Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Single Day in God's House

For more than a week now I have had a hunger inside of me. We have had our days filled with doctors and tests and at times feel like each day is a blurr. We have had many visitors who encourage us and bless us, and show us that God is still on His throne. We have enjoyed many encouraging phone calls and read many texts and emails that remind us that we are loves and God is doing a work in our lives and the lives of those praying for us. But I still miss getting together with our church family on Sunday morning.

This morning I had hoped to be able to go to a church service close to the hospital, but as I was getting up to get ready, the doctor mentioned that Josh seemed to be retaining fluids and he thought he heard a slight heart murmur when listening to his heart. A few minutes later the nurse/tech took his blood pressure and needed to take it again because it was low. So I changed directions and decided to stay here to keep an eye on Josh. I felt disappointed at not being able to go to church.

I miss getting together with brothers and sisters in Christ to sing His praises and study His word. I miss the fellowship of our Sunday School class and the time sharing prayer requests. There is something refreshing and encouraging about worshiping God with others who come hungry to learn about Him. We are encouraged in the book of Hebrew to meet together regularly.

Heb. 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Some people go to church because it is what they always do on Sunday, or because it is a good place to meet other people. I've even heard people say that it is a good place to make business contacts, but the truth is, going to church is not a religious thing. It doesn't make you a better person in God's eyes, it doesn't earn you rewards or protect you from bad things but it is about choosing to be in a place where God can encourage you, through his other children.

If you look at our regular lives, we look for opportunities to be with other people who make us feel good. We might go to breakfast with a group of men to talk about our week, we might go shopping with friends or go hiking or hunting. We do these thing because we enjoy being with people who care about us and encourage us.

As people who choose to follow Christ, if we will meet together and speak truth into each others lives, together we will find a joy and happiness that comes from becoming who God wants us to be. Although this idea of living the way God suggests goes against what we hear and see every day, what I have found is that when I make choices that are consistent with what God wants, then we avoid the consequences that come with poor choices.

Here in North America, we have the freedom to publicly worship God. Sometimes when we have the freedom to do something, we don't take it as seriously. Like voting. But how would you look at thing if you were told you couldn't do it anymore. If reading the Bible or getting together to sing Gods praises was outlawed, we might make it more of a priority. I would encourage you this week to make going to church a priority.

Here are just a few verses that express how I have been feeling about church.

Psa. 122:1 I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”


Psa. 84:10 A single day in your courts

is better than a thousand anywhere else!

I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God

than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.


Psa. 84:2 I long, yes, I faint with longing

to enter the courts of the LORD.

With my whole being, body and soul,

I will shout joyfully to the living God.



I hope that you will choose to meet together regularly with other Christ followers. I know that if you do, others that don't know Him will see Him in you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hats and friends!


Hello everybody! This is Josh!

So as you can see I had some great visitors the other day! That is Leah Green and her friend Kevin! It was a wonderful visit and as you can see they brought me some amazing hats and...a moustache!
I enjoyed their visit so much and am glad they came to visit!




Today we had a great time with Byron and Hailey (I hope I spelled their names right. If not I apologize.) It was so much fun to be able to see them and talk with them! They are amazing people!

Thank you Morrisons for stopping by! It was great to see and talk with you and I appreciate you giving me some of your time!

It has been so much fun having visitors and getting to know them all! I still can't believe that so many people live in Houston that are related to our fellow Dalhart-ians! Mr and Mrs Morrison, you raised a very wonderful daughter! She's so much fun to talk to and Mom loved having the company! It was so good to hear her laugh again! I missed the sound of her laugh and thanks to our visitors she's laughing again! Thank you so much for giving us laughter again! It means a lot to us all!

Thank you so much for your prayers!
Love from MD Anderson!
Josh

What Day Is It

The days seem to run into each other when each day seems the same as the one before. The little variances like the color of the chemo bags help a little, but every morning I have to think about it to figure out what day of the week it is.

Josh is resting peacefully this morning so we have had the chance to get out and walk a little. He continues to tolerate the chemo well. It does seem a little quieter in the hospital, there is much less traffic, which may have to do with it being a teaching hospital. But even with the quiet, we feel imprisoned here against our will. We would rather be home with our friends and church family, but we are kept here by the need to se our son healed.

This morning in my devotions I read a statement that challenged me. It was a quote from Charles Spurgeon. My initial response was that I would rather reject what he said because the statement was too hard to accept.

I'll quote it for you and let you decide what you would do with it.

Spurgeon wrote, "In our affliction, God is doing nothing to us which we should not wish for ourselves if we were as wise and loving as God is."

