Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Thankfully, this has proven to be yet another arena where we must trust God to do what we can't. Jada has adjusted well, for the most part, to school for those of you wondering. She does not like math and lacks the stamina to go full day so we pick her up at noon. Her teachers are wonderful and we are totally enjoying the banter of a 3 year old and a school girl at the table each night. Pierce, well, he just makes eyes at his momma :)
We have been advised to expose Jada to exercise and condition her body back to where it was pre-surgery. Since she lacks stamina, this is a tricky endeavor. Last week after dinner we decided to go for a family bike ride to the park and back. Its a short ride from our home and we assumed a safe one. Jada had tired legs but was still able to run around and chase Ollie as he climbed up and down the slide. It was, dare I say, "normal." Then, the unthinkable. Two young boys looked at her. One of them said, "Look, there's that bald girl." The other retorted, "yeah, I bet they call her baldy at school. Let's call her baldy. BALDY BALDY." (Thankfully, the staff at CLA in Hopedale, IL have tackled this issue head on and are so SENSITIVE to our concerns) Jada really did not seem to hear them and scampered off. Jessica, however, rose up with deep motherly love and flat rebuked those young boys. "No, actually, they do not call her that at school. In fact, its quite rude to say that..." The boys got the picture and just stared in disbelief at the now deeply saddened mother. I had been running to the bathroom and when I came back there was this look that Jess had in her eyes. She recounted the story with tears and with fury.
Later that night as we were putting the kids to bed, Jada was asked, "how did that make you feel that they called you baldy?" In a very matter of fact tone she said, "well dad, he was not really there so he doesn't know what happened to me. But mostly, it just makes me want to cry."
This caused me to think - a lot. Jess and I both just shed tears of sadness for her knowing that it has to be difficult to be a spectacle. But that is not why I wrote this - nor is it why I shared the story in the first place. Two very distinct things began to emerge in my thinking:
1. God has always been and will always be our defender and refuge. He is the perfect parent - there when we cannot be. Variables are a damning thing - they exist when you did not plan or intend on them and they often impede one's ability to stay the course. Psalm 18:2 is helpful in this regard. By definition a variable is something that is not consistent or not having a particular pattern.
2. This makes me treasure Jesus all the more precisely because he spoke for those who could not speak. (See Matt. 12:20). Why else do you think there is so much talk in scripture of the "fatherless, the widow and the orphan?" Have you ever thought about those people in more than just a passing way? Actually considered in the core of your being the following: what is my responsibility to the Fatherless, the widow and the orphan? or better yet the prostitute, the drug addict and the ex-convict. Its easy to avoid the likes of these and spew out something spiritual like "they just did not show commitment to the process or there was not enough thirst for God."Well, as I recall, in Romans 5:8 Christ loved me while I was still a sinner. The term could not be stronger - it might as well say, "while Doug was still a no good, lousy, arrogant, deceitful, jerk..." you get the picture.
It is sad when this happens, though it will not be much longer and she won't be that noticeable anymore - but that leads us to the title of the post, "How is normal?" You'd be surprised how many pose that question to me assuming thats what I want. Its fair, I suppose, and I have even talked of a "normal" schedule and retiring to life as it used to be. However, as I sat in a circle of men today discussing the disciplemaking genius of Jesus I realized something..
I don't want normal. Not now anyways. Don't get me wrong, there is a certain love affair we have with the predictable - but is that really what we are called to? I am coming to the conviction more and more that I don't want normal, I WANT JESUS! That means all the messed up potential-less people like myself have a hope.
So, if you are in with me - (especially you Tremont High School Student) who will you sit next to at lunch that was not the same as yesterday? Who will you invite into your home and just do the "normal" things of life with in a way that drips with Jesus-like intentionality?
Sunday, August 14, 2011
However, this past Friday was not that day. Having finished Jada's scans the day prior and still without results was not a recipe for a peaceful day. Throughout the day there was this eerie little reminder of the phone call that had not come. On Thursday evening I had spent some time on the phone with Jada's oncologist and it seemed as though he was going to call me by noon with the results.
Finally, after I tried distracting myself with work stuff at the church it was time for the family to hop in the car and drive up to see Jada's friend (and obviously OUR friend) Cora Peters for her birthday. Cora just turned sixteen so insurance rates will soar, curfew will be more strictly enforced, and a driver's license will be had (driver's ed happens to be one of her presents). While driving north on IL-40 I glanced at my time, 5:00pm. "Hmmm, Jess do you think I should just call St. Jude to find out?" "I'm not sure," was the reply. Well thanks for clearing up any ambiguity I had. Not five minutes later my phone rang and the I.D. said "St. Jude Peoria."
In that moment there is little training one can endure which makes them steady and fully prepared. I looked at Jess and her face went white. I picked up the phone and Dr. Al said very quickly, "I just wanted to tell you that Jada's scans all returned clear. You may come back Tuesday for a follow up."
There is a particular diner in Peoria my wife enjoys mainly because they serve what her limited diet can actually consume; it is called One World. As one walks in from the front door there is a mural with what appears to be a greek god holding the world on his shoulders. In that moment of pure elation after hanging up the phone, I felt like that mural - taking the weight and tossing it to the side. I cried. As we drove down the road I hung up the phone and just cried.
