Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Still Being Used in a Mighty Way

Romans 14:6a
"He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord."

Today is a special day for us. Those of you who know us really well might have one idea what we're talking about, but that's not it. I'll explain that later.

Tammy received a call this morning from her Mom. She found out that another life was saved through Tammy's illness. Let us tell the story.

When Tammy was first diagnosed with myelodysplasia, the precursor to Leukemia, many of our friends wanted to know what they could do. Tammy repeatedly told them that her desire was to have them pray for her. One of those friends decided to put wheels under her prayers.

She organized a bone-marrow drive at our church. A normal drive brings in 30-35 people, but Tammy's resulted in more than 140 people. Even the bone-marrow foundation people were impressed. We know of three people who were called as possible matches, but this is the first one we know who actually was able to donate her bone marrow to save a life.

It brought us to tears to hear of this lady. Not only was she willing to go through the process but she was willing to give life to another. We are so thankful, not only for this friend, but for the man who did the same for Tammy.

One of our friends made the following comment: "Good things can come out of suffering, and if not for you, then at least someone else! In a way, you've helped save another."

Remember that Tammy's prayer for years has been to be "used in a mighty way." Once again, God has showed us that He can use us mightily if we are willing to follow Him.

By the way, this news makes this one of the best birthdays I have ever had.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day By Day

Psalm 90:12
"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Today is Day 548. Why is that important? One and a half years ago today, April 1, 2009, Tammy had her transplant. The first few days seemed to drag. It took forever to get to Day 100, which was the first major milestone. After 100 days, because everything went well, she was able to be alone for periods of time and do things that she hadn't been allowed to do before.

The second hundred days flew by. We hardly even noticed when we hit 300 days. As we approached Day 365, we were less captivated by the number of the days than we were the fact that she had made it through a year. We celebrated that anniversary by visiting Julie in Louisville. The following Sunday was Easter, and we worshiped as a family together for the first time since before Tammy's transplant.

The doctors number transplant patient's days to be able to follow a treatment plan. Certain things should happen at certain times. We're now past the point where each day makes a difference in that plan, but every day that passes brings Tammy closer to complete recovery. Each day, she has a better chance of living a long life than she did the day before.

The Bible talks about numbering our days. Although we're not going through a "treatment plan," our days are important to God. In a sense, he is treating us. He offers spiritual health in a world of sin and shame. Each day we live according to His will is another day closer to the day when we will be "healed," the day Jesus calls us Home with Him. In the meantime, we can live each day as an important piece of the puzzle.

"As I'm counting my days, even though I'm starting from Day 0 and the numbers are going up, I am getting closer to spending eternity with Christ," Tammy said tonight. "I'm not counting the days until I die because I don't have to wait until I die to spend time with Christ. He is with me here. But my recovery reminds me of a future with no sickness, disease or pain. The wisdom that the Bible promises me in the verse above is recognizing that God is in charge of all my days."

We hope that you look at today and the days to come as important. Every day matters to God. We might not know what "day" it is in His plan, but He does. Our prayer is that God would bless you in a way that you would see His plan more clearly.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Air I Breathe

Psalm 150:6
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD."

Do you ever think about breathing? Probably not much, if at all. When you over-exert and are short-of-breath, maybe. If you're underwater trying to get to the surface, probably. But most of the time, we just breathe. But when you think about it, without breath, our lives would be short. Without breath nothing can live. If something has breath, it has life.

Today is the first Sunday Tammy and I went to worship without David Lee in the country in almost two years. It certainly was different. He's been gone before, but this time it's fairly permanent. But we were there to worship God with all our breath, and that's what we did.

Now, don't think for a minute that we don't miss David tremendously. He has been a huge blessing to us for nearly 27 years, and during Tammy's illness and recovery he was right with us. But we're really doing okay. Many people came up to us and with a frown on their faces (expecting a sad answer) asked if we were okay. We said "Yes. We know he's doing what God wants him to do."

