Friday, December 25, 2009

A Blessed Christmas

Luke 2:11
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

We are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ today, as are so many of you. Christmas is not about presents, feasts and being with family, though all those things are an important part of our celebration. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to Earth in the form of a child, with the sole purpose of dying on the cross for our sins. As we remember the birth, the story is not complete without His death, and resurrection. Christmas is made complete through the blessing of Easter.

We celebrated with our usual pattern of going to my Mom's house to celebrate with my side of the family last night. Today, we celebrated with the five of us (more on that later). This evening, we'll go to Tammy's parents to celebrate with her side of the family. It is a joy to get together with both sides of the family, because we are all so close. We have known each other for so long (remember, we met the summer between first and second grade) that we feel like we grew up together. So her family is my family, and vice versa.

We always have plenty of good food to eat, and lots of laughs as we watch each other open presents. It's such a joy, especially with the little kids.

The celebration is enhanced by the fact that the whole family knows why we celebrate Christmas. We don't have to water down our celebration. We celebrate the birth of our Lord, as families.

But this year there's even more celebration. We have a healthy Tammy with us. We thank you so much for your prayers during the past year. We believe God has answered those prayers in a powerful and loving way. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that Tammy's prayer for years has been to "be used in a mighty way." As we celebrate this Christmas with Tammy well on her way to full recovery, God is being glorified by His healing power, and by Tammy's faithfulness. Her joy of being around, and her real joy of serving Him in all she does, is a testimony to her devotion to Him. We believe He has honored that devotion in His decision to let her continue to live here with us.

Another blessing we are celebrating this Christmas is a new member of our family. On December 17, David Lee asked Wiola Kucharska to marry him...and she said "Yes!" We're not sure when the wedding will be, probably a year or so away. We do know that it will be in Poland. But she has been with us in Kansas City for the past couple of weeks and will be until January 3. We'll miss her when she returns to Poland, but we are thrilled beyond words to have this beautiful young lady--inside and out--as part of our family. David has found a treasure, and it's very, very obvious they love each other. She's standing between David and Julie in the picture above.

As darkness fell last night, the snow started. We have about 10 inches of snow, so the snow board that we bought David came in real handy. It's the first White Christmas we've had since 1982, and the most snow we've ever had on Christmas Eve/Day. Julie has been wanting a White Christmas for a long time, so we're definitely enjoying it.

Last night, Tammy was able to experience our church's Christmas Eve service in an unusual way. David brought his laptop to the church and logged on to Skype. We logged on to Skype on my laptop at home and Tammy watched--and sang along--as the story of Christmas was told in story and song. After the service, many of our friends got to say hi to her through the video camera and see her on screen.

As this Christmas day winds down, we pray that you will remember the reason we stop the world for a day at Christmas. A Savior has been born to us; He is Christ the Lord.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Great Thanksgiving!

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.

I looked up Thanksgiving on wikipedia. Here's what it said: “Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, presently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. It did not become a federal holiday until 1941. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God, but is now primarily identified as a secular holiday.”

Most people in America, when they think of Thanksgiving, think of food—lots of food—and most likely a big turkey dinner. Or football—lots of football.

As an afterthought, they might think about giving thanks for the many blessings they've received. Many have no idea to whom they should give thanks. They're just in a thankful mode. When you think about it, that's ludicrous. It's like being in love, but not with anyone in particular. How can you be thankful without having someone to receive those feelings?

Thanksgiving celebrates God blessing the Pilgrims after their first year in the new world. They celebrated a bountiful harvest, peace with the Indians and survival amidst all the hardships of being pioneers. There was no question whom they were thanking—the Lord and Creator of the universe.

While I knew whom to thank, I have to admit, my priorities were similar to many of my fellow Americans'. My thoughts as Thanksgiving approached were, “Where and what time are we going to eat the turkey dinner?” and “What games are on TV?”

Not so this year.

We have so much to be thankful for, just like every year. But there is one thing—and some peripheral things that go with it—that dominate our thoughts. A year ago at this time, we were facing the uncertainty of a cancer developing in Tammy's blood. The doctor had told us that the way this disease develops she would not be here this Thanksgiving if she did not get a bone-marrow transplant. That was no sure thing, because they had to find a donor who was a perfect match and willing to donate.

We went to one of Tammy's brothers for Thanksgiving dinner and Tammy barely had enough energy to sit at the dinner table. David Lee was still in Poland with a few weeks left in his time there, and he called us on my cell phone. I'll always remember Julie saying to David, “You don't have to come home early, but don't be late.” We knew that healing was possible, but not guaranteed. We tried to put on a happy face, but we had to wonder if it would be our last Thanksgiving with Tammy.

