Friday, December 16, 2011

my brother's keeper

from twenty feet away i watched as doctors and nurses scrambled to save his life. a nurse jumped on the bed and did chest compressions. doctors administered medications over and over to bring him back. slowly, as if in a dream, a nurse tugged on my arm and told me to move away because i didn't need to see this. but i did. i needed to see it and i would not be budged. a miracle was about to happen....i just knew it. after what seemed like hours (when in all actuality it was only ten minutes or so) a miracle did happen. my brother slipped away from this life and ran headlong into the arms of God. that was three years ago today.

in the chaos of that moment, amidst the crying and the tears, i couldn't tear my eyes away from the people who had been desperately trying to save his life. it wasn't a scene from ER or grey's anatomy, where a handsome young doctor came to us and slowly lowered his mask to tell us that they did all they could. no. there was a full range of human emotion spilling out of the people who had just tried to save him. the doctor looked disgusted and suddenly tired, as if he had just went fifteen rounds in a heavy weight fight and lost at the end. one nurse that walked out looked like she was in shock and was not completely sure of what had just happened. i remember seeing one man who was expressionless, as if he was trying to shove down any form of emotion, because if he could do that, then everything would be okay. the other two nurse that i remember walked out with tears cascading from their eyes shaking their heads in disbelief and telling us over and over that they were so sorry. i was in shock at what i had just witnessed. and the only thing i could think to do was to walk to each one of those people and say, "thank you for doing what you could. thank you so much." i couldn't fathom how they were so emotionally invested in someone that they had known for less than two days. but i knew that i wanted to be like that.

and here i am three years that exact day. some would call that coincidence or fate, but i see it in a much different way. it's like God is looking down at me right now and saying, "remember all that you saw. remember all that you felt. remember through all of that, I sent people there who cared and who loved. in the midst of the hurt, the drama, and the pain, I was there. now, it's your turn". i don't know how i'll be used. i don't know who i'll touch. i don't even know where i'm going to work. what i do know is this: every time i sit down in a room and hold an old woman's hand, i think of jeremy. every time i change someone's bed or dressings, i think of jeremy. every time i look into the grief stricken eyes of a patient's loved ones, i think of jeremy.

today, i graduate. and i'll think of jeremy. in memory at least, i am my brother's keeper.

Monday, July 18, 2011

When God Says No

I feel like I've been writing this blog post in my mind for the past several days. This topic is one I have thought about lots of times throughout my life but more intensely the last couple of weeks. One of my very favorite people in life is Dr. Charles Stanley. I've read his articles and listened to his sermons for over half my life now. Of all the things that he's said, there's one particular message that has stuck with me: his message on Psalm 37, the desires of our heart. Dr. Stanley made a very true statement when he said, "the more intense our desire, the shorter our waiting fuse." Does that ring true in anyone else's life besides mine? I think back to when I was in middle school or high school and I was literally on my knees saying PPPLLLEEEEEASE God do this or PPPLLLEEEEASE God give me that. I thought I would literally stop living if I didn't have that particular thing. Then I got to college and the issues became more serious. Questions about a course of study, a career path and finding a mate start to press in on us. After college, wanting to find that perfect job, being financially stable, marriage, starting a family... all of these things are the desires of our hearts. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." ~Psalm 37:4. I clung to this verse. I can remember in my quiet time reading it over and over, but at that time I did not understand what was packed in this verse. In my concordance I looked up the Hebrew meaning of the word "delight" as it is used in this verse. I love this, are you ready for this? It says it means, "enjoy." Enjoy the Lord. I have sat and thought about that alone for what is probably hours. Let's break this down. Enjoying something, hmmm. One of my most favorite things is the ocean. When I am near the beach, I am a happy girl. I "enjoy" the beach. What does it take for me to enjoy the beach? Sitting. That's what it takes. Sitting next to it and looking at it, hearing the waves, smelling the ocean air. That's it, just sitting in its presence... listening and breathing. Have you ever noticed that when you spend a lot of time with someone, you start to pick up their little nuances? For instance, it could be a certain mannerism or a phrase they say. I'm going to pick on my husband for a minute. He is a southern boy. When he first moved up here, his accent was thick. It was so thick, I made fun of him at every opportunity. Over the years he has started to sound less like a southern boy and more like a "yankee" (as he would call us). The same thing happens when we go down south. It takes all of about five seconds of being around his friends and family before that southern accent appears with force. When you're around someone you favor, you start to act like them. You start to think like them or behave like them. I think that's what this verse is really talking about. You see, this beautiful thing happens when we spend time with God. When we sit with Him, when we listen to Him, when we watch Him. You cannot help but enjoy Him. And all of a sudden, because of His grace, His ways become your ways. His thoughts become your thoughts. And watch this: His desires become your desires.