I've been thinking about posting something ever since he left on Tuesday. The thought running through my mind was the song by Delirious? called "My Glorious." The chorus says, "God is bigger than the air I breathe, The world we'll leave. God will save the day and all will say My glorious!"

The first time we were faced with one of our kids planning a long-term stint in the missions field, I was concerned. Julie called us from Poland, where she was completing a six-week internship. She told us that she was thinking of serving for a year. I kept thinking, "Is this what God wants? Is this what I want?" Following a long phone call with Julie, we headed to church (a little late). As we walked in, the worship band was playing this song and had just reached the chorus as we walked through the door. It confirmed to me that it was what God wanted, and therefore should be what I wanted. I came to grips fairly quickly that missions was going to be a part of our family's lives from that point on.

Here's a link to the video of that song.

But wait, there's more. A good friend of ours came up to us after church and gave us a gift. We have grown close to her during the summer, and she understands what a special young man David Lee is. In the basket was a plaque that says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord." There was also a book in the basket. The title? "The Air I Breathe." It's a devotional book about worship. It certainly was confirmation to us that God is in control of this situation and David Lee is in good Hands as he serves in Poland.

We ask that you pray for him to be effective as he serves. And pray that we can constantly remember that God is bigger than anything we encounter, and that He has David in His Hands.

By the way, if you want to read more about what David is doing, check out his web site. He's very transparent in his blog, and he does a great job of letting you know what's going on. Here's the link:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another Anniversary, Better Than Ever

1 Corinthians 9:23
"I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

A year ago today I wrote the following in this blog: "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. 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."

Sure enough, I love her even more today than I did a year ago. I'm reminded of 1969, when NFL superstar quarterback Joe Namath wrote a book called, "I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow...'Cause I Get Better-Looking Every Day." Well, I can't wait until tomorrow, because Tammy will be even better-looking, and I'll love her even more than I do today.

Today was a special day that concluded a special weekend. Julie and her boyfriend, Erich, came to town to celebrate Tammy's birthday (last month), Julie's birthday (Tuesday) and Tammy's Mom's birthday (a week from Tuesday). We had a big gathering with both sides of the family at our house. We cooked out and celebrated the birthdays.

Today was also bittersweet, because it was the last time we'll worship together (all four of us) until next May when we're all in Poland for David Lee's wedding. David moves to Poland in a little more than two weeks. We're excited for him, and we know this is what God has in store for him for the next few years at least. We're happy that he will be reunited with his fiance, and we're happy for both of them.

But, man, we're going to miss him. It's hard to grasp the fact that he won't live in the States for at least three years, maybe longer. He is such a treasure to us. He was so instrumental in Tammy's recovery as he sat with her and took care of her during the day when her parents couldn't be here. He is such a joy to be around. We know that at nearly 27, it's time to move on with his life, but that doesn't mean we want him to leave. We love Wiola (his fiance) very much, but selfishly, we'd prefer if she moved here instead of David moving there.

But that's not God's plan. Quite simply, the only One we're really willing to give him up for is God. He is going to Poland to serve God.

So as David hugged Julie in the parking lot of the restaurant where we ate lunch, we choked up. They love each other, and will see each other in Poland in January when Julie moves there too. But it will be tough for them to not see each other for five months.

A little perspective: we are so blessed to have two kids (although they're in their mid-20s) who love us, love each other, and love the Lord. We know so many people who pray for their kids daily to come back to the Lord. Our prayers are that God will bless them as they follow His plan. People have asked us how we can be so calm knowing that both of our kids will live "across the pond" in just a few months. There's two good responses, at least for me. I'm not as calm on the inside. But more importantly, God loves them more than we do. He'll bless them in ways we can't. That will be a blessing to us.

So as we celebrate our last anniversary with the two of them in the same continent, we praise God for all the blessings He has given us. Near the top of that list are our kids.

At the top is each other.

Thanks for celebrating with us.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

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.'"

