Sunday, October 30, 2011

Follow Your GPS to Avoid a Shipwrecked Faith

Josh continues to improve and they are telling us that they will release him tomorrow (Monday) around noon. He has an optometrist appointment in the afternoon, and then we can bring him home for a week.

Over the last few months I have written about faith numerous times along this journey. It has been a central theme since many of the decisions we have faced involve who or what our faith is in. We have been candid about our faith journey through the times of testing and trials and we acknowledge that we have not always kept our faith.

As we have walked this journey, we have relied on information given to us from other sources. Faith is about believing what we hear or read and then making decision or taking action based on that belief. If I read about a sale going on down at the store, I may act on that by driving down to the store in anticipation of purchasing something at a discount. If I arrive at the store and the sale is not going on, either the store was dishonest or I may have misunderstood the flier.

We have put our trust in doctors and nurses, we have sought council from friends and family when making decisions about our sons health care and we have placed our faith in some of those giving us information as we made the decisions. We knew almost nothing about Leukemia before Josh was diagnosed. We have researched the Internet and talked with medical professionals to increase our knowledge.

We have placed our faith in the doctors and nursed, based on the information we have heard or read. We have made decisions that have dramatically changed our lives, and will have an impact on us for the rest of our lives.

In 1 Timothy 1, Paul writes about faith. Paul provides information about God and challenges people to believe in God and to change the way they live based on this new information. Most people live with little regard for God. They may believe He exists (or deny He exists), but what they say they believe about God has little or no effect on how they live. Even people who call them selves religious, tend to structure their lives in a way that they can live the way they want most of the time, and then they do strategic things periodically to try to appease God.

But Paul writes about faith from a different perspective. Faith is not just a statement of belief, faith causes us to act in specific ways. If you believe that buying a new car will make you happy, you go out and buy a new car. If you believe that your employer will pay you for showing up to work and doing your job, you go to work when you are supposed to and do the things expected of you.

I grew up believing that Chevy's are better vehicles than Ford's (because my dad always bought Chevy's). I put faith in that belief by purchasing numerous Chevy's. I even violated that faith once when I bought a Ford van. It was a terrible vehicle, so it reinforced my belief that Chevy's were better.

Paul talks about violating our faith. He refers to it as shipwrecking our faith. He challenges Timothy to keep his conscious clear to avoid "shipwrecking" his faith (don't buy Ford's). Now in all fairness, I have friends that love Ford's. They believe that Ford stands for "First On Race Day" rather than "Found On Road Dead". But for my example about faith, when I chose to do something that is in opposition to what I believe to be true, I can sear or damage our conscience.

He writes in 1 Timothy 1:19

 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. 

We don't often make a big deal over the brand of cars that we buy. We don't even make an issue about the type of food we eat. We live with a world view that presumes that we can do as we please as long as we don't do anything to hurt someone else. But if that is true, we are putting our faith in ourselves which makes us our own god. If I am my own God, then technically, I can't violate my own rules, because I make the rules.

The problem is that I am not perfect, so some of my rules do hurt others. Only a perfect person can make rules that won't violate or hurt someone else.

So what then does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

I believe Paul is saying, when we know what is right, but choose to do something else, then we violate our conscience. When we do this regularly, we are essentially shifting our faith or misdirecting our faith which can lead to a shipwreck.

Have you ever wondered why a ship would run aground (or be shipwrecked)? Most shipwrecks happen because the ship is in water that is too shallow. They are off course and run aground on sandbars or coral reefs. Sometimes it is caused by a storm or poor visibility, but most of the time a shipwreck occurs because the ship is not where it is supposed to be.

Isn't that true of our lives. When we are not doing what God called us to do, when we make decisions that take us off course, we run aground. If the captain of the ship puts his faith in the wrong information, he can steer his ship into dangerous waters.

From experience, I can tell you that it is really easy to get off course. A small compromise, a little drifting in the wrong direction can result in being miles off course further down the line. How do you know if you are getting off course?

You have to have a guideline, a compass or a G.P.S. When hiking you have to follow the map and stay on the trail. If you don't have a road map to follow, you will most likely get off course. When driving someplace you are not familiar with, having a G.P.S. can help you get there without getting you lost. God gave us a road map for life. He gives us directions so that we can avoid the shallow waters, instructions on what to do when we get caught in a storm. He even gives us a road map to help us when we do get off course.

If we study that road map, if we are constantly referring to the navigational charts, then we can stay the course, avoid dangerous waters and reach our destination without running aground or getting lost.

Spend time regularly reading the road map that God gave us for life. When I spend time regularly reading the Bible, I find that I am more prepared for the unexpected turns in life. When I find myself caught in a storm or lost in an area of town I am not familiar with, by following the GPS, I can get back on track.

When I was kid we used to sing a little song that went "Read your Bible, pray everyday, and you'll grow, grow, grow". After 50 years of experience, I find that when I read my Bible and pray everyday, I stay out of the dangerous waters, I avoid being shipwrecked and my faith grows stronger.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Josh's Progress

Josh had a good day Friday. We met with the Pediatric oncologist here in Amarillo to discuss the possibility of finishing his treatment closer to home. After reviewing his history and health they are recommending that we change his chemotherapy to avoid any that are cardiotoxic. We are happy with this decision after all the challenges we have had with his heart.

