Quick Update

Good news this week. The scans on Wednesday showed no more cancer. Chemo will go on likely for 6-9 more weeks to ensure as long of a remission as possible.  Then either some preventative drugs or a break from the punishment; not quite sure yet. We are thankful; that chemo is working; for your prayers and encouragement; for sustenance.

Reveling in Grace

It was one of those days. I honestly don’t have too many of these but this was a perfect storm. I lost my cool with the kids. I was in the doghouse with the whole family for shooting the cat with a BB gun to prevent it from getting some baby birds (the cat was fine). I yelled at the dog for demanding Tara’s attention ( I think I was jealous).  I had a really crappy attitude with my wife.  And to top it off, I missed the fact, earlier in the day, that it was her birthday. 

If I had a white flag I’d have been waving it as I crawled into bed that evening. I didn’t even wait for Tara as I was certain she wouldn’t want to talk to me. I laid there trying to sleep while I listened to her getting ready for bed. As she was near the edge of the bed I mumbled, “Sorry.”  “What?” “Sorry for being liked this.”

Grace has been a concept known to me for many decades. While mercy is not getting what you do deserve, grace is getting what you don’t deserve.  It is unmerited favor, typically by God, because people aren’t very good at it. I have always approached grace with thankfulness, and with my tail between my legs. But this night, Tara stretched my understanding of this beautiful gift. 

She said, “It’s okay. I forgive you. You are not meeting my needs as a husband. And I know I’m not meeting yours as your wife.  Why don’t we just enjoy the fact that we get to experience each other’s grace during this season. We extend it to each other.”  Reveling in grace shouldn’t have been a new concept for me, but it was. It was beautiful and so relieving. Understanding God’s grace this way has been a joy to consider. The joy of experiencing grace is really good.

Tara has scans and chemo this week. Having missed the last two weeks, this round is the double dose. Big breath!  We are optimistic and also dreading the discomfort Tara will experience. It will pass, we know. We will certainly get to extend plenty of grace to reach other this week. I am more hopeful with that thought.

Fiddy

Last weekend was my parents’ 50th anniversary.  What an impressive milestone.  The day was affectionately themed “Fiddy”, slang for”fifty” as I had to explain several times.  We are 18 months away from our 25th. I vividly remember my parents’ 25th. Time flies.  I so look forward to growing old with my wife. I cannot imagine it any other way.

From the exam, the doctor is encouraged that the lymph nodes are continuing to shrink. They are not detectable y feel any longer. The CA125 is going down too.  The white blood cells were up bit so Tara was able to have treatment Monday. It was over three weeks since her last one. While the treatment seems to be working, the infrequency of them means the chemo will go on through the summer. Evidently the amount of chemo administered is related to the length of remission.  Keep treating!

Just tonight Tara has started to feel the effects of the drugs. It could be a long few days. These are times that remind us that we are dependent on something other than our own strength; Tara physically and me emotionally.  We need something powerful this week and we are encouraged that we have what we need; that the eyes of our hearts know the HOPE to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, Edited from Ephesians 1:18-21

Strainers

Lewis and I were the first through that section of the river. It seemed harmless but I had seen ones like this before and knew the power it could have if it grabbed us.  On the cutbank of the river which was only 10 yards wide, the luring strainer tried to draw in everything the river brought it.  Lewis paddled hard when I instructed him. Five hard strokes is all it required once we rounded the shallow point.  Very timed, directional and deliberate strokes.

Wanting to warn the paddlers coming I ran our canoe ashore and turned my attention to instructing the next canoe and two kayaks.  It was too late. The other canoe was sucked in. The branches of the fallen tree stopped the canoe and the force of the water quickly overcame the upstream sides of the boat and just like that both paddlers were now floaters, and the canoe was a sinker. The first kayak observed the tipped canoe and made sure to avoid the peril. But kayak number two got sucked in as well. Very matter of factly I told her to get ready to swim. Second later I was rescuing her and her boat as well. Fortunately the water felt good and nobody got hurt. But the river’s power was humbling.

I deal with strainers. A few intentional strokes in the right direction could spare me a lot of trouble but often I don’t catch it. I get sucked in and my life gets tipped.  These things make me so frustrated and often seem to have power over me, if I didn’t know better. Usually it has to do with my selfishness.  It leaves me wanting a redo. Then real power steps in and saves the day, thank you Jesus. 