Today is Tammy's birthday. The tabloids are all over it, because she was born 51 years ago today, yet she has the DNA of a 38-year-old. And a male at that. Hmmm.

A year ago, we celebrated her birthday while celebrating even more that she was still with us. Even though things were going smoothly in her post-transplant recovery, we were thanking God for every day she was with us. We still praise God daily for His blessings, including blessing us with a healthy Tammy.

We've posted a picture of her from a year ago and one from today. She's still the most beautiful girl in the world. Her hair is back, and even a little bit curly. Most people who meet her for the first time have no idea of what she's been through so recently.

It's been a while since we've posted. The last entry was after her one-year check-up in late-April. The doctor gave her permission to go back to church and to consider going back to work. We celebrate worshiping together every week. It took a little longer to get enough stamina to start looking for work, but she's had a couple of interviews and hopes to be working part-time soon.

Doctors are still very encouraged by Tammy's progress. The doctors and nurses tell her how much they enjoy having her visit the clinic because she is such a great success story. It lets them know that what they're doing works.

As she waits for a job, she spends her time working on crossword puzzles and taking care of the house. I am doing a better job of helping out around the house, but she's able to do everything but clean the cat litter (oh, joy!). Yesterday, she drove to the airport to say good-bye to our church's short-term Poland missions team. We look forward to going back to Poland ourselves—next May for David Lee's wedding and many times after that.

We know many of you have continued to keep her in your prayers, and we are thankful for that. As we have said many times, we have been carried on a pillow of prayers during this whole journey.

Recently, at a business networking group I attend, the ice-breaker question was “What is your favorite summer activity in Kansas City?” People mentioned Starlight Theater, Royals games or the various art fairs throughout the community. I said, “This summer, even more than in the past, it's sitting on our front porch swing, holding hands with my Sweetheart.” (That drew a chorus of “Awwww's.”)

As we commemorate another year of blessings with Tammy, we hope you take the time to celebrate the way God has blessed you over the past year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Day of Celebration!

1 Chronicles 16:31
"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns!'"

We got the big news today. The doctor at the cancer clinic came into the exam room with a big smile on his face. He said, "You look beautiful. Your counts are beautiful. Your immune system is robust. Everything looks great. You can do whatever you want."

With a couple of minor exceptions (she's not quite ready to dig in the dirt and she can't clean the litter box), all restrictions have been lifted. She's free to go back to work, part-time, when her energy level is high enough. She can eat at a buffet. Most importantly, she's allowed to go back to church.

Tammy, David Lee and I will worship together Sunday morning. It will be her first time at Sunday morning service at Cedar Ridge since March 22, 2009. It gets me choked up just thinking about it.

We have a lot to be thankful for. We have said it many times, but we have been carried on a pillow of prayers. At first those prayers were for survival and peace through a difficult time. They transitioned into prayers of thanksgiving and continued requests for recovery. Now, many are joining us in praising God for His wonderful act of love and grace.

Back when we received the bleakest news, that without aggressive treatment Tammy would not see Christmas 2009, we took a step back, then said (and wrote, November 30, 2008): "We believe it is part of the plan to draw others to Christ. Tammy is very much at peace with whatever this disease brings, because she knows that God can be glorified. If she is healed completely, as is our selfish prayer, then God can be glorified because of His power. If He chooses to have her suffer with the effects of the disease for a long period of time, He can be glorified through her faithfulness. If He chooses to bring her Home because of this disease, He can be glorified by her peace."

There were times when it was hard for me to read that, and much harder to believe it. I knew God was in charge, but I couldn't imagine life without Tammy. Tammy's faith is very strong, and she kept reminding me that His grace would be sufficient. Still, it was tough. Fortunately, He is faithful even when we're not. As we look back now, it is so obvious God had His plan in place all along. He is now being glorified with Tammy's steady and relatively smooth recovery, and her faith during it.

