Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Family Gathering

2 Samuel 7:28-29
"And now, Master God, being the God you are, speaking sure words as you do, and having just said this wonderful thing to me, please, just one more thing: Bless my family; keep your eye on them always. You've already as much as said that you would, Master God! Oh, may your blessing be on my family permanently!"

When David Lee told us a little more than a week ago that he was going to be able to stay an extra week, we quickly thought of the fact that there would be five days with both of the kids here at the same time. In fact, David said one of the reasons he decided to stay was being able to sit with Tammy with Julie on the other side. We are blessed that our kids really get along great. They are each other's best friend.

Julie got in late Thursday night, and yesterday was a busy day from beginning to end. Finally, this afternoon, all of us were together with no place to go. One of Julie's friends stopped by and we asked her to take our picture.

We hope you have a blessed day.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reflecting Christ

Matthew 28:19a
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."

Julie got home from Poland late last night. Today, she and David just kicked back and let Tammy soak up some of each of them. I know it did Tammy a lot of good to have both of them by her side. We'll post some pictures tomorrow.

Tonight, the kids and I had a great opportunity to hear Dr. Tony Evans speak at the "What If The Church?" worship event. Dr. Evans is a well-known speaker and writer, and tonight he spoke about the difference between being a Christian and being a disciple.

Let me try to summarize his words. The difference between a Christian and a disciple is that a Christian knows Christ and follows Him while a disciple reflects Christ and imitates Him. Christ desires for all of us to know Him. It's through that relationship that we gain entry into Heaven when our days on Earth are over. But He wants more than just followers. He wants disciples, people who will demonstrate that relationship to everyone around them.

Dr. Evans asked the congregation, "If you were accused at work of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" There was a lot of "amen-ing" around the auditorium, but it made everyone think about their own situation.

There's only one other person in my office, and my co-worker is a Bible-college student, so that's an easy one for me. But what about my other situations? I'm in a business networking group that meets twice a month with about 60 in attendance on an average Tuesday. I'm in a district with about 30 other insurance agents. I'm on a local board of about 12 people, and I'm often seen in the press box or on the press row at local sporting events. Do those people know that I'm a disciple of Christ? Would they say I'm different from the others in those situations who don't claim a relationship with Christ?

I believe so, because that is my constant goal. I have had people tell me they have been watching me to see if my faith is real. I know in Tammy's most recent work situation, where she was one of a couple hundred employees in the same building, that she was known by her faith. People she didn't know very well came to her before she left for her transplant and told her that her demonstration of faith through her struggle was an inspiration to them.

We've all heard the metaphoric question, "What is the meaning of life?" Tammy's and my answer is always the same: "to bring glory to God." That attitude and goal pervades everything we do, including this blog. If you've been following us for a while, you'll know that Tammy's prayer since childhood has been to "be used in a mighty way." Through this journey, both in 2009 and this year, our goal has been to use the circumstances of her illness to bring others into a closer relationship with Christ. If we reflect Christ--if people look at us and see Christ--we have done what we intended to do.

It is our constant prayer. We want to keep you up to date on how Tammy is doing, and we will take the opportunity to do that when there's something to report. (She continues to improve daily, but there's nothing different to report today.) But we will always try to take each day and look at everything through the lens of our relationship with Him. We hope that's all you see.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our New Favorite Number

Lamentations 3:22-23
"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."

Everyone has a favorite number. For years, mine was 44. My favorite baseball player and overall athlete, Hank Aaron, wore number 44. I also liked Jerry West in the NBA, even though I'm a long-time Knicks fan. And there are plenty of great NFL players who wore number 44, including my favorite player growing up, Donnie Anderson.

But I think my new favorite number is 35. Let me explain. Today is Day 35 in Tammy's post-transplant recovery. And while it just sounds like a number, some big things happened today that were much more delayed the first time through.

First of all, Tammy is now on a twice-a-week clinic visit schedule. We're not sure exactly when that happened last time, but we both think it was around Day 60. But she's now scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays only.

The nurse practitioner who saw her today commented on how good she looked. She asked Tammy if she liked sitting on the front porch and Tammy replied that she loved to sit on our front deck. We remember how much she looked forward to that and how great it was when she finally was released to do that...on Day 100! Abby said that as long as no one was mowing and the sun wasn't directly on her, she could sit on the front porch.