So fast forward, what happens when we're doing this and our desires are His desires, or so we think, and we're asking Him to fulfill these desires and He says, "No." You get those test results that you didn't want to hear. Your boss calls you in his office and you lose your job. You get that phone call that changes everything. You lose someone. What happens now when you begged God, when you trusted Him, for a different result? I'm not going to remotely pretend like I have the answer, only God knows the answer. But I have something that has helped. Ever since I was a little girl, my Mom and Dad taught me something. They read it or heard it somewhere but they would say this to us often growing up. God answers prayer in one of four ways:
1.) Yes, and here's more.
2.) Yes, I thought you'd never ask.
3.) No, not yet.
4.) No, I love you too much.

This revolutionized the way I thought about prayer and the answer to prayer. As I have grown up and have seen each of these four responses played out in my own life before me, it has changed my reaction to the "no's." Does this make it easy? Oh my, no. It doesn't. But it does make it easier. My friends who have just experienced a "no," particularly the one that stings the most (No, I love you too much), I want to encourage you and I'm praying for you as I write this post. I am praying another one of my favorite verses over you. I don't often read the Message version of scripture but in this case, I love the wording. I will close with reading these words that the Lord Himself says:

"Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.'" ~Isaiah 41:13

Enjoy God,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

525,600 Minutes

When I was in college my friends and I decided to sleep on the street and get front row tickets to see Rent. Ever since the first time I saw the show I have had the lyrics of one of the songs etched in my mind. "Five-hundred twenty-five thousand six-hundred minutes, how do you measure a year?" We just recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. In some aspects the last year seems somewhat surreal but in other ways it seems more than real as I think about the effects that it has had on my life (physically, emotionally and spiritually), my marriage, my relationships with my family, friends and co-workers. It would be difficult to write all of the things that I learned while going through cancer and quite honestly, I am still unpacking it all and still learning. There are things that hit me at the strangest moments, when I'm getting ready for work in the morning or when I'm fixing dinner in the evening. The other day I took the dogs for a walk and just as I was coming around the corner of our neighborhood I thought, "a year ago I couldn't have done this." I do not mean that in a negative way at all, quite the contrary. It may sound so incredibly strange but a part of me misses last year. There is this indescribable intimacy that can be found during crisis that is found nowhere else in life. It is a perfect blend of God carrying us through something so challenging and us yielding and surrendering because the truth is that we simply cannot do it on our own, we were not made to.

This past Thanksgiving John and I had the privilege of flying down to Fort Myers to spend the holiday with his Mom and Dad. Our flight was very early, around 6am. My husband, not being a morning person, was not looking forward to the flight. But I was. I knew that I was in for one of the coolest things ever - sunrise at 10,000 feet. While I was excited about this, God had something even cooler in mind. Once we got on the plane and got all buckled in, the captain came on the speaker. He said we were being re-routed due to a major thunderstorm and that he was going to do his best to avoid it and fly around it. We got up in the air and the sun began to rise. The colors were amazing. If you know me you know nothing makes me happier than witnessing the awesomeness of God and His creation. I was practically salivating at this point of the flight. Then I saw it off in the distance. I could see the storm. There was a mass of thick, dark clouds that almost appeared to be swirling. It was still a ways off and was below our altitude. We were getting closer and closer. I was almost holding my breath, taking in every second. I knew there was no way I could get any type of photograph of what I was seeing so I was doing my best to memorize every moment. We were almost directly over it now and I saw something I will never forget. A lightning bolt shot straight from the cloud in front of us to the ground. As I was watching this, it dawned on me. There was this incredibly massive storm going on just below us and yet we were flying over it, with not even the slightest bit of turbulence or rough air. I realize this doesn't happen on every flight going through a storm but it happened that day. I couldn't help but equate it to the season of cancer in my life. It was a challenge, a storm, and yet I was able to fly through it feeling no turbulence. There is only one reason for this: Jesus. It had absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. He carried me. He gave me hope. He gave me strength. He whispered to me that I was beautiful when I didn't recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror. He provided for my every single need including giving me a loving husband who would take care of me, a family who would show me unending support and love, friends who would call and send cards of support and love that always seemed to come at just the right moment. In Isaiah 46, God speaks and says, "I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." This is not just for me, it is for you - in your circumstance right now, in your hardship, in your storm. This is His promise to you. Sometimes it doesn't feel like He's carrying us. Sometimes all we feel is turbulence and rough air. It is in these moments that we cling to His promise. Is it easy? No. All I can tell you is that 525,600 minutes later I am sitting here, thanking God with everything that I am that He allowed me to have cancer. Only through cancer did I find new depth and new dimension to what it means to be loved by a Holy God.