As you know, a lot has happened in the past year. Two days after having our own bone-marrow drive at the end of January, to which 144 people showed up compared to the normal 30 to 40, we found out that a match was found through the national bone-marrow donation program. A 37-year-old male had given Tammy life.

On April 1, after a week of heavy chemotherapy, Tammy received the new bone marrow. On April 2, she was rushed to ICU with pneumonia. The doctor told me, “This is what we were afraid of. The next 24 to 48 hours are critical for her survival.” The ICU nurses and doctors got her through the night, and into the next day. Three days later, she was released back to her room. She was released from the hospital on April 20.

Over the next seven months, she has continued to improve, gradually, day-by-day. Today, she is 100 percent in remission. She is nearly back to her old self. This morning, she was up before the rest of us and made blueberry muffins (Julie came home last night for a couple of days). If that smell wasn't enough to wake us up, the cranberry sauce cooking on the stove was.

She's got much of her energy back, though she still has to take rests from time to time. We're working together to get the food ready to take to her brother's house tonight for Thanksgiving dinner, plus the food for our own family's dinner tomorrow. All appearances are that she will survive this and live a long life.

We are thankful, not just in a general sense, but very specifically to the Lord of the universe. He has blessed us with a wonderful family, with many precious friends. More specifically to this blog, He led the donor to be willing to donate his bone marrow to give life. He gave the doctors and nurses the wisdom and skill to help her through the recovery. He gave all the people at the cancer clinic the love to share with her in her recovery. He gave her family and friends the energy to tend to her needs during this long process.

In other words, he gave life. He gave physical life to Tammy though it seemed doubtful. He gives eternal life to anyone who accepts it, even though it is undeserved.

For that we are truly thankful. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blessings Upon Blessings

Deuteronomy 28:2
All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God."

When we took Julie to Manhattan for her freshman year of college in 2004, we kind of stalled. We took a little longer in the restaurant. We kept making trips to the car. We did everything we could do to stay with her for another minute or two. But we knew it was inevitable. Our baby had grown up, and it was time for the next stage of her life, a stage in which we wouldn't be involved as much on a daily basis.

As we drove away, we spoke—through tears—about when we first brought David Lee home from the hospital. We remembered saying “our lives will never be the same.” And then we thought of the blessings that we experienced as parents. We then thought about when Julie went to first grade and was gone all day, every day and our house was empty of children during the day. We remembered saying “our lives will never be the same.” And then we thought of the blessings that we experienced with a little bit of free time away from the kids.

We then said, “With David in his own apartment and Julie away at school, our lives will never be the same.” And we thought about the blessings that might be in store for us.

It's been a great five years for us. We are closer than we've ever been. We have more flexibility in our schedule. We have been able to take two missions trips together and get even more involved at church.

Then, a year ago last week, we got some devastating news. Tammy's blood counts were dangerously low. We made the mistake of getting onto the Internet and finding out what that might mean. We saw “leukemia” among the possibilities, and we knew it was not going to be a smooth ride. Above all else, we knew our lives would never be the same.

It was hard to think of Tammy getting leukemia as a blessing. (Technically it never developed into full-blown leukemia, just the pre-cursor.) But a look back over the past year reveals many blessings.

Many couples go through problems like this and are driven apart. They can't deal with the pressure, and they bail. Through God's provision, this journey has brought us together. I'm one who needs a purpose each day. My overall purpose has never changed: to glorify God in my life. But my daily purpose during this time was doing whatever Tammy needed to get better. I could see results on a daily basis when I did what I was supposed to do. I've never felt so needed.

It also gave me an opportunity to repay Tammy for years of taking care of me. As many of you know, I have been a diabetic practically all my life. I am very well controlled, but occasionally there has been trouble. Numerous times Tammy has awakened to find me in diabetic shock and has done what was necessary to get me back to health. While I can never get even, I have been able to “even up the chair legs” just a little.

David Lee returned from Poland the day before our first visit to the cancer clinic at KU, where we found out the details of her pre- and post-transplant journey. We heard the odds of her recovery (at least according to the statistics), and came to grips with her possible mortality. David has been a huge help over the past 10 months, as he has lived at home and taken his turns taking Tammy to the clinic and watching her at home. Julie hasn't been able to spend as much time here because of her jobs in Louisville, but she has been a big part of things too. She has provided inspiration as she has continued to serve the Lord in the missions field even while distracted.

We've also been blessed by the opportunity to share our faith, in person and through the blog. We have lost count of how many people have told us they've enjoyed reading the blog. As we've written, people on five continents are reading the blog and praying for Tammy. We've shared our story—and thus our faith—with people in stores, at the hospital and the clinic, at work and school for the kids and me, and pretty much everywhere we go. People tell us they've seen us on television and that we inspired them with our trust in God.

