Arbor Day

I’m a tree lover.  I am compelled to bring to your attention that tomorrow is Arbor Day.  God did a great job with trees. He provides some wonderful benefits through them.  We’d be in a world of hurt without them. A great friend points out that trees host the most abundant/important machines in the world; tiny little protein enzymes that helps extract carbon dioxide from the air, splitting oxygen back out for us to breathe and carbon to grow trees bigger (Thank you Louis J.M.). But the benefit I am most thankful for right now is that the bark of a species in the Pacific Northwest is used to make one of the drugs that is treating Tara’s cancer.  I mentioned this four years ago too and it never gets old to me. 

Monday and Tuesday started out great and led us to believe the chemo might not hit hard. Wrong!  Tara has been hurting yesterday and today, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. We are hoping the weekend is better.  Monday she gets another dose, this time with only half the concoction.  Spirits are high most of the time around the Maier home.  Tara is trying to stay active and doing a pretty good job. And life just keeps going on. The help we have gotten has been critical. Thank you friends.  Tara sleeps as I write. Peaceful. Content. Joyful. God is faithful. 

It Begins (and it is good)

Chemo has officially started. Lewis and I have accompanied Tara and are doing our best to distract and encourage her.  She is a champ. Look at that smile. She is a content woman. 

Ever wonder what hope actually looks like? Hope is visible when in the middle of chemo you are studying a book on how to be a godly and faithful parent.  

We have joy in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope – Romans 5:3-4. 

Tara all hooked up – and smiling


Tara and Lewis in Gonda lobby

Commonalities

Going through this a second time now we recognize some commonalities with the first time. One is how much we end up comforting people when we talk to them about our situation. We recognize that for our family and friends this is hard for them too.  Tara is amazing how she ministers in this way. Her calm assuring demeanor and confidence in God’s sovereignty is comforting to those who struggle with our situation (Including me).

The commonality that surprises us the most is how much people want to help… still. I guess I figured the second time around more people would think differently for some reason. It is incredibly humbling to accept the help.

The reality is that we need help. My pride says “I can do it on my own”. But we can’t. We were made to be dependent on each other (“the body” described in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and on God (the whole Bible).

A dear friend told me today that I need to mention that this site has been updated (thanks to her efforts) with an area where those who want to help can. I am humbled to mention it. If you want, you can sign up to bring meals or help in other ways.
Tara’s chemotherapy starts Monday morning. Please pray for strength for her body to handle it well and for it to work.

Thanks for journeying with us.


Help with meals: https://7maiers.com/how-you-can-help/meals/

Help with yard work: https://7maiers.com/how-you-can-help/taras-place-yardwork/

Help with Dog Walking: https://7maiers.com/how-you-can-help/dog-walkers/

Help with Transportation: https://7maiers.com/how-you-can-help/transportation/

Help with Cleaning: https://7maiers.com/how-you-can-help/cleaning/

Update on Tara

Tara had her appointment yesterday with the Oncologist to learn the extent of her cancer. We sat together listening closely trying to keep emotion from clouding our understanding. Of course we had hoped to find that the cancer was miraculously gone, but that didn’t happen. We were told that the cancer was visible in a number (12 or more) lymph nodes in her chest area and 2 areas on the outer lining of one of her lungs.  There was no recurrence in the abdomen.  In 25 years, our oncologist has not seen a recurrence like this, only in the chest (not implying anything good or bad).

Chemotherapy seems to be the best course of action.  Since it is the same cancer type, they are hopeful that the same chemo regimen will be effective.  The good news is that Tara will not undergo another surgery.  The bad news is that she knows what these chemo drugs do to her, and she dreads it.  Chemo starts Monday.

 

Round 2

Last week the doctors confirmed some very bad news for us. Tara’s cancer is back.  We will know more tomorrow morning after the results of today’s PET Scan. We are broken and trying to find hope. We will need it given to us by God. We trust he has a plan for this but are weary with the news. Tara is a fighter so she will certainly lace up her gloves for round 2. Please pray with us for healing and hope. 

ROMANS 5:2-4  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

PSALM 20  May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!

God is Good?

So how can I know God is good?  How can we know He loves us?  How can we  know every good and perfect gift is from Him?  Great questions.  I am wrestling with this right now. 

This morning I woke my daughter at 6:20 for swimming practice. “Dad, I don’t feel good. Can I stay home?” Of course she said this. It is early Saturday morning.  Who feels good when this happens?  But the discipline of practice develops character and helps her improve. She needs both. So I made her go. She left mad at me.