Now hold on. As they say on TV, "But wait, there's more!" It was on David Lee's birthday in 2009, four days after her SIXTH MONTH birthday, that Tammy got her pic line removed. The pic line is the three-prong IV line that they use to draw blood and give her fluids. Well, today, Abby told her that she wouldn't need fluids that much and the pic line really wasn't necessary. So they took it out!

Tammy is still not out of the woods. She's to the point where 50 percent of the people who make it this far survive. But as a friend of mine said today, her attitude has made such a huge difference to this point, we are very confident that she will continue to improve. We ask for your continued prayers as we travel this long, arduous road. We'll keep praying for you too.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Eventful Weekend

1 Samuel 18:14
"In everything (they) did (they) had great success, because the Lord was with (them)." (paraphrased)

When we first came up with the idea of sponsoring a fun run to raise money for the BMT Unit at KU Med Center, we had a goal of $2,600. We knew the chances of actually raising that much in such a short amount of time were very slim. You just don't throw something together that quickly. (We came up with the idea about three weeks ago.)

Well, we haven't hit the goal yet, but we're close. We collected just over $1,000 yesterday, to go with the $675 in cash we received from corporate sponsors. I also know that we have received other donations that I don't have recorded yet, so we're very close to $2,000 in donations. There's still time to donate, in case you're interested. Just send your checks to "For Shirts & Giggles" c/o Farmers Insurance, 9229 Ward Parkway, Suite 380, Kansas City, MO  64114.

David Lee was one of the participants, but he also took some photos before and after the run. I can't wait to see them. He's a really good photographer, so he wants to pick the best ones and make sure they're in focus with the proper lighting. I would have used my phone, selected the ones where I could tell who was in them. Anyway, he'll work on them tomorrow and we'll post them tomorrow evening. We'll also give you an official tally to that point.

In the meantime, we want to thank everyone who participated, sponsored or helped plan the event. We can't wait for next year, when we have time to prepare adequately. Who knows how much we'll raise next year.

Tammy continues to improve daily. It's a long run, much more than a 5K, but she's hitting all the mile markers ahead of the normal pace. Please keep praying for every step of the race.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 30

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

Those of you who have been following our blog for a few years might remember how we like to commemorate milestones. Often three years ago we noted certain days, usually with something significant in sports. For the rest of you...get used to it.

Today is Day 30 in the post-transplant calendar. (Since May had 31 days, tomorrow will be Tammy's one-month birthday.) Thirty days is a significant number. First of all, she's already beaten about half the statistics, including the 40 percent chance that she wouldn't make it out of the hospital following her second transplant. Every day that passes increases her long-term chances for survival.

I remember in 1980 when George Brett reached 30 games in his hitting streak. Everyone made a big deal of it, because not a lot of guys reach that number. In fact, only 54 players have hit safely in 30 consecutive games (or more) since the first such streak was recorded in 1885. Ten bonus points if you know who did that (answer below).

So 30 days is a big deal. It's amazing how much better Tammy looks than she did even nine days ago when she came home. She's "moving freely about the cabin" whenever she wants. She's pretty much capable of doing everything on her own, though she still must have someone with her 24/7 until Day 100, just in case things turn sour.

By the way, the report on Fox 4 News last night did not get posted on their web site, but the lead story on their "health" page is the fun run. They have the "fighting photo" on there, with info about the run. Here's a link:

We're looking forward to a good turnout tomorrow, and we hope to raise a lot of money for T-shirts. We were able to secure 10 corporate sponsorships of cash, trade or both. We've also secured a special design for the women's T-shirts, similar to the one Tammy has, except it has the hospital name on it. We're close to announcing the T-shirt for male patients. Every dude in the hospital will want to go through the BMT Unit when he sees the shirt he'll get on the day of the transplant.

We'll take some pictures tomorrow, so we'll have some things to post tomorrow evening. We look forward to sharing them with you.

Okay, the answer to the question above? In 1885, Jimmy Wolf of Louisville in the American Association (then a major league) hit safely in 31 straight games the first 30-plus-game hitting streak in major league history. And yes, I had to look it up.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Continued Slow Progress

1 Timothy 4:15
"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress."

We haven't posted in a few days because there hasn't been a lot of news. Tammy has continued to progress, all the while realizing that it's a long, slow road.

We got some good news yesterday. David will be able to stay an extra week in Kansas City. It will allow him to do some fundraising and spend time with friends and family. Mostly, it will allow him to spend extra time with Tammy. Since Julie is coming home for a couple of weeks a week from tonight, they'll be here together for about five days.

David Lee summed it up well. "I can already see Mom's face sitting on the couch with her two kids on either side of her." I can too, and it gives me a warm feeling.

