Tomorrow’s Another Day

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It’s been an interesting past few days- health-wise. If you remember, last week saw me feeling pretty good. By Wednesday, which has become the “turn-around” day from chemo, I was feeling pretty darn good. Thursday- yep. Friday- sort of. Saturday- not so much. Sunday- “suck it up, Buttercup”. That has NOT been “the norm” thus far. But the truth is that, when you are forced to pay SO much attention to every little thing regarding your health, you notice every little jot and tittle that is different. 

Then came yesterday. I had my newest round of scans scheduled. That meant nothing to eat or drink after 6AM. Then, I had to drink the “barium stuff” at 8:15AM. Then it was “report to the hospital at 9AM”. They are currently scanning from the jawline to the pelvis. The abdomen portion of the scan requires the drinking of the barium drink.  

They start with my body “feet-first” into the CT machine. They insert the IV and get the contrast dye set up, ready to administer. Then the machine runs me through the scanner twice. Once the abdomen and chest are scanned, they get me up, flip me around and prepare to put me in headfirst. They run me through once, inject the dye/contrast and then run me through again. Then, they remove the IV and I’m done! 

By the time I got to the hospital, I was pretty nauseous. I felt even worse by the time we got back home. Between feeling crummy for days ahead and then the nausea that hit me yesterday morning, I was ready to go to bed when we got back home. I laid down (actually climbed in the recliner) about 10AM and my wife came to check on me at 3:15PM! Hot tea and chicken bouillon were the order of the day for dinner.  

The weird thing- OK, ONE of the many weird things- about dealing with all of this cancer business is that you begin to think/assume that everything you feel and experience is related to the cancer. It’s automatically the reason for anything negative that is happening to your health. Is the reason I felt crummy over the weekend related to the cancer? Maybe. But maybe I just got a “touch of something”. We ALL have that happen to us. And most of us just write it off as “I got a little bug”. Some of us automatically go to words like “cancer” and “chemo”! 

So, “tomorrow’s another day, Scarlett”! I’ll be back at it today. The church we currently serve is hosting our 6th Annual Trunk or Treat. Last year, we welcomed somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 people. We gave away 500 hot dogs, 50 bottles of water and somewhere in the neighborhood of…ready?..17,000 pieces of candy. All in about 2 hours. The weather for tonight is a bit…dicey. It will be dry but COLD! They are saying that it will be in the high 30’3 before we wrap up things. We’ll see and I will write about that for tomorrow.  

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

A Preacher in His Natural Habitat

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Yesterday was a day for visitors. Four people- two couples- that I went to college with, drove 3½ hours, one-way, on Saturday to get to a to a motel in a town 45 minutes away. Then, yesterday, they drove the other 45 minutes to get to church for the 10:30AM service. After church and a rather brief conversation, they drove all the way back home. By my count, that means they drove somewhere in the neighborhood of almost 8 hours in two days…to spend what amounted to 90 minutes in church. How awesome is THAT?! (The answer, in case you weren’t sure, is, “Very!”) 

These were folks that I spent a LOT of time with in college. One of them lived next door to me my freshman year. Two of them were in the same graduating class as me. ALL of them were also theater majors. And ALL of them have been through- or are going through- their own major health issues. And yet, they took a lot of time…and expense…out of their lives to come and visit. Good stuff! 

Along with it just being good to see them, it was great to see the congregation welcome them. I watched people come and talk with them, love on them. And I heard, from them, how welcomed they felt. That is one of the many things I love about this congregation- they go out of their way to be welcoming to folks who walk in the door. I once visited a church that had 700 people in attendance at the service I attended- 7 HUNDRED people- plus LOTS of ushers and such. I walked in the door, walked around to look at the facility, found a seat, worshipped with them and walked out…and not ONE human being spoke to me or even acknowledged my existence. Not ONE. The congregation we currently serve wouldn’t let that happen…even if you WANTED it to! 

But one of them women who visited, in a Facebook post of a picture of the 5 of us, said it was great to see me “in my natural habitat”. And although I get that’s one of those “funny, throw-away” lines that people use (I use it often, usually accompanied by a REALLY cheesy, overt, probably offensive German accent!), I don’t think she meant it that way. Instead, I think she was offering it up as a genuine observation. And…she’s right. 

I have shared in this space that I had dreams about becoming a big-name actor. I was sure it would happen. And pastoring, on quite the other hand, was not even ON my radar. No way, no how. I couldn’t imagine the difference between that and the WORST idea I had ever heard! And yet…here I am, 21 years into a career I never wanted! 

