Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My point exactly...

Did you happen to read the comments on our last post? If not, I recommend you go to the last post, scroll down to the end of it and click on "comments". Lori, we love your comments too, but I want to point out something from Laurel and Kim's comments. As I mentioned at the end of that blog posting, God is working through our situation to touch the lives of others. In Laurel's case, I've never met her and have no direct connection with her but she and her family are reading our postings and being touched through our battle against cancer. As for Kim, I worked with him and the rest of the guys at Upland Fire and haven't kept in touch with them since I left in 1994. The guys have been following the blogs because they were alerted to my illness just after I was diagnosed.  Laurel, Kim and Lori, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us. 

Can you see how God is using this "bend in our road" to bless others and to bring glory to Himself? That's what we see from our perspective and we have to keep leaning on that faith to make it through this. Every comment, email, letter and phone call, (including yours Lori!), is received with great appreciation and is more inspiring to us than we can ever describe. 
Will you join us in prayer over the next couple of days as I return to the Oncologist and Surgeon to get updates on my progress and to have my final drain tube removed? Also, please continue to pray for God's direction on employment for me, as well as our finances. And finally, (but not least...), please pray for Robyn and the entire staff at Surrey Garden Christian School as they prepare for the beginning of school next week. Their is no shortage of work to be done and the clock is ticking but, by His grace, the kids will return to school to be greeted by cheerful and loving teachers and staff!

To Him be the glory!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

July 27th Update

It's been 10 days since our last update and since then I've completed 8 days of radiation treatments and my first, 3 day round of chemotherapy and, overall, I'm feeling good. The chemo gives me a bit of nausea and the radiation makes me a little tired but both just give me a good excuse for afternoon naps... I'll be going back to the surgeon on Thursday this week to have the final drain tube removed. Amen! I can't wait to get rid of this hose hanging out of my side. But, on Friday, August 8th, I go in for surgery to have another tube installed... This tube will be the "port-a-cath" that will be put in my clavicle area and will provide easy access to a vein for the rest of my treatments. So, I'll get rid of one tube and get another...

As we go through this event, Robyn and I have taken note, again, of the countless blessings that have occurred in our lives since this all began. Just the other day we received a message from Lori Greene that someone had made a $600 deposit into the bank account that she had set up for us. Later that day Robyn was opening the mail and found a medical bill for $774.94. The very next envelope she opened was a check for $175 from a bank card that had discontinued our rewards program. So, we had 6 cents more than we needed for the medical bill! Some would look at that and think God giveth and taketh away but we looked at that and we're amazed at how He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. It's just like our need to get away for a couple of days just before my treatments started. God prompted so many people to help us with that trip and we got the rest we needed and enjoyed every minute of it.
Another example is two nights ago, our air conditioning went out at 9:30 pm. I'm able to fix a lot of things but air conditioning is not one of them so I picked up the phone to call my a/c man expecting to leave him a message to ask him to put me on his schedule for the next day. To my surprise, he answered the phone and was at my house by 10:00 pm and had it fixed and blowing cold air by 11:00! 
Every day we are amazed how God is providing for us. We aren't surprised anymore but very much amazed at how He just keeps being gracious.  For us, the really amazing thing is how faithful He is in fulfilling His promise to love us. We see it through each of you who call, email, write, and pray for us. It is difficult to describe but we also see Him working in your lives as well. It's great to see how He can take a difficult event in one person's life and bless so many people as they try to soften the blow by sharing His love. What a great circle of love!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oh... and I'm feeling great too!

Not 5 minutes have gone by since I posted the last message and I've already received a phone call reminding me that I didn't include anything about my health. I guess I should use this blog more for updating you on my health rather than a soap box for saying what's on my mind... But if you want to know what's on my mind please continue to read the next posting after you read this quick health update.

As for my health and treatments, I'm feeling strong and trying to stay active. I started my radiation therapy yesterday and had my second treatment this morning. I don't feel any different yet but expect to have less energy in about a week. The chemotherapy treatments that were supposed to accompany the radiation didn't happen yesterday because the nurses couldn't find a vein to start an IV on me. So, I'll go in to an outpatient surgery next week to have a "port-a-cath" installed in my clavicle area so they have easy access to a vein. As for my job search, there's really nothing new there either. I've had several suggestions and made a few contacts but no job offers yet. We thank you all for your continued prayers, encouragement and support. 

Not the sharpest tool in the shed...

I'm sure, at one time or another, you've all heard the old saying "he's not the sharpest tool in the shed" and if not, you've probably heard something similar. Maybe "he's one taco short of a combination plate" or "he's a few fries short of a happy meal".  Cody, my son who works at In-N-Out Burger might say something like, "Dad, you're two patties short of a double-double!" My all time favorite though is the one my old college roommate, Paul Hamilton, used to sarcastically chide me with quite often. He used to say, "Russ, you're about as sharp as the leading edge of a meatball!" If you picture in your mind the typical meatball I don't think sharp is the first thing that comes to mind... Each of these sayings implies that we just aren't all there or we're off base just a little. The bottom line for me here is that I think all of these sayings, (and any others like them that you can think of), can be used to describe everyone of us when comparing our own knowledge of our future to what God actually has in store for our lives.

