Sonidos Serranos

Sonidos Serranos: Sounds of the Sierras...
Reflecting some of my family's interests: God's wonderful creation (especially mountains and hills!), music, and language...

Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

31 August 2009

Summer Memories

The 2009-2010 school year has officially started, and Elizabeth is – very happily – a K-3 school girl every weekday morning. (And we're learning all about school car lines!) Elizabeth loves her big, new backpack and cool shoes. (So does her Mommy, and we think Tía Viviana will, too!) Most of all, she loves learning and spending time with her classmates and her teacher!

As August draws to a close, I keep wondering where the summer went?! I know, it happens every year. But this summer seemed to fly by faster than any other summer ever has. So, I'm taking time to count our blessings as a family. Highlights I've already mentioned include a visit from PaPa and Grandma and going to the zoo, the flea market, and overnight camping with them, a visit to Great Gramma's, blueberry picking with Aunt Ruth, working with Neighborhood Bible School at church, and celebrating Jonatán's 15th birthday.
Summer memories also include Elizabeth trying out the strong (and real!) Arabic coffee at The Pita House. (Pictures truly are worth a thousand words!)

Another highlight was the church picnic with PaPa and Grandma's church, seeing a firetruck and police car up close and joining the airplane train with the cousins. Elizabeth still asks us when we're going to go on another picnic like that!

We enjoyed making our own costumes and (kind of) dressing up like cows in order to get FREE meals at Chick-fil-A!

Although we didn't take a vacation this summer, we did find some time for frugal and free fun right here in our own downtown, including strolling through Falls Park, discovering the Train Sprinklers, and thoroughly enjoying hunting for Mice on Main (an activity I highly recommend for families with young children). A frequent question at our house now is: "When are we going to look for those nine mice again?"

Because life is too short not to celebrate and cherish moments, we celebrated Elizabeth's half birthday – with a clown theme this year. She had very enthusiastically been learning at school about the circus and especially clowns.

And we welcomed back Aunt Shannah (Tatá), who graduated this summer with a Masters in Spanish, celebrating her return with a graduation party-picnic – complete with hand-cranked ice-cream and a Don Quixote themed cake!

As we pause to reminisce, we realize once again that God has been exceedingly good to us, reminding us to take time to cherish the moments, smell the flowers, and most of all enjoy and glorify HIM!

29 August 2009

Hiding in Thee!

Events of the past several weeks have brought multiple reminders of our need to rely on Christ completely. This morning as I was praying and meditating on God's truths for troubled times, the following hymn text came to mind.

O safe to the Rock that is higher than I,
My soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly.
So sinful, so weary, Thine, Thine, would I be;
Thou blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in Thee.

Hiding in Thee, hiding in Thee,
Thou blest Rock of Ages,
I’m hiding in Thee.

In the calm of the noontide, in sorrow’s lone hour,
In times when temptation casts o’er me its power;
In the tempests of life, on its wide, heaving sea,
Thou blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in Thee.

Hiding in Thee, hiding in Thee,
Thou blest Rock of Ages,
I’m hiding in Thee.

How oft in the conflict, when pressed by the foe,
I have fled to my refuge and breathed out my woe;
How often, when trials like sea billows roll,
Have I hidden in Thee, O Thou Rock of my soul.

Hiding in Thee, hiding in Thee,
Thou blest Rock of Ages,
I’m hiding in Thee.

Text by Will­iam O. Cush­ing, 1876
Music by Ira D. Sank­ey, 1877

Jonatán’s Testimony

I found the following note written by Jonatán for a FaceBook group I was previously unaware of – another group created to elicit prayer for Jona. His written testimony was a blessing to me, and I thought you all would be blessed by it as well.

(Isnt my nephew handsome – in full motion, playing soccer?!)