I am not implying that God has cause this to happen to our family, but I am confident that in His mercy and love, He has allowed us to walk through this valley in the shadow of death.

The only way that I can begin to move in that direction is when I read Philippians 1:12, where Paul who is writing from prison states, "And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News."

When you look at what you are going through today, can you say that it has helped to spread the Good News?



Friday, July 29, 2011

Family

Hello everyone! This is Josh.
Today I'd like to express just how much I love and appreciate them!

Family is such an amazing thing and you see just how amazing they are in times of crisis, hard times and trials. Over the past two weeks I have had the chance to see just how much my parents love me and my sister!

Mom and Dad and I started this journey over two weeks ago and during that whole time I have seen each and every bit of love they have given. I see it when Dad gets only three or four hours of sleep at a time because he is concerned for me. I see it when Mom sits next to me holding my hand telling me how much she loves me. I see it when I wake up and the first thing I see is Dad holding a small container of Apple juice so my blood pressure stays up.

These are just some of the few things that shows me that my family loves me! I can see that my church family loves us to because of your continuous prayers and all the support you have given us!

So thank you all for supporting my family with your prayers!
Love from My family, to yours!
Josh

Where in the World is the Peace?

Josh and I have had a peaceful night. I think we are almost used to the 3 or 4 interruptions each night to check on Josh's vitals. He almost doesn't wake up and I wake up enough to see that everything is ok. But even without the side effects that we are fearful of, there is always in the back of our minds the reminder that at any time, he could get an infection or have a reaction or any number of other things that could go wrong.

This morning as I opened my devotional for today, it talked bout peace. The apostle Paul wrote that God gives peace through Jesus Christ. And as I thought about it, I reflected on how unpeaceful our lives have been lately. It only took a few moments to realize that our daily lives could be better described as being chaotic then peaceful.

And to be fair, our lives have changed dramatically in the last two weeks. We went from a fairly regular schedule, focused on the responsibilities we had; to living in hospitals, speaking a different language, being isolated from our friends and church family and wondering each morning if this would be the day. Would things get worse today or will they stay the same?

It is easy to quote verses like Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." But lets be honest, if someone we love is staring death in the face, it makes us a little anxious.

As a family we are facing a medical crisis that still has us reeling. As a church body, world wide and locally, we are facing a spiritual crisis that shocks us. As a community we are in the midst of a drought that will cause a financial crisis effecting everyone. As a nation we are facing a serious debt crisis, war, unemployment, housing crisis and many other local and national problems.

So when the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, where in the world is that peace.

In John 14, as Jesus is telling His disciples that He will lay down His life for them, He tells them, "my peace I give you". If that is the case, where is that peace?

Jesus goes on to explain it a few verses later, "I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." and then explains further in in John 16. He tells His disciples, “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.”

Now that totally explains our world right now. In this world you will have trouble. What kind of trouble did He mean? He was referring to trouble like failed crops due to a drought or floods, financial failures, tropical storms, earthquakes, wars, death of loved ones and even watching your son get chemotherapy to fight his cancer.

So where in the world is the peace? The peace is in Jesus last statements in that verse, "But take heart" or as another version says, "be of good courage", for Jesus has already overcome the world. Our peace does not come from this world, it is in spite of this world.

We are learning each day that the peace of God is not dependant on our circumstances, but comes from our Hope in Him. Our peace is not in this world, it is in our hearts. Our prayer is that the peace that God has given us will cause those around us to see Him.

If your world is less than peaceful today, remember that God offers us His peace. Let His light shine through you today so that others will see Him in you.

On a side note, some of the guys from FBC Dalhart are climbing up Wheeler Peak, the tallest peak in New Mexico today. It was a trip that Josh and I had planned on going on together. Pray for their safety. They promised to take a moment and pray for Josh when they reached the summit.

Keep Ilene in your prayers today, she had an upset stomach this morning. We are trying to be careful not to get sick, because we don't want to expose Josh to anything.

We pray that you all have a good day. It is raining (a little) here in Houston.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beads of Courage



Hello everyone! This is Josh! I apologize for posting this so late but I thought I'd quickly tell you what is going on!

So today was my second day of Chemotherapy and so far I have not felt any of the side effects! So any way I just wanted to thank you all for your prayers and good wishes! I truly believe that your prayers have made my treatments easier!