Today we were blessed by the news that Tammy has a “clean bill of health,” according to the lead doctor at the clinic. He said she still needs to be careful of being around sick people, but he said her counts continue to look good. Her immune system is still not where it needs to be, but it's better than normal for this stage of recovery. The doctor gave her permission to get into public more, with the exception of church, where people will hug her. And he even gave her permission to have plants and flowers in the house (see the picture above), as long as she doesn't dig in the dirt.

Life is returning to normal—sort of. Tammy doesn't have a lot of energy, but she's able to do more and more. In a sense, we're settling into a routine.

Yesterday was Day 200. It's hard to believe we've gone through another 100 days since our big celebration July 10, when we got the first batch of good news that it appeared Tammy was going to beat this disease. If we count the time before the transplant, and all the uncertainty it brought, it's been a year-long journey through the desert.

We're studying Exodus in small groups at our church. We're learning a lot about Moses' and the Israelites' journey through the desert. Last night, one of the questions was “How can God get you out of a tough situation when you’re willing to follow His plan?” We kind of bounced around the answer until we finally reached the conclusion that we must distance ourselves from our own plans and buy into His plan, even when it doesn't seem like the right plan. We talked about the concept of praying “Send me where You're blessing” instead of “Bless me as I go down this path.”

Tammy and I did not choose this path. We could have looked for ways to get out of it, and at times we prayed for God to take it away. But most of the time we have chosen to focus on what God wanted to teach us through this, and how the situation, and our reaction to it, could glorify Him.

Our goal over the past year with this blog has been to be transparent. When we were struggling with something, we wrote about it. When we were celebrating something, we wrote about it. When we realized something new, we wrote about it. We hope you learned something through us, if not from us. We hope you have a closer relationship with the Lord through being partners with us.

The journey is not done. Tammy still has hurdles to clear. Her immune system still needs to rebuild. She'll never be able to completely forget the cancer, and will always have to be aware of signs of recurrence. We'll update the blog as new milestones are cleared, but we probably won't do much regular updating for the sake of writing something.

We hope you have enjoyed the ride with us. We thank you for your continued prayers. We thank you for your words of encouragement.

God bless you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lots of Good News and a Little Disappointment

2 Corinthians 1:10-11
"On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."

It was an early-morning start for us as Tammy had a 7:30 appointment at the clinic. After getting some blood drawn we waited to see the doctor. He came in and gave us mostly good news.

Tammy's counts continue to go up, and he said she is 100 percent IN REMISSION. We are so excited about this news. It means that the past year (it was mid-October last year when she was diagnosed) has not been for naught. She's not completely out of the woods; that won't happen for five years. But she has NO graft vs. host disease, which is the biggest risk from a bone-marrow transplant. The doctor called her "beautiful" (which I seconded), and he has called her "the perfect transplant patient" before.

He did give us one piece of disappointing news, though in the grand scheme of things, it's a minor set-back. He said with all the flu going around and Tammy's compromised immune system, he would like her to wait until next spring before going back to church. His exact words were, "You'll have 50 more years of church. God will understand if you wait another six months."

From there, we went to the hospital, where Tammy had her trifusion set removed. The procedure lasted only 40 minutes and she walked out of the treatment room (they gave her a local only). We got home around 11:30 and she has rested all afternoon. She is not supposed to lift anything for a couple of days, which wouldn't have happened anyway because she's pretty sore.

We can't thank you enough for your prayers over the past 12 months. We ask you to continue them as well. We believe that God has answered the prayers of many righteous people.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Few Requests

Jeremiah 29:11
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

We had a wonderful weekend with Julie in town. We took her to the airport this morning, so she could head to Ethiopia with a team of 13 from our church. She was very excited to go again, and we are excited for her. But we also miss her. We ask you to pray for the team, that they would be safe. More than that, we ask you to pray that their trip will impact another part of the world for His kingdom.

Today is David Lee's 26th birthday. We are so proud of him and the man he has become. He still has the same sweet disposition he had as a little boy (though he doesn't like it too much when we call him sweet), and he is totally in love with the Lord. He wants to serve Him more than anything in the world. We ask you to pray that he will be able to continue to follow God's plan for his life.

Tomorrow is a big day for Tammy. After more than six months of having a trifusion set, a surgically implanted IV port, in her chest, she will have it removed tomorrow morning. It has been used to draw blood samples and distribute medicines. Having that port has helped keep her veins from collapsing from frequent use. This is routine surgery, but you know the old saying, "It's not routine when it's someone you love."