In the words of Jona on August 18, 2009:
Nine weeks ago I started having pain in my arm. My parents thought I had muscle pain because I was working out. A few weeks later the pain was moving up and down my arm, so we thought it was a pinched nerve. Then we went on vacation and my parents saw that one shoulder was bigger than the other shoulder.
We went to the doctor and took x-rays, and he told us that there was something growing in my arm. He sent us to Dr. Porter, who gave me some tests that showed it was a type of cancer called osteosarcoma. I am letting God glorify His name, and I am trusting in God with all of my faith. I would appreciate all of your prayers.
Thank you very much for your prayers and your time and for reading this.
Jonatán Torres

28 August 2009

August 28: Update on Jonatán

Grandparents in Uruguay were on the phone with Esther while I was on another phone with Esteban. (We're thankful for modern technology!) Here are excerpts from the grandparents' letter on what we learned.

Jonatán has more strength now than he did earlier in the week. He's eating well. He was able to go to school Wednesday, Thursday, and a half day today. His teachers are working with him, and so far he's been able to complete all his required school work. Going to school is a highlight for him! (Don't we who have been or are teachers wish all students thought like that?!)

The doctors ordered blood work; it was fine. They were anticipating having to give Jonatán platelets, but that wasn't necessary. It's a definite answer to prayer that his blood levels have stayed up. Please continue to pray specifically about this.

As a result of the PET scan done before starting chemotherapy, the doctors found a spot on one lung and another in his neck. They did another CT scan this week to check the lung spot further. This last scan showed a spot on each lung. Jonatán will be seeing a surgeon next week to have a procedure done to further check on these spots. The doctor said, "Please ask people to pray that it is not the sarcoma." The date hasn't yet been set for the procedure, but it will be sometime next week. Please continue to pray for wisdom for the doctors. Pray that the spots on the lungs are not the sarcoma and that there wouldn't be any more spots.

Because chemo can affect the lungs, kidneys, and heart, these are being checked regularly during these twelve weeks of chemo (alternated with rest) before surgery on the tumor. After these twelve weeks, they will check to see if the tumor has shrunk as a result of the chemo.

Our confidence continues to be in the Lord; He is always good and faithful. Please pray that He will show His power for the glory of His name!

We are thankful for all of you who are praying so faithfully for Jonatán and all his family.

26 August 2009

Toddler humor!

On the cover of one of her Bible story books is a picture of Abraham and Sarah and possibly Lot and his wife. At least that’s what I told her when she asked who the second couple was.

“That’s probably Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and Lot’s wife.”

“Was Abraham’s nephew Lot a good man or a bad man?” she asked.

What a question!

“Well,” I replied, scrambling for an accurate response. “He was a good man who did some bad things.”

“Umm...” She paused to think – and then she asked: “Did he draw on the wall?”

How the wheels turn in that little head! I’m still laughing!

24 August 2009

August 24: Update on Jonatán

By way of update, I'm once again including excerpts from Jonatán's grandparents. It's a remarkable juggling act to try to keep the details straight!

Jonatán's first chemo treatment was started between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday. He should be going home from the hospital today. These chemo treatments are continuous for 48 to 72 hours, waking and sleeping. Getting the chemo slowly helps to minimize side effects. Jonatán did have nausea on Saturday and was not able to eat much. Please pray that he won't lose his appetite. It's important that he not lose weight during this chemo process.

For the next two weeks, Jonatán won't have chemo. The doctors will be running tests and doing an MRI. After two weeks he'll be readmitted to the hospital for another three days of chemo, followed by three more days the following week. These first twelve weeks of chemo will be followed by studies/exams and surgery and then more chemo – for a total of 34 weeks. Please pray that the chemo will be successful. The PET scan Jonatán had last week showed a small spot on his lung and one in his neck. The doctors have said these are not a big concern because chemo will attack these also.

