Thursday, September 29, 2011

Round 3 of Chemo Begins

We spent the Wednesday morning sitting in waiting rooms and having tests done. Then after his bone marrow aspiration and lumbar puncture, we had a 2 hour window to run and get some lunch before getting admitted to a room.

It was a slow and uneventful evening and they didn't start chemo until 9pm. This round of chemotherapy should only last 4 days, but they have increased the dosage and added another chemo that is very strong.

There is a possibility that we could be headed back to Dalhart after the weekend if Josh doesn't run any fevers. But they have told us that we should expect to run more fever this time because the new type of chemo can cause fevers.

The doctor is pleased with Josh's progress. They continue to change the type of chemo they give him so that he will not build up a tolerance to it. Pray specifically that Josh does not sustain heart damage through this round of treatment. The new chemotherapy they will give him this time has the potential side effect of causing heart damage.

Thank you for your continued prayer. We know that God is at work and we are confident that He will be glorified through this process.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Big Is Our God?

There are times in our lives when circumstances make us do things that are unpleasant or unwanted. We didn't want cancer. We can't figure out what caused it. The doctors can't tells us what caused Leukemia so there doesn't seem to be anything that we could have done to avoid it.

When we learned of Josh's diagnosis on July 20, 2010 (at 5:00pm) our lives have changed. We have had to make life and death decisions, we have changed all of our regular normal patterns, we have had to give up most of our family traditions. Josh has spent less than 15 nights in his own bed in more than 2 months. As a family, we tried to have a regular schedule and one thing we did on a regular basis was to do fun things together as a family.

We have not been able to do much as a family together and certainly not much fun. 

When we heard that we had to return to MD Anderson this week (Josh was in the hospital for 10 days in Dalhart, he only spent 3 nights at home before we had to leave) we were all disappointed and discouraged. As we loaded into the car at 5:30 am on Tuesday to start the 10-12 hour drive we prayed. We usually pray before we take a trip, for safety, for direction and even for fun when we are going on a family trip.

This time, although there was nothing that we were looking forward to, I knew that we all need to experience some fun together as a family. So, as we sat there in the car I prayed, "Father, give us safety as we drive, help us to avoid traffic, and if there is any way you can work it out, as a family, we could really use a fun experience. Show us your faithfulness by letting us do something fun. Amen."

Then we drove 11 hours to Houston. On the way we saw a warning sign of a traffic accident blocking all lanes, in time to get off the freeway and go around, we found cheap gas and a few clean restrooms and arrived in Houston at the Ronald McDonald House earlier than expected.

Then God started showing off.

As we started unloading our luggage, we had to wait to get checked in. We were tired from the long drive and the early start. Although we had some plans to meet up with our friend Leah for dinner, no one was every excited to be in Houston. I was ready for a nap.

As we waited there, Kathy, who works with the RM House, walked by and asked if we wanted tickets to an Astro's game that a generous person had. We didn't really think much about it since the Astro's have had a tough season. Kathy told Ilene that the tickets were good tickets so we started talking about it. Well, after a little encouragement, Josh and  Sarah decided we should give it a try. We would still have time to go to dinner with our friend and still make the game.

With the tickets was a parking pass, and the face price on the tickets was substantial. (We have paid less for a car then what the 4 tickets cost - I will have Josh post a picture of the tickets) but we had no idea what God had in store for us. You see, I had already forgot that simple little prayer 13 hours ago, when I asked God to allow us to have some fun as a family.

When we arrived at Minute Maid Stadium, the prepaid parking was next to the stadium, I mean less than 100 feet from the entrance to the building at home plate.

Then as we walked in, we kept trying to go in the wrong area, and they kept sending us to these back door, hard to find doors, one that went downstairs through a tunnel and then through a dinning room. As we walk in, the attendant told us that all of the food and beverages were free and if we didn't want to miss any of the game, someone would bring food out to us.

And as we sat down, just in time for the first pitch, I remembered that prayer. With tears in our eyes, Ilene and I looked at each other and realized that God had answered our pray. We were sitting 9 rows back from the backstop, in seats that were padded, with an attendant bringing us free food and beverages.

We didn't get to bed till after midnight, and had to get up for a 7am doctors appointment. But I could hardly sleep. Even as I woke up, I thought about what an awesome God we have. He planned a way for us to have fun, to show us that He cares for us and loves us, in the middle of a journey through "the shadows of death". 