We would ask for your prayers for the hands of the doctors, and for Tammy as she goes through the procedure and the recovery process. It's all part of the journey.

Our lives are a journey. Each of us has a course that was designed specifically for us. Sometimes the path is clearly marked; other times it winds through a desert or a forest, and we have no idea what the next step will bring. We all have roadblocks and even planned obstacles on our journey. It is our job, as Christians, to follow the path that God has laid out for us. It is our prayer for you that His will would become very clear for you, and that you chose to follow it.

Thanks for the prayers.

"God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times...."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Special Weekend

1 Kings 4:20b
"...they ate, they drank and they were happy."

We're celebrating a special weekend this weekend. This afternoon, Tammy and I went to the airport and picked up Julie. She's spending the weekend with us before heading to Ethiopia Monday with a group from our church.

We're very proud of Julie, as she serves the Lord all around the world. In the past year and a half, she's been to Holland, Dubai, the Middle East, Poland, Sudan, Ethiopia, England, Hungary and Romania, as well as church-planting trips in Baltimore and New York City. Everywhere she goes makes an impact on her, as she makes an impact on the people she serves.

Yet she's still our little girl. The same innocent smile is always spread across her face, regardless of how tired she is or what pressures she's under. She has such a great disposition, and an all-out willingness to serve God by serving others.

David Lee is like that as well. He can't wait to get back to Poland, probably in about a year, so he can go back to his work of teaching English to Polish kids. He doesn't consider it a sacrifice, because he enjoys it so much. But he is willing to give up the lifestyle of a typical American 26-year-old (as of next Monday) to serve.

They come by that attitude very naturally. As you know, Tammy gets the most joy when she is serving others. We have heard from many people who have been blessed by Tammy's reaction to this whole journey. When she reads or hears those comments, it pleases her. It has helped her endure the difficulties, knowing that others have been blessed by her journey.

We had a great evening together, laughing like little kids and eating as a family for the first time in several months. We are so blessed to have two kids who have grown up to be great servants, as well as our friends. We enjoy spending time with each of them, and the times we get to be with both of them together are very special.

We hope you have a blessed weekend.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Job 19:25-27
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"

Job 42:2
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted."

One of my favorite games when I was growing up was Mille Bornes (which is French for 1,000 milestones). The point of the game was to travel 1,000 miles by playing mileage cards. Opponents tried to slow you down or stop you by playing hazard cards (flat tire, accident, out of gas, speed limit or stop). You responded by playing remedies (spare tire, repairs, gasoline, end of limit or roll) or, better yet, safeties (Puncture Proof, Driving Ace, Extra Tank or Right of Way). Remedies allowed you to resume your pace, while safeties allowed you to resume your pace and kept you from getting that type of hazard again. If you had the right safety at the time the hazard was played, you'd say, "Coup-Fourré!" to signify you were immune from that type of hazard. There was nothing like shouting "Coup-Fourré!" when someone tried to slow you down.

So why do we bring this up today? Today is Day 180--a huge milestone--in Tammy's post-transplant journey. If something really bad is going to happen because of the transplant, it usually happens within the first 180 days. But it seems like we've gone through 1,000 milestones.

Through the past 180 days, she has encountered many hazards. She's had flat tires and accidents (like the sudden gall bladder surgery around Day 100). She has run out of gas (with a constant lack of energy to get done what she wants to get done). And she has been given a speed limit or a stop card (with her low immune system keeping her from doing some of the things she dearly loves doing, like being with small children and hugging her family and friends).

But God has provided the remedy cards. He gave her a repair card and allowed for a perfect surgery to take care of the gall bladder. He has given her a gasoline card to allow more energy as the days go by, and has given her patience to wait for the energy to come back slowly. And He has given her end of limit and roll cards to allow her to go back into public, at least on a limited basis.

We believe that the prayers offered by thousands of people on five continents (Australia and Antarctica where are you?) are our Coup-Fourré card. Satan may think he's winning this game. But we know we'll win the game, no matter how we get to the milestone.

Do you remember what we wrote last November? We said that God would be glorified no matter how this turned out. If He chose to heal Tammy quickly, He would be glorified by His power. If He healed her slowly, He would be glorified by Tammy's patience. If He took her home, He would be glorified by Tammy's peace.

All appearances are that He has chosen to heal her slowly. But during this 180 days, and the days leading up to her transplant April 1, Tammy has been able to live out her prayer: to be used in a mighty way.

Just tonight, we were doing some shopping, and we had a chance to share Tammy's story and bless someone else. A wonderful lady was ringing us up, and she was humming, "My Redeemer Lives" by Nicole C. Mullen. She apologized for her humming, but said she couldn't get the song out of her head. We told her it was okay with us, because we loved the song. She told us how her faith had allowed her to establish a ministry, even through one of the darkest periods anyone should have to endure. We shared that God has been faithful with Tammy, and shared the blog address with her. We prayed together, right there in the store at the front register. It was a blessing to all of us.