Rejoice with us in the Lord's provision! The Lord brought one of Jonatán's doctors to Greenville just a few months ago; he is very experienced in treating this rare kind of bone tumor. The Cancer Center for the Carolinas that is overseeing Jonatán's chemo is one of 63 centers in the USA certified by the government to do cancer research. Esteban and Esther have agreed to allow Jonatán to participate in one of the research programs. This means that he will receive top-of-the-line treatment and excellent supervision, being involved in studies and follow-up for as long as the program continues. Because this osteosarcoma is so rare (only 400 new cases are diagnosed each year in the USA), cancer centers around the world are involved in the research program.

Another added blessing: As the family was talking with the doctor on Friday, he gave clear testimony that he knows the Lord as his personal Savior. He reaffirmed that God does the healing. He just gave men science and ability to come up with treatments and surgeries, but HE is the Healer! We're thankful that Jonatán is in the Lord's hands and that God is completely in control of this situation.

Please pray that everything goes well for Jonatán during these weeks of treatment. Pray that he won't get any infections. Pray that his blood counts stay where they need to be (otherwise he'll need blood transfusions). Pray that the chemo will shrink the tumor before the surgery. They're looking tentatively at early to mid-November for surgery. He'll be having multiple tests and scans during this 12-week period of chemo to gauge progress. Pray for continued wisdom for the doctors. Pray for continued strength and grace for Jonatán and his family.

We are thankful for all of you who are praying for Jonatán and his family and his extended family in Uruguay. We're thankful that the Lord is good all the time, and we trust Him completely.

21 August 2009

August 21: Update on Jonatán

Always your Lord has been with you. Always He will come with a most heavenly understanding of what your heart most needs.
~ Amy Carmichael (1867 to 1951), missionary to India

Yesterday started with Jonatán attending his first hour class. (What a dedicated and enthusiastic student, eh?!) After surgery to install the port for chemo, he spent most of the afternoon and evening resting – as much as the miscellaneous tests (being done to establish a “base line” before starting chemo) would allow. After another battery of tests today, the first round of chemo started this evening.

Elizabeth and I went up to the hospital yesterday and were able to meet some of the excellent staff working in the Pediatric Oncology and Hematology wing. One of Jona’s nurses had been diagnosed with a related sarcoma (but of the muscles, if I understood correctly) while a senior in high school. He began his freshman year at BJU studying international business but changed his concentration to nursing as a result of his illness and the Lord’s healing him completely! He now has a ministry to others in situations similar to what the Lord took him through!

This current treatment, the first of twelve weeks of chemo before surgery, is scheduled to span three days. The doctors are predicting a minimum of 34 weeks of chemotherapy. We are looking to the Lord for grace, strength, endurance, and comfort. I’ve been meditating on the truths of Romans 8 and the Lord’s purposes for all trouble. Maybe Ill write more on that later...

Please pray specifically for Marcos, who is ten years old. These are especially difficult days for him. I was remembering yesterday that when he was just beginning to talk, he used to refer to Jonatán as “my Jona” before he learned to say “my brother” (actually “my /brudder/”). Though pronunciation has dramatically improved, the feeling is stronger than ever! Please pray for Marcos.

19 August 2009

August 19: Update on Jonatán

Esteban called with an update as we were getting ready to leave for church this evening. Jonatán will be going to the hospital at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, and surgery to insert the port for chemotherapy is scheduled to take place at noon. This first chemotherapy treatment will span three days, so Jonatán will be in the hospital at least until Sunday.

We feel acutely the need for God's grace and strength. Please pray especially for family members in Uruguay who would love to be here with Jonatán during these days...

Please continue to pray with us...

18 August 2009

August 18: Update on Jonatán

The school year is off to a great start for Jonatán. He’s excited! We can hardly put into words how wonderfully encouraging teachers and staff have already been...

We are awaiting the results of the PET scan, done earlier today. The family will be meeting with one of the doctors tomorrow to discuss inserting the port for chemotherapy. Apparently, the procedure will not be done tomorrow.

We are experiencing the peace of God that truly surpasses all understanding.