God continues to speak in Isaiah 46, "With whom will you compare Me or count Me equal?" I love that. There is no one that comes close. There is no one like our God.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good." ~Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

with Your likeness let me wake

It has been awhile since our last post so we have a lot of catching up to do! My mind works better if I break big things up into littler pieces, so I have broken this journey up into phases.

Phase 1: diagnosis and staging
Phase 2: chemotherapy
Phase 3: recover and recooperate
Phase 4: radiation
Phase 5: follow-up testing and scans

My last chemotherapy treatment was July 1st. The last couple of treatments were difficult physically and my blood counts were very low. They decided to give me a 4-6 week break before beginning radiation to allow my body to recover and build back up. Those 4 weeks were wonderful. It was so great to have a break from the appointments to just rest and recover and enjoy the everyday, normal life. My counts came back up quickly and before we knew it, it was time for radiation. I had several scans (PET and CT) to help with the mapping of my radiation. Due to the location of the mass, my radiation oncologist was very careful and precise in the planning to avoid damage to my heart, lungs and esophogus during radiation treatments.

Radiation treatments are every weekday in 24-hour increments. They want to familiarize you with the routine of what happens every day at your treatments so they schedule you for what they call a "dry run day." I went for mine on Monday, August 2nd, the day before my actual treatments were scheduled to begin. Due to the high demand in radiology, I am doing my treatments at St. Vincent hospital instead of the Cancer Center. For those of you who have never had any experience with radiology, let me tell you, it is amazing! I was laying there thinking, "this is something straight out of Star Wars!" There are laser beams and machines that you've never seen before - it is crazy (and very cool!). During my dry run day they put marks on me (cross points) that will remain there throughout my entire course of treatment. There are laser beams that come down from the ceiling and beams that come in from two sides of the room. Each day they line up those beams with the cross points on my body to ensure that I am in the exact right place and position for treatment. It actually takes longer to get lined up than for the treatment itself! Every day I get one radiation blast with the machine on top of me and two blasts with the machine directly underneath me. The staff there is wonderful! They are always on schedule and secretly I time them every day to see what their best time is - so far the best time has been 11 minutes from walking in the hospital doors to walking out of the hospital doors (and that includes an elevator ride!). Pretty impressive! If my math is correct, they do roughly 4 people an hour on one machine, times two machines in the lab, times 12 hours a day ... they are treating 96 people a day at that lab alone! Across the street at the Cancer Center there are two more machines - just think about that - 192 people are being treated every day just in that one block alone. I am praising God for the way He is saving people's lives!

I have had 11 days of treatment so far and I only have 6 more days to go!! It is going beautifully! So far I have had minimal side effects. My doctor says that radiation is similar to chemo in that each treatment builds on the previous treatment so the further in you go, the more effected you are physically. I still say that this is a breeze compared to chemo!!

God has blessed me immeasurably these last few weeks, actually, He has blessed me these last six months!! It is amazing to look back and see where we have been and I stand here telling you that God has carried me the entire way. With Him, nothing - absolutely nothing - is impossible. In fact, He has made this easier than I could've ever imagined. I would rather have a thousand difficult days with Him than even one easy day without Him.

