Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Easter!

Well, I blinked and Brad and I have been married for almost five months! It feels like just yesterday that I was humming Frosty the Snowman but in a couple of hours we will be celebrating Jesus Christ's resurrection. 

On the crisp autumn morning of November 19, 2011, Brad and I stood in front of a warm crackling fire and a small crowd of our friends and family as we promised to "love [each other] when we are together and when we are apart, when our lives are at peace and when they are in turmoil, in times of rest and in times of work, in sickness and in health." 

We wanted to let God be the focus of our ceremony so we decided to keep it simple but meaningful. Our officiant and family friend, Richard Chiolis, laughed out loud when I told him we didn't want "any fluff." We felt so honored to have Rev. Chiolis marry us! Not only does he have an amazing sense of humor, he and his wife have been married for over 60 years! His flair for storytelling and heart for Christ came through during the introduction and his brief message based on the scripture passages we chose (Colossians 3:12-17 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). 
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 

Music was also an important part of our wedding day. Some of my family and friends were surprised that there was no live music and that I didn't want to sing during the ceremony/reception. I have so many talented friends that I could have had a woodwind quintet play a processional, or a jazz combo play us into the reception but how would I ever choose who I wanted to play?? Also, no matter how talented, live music has the potential for intonation and tempo issues. In regards to the lack of my own vocals, I have always known that I wouldn't be able to sing at my own wedding. It's already an emotional day...nobody wants to see me blubber while I try to sing "From This Moment On." That's just too awkward. For those of you who are curious what music we DID choose, here is a sampling: 
Prelude: Tenderly, Bill Evans Trio 
Attendants' Processional: Corcovado, Oscar Peterson Trio 
Bride's Processional: And I Love Her (Beatles Cover), Pat Metheny 
Recessional: Best of My Love, The Emotions 
The wedding party danced into the reception to the song Love Train by The O'Jays.

We couldn't stop smiling! 
Or smooching...

When the reception came to an end we waved goodbye to our friends and family from the backseat of a beautiful white Chrysler 300 driven by our chauffeur *ahem* my brother Greg. He drove us back to the hotel so that we could change into comfortable clothes, get in our own car and make our way to Pacifica, CA. It was a perfect, relaxing and romantic weekend. We walked along the beach, window shopped in all of the little antique stores, went on a short but beautiful hike and ate a delicious seafood dinner at a restaurant across the street from our hotel.

 The view from our honeymoon suite...

On a short hike...
We left the coast Monday morning and headed back to our new home in Turlock. I had a few classes to go to before we spent our first Thanksgiving as a married couple with my family in Fresno. 

On December 6, we went to UCSF for my next MRI and follow up appointment. My oncologist was thrilled to show me us my new scans--my tumor was finally shrinking! She compared my latest scan to the scan that was taken right before I started chemotherapy and it was like night and day! A friend of ours said, "Marriage must agree with you!" Being married has given me a great feeling of peace but I give all the credit and the glory to God for my progress. 
Brad and I decided to spend our first Christmas Eve and day by ourselves. This year Christmas fell on the last day of my round of chemo which is usually the day that I feel my worst. We weren't sure if I would be up to a big visit with family so it seemed like a good idea to stay home. We had chinese take-out for dinner and then attended the Christmas Eve service at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church here in town. I have always loved "traditional style" Christmas eve services and this was just what I was hoping for. I floated home on a cloud of Christmas spirit and slept like a little baby. After we opened presents the next morning, we sat on the couch and called both our families to wish them a Merry Christmas. We even video chatted with Brad's grandparents. Amazingly enough, I was feeling so good that I decided to cook Christmas dinner! But I might have bitten off more than I could chew (...get it?) because the minute I sat down after we ate, I fell fast asleep.

Our First Christmas Dinner 

The day after Christmas we drove to Fresno to visit my family. My cousin Aaron who is in the Navy had brought his wife and kids all the way from Virginia Beach to California. I hadn't seen them in years so I was amazed by how much the kids had grown! It still felt surreal to introduce Aaron to my husband Brad. 
On January 18, Brad and I flew to Maui for our honeymoon! I have been to Oahu about five times but I had never been to Maui so I was really excited. It was an amazing trip that I will never forget. We were upgraded to a suite with a full kitchen (not like I was planning on cooking...) but spent most of our time walking or laying on the beach. We also spent a whole day in Lahaina, went whale watching, and took two hikes. Whale watching was definitely a highlight of the trip. I felt so blessed to be so close to some of the largest mammals in the world! We also splurged a little and got professional portraits taken on one of the last days of the trip: 

I started the Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential Program at CSU Stanislaus on January 26. My life suddenly revolved around writing lesson plans, creating assessments and observing master teachers. This was all super exciting...but Brad and I were ready for a quick weekend away to the city. On February 24, my brother married his wonderful fiance Shay at the San Francisco City Hall. It was a brief but beautiful ceremony followed but a great night of celebration! It was great to get out and be social but when we made it home I was exhausted. 
On March 12, after almost two months of constant schoolwork, my body finally gave in to all the germs I am exposed to at school. My responsible husband decided to call my oncologist the morning of March 13, when we couldn't get my fever (102) to break since the night before. My doctor was very concerned especially after she heard that I was congested and had a chest cough. When Brad got off the phone he told me I had half and hour to put a few things in a bag and that we had to get to Woodland as soon as possible. My doctor was worried that I had a lung infection because of my compromised immune system. My white blood cell count was low (3.1) but instead of an infection my influenza swab came back positive. She put me on antibiotics and a prescription to help shorten the flu symptoms so that I could start my next round of chemo the following week. I spent the rest of the day and most of the next in bed at my parents' house. I returned to school as soon as I could but it really slowed me down and has taken me a few weeks to fully recover.  
My tumor has continued to shrink since December and it is barely visible on my scans now. My round of chemo in May will be my last! I am so thankful that my twelve rounds have gone by so quickly and that it has been effective! 

This past week I was challenged to reflect on God's incredible sacrifice. 
In comparison, my own "suffering" seems so minuscule... 
But he was pierced for our transgressions, 

   he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, 
   and by his wounds we are healed. 
Isaiah 53:5
(I have listened to this song this week as a constant reminder of what Jesus went through:
The most amazing part about His suffering was that it was selfless. Jesus bore the burden of all of our sin so that we may live and experience the fullness of God's love and grace. 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 
2 Corinthians 9:15 

How can we not praise Him after all He has done and continues to do in our lives? 
Or as Paul Baloche sings, 
"What can I do but thank you? 
What can I do but give my life to you? 
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 
What can I do but praise you? 
Everyday, make everything I do,
a Hallelujah."