So track with me here. As I said, I’m wrestling with this right now, trying to decide if I really believe it. My mouth says it, but do I REALLY buy it? “We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). So is this saying that suffering is the way to hope?  I think so. Suffering forced us before to dependence on Him. When broken and dependent on Him, hope soon followed. We had more fulfillment in our lives then than other times. It’s like we were made to suffer. We must cling to His promises and understand His goodness.

We forget so quickly. Three years ago, on Easter, Tara and I said this about the subject. VIDEO

Cayambe

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She hid her face nearly the entire day, with only an occasional glimpse of her cheek or chin at certain breakings of the clouds. The trip started at 6:30. I left the house to walk into Calacali to meet Esteban at the town square where the bus stops.  We loaded at 7:00 to Quito, then caught a cab to Cayambe City, about 90 minutes away.

Esteban made a phone call for one final ride, a 4X4 truck to take us the final stretch.  It was a grueling, bumpy ride on the way to base camp called the Refuge, an unheated, stone building with small, dorm-like rooms, a kitchen, a main room with some picnic tables, and a lower level bathroom.  The outside temperature was about 38 degrees when we arriveimg_3205d and inside the Refuge was not much warmer.  The clouds were dense at our 15,000 feet elevation, in fact we were in them.

Her face was still hidden, but I felt her looking down on me.  I kept waiting for her to exhale to give back some of the air that I could not find to breathe.  I would not admit it to Esteban when he asked “How do you feel?”, but my temples throbbed.

The low glaciers were running off into valley steams.  Glacial till molded the entire landscape, with basketball to bus-sized boulders carefully placed by the past-moving ice.  It was surreal to be there.

When we arrived at the Refuge at 2 pm, we took someimg_3232 time to get acclimated and practice what we would have to do later in the evening.  So we geared up, walked to one of the lower glaciers, put on our crampons and started.  The techniques came fairly easy, but my lungs and head were a concern.  I still could not see the summit, as she was still hiding in the clouds.

At 5:30 we arrived back at the Refuge, had some dinner, and tried to catch some sleep before the summit attempt at 11:00 pm.  My sleep didn’t go so well.  I was achy and cold, then sweaty, then cold again.  At about 8:00 pm there was deep rumble in the earth.  It was big enough that I questioned whether sleeping at the base of a volcano was smart.  I envisioned flying boulders and hot lava.  Thankfully it was a common earthquake as I learned later.

After tossing and turning in a sleeping bag for 3 and a half hours without sleep, the 10 pm alarm went off.  My fever had not broken, but this was my chance to climb.  So I took the few Ibuprofin I had to dull the pain of what was coming and I got up, put on my gear and walked down to grab a bit more food.  We walked outside to a star-filled sky.  It was perfect.  I could now finally see the siloutte of that hiding beast that illuded me the day before.

The climb began.  After the first hour on rocks, I was soaked with sweat.  I did not feel up to the task.  I took a few minutes to remove the most wet undershirt.  Esteban was patient as I took this time.  Soon after we took another break to get our crampons on and get tethered together by rope.  By now, I was getting cold and needed to move.  I warmed up quickly as two hours we hiked straight up the galacier.  The distance behind us grew, but the distance in front of us never seemed to shrink.  I got in a slow rhythm of one foot in front of the other, ice axe in hand to help keep balance.  My sickness seemed to disappear.  My legs and lungs first hurt, then they just got dump and kept doing it.  This was my day.  It was going to happen.

At almost 17,000 feet of elevation, something happened.  I started to lose my balance.  I could regain it at rest, but when I started back up, I was dizzy instantly.  My temples throbbed and I felt nauseous.  I stopped and started again 4 or 5 times thinking I could get through it.  Each time with only 2 minutes before Esteban’s 135 lb frame prevented my fall as I stumbled.  It was getting dangerous for me to be on the glacier.  My attempt was over.  I didn’t even feel the disappointment with the other things I was feeling.  The trip down the mountain seemed endless.  The 4 hours up, still took 2 hours down, but my naseau got worse and all I wanted to do was crawl into a ball and make it go away.

Morning came after a few hours of sleep back at the Refuge.  My head still throbbed.  But it all seemed unnoticeable when I walked back outside.  The mountain finally showed herself in full beauty. The sky was clear.  I could also look across the horizon to see Antisana, Cotapaxi and in the far distance, Chimborazo.  These beautiful galcial volcanos of Ecuador are a wonder of God’s creation.  Next time, I will give myself at least 3 days to acclimate to the high altitude and with my son, over the years, we will attempt and achieve them all.  But for today, I remain defeated in my attempt, but victorious in giving my all at something big, and seeing God in the midst of it.