Ok, so anyways Mom was good enough to take pictures of my bag of chemo today but it looks more like kool-aid! She took some pictures of my nurse, whose name is Sarah, administering it to me early this morning! (I'm sure you can tell that by the look on my face)




So now I will explain the Beads of Courage foundation. The foundation was set up for cancer patients as a motivational tool! Each of the beads stand for something:

Black stands for how many times I have been poked since my hospitalization.

White stands for each different treatment.

Light green is for X-rays, EKG's, and ECHO's etc.

Sadly there are so many different beads I can't list them all but the picture at the top should show you what all has happened so far. It is a wonderful foundation and I know I have had fun with it!

So we had a very nice visit today from Brad and Suzanne, (I hope I spelled her name right) Holmes! They are doing well so thank you to them for spending that time with me! It was very nice to see them again!

Thank you all again for your prayers!
Love from me and my family!
Josh



When it Rains it Pours

Ilene and I walked down the street today to LA Fitness (I'll tell you that story later) and half way there, water started falling from the sky. As we walked enjoying the rain drops, Ilene told me that she had heard a hurricane was headed our way. To add to our stress, we were in an underground parking structure and had to back up and accidentally backed into a pickup and scratched the rear bumper.

Regarding the hurricane, our prayer is that the rain will come all the way to Dalhart.

Many of you have asked about Josh's chemotherapy plan. His current treatment will be a total of 10 days. He gets Cytarabine for 10 days (twice a day), Doxorubicin days 2-6 and Etoposide days 2, 4 & 6. After the 10 days of treatment, if Josh is healthy enough, they will release him from the hospital until his blood counts come back to close to normal.

Then he will be readmitted for 8 days of chemotherapy. When healthy enough they will release him until his counts are back up. There will be a total of 5 rounds of treatment, the last three are shorter than the first two, and they try to get all of them done in 6 months.

The goal is to kill all of Josh's cancer cells with the chemo, the problem is that the chemo also kills the healthy fast growing cells (white blood cells, hair etc) so the side effects are the risk of infection and hair loss which is almost guaranteed.

Because of the number of chemo meds today, he has bee hooked up to the IV getting chemo since 10 am this morning and will finish about 10:30 tonight. So far, he has not experienced any nausea or adverse side effects.

With all of that, God continues to remind us that we are His children and He will not only provide for our needs, He will bless us with things that are luxuries. Ilene was talking to one of the families that have been bringing us meals, and asked about a place to exercises. Later that day the woman called back and told Ilene that they had signed us up for a month at the local LA Fitness which is 3 blocks away.

Then that family took Sarah to the movies today with their 18 year old daughter. Sarah has been invited by a couple of the teens to go to church with her.

One of the most challenging aspects of this journey has been the isolation we feel being so far away from friends and family. But God continues to send His children to encourage us and bless us even when we are so far from home.

If the tropical storm turns into a hurricane we hope that it rains and pours (all the way to Dalhart) because we know that our God is faithful and wants all of us to turn our hearts to Him.

You are all a blessing to us and we miss you.


The Truth is ...

It should not be a surprise to any of us that each day God has a lesson in His word for our situation that day.

I posted a blog earlier and used the WWF as an example.

What you may not know is that I wrestled in high school. Initially it wasn't because I thought wrestling was cool. I, like most other freshman boys in my high school tried out for the basketball team. Basketball was the big sport at Faith Academy (Manila Philippines) and coach Hardeman was a legend at putting together winning teams. My older brother had made the team so I thought there was a good chance that I would too.

I was very disappointed when I saw the final cuts and my name was not on the list. Which is why I joined the wrestling team. Amazingly, I really enjoyed wrestling. I wasn't very good at it, but I enjoyed the camaraderie that the team had . What I did learn from wrestling was that it took hard work, disciplined eating and you almost always felt pain, especially when you lost.

I had never seen WWF until after I graduated from high school. The first time I saw it there was a sense of awe that these guys could do these amazing and spectacular things and was beginning to think, "I could do that, with a little more practice", until one guy picked up a chair and hit the other guy with it.

And then I knew, it wasn't real. They were faking it. But as I watched the crowds around the ring, I could see that some of them .... most of them were so captivated by what they saw, that they truly believed what they were seeing. And they were so engrossed in it that they would yell and scream at their hero's opponent, and they were willing to do just about anything for their hero. But their enthusiasm did not make the spectacle any more real.

Our lives can be like the WWF. This morning I ran down to the Ronald McDonald House and then walked back with Ilene. We missed the dogs pulling at their leashes, but it was good to just walk. When I got back to Josh's room I opened up the devotions book (Unto The Hills by Billy Graham) that the Miersma's gave him and read the devotions for today.