A short while later we arrived at Cora's house. Jada and I did a brief little celebratory dance next to our van as I got her out. Over the next few hours we were family. We played football, ate dinner, had great conversation, and in general were just welcomed in by a family who is in the middle of this same trial we just exited, and at that - for their second round. After 9 months in remission Cora's cancer returned. Our utter joy is co-mingled with perseverant prayer. For while our scans were ALL CLEAR there are many for whom scans are not clear at all.
This is the great temptation and the tremendous parallel: a body lacking health mimics sin and its catastrophic effect - death. The temptation, once health returns is to run out and buy the first t-shirt that says "I beat cancer" and speak of the strength of this person or that in facing a trial. Folks, Jada is not strong, Cora is not strong, BUT they both WALK WITH THE ONE WHO IS! In our fast paced, over-stimulated, under-related culture we must never tire of displaying our dependence. We have needed the Peter's in the past few months just as much, if not more than they have needed us. But, when the day is done our first and most conspicuous dependence is on Jesus Christ!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
I had reasoned with my heart this morning.
You know how it goes - there is a big day in store, so you have this sort of inner-dialogue which goes something like this: "Heart, I know today is a big day and I know that you are considering getting all wrapped up in the difficulty or trauma that lays ahead. You may also want to feel a sense of isolation, as though you are all alone in the day's happenings. Don't! Be reasonable and whatever you do - please do not summon the tear ducts for aid in displaying the particular feeling you may be experiencing."
However, my heart is no respecter of these inner dialogues and the salty taste present on my tongue currently bears it out. I knew this. I knew as I awoke this morning that Jada was going to be having more scans - and that these scans are the ones which make me a little more nervous than usual. So there it is - I am NOT STRONG! I just wheeled Jada in to CT before she was sedated and she cried, looking at me with that desperation which I have become so accustomed to. I cried too. I leaned over her and prayed - whispering Psalm 46:1 in her ear, "God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble." And as I turned to walk out of the scan room - Jada safely asleep - I was reminded that my little inner-dialogue this morning was not so much a cry of self-preservation but a prayer for help (In an effort to drive this reminder further into my psyche - I write... N-O-W. It is the easiest way for me to process, so bear with me).
I had a renewed sense of the goodness and immanence of the Lord. Read all of Psalm 46 today and you will be amazed that on four separate occasions the author mentions the concept of presence leading to peace, stillness, and knowledge of who God genuinely is. So my heart rests in Him. Many are praying - there are even some that are enduring today in fasting for Jada (and our family).
So do my emotions just go away? No. They do not. I am still shedding tears as I consider her lying there and maybe more so because these are the scans which are supposed to reveal that Jada is COMPLETELY DONE with all treatment for cancer. I will further reason with my heart to consider the depth of truth found in Psalm 139:7-12 where the author wrestles down this concept that there is NO place one can hide from the presence of God. I can no more flee the presence of God's Spirit and be all alone than I can wake up tomorrow and looking at my body tell my skin to leave. It doesn't work that way. God is able to be called on; an ever-present help in times of trouble, BECAUSE He is near.
When in deep sin and disobedience to the Spirit - this works as conviction. When in times of trial this works as comfort. Right now I can conceive of nothing finer than the comfort of the Spirit of Jesus Christ the Living God!
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Monday, August 1, 2011
I took out my phone and snapped a picture of the last bag of chemo as it arrived in the room. Not really the emotional response I was figuring on. However, the inner elation was unreal. It's almost as if my mind had to convince my heart that this was a big deal.
|LAST BAG OF CHEMO|
Well, it wasn't long until my heart realized its bluff had been called and it put all its cards on the table. That moment came during the post hydration phase - after chemo is infused Jada must receive 2 hours of IV fluids to flush her only remaining kidney. Chemo started around 2:00pm - infused for 1/2 hour and then Jada had post hydration.
Jada, the whole day, was blissfully unaware of the approaching magnitude. That is until about 15 or so minutes were showing on the screen of her IV unit. She began to get a little slap happy and bouncing around.
At exactly 11 minutes remaining SHE GOT IT!
My heart was reminded of the valleys, which on account of their depths had kept hidden the certain hope awaiting us. Jada too was reminded and in what I can only describe as a surreal moment her eyes locked with mine . . . and they told a story. A story of height, depth, length, breadth, and width of a Father's love - your love oh LORD!
At exactly 11 minutes remaining Jada locked eyes with me, climbed up onto my lap, and her head just caved into my chest. I read all of Psalm 136 as a prayer of thanksgiving. Then, for the remaining ten minutes or so I rocked her in my arms and we both just cried. That same familiar phrase chanted SO MANY times throughout this began again, like waves on a beach - slow, methodic, inviting and overall just therapeutic - "Jesus is our strength" flowed off my tongue.
|Jada's last to-do list|
You, Father, have kept your promise. You are near to the broken hearted, the humble, and the afflicted. Thank you. There is still a lengthy journey ahead but with you a promise made is a promise kept.