We are very thankful for family and friends who have walked along this path with us, many times picking us up and carrying us. We both have awesome parents and extended families. There was a message on our phone when we got home from one of Tammy's brothers who called it "the best news I've ever received." Mike and Jim (Tammy's brothers) and Ray (my brother) have been a big part of this journey. We lost track of how many people have stopped by or called to pass along cheer. Every visit, call and card was meaningful.

We're very thankful once again for the donor. We now have the opportunity to contact him. It's up to the donor registry in his area whether we can find out anything about him. But we can send him a card telling him how thankful we are for him. We'll post something if and when we get to meet him.

Thanks once again for praying for us. Celebrate with us today that the victory is ours--this victory over a deadly disease and the ultimate victory we have over death through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blessings at Easter

Luke 24:6
"He is not here; he has risen!"

Today is our favorite day of the year. Our family celebrates birthdays and anniversaries. We enjoy spending time with extended family at holidays. We look forward to Christmas like most people do. But Easter is the most special holiday. Our lives are built on the promises of God, the greatest of which is eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And that is commemorated on this Resurrection Day.

Easter is the only day all year that I don't have trouble getting up in the morning. Tammy is a morning person, but I become one only one day a year. We just can't get enough of the worship. If there are multiple services, and there's room for a few more folks, we stay.

Today was a special Easter for us. Last year at Easter, Tammy was in the hospital on Easter. Our whole family visited her in shifts, but we each had to leave her behind when we went to her parents' house for dinner. We had hope for the future (Hebrews 11:1), but in a very real sense, hope was focused on Tammy's recovery.

Fast forward one year. This morning, for the first time in 14 months, Tammy, David Lee, Julie and I worshiped together in church. (Tammy is still not allowed to go to church, but we were visiting Julie in Louisville where nobody knew us, so Tammy was safe from being "mugged.")

It was very emotional. Not only were we reminded of what Christ did for us, but we were together. We are so blessed that Jesus is the center of all of our lives. The power of His grace overcame us as we sang and prayed together.

The pastor spoke about plugging into the power of Christ. It's not just waiting for us when we die and get to Heaven; it's available to us now. He used the deep theological analogy of Jed Clampett and the Beverly Hillbillies: "Well, the first thing you know, Ol' Jed's a millionaire." Jed didn't suddenly become a millionaire. He just suddenly figured out that he those resources to tap into.

As we go through life, we have an unlimited resource of power there for the asking. So many times we try to rely on our power. It is our prayer that we can remember the source of all power. God bless you this special day. Use the power He provides.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Exodus 12:47
"The whole community...must celebrate it."

Today is Tammy's first birthday! Really! Even though she came into this world more than 50 years ago, it was one year ago today that she got life back. It was April 1, 2009, when she received a bone-marrow transplant. God blessed her with the gift of life through the selfless act of donation of a young man we don't even know.

Just like with a young child, there is a whole world out there ready for Tammy to explore. She's not too far away from returning to a normal lifestyle. We'll take it slow, and not just because her energy level is still not where it should be. We want her to enjoy the journey, like a toddler exploring the world outside her crib.

After a year with the primary goal being making it through the day, the next year for Tammy may include: meeting her donor, traveling more than an hour's drive, returning to work, and, of course, returning to church. There are so many things we used to take for granted.

We are looking forward to traveling to Poland next spring for David Lee's wedding. We also hope to return to the missions field sometime in the next year or so. In the meantime, Tammy is anxious to return to the Sunday morning classroom. She has taught little kids in Sunday School since she was one step removed from being a kid herself. And, of course, she wants to continue to get healthier.

Later this month, Tammy will go through her one-year evaluations. If everything turns out the way they want it, we might have the opportunity to meet her donor. We'll update the blog if that happens. We'll introduce you to our friend as we get to know him.