Tonight, on the local Fox affiliate, our friend Meryl Lin McKean did a quick feature on our fun run this Saturday. She showed the "fighting picture" we've posted here and mentioned Tammy and the fun run. If they post the clip on their web site, I'll post it here tomorrow.

We've been receiving a lot of help from family and friends with "Tammy-sitting." Her parents have been carrying a big share of the load, as has my Mom. David Lee and I have been doing a lot of "double duty" as we just love being with her. Already there have been three others from our church, and there's a long list of people who are on the list for the future. It's been a huge blessing for us. For Tammy, it's a comfort to know so many people care about her. For me, it gives me a chance to keep working without worrying about Tammy. I'm not sure we would have survived to this point without this support.

Of course, the biggest boost we get is from the continued prayers. Please keep them up.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Nothing Without Christ

Romans 8:14
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God."

It was a big day in the Smale Agency office today. We moved into our new location June 1, and today I got my first delivery. To make it even better, it was my new business cards with my new office information on them. I felt like Steve Martin in the comedy "The Jerk" when the new phone books came out. "I'm somebody!"

I was actually headed out the door when the UPS guy showed up, so I rushed back in to open the box and get a glimpse. What a letdown. The first card I pulled out was completely blank, other than the company logo. Quickly, I pulled out a few more and they were all correct. The address, phone number and everything else was just what we had ordered.

But for a split second I panicked. I couldn't use those cards. They didn't tell any of the necessary information. It's as if I no longer had an identity.

It's easy to take our identity from what we do. I once heard a kicker in the NFL tell a story about when he introduced himself to a "seasoned" Christian. The guy asked him, "Who are you?" He first responded with his name. The guy said, "No, who are you?" He then responded with his position and who he played for. Finally when the guy said, "No, what makes you you?" he said, "Oh, I am a child of God."

My identity isn't an insurance agent, a writer, or even Tammy's husband or caregiver. Of the three, I'm most proud of the fact that people associate me with that beautiful lady I love to write about. But my true identity comes from the fact that God loved me so much even before I was born that He sent His only Son to die on the cross, if only for my sins. He makes the same offer to everyone, but if I had been the only one in history to accept it, He still would have offered it.

I am nothing without the identity of a follower of Christ. While I'm on this earth, I fill many roles. The most important of those right now is to help Tammy recover, and it's my joy to fill it. But everything pales in comparison to belonging to Him.

Tammy continues to do well. She went to the clinic again today and had to get fluids once again. But she gets the day off tomorrow, the first time since she was released from the hospital. It's a baby step, but a step of progress nonetheless. We are praising God for every small sign of progress.

Please keep up your prayers. And remember who you are, in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doing Everything For God

Colossians 3:23-24
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Our church started a new sermon series today called "iCreate." It's all about using the gifts that God gave us to create new things. In that way, we're all "artists." Some people are very artistic; ideas and finished products just flow from them. Others may not look at what they do with the gifts God has given them as artistic, but Russell did a very good job of pointing out that everything we do can be creative.

It's interesting that the first example he gave was that of a nurse, who looks at her craft of helping patients get better as a work of art. This is very true. Sometimes it takes creativity to convince someone who feels bad to do the necessary work to get better.

After church, our good friend, Lindsey, who was the first nurse Tammy had when she went in to the hospital for her second transplant, came over for a cookout. There are still a few details to work out for the fun run this Saturday. We picked out--actually we came up with designs--for shirts for both men and women. We recognized that the guys might not want to wear a shirt that says, "I Fight Like a Girl." You'll have to show up Saturday to discover our design (here's a link for the details:

This run has become a labor of love for us. We want to share Tammy's fighting spirit with others facing similar challenges. We know that's necessary to beat the disease. This is a great example of creativity. We are using the experiences we've gained over the last three-plus years to bring attention to the depth of the battle. We are hoping that others will be inspired by Tammy's story, and will commit to fighting.

We know that everyone faces challenges daily. Some are serious, maybe even life-threatening, like the one Tammy is facing now. Others are more annoying than anything. But each challenge takes initiative and creativity. God gives us His Holy Spirit to guide us as we attack these challenges. Our prayer for you is that you would rely on the strength He gives you to accomplish your goals. "Work at it with all your heart.... It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Slow Progress

Not much has changed in the past 48 hours, so we haven't posted anything here. Tammy continues to go to the clinic every day for labs. Each day so far she's also needed some IV fluids. The nice thing is, when she's done, she gets to come home.