God is a God of timing. I remember the Sunday after John and I received the news that I had cancer. Emily sang a song at church that Sunday that as I listened, I made it my prayer for this entire journey. I want to share those lyrics with you but before I do, I want to say that whether or not I am healed from cancer does not make God any more or less God. God will always be worthy of praise regardless of our circumstances. His ways are higher than ours and when we are in the center of His will we have nothing to fear. That doesn't always mean things are easy but it is His plan for us and His plan is better than anything we could do ourselves.

Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labor through the storm
You have called me to this passage
And I'll follow though I'm worn

May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Jesus guide me through the tempest
Keep my spirit staid and sure
When the midnight meets the morning
Let me love You even more

May this journey be a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Draw me in to be new
Draw me in to more like You
Draw me in, take Your place
How I need to be drawn in to You today

Let the treasures of this trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne

May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Draw me in to be new
Draw me in to more like You
Draw me in, take Your place
How I need to be drawn in to You today

And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Thank you all for your prayers, your encouragement, your support and love. I am unbelievably thankful for each and every one of you. To quote a friend's email that I read this week, "the goodness of God has flooded our lives."

in His love,
-jenny :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

when the answer is no

how do you pray? i am always fascinated listening to different people pray. i love to hear their hearts put into words as they speak to God. in college, i had a professor named Dr. Hooks. he was my old testament professor, and every morning he would start off with a prayer. honestly, i took his class when i was not the least bit interested in God, but the man could pray. i'm not talking just big words and trying to sound holy. the man had to have a direct line to God, cause he could just speak it. i could imagine God sitting in heaven talking to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and a red phone next to his throne rings, and he says, "hold on guys, i gotta take this. steve hooks is calling".

when i pray, i know it's not always eloquent and it's not always something that's gonna get rave reviews persay, but i try to speak my heart. over the last few months though, prayer has become something different. i definitely speak my heart, but i've also tried to keep focus on what God's will is. i've always wanted God's will, at least i thought i did, but i really think that i've come to understand what wanting His will is. before, at the end of my prayer, i'd always say "Your will be done". do you say that too? and if you do, do you really mean it? i think that i said it, but i never really meant it. it was like a thing you say at the end of your prayer to make sure all your t's were crossed and your i's were dotted. kind of the prayer equivalent of tossing a penny in the wishing well just in case. "Your will be done Lord", wink wink, nudge nudge.

God's will. it's not always our will. it's really difficult to seperate our wants from His will. i mean, He is our Father, and a father gives his children what they want right? when jenny and i got married, we were supposed to go to Kenya a few months later. after a couple of conversations with some very wise people, we decided it was not a good idea to go at the time. this was the hardest decision of my life. missions was what i went to school for. missions i what i had trained for. i was a missionary. but all of the sudden, missions was not God's will for my life. what!?! what was He thinking? i mean, how could He do this to me? i know we pray for God's will, but He's way off base on this one.....right?

our first year of marriage, jenny and i were unraveling personal issues that put strains on us that would have only been amplified on the mission field. being in a new marriage is stressful, but being in a new culture is even more stressful. that would have been tough. a few months after we were supposed to be in kenya, there were riots over the writing of a new constitution. many people were hurt, and some were even killed. being newly married, and new to kenya, i don't think jenny and i could have made it through that. as if that weren't bad enough, some time later, my grandmother and my brother died within a month and a half of each other. i could never have withstood that on the field, and i am not proud to say it, but it probably would have destroyed my faith. we were supposed to be there five years, which means we would not have caught jenny's cancer as soon as we did here in the states.

i'm writing this because i've been disappointed for the last week because i found out i didn't make it into nursing school. i studied and worked so hard. i've felt disappointed, and somewhat like a failure. but i started thinking about kenya. what is God's will for me? i definitely still feel called to go into nursing, so i'm going to continue that. but what is His will, His timing? is He saving us from something else? is He preparing us for something bigger and better? i just don't know. but i can tell you one thing, this time, i'm not trying to figure it all out.

i have wants, needs, desires and passions. who else knows all of these better than God? i have plans for jenny and i, to graduate, get a different job, and start a family. but is my plan better than God's plan? it's taken a long time for me to get it, but no, my plan is never better than His plan. sometimes it might coincide with His plan, but it will never be better. so, i sit, i wait, and i pray......Your will be done.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

lessons from the lawn mower

For the last four years, I've been working at Lawn Brothers mowing grass and doing landscaping. I enjoy working outside, so it's been really good for me. With all the time spent riding on a mower, I've learned alot of things about myself because I have so much time to think. This summer, I have learned a lesson that I thought I would share.