We don't know where you are in your faith journey right now. It is our prayer that you would be able to look at the hazards you face and use God's remedy cards, and ultimately His safety cards to get through.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Ephesians 2:4-9
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."

I recently became aware of a great example of grace. A person I know forgave someone, even though that person did not deserve it. She did that, because she understood the concept of grace, because she has received grace from Christ.

Grace is all about getting something you don't deserve, because of the kindness and/or generosity of the grace-giver. When someone wrongs you, and you forgive them and move on, you are practicing grace. It's much easier to do when you have experienced it yourself. You can overlook the faults of someone else when the feeling of freedom that accompanies grace is fresh in your mind.

All of us have been offered grace, whether we accept it or not. The ultimate example of grace is God sending His Son to earth, to die on the cross, to pay for our sins. You may have heard the acronym for grace: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. God wants to have a relationship with us, but our sin prevents it. He sent Jesus, who was perfect, to pay for our sins, because we could not pay that debt.

When you've been given grace, there is a tremendous feeling of freedom. It's not the freedom to keep doing what you were doing that required grace. It's the freedom to do the right thing, to respond to the gift and to pass grace to someone else.

How does this relate to Tammy's journey? It's pretty simple. Thousands of people around the world have been praying for Tammy to recover. They were earnest prayers, prayed through love, to the God who loves Tammy more than any of us can imagine. But He didn't have to say "Yes." He could have displayed His power and glory by taking Tammy home, and He would have been glorified by her peace throughout. But He granted her grace in a physical way and has brought her through to this point. All indications are that a complete recovery is very possible. But that's only through His grace.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Back in Her Element

Matthew 19:13-14
"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'"

Okay, so we just posted earlier this afternoon, but we had to post again.

This evening, we attended a surprise birthday party for a close friend who turned 30. There was a good crowd of people there, and Tammy is supposed to stay away from crowds. But Tammy really didn't want to miss it so we went anyway. There were quite a few people there who were not expecting Tammy to be there, and the reaction was great.

But it didn't take long for Tammy to connect with the small children. She misses her weekly contact with the little ones. The kids stayed back, because their moms had told them that Tammy couldn't be hugged. But they couldn't stay too far away. They wanted to tell her what was going on in their lives, just like they always had.

Tammy looked at each one of them and listened intently. She had "that look." I managed to get a picture of it (sorry, it's blurry). It was so good to see her relating to the children.

You know that we believe this journey has been an answer to Tammy's long-time prayer of being "used in a mighty way." But we also believe that one of Tammy's gifts is her ministry to children, and we believe she will be able to resume that once she's sufficiently over this illness. Tonight was a fun reminder of how precious these little ones are to her.

How Great is Our God

2 Samuel 7:22
"How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears."

Not much has changed since the last time we posted. In fact, not much has changed in the last couple of months. Progress is slow, but steady. Tammy continues to improve, though very gradually. It can be a little frustrating for me, because I want her to be able to resume normal activities. But her energy level is just not there yet. It's what was expected, but it still has been frustrating for me.

One of the songs we sang today in church was "How Great is Our God." Here are the words:

The Splendor of the King, clothed in Majesty.
Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice.
He wraps Himself in light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice, trembles at His voice.

How great is our God.
Sing with me, how great is our God.
All will see how great, how great is our God.

Age to age He stands, and time is in His hands,
Beginning and the end, beginning and the end.
The Godhead, Three in One: Father, Spirit, Son,
The Lion and the Lamb, the Lion and the Lamb.

How great is our God.
Sing with me, how great is our God.
All will see how great, how great is our God.

Name above all names,
Worth to be praised.
My heart will sing,
How great is our God.

How great is our God.
Sing with me, how great is our God.
All will see how great, how great is our God.

At first, the song made me think of our daughter, Julie. When she returned home from Poland the first time, she sang this song to us in Polish. She has led our congregation in singing it, and every time I hear it, I think of her passion for Poland, for missions and for the Lord.

But as I sang that song today, it humbled me. Who am I to tell God how, or at what pace, to heal Tammy? He has been so faithful to deliver her through so many trials. Instead of being thankful for those miracles, I had the audacity to question Him.

The words that grabbed me most were, "and time is in His hands." He has everything in His hands, including the timing with Tammy's healing and whether or not that healing occurs. Many of our friends are dealing with critical issues in their lives, including some with life-threatening issues. We pray for them regularly. I must remember to thank God for the blessings He has given us as well.