She'll go back in the morning, and we'll write a more lengthy blog entry later tomorrow.

We hope you have a blessed Lord's Day.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Waiting on God

James 1:2-6
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

Tammy has been home for more than 24 hours, and it's hard for me not to get ahead of God. I know the doctors weren't going to release her from the hospital until she was ready. So she must be ready to roll, right? I have to remember that she's still in a very compromised position regarding her immune system. We still have to be very careful with every decision we make. There are no short-cuts.

For example, she and David stopped by my new office on the drive home from the cancer clinic today, where she got fluids because some of her levels were off. I wanted her to come in and see the new digs, but she reminded me that she's limited to home, the clinic and the drive in between. That's it. I'm so thrilled that she's home, that I forget how restricted she is. I want to push her in her recovery. Part of that is good, because she needs to be ambitious, but I can't overdo it. I have to let decide how much is enough.

She'll go to the clinic every day for labs, at least for a while. Eventually that will get cut back to every other day, then every third day. It's a tedious process, but every step of it is necessary. Impatience is not an option.

Our prayer today is not only for continued recovery, but also patience for the process and attention to detail.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


1 Kings 13:15
So the prophet said to him, 'Come home with me and eat.'

We are home! After 23 days in the hospital, we just walked in the door. Making it that much sweeter, David Lee was here when we got home. I know having him around will help Tammy's recovery.

We might post again later, but we might not. We'll have to see how things go.

Thanks for your prayers. Please keep them up!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tomorrow is Probable

Exodus 8:10
'Tomorrow,' Pharaoh said. Moses replied, 'It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God.'"

Okay, I may have gone over the edge on this reference, in terms of taking it out of context. But I think it fits. Work with me here.

The doctor came in a little past noon today and decided that one more day in the hospital would be a good idea. While we're disappointed that we can't be home together tonight, we certainly understand his decision, and we agree with it. It just didn't feel quite right to send her home today.

This afternoon, they started giving her oral medicines and completely unhooked her from the IV pole. We walked around the unit holding hands, instead of holding a pole. Tammy has such soft skin. I've always enjoyed holding hands with her. Today, it was more special than ever before.

We would be surprised if he does not let her go home tomorrow. She would have to have a set-back at this point. So I'm going home soon to do some laundry (for some reason she doesn't want to wear a hospital gown on the trip home) and go to the grocery store to get the special food she'll need. I'll be back tomorrow and will look forward to taking her home in the afternoon.

We also got some really good news about our friend Shelley, about whom we had asked you to pray recently. She had a successful double mastectomy yesterday. The doctor is confident he got it all. Her dad sent us the following: "The growth had not invaded any other tissue, both sentinal lymph nodes are clear, and he had enough skin left to close the wound. He felt he was able to have clear margins around the tumor, and will know for sure after five days when the lab results return. She will recover at home for about four weeks, then have seven weeks of radiation and three to four weeks of healing before possible reconstruction."

Thanks for your continued prayers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

'Hope' for Tomorrow

Hebrews 11:1
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

I love this verse, partly because of how we (mis)-interpret the word hope. Using today's vernacular, the best translation for hope may be "wishful thinking." But the hope referred to in this verse is better interpreted "anticipation."

When you look at it that way, the verse says that faith is the assurance of things we anticipate happening. There's no doubt or wishful thinking involved. We know Jesus is coming soon. We anticipate it as a result of our faith. It is with great anticipation, because we know when He does return, He will take us back to Heaven with Him. What a beautiful future that promises.

Tonight, we are "hoping" that Tammy will return home tomorrow. The doctor came in today and said if things continue to progress the way he thinks they will, he will release her tomorrow. We are confident that it will happen soon, whether that's tomorrow or not. We know that there are still some hurdles before that happens. We also know that when it does happen, there will be plenty of hurdles ahead. But after three weeks in the hospital we are ready for her to return home.

I went to Bible study tonight, like I do every Monday night. The plan was for me to go home after that and get some work done. I called her when I got home to see how she was doing. She looked good before I left the hospital around 6 p.m., and she appeared to be ready for a productive evening. But when I called her, she sounded down. I said, "Do you want me to come back to the hospital?" She didn't respond. I said, "Tammy?" She said, "It would be nice to see you again."

I finished the short project I was working on, and headed back to the hospital.  She brings such joy to me, a change of plans was not a problem. She asked me to help her go for another walk--one of the requirements the doctor gave her. She also asked me to just sit here with her. I now look forward to being able to help her walk around our house, to help her get ready for a shower in our bathroom, and to cuddle up in our bed.