I have never really been obsessive-compulsive about much, but over the last few years I have found out that there is one thing that causes me to have OCD: straight lines while mowing yards. I don't know where it came from, but one day, it just started bugging me when a line looked a little bit crooked, and I would do anything I could to fix it. I guess it's not a big deal, but it does make me mow a little slower some days when I'm trying to get things just right. However, there is one yard that has given me fits for the last three years. No matter what I tried, I couldn't seem to get the lines straight.

Imagine a large grove of trees. On one end is an open space where you start mowing. Here, it's easy to make straight lines. That lasts for about twenty or thirty yards, and then you hit this grove of trees. There are probably about twenty or so rows of trees that someone planted in "straight" lines. Actually, they aren't straight, but kind of crooked and at different angles. Once you get through about 2/3 of the trees, you come to another open spot that lasts about 15 yards before once again going into the rows of trees.

Like I said, making straight lines is easy at first, because you're in the open. But once you hit the trees, it gets much harder. There are so many trees to circle around it makes you feel like your on the tea cups ride at Disney World. As a matter of fact, when my friend Rob did it for the first time, after he finished he said he almost got sick from going around all these trees. My lines start out straight, and I would then try to make them look straight while in the trees. The test of how well you do comes when you hit that second open area. Every time I would get to it, I would think I'd done a fine job making straight lines, but my lines would always be crooked like a banana when I got there. For the longest time, I couldn't figure out why.

This year, I tried a new approach. I would mow the trees like I mowed and open field. Two rules to making straight lines: 1) keep your front wheel the same distance from the line you just cut. Consistency is the key here. Keep it the same every time and your lines will be straight. 2) Keep your speed just right. To fast and you'll miss stuff, but if too slow, the bumps will throw you off a little bit.

So, I followed those two rules, and lo and behold, when I got to the open area my lines were straight as an arrow. What was the real difference this time? I finally quit focusing on the trees. I had been so busy trying to make my lines straight in comparison to the trees (which aren't in straight lines to begin with) that I forgot the two simple rules to making perfect lines.

This got me thinking about all of the trials that Jenny and I have been facing. All of these trees have been getting in the way (cancer, chemo treatments, school, our dog dying), and I had been wondering if we had been handling everything the right way. Some days we feel so lost among the trees as the branches reach out to slap our faces. It's been hard to not focus on the trees. But somewhere in all of the mess, after years and years of trying to get it right, I've finally learned two simple things to remember when trying to keep a straight line amongst the trees. 1) God loves me, and I love God. No matter how many times I get slapped I must always remember that. 2) God wants what is best for me. I may not get why something is happening, or when it will end, I must remember that God is in control and wants only the best for me, even if it hurts a little bit.

As I stated earlier, I've wondered how we've handled all of this opposition lately. Have we been faithful? Have we focused enough on God? Can we do this? How do we stay positive when it just gets so overwhelming? We are far from then end of the trees, but we have just come to an open expanse in our battle against cancer. Perhaps its a short breather, or maybe just a chance to look at our lines and see if they're straight. Either way, we praise God for the news that we got last week. Jenny's latest PET scan shows no active cancer cells. This means we only have three more visits to the chemo doctor before we start a month of radiation. For those of you with us from the beginning, you know we set a goal to be cancer free by Jenny's birthday on August 15th. We're right on track. Looks like that line is pretty straight to me.

Don't focus on the trees. You can't go straight that way. There are only two things to remember....1) God loves you, and I pray, that you love Him. 2) God wants what's best for you, no matter what things look like, He ALWAYS wants what's best for His children.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Chemo days offer us a strange dichotomy of emotions. There is the dread of chemo and excitement of being one step closer to done. Today was no different, except that this could be our last treatment, or so we thought. When we started this journey, we were told we would have to endure 4-6 rounds of chemo. So today, number four, could have potentially been our last one. However, in a disappointing turn of events, we found out that a "round" of chemo is two treatments. So, we are only half way there if it's four rounds, and a third of the way there if it is six rounds.