But I genuinely believe that this is what I was made to do. This IS my natural habitat. If I was an exhibit in a zoo, my “enclosure” would be a sanctuary- with drums to play and a music stand to preach from, of course! I had a pastor advise me, when we were considering going into the ministry, “If you can do anything else with your life, do it. If not, do this.” What he meant was NOT, “If you are capable of holding down some other job.” Instead, he meant that if this was the only thing I could do and be fulfilled…do it.  

And it is. I am doing what I was called to do. And after YEARS of doing things I was NOT called to do, it sure is satisfying and fulfilling to be on the OTHER side of that coin! So, if you want to see what a preacher in their natural habitat actually looks like, stop by the church we currently serve on a Sunday morning! Juist DON’T feed the preacher or poke at him with a stick through the bars of the enclosure! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

Anxious For Nothing: Meditate on Good Things

Anxious For Nothing Meditateon Good Things    It was winter- many years ago. Our furnace suddenly didn’t work. It was nasty cold OUTSIDE. We had a little kid INSIDE who needed the heat to work. So, I called a repairman. But we also didn’t have a tone of expendable income to pay for costly repairs- certainly not to pay for a new furnace. So, as he fixed it, I watched. If I could learn what he did, I could handle this situation myself next time, saving us some money. So, I held the light, I watched, I questioned and I learned! 

The next winter, the same thing happened. But I remembered! So, I took the cover off the furnace and I fixed it. Before I completely re-assembled it, I fired it up…just to make sure. Sure enough, it WORKED! But then, it went out! It wouldn’t stay lit, no matter what I did! So, I called the guy. He came out, took one look and said, “You tried to fix this, didn’t you?” “Yes.” “You did ONE thing wrong- you needed to completely re-assemble it before it would stay lit. All you needed to do was put that plate back on, protecting the flame from the fan, and you would have had it!” He re-attached the plate, fired it up…and charged me for the lesson! I focused SO hard on “tomorrow” that I missed the obvious answer of “today”! 

Have your plans not worked out liked you thought they would? Does anxiousness keep you up at night? Are worry and fear your constant companions? Could you use some calm in your life? Today, we wrap up our current sermon series as we complete our journey through Anxious For Nothing. Based on the book by New York Times bestselling author, Max Lucado, we have been trying to provide a roadmap for finding peace in the midst of chaos. Every week, we’ve focused on what God has to tell us through one of the Old Testament Psalms. Today, we consider arguably the best-know passage in the whole of the Bible- Psalm 23- 

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

We don’t know the exact setting in which the 23rd Psalm was written. David might have written it as a young shepherd, watching over his dad’s flocks in the very same field where, 1,000 years later, a heavenly choir would announce the birth of a Savior. But whatever the setting, Psalm 23 shows great confidence in God’s goodness. Notice where it starts-

The Lord…” The Hebrew word is Yahweh- PERSONAL name for God. It refers to His caring, loving, personal. The Lord is…what?  

is My Shepherd. Not just a title for God- it also points to the relation between God and us. A good shepherd deeply cares about the safety of his sheep. Psalm 23 then quickly jumps to

I shall not want“. God will give us what we need- physically and spiritually. And if He’s watching over us, then we need…nothing. From there, it moves to

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”. He gives me rest. Where? in the middle of fresh, thriving life- green pastures. What else?

“He leadeth me beside the still waters.” So along with the peace and rest of the green pastures, God offers us the calmness of still waters. Not STAGNANT waters, but tranquil waters. And then, we get-

He restoreth my soul”. That’s good stuff! He restores my spiritual appetite and desire, my passion…my life. What then?

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”. Righteousness- “moral conviction”, focusing on what’s right and moral in our own lives- not trying to condemn others. And where does that path lead us? Peace-

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We have ALL walked through the valley of the shadow- that’s a SCARY place to be. But we’re spiritual beings on an earthly journey and so we have nothing to fear because He’s with us.  

Then we get to God’s protection- the shepherd’s tools.

Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” The rod is for protection. It’s a defensive weapon. The staff serves a different purpose. It’s used for correction and direction. Then, we learn that a life in God isn’t just meager subsistence. Instead,

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” God doesn’t simply give us just enough to scrape by- He offers us LIFE, and life abundantly. And because of this bounty,

Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over.” The bounty that God provides is so great that it spills out of us and onto those in whom we come in contact. But David saves the best for last.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” It’s not wealth and fame, power and glory, money and position that are going to follow me. It’s something FAR better. Goodness and mercy are going to follow me. How long? ALL the days of my life. And then what? I will be with God…forever.    