On Sunday evening, the senior high youth group from church presented a play on the life of Amy Carmichael (1867 to 1951), who spent 56 years ministering (without a furlough) in India. While there, she wrote nearly countless hymns, poems, and books about her adopted country and her beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

A quote on the church bulletin from one of her works especially caught my attention:

It is not the sense of His presence, it is the fact of His presence that is our strength and stay...
And when there is not any feeling, we rest on His bare word:
“Lo, I am with you always, all the days, and all the day long,” and are content.

13 August 2009

August 13: Update on Jonatán

Trust in God at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.
~ Psalm 62:8

Thank-you, more than words could possibly express, for interceding for Jonatán.

By way of update, I am again including excerpts from a note sent by Jonatán's grandparents in Uruguay:

Dear Praying Family and Friends,

We talked with Esther earlier this evening. They had talked with the pediatric oncologist this afternoon. He plans 12 weeks for the initial chemotherapy treatments. During that time Jonatán will have some weeks with treatment and some weeks to rest, partly depending on how well he tolerates the medication. He will then have surgery followed by more chemo.

Here are some dates to remember as you pray:
  • August 17: First day of Freshman year in high school at BJA
  • August 18: PET cancer scan at 12:00 noon ET (done to make sure the cancer has not spread to other areas)
  • August 19: Port for chemo installed at 9:30 a.m. ET (outpatient procedure)
  • August 21: Doctor's appointment at 9:00 a.m. ET
Esther wasn't sure when Jonatán would have the first chemo treatment, but the doctor wants to start as soon as possible. The first treatment will be over three days. She didn't know if he would be hospitalized or be outpatient. The doctor said Jonatán can go to school as he feels like it. The school will be working with him on his classes for this year.

Please pray for all these details and continue praying for Jonatán and his family. Pray especially for Marcos, Jonatán's 10-year-old brother. Pray that side effects from the chemo will be minimal and that treatments will shrink the tumor a great deal. God is the Great Physician, and He will work. Pray for continued opportunities to share God's goodness and His grace. Pray that HE will be glorified through this time of testing.

12 August 2009

Happy Anniversaries!

August 11, 2009
Happy 9th Anniversary to the Don Garwoods in Uruguay!
(known as "el Abu" and "la Abu" at our house)

August 12, 2009
Happy 42nd Anniversary to the John Steels in Carriacou!
(known as "PaPa" and "Grandma" at our house)

We're still celebrating what has come to be known as Anniversary Season at our house. It runs from mid-July through August or so. Our 10th Anniversary was actually during NBS week at church. If it's not during a mission trip, it's during NBS week when there's no extra time for much else. So, we extend our celebration. Events of the last two weeks are certainly a reminder to savor each moment and celebrate the milestones God gives. (And JM has a special celebration planned for later this month...)

I thank God for my family and especially for my best friend – my dearly beloved husband and wonderful father to Elizabeth! I'm thankful for ten years of learning and growing and celebrating life together!

August 12: Update on Jonatán

The doctors have confirmed that we are indeed dealing with osteosarcoma. Apparently, there are six stages (of growth?) for this type of tumor: 1-A, 1-B, 2-A, 2-B, 3, and 4. According to the samples taken with the needle biopsy on Monday, Jonatán's tumor is a level 2-B.

The family will be meeting with the specialists tomorrow to determine the course of treatment, most likely starting with chemotherapy this week.

Please continue to pray for wisdom for Esteban and Esther and the doctors. Our faith is in the Great Physician – we know that HE ultimately is the One who heals!

(See our specific prayer list here.)

11 August 2009

August 11: Update on Jonatán

We're still waiting for the results of the needle biopsy. By way of update, and for mutual encouragement, I'm posting a note from Jonatán's grandparents (the Garwoods) in Uruguay:

August 10, 2009

Dear Praying Family and Friends,

It's a little after 9:00 p.m. Greenville, SC time, and we just called to check on how things went today. Jonatán answered the phone!

He said things went well. He shared that he is teaching Sunday School to the children/teens at their church. Some are older than he is. Their church had a surprise birthday dinner for him yesterday following the morning service. That was special since no one knew how long things would take today, nor what all they would have to do.