The current plan is to go home for a few days the early part of next week, and then return for the next round of chemo Monday, November 7th. 

Ilene and Sarah and some friends from Dalhart walked in the "Panhandle Cancer Cure Foundation 5K". It looked a little cold out there at  37 - 40 degree's.

Thanks for your continued prayers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sorry I Missed Yesterday

The title is in reference to a couple of people who mentioned that I went a whole day with out giving them an update on Josh. 

When I was growing up, we lived in the Philippines. There were times when we didn't have running water or electricity let a lone a phone. There were times when dad was out in the barrio (that is really what we called it) and we didn't have a way to get in touch with him. If he was late, we had no way of knowing what went wrong. But mom always said "No news is good news, BAD news travel quickly". 

We always found that to be true. Even from 10,000 miles away, when grandma had a heart attack back in the US, we heard about it within hours.

All that to say, yesterday was a good day. Josh kept us busy sitting up all day and asking for things. He had some visitors, which we will try to get some pictures of, and he set up his Facebook page (Josh's Facebook link) and put pictures of some of the hats he has.

He lost one of his "Megatron IV poles", so he has much more space in his room. 

He is also very happy to be off of oxygen today. They are weening him off of his IV heart meds and putting him on oral medication.

He also has an appetite again (even if his time clock is off a little), he had fajitas from On the Boarder last night, and wanted more around midnight.

Some friends brought by a card for him today, that we wanted to share. Laughter is still one of the best medicines.

Of course the cow on the front reminded us of days past when we would go help our friends on their dairy. 

Last night we had a visitor from Dalhart. Trevor had Leukemia (ALL) when he was 17 years old. It was encouraging to hear his story and how similar it was to what Josh has been through. He kept saying how he looked at life differently now, and how thankful he was for what God has done in his life. He went as far as to say that if he had the choice to do it differently, he wouldn't change a thing. Although cancer was the hardest thing he ever faced, it changed his world view and his faith in God.

It was encouraging to Ilene and I to hear a 25 year old say that, and Josh seemed to gain a new perspective.

We have talked about God and His faithfulness, and even that He has a purpose and a plan, even when we don't understand it. This journey has taught us a lot about God's faithfulness, and how His children care for each other. It has given us the opportunity to let other people watch as God cares for us in a difficult situation.

Today when I opened the email devotions that I get every day, I was struck by the verse it was looking at.

Jeremiah 31:3

 “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
      With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

We have experienced God's love in ways that we never expected. We have watched as strangers have committed random acts of kindness to our son and our family, and although some of them didn't realize it, they were acting on God's behalf. We have seen and felt God draw us in to His arms, we have felt the peace of God's love, even in the shadows of death.

Ephesians 1:4-5 says:

4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 

Some of you walking this journey with us have seen God's love and faithfulness in our lives. You have wondered how a 17 year old can exemplify peace and patience in the face of such a life changing situation. You may have marveled at how parents could watch their son face death, and the indignities that come with the battle against cancer.

I don't have an answer for the how, in that it is not something we drummed up. all I know is that often times, before the day is done, I don't know how I will make it to (or through) tomorrow. but I do know that each day, God surprises us with a blessing or a word of encouragement. He brings friends and strangers when we need it most.

Through this process we have developed a burden for those of you walking with us. As we have gotten to know some of you, (Josh's nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists ... etc.) we long to see you experience the peace in your lives that we have experienced. We long to see you become a part of God's family, adopted into His household, because we know that He chose you, before you were even born, and He wants to bless you, like you have seen Him bless us.

God is doing a work through Josh in drawing people to Him. He is showing His faithfulness, grace, mercy and love through Josh, even in one of the worst situations we could imagine. Know that we are praying for you as you walk this journey with us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not Out of the Woods and Other Cliche's

One thing I have learned on this journey, is that you are not out of the crisis until you can look back and see that you are making progress in the right direction. We have heard and used many of the cliche's along our journey (at the end of our rope, darkest before the dawn, calm in the midst of the storm, not out of the woods, its not over till its over, there's a light at the end of the tunnel, when it rains it pours, there's nothing to fear but fear itself) and started a few more of our own (sleep is over rated). 

We feel like we have been lost in the woods, wandering aimlessly until Monday when we felt like we were finally walking out of the woods. Monday was the best day we have had in many weeks. Josh is now able to eat solid (non-greasy) food, and has tolerated it well. 

They have weened him off of most of his pain and sleep medication and are watching his heart closely to see if they can begin weening him off of his heart medications.

As I look back over the last two weeks I realize that I have been gripped by a fear; a fear that it was time to say good bye to our 17 year old son. We are not afraid of death, I say that meaning we are confident that there is more to life than what we experience here and now. We all face death, because everyone dies eventually, but what happens after death is what should get more of our attention then we give it.

There are many theories as to what happens after death, and there are many religions that claim to have a way to please God enough to increase the odds to getting to heaven. But there is only one person who claimed to be God, then gave his life to make sure that we could bridge the gap that exists between us and God.