Are anxiousness and fear coming at you from all sides? Don’t give up. You’ve been heard in heaven. God’s armies have been dispatched. Reinforcements have been called in. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. Don’t allow yourself to be weighed down by worry. Instead, be lifted up by faith.
Guard your thoughts and trust God. 

Maybe your 22- right out of college, trying to find a job. Maybe you’re 32- a mortgage to pay and 2.3 kids to feed and clothe. Maybe you’re 42- facing potential layoffs and downsizing. Maybe you’re 52- not the ideal age to have to change careers. Maybe you’re 62- worried about the security of your “so-called” retirement plan. No matter the age, anxiousness peppers you like hailstones. What a mess.
What does all this anxiety mean? Simply this: you’re human. It doesn’t mean you’re emotionally underdeveloped. Or stupid. Or a failure. It doesn’t mean your parents failed you. Or that you failed them. And it doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian. Christians have our share of troubles, just like anybody else. But we are called to be anxious for nothing, but in everything. through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving in our hearts, let our requests be made known to God. And if we do, the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds.
Celebrate God’s goodness. Turn your attention away from your problems and instead celebrate God. It does you no good to just constantly obsess over your troubles. The more you focus on them, the bigger they grow. But the more you look to God, the quicker your problems are reduced to their proper size.  

The Bible’s most common word for worry is the Greek word merimnaó. It literally means to have a divided mind. It means that anxiousness takes a meat cleaver to your thoughts, your energy and your focus. It chops up your attention. It causes us to stress about the past- what we said or did. It causes us to worry about the future-  

Things that haven’t yet happened and might not EVER happen. Don’t let anxiousness take over your life. You can’t control your circumstances, but you CAN control how you react to them. Life is STILL going to give you lemons. Life gives lemons to good people, bad people, old people, ALL people. Life comes with a full complement of lemons. You can’t avoid them. BUT…you don’t have to suck on them. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow’s a mystery. Today is a gift- that’s why they call it “present”. When we refuse to live in the past or dwell on the future, we are left with today. So, I will live for today.  

Relive yesterday? Nope. Learn from it. Ask forgiveness for it. Take joy in it. But don’t live in it. Worry about the future? What does that gain? Live for today.
Face today’s challenges with today’s strength. Dance today’s dance with today’s music. Celebrate today’s opportunities with today’s hope. A new day is waiting for you- a new season where you worry less and trust more. A time of reduced fear and enhanced faith. Can you imagine a life where you’re anxious for nothing? God can. And, with His help, you can find it. 

Making (Pumpkin) Memories

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This weekend, cancer takes a backseat at our house! (Frankly, we try VERY hard to make it take a backseat ALL the time!) This weekend, family gets squarely in the front seat! (Again, we actually try to KEEP family in the front seat ALL the time…but enough with the “driving” metaphors!)  

Our older son is home for the weekend. He lives in Chicago and came down on the train to see us! We are always excited when he comes home. But there IS an important “aside” regarding that fact. There are parents who make such a big deal out of the arrival of an “out of town” child that it can make the “in town” child(ren) feel like chopped liver in comparison. We make as big deal out of our younger son on a regular basis. And he is always as excited as we are- perhaps more- that his brother is home! “The band” is great when it is a trio. But we ALL agree that “the band” is complete as a quartet! 

It’s funny- what we as a family look forward to and plan for when we get together. Many families plan major events when they get together- and that’s awesome. What “major thing” do we have planned for today? Pumpkins! Yep- pumpkins! One of the MANY simple, cheap, fun traditions we have as a family is carving pumpkins. Sometimes, that tradition involves a trip to a pumpkin patch to pick them out. But when our time is limited to late Friday evening through dinnertime on Sunday (with several hours of church sandwiched in the middle), we find we want to more carefully choose how we spend that time! 

So, yesterday included a quick jaunt to the local Wal-Mart to pick out a couple of good pumpkins. Today, the dining room table will get covered in garbage bags and those Wal-Mart pumpkins will get carved. Our sons do most of the carving. My job is to help get the “guts” out. I then wash them off, separating out the seeds. Then comes…the roasting! I have roasted pumpkin seeds every year for that last…several! When they’re done, the seeds are left out in a bowl and, as you pass by the table for the next day or so…you grab a handful! They never last very long but they ARE good! 