Everyone of us, including me, goes through life with plans and dreams of what the future will hold, and that's a good thing. The problem most of us run into is we overlook the fact that God is in charge and the plan that He has for our lives is usually quite different than the plan we picture in our minds. There are two absolute truths to this. No matter how hard we try, our plan will never be perfect and God's plan is perfect in every sense of the word. We may not think it is so perfect when we're going through difficult times but that's where trusting God comes in. Robyn and I have found that trusting God is an ongoing learning process and it builds on itself as we go through life. The times we learn the most about trust is during the trials of life when we run to God for comfort, strength and hope. Doesn't that make sense? We trust Him most when we are closest to Him. 
Consider what God says to us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness", and in Romans 8: 24,25, "...Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently". Just in those two verses alone I think you'll agree that God wants us to learn and strengthen our trust in Him through life's trials. Every trial can reveal comfort, strength and hope as long as we open our eyes and seek out what God wants to teach us. I'll be the first to admit that its easy to say this but a very difficult thing to live out in my daily life. I've certainly had my share of dark days recently. But, in this moment of transparency, I can tell you that the more I pray, the more I read, the more I listen, and the more I let go, the closer I get to God and the more I trust Him. 
One of my all time favorite verses is Jeremiah 18:6, "...Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand..." I believe that God doesn't want to control us or our lives nor does he try to make life difficult by throwing road blocks in front of us. But, He does want us to trust Him and to allow ourselves to be molded and perfected by His hands. 
Picture in your mind a hunk of clay on a potter's wheel spinning around all shapeless and off balance. Do you see God at the wheel shaping and forming a perfect masterpiece? In my mind's eye, I see God at the wheel, the wheel is spinning as fast as it can, there's little bits of clay flying everywhere and there's even a bead of sweat on God's brow. You see, God isn't done with me yet, but He's working feverishly to make me perfect.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rest and Restoration

A couple of hours after Robyn and I were first told about my cancer diagnosis I found myself lying in a hospital bed wondering how could this have happened so fast and how can I slow down the process. The facts as we knew them at that point were that I now had a drain hose hanging out of my side and that I had a "very serious and aggressive" liver cancer. My human instinct was to say "Wait! Back this train up and slow down! I'm in control and I can't process this!" I couldn't help but think "at what point did I lose control of this situation?" Oddly enough, I never asked why or why me? I just thought of how I could regain control of the situation and stop this runaway train.

Later that day a very dear friend of mine, Dennis McMains, showed up at the foot of my bed. I have no idea how he found out that I was in the hospital so quickly but his timing could not have been better. It was like God sent one of His paramedics to the scene of an accident to comfort the victim. I didn't realize it then but Dennis' kind and gentle words were exactly what I needed in that moment. Dennis reminded me that God was right there with us, kneeling down to us as a father would do for his child who had just fallen after his first few steps. He reminded me that God was in control and that now is the time to rest in His arms and allow Him to do the work. Little did I know that his words to me that day would be so true and make such an impact on my life.
Since that day, those words have been echoed to us from so many of you through your emails, cards and letters. In studying God's word and reading other books the same theme also always seems to flash at me like a neon sign at midnight. "Rest in the comfort of knowing that God is in control and His plan is perfect." Today, we find ourselves doing exactly that. We are resting in the knowledge that He is in control and that He will provide what we need and when we need it.
We've found though that there is another side to resting. It is restoration. It's not that we didn't have faith and trust before all of this began, but the faith and trust that we did have is being restored to a level that we're not familiar with. I thought my faith in God and the trust I had in Him to take us to Papua New Guinea a few years ago was so steadfast that I couldn't imagine being any closer to Him. But today, seeing how He is working in our lives and the impact He is having on others through my illness, I can't help but feel like He is standing by my side, holding my hand and whispering in my ear saying, "One step at a time".
For those of you who have experienced this humbling but fulfilling reliance on God, you know what I'm talking about. For those of you who know God but haven't yet dropped your guard enough to allow God to take control, I recommend not waiting until you find yourself in a situation where you have no choice. For those of you who find this completely unbelievable or who don't know God personally, I urge you to find the answers to your objections and questions by talking to me or another believer. Having a close and open relationship with God will be the most comfortable place you'll ever be.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Good morning to you all!  I haven't written in a few days so I thought I'd give you a quick update on our lives.  Things have been getting busier around here the last few days but not back to normal yet. I'm healing up very well and feeling really good physically. I've been to the Oncologists this week and had a couple of more tests done and they've set my radiation treatments to start on July 16th. I've been told not to expect much discomfort but a little loss in my energy level. I'll believe it when I feel it... Mentally, I think I'm still reeling from the loss of my job and trying to figure out what's next. Fortunately, I have the best support system ever in the form of family and friends.  Most importantly, my wife of 27 wonderful years, Robyn.  If not for Robyn being by my side over the last two months I think I would have simply gone off the deep end and never came back.  She's my encourager and my strength when I think I can't go another minute.  I thank God everyday for allowing me to be a part of her life and a part of such a wonderful family.

On another note, we'd like to thank those of you who made the generous offers we received over the past few days for the retreat getaways to various cottages and cabins. Apparently, the word got out that we had a desire to get away for a couple of days before I start my treatments. We received several offers and we appreciate everyone of you who called. We were able to accept an offer of two nights in San Diego that worked the best for my treatment schedule and doctor appointments.  
Finally, we'd like to share a couple of our prayer requests with you:
First, please praise God for continuing to provide for our daily needs. 
Next, will you join me in praying for Robyn as she has so humbly and joyfully taken on so much over the past two months.  In addition to my health issues and taking care of our family she is also working diligently at keeping up with her responsibilities at Surrey Garden.  My prayer is that God will continue to bless her with her great attitude and joyful spirit even through the difficult times.  
Finally, pray that I will hear God's prompting as I begin the search for new employment. 

We count it an honor for you to join us in praising and honoring God for all that He is and the grace He so freely gives everyday.  Thank you, Russ and Robyn.