It reminded me of the story in the Bible about the Israelites as they left Egypt. They had a long walk through the desert, headed for something they didn't understand. They had to give up the lives they knew and trust God to provide for them. And He did. He gave them free food, fresh water, a fire at night to keep them warm and a cloud covering during the day to keep them cool. Their cloths and shoes didn't wear out and He went with them.

Like us, they still complained about how things used to be better in Egypt, but God still showed them His favor. Eventually, God took them (their children and grandchildren) into a land flowing with free milk and free honey. Gave them houses they didn't have to build and farms they didn't have to plant.

Today I realize that God has a plan for us. On this journey, even as we walk in the shadow of death, we don't have to fear evil, because He is with us. Even when we feel surrounded by enemies (cancer cells),  He prepares a banquet table for us (with free parking). Our cup is running over, we have been blessed and there is no one else that can take credit for it -- except the Lord, who is our shepherd.

Today, we are lying down in green pasture, beside still water and our souls are being restored.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me       
all the days of my life,    
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Thanks for your prayers. 

We have a huge God.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Back To Houston Already

We had a good weekend, for the first time in a long time, Ilene and I got to go to church together.

Monday morning, Josh was doing well. We went to the hospital for is blood tests and they even cleaned out one of his PICC lines. We continue to pray that he remains healthy and that his body recovers from all of the chemo. Well, his body is doing so well, that they want us back in Houston on Wednesday.

We had hoped that they would delay the trip by a few days or a week, but our doctor wants us to stay on track with his treatments.

Josh is very disappointed as he just got home from the hospital on Saturday night. He is not looking forward to another stay in the hospital, but the chemotherapy should only last about 6 days this time.

Please pray that this next round will go smoothly and that we can get home shortly after. Pray also for traveling mercies as we will drive 700 miles tomorrow.

We know God is faithful.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Josh Is Home

On Friday, We took Josh off of the IV antibiotics and his fever stayed down, so Saturday evening we were discharged from the hospital. Soon after he got home, he wanted a steak, so I went out to the local steak house and got him one.

It is good to see his appetite back. The nights at home are more restful with out interruptions for vitals and blood tests. It is nice just to be together as a family at home.

We are waiting to hear when we go back to Houston. We were scheduled to go back on September 28th, but we are hoping they will reschedule and give us a few more days at home.

I received word this morning that my dad's sister, my aunt Marge, went home to be with the Lord early thing morning. She had heart surgery a few weeks ago and never fully recovered. Please keep the family in your prayers, they live on the east coast in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What is an Ounce of Faith Worth

Some days it feels like our faith is measured by the ounce. Josh had a good day Wednesday. He went all day without a fever (after it spiked at around 6am) and ate well and felt good most of the day. He continues to be bold about his story. A number of the nurses have asked him about his journey and he tells them that it has been difficult, but that God has been faithful and he has seen God bless us even during the difficult times.

His temperature started creeping up again around 11 pm, and then by 4 am (yes we were awake again) it was 101. That was discouraging this morning (it feels like 2 steps forward 1 step back) but the good news was that his white blood counts went up and his platelets held steady since yesterday.

Every time Josh spikes a fever we face  the disappointment knowing we will probably be in the hospital for another 2 days. As discouraging as that is, we are continually reminded that God is faithful. We are confident that He has already put a plan in place and ultimately that plan is to test and purify our faith so that He can receive praise and honor.

In 1 Peter 1:4-7 we are told:

4For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.5And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.6So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.7These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold -- and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
If you are like me, I want to grow stronger with out facing difficulty. And I want the grow to be measure by the ton, not the ounce. But that is like trying to lose weight without cutting back on the amount of food I eat. It is like expecting to get into better shape physically without exercising. Its like trying to learn how to swim with out ever getting into the water.
But the truth is, we only grow when we face difficulty. The Bible says that it is necessary for us to endure many trials. Not a few, not one every once in a while, but many. Now your many may be different than my many, but if I understand what Peter is saying, when we face the many trials, our faith will be strengthened. He goes so far as to say that we should be truly glad - because there is wonderful joy ahead.
We know that our faith has been tested, and we continue to see God's faithfulness. The challenges that we continue to face on a daily basis, show us that the things of this world are less important than the things that God values. And Peter tells us that our faith is far more precious that mere gold (which today is worth $1,743 an ounce). So as your faith is tested  -- and as your faith grows, just remember that it has a greater value than gold.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Josh had a good evening yesterday, although he ran a fever at around 8pm he was without a fever through the night. His appetite came back and he ate a later dinner and started working on a blog (which I will have him finish up today).