 

 

Sabbatical

We are into our final week at El Refugio in Calacali, Ecuador.  We completed our last work project today.  All that remains is 3 days of free time and reflection.  For the older kids that means trying to finish some school projects. For Tara, it means going up on the mountain for some quiet time, going into town to get pristinos (basically donuts) at Margarita’s, and creating more memories with the kids.  For me, it means an attempt of the summit at Cayambe.

Cayambe is the third largest mountain in Ecuador at just under 19,000.  My body may not be ready for this but my mind and my heart are.  I will be going with Esteban, a friend of El Refugio, who has been to the summit a number of times before.  We are catching a bus in Calacali tomorrow at 7:00 am, getting us to the general area, then hiring a truck to get us to the base camp, called ‘The Refuge’.  We will get acclimated for the afternoon, eat dinner, then crash at 5 pm.  At 10 pm we’ll begin our ascent.  If all goes well we will be at the top before sunrise.  I anticipate it being a very spiritual experience.

Our final 3 days will certainly prove to be a big part of the significance of this trip.  I pray God will continue to direct us, speak to us and show us what he wants for us in the coming years.  I am so thankful for this sabbatical.

Trabajo Duro

All week I have been cutting firewood with some of the kids while Tara and the other kids have been helping Pedro dig some water diversion trenches. Each day they refused to complain but I could see them wince when they did certain things and they slept like babies.

I learned a term earlier in the week as some of the Ecuadorians referred to Tara and the kids. They said Trabajo duro.  I knew that it meant ‘hard work’, but didn’t know what it really meant until I took a break from cutting firewood and joined them today.  Wow, my wife and kids are studs for not complaining.  I so badly wanted to complain today but didn’t dare do it, since it was my first day at it, and their fourth.

Pedro started by using the machete to create a path through the thick underbrush. After a 30′ long trail was cleared the digging started. We cut a trench 16″ wide, 24″ deep and 30′ long, cutting through roots and rocks and more. This was the 6th of about 12 trenches they need dug.  We’ll keep going I guess. 

Pedro is the guy I referred to in an earlier blog who couldn’t even understand my bad Spanish, but speak hoe really well.  That dude inspires me to work hard. Trabajo duro is some Spanish I’ll never forget.   Well done Tara and kids. You get the blue ribbon (along with Pedro) for that one. 

Good People

You wouldn’t think that on the equator one could constantly be cold.  This is the rainy season here in the mountains north of Quito, Ecuador.  About noon every day the clouds start coming up the valley to cool things down from 60+ degrees to about 50 degrees…and the rain falls.  Yesterday I came in the house soaked and cold from working in a Eucalyptus tree.  Today I was soaked and cold from hiking with Lewis.  I can’t complain though when in Minnesota it has been below zero quite a bit.

The Ecuadorian people we work with have been amazing.  Holger (pronounced ‘ol-hair’) is the lead worker who is in charge of the maintenance and construction at El Refugio.  Each morning we meet at the shop at 7:30 to talk about how our family can best help.  Over the last week plus we have started to figure out how to communicate.

Aurelio is our neighbor and one of the skilled laborers here.  His smile each day warms me so much that I cheer his name when I see him.  He must think I am crazy.  He and I recently moved an armoire up a narrow, outside, stone stair case.  We were maxed out and had several near mishaps.  The groans and howls through the process were the same in English and Spanish.  Just like I would with my own brother we laughed hysterically and high-fived when we finally got it.

Enrique and Jorge are the other two skilled laborers.  They are hard working men who have been putting clay tiles on a roof for nearly the entire time we have been here.  Their hand shakes and daily greetings are encouraging to us.

I have learned there are different levels of not knowing English.  While Holger doesn’t know English, he can pick up a few things in English, and I can do the same in Spanish.  Aurelio, Enrique and Jorge are at another level where they can at least understand my poor Spanish, but none of my English.

Pedro is the final laborer I have not mentioned.  He cannot even understand my bad Spanish.  We are at a complete stand-still with communication…until we pick up tools.  Lewis says he speaks Hoe.  He is the hardest working 60+ year old man I know.  Tara and the kids have been helping him dig water diversion trenches along a steep road where the water would otherwise go straight down the hill.  Pedro is the best machete slasher, pick-axe swinger and shovel digger on the planet as far as I am concerned.

I’d be remiss to not mention the other Ecuadorian staff of Daniel, Israel, Jessica, Wilmar and Pablo, as well as the others,  Jim, Garrett, Ryan, Andreas, and Grace.  We have been blessed by all of these people.  They all challenge us in different ways.  I am so thankful for them all.