:15a
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.