The passage was from Romans 1, and specifically looking at how we tend to look at imitations and start acting like they are the real thing. Take clothing for example. If you can't afford that brand name designer dress, purse or shoes, then you find a "knock-off" to make you look like you could afford it. The fact that there is an imitation tells us that there was an original that was copied. And the world tries to copy God, looking for a short cut that doesn't involve giving up personal desires.

We look for things in our lives that will comfort us, make us happy or give us hope for what we are going through and then we begin to use them as good luck charms. If bad things result we blame chance or someone else and then try to appease the good luck charm to get our good luck back.

I am so thankful that there is no such thing as luck. I have a God who knows and controls my destiny and is intentional about using the circumstances (sometimes bad circumstances that I have caused) to draw my attention back to Him. It would be easy to look at what is happening to our family and blame it on bad luck.

But the truth is ... I have the choice of believing the truth or a lie. If I choose the lie, I will spend my life trying to find hope and peace and love in or through the things of the world. But if I decide to seek truth, I will find God and in finding him, will experience a peace that passes all understanding.

Right now, at 9:30 am on Thursday morning, there is a calmness in our lives. Josh is still sleeping and nothing traumatic has happened this morning. But today, Josh will have 3 different types of chemotherapy treatments. The roller-coaster may drop, but if the world around us goes into chaos, we have a God who is faithful and gives peace, and loves my son more than I do. And I can take comfort in knowing that He has been where I am going and He will provide what we need, one day at a time.

Buy into the truth, don't settle for an imitation and what ever you do, don't eat a greasy burrito before riding a roller-coaster.

Remember, this is all about God wanting to use you to influence the 8-15 people that He has strategically put into your life. Because if you tell them the truth, they will believe it, because they should be seeing it in your life.

There is a great book written by Tom Mercer, a good friend of ours, that explains it better than I can. Here is a link to his website, Oikoschurches.com


Round Two

The other day Josh was flipping through channels (a novelty for us as we choose not to pay for cable) and he came across the WWF channel (World Wrestling Federation). We had a brief discussion about how it wasn't all real (sorry if that is a surprise to you).

Sometimes as we get ready to go into the next round, we listen for the bell to ring and think, okay, here we go again.

Today at 10am Josh will get his 2nd dose of chemo, and then his 2nd type of chemo. Later I will describe as best as possible what the next 9 days will look like in terms of therapy. Josh tolerated the chemo with out any noticeable side effects.

Using the roller-coaster analogy, it feels like we are on one of those flat places on the ride and we can't see around the corner to know if the next part is up, down or upside down. I am just thankful that God is at the controls and He won't let us crash or fall off.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chemotherapy


Hello everyone! This is Josh!

So, the nurse just left after attaching the chemo to my PICC Line and so far so good. However several individuals have informed me that the effects will not show up until the second or third day so please keep me in your prayers!

Also, if you could pray that I don't toss Herbie out the window I would very much appreciate it!

The awkward thing rolls over my toes in the bathroom...
So anyway just wanted to let you know that my treatment has officially started and that if my body reacts well I could be home for a few weeks in a little over ten days! Pray my spirits stay up!

Thank you all for your prayers!
Love from MD Anderson!
Josh

The Chemo Begins

Josh will begin getting chemo around 10 pm tonight. They are giving him another unit of blood before he chemo, and will give him a 2nd unit after the chemo. Keep us in your prayers and we will give you an update in the morning.

Tour of MD Anderson

This is my pick line!






The Aquarium at MD Anderson


Hello everyone! This is Josh!

So the other day I promised pictures and am now adding them so let me quickly explain what happened in my day!

(PICTURES: TOP LEFT) Mom, Dad and I standing in the entrance in MD Anderson)


This is me standing at the amazing Fountain in the entrance to MD Anderson. The fountain was amazing! P.S. the girl in the background has nothing to do with the fountain!







This is me and Herbie-I hate that machine-at lunch sipping yet another mocha and chowing down on sushi! Mmm!








This is a beetle of some kind and it was cool because it ran right underneath Moms foot at lunch! She screamed and jumped clear out of her seat! EPIC!









I love the room service here! Not only is the food absolutely delicious but the Food Nutritionists wear little tuxedos! Isn't that awesome! I love it!

Thanks Mom for bringing me by own blanket!!!






(PICTURES: TOP RIGHT)

Sign welcoming us to the aquarium!


(PICTURE: BOTTOM RIGHT)

Dad and I standing in front of all the fish!






Thank you all for your prayers! I appreciate everything! Love from MD Anderson!

Josh

Ronald McDonald House

I wanted to give you the address for where Ilene and Sarah are staying.