So when I say I am not afraid of Josh dying, I am not afraid of what will happen to him after he dies, I fear the pain we will suffer at losing him. On at least two different occasion over the last few weeks, Josh's health declined to the point were we saw fear in the eyes of the doctors and nurses. We know that Josh is a strong fighter, but when the doctors are afraid, it is easy to worry.

As I began writing this yesterday, the devotions that I read was from 2 Timothy.

7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
 8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

There was a point last week when I had reached the end of my rope (to use a cliche) and then I let go, I could not hold on any longer. Watching my son in so much pain, knowing that we still had a long journey in front of us, I didn't have the strength to keep hoping, to keep going; not even one day at a time. I was finished.

I leaned over my son as he moaned in pain, knowing his blood pressure was critically low and I whispered in his ear, "Josh I love you, and it is okay to let go".

In the days that followed I expected the worst, but God had a different plan. I told a friend that we needed a miracle, and then I watched as the God who loves me showed me that He is a God who still does miracles. 

I let go of the rope, but that is when God held on to me. 

Last night Ilene and I sat with Josh and talked. He is tired of be connected to IV lines. He is tired of being confined to bed, and having strangers walk into his room while he is half naked (or more). He is frustrated and the indignities and helplessness of not being able to go to the bathroom without help. 

So as we sat and held him and told him that we loved him and how proud we are of him for enduring these trials, we told him a little of the journey we had walked while he was sleeping. We reminded him that God had a plan for his life, and that there was an audience watching as God showed His grace through his life.

Nothing in our lives is happenstance. Although many of the decisions in our lives are made randomly, God intends to use our lives for a purpose. If we are his children, He wants to show others His grace, His undeserved favor, through the god, the bad and the ugly of our lives. 

If you have not yet become His child, adopted into His family, then He longs to be your Father, to make you His own, making you a prince or princess, so that you can be a part of what He is doing in this world. 

So as I faced my fears and allowed God the freedom to do His will in my adopted sons life, I am beginning to experience the strength that He gives, knowing that there will be more suffering, knowing that as I follow Him, life will not be easy; but also knowing that He has a plan, and that I can trust Him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Josh had a good night and is doing well today. He has been sitting up and they have started giving him full liquids so he is waiting for his first milk shake.

They are weening him off of his IV meds and starting him on oral medications. When he he is off all of his IV's they can move him out of PICU. They expect he will need to stay here at BSA until next weekend at least.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Josh had a good night sleep. He coughed a little and his oxygen saturation dropped, but came up after he coughed some more. Ilene and I got 7 straight hours of sleep thanks to Mat and Christie sitting with Josh through the night. He woke up in good spirits this morning and enjoyed talking to his visitors.

Brother Bob and Betty came by to check on him as did our friend Toni Sanchez. And then a friend from California, Scott Thibodo came by. We have been blessed by your prayers, visits and encouraging words.

After Scott prayed for Josh, he asked Josh to pray for him. Josh was reluctant at first because he is still a little foggy, but agreed. He prayed and thanked the Lord for His faithfulness and blessings and then he thanked the Lord for the many friends  who have been praying for him and visiting and what a blessing they have been.

This journey we have been on for three months now has changed my faith. Our regular schedule has been so disrupted that the things we normally take for granite are no longer things we can rely on. The ability to go to the store or to sleep in our own bed or plan for next week have all changed. We don't know what tomorrow brings, but we know that God has been faithful to us in the past and that He already has tomorrow planned for us.

In Jeremiah 29 God tells His people:

 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 

It is hard to see how any of what we are going through could be good, it is hard to know how any of what we have been through could become a future of hope, but until we can see what God has planned we won't understand it.

Sometimes the good is what God is doing in other peoples lives as they see us walk in faith. Our hope is not in being cancer free, it is not in having success or wealth or fame, but our hope is in knowing that after this life, we will live the way God intended us to, walking daily with Him.

Friday, October 21, 2011

We Prayed for a Miracle

Today, Friday started out like it was going to be another loop in the roller-coaster. The Dr said that Josh's X-rays were showing signs that the fluid was building back up around his heart. His blood pressure was high and she  was concerned that he might need to go back onto the respirator.

We have been so tired from the ups and downs and sleep interrupted nights that we just couldn't imagine going backwards. It has felt like every time we make some progress in one direction we lose ground in another. Ilene and I talked about the options and put out texts to pray. We just couldn't imagine putting him back on the respirator and every thing that goes with that. A few days ago, I sent a good friend a text saying that we needed a miracle with Josh because he had everything working against him.

I finally lay down for some rest and when I got up, the Dr was telling Ilene that the latest X-rays and echo cardiogram came back and the cardiologist had been by to say that Josh's heart had done an amazing turn around. The Dr said she had never seen so much improvement in two days in any ones heart. This was a big change from just 7 hours earlier.

We told her we had been praying for a miracle and she told us that prayer was working.

Josh has been in good spirits today. They still have him on limited liquids and no food, but he has his fun personality back. He conned the X-ray tech into giving him a Sprite (we caught him before he drank it all) and has been saying some pretty funny things thanks to the medications he is on.