They were concerned about his urine output so they did a sonogram on his kidneys. They said his kidneys look fine, except that they are a little inflamed from all of the medication they have given him.

Unfortunately, he ran a fever again this morning, so D. Turner is going to chart his fevers to see if they may be a reaction to the antibiotics they are giving him. At this point, they want to see 48 hours with out a fever before they will let us out.

Our Youth Pastor, Kurtis came by  and video taped Josh's testimony. Kurtis asked him to come and speak to the youth, but we didn't think he would be able to do that anytime soon, so we video taped him. Josh was very excited about doing it, so I will edit the video today and they will see about using it in the next week or so at youth.

Josh shared that what satan meant for evil, God has used for good. As difficult as this has been, walking every day in the shadow of death, we have seen God use it to open up peoples hearts to Him. There have been many times over the last two months that Josh has been able to share with people about how God has been faithful, how God has blessed him even in this terrible situation.

Keep us all in your prayers, we know that God has a plan, and His ways are not our ways. I will look for some video clips that I can use to post either on youtube or here on the blog.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Morning

Josh had a hard day Saturday. He was tired, because they gave him benadryl before they gave him his blood transfusion and then they had to increase the dose of one of his antibiotics (vancomyosin) which he has side effects to.

His fever spiked again in the evening, but came back down through the night. Today, Sunday, they are giving him the "Vanc" 3 times a day. We are praying that his fever will stay down so that we can be released soon.

I was able to get away from the hospital for a few hours Sunday morning and get to church. It was really nice to sit in Sunday School with our friends and enjoy the time together worshipping God. After church Ilene and Sarah sat with Josh and let me go and take a much needed nap.

The rest of the day Sunday was pretty good, but later in the evening, his temp started going up again and he got discouraged because he really wants to get out of the hospital. He slept well, and his fever came down over night. We are praying that he has a good day and can still get out tomorrow.

God continues to show us His faithfulness. It is so easy to get discouraged when things don't go the way we hoped, but each time we stop and look to see what He is doing, we see a bigger and different picture that results in His will being done. And when His will is done, we have learned to look forward to seeing the result and knowing that it will all have been worth it.

Thanks for your prayers. We hope that Josh gets to go home tomorrow, but if not we know that God has a plan.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Boasting Rights

Josh is still in the hospital here in Dalhart. He had a good day yesterday and got up and around a little. His kidney function improved quickly and although he still seems to be a little dehydrated, his blood count numbers seem to be trying to improve.

He ran a fever last night around 8, but it dropped down by 10 and his temperature was normal this morning.

He had a lot of visitors yesterday, Brother Bob spent the morning playing a board game with him and more friends dropped in though out the afternoon and evening. His spirits are lifted when people come to visit.

Our prayer is that he will stop spiking a fever in the evenings so that we can get released from the hospital on Monday.

This morning as I was reading my devotional about having a renewed mind as Christ Followers. I was reading in 2 Corinthians  and it talked about the "Supernatural Power" we are given when we decided to follow Christ. As I read about the having weapons that were "not of this world" it reminded me of a movie I recently watched.

Ilene and I went out on a date when we were in Houston and saw the movie Captain America (Focus on the Family Review). It is a story about a plain young man who is given super human strength. Initially, the government wants him to go around the country raising money through war bonds to finance the war. But he wants to use his powers to help his fellow soldiers.

I remember as a kid reading the comics and wishing that I had super powers so that I could go and help people. I even envied other people who were stronger or smarter or better athletes, because I wanted to do something special, something that I could boast about.

As I read through 2 Corinthians 10, I realized that it is easy to still envy the "Captain Americas" around us. They drive nicer cars or live in bigger houses. They make more money of have better jobs. They are funny and have perfect looks and can run 10 miles a day before breakfast and, and, and...

We compare ourselves to other people and think that we are less because we are not like them. We want to be better ... better than them. We want to have more than them and then we will .... (fill in the blank ________. Serve God, give to the poor, volunteer at church, you name it).

As I sit around the hospital waiting for my son to get well enough to go home before getting the next round of chemo, it is easy to think about all of the things I can't do, all of the things I don't have, and start to envy those that do have them. But as I read this morning about what God has given me, I can say that I have many things to boast about.