That's something to anticipate.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Healing From the Inside Out

Ephesians 3:16-19
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Sometimes we have to work a little to come up with a Scripture reference and/or an illustration for our blog entry. Sometimes they just fall into our laps. Today it was the latter. The analogy was there. It just took a little research, and we found the verse above that fits exactly.

As you know, Tammy has been battling sores in her mouth and her throat for about 10 days. They are very painful, and the mucus that they produce has made it difficult for her to swallow, and sometimes even breathe. But other than swollen cheeks, it was hard to notice without looking inside her mouth.

But there was one exception. A blister formed on her bottom lip that was about an inch wide. When it broke, it scabbed over, a nasty black scab. Tammy was very conscious of it, mostly because it was tender. It also was unsightly. She's still beautiful, even with the scab, but still it bothered her. The temptation was to yank it off. But that would not have been a good idea, because the skin underneath was not ready and another scab would have formed.

When I arrived at the hospital this afternoon, the scab had loosened. It still was hanging on, but it was clear that it was getting closer to falling off. Our friend, Beth, who was Tammy's nurse yesterday and today, kept reminding her to let it fall off. She had to heal "from the inside out." When the skin underneath was ready, it would push it off.

About a half-hour ago, it fell off. It's amazing how much better Tammy feels without that hard scab hanging on her lip. Her lip hurts less. She's not worried about it any more. It's a sign of healing, of cleansing. I'm sure you get where I'm going with this.

We can work hard to make changes in our lives, but it's not until the "skin underneath," or the part of us that makes us who we are, is ready that we have healing. God heals us by changing our "inner being." When the inside is healed, He can inhabit our souls and we "may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

More in Love Every Day

Song of Solomon 1:15
"How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves."

On January 1, I made a commitment to read a lengthy passage of Scripture every day with the plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. I've done that before, but this year I'm reading the Bible in chronological order. So in the middle of Genesis, there was a 12-day break as I read through Job. (I found a web site that lays out a plan, so I know what to read each day.)

It's been very interesting to read it this way, because a lot of the things I have read in the past made more sense in order. So far I have not missed a day. It's become such an integral part of my day, I find myself getting up a little earlier so I can read that day's passage.

Today, the assignment was to read all of Song of Solomon. I remember this as being a very passionate book, as a man and a woman go back and forth talking about how much they love each other, even with some interjection of disbelief from friends. Their love is unfailing.

It was another reminder of how much I love Tammy, and why. When the book lists what the man loves about the woman, a lot of it is physical beauty. I know men are visually stimulated, and I have to agree with the man. I was attracted to Tammy first because of her physical beauty, especially her eyes (thus the verse I chose above). But through the 46 years I've known her, and especially the 32 years we were dating and have been married, I have come to appreciate her true beauty--that of her spirit. As strikingly beautiful as she is, she's even more beautiful on the inside.

I look forward to many more days of being able to praise her for her outward and inward beauty. She is an inspiration to me (and others), and I love her even more today than I did yesterday. If you had asked me last night if it was possible to love her even more than I did then, I would have said no. But, sure enough, I do (I love that two-word expression). And as hard as it is to believe, I'll probably love her even more tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, the doctor was just in and he said things continue to get better. She's off all pain medicine now and they're slowing down some of the other meds as well. She was able to eat some solid food today for the first time in about a week. She will continue to try new stuff, with the hope of being able to go home Monday, or more likely Tuesday.

I love that idea!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Next Step

Exodus 12:2
"This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year."

Tammy and I are both resting this evening at the hospital. She's still in recovery mode, though she continues to improve. I moved my office today, and I'm exhausted. I don't have that much stuff, but it took most of the day. I'm sore and tired, but with a sense of accomplishment. I can't wait to start operating in the new digs.

As we sat here and visited, we tried to figure out what to write. I walked by her "information board," where the nurses put the day's stats, and it hit me. Today is June 1, a new month. The transplant is so last month's news. She's now into a new month with its own set of challenges and opportunities. She'll go home EARLY this month, and will begin the at-home portion of the long road to recovery.

We are so blessed that she is doing so well. Her sores are going away. They've taken her completely off the pain medicine drip. She still has the pump available if she experiences sudden pain, but she hasn't used it in a couple of days. Her counts continue to rise. Everything looks good.

We're not out of the woods, so please don't stop praying. We covet your prayers for a complete recovery.