His blood pressure is still jumping around a bit, but his heart rate is down where it should be and his blood sugar is leveling out.

We are thankful for a good day. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Thank you Lord for healing Josh's heart. Continue to heal the rest of his body in a way that others will know that you still work miracles.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


At 2 am Ilene and I normally switch out so that we can each get a little bit of rest. I went in to get her and her kidney's were hurting so bad that we talked about her going downstairs to the ER to get checked. I went back to Josh's room as he was waking up agitated about every 45 minutes.

After the 2:30 am vitals and bed roll, he was pretty agitated so they increased his medication to help him sleep. That seemed to help till almost 6 AM. Around 9:30 the Cardiologist came by and listened to his heart and look at at his chart and his echo from the day before. He was pleased with his improvement and said he would talk to our Dr about the next step.

I checked on Ilene and she was doing better so I finally lay down around 10:30 AM. Ilene sat with him thought the morning came in around 2 in the afternoon to tell me they were getting ready to take him off of the ventilator. He was sitting up and tolerated it all well. He became more alert and sat and talked with us for about 30 minutes. He is still a little disoriented from some of the medication, but he has not tried to pull any of his tubes out.

By later in the afternoon he was doing good enough to sit up and take a picture with his brothers. It is the first pictures with all four kids together in a long time.

He is doing well tonight, resting and still telling the nurses what he wants.

We continue to be thankful for answered prayers. The messages and visits from so many friends have been encouraging. We have been encouraged by so many of your stories about how Josh's journey has encouraged you and strengthened your faith.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It has been a long day and I just realized that I totally lost a day. I vaguely remember yesterday, mostly because it was much like today.

Josh was restless most of the night, sleeping for about an hour and then agitated for an hour. Ilene and I trade off watching him so he won't pull his vent or other tubes out.

His respiration's are improving, not as much fluid on the lungs. They have weened him off of one heart medication and working on two others. It all goes well, they will do a echo cardiogram tomorrow to see if his heart is strong enough to go without the ventilator.

Hes is not needing as much insulin each hour which is good. They are watching his liver function as the nutritional supplement they give him causes increased enzymes.

Pray that we will be able to get him off of the ventilator tomorrow. We will also need to ween him off of the pain meds as he is building up a tolerance to them.

We know our God is in control. Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well

When you get to the end of a day, your evaluation of it might be the sum of all its events or it may just be what happened last. If your days are routine, then each day may simply be compared to those preceding it. Each day may just be a means to get to something better. Sometimes we work at jobs to pay the bills in hopes that for 2 weeks each summer we can escape the mundane of our lives to relax or have fun or do something exciting.

Our lives have been anything but mundane. For three months we have traveled and seen new sights. We have tried new foods and experienced new things. We have met new people, made new friends and experienced things we never imagined. We have learned about the wonders of modern medicine.

Our eyes have been opened to a new world and our perspective on life has changed.

Today was anything but boring.

The day started out with out many complications, but late in the morning the doctor expressed concern about Josh not being very responsive after reducing the medications that are keeping him sedated. The goal was to get him to begin opening his eyes and responding to things so that we can gage how well he is improving.

After about 5 hours with no improvement, the doctor was concerned that there was swelling on the brain or possibly damage to his brain from lack of oxygen or infection. The CT scan showed no abnormalities and the EEG showed normal. By then Josh began showing some movement. He moved his eyes when I called his name and then responded to the tech's command when he told him to move his foot.

As the afternoon progressed, he continued to respond to Ilene and my voice and even moved his head and opened his eyes a few times.

For his safety, the Dr decided to sedate him for the night so that he could get some sleep and so he wouldn't hurt himself by pulling out his ventilator or any of hi IV lines. At about 8 PM, before they had a chance to increase his medications, Josh sat up and started trying to pull his ventilator out. He panicked and started swinging his arms trying to get a breath. The more he struggled, the harder it was for him to breath. Ilene and I and 2 nurses worked at holding him down. He was actually able to knock his vent tube off which made it so he couldn't breath for a few seconds.

The nurse finally got him some additional medication to calm him down and he went back to sleep. At that point, mom and dad were ready for some medication to take away their anxiety. But we were also very happy to see him so responsive.

All in all, as scary and emotional as the day was, we are glad at the end of the day that Josh is still fighting. 

Through out the day we had many visitors that prayed with us and encouraged us and brought us meals. We are so very blessed to have so may people who are a part of this journey. We continue to be blessed by the comments to the blog and look forward to Josh being awake so that he can read them. 

He has also received a number of emails from some young ladies that he has left an impression on. 

Thank you for your prayers. Many of you have offered to do what ever you can to help. The best thing you can do is continue to pray, and tell people about Josh's journey and share with them about how your life has been changed by what God is doing through Josh.

A friend of ours commented on how easy it is to get complacent in our lives and live like life is designed to make us happy. When we lose sight of our purpose, what we were designed to do, then life loses meaning.

Live each day the way God designed you to live. Live like you believe you are the child of a king and be a world changed. Change your world for Christ.

Today ended well. 