I love family traditions. As I said, we have SEVERAL. And frankly, none of them are really any “big deal”. None of them are major (trips to Disney or whatever) and none of them are very costly. But the ones that we have are ones that we cherish. And yet- it dawned on us last Christmas when we simply COULDN’T make a trip to the Christmas Tree Farm to cut down our tree possible and ended up snagging one of the last 5 “free trees” that the local service organization left behind when they shut down sales for the year- it’s REALLY not about the event itself…it’s about doing it together.  

We will have fun carving pumpkins, roasting and eating seeds, to be sure. But the REAL fun will be the laughing, joking, reminiscing and general “goofing around” that will happen DURING the event. Our sons will never be able to say that we lavished them with expensive gifts and frequent trips. They will never be able to say that we got them everything their little hearts desired. They will also never be able to say we didn’t LOVE spending time with them. I am SO blessed to have an awesome wife and two awesome sons. Yes, our current situation makes time more precious, to be sure. But I LOVE the fact that us wanting to “make these memories” isn’t simply a knee-jerk reaction to my cancer. It’s a day ending in the letter “Y”! 

We continue to focus o seems n the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

The Recliner

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If you have been reading this for a while, you know that, over the past few months, I have shifted back and forth between the sleeping in a bed and in a recliner. The reason has centered around what I have called “congestion” or “throat crud”. Early on, the swelling in my neck caused crud to build up. When I slept in a bed, I felt like I was choking. As that first round of “chemo lite” and “radiation lite” did its “thang”, the swelling went down and the throat crud diminished. I was able to get back in the bed. Then, the crud came back. It was back to the recliner. I slept there for a while. Then, back to the bed. It was great. 

Recently (a few days ago), I moved BACK to the recliner. The crud is back. It’s different this time, but back nonetheless. I would start to drift off to sleep in the bed and this junk in my throat would cause me to start to snore…and I would wake myself up! And that wasn’t for a few minutes. It would last, off and on, for hours…or all night. I wasn’t sleeping well. 

At the same time, I began to notice a trend that was impacted by my naps. When I was feeling good and it was NOT a Sunday, my naps seemed to be negatively impacting my nighttime sleep. I began to wonder if I even needed a nap every day. So, a new “sleep” approach has emerged. 

I am sleeping in the recliner full time now- at least for the time being. If it is a Sunday afternoon (Because “I only work one day a week”!), I take a nap! If I am in the middle of chemo side effects, I take a nap. (Frankly, during the side effects, I NEED a nap!) Otherwise, no nap. And that new “schedule seems to be working well for me! When I DO sleep, I sleep MUCH more soundly and for longer stretches of time. Good stuff! 

The interesting “side story” to the recliner I sleep in is that is must be…oh…about 400 years old! Seriously, my wife’s dad’s mom (Did you follow that?!) had it in her house YEARS ago! (And I DO mean “years”- like SEVERAL decades!) Over time, it migrated to my wife’s parents’ house. And over MORE time, it migrated to OUR house. It is scary old! And has been used by what is now 4 generations of family! (Our sons have both spent their share of time in that chair!)  

The chair is old, a bit creaky…and very comfortable! I have had to repair it at least three times since we’ve had it. (One night, about 3 months ago, one side of the “footrest” part fell OFF! A screw had fallen out. There I was, in the middle of the night, on the floor, putting the screw back in by hand to hold it together until morning so I could go back to sleep!) We’ve talked about getting a new recliner. And one day, we just might have to. But for now, it is a comfortable chair that works fine…and has been paid for since Truman defeated Dewey to win the Presidential election! There is definitely something to be said for “familiar” and “comfortable”! 

We continue to focus o seems n the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

Just Call Me Chatty Cathy!

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Do you happen to remember the Chatty Cathy Doll? It was “on the shelves” (as they say) from 1959 – 1965. That means it was for sale the year I was born and for 4 years after. (YOU do the math!) It was a pull-string “talking” doll manufactured by the Mattel. Chatty Cathy was the second most popular doll of the 1960’s- after Barbie! (‘Natch!)  

NO- I did NOT have a Chatty Cathy. A. I was only 4 years old when they stopped selling them and B. I was much of a G.I. Joe/plastic army man kind of kid! BUT- yesterday I turning INTO Chatty Cathy. (Pull-string not included!) 

I shared yesterday that I was finally “turning the corner”. I said that, while I was not all the way back to “new norm”, I was a LOT closer. Well, that corner has now been turned. I felt good by midday yesterday- basically “new norm” good. And, after school, I was sitting in my chair at home, trying to get some sermon prep done, when our younger son got home for the day. He got a snack and sat down in the living room. The three of us chatted for a bit about his day and then my wife went upstairs to take a shower. He and I stayed in the living room.  