Tara did not get her treatment again this week and she won’t next week as well. Monday the 19th is likely the next treatment, assuming all goes well.  I guess we wait. In the meantime we are optimistic about the lowering CA125 number and the shrinking lymph nodes.  All things considered it is going well. 

God is good to us, allowing us to experience life in this depth, strainers or not.

The Remainder

Weeks pass quickly, just like they always have, only quicker.  The pressing things get done and the remainder, well, those things get put to the side.  I have begun to examine “the remainder” in my life more closely.  I am finding that the remainder is full of things I say are most important to me: time with God, intentional spending (budgeting), caring for my body, investing in friends, and much more.

This past week Tara did not get her treatment due to her blood cell count being too low again.  As a result she has felt much better.  It’s amazing how bad those chemicals can make a person feel. We have mixed feelings every time a treatment is missed. We trust that this too is part of our faith development in the sufficiency of Christ. 

How can we know in advance what is best?  We can’t. The doctors can’t. We just wait for the results of blood work and then respond. But we believe a guy can know best if he says he will die and rise again, and then does it. And if I believe him for that, then I can believe other things he says too.  “I know everything about you and care for every little detail.” “I love you so much that if you believe in me I will give you eternal life”. “You are blessed and will inherit a fortune (eternal life) if you are broken (poor in spirit, mourners, persecuted) and seek comfort and repair from me.”

Tara is doing well. Her smile is contagious. She is teaching me how to make sure “the remainder” are only those things which don’t matter, whether seemingly pressing or not.

Where does my help come from?

There were times in growing our business that I questioned whether or not I could keep the pace; whether my body and mind could keep going day after day, week after week, month after month. It was hard. Everything was on the line, all the time. And I had to make it work.  People were counting on it.  

During those times Tara was so encouraging. She would affirm me and point me to the one source of true help, saying, “You are the man for this job. God gifted you for this moment and will give you strength to continue. Now go do what you have to do and I’ll be waiting for you when you get done.”  

Tara was able to get her treatment on Wednesday.  It has been several weeks since her body was up for it, so we were glad she was ready this time.  By Friday morning she was feeling pretty rough.  Today was particularly bad.  Nausea.  Vomiting. No energy.  Very tired.   Right now, she needs the same kind of affirmation and encouragement from me that she had given me through the years in business. But I am nowhere to be found. I am struggling to be here emotionally. I am working hard to get things done around the house and yard, and spending time with the kids. All are good things but I am missing the most helpful pieces; emotional support and spiritual leadership. 

Where will I find help?

….Where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let our feet slip—he will not slumber nor sleep. The Lord is the shade at our right hand; the sun will not harm us by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep us from all harm—he will watch over our lives both now and forevermore. Psalms 121

Time Moves On

Lewis turns ten today. Wow!  Our baby is double digits. Time moves on, regardless of if we are ready for it to happen or not.  He and I spent the last three days in the Boundary Waters trying out his new pole. He caught the first fish with it and fed us our first shore lunch.  Don’t tell him, but the time away was purely selfish for me. I got to spend some great time with the finest young man I know.  He sharpens me.  We have so much fun together. 

Micalyn and I also spent a few days away last week looking at colleges. As a junior, the decision is getting closer. She is so ready to spread her wings and I am so confident she’ll do great when the day comes.  Time moves on. 

I feel a bit guilty that I had so much fun for the past week.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) Tara has not had to deal with all the side effects of chemo while I was away. She was not able to get her chemo again last week due to low white blood cell counts. Today she gets her blood work done again to find out if she is able to get treated this week. If she can, it will be Wednesday.  It has been three weeks since the last treatment. 

We are a bit discouraged.  We feel that Tara’s body needs chemo to fight the cancer, but it is unable to take the necessary abuse.  As a result, the treatment regimen is changing.  She will get a big dose every four weeks and the smaller dose in between the big ones. 

There has been good in all of it. In the two treatments Tara has had, the cancer numbers are going down already.  So the chemo seems to be working.