I cannot begin to tell you how disappointing and devastating it is to think you're all finished with something that has been so difficult, only to find that you might not even be at the halfway mark. Just halfway there, and the nurses tell you it's going to get nothing but worse from here on out. What do you do with that? What should your reaction be? Our first reaction is disbelief, followed by a little bit of anger mixed with tears. After that, all that's left is just this impending dread of the uphill battle you thought you were done with. As a man, nothing breaks your heart more than not being able to stop the tears cascading down your wife's face.

I am hard pressed most times to come up with the careful lessons and thoughtful words that Jenny is able to pluck from the Bible so well from week to week. It's even harder when you are trying to do so in the midst of disappointment. And it's not just disappointment, but this feeling of "We're trying really hard here to be, um, what's up God?". It's not a lack of faith, but it's a human response to a difficult situation. I am just a man after all. And that got me thinking....

How disappointed was Joseph when his brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous? Your own family, hating you enough to want to kill you, but selling you instead. In slavery he's lifted to an elevated position in Potiphar's house, only to be accused by his wife of trying to sleep with her. Sent back to prison, he must have been sorely disappointed again. And what became of all of these trials and disappointments? Joseph eventually was in charge of all of Egypt, second only to the Pharoah, and became the rescuer of the sons of Israel.

What did Job feel as he was stripped of everything? He was a prominent man who had it all: large family, wealth, respect in his community. All of it was taken from him. Tragically, he lost it ALL. Can you imagine his confusion, his sense of loss, his disappointment in how his life was turning out? He lost everything but his faith, and because of that, he was restored with twice as much as before, and became a testament to the faithfulness of the Lord.

In the New Testament, what did Joseph feel when he first found out that Mary was pregnant? I know he had to be confused, perplexed, angered, and definitely disappointed. And yet months later, after all of the disappointment he experienced, there he was, holding the very son of God in his arms. Disappointment turned into salvation.

Each of these are human examples of disappointment. But in each case, God was faithful and the disappointment each of these men faced was turned to joy. So here we sit, hearts full of hurt and disappointment. While our human hearts may overtake our emotions for a short time, we desperately cling to our faith, holding onto the promise of a mighty God, and await the transformation of disappointment into joy, laughter and celebration.

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus". Philippians 3:13-15

Praise God for His overwhelming sense of peace that definitely passes all understanding. Thank you for your continued letters, emails, and prayers. We covet each and every prayer you may lift up on our behalf, and we love you all. --john

Monday, May 3, 2010

How I Made It Through Cancer

so there's these two really cool people in my life. one of them i've known for almost three decades and the other one i've known for a few years. their names are sam and kristie. sam and kristie are married. sam and kristie are the type of people who make you more yourself when you're around them. they're the best. they're fun, they're so easy to talk to, they're intelligent, they're the perfect blend of free-spirited-ness and responsibility. they are hilarious, deep, thoughtful and most importantly, they love the Lord. when sam and kristie say something, i listen. so you can see how seriously i took it when they told me about this tv series that i really needed to check out. how i met your mother. they brought me season 1 on saturday night. it is now monday night and i am through season 1. this shows you how smart sam and kristie are. this also shows you that i think i have an addictive personality. (no i'm not addicted to sam and kristie. at least i don't think... hmm...)