It's hard to believe that it's been a year. We have felt the prayer support of people around the world. We thank you for riding along with us. We hope that every day is a new beginning for you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Full Circle

Psalm 90:12
"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Today (Saturday) is Day 360. I had stopped counting days once we got to 100, even though Tammy kept track. It seemed like it took forever to get to 100, but the second hundred days just flew by. We didn't even acknowledge when we hit 300.

So why the commemoration of Day 360, when we're less than a week away from Tammy's "first birthday"?

As we've said before, we like statistics. Maybe it's my love of sports, where statistics are so important. But the number 360 reminds us of a circle. When someone does a 360 dunk, it means they spin all the way around before slamming it home. There are 360 degrees in a circle.

So today, Day 360, we celebrate that Tammy seems like she's returned to where she started. Before she got sick, she was always smiling, made everybody feel better after coming into contact with her, and was always the prettiest girl at the party. Even though much of that never left, once again she's smiling, she makes everybody feel better after coming into contact with her, and she's definitely the prettiest girl at the party.

It's been an amazing journey. We have seen God bless us in ways we never could have imagined. We see joy in things that before were mundane. We count our blessings on a much more regular basis.

Our prayer all along has been the same as Tammy's prayer for years: to be used in a mighty way. We pray that, maybe because of our journey, you can see the good in things, even when the first glance doesn't look so good. Better than that, we pray that you can see God in everything.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Big Relief

Proverbs 15:30
"...good news gives health to the bones."

We got great news from the doctor today at the clinic. We were pretty confident that the problem causing Tammy's liver counts to be too high was Graft Vs. Host Disease (GVHD). GVHD is the equivalent of rejection for bone-marrow transplant patients. Contrary to other transplants, GVHD means that the transplant is rejecting something(s) in your body. They want a little bit of GVHD, because it helps prevent recurrence of cancer. But they don't want too much.

It was confirmed that it is GVHD, but the doctor said it is "mild and limited." It is mild in severity. The numbers are elevated, but not real bad. It is limited in that it only has affected her liver and her mouth. The liver can self-correct damage, and the mouth sores are very short-lived.

We felt good when he said that. Then he said, "I'm not going to treat it right now. If we have to treat it, it will be with steroids. It's not a big problem, but if we can avoid adding the steroids I will. This just isn't bad enough to treat right now."

That is a huge relief. Tammy has been fine all along. She's not a worrier. But I was concerned that things were turning bad. While we don't want her numbers to be elevated at all, knowing that they're "under control" is a real blessing.

Tammy will continue to go in for bi-weekly blood tests. If the numbers get too high, they'll start to treat it. But we hope to avoid that.

We so appreciate your prayers. As we have said all along, we feel like we have been carried for the past 15 months on a pillow of prayers. Over the past couple of weeks, we have felt it very strongly. Many people have sent us messages letting us know they're continuing to pray for us. That has made this bumpy part of the journey go very smoothly.

God is good, all the time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

No News

Psalm 27:14
"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."

We apologize for the lateness of this entry. We got home from the hospital after Tammy's visit and then went out to dinner to celebrate Valentine's Day. We're watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and we just realized that we hadn't posted anything.

We don't have any news. Once again, we are waiting. This time, we are waiting for the results of the biopsy. The Lord certainly has taught us patience during this 15-month journey.

The appointment today was just to make sure things were progressing the way they were supposed to. We thought that we might hear the results of the liver biopsy, but that won't happen until next week.

The doctors have not ruled out anything, but they are more and more convinced that it is Graft Vs. Host Disease. We have full confidence in the doctors. Even more than that, we have confidence that God has all this in His control.

Tammy feels really good. The soreness from the surgery is going away. She's not 100 percent yet, but she's improving. She's not quite ready to do that aerial trick the guy did in the Opening Ceremonies where he flew around the stadium on the wires, but it looked like fun.

We hope you have a great weekend. God bless you. And Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quick Update

Ephesians 3:20-21
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Tammy's procedure went well today. Her liver biopsy took about 45 minutes and she was in recovery for about two hours. She is in a little pain, but mostly discomfort. She's resting at home.