Then we talked with Esther. She said Jonatán is having a little pain and swelling, but that is normal. The doctors were able to do the needle biopsy and were pleased with the specimen that they were able to get. The doctors positioned the arm well to get the best sample possible. We know that God guided their hands. They do not think they'll have to do surgery to get a tumor sample. The "samples" should be read within the next 24 hours, and the doctor will call them with results. If they don't hear by Wednesday, they are to call the doctor.

The doctors are almost sure that it is the osteosarcoma, a type of malignant bone tumor. With the results of the biopsy they will know more about what kind of treatment will be necessary. The current plan is to do several chemotherapy treatments, followed by surgery and more chemo after, if needed. Please pray much for the doctors that will be making these decisions. Pray for Jonatán as he goes through these treatments and surgery.

One blessing from today is that some of the staff attending him are believers. He was able to give his testimony to a couple of the nurses, and others were listening. One of the nurses told him to remember that God has a plan for his life; He made Jonatán's body and knows exactly what is going on.

Pray that God would be glorified through this "testing" and that the Lord would use the family to give continued testimony of God's goodness and grace.

As we have further news, we'll send another update.

Esther asked that we thank you for praying so much for Jonatán and the entire family. We sense those prayers and know God is at work.

09 August 2009


Happy 15th Birthday, Jonatán!

How we love this young man! Weve been reminiscing about so many tender and humorous moments of the last fifteen years...

Ten years ago he was ring bearer in our wedding! (But next week hell have to shave his moustache when he starts ninth grade!)

A little over four years ago, God answered his prayers (and those of Marcos, his brother) for a cousin – from Uncle John Mark and Aunt Deborah...

Like his father Esteban before him, hes quite the athlete. His soccer team, the Cavaliers, won their intramural championship – two years in a row!

We appreciate his tender heart and love for his family.

Most of all, we appreciate Jonatáns tender heart toward and love for the Lord Jesus Christ, His Savior.

None of us would ever have imagined that he would be spending most of his 15th birthday (Monday, August 10, 2009) at the hospital, undergoing a biopsy procedure to confirm what the doctors suspect – that the tumor growing in his upper left arm is osteosarcoma.

But Jonatáns desire and that of his family is that God be glorified in everything.

Would you please pray with us...?

01 August 2009

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace

With astonishing mercy and power,
In accord with His pleasure and will
He created each planet, each flower,
Ev'ry galaxy, microbe, and hill.
He suspended this planet in space
To the praise of His glorious grace.

To the praise of His glorious grace.

With despicable self love and rage,
We rebelled and fell under the curse.
Yet God did not rip out the page
And destroy all who love the perverse.
No, He chose us to make a new race,
To the praise of His glorious grace.

To the praise of His glorious grace.

Providentially ruling all things
To conform to the end He designed,
He mysteriously governs and brings
His eternal, wise plans into time.
He works out every step, every trace,
To the praise of His glorious grace.

To the praise of His glorious grace.

Long before the creation began,
He foreknew those He'd ransom in Christ.
Long before time's cold hourglass ran,
He ordained the supreme Sacrifice.
In the Cross He removed our disgrace,
To the praise of His glorious grace.

To the praise of His glorious grace.

We were blessed in the heavenly realm
Long before being included in Christ.
Since we heard the good news, overwhelmed,
We reach forward to seize Paradise.
We shall see Him ourselves, face to face,
To the praise of His glorious grace.

To the praise of His glorious grace.

Text by D. A. Carson
Based on Ephesians 1:3-14
Music by Paul Boling and Gerald Edmonds
Copyright 2000 Christway Media, Inc.
A sound clip is available here.

This hymn has been a wonderful blessing to our family. (We listen to it so often, Elizabeth is memorizing it!) I was delighted when JM found two more verses that are not included on the CD. Now someone just needs to translate it into Spanish!