I can boast about what God is doing around us. We have been loved and blessed and encouraged by fellow Christ Followers and people who don't have a relationship with Him. We have been privileged to share (and watch our son share) about Gods faithfulness and blessings.

We have experienced God's undeserved love and blessing during the most challenging time of our lives. I don't have super powers like Captain America but I have seen God do supernatural things in our lives and I can boast about what a great God we serve.

As a Christ Follower, I choose to follow someone who gave up everything in order to have a relationship with me. And in response to that I will boast about what He continues to do in our lives everyday.

A few years ago, Pastor Rodney was doing a radio spot we called "Something to Think About". Here is Something to Think About for today.

When God shows you something amazing that He is doing -- why don't you boast about it to the 8 - 15 people that He has strategically put in your life.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When It Rain's It Pours

We use expressions like "when it rains it pours" usually in reference to difficult times. Here in the Panhandle of Texas, when it rains we will rejoice whether it is a sprinkle or a shower. Kids love to play in the rain, adults are afraid to get wet (and mess up their cars or hair or ...). But as I watched it rain last night and continue to rain this morning I thought about how one persons blessing can be another's curse. If we get so much rain that it floods, we see the rain as a curse, if we don't get enough rain then we feel cursed. Many times it comes back to our willingness to look for what God is doing through it all.

Yesterday morning when I got up and checked Josh's temperature it was 103.3. He sat up and got some of the blankets off of him and then took it again. I was still 102.7 so we made the phone calls and headed for the hospital here in Dalhart.

We are very thankful that there is a hospital here that is working so hard to take care of him. They ran blood tests and chest xray and gave him platelets and may do a echo cardiogram today. Dr. Turner said is sounds like he has a slight heart murmur, so they want to check it out. After lots of IV fluids and antibiotics, his kidney's seem to be having problems so they are slowing down the antibiotics and watching kidney function.

His fever went down last night and has been under 99 since midnight. His spirits improved once his headache went away and his fever went down. He was also encouraged that we can stay here in Dalhart as long as they can keep his fever down and they don't have other problems.

For now they are giving him 2 units of blood and will watch his kidneys. They will keep him on IV antibiotics at a lower dose until the tests come back. Keep us in your prayers, we are hoping that they can knock down the infection and we can stay here in Dalhart until the end of the month when we are scheduled to return to MD Anderson.

At times we feel like we are getting a better idea of what to expect and then something new happens and we feel like things are turning upside down again. It is so easy to try to fix things but we are reminded each day that God is in control. This morning in my devotions 
I was reading in Colossians. As Paul writes an encouraging letter to his brothers and sisters in Christ, he also asks them to pray that he would have the opportunity to share the Good News with others that have not heard about God's plan for them.

Colossians 4
 3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains.  4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. 
Col. 4:5    Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.  6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. 

It was a reminder that God has a purpose, even in putting Josh back in the hospital. That through this we have the opportunity to live wisely among those who don't yet know Christ. And that through our conversation with them, we will look for opportunities to share how God has blessed us even during this difficult time.

I was a proud dad the other day when we came in for platelets. A nurse was in the room asking Josh about his treatment, and she mentioned how good his attitude was in spite of all that he had been through and he quickly responded how he had seen Gods blessing through this challenging time. 

My prayer for you today is that God will give you the opportunity to speak to those around you about the mysterious and wonderful plan concerning Christ.

Thanks for your continued prayers -- and thank the Lord for the rain we received yesterday and the continued rain today. We feel blessed to be home, even if Josh is in the hospital. He had a steady stream of visitors all day yesterday which was a big encouragement.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Burn The Ships

There are times in our lives when we face decisions that require us to move in a direction without keeping an option to turn back if things don't turn out the way we hoped.  

We have been home for 4 days now and God continues to show us His faithfulness. We have been blessed by friends who bring by food and words of encouragement. (If you are wondering about the burning ship, I'll get to it in a minute). Although Josh has tolerated this round of chemo well, the last 48 hours have been challenging as Josh's temperature has gone up a little bit more than we are comfortable with. Since Saturday night, his temperature has been fluctuating between 98 and 100.4 degrees (if it reaches 100.5 we are supposed to go to the hospital - and possibly on to Houston).