When I read this to Tammy, she told me that she has had Psalms 31:14-15a highlighted in her Bible for many years: "But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands...." She said that this verse reminds her to depend on the Lord's timing. "I would rather have my progress be slow and sure, and know that it is within God's timing, than have it speeded up in my timing and mess it up," she said. "The doctors say there are different steps of healing that you must go through. I've been very fortunate that those steps have not been a problem, but have gone smoothly. It's just a matter of seeing the big picture."

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Philippians 3:12-14
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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."

Sometimes steps feel more like giant leaps (just ask Neil Armstrong). Other times they feel more like a Tim Conway old-man shuffle, where you barely make any progress.

Lately, we feel like we're more in the Tim Conway mode, as progress is very slight. But we keep reminding ourselves that progress is better than retreat.

Let's talk about steps. Last week Tammy and I took a lot of steps and walked all the way around the block. We live on a slight hill, so it means we had to walk up to the end of the street, then down, then back up to the house. Her pace was good and she wasn't too winded when she got home.

This recovery has been a long process, and there still is a lot of steps to go. Even when we reach the 180-day mark later this month, we'll still have a long road ahead of us. Most of the restrictions should be lifted, but she'll still have to visit the clinic on a regular basis. She won't be risk free for five years.

Tammy remains positive. She is anticipating what's next, and even though the steps of progress are not as dramatic as they were a few months ago, she is thankful for each step. We now recognize differences in terms of weeks, rather than days. For example, she notices differences in her weekly appointments at the clinic. People who don't see her every day, like I do, notice a difference in the way she looks. They talk about her color and her alertness.

Our walk with the Lord sometimes seeks like a slow progression. We want to do the Lord's will, but we get in our own way. When we make progress it's barely noticeable. Especially when we examine our own lives, because by default we're around ourselves all the time, we don't see much change. But if you've become a Christian as an adult, someone who knew you before He came into your life will see a big difference.

But here's the best analogy. The difference between us before Christ took control of our lives and after He became our Lord is the difference between darkness and light. Darkness is not the opposite of light, it's the absence of light. When we become Christians, God looks at us through the lens of forgiveness offered by Jesus' sacrifice. That's pure light. Christ takes our sins away and lets His light shine on, in and through us.

As the Scripture from Philippians states, we don't consider ourselves complete. We're 50 years down the path toward eternity, and hopefully we will have many years ahead. But our goal is not a rich life here. It's reaching that day when we will see Jesus face to face, and He will look at us and say "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21, 23)

Step by step.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Matthew 25:34-40
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Today is Day 150. The last 50 days have flown by. It just seems like a couple of weeks ago that we celebrated Day 100. That seemed to take forever, especially the second 50 days. Yet we've gone another 50 days since then. We're about a month away from the next milestone of 180 days, which is when the last of the restrictions should be lifted.

The time has gone quickly because of the support we've received from so many people. We've been ministered to by a lot of people in many ways. We've been blessed by the help, and also humbled by it.

We haven't posted as much in the last few weeks because things have just been going smoothly without a lot of changes. Kind of like trying to raise your batting average late in the baseball season, you have to have a spectacular day to see much change.

Well, we had a spectacular idea presented to us late this week. My district manager came into my office and told me he has been training for a half-marathon in the early fall. This is in preparation of a full marathon next April.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has a program that allows runners to raise money in honor of cancer survivors. Ty asked if we would be willing to spread the word about his marathon next spring. He will be running in Tammy's honor.

It's too early to start taking pledges, but if you think you'd be interested in sponsoring him, send me an email ( I'll put together a group and as the time draws near I'll send you an email to get your pledge.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society does a great job with research and also in helping victims get through the difficulty of cancer. They have donated funds to us to help with prescription costs. We appreciate what they do and look forward to helping them.

Ty's offer of support--and this is not a new offer--brings to mind how much our friends and family have been there for us through this time. Ty has orchestrated financial support from my fellow insurance agents. Our church family has supported us with meals, cards and letters, and even such things as mowing our yard when I was focusing all my attention on Tammy's daily needs. And of course, the prayers of people all around the world have carried us.

When you support someone, you bring glory to God. Sometimes we don't even realize it when we have been God's representative during another person's trials. The key is to be open to His leading, so when opportunities present themselves we can respond.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Happy Anniversary

1 Corinthians 13:13
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Twenty-eight years ago tonight, I said the two words I am most proud of in my entire life: "I do." It has been an amazing 28 years, and we know that the best is yet to come.

Tammy and I grew up together, as we have posted before. I fell in love with her 43 years ago and that love has grown stronger. I can't imagine loving her any more than I do today, though past history tells me I will love her even more tomorrow. Tammy feels the same way about me.