Monday Morning

Josh had a pretty good night (and mom and dad got a few hours of sleep). Most of his vitals have remained steady or improved and they have been able to reduce the amount of epinephrine that they are giving him for his blood pressure. They will continue to try and ween him off of the epi.

They are also going to start weening him off of the fentanyl to make him a little more alert. They are taking another exray so he may get a little agitated.

Keep him in prayer. We will keep you updated.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Please Pray For Andrew

As some of you know, it can be time consuming to write these blogs, trying to make them appealing by finding pictures that represent the thought process can also be time consuming. Today as I wrote about the roller coaster of our lives, I went in search of a picture of a roller coaster.

On that journey, I found a picture attached to a blog about a man battling Lymphoma, specifically mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). I will be following his journey through his blog, and told him that I will ask you to begin praying for him. He is both seeking a cure and is on a journey seeking truth about life. 

Andrew is 53 and has been battling Lymphoma for just over 2 years. He has relapsed and is in week 9 of his current round of treatment. 

Please pray for Andrew, his wife and children, that they would encounter the Living God, and that their journey would bring them both physical healing and a spiritual healing through a personal relationship with God.

Josh has had a good evening. We will keep you updated. 

Many of you have come and prayed with us and encouraged us. Louis and Elaine are here again tonight so that Ilene and I can sleep a little. Our son Peter arrived from Colorado tonight, and it is good to have him here and our oldest son Robert flies in tomorrow.

Sunday Morning

At about 3 AM Matt woke us up to tell us that Josh's BP had dropped, he had spiked a fever and we needed to come. We were down the hall a sleep in a room the hospital had graciously offered.

I had slept more than I had in the previous 4 days (about 4 hours) and I thought it was time to say goodbye to my son.

The wonderful doctors and staff here at BSA worked frantically to stop his blood pressure from free falling. 

After about 2 hours of changing medication levels, filling him with fluids and increasing his oxygen, his BP finally came back enough to relax. Our dear friends Louis and Elaine and Matt and Christie who had sat by Josh's side through the night so that Ilene and I could get some rest, finally went home.

This is my verse for today:

Psalm 121

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
 1 I look up to the mountains—
      does my help come from there?
 2 My help comes from the Lord,
      who made heaven and earth!

 3 He will not let you stumble;
      the one who watches over you will not slumber.
 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
      never slumbers or sleeps.
 5 The Lord himself watches over you!
      The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
 6 The sun will not harm you by day,
      nor the moon at night.
 7 The Lord keeps you from all harm
      and watches over your life.
 8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
      both now and forever.

We are blessed by our dear friends and family who have walked this journey with us. This afternoon we are at a calm place and Josh's vitals have been steady. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011


It has been another roller coaster day. Things started looking pretty bad shortly after midnight. I called Ilene up to the hospital as we had some very difficult decisions to make. I explained it to a friend as having to decide between getting hit by a car or a truck.

Here is the factual information (our friend Kristi prefers the the nonfactual - which will come)
Josh has an infection in his urinary system, and infection in his blood and pneumonia (fluid on the lungs). He also has a damaged heart from the chemotherapy which is now under pressure both from the infections and the fluids in his lungs and those building up around his heart.

They are treating him aggressively to help him breath better and take the pressure off of his heart. He was laboring to breath which was causing low blood pressure so the gave him blood pressure medication to support that. When the could not get him breathing to improve he agreed to be put on a respirator. In order to better monitor his blood pressure they put in an arterial line and a central line. The central line also allows them to give him additional medications without stopping other fluids like blood and antibiotics.

The ventilator has allowed him to get some much  needed sleep. They have him sedated so that he won't get anxious from the respirator.

They have had to keep a close watch on his blood pressure as it drops off whenever changes are made. At this point he seems to be stable though still not out of the woods. He started to run a fever again this afternoon so they are looking to see what that is about.

The best thing for him now is rest. We continue to pray that his lungs will clear up and his heart will stay strong. Some good news is that his blood counts are starting to come back on their own (although slowly) which is a ray of hope for us.

Keep us in your prayers. Ilene, Sarah and I are tired form lack of sleep and the emotional roller coaster. We have been blessed and encouraged by many friends who had stopped by to visit and carry the load with us. We are blessed.

A group of men and women from our church came this morning and prayed for Josh. We claimed Gods promises and Josh knows that he is in Gods hands. The most important promise that we claim is from Psalm 139

 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.

You see, no one can cheat Josh out of a single day of his life. He will live a full life, because every single day of his life was laid out, planned for even before he was born.

Most of all, we have seen God grabbing a hold of many of your hearts. As you have walked this journey with us, you have been changed. Josh has made such an enormous impact on all of us. Our perspective on life has changed. The is a world full of people that God loves and wants to be in a relationship with, and Josh has taught us that we can share His love even when things aren't perfect.

Keep praying.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Night

The doctor said that Josh is doing a little better (in his words, he is out of the basement). His fever has been down most of the day and some of his chemistries are stablizing. He is very tire and a little disoriented but he has not thrown up today. They are working on clearing out his lungs so he is starting to cough and we anticipate more of that.

He still had his sense of humor at times (and we try to keep ours when he sees things that we don't) and he will talk with us and others while awake. It has been a long day and we are not sure which direction he is going, but at the end of the day he is a little better than the way it started out.