We talked. And talked. And talked. And then, it dawned on me- while we WERE talking- it WAS a conversation- a LOT of the words actually being said were coming from me. I was chattering and chattering. I chuckled and said, “Man, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am clearly feeling better. I apparently became Chatty Cathy!” He just chuckled and nodded! 

I tend to “give myself away” by how much I talk. If I am rather quiet, it tends to mean that I don’t feel very good. I don’t get sullen or non-responsive- I just tend to not feel like initiating my conversation. On the other hand, if I jump right in the conversation, even initiate it, I am clearly feeling better. It’s the “health thermometer” that is one of the easiest to check me with! 

That means that I know have 4 straight days (today – Sunday) with NO “medical stuff” at all. Then I have a scan, from chin to pelvis and complete with the barium drink and the injected contrast, on Monday. Frankly, that “ain’t no big thang!” I’ve had TONS of CT scans in the past few years. Drink the barium. Get the IV inserted. Scan. Dye injected into veins. Another scan. IV out. Go home. Easy, peasy, one, two, threesy! 

Then, I have SIX days with no “medical stuff”- Tuesday through Sunday. That next day, Monday the 6th of November, it’s a quick, early morning blood draw at the local hospital. 3-minute drive. Walk RIGHT into the lab. Needle in, blood out, needle out, bandage on, home in 15 minutes or so. Go home. Again, easy, peasy, one, two, threesy! 

Then, the next day, Tuesday the 7th of November, we go back to the oncologist. This will NOT be a “call ahead and see if the blood work is good enough before we go” visit. We will go regardless. We’ll find out about the blood draw AND the scan from the previous week. If the blood work is good but the scan shows that the cancer has not responded to the last two treatments, then we will switch to the other side of the center and Chemo #5 will start. About 6 hours later, we will walk out the door and the terribly predictable “schedule” of side effects will begin anew. Three weeks later, Chemo #6 will happen. Then, we WILL take a break from chemo. (They say that, after 6 treatments, you NEED to take a break because the chemo starts doing even nastier things to your body. Is that POSSIBLE? Apparently, yes!) 

BUT if the scan looks good, as they have been, and the cancer HAS responded to the chemo, which it has been, then we go home and take a break after 4 treatements! And THAT, my fine feathered friend, would be a GOOD thing! So, we pray for good news and that I am already “on break” and just don’t know it yet! 

We continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

My Sarcastic Humor

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We have a saying at our house. Well, we have a LOT of sayings at our house. And we ARE a sarcastic lot, so…! This particular saying has to do with how someone is feeling. It refers to the fact that they are starting feel better- just STARTING to. And the saying is, in response to “How are you feeling?”, “Well, I’ve gone from wishing I would die to only fearing I will!” Of COURSE it is intended to be A. funny and B. sarcastic. When we first moved here, and people didn’t yet understand my sense of humor (Some people, understandably, NEVER understand my sense of humor!), I greatly worried some women who were working in the church kitchen when they asked how my sick wife was and they got THAT response! The look of horror was swift and total! 

I say that because I made “that” transition from Monday to yesterday! I shared that I rebounded, the WRONG way, from Sunday to Monday, feeling worse on Monday than the day before. And frankly, when I got up yesterday morning, I didn’t feel all that great. But as the day wore on, that corner got turned. And, after the “bad” days of side effects, turning the corner is SUCH an awesome thing!  

Am I back to “new norm” as I write this on Tuesday night? Not yet. BUT- I am a WHOLE lot closer than I was 12 hours ago. So, for those of you keeping score at home, Chemo #3 and Chemo #4 seem to have shown that, currently, side effects start about 3 days after the START of a treatment- Tuesday morning to Friday morning. And once they start, they last from Friday morning until about the next Wednesday morning- 5 days.  

Yes, it stinks to feel that bad, But MAN does it feel great when you start to feel better! And now, I have two weeks from yesterday with NO chemo! And if next Monday’s scans are good, I have longer than that! And while I will “take my medicine like a big boy” if the scans AREN’T so good and I have chemo two weeks from yesterday, I will do the BEST dance this uncoordinated “non-dancer” can do if we get to take a break! 

So, we continue to focus on the glass being half-full. We continue to embrace each day with grateful thanksgiving. #TeamHarris #WarriorOn! #Huzzah! We greatly appreciate your prayers, love and support. Check back regularly or simply subscribe to receive an email every time there is a new post. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day. Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!