We've been told that hardship like the battle Tammy has gone through over the past 10 months often breaks apart couples, even couples who love each other very much. The constant struggles are too much too handle.

We feel blessed that we have grown closer not apart. We feel that God has given us the strength we need, and our dependence on Him has been the difference.

Tammy continues to do well. We went out to dinner at our favorite restaurant and tonight we're going to watch a rented movie (we're not real fancy). We'll curl up on the couch and just love on each other, much like we have for the past 28 years.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Special Day

Mark 12:30
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

I have been a part of a business networking group, called "We're Talkin' Tuesday," for more than three years. We meet every other Tuesday and talk about business, giving each other tips, referrals and a friendly ear during tough economic times.

I have become quite close to many of the people in the group. As Tammy has gone through this battle, these friends have been a constant support. When I finish my 30-second "commercial" about my business, they always ask for a "Tammy update." Many people have told us they were praying for Tammy, and as I shared the good news of her progress they shared in my joy.

But the joy was never like it was today. Tammy was cleared to go out in public on a limited basis in late July, and today was the first opportunity to introduce her to "the family" at "We're Talkin' Tuesday." The leader asked me to introduce our special guest, and so I introduced "the love of my life and my hero."

She got a standing ovation.

I had a friend take a video using my phone. We're trying to get it into a form that will show on the web. If we do, we'll post it in the next couple of days.

I had looked forward to this day for some time. I am so proud of her, and I couldn't wait to show her off. I can hardly contain myself when I get the opportunity to talk about how much I love her.

It's not as easy to have that much enthusiasm when it comes to sharing our love for the Lord. It doesn't mean that we shy away from our faith when somebody asks us about it, but can we say that we jump at every opportunity to show off our Lord? Do we act like we're proud of our Savior? It is our prayer that we could demonstrate our love for the Lord in a way that will show everyone that He is the primary focus of our lives.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Joy of Rain

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Do you like rain? How about thunderstorms? We love them. We live in the midwest, where a good thunderstorm is very common. We've had a weekend full of them, and we really enjoy them. It's not that we like the destruction that can come from the severe storms, but we appreciate the awesome display of God's power that is very evident in a thunderstorm.

When our kids were in Poland for extended periods of time, one of the things they each mentioned that they missed the most was the thunderstorms of home. It just rains there. While rain and storms can be a nuisance and an annoyance, they are necessary for growth. They also represent many aspects of our lives.

Rain symbolizes the troubles we face in life, but just as with the rain from the clouds, it's hard to have growth in our lives without going through difficulty.

We certainly have been through some thunderstorms in the past 10 months. We nearly lost Tammy after her transplant when she got very serious pneumonia. She has been very sick many times in her recovery, as her body fights off the effects of the chemotherapy that was necessary to kill her old cells so the new ones could take root. And the latest set-back with her gall bladder was yet another microburst on this journey.

But we know that God has overcome the world. He will not give us anything that we cannot handle with his assistance. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"

Our prayer for you is that when you face life's storms, that you will rely His grace and be able to praise Him.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Joshua 24:15
"...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, ...but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

We're glad to report that we don't have to go to Hollywood for the movie production. Actually, there isn't going to be a movie. We hope you didn't really believe that; we were just having fun.

The names listed in the "credits" really have made a huge difference in this story. There are too many people to mention each one by name. But there were some special people we wanted to get some props. We actually thought of the idea a few months ago, and waited until most of the story was written before we ran with it.

Now I know that I'm going to get most of the credit/blame for that story, especially if any of you believed it. But let me set the record straight. While this one was mostly my idea, Tammy is the one who came up with the idea for our wedding announcement in the newspaper that said we went to the Mediterranean for our honeymoon, when we really went to our newly rented apartment in Shawnee. We were in church the next morning. Some of our best "stories" came from the seemingly innocent mind of "Sweet Tammy."

Tammy continues to make progress, allowing us to have some fun with the blog. Yesterday, after a visit to the clinic, I had to drive to the eastern part of town to look at a few buildings we might insure. Instead of taking Tammy home first, I just took her with me. We got some lunch and drove around town looking for the final building we never found. She lasted the whole three hours without any repercussions. Her stamina continues to improve, and nausea is less and less of a problem. That means we can spend some time on, well, having a little fun.