for those of you who have never seen the show, how i met your mother begins in the future. it is a show where a dad is telling his two teenage children the story of how he met their mother. episode after episode you are watching him live life years earlier. you see him in his friendships, you see him in his relationships, you see his experiences. in the first few episodes i felt myself almost giddy with excitement waiting for him to meet her. i watched and i waited. another episode... i watched and i waited... a few episodes in and he still had not met her. i turned the tv off and i went to bed. i laid there thinking about the show. then i started thinking about how his story of how he met her began long, long before he actually met her. his experiences, the people in his life (however long they were in the picture) - all of that helped make him him. and all of it led him to her. i started thinking about having cancer. one day i hope i'm able to have children so that i can tell them the story of how i made it through cancer. my story would begin a long, long time before now. i would tell about how my mom used to tuck me in every night and just before she'd close the door she'd always wave at me. i'd tell about how my dad would let me sit on his lap and he would scratch my back. i'd tell about how my brother made me pay him to let me ride to school with him in his car before i had my license. (he's going to punch me in the arm for that one) i'd tell about when my parents bought a piece of land in brown county that has turned into such a meaningful place, a place of retreat for our family and for our friends. i'd tell about how i decided to go to indiana university. i'd tell about the first time i met liz. i'd tell about getting to live with sarah. i'd tell about paul steiner. i'd tell about some pretty amazing women, janel, emily and michelle and a little house at 820 east 8th street. i'd tell about the woman that my brother married who is the sister that i wanted my whole life. i'd tell about my friendship with amanda. and just when i had their full attention, i would tell them a story about loving someone so much that you could be halfway around the world from them and know that there was no one else that you'd rather go through life with. the cool thing is that all the things that i've experienced up until now has prepared me for this. and the even cooler thing is that this is preparing me for what is coming. THAT is our God. He knows no accident and He wastes nothing. romans 8:28 has always been my favorite verse. "and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him..." all things. that means the bad day you had. the disappointment you felt. the time you got a phone call that brought you to your knees. or that thing that you want so so bad and that you wait for every day but every day it doesn't come. it also means that moment when you thought life couldn't get any better. or that day you finally got to walk across the stage and get that diploma or the day you got offered a higher position at work. all things He works together for your good. with our eyes on Him, nothing is wasted, not a single experience or moment.

thursday is treatment #4. please pray that if it is God's will that i will be able to have the treatment. i have been having some numbness and tingling in my feet which is something that can delay treatment. but please pray that above all His will would be done - including the timing and length of treatments. i wouldn't have it any other way than His.

after treatment #4 i will have a PET scan. this will show how the cancer has reacted to my treatments thus far and will tell us how many (if any) more treatments i will need. once chemo is completed we begin radiation. right now there are a lot of unknowns - when will i be done with chemo, how long will i have to do radiation, and on and on. good thing we don't have to worry about a thing because God knows it all and He is in complete control.

"...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be..."~Ps139:16.

thank you all for your prayers, your emails, your notes and cards of encouragement. all of them and all of you are a part of my story.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


things that make us cry......
  • complications
  • nausea
  • feeling like we can't do anything like normal people
  • not being able to take away jenny's cancer
  • not being able to visit family
  • being in the house all the time
  • not being able to make jenny not hurt

things that make us laugh....

  • our dog zoey, who thinks she is the center of the universe, and she's the reason why jenny is home all the time
  • julie and julia
  • shaving each other's heads
  • ridiculous nicknames we have made up over the past month like dragonheart and pickles (i'll let you guess which ones we are)
  • lee crane's facebook posts

things that make us smile.....

  • cards
  • rainbow sherbert
  • emails
  • messages on facebook
  • just knowing that we spend more quality time together now than any point in our marriage
  • our beautiful nephews noah and caleb
  • when a friend is willing to work for me so that i can be at home with my wife. thank you to him and his beautiful family for their sacrifice.

things that we long for.....

  • the end of chemo!
  • enough energy to do everything we feel like doing
  • the beach!!
  • to feel good enough to go to church every week
  • a calm stomach to eat anything that we want

things we are learning....

  • going through this without God would be impossible for us
  • the tough stuff builds intimacy in a marriage way more than the easy stuff
  • we are surrounded by an incredible support system
  • our families are strong, and prop us up
  • people who we don't know pray for us all the time. simply amazing.
  • sometimes pulling out a B in anatomy II is okay when you're working 40+ hours a week and dealing with cancer
  • God is most definitely in control (thank goodness!)