It was good to go to church Sunday, it was hard going with out Ilene (she stayed home with Josh) but it was really good to see all of our church family and to worship together with His children. Matthew Duhon lead worship and did a great job. There were 4 baptisms (from our Sunday School class) which were special and Dr. Turner sang the The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Pastor Rodney taught from 1 Kings 19 about God's faithfulness in times of difficulty. As he was teaching, I read a little further ahead in the passage; to the end of the chapter. God had told Elijah to go and anoint Elisha as a prophet of God. So when Elijah finds Elisha, and calls him to be a prophet, Elisha had to make a decision. He had to decide to either give up everything that was important in his life to him to follow God or turn his back on God and keep doing what he was comfortable with.

What Elisha decided to do, was an example of what we need to do when God calls us to be a Christ Follower. What Elisha did was a lot like the story of the explorer Cortez (the Spanish explorer) who burned his ships to prevent his men from turning back. Cortez removed any opportunity that his men may have had to leave the expedition and return to Spain. With out ships, the only direction to go was forward.

When Elisha made his decision to follow Gods call, he had to make a decision about everything he had done up to that point in his life. His entire life he had been moving in one direction but now he was faced with the opportunity to do something different.  There comes a time in all of our lives when we are faced with the choice of continuing to do things the way we have grown comfortable with, or doing something radically different. 

Sometimes we follow God with the attitude of, "well, I'll try it, but if it doesn't work out the way I want, I can always go back to farming". 

Elisha was a farmer. When Elijah found him, he was plowing the fields with his oxen and plow. Elisha may have thought to himself that if the prophet "gig" doesn't work out, there was always farming to go back to.

The Bible tells us that Elisha asked if he could go back and say good by to his family before he left to follow Elijah. We are told that when he went back, he killed the oxen and cut up the plow; using the plow for fuel, he sacrificed the oxen on the alter and had all the people in the town eat the oxen. Without a plow and without oxen to pull the plow, Elisha could not go back to farming. If at some point along the road, Elisha decided that things weren't going the way he expected, he had nothing to go back to. He had burned the ships.

As I read that passage of scripture, I started looking at my life and what God had called me to do. God sent His son to pay the price for our sins to allow us to enter into a relationship with Him. But then He did something else. He decided to leave us here (He could have taken us to heaven as soon as we became Christ Followers) as examples of His grace.

God called each and every one of us to be lights in a dark world. He strategically puts us in situations where other people can watch us and see that we live lives that are different from theirs. Along the way He supernaturally blesses us so that others are amazed by what He does.

We may be the only reflection of God that some people see, and yet sometimes we store up for ourselves "treasures" in case something doesn't work out. It might be money, or a job or even the security and safety of what we know. But God wants us to kill the oxen, cut up the plow and burn sacrifice the oxen to Him. Like Cortez did, He wants us to burn the ships so that there is no going back. The only way to go is forward, trusting Him each step.

Today we had Josh's blood drawn and he needed platelets. All morning his temperature would run up a little and then back down. When we went in to get his platelets, his temperature ran right up to that point were we might have to stay in the hospital. In frustration and fear, Josh and I sat there in the room and prayed.

"Lord, please bring down his temperature so that we can go back home tonight. We aren't ready to go back to Houston, but we will do what ever you want." Two hours later as they checked his temperature for the last time, it was 99.1 (which is low enough to go home). During that 2-3 hours stay, Josh got a chance to tell one of the nurses about how God has been faithful to us through these difficult months. The nurse commented on how good and attitude Josh had for a teenager facing such a difficult challenge.

As painful as it is sometimes to watch your hopes and dreams go up in flames, there is a peace that passes all understanding when we put our trust in Him. I don't like spending time in hospitals, but we have had more opportunity to share with people about God's faithfulness as a result of the life circumstances that we are in.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, don't miss the opportunity to show those around you how faithful God is. If life is going great for you right now, then take the opportunity to tell others about how faithful God is. If you can't see how God has been faithful to you, then you may not be living under His protection or you haven't yet experienced His love - and its time to become a Christ Follower.

Thank you for your continued prayers. Remember, people around you are watching to see if there is really something different about you. To see if you really do live like you believe that God is faithful.

When God Meets Cancer

Hey everybody! This is case no one recognized me with out my hair!

Anyway, I thought since I haven't done a blog in a while I would post one and give everyone a little more info about what has been going on in my life and how I have experienced God in so many new ways since our journey began.