The address here at the hospital is

MD Anderson Cancer Center
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 792-6161
Room G1038

Josh will begin his chemo treatment tonight at 10PM.

He started looking for beanie caps. His spirits are good.

Thanks for your prayers

Complaining Can Cause Snake Bites

Josh said he had a better day yesterday. Mom and Dad feel like the roller-coaster as gone around a few too many times and feel that sick feeling in your stomach, kind of the way you would feel getting off of a roller-coaster after eating a greasy burrito. Think about that picture for a minute.

Aunt Kakie (she is every ones aunt in Dalhart) called this morning to encourage us and remind us that they are praying. I was reminded how much we miss the people we are so familiar with. We miss being home. We feel isolated because we are in a new city, we don't even know where the closest grocery store is and they park cars in tall buildings and make you pay to get out.

Ilene and I have some routines that many of our friends feel define us. Most mornings we take or dogs for a walk, hand in hand (with each other not the dogs), and talk about our day and our family and what God is doing. Often we walk down into the canyon and enjoy the coolness and quietness of the morning and it give us the chance to connect as we start our day.

For more than a week now we have been sleeping in hospital rooms, eating hospital food, getting lost in elevators, trying to make sense of what each day brings and trying to be strong for our son who has been given a diagnosis that sound more like a death sentence to parents then a treatment plan.

We are being asked to trust the opinion of people we don't even know and to put the life of our 17 year old son in the hands of people who we have just recently met. To make our experience more surreal, yesterday when we went back to the car, we found that someone had keyed the passenger side doors (Dorothy, your not in Kansas anymore).

So this morning I got back from taking a short run and sat down to read a daily devotions (even that routine has been interrupted, our normal seats and even the bible I am comfortable with are 700 miles away) from Lifeway that I get each morning and the title was "Tempted to Complain". I was tempted not to read it because I figured it was about to bite me. The verse was about the time that the Israelites, after coming out of captivity in Egypt started to complain (again) because they grew impatient with the long journey.

In Numbers 21 it says "the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained."

That is truly the way I feel. The food is (hospital food) not what we are used to, the water tastes different, the bed squeeks, all the machines in the room make sounds, the nurses come in at all hours of the night and turn lights on and ... you know what I mean. But even as I write this I should be picking up my feet to avoid the snakes (read the rest of the story in Numbers 21).

It would be so easy to shake my fist at God and say, why did you do this to us, we where doing just fine in Dalhart the way we were. What did we do to deserve this?

Reading that passage in Numbers today gave me a new perspective. Was the situation the Israelites in different and sometimes difficult? Absolutely. Were they uncomfortable with the unknown? Certainly. But was God doing amazing, spectacular and miraculous things around them to show them His power and love for them? Unquestionably.

So this morning before I get bit by a snake, let me tell you of some of the amazing, spectacular and even miraculous things our Father in heaven is doing for us here in Houston. To start with, had Dr. Turner not been so great, we would still be at home, with Josh thinking he was just being a teenager and fighting a flu bug, and he probably would have gotten so sick that he could have died within a few weeks. Thanks Dr Matt for an accurate diagnosis and insisting that we go to the ER in Amarillo.

Next, each step of the way God has expedited tests and the availability of doctors to quickly get us to MD Anderson, even opening up a room for Josh in one of the busiest hospitals in the world. Since we have been here, Josh has had the best of care, and access to the most recent therapy options and diagnosis. The nurses and doctors all love him and go the extra mile to give him the best of care.

How has God provided for Mom, Dad & sister? To begin with, Ilene and Sarah were able to stay at Katie Nelsons grandma's home on their drive down from Dalhart. When they got here, Parker Green's sister (who lives in the Houston area) brought us a wonderful meal with snacks and bottles of water. The next night she came by and picked up Sarah and took her to youth group so that she could get to know some teenagers in Houston.

Then, when we met with the social worker, they told us that there is usually a waiting list to get into the Ronald McDonald house, so we got our paperwork in quickly. We heard back that same evening (about an hour later) that the had a room for us and when we walked in the lobby to check in, they told us that Fuddruckers had brought by dinner and we should eat first.

The room has a beautiful window view and the people are so kind and helpful. They have laundry facilities that the families can use, game rooms for the kids, kitchens with refrigerator and freezer space for each family and they have a shuttle that can bring Ilene and Sarah to the hospital every day (to save on parking) although it is only a 2 block walk. To add icing to the cake, today they have a field trip for kids and their families to the Rainforest Cafe and they will pick up the tab for food (so Sarah is going on that today). All of that for $25 a day.