We continue to trust God each step, walking in faith with an hourly perspective. We have been encouraged by the many visitors and are thankful for so many of you who are praying. We know that God is at work and continue to trust that He will use us and each of you to reach those who walk through life without the peace that He gives.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Do You Do When the World is Crashing In

Last night when we arrive here at BSA Josh's vitals were getting worse by the hour. By the time 6 AM arrived, I was getting pretty scared. To be honest I felt like we had tried everything we could and had as many people praying as was possible, but the answer that we were looking for was evading us. At a loss for what to do next I read a passage from Philippians 4.

Philippians is one of my favorite books because Paul encourages the church in Philippi to be joyful, rejoice, count it all joy ... 

And then in the 4th chapter he tells them not to be anxious for anything, but with prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving ...

Let your request be made known to God.

Asking God for what we want is easy, being thankful in all things is not easy.

It is hard to be thankful when ...

We could all finish that statement. Especially if you have walked through difficult challenges in life. We have watched some of you walk through life's shadows and valley's and we have walked with some of you through them. I know that I have stood with you and offered heartfelt words of encouragement. I have quoted scripture to offer hope in a difficult time.

It is to easy to speak words of encouragement, to quote inspiring and memorable words from an emotional distance. Even well meaning, those words can fall far short of giving hope and encouragement. I have spent many hours of my life encouraging and praying for and with friends and church family during difficult times.

I am sorry if I have ever said quaint or memorable words to you in a time of great distress without fully understanding the depth of your need. Busy words can be hollow, comfortless and even offensive. Although well meaning, they can fall short of bringing comfort in a time of need. We each experience life through our own lens, making sense of it based on our experience, our perspective and the things that are important to us.

As I sit and watch Josh gasp for breath, moaning in his sleep from the constant pain, I feel empty, tired from sleepless nights and the strains of not knowing, wanting to hope, to see a sign that things are or will get better; listening carefully in case he wants a sip of water or his pillow readjusted. Hearing the bells, and buzzers going off when the IV runs out, learning to distinguish between which sounds are just annoying and which ones strike fear in the nurses.

Sitting quietly, fearing that Josh will turn and see my tears or the fear behind them and lose hope, trying to give him strength through a quiet face of confidence; even fighting to control the quiver in my voice when he asks a question. I realize that it is one thing to release or let go of something that we value or hold dear, but to have that treasure ripped slowly and mercilessly from our hands is an experience I hope you never experience.

When life is torn from us, when our hope is disappointed, when our power to hold onto the things or people we love is striped away, it is easy to turn towards God and doubt.

It is easy to ask, what kind of God would let this happen?

I have tried to answer that to others that have experienced death and loss, I have even believed that my answer gave some comfort, but I have never been in a place where the question was so personal.

I have asked, petitioned, pleaded, prayed and begged for Josh's healing. I have searched scripture for understanding and instruction, sought counsel for wisdom both spiritually and medically. We have been vulnerable to strangers and received blessing from so many. We have claimed promises, we have read scripture, even laid hands on him in faith, asking both for our will (Josh being healed) and God's will (not yet fully revealed). We have willingly shared our pain in hopes that our journey would give hope to other, even trying to record it as a record to show that God is faithful.

But in my wildest dreams (and nightmares) I never thought that question would have as much meaning to me as it does today. What kind of God would allow people to suffer such pain and discouragement. How can God stand by as His children are subjected to sickness and death.

In fear and helplessness, this morning I asked those questions. Sitting at my sons bed side holding a pale that he is throwing up in, it is hard to be thankful. When I watch as his life slips slowly through my fingers, it is hard to keep fear from gripping my heart and squeezing out any faith or hope.

It was hard to even speak the words when I had to call my wife and tell her that she needed to come to the hospital because our son was not getting any better.

This morning was one of the most difficult mornings of my life. This morning even as I wrote this, I was afraid to even post it for fear of what I was feeling.

This evening as I was getting ready to settle in I read more from Philippians 3 and 4. I was struck by the 20th verse in chapter 3.

 Phil 3: 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And I was reminded that this world is not our home. 

And in it I found the answers to those questions about God. Where is He? How could He let these things happen? 

He is here walking with us, often times carrying us. He has also gone on ahead of us to prepare a place for us, so that when we have finished all that He has for us to do here, we can go home to be with Him.

I do not believe that God is finished with us yet. I hope that God has more for Josh to do here on this earth. But what ever his timeline is, I know that nothing can separate us from God's love.

I know that God loves me and I know that He loves Josh more than I do.

Amarillo By Morning

Josh is not a Country Western fan so he would object to the title.

The sun is just peaking over the horizon, and we have had a busy morning already. Josh had a hard night, his fever is still spiking and he throws up much of his tylenol. He did get more platelets and blood during the night and they have him on numerous IV medications. He has a breathing machine that pushes oxygen into his nose and wires hooked up to his finger, leg (blood pressure cuff) and chest to monitor all of his vitals.

He seems to be feeling about the same, although tired.