On July 18th I went to see Dr. Turner to find out why I was pale and tired and became exhausted by just walking across our kitchen. After a few not very nice needle pricks they said I had very low blood counts and needed to go to the ER at BSA for my very first it isn't the kind of BM that you are thinking of but instead means Bone Marrow Biopsy.

Several days later they had the diagnosis. AML. Acute Myeloid Leukemia had taken over 80% of my blood cells. Shortly thereafter I was transferred to my new prison, MD Anderson in Houston. Since then I have experienced many things, from needle pricks, lost hours of sleep (which I made up for in the afternoon) and the last thing I experienced was God. I wish it were the first thing I experienced but the important thing is that I got know Him better.

I began reading my Bible everyday, I stopped listening to music that wasn't honoring. I truly believe I could not do this without His help. Over the past month, weeks, and days I have had some very good discussions with my parents about how to honor God with everything I do. And at this critical of a stage, I can't even imagine being out of His will.

I know He has a plan for everything and that His timing is impeccable. I have to say I have very much enjoyed following Him. It is rewarding to know that in a time of crisis I have been given the opportunity to witness to others both at the hospital and through this blog. We had a fairly easy round of chemotherapy this time, though no stay in the hospital is means to jump for joy.

Ever since I have begun to follow God more closely I have learned the importance of Scripture and just how powerful it can be.
In Psalms 1 it says;

1 Blessed is the one 
   who does not walk in step with the wicked 
or stand in the way that sinners take 
   or sit in the company of mockers, 
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, 
   and who meditates on his law day and night. 
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, 
   which yields its fruit in season 
and whose leaf does not wither— 
   whatever they do prospers.

We have learned so many valuable things these last few months. And even though there are tough days and good days, I'm grateful I have great parents and a great God watching over me.

Proverbs 3: 5-6.

Thank you all for your prayers,  kindness and...GREAT FOOD!
Special thanks to everyone who has brought us, as I like to say, scrum-diddly-umptious food! Ms. Cecelia your cooking is Food Network Worthy! Move out of the way Gordon Ramsay!

Ms. Selene, I've said it before and I'll say it again....YUMMMMMMY! Living next to a great neighbor such as yourself has been a blessing. P.S. Mom and Dad reallllyyyyyyy enjoyed the cheesecake. And I mean.....realllllyyyyyy liked the cheesecake!

And to all others who have poured love and affection into us through your prayers and cards and food, I say thank you.

God bless!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Home Again

We drove all the way home on Thursday. It is almost 700 miles and took us a little over 12 hours, but it is good to be home.

Josh had a good day yesterday (Friday) and we settled in to getting some things done. While we were gone Kurtis (our youth minister) brought some youth over and had them help clean up our side yard and back yard. It was a blessing to have that done. And our neighbors have taken care of the 3 dogs which has been extremely helpful.

There are times, usually early in the morning when it is quiet, that it is easy to think that everything is back to normal (if we ignore the pill bottles and medical masks on the table). And then we remember that what was normal has changed to a new world view. We see things through different eyes, everything gets viewed through the lenses of the next hospital visit or the next fever. We hear people cough or sneeze and quickly move away, we leave stores or gas stations if they look dirty because a could or infection is life threatening to Josh.

We wash our hand compulsively and throw away a napkin if it drops on the ground. Our perspective has changed because of what we have experienced. As a result the choices we make are influenced by what we know.

One of the choices that we have is our attitude about what we are going through. Most people would not choose to have a family member get cancer, and we would not wish it on anyone. Now that we are faced with the reality that our Josh has cancer, we have the choice how it will effect our attitude towards God, towards others and even towards life and the decisions we make.

To be honest, there are times when we would like to stick our heads in the ground and pretend that it isn't real or that if we ignore it, it will go away, but it won't. The hardest thing to do is to face the truth and make hard decisions to both change our patterns and have an attitude of hope with expectation that when we have done all that we can possibly do (which at times feels like very little) we must put our faith in God to do the supernatural things in our lives.

There are mornings when getting up feels like a supernatural event, having a good attitude about the day seems impossible. But as we keep our eyes on Gods word, when we set aside time each day to dig into the Bible and fill our minds with thoughts from Him, then He begins to reshape our thoughts and feelings.

So how do you change a bad attitude? How do you take the bad circumstances of life and choose to rejoice anyway? In Philippians 3 it says:

1 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

What kind of God wants us to rejoice no mater what happens?