This is the sixth week since diagnosis of the recurrence. Time moves on. We are humbled by the continued faithfulness and kindness of our friends. Christian or not, you model the nature and compassion of God to us.  Your prayers and concern, the meals, the encouragement, and the service blesses us. We love you.  Thank you.

I Can’t See You

As a baby, Lewis would hide by covering his face.  I probably did the same when I was a baby. How simple. If I can’t see you then you aren’t there.  For the baby, what a convenient way to get out of a situation. I wish I hadn’t grown out of that. The adult equivalent of this would be the age-old fantasy of being able to disappear on command.

Sometimes Tara and I seem to try this trick with problems. Maybe if we aren’t talking about it…. Maybe if we work a lot….  Maybe if we have friends over…  Maybe if we serve together….  Maybe… if we do these things, the problems, the cancer, or anything else “bad” won’t exist.  I guess I’m talking more about myself on this one.  Tara does much better at facing the problems.  

But God has more for me than this.  How can I embrace the challenges instead of burying my head in the sand?  I don’t want to run from the fight. I want the story.  The experience.  The sharpening.  The growth. I want to learn dependence and really enjoy it. 

Tara has the big dose on Monday along with an exam. We may learn a bit about how everything is going. But we may not learn much, depending on what the doc can decipher without a scan. We are optimistic and sort of keeping our hands over our face pretending we don’t see the monster.

Humbled

We stirred at 5:45 to the sound of Tara’s alarm.  The reality is that we were both awake already, but we didn’t know it until that moment.  Some small talk and cuddles in the few minutes before the day started. A good friend picked Tara up to go to chemo while I stayed behind to help the kids get ready for school, aka be the coffee and breakfast butler. 

Tara returned home around 8:30. Her blood counts were too low to do chemo. That’s good and bad. Good in that she didn’t get chemo and bad in that she didn’t get chemo.  Low counts means that she has to be careful not to get sick. She has to take extra precautions. She said she must start getting to bed early, but that didn’t happen tonight. 

Tara has a different attitude this time around. By starting the treatments fresh (not after a surgery), she has more energy. She can do things that she couldn’t last time.  But today reminded us that she is in the middle of a fight.  We are in the middle of a fight. We were humbled today.

I told Tara, “You don’t deserve this.”  She said, “You’re right, I deserve worse. I deserve death. I am a sinner and God is perfect.  I am thankful I have this instead. God is so good to me”.  I wish we knew where this road is taking us. One thing I do know, the road is prepared for us and will be lit in time for our next step. It won’t be lit well by a flickering 3-watt nightlight. But that’s all we’ve got on our own. The source of light is our hope.  Jesus.  

Note to Self

I have never been good at journaling.  These blogs are as close as it gets.  I hear that people learn a lot from going back and reading their journal entries.  So I gave it a shot.  I was humbled to read this from this past New Year’s eve, right before we left for Ecuador.

“There is a new sense of anticipation as we begin 2017.  But nothing is fleshed out yet, only a substantially unfinished skeleton missing critical pieces.  We have some work to do; listening, praying, and planning. We are cautiously excited. 
We felt a similar swelling of purpose and excitement as we sought him 4 years ago. But we didn’t find what we expected then. In many ways it was better because it stretched and shaped us in ways we needed, but certainly wouldn’t have chosen.”

This swelling of purpose was so evident late in 2012 when we went to Haiti as a family.  It was Thanksgiving, and cancer was diagnosed January 30.  The swelling of purpose happened again in at the end of 2016.  We were restless, sensing God moving again in our lives.

How humbling to realize that God cares for us in this way; to give us a VERY clear sense that we need to seek Him in advance of a trial.  To shore up our foundation.  To build reserves for coming strain.  Some would say we were caught off guard in both cases.  But I am beginning to recognize the voice of God in a way I haven’t before.  His voice is a calmness in chaos, a stillness in a storm.  It drew us to go seek Him twice now right before a storm in our lives.  How gracious.

Also how gracious He is to grow us.  I don’t feel that gratitude in the daily moments.  But when reflecting on this, in many ways it will be better because it will stretch and shape us in ways we need, but certainly would not choose.

Note to self: Listen for the voice of God.  Don’t run away from the storm.  Goodness is there.  Love is there.  Help is there.