His exray last night showed fluid on his lungs. They are restricting his drinking and eating (so of course he is thirsty and hungry) but hydrating him through his IV. He does not complain of much, but I know he hurts and more than anything is tires of not being at home.

Pray that they are able to knock out the infections. His blood counts are still low so his body can't fight off much. Also pray that his stomach will settle down and he will stop throwing up.

We are hoping for a better day. We have a faithful God. Thanks for your prayers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Transfered to PICU in Amarillo

Today Wednesday started out fairly normal although one of his blood cultures was starting to show positive. He needed more blood, but by noon his blood oxygen levels were dropping. He continued to have problems through the afternoon so Dr. Turner decided it would be wise to transfer him to a Pediatric ICU in Amarillo.

At one point he started coughing and his heart rate went up over 200. That got everyone worried, I was at work and Ilene called me. His oxygen levels wouldn't stay up without oxygen and his dry cough persisted so we all agreed to go to Amarillo. Josh's only condition was that we either wait until after Psych (season premiere at 9pm) or get him there before it started.

Josh got to ride in a helicopter with Ilene, but he complained that his view wasn't very good and they turned off his microphone so he couldn't talk to the pilot. But it was another first for him. We are thankful to the men and women who serve us on the ambulance and here in the hospital.

To add insult to injury, he has been throwing up for almost 2 days, but when we got here he got hungry and thirsty, but they won't let him eat or drink now as a precaution in case they have to put him on a respirator.

Mom and dad are trying to keep our emotions in check until we have a better idea of what is going on. Ilene rode back to Dalhart with Debra W. (who was already in Amarillo) and will come back tomorrow with Sarah.

We will try to keep everyone informed.

You can send Josh emails at this link. BSA Amarillo

He is in PICU room 1.

Thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another Painful Night

We brought Josh in to the hospital around noon Monday to get his blood transfusions. They had him scheduled for 2 units of platelets and 4 units of red blood.

As they started giving him his units of blood, his temperature started to spike and his blood pressure dropped and heart rate went up. Then his blood oxygen levels started to drop. As we got later in the evening he started throwing up and having a sever head ache. It ended up being a really tough night.

By midnight they were having problems with his PICC line clogging up so they were having trouble getting fluids in him. He threw up some more which added to his discomfort. They ran more blood tests and found his potassium was critically low and his kidneys were not functioning properly because of his low blood pressure.

By 2:30 AM he was a little more stable, so I went home for a nap. As I lay down I felt fear grip me just thinking about how fragile Josh's health is. I didn't get much sleep as I lay there praying for Josh's healing and for the faith to walk through another difficult and painful experience. Each time his health deteriorates, we again face the challenge of how quickly he can get sick. I lay there praying for strength as we continue to walk this journey.

Ilene got up around 6:00 am and came back to the hospital at around 7 am and I came up around 8:00. He was still dehydrated, running a fever, and had a head ache. They are trying to determine if he has an infection or if he is reacting to dehydration or even a reaction to the blood transfusion.  At one point this morning his temperature went up to 104.5 so we had to put ice bags all around him.

When you run a fever, you feel cold anyway, I can't imagine having to cool down my body temperature with ice bags when I was already feeling cold. Josh didn't complain much although I could tell how miserable he was.

Throughout the day we had numerous visitors and each one lifted his spirits. The highlight of the morning was when we stood around Josh's bed holding hands with Pastor Rodney and Debra and our nurse Logan and prayed for God's healing of Josh and His grace in all of our lives.

Even later as Logan worked on Josh's PICC line to clear the blood clots, we saw God's faithfulness. At first Logan said he didn't think he could clear the line because nothing would move through it. As he worked on it, I prayed a simple "God please let him clear the line", and with in a minute, Logan said with surprise, "it just cleared up". We both knew that it was an answer to prayer.

As I write this I am tired and emotionally drained. I feel the tears behind my eyes and even thinking of the pain my son is going through rips at my heart. I have told him on many occasions that if there was anyway for me to take his place, to bear the pain for him I would.

I begin to understand the sacrifice that God made for me when He allowed His son to bear the pain of my sin. He gave His son to stand in my place.

I would sacrifice for my family, but I don't know if I could give my sons life for someone else.

It is a great blessing to see my son smile at friends when they come to visit him. I know how poorly he feels, yet he graciously welcomes them with a smile and even cares enough to ask how they are doing. I know he is thankful for your prayers and he is encouraged by your notes and cards and visits. Thank you all for what you are doing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Peaceful Week - What Comes Next?

Last week was mostly peaceful. Josh did well with no fevers and his appetite was a little better. He had his blood levels checked on Thursday and they were still high enough that he didn't need blood. He slept a lot through the weekend, but got up everyday and got some exercise.

Ilene and I actually got some things done around the house Saturday (painting, cleaned the kitchen, did some laundry) which was a good feeling to be doing normal things.

By Sunday night, Josh was pretty tired and weak, so Monday morning we had his blood counts checked. All of his numbers were low, so he is getting 2 units of platelets and 4 units of blood. It will take 10 - 12 hours to give him the blood and then they will check his levels again, so he will probably be there over night.