The answer is a God that has a different world view. When we begin to see our lives and the world we live in from a different perspective, it changes our attitude. In Romans 12, Paul challenged us (pleaded with us) to give ourselves to God, he went on to say that we should let God change the way we think, in other words, change our perspective so that we think about life differently.

So how do I go about rejoicing in whatever happens? By seeing the circumstances in my life from the same perspective as God. God sees things from the perspective of an eternity with (or without) Him. He gives us the choice to live with Him forever or live without Him forever.

When we choose Him, the momentary things of this world have meaning primarily when they have an eternal value. Those things that contribute nothing towards eternity have little meaning. But the things that draw me or others closer to a pattern of living like God created us to, those things last forever.

We are glad to be home for as long as God allows. We hope to enjoy the fellowship of our friends and church family for 3 weeks until we are scheduled to return to Houston September 28th. We choose to rejoice in whatever happens, because we know that as Christ Followers, for us to live is Christ (to show others Christ's love) and to die is gain (be free from the burdens of this live and be in the presence of God).

Thank you for your prayers and your acts of kindness. Your have been a blessing in many ways and have shown the world around us what it means to be a child of God.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Doing What God Wants - A Sacrifice

Ilene and I have many friends who are firefighters. Everyday they put their lives on the line to protect and save others and their property. They sacrifice their time and their freedom to put their lives in harms way, especially when the are fighting a wild fire. Wildfire bring with them a different set of dangers then a house or building fire. As the fires rage in Texas and other parts of the US, I am reminded about the sacrifice we are all challenged to make.

We should be headed toward home today around noon, if God wants us to. Josh had a good night, he still has not run a fever and although his blood numbers are dropping slowly (which is expected with the chemo) he is still healthy enough to be released.

The doctor told us yesterday that he will need blood products when we get home and that there is a 50 percent chance that he will run a fever (over 100.5) that will require him to go to the ER for IV antibiotics and be transported back here to MD Anderson.

Josh made the point that there is also a 50 percent chance that he won't run a fever, which would mean that we won't need to come back to Houston until September 28th. Josh is right, if God wants us to stay in Dalhart, Josh won't run a fever.

As I read a devotions this morning from Romans 12:1-2 (one of those great passages to memorize) I started reading what Paul was writing in chapter 11. I know that I have studied this before, but his morning there was a freshness to it that I had not experienced in the past.

In Rom 12:1-2 Paul is telling the Romans to give themselves fully to God which is an act of worship.

1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -- the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?2Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.
I memorized these verse in the NIV and it said "I urge you brothers in view of God's mercy ...". But I think I like the NLT better because it gives a stronger emphasis on the importance of what Paul is compelling us to do. The question is, why is he pleading with us to do something so dramatic - sacrifice yourself as a living sacrifice? who does that?
But when we go back and read the last 4 verses of chapter 11 we get a little perspective on why Paul wants us to do it. You see in chapter 11 Paul was talking about how Jesus came as a Jew to the Jews (God chose Abraham as the father of His people who were to take God to the rest of the world) who were supposed to then take Jesus to the world. But most of the Jews of Jesus time rejected Him so Paul started telling non-Jews about Gods love and free gift.

At the end of chapter 11 Paul makes the point that God took the most important thing He had and gave it up for us. God paid the price for our sins with the life of His Son Jesus. In Romans 11:33-36 Paul writes:

33Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!34For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor?35And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back?36For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.

What Paul is saying is what a wonderful God we have. He made everything and owns everything, and gave it to us to use. Then when we broke the rules and ruined His plan, He paid the cost to fix it, and He offers the fix to us for free.

So why wouldn't you give everything you have and everything you are to Him, give yourself as a living sacrifice (He doesn't want you to die for Him, He wants you to live for Him). What does that mean ? We are told in Romans 12:2, don't do the things that the world does, don't copy their behavior or attitudes, don't buy into their definition of success, but be changed into a person that thinks like Jesus did, that acts like Jesus did, that loves other people the way Jesus did. Because then you will be a Christ Follower who know and does what God wants you to.

Keep the people in harms way in your prayers as the fires continue to rage in Texas. Thanks for your prayers. We will keep you updated.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Good News

We love good news. When we hear that a friend got a promotion or a couple who have been praying for a baby gets pregnant, we get excited with them. We even get excited about a friend getting a new car (if we don't let envy take over) or hear about a new cure for a disease.