We continue to praise God for His amazing grace. Four months ago, Tammy was still in the hospital, just four days removed from ICU. Today, she stayed home alone while I went to church, then helped me clean the kitchen and do some stuff around the house. Through this whole process, our focus has been on serving the Lord, whether that means recovery, ministry or having fun.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. You'll never know how much they mean to us. We thank God constantly for you.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Going Hollywood

1 Thessalonians 1:3
"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Many people have told us that the story of Tammy’s journey has been an inspiration. Others have even suggested that we turn the blog into a book. Well, recently we got a call from Hollywood, with the voice on the other end of the phone telling us they wanted to make a movie out of her story! As a writer, they asked me to do the promotional material.

What do you think?

A woman in her late 40s had led a life of service to God and to her community. On one of those acts of service, she went to donate blood and found out that she had a blood disorder of her own. Over the next year, she went through a life-threatening ordeal that tested her faith and gave her the opportunity to be “used in a mighty way,” as has been her prayer for years.

This is the remarkable story of that woman’s perseverance, determination and faith through the battle with Leukemia.

Tammy Smale as “Herself”
The doctors, nurses and aides at KU Med Center and the KU Cancer Center as “The Medical Staff”
David Smale as “The Supportive Husband”
David Lee Smale as “The Noble Son”
Julie Smale as “Sunshine”
Lynn and Carleen Young, and Carol Smale as “The Lead Caregivers”
Barbara Jarman, Beth Barnlund, Michelle Alexander, Brooke Knapp, Gary LeSuer, Mary LeSuer and Thelma Reed as “The Caregivers”
Anonymous Bone-Marrow Donor as “The Provider”
Christians across the U.S. and around the world as “The Prayer Warriors”

Producer: God
Writer: God
Director: God
Casting: God
Music/sound: IPod
Art direction: Emily, Noah and Maizie Young and the children of Holy Cross Catholic School; and the children of Cedar Ridge Christian Church
Costume design: One True North
Hairstyling: Joe (aide at KU Med Center)
Special Effects: Chemotherapy
Best boy: “Steve” McGarry

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Back in Church

Deuteronomy 4:29
"But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Today was another special day for us. Julie came into town last night and we all went to church together. I was able to preach (about missions) at Tammy's parents' church, and Tammy was able to attend. She's still restricted from going back to our church, because it's a much larger crowd and she still has to avoid big crowds. You just don't know who is sick or unknowingly might have been around somebody sick. But that church is a small church, so she was able to attend.

It was special for Tammy and me because we grew up in that church. I told stories of how I fell in love with "the new girl" when her family moved into town in the summer of 1966. As a young boy preparing to go into second grade I couldn't admit it. But I did a lot to get her attention (not all flattering stuff). Fortunately she forgot about a lot of it, so when we got back together when we were in college, I had a chance. Many of the people who were part of our lives as kids were there today.

Julie led the singing and David Lee did the children's sermon. Then I was able to bring the message about our family's passion for missions. After church, we went to my Mom's house and celebrated Tammy's birthday (a little more than a week ago), Julie's birthday (three weeks from tomorrow) and Tammy's Mom's birthday (four weeks from tomorrow). We spent the afternoon laughing together and celebrating life.

We hope your week is a good one. Look to the Lord and seek His will.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

God Is In The Miracle Business!

1 John 2:12
"I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name."

We have some wonderful news to share!

Today was our post-100-day follow-up visit. Dr. Abhyankar came in and read us some of the lab results and told us he was very pleased with many of them. The bone-marrow biopsy done two weeks ago came back very positive, with no signs of leukemic cells. Her immune system is still below normal, so she must remain careful not to be around large crowds or sick people. But everything else was right where it should be.

Dr. Abhyankar removed several of the restrictions that Tammy has been under since she went into the hospital March 23. She will be allowed to prepare her own food (except raw meat) and even do dishes as her energy level will allow. She will be allowed to go out in public on a limited basis (still staying away from the heavily congested locations/times). She can be around our brand new great nephew, Isaac. Finally, she doesn't have to have round-the-clock care, though we'll still have somebody with her whenever possible. He even suggested she would be able to drive in a few weeks if she feels strong enough.

This was the report we were expecting, yet we both were overcome with emotion when he told us. We have been praying for this day since November, and God has blessed us richly with positive news. After the doctor left the room, we hugged each other for several minutes. The sheer joy of healing overwhelmed us. We thank you for your repeated prayers during this ordeal. She is still not free from danger, but we are pleased she has come this far.

It's been a long time for both of us since we felt the healing power of Christ's forgiveness. Both of us were very young (8 or 9 years old) when we were baptized, and Jesus has been a part of our lives ever since. But we can't help but think about how it feels to realize that your sins are forgiven after carrying them with you for a lifetime.

These bodies are temporary. They will break down and eventually fail. So even though we have good news about Tammy's physical body, the news is nothing compared to the joy of knowing that we'll never die spiritually. Our eternity with Jesus has already started.