We continue to see God at work in our lives. Although Josh has been discouraged at times with how tired he feels, we are confident that through this process, we will see His hand at work. I don't know that any of us knew what to expect on this journey, but each time we turn a corner it feels like we have a new set of choices infront of us.

Have you ever wondered why God didn't give us a specific plan for every circumstance in life? There are times during this journey when it feels like our lives would be easier if we could open the Bible to a certain page and it would tell us the 10 steps to take to solve the current problem. Sometimes the choices we face are between two unpleasant or undesirable options. Many times we would prefer to make up a third option, but we are forced to choose between things that don't look or sound very good.

The truth is, sometimes it feels like we are making decisions based on incomplete information and choosing the lesser of two evils. An example of this was when we faced the decision on how to treat Josh's cancer. The choices were limited. We could A) treat him with chemotherapy drugs that are designed to kill and destroy his cells and have known side effects like hair loss, vomiting, kidney damage, heart damage (to name a few of the more interesting ones) or B)  treat him with home remedies (no known home remedies for his type of leukemia) which would have resulted in his death within 3 weeks to 3 months. Option B just didn't seem like a realistic option, but chemotherapy isn't exactly what I would call a good choice.

what we have learned is some choices have results that you can't see until after the decision is made. We don't know for sure what the long lasting effects of chemo will be. It's not like some of the decisions that we have made in the past. Once we bought a minivan that seemed like a great deal until a week after we got it home. We have made investments that didn't pan out and we have even made employment decisions that didn't work out the way we expected.

But making a decision about the life and death of a family member is very different then driving around in a "clunker" for a few extra years. The challenge is, there isn't a specific chapter in the Bible on car buying or job hunting (or medical treatment  for that matter), so what are we supposed to do when we face these real life decisions?

I have often wondered what would have happened if I would have taken a different road. Would my life have been better, could we have avoided some of the pain we are facing if we had chosen differently? Where is God in the decision making process, is He hiding around the corner waiting to hammer me when I choose wrong?

If there is one truth that we have learned in this process, it is that we have a loving and gracious God. We have found Him waiting around each corner, but He isn't waiting there to hammer us, He is there preparing the way, clearing a path, often times moving roadblocks. At each turn we have been able to look back and see His the results of His actions.

Have we made mistakes, sure ( I bought gas from a less then attractive location that clogged up our fuel filter), but His response to our failures have been to forgive us (if we had sinned) and then show His undeserved favor. At times, He has even allowed painful and unpleasant things to happens, just so that He can rescue us.

Tomorrow we will have more decisions to make, some of them may seem impossible, but I am convinced that God is waiting around each corner with a plan to bless us. Why would He do that? Because He loves us and wants to draw other to Himself. Everyday we encounter people who don't know Him, and have never experienced His blessing. Everyday we have the opportunity to show them how much God loves them.

Even sitting in a hospital room we get the opportunity to show others His faithfulness and love. They are becoming a part of our story and they get to hear how God has blessed us and wants to bless them.

Pray for Josh as he gets blood today. Pray that the fever stays down so that he can go home. If he has to stay, then pray that we are bold enough to share Jesus with those that God puts in our path.

Pray also for our friends Bonnie and Bobby. Bonnie starts chemo this week and we are trusting that God will heal her. Pray that God will show them His favor and show off in their lives as they learn to trust Him in their journey with cancer. We are also confident that God will use them to show others His love and faithfulness.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Just Past Half Way

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Hebrew 12:1-2

When I was in high school, I ran on the cross country team. If you have ever run competitively, you know that there is a point in the race when you reach half way and you have less distance to go then what you have already covered. 

We have reached that point in Josh's chemotherapy treatments. We have fewer treatments left then what we have been through already. We have faced some difficult challenges and we have seen God bless us in unexpected ways. There have been things that were easier then we expected and things that were harder.

When running I learned that although I may have less distance to travel to the end of the race then what I had already gone, the second half of the race is not always easier. Sometimes, the second half is a down hill slope and you can coast to the finish line other times it is all up hill.

I went to school at Faith Academy, in the Philippines and our cross country race was in the hills around the school. The down hill slope was the first half of the race and you had to run up hill most of the way back to the finish line.

Faith Academy, Manila Philippines
The school sits on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding area

We learned early on in the cross country season to set a pace that gave us the strength to finish the race. Often our competing teams would take off from the starting line at breakneck speeds, only to run out of steam before the finish line.

As we run this race of life,  sometimes the path is more difficult during the second half. We are half way through the chemotherapy treatments and it is easy to feel daunted by what lies a head. I hope that we will find it is all down hill from here, but some days it looks like there are steeper hills in front of us.

What we have learned so far in this journey is that God is faithful. Each day He provides what we need when we need it. Some days it is a note of encouragement, other days it is getting the opportunity to share our faith with others. We see Him at work in our lives and those around us. 

In high school when we were running the race, when we reached the bottom of the last hill, if you looked up, you could get discouraged and think you would never reach the top. But if you focused on taking one step at a time, you could climb that hill. And then, as you came over the top, you remembered that the finish line was just over the peak of the hill.

We may not be able to see the finish line, but we know that God is with us each step of the way, and when we get there, we will be surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who will see all that He has done.