When there is a sale at the grocery store or the hardware store is giving away plastic buckets, we tell all of our friends about the good news. We love to share good news with people we know. Sometimes we are even bold enough to share good news with people that we have never met before.

Our Good News today is that Josh is doing really well. He has not had any fevers or nausea or any other major side effects and if all continues to go well, we hope to be discharged on Thursday or Friday to head home. He will have one more chemo treatment Thursday morning so we will find out after that. We are surrounded by sickness and death here ( we saw doctors doing CPR on a patient in the lobby yesterday) and at times it is hard to find something good to talk about.

Thismorning as I read my devotions it started with Colossians 1:16 and how "all things were created by Christ and for Christ. As I continued to read the context I realized what Paul was talking about is what we call perspective. The world looks at life from the perspective of what can be done to make us happier or safer or richer or ______ (you fill in the blank).

But none of those things last and none of them bring lasting peace and joy. But when we look at the world from a perspective of "all things were made for and by Christ" then our motivation to do things changes. When we hear about something that is too good to keep to ourselves, we love to share it.

That is the way it is when God gets a hold of our lives and begins to do His work in us, changing us into Christ Followers. In Colossians 1 we are told:

6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

Our lives begin to bear fruit and other people see that fruit and want to know more about Him because of what they see in us. As we live as Christ Followers the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Today our Good News is that Josh is feeling good and we are hoping to head home tomorrow. But the really good news is that we are God's Children and He is in control of our lives.

Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

Thing are quiet and slow here in Houston today. Josh has had a pretty good weekend. He was a little tired on Saturday and his blood counts were low on Sunday. They gave him 2 units of blood late in the morning and by later in the day he was doing good.

He has not had much of an appetite so finding something that he will eat to keep his energy up has been a challenge. He has not had any major side effects from the chemo. He has finished more than half of his treatments and we should finish up the last treatments on Thursday morning.

If everything goes well, they could release us as early as Friday to head home.

One of the challenges that we face everyday is that we don't know what tomorrow brings. Ilene and I are used to planning in advance. We try to calendar things months in advance. For the last 6 or 7 weeks, we have been unable to make commitments beyond a few days.

This morning as I read my devotions, I was reminded of one of my favorite verses from Psalms 119.

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

When we don't know what tomorrow brings, we need a light for our path. I know that even when I don't have control over what will happen tomorrow, God will both take care of me and give me what I need each day.

Thank you for your continued prayer. We know that God is doing a work in our lives and we pray that He is changing your lives.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Life in MD Anderson

Hello everybody! This is Josh!

I know I haven't done a post in like forever so I thought I would do one today though the day is almost over! So anyways, life here in MD Anderson has been pretty mellow so far. Of course there are the hourly vital checks and the early morning blood draws but for the most part this round of treatment has been a whole lot easier than last months treatment. My treatment is set for 8 days, 3 of which are KO'd! So I'm very excited to be almost halfway done!

Today was my official first day of school! It was a good first start and is my first time with Biology as a subject! I wish it were much easier but I guess I cant have all the classes I wanted this year! I also started my algebra refresher and have a teaching liaison, which is good because math has never been my strong suit.

So school went well and tonight I had another fun night with Leah Green, Parker Green's sister, and we had another Monk marathon! If you don't know who Monk is it was a show on USA that ran for 8 seasons. It is about a Homicide Detective who is Hyper Observant-noticing things that others don't- who suffers from O.C.D. The show is great, full of amazing and mind boggling mysteries along with classic comedic moments strewn through out! I highly recommend this show!

So anyway, I wanted to let you know that another hat contest is coming up soon! And I believe another Schwinky adventure is due sometime soon! So we have some very fun things to look forward to! Also I think we have a way to put some of the videos we took of me coming out of anesthesia. I must say though that it was entirely the anesthesia and if i could have helped it, it would not have happened. But unfortunately...I have no control over that.

Anyway, I've decided, or realized rather, that when I do a blog I enjoy being able to put my thoughts into words and lately my thoughts have been revolving around music. Around here we have a music therapist who helps patients pick music that rejuvenates them. SO what I have decided is each time I hear a song that helps me through the day I will post the Artist and song title on the blog so you can enjoy the beats with me!

One song that has been really on my mind lately is a song by a great Christian artist!

Made To Love by TobyMac! This song has helped me through the hard times and keeps my spirits up during the good times! It reminds me of God's grace and the love He has for all of us!

Thank you all for your prayers!
God Bless!