The hospital food for Josh is really more like room service. When he is ready to eat we call room service and order off of a menu. The first night he had grilled shrimp, then he had a stir-fry shrimp bowl the next night. He is eating a bacon and cheese omelet with breakfast potatoes this morning. The food gets delivered by waiters who wear back vests and look very professional.

Would it be easy to complain about all of the difficulty, frustration, inconvenience and pain that we are going through? Yes, and very tempting to do so. But like the Israelites, if we start to complain, we will miss seeing the amazing things that God is doing, and end up snake-bit. The end of the story is that God wanted them to turn back and look at Him. A short while later, they see the blessings of God and a song is recorded that sounds a lot like the chorus we used to sing "spring up oh well with in my soul, spring up oh well and make me whole, spring up oh well and give to me, that life abundantly".

In case you have forgotten, the verse goes like this:

I've got a river of life flowin' out of me.
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.
I've got a river of life flowin' out of me.

So what will you let flow out of you today? Will the people that God puts in your way see and hear complaining and gripping and all about how terrible your life is? Or will there be a river of life flowing out of you. A refreshing spring that people see that makes them want to hang around you because you are refreshing. Because if you will look up and see the blessings around you, the challenges and difficulties of life may not disappear, but they will dim in comparison to God's blessings.

Tell someone today how God has blessed you and what you are thankful for. You may be the river of life that they need today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ronald Mcdonald and Meet the Morgans



Hello everyone! Salutations from MD Anderson!
This is Josh!

So, before I get to far I'd like to explain the title of my post tonight! Ok, so the Ronald Mcdonald thing is because originally Mom and Dad were not supposed to be able to get a Ronald Mcdonald room at their house but after all God is amazing and He allowed a room to open up!

{Pictures Top: Me and my complimentary gifts from the wonderful Ronald Mcdonald house!}

{Picture Bottom: Me and my Mocha!}




And as for Meet the Morgans, it is one of my favorite movies of all time which I am watching right now with Mom and Dad!

Anywhoville, today was a much better day than my first day here so thank you all for your prayers! it means the world to me!

I know I said I would post some pictures today which I will post some but unfortunately I wont be able to post as many as I'd like to.

As for what it is like here it is pretty good! the nurses are ok but I miss my nurse from BSA, Brandy, who was awesome! Sadly she was unable to come to Houston but it will be ok.

I wanted to ask if you would pray for me as I make my decision as to treatment. The Doctors and Nurses are pushing pretty hard to continue with chemotherapy treatment. Some of my family thinks I should go a Holistic route which means things like Cottage Cheese and Flax seed oil.

So, moving on, today Mom and Dad came in after coming back from the Ronald Mcdonald house they brought me a complimentary polka dot blanket and a beanie baby bear! As well as a Starbucks Iced Caramel Mocha! I finally got my fix! Here are some pics!

Thank you all for prayers!
Josh


Life's Daily Decisions

Yesterday we met with the Primary Oncologist. He told us that the clinical study that we had hoped to get Josh into was closed except for people that have a rare strain of AML that effects a specific gene. They will test Josh to see if he qualifies, but if he does it is bad news not good news as that form of AML has very poor survival rates.

It was a very difficult day for us as we are feeling the fatigue of travel and hospital life and then having to make decision about medical treatment that stretch our faith. Most decisions in our daily lives fall into the category of, what will I wear today or where should I eat lunch. Sometimes we face the more challenging decisions like who should I marry or should I apply for this new job. Many of these decisions are important and I admit that in the past I have taken some of them to lightly without prayer or seeking God's wisdom.

Today or tomorrow we will face a decision about the life of our son. The doctors tell us that the Leukemia that Josh has will kill him if untreated in as few as 3 months. The only option they are offering is to treat him with chemotherapy (a combination of drugs that kill cells in his body) that have life long side effects that include potential damage to his heart, infertility, hair loss, nausea, risk of infection from low white blood cell counts and a few other things that sound minor until you combine them with everything else.

In exchange for these side effects they can give us an educated guess of a survival rate of around 60%. They have made many advances in the treatment of AML over the last 20 years, and many of the advances are in managing the side effects that result from the chemotherapy as well as improving the survival rate from 20-30% to over 50%.

Today they will give Josh an ecocardiogram to check his heart function. We are still waiting for some of the test results before they can give us the options on the specific treatment. We will also meet with a physician from the Integrative Medicine Program that can give us information about alternative treatments that can help with some of the side effects.