Jenny has felt good the last few days. We've been able to make it outside the house, have a date, go shopping, and just enjoy the weather. We have our third chemo treatment on Thursday (22nd). Please pray that Jenny's white blood cell count will be high enough for her treatment, and that she won't have to get another shot to increase them. Thank you SO much for all of your continued prayers. We love you! --j&j

Monday, April 5, 2010

my God is mighty to save

I've been thinking about tomorrow for five days now. This past Thursday we went in for a chemo treatment but found out that my white blood cell count was too low to handle a treatment and I was sent home... to wait. Tomorrow I go in to re-test my levels to see where we go from here. If they are still too low, I will have an injection tomorrow, chemo Thursday and another injection on Friday. Now I will tell you that on Thursday I had a bit of a hissy fit with God. I wasn't expecting to have to wait another week for treatment. "This throws off my whole schedule!" I yelled (in my mind) in the car on the way home. It's a good thing we have a patient God, you know? I mean, can anyone relate? We are just so conditioned to timing and scheduling and wanting things on our terms. All I could think about was this setting us back a week, a week wasted. God had other plans in mind. Can I just say thank God for my friends? My sister was so precious that day. I called her to tell her the news and she said very calmly, "I can hear in your voice that you're disappointed and that's ok. But this means you get to feel good for a few more days. This means you get to go to church on Easter." She was right. After going to church yesterday (which, by the way, Easter is my favorite Sunday at church), I knew that God delayed my treatment for that exact reason (well, and to remind me that yes, HE is still in charge!). I can't even tell you what that service did for my "insides" as we say in our family. East 91st Street Christian Church always does something special for the Easter Service. Every year it just knocks your socks off and this year was no different. After singing together and getting pumped up about what we were celebrating, something happened. It was one of those moments that you would just give anything to bottle up so you could pull it back out and live it over whenever you wanted. We had just listened to Derek talk about how God not only had victory over the grave but He has victory now in our lives, in our circumstance. The band started playing a song ("How He Loves" which is just the coolest song) and as the band played there was a line of people all the way off the stage and around the back. They came on stage, one at a time holding a cardboard sign. The first side of the sign explained a circumstance or insecurity in their life that they had been through that might seem hopeless but then after you read it, they turned it over and it read how God had had victory over that circumstance. John and I wanted to share a few of the circumstances with you.

"High school dropout. Loser, will never amount to anything...... IU Business School, Honor Student. Glory to God!"

"12 years addicted to crack.... 22 years clean and addiction free."

"Diagnosed with leukemia when 3 months pregnant. Radical surgery followed..... 17 years of cancer remission." (and just then her 17-year-old son walked out on stage to join her.)

"5 years of infertility and stress on our marriage...... God's timing is perfect, just like our baby girl."

"Sexually abused as a child, unable to love or be loved........ Married 3 weeks ago!"

"Living a life of fear of being alone and never marrying....... In God I am complete."

"Lost my job, living in fear of financial ruin....... I love my new job!"

Story after story, circumstance after circumstance of God proving Himself. A few months ago I did a 10-week bible study called "Believing God." It was my second time to do the study. The first time changed my life and the second was equally as moving. In week 9 Beth Moore talks about how "For children of God, a perfect setup for catastrophic defeat is also the perfect setup for miraculous victory." Ephesians 1:20-21 says that God "seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, no only in the present age but also in the one to come." If we're not careful, we'll miss it - "in our present age" - He is above EVERY title. That means that whatever comes up against you, whatever opposition that faces you - you've got to know that your God trumps every title. There is nothing beside Him. There is no one like Him. He is beyond compare. So when we've been set up for what seems like defeat - He says we've actually been set up for miraculous victory. Do we even realize it? We think we've been set up by the devil but God would never allow us to be set up that way unless He said, "you have provided the perfect backdrop for Me to show off." Beth points out that God, in His perspective, is already laughing (while we're busy crying or having a fit), He's saying, "you can't believe how good this is going to be - oh this is going to be so good!" That is the hope we have in Him.

I am so thankful for this "speed bump" we had last week. I have been humbled and reminded of Him and His perfect plan for me. Sometimes it is hard when those things in life creep up - those thoughts of "what if" and "if this then what" .... those things that make us just want to grab control and we just get lost in them. But as quickly as we're tempted to try to cut Him out, we can just as quickly realize that He is the one in control. He has been all along. And thank God for that.

No matter what happens tomorrow, no matter where my levels are, it doesn't really matter. It is His timing, His plan. Thank God I'm not in charge because wow, would I ever mess it up! Some of you have written me or called me to talk to me about things going on in your life, your circumstance. I am praying Ephesians 1:18 over you, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you..."