From the monthly archives:

May 2010

The cardboard boxes were delivered by couriers to the traffic circle in front of our Houston apartment.  I would go down and sign for the box, carry it back to the apartment where we would open it and count out the infusion bags, plastic tubing and sanitary soaps and swabs. The plastic bags filled with IV fluids would then be deposited into our small refrigerator between the bread, milk and cheese.

It was not the normal way I’ve anticipated special deliveries.  When a delivery comes to the door, it normally holds a  little bit of Christmas, no matter what time of year, and unfolding the treasures is a better part of a day.  These boxes were different.  They held expensive medicine and meant that another week would go by before we could even consider moving home.  The boxes held a “severe mercy,”  on one hand saving Jan’s life and on the other not allowing life to move on.

But last weekend, we packed those same boxes with five months of apartment living.   The boxes were timely because, like Abraham out of Egypt, we left with more possessions than we arrived.  Now, those same boxes hold possessions brought out of our Egypt sojourn.

I will be honest.  I had hoped to leave Houston with a parade. Jan and I had thought that it would be the end to the tightrope of medications, appointments and blood tests.  Though we knew that “life would not be the same” post transplant, we had thought that we would be further down the road, yet the boxes keep coming.  I have learned just how far medical science can stretch a human being made in the image of God and still how tentative life is, a fact that most people ignore or shove to the side with religious platitudes and false bravado.

Our litany of journey-mates continues to grow.  There is Roger who’s multiple myeloma has returned. Bill who is on his way out of the country for alternative treatment.  Bobby’s friend who died not of the cancer but of complications from treatment five weeks ago. Rich who had a stem cell transplant seven months ago and prays with understanding for Jan. We walk together on this stony path like trekkers who leave messages for one another at the resting huts.  All along I see those who, like the prophet Ezekiel, have a forehead like flint and a heart softened by grace wrought through suffering.

What takes place on a suffering path?  If you are determined to not be consumed by the hour or day or years of its design, you must first embrace an unpopular truth.  It is this.  Suffering is not God’s punishment for disobedience and prosperity is not God’s reward for good behavior.  Suffering is by God’s design part and parcel to living in this dying world and being trapped in this flesh that Paul says is the dwelling place of “nothing good.” For those who suffer, the great lesson of Job (the oldest book in the bible is about suffering? Interesting…) was not about healing, deliverance or miraculous interventions but about faithfulness, believing God, and embracing the truth that we are God’s Champions placed in the arena to prove that stone cold faith in God conquers the wiles of satan.

Elizabeth Elliot muses that the story would have never been so poignant if Job had been privy to the conversations about him that took place beyond Heaven’s gate.  The silence of God only erodes untempered faith.  To those who have walked through dark nights, little needs to be said because God is known to be near.   “It is not in understanding all things that we have our peace; it is in knowing He understands and somehow makes sense of it to His glory.”  Well said, Rich.

Edna Hong writes about her painful journey and compares it to a river bed that is filled with stones.  Her life had been both difficult and dry and she trekked over unrelenting stones that tore at her heart.  One day she realized that each of the stones had taught and directed her through the painful path she was on.  She remembered hearing about the discovery of an ancient scroll reportedly telling sayings of Jesus not recorded in the four gospels.  One of them was, “Turn over any stone, and I am there.”

Don’t misunderstand.  I do not believe Jesus actually said those words though I have found them to be true.  Turn over any stone in my life… protracted illness, heart wrenching relationships, broken trusts… I find “Jesus” written on the other side.   If you are brave enough to look, you will find His fingerprints on the stones of your life too.

There is a wonderful promise from the book of Isaiah spoken in the midst of Israel’s  woes. He says,

Although the Lord has given you the bread of privation and water of oppression, He, our Teacher, will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher.
Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.  Isaiah 30:20-21

I almost forgot… the boxes.

We are filling them with the collection of nicknacks and dust collectors gathered over too many years.  One lesson our sojourn has taught is how little we need to be reminded of the things we love.  We want to simplify our life to loving God and others.  