As we look at this in the big picture of her recovery, it's a minor bump in the road. The doctors believe she has a little bit of Graft Vs. Host Disease (GVHD), which means her new bone marrow may be rejecting one or more of her organs. While that can be a problem, the doctors also believe it can be treated with meds.

We have an appointment Friday afternoon with the hepatologist (the liver doctor) to find out the results of the biopsy. I'm sure we'll find out at that appointment if the treatment will change. We appreciate your continued prayers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Bump in the Road

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."

We have been very thankful for all the miracles we have experienced during Tammy's recovery. It has gone so smoothly, that even the smallest obstacle seems major. We hope that it the case this time, and that the obstacle before us is minor in the big picture.

Tammy still goes in to the clinic for blood tests every other week. Once a month, she meets with a doctor to review the blood tests and make sure the recovery is on schedule. Recently, they noticed that the results of her liver function test were out of whack. Since they tapered her off the anti-rejection medicine, the levels have gone up rapidly.

The first treatment was to put her back on the medicine, but that has only shown marginal improvement. So next Wednesday morning she will have liver biopsy to determine the cause of the problem. There are three likely scenarios. It may be a reaction to one of the medicines. It may be an elevated iron level. Most likely, it is some graft-vs-host disease (GVHD). The GVHD is a form of rejection. Unlike most organ transplants, where the recipient's body rejects the new organ, a bone-marrow transplant recipient runs the risk of the new bone marrow rejecting existing organs.

Please pray that this is an easily repaired problem. Pray for peace for our family as we wait for the results. Mostly, please pray that God can be glorified by the way we deal with the situation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another Milestone

Acts 5:12
"At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico."

Ever since New Testament days, when the apostles went to the temple in a Honda (see above, loosely translated) experiencing the thrill of driving has been a big deal. So we want to tell you of another milestone in Tammy's recovery. She's getting her stamina and strength back slowly, and it's time to let her drive again.

We need to get my truck worked on tomorrow, so Tammy will follow me to the mechanic in our other car. Today, she drove to the gas station, the first time she's been behind the wheel in about a year. It was a short drive, but a Neil Armstrong-sized leap in her recovery.

It's been a few weeks since we've posted anything, mostly because things are going according to schedule. She still has to keep her numbers under control, a very delicate balance, but I'm reminded daily how much of a miracle she is.

God already has used her in a mighty way, and it's obvious to us that He has more plans for her. Thanks for all your prayers.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Lamentations 3:22-24
"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'"

I feel a little like Bing Crosby in "Holiday Inn," only posting blog entries recently on holidays. But we didn't want to let this milestone day pass without taking a few minutes to look back on the past year, and look forward to the year that just started.

When we posted last January 1, we were waiting to hear if either of Tammy's brothers was going to be a match. We knew the chances of a successful bone-marrow transplant were greatly enhanced if Mike or Jim was a match. As you know, neither turned out to be a match, but we did find a match at the beginning of February. Two months later, Tammy got her new bone marrow. That started a long road of recovery that now is at Day 275.

As we start 2010, we look forward to some new "firsts." Her first "birthday" will be April 1. Her first day of church may very well be Easter Sunday. We're hopeful that soon she'll be able to have a first day of work. There's so much still to be determined, and we're excited to see how God works in our lives this year.

We're looking forward to hearing more about David Lee's and Wiola's plans for marriage and a life together. We're looking forward to seeing how God lays the groundwork for David and Julie to return to the missions field in Poland. We are extremely blessed that our children not only love and respect us, but are each other's best friends and, mostly, love the Lord and want to serve Him.

We believe very strongly that God allowed this to happen to Tammy so that we could point people to Him. The way Tammy has dealt with this illness and long recovery has allowed people to see faithfulness and trust in His plan. God has truly used Tammy in a mighty way.

As you start a new year and a new decade, our prayer for you is to be open to God's leading so He can use you in a mighty way too.