Our prayer is that we will have wisdom on helping Josh choose the best course of treatment. So much of the treatment process involves the patients commitment to fight through the side effects and the emotional stress that the entire family goes through. We have heard many times already that this is more of a marathon than a sprint and it is important to approach things one day at a time.

Today is a new day and we may have to make life and death decisions with our son. But I am continually reminded of Psalm 139

Psa. 139:13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

16 You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

before a single day had passed.


God was not surprised last week when we found out that Josh had AML. Nothing that the doctors can do will change what God knows about Josh. When we face these life and death decisions, it feels like we are acting like God, but that is why God is God and we are not. I can't become God and cause my son to live or die. I can't change the number of his days because every day of Joshua's life has been numbered already.

Today is Josh's 6,382nd day.

It is one more day that God had in His book for Him. I don't know all that today holds for you or for me today. Today I will choose to tell others about the God who loves me so much that He chose to sacrifice His son's life so that I could live.

As a dad I can't imagine that. I told Josh the other day that if it was in my power, I would take his AML if he could live. I realize now that giving up my life would be easier than sacrificing my son's. God has been where I am today, he had a choice to make, to save his one and only son and let everyone else get what they deserved, or He could sacrifice His son and offer everyone the gift of life.

Today God has already decided how He will bless our family. He has chosen to put us at MD Anderson to show off His Glory, Faithfulness and Mercy. Today we will learn more about Him and see Him at work in us and through us. Please pray that we will have patience and grace as we interact with medical professionals who don't even believe that He exists. And pray that as we choose between courses of treatment that we would have wisdom. That as we make life and death decisions, that others would see God in us.

Take the decisions that you have today seriously. As for me and my house, we choose to serve the Lord and let Him be glorified through us.



Monday, July 25, 2011

First day with chemo


Hello everyone! This is Josh!

Today was technically the first day of my Chemo which has not been that bad! This morning around 10:30 is or so they wheeled me down to the 3rd floor from the 10th floor to the anesthesia ward. It was really cool! I got a plastic tube put in my nose for oxygen and an EKG tabs on my chest and a O2 sensor that they strapped to my finger! It was so weird. They told me I would start to feel tired and I remember that I was starting to feel like I was growing tired and the next thing I know I woke up in the recovery room!

I guess when I woke up I told the nurse, "There aren't any unicorns in The Wizard of Oz."

Anyway I am getting used to my room and am watching TV with mom dad and Sarah as Mom and Dad snack on some Mexican food! I had an IV put in yesterday and have to carry it around so I thought I'd give him a name: Herbie! Tomorrow I will be posting quite a few pictures if I am able!

So while I was asleep they put a PICC line, (A long tube that runs through my right arm all the way through my chest and rests on top of my heart) It isn't as bad as it sounds and I was asleep during the procedure so all is good! The doctors here are great and the nurses as well!

We had a wonderful visit from a Leah Green who is Parker Green's sister who is the one who brought mom and dad the mexican food! She was really nice and gave me a great get well card! I'm looking forward to tomorrow so I can post some pics!



Just to remember God's goodness, here is what the view out of the window looks like.


Thank you guys all for your prayers and good wishes!
Josh

And The Treatment Begins


Today they will begin treating Josh for AML. Thanks to the great treatment and diagnosis that we received from BSA and Dr Turner in Dalhart, they are able to begin treatment today. The pathologist was able to look at the slides from BSA and confirm the diagnosis. They are still waiting on some results to determine the sub-type and to check if there are any genetic abnormalities. Sometimes AML damages the genes.

Josh will have an LP (lumbar puncture) this morning. They are checking for Leukemia cells in the nervous system. This test will help determine how advanced his AML is. During the procedure he will also receive his first round of chemo (cytarabine) in his spine.

The staff here has been wonderful. They take the time to answer Josh's questions and use language that even dad can understand. We will have a team meeting later today with the doctors that will live us more information about what the next few weeks will look like.

Ilene and Sarah stayed with some friends near Dallas and will be driving down to Houston this morning.

We are blessed to the point of being overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our friends and family. You have shown us Christ's love in tangible ways and it is an encouragement to us and a testimony to those around us of how God cares for His children.

This morning as aI sit waiting for them to come and take Josh to get his LP, I read a devotions for today. The title was "Joy in Tribulation". In Ephesians 5:20 we are encouraged to give thanks "always and for all things". It is easy to say, when I was little the pray we said around the table was " giving thanks always for all things, in the name of the Father, Amen". As kids we loved that prayer because it was short and we could get right to eating, but really, we just thought it meant that we still had to eat our broccoli and be thankful for it.

Sitting here and trying to thank God for allowing Josh to have cancer is much different than eating broccoli. How do I thank Him for the pain that we are going through? How do I thank Him for turning our lives upside down? How do I thank Him as we begin a journey "through the valley of the shadow of death"?

I don't know the full answer to that, only that I have seen God work in amazing way this week. I have watched as His people have sacrificed and served and prayed. We have been the recipients of an outpouring of love and encouragement. We have seen how others watch in wonder as God opens doors that only He could open.

As I sit here in a hospital room 700 miles from home, watching kids walk the halls with amputated limbs and bald heads, most of them much sicker than Josh, I am able to thank Him because I know that He knows what tomorrow holds.

And I can thank Him for you, you are making a difference in our lives by reading and praying. Thank you for allowing God to use you, and for being willing to walk with us through this challenging season of life.

Please tell someone today about what God is doing in our lives, and share how He is changing your life.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Houston Here We Come

Hello again everyone! This is Josh! I thought I'd give you an update on what's going on with me today!

For a few days we had been expecting to move to the MD Anderson Institution for my AML, which I still can't pronounce, and today that happened! I left BSA in Amarillo at about 12:30 ish or so and was brought down to an ambulance downstairs. The ambulance was very cool but sadly they did not turn on the emergency lights. The EMT's were wonderful and soon we reached the airport.


Shortly afterwards they pulled me out on the gurney and wheeled me over to this very sleek, white jet. The plane is operated by RICO Aviation and the pilot was Richard Coon (I guess his uncle had something to do with Coon Memorial Hospital). It is funny because originally I was supposed to fly in a propeller aircraft but I guess a few days ago Amarillo had really bad wind and it blew the hangar doors inwards, smashing the nose of the propeller plane and allowing me to fly in the jet.

So anyway I boarded the jet with dad, who got a very nice leather seat while I was stuck on a gurney that felt more like a small ironing board, and soon we were in the air. It was such a fun experience because I was able to turn and look through the cockpit as we soared up into the clouds! I snapped a pic with my cell phone of the plane but unfortunately I can't get it to post but that's OK.

The flight took about an hour and a half so it wasn't as bad as I thought so it was really a very nice flight! Houston is very green but extremely hot! And humid! When I stepped out of the plane there were two more EMT's, (also extremely nice and they reminded me of Laurel and Hardy) waiting to take me to MD.

So finally I am here in my hospital room complete with a PS3 and Nintendo Wii along with a murphy bed for dad! The Nurses came in and told me everything they were planning on doing including another Bone Marrow Biopsy and a Spine Tap and then gave me a vitals exam. My Nurse is a wonderful woman named Jennifer who actually grew up in the Philippines about 2 hours from where my dad spent some time as a missionary son! She is so sweet and has the coolest accent! She grew up in a town called Caviti and even spoke some Filipino with dad!

Anyway I could continue using your prayers. Today was a harder day. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and good wishes!
Love you all!
Josh

P.S That sock monkey now has a name! He is named Shwinky! I will be posting some photos hopefully tomorrow!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Last Night In Amarillo

Josh was happy to spend yesterday in Amarillo as he got to spend some more time with his cousins, aunts and grandma. The cousins threw a surprise birthday party for Sarah and the 50 year old man. They managed to round up a cake, party hats and party favors. They decided against lighting the candles (probably out or fear that the fire engines would roll out to a 50 candle lighting service).

Although mom and dad were hoping for a transfer to Amarillo, we know that God chose to bless Josh with a day with family. The cousins, aunts and grandma left early this morning to head back to California, Keep them in your prayers as they have a 15-16 hour drive home.

They have been a blessing and encouragement to Josh and Ilene, Sarah and I. We have had visitors every day who are such an encouragement and blessing to us. We feel blessed by our church family and know that God will walk with us during this challenge.



Patience for Patients

We are waiting again. This morning MD Anderson told us that they don't have a bed for Josh yet. They anticipate some openings as surgery patients go home throughout the day. Keep him in your prayers as his blood count numbers are starting to degrade. We are seeing this in his tiredness. The doctor said they are not bad enough to warrant another blood transfusion, but we will be watching them closely.

Josh's sister Sarah has started a blog from a siblings perspective. We are all learning that our lives have begun a journey in a new direction that will teach us patience. We are also learning that friends and family are fun to be with even in the hospital. 

We have had some great times laughing and having fun with so many visitors. The latest event is playing Mad Gab with cousins, sister, aunts and grandma, which is even more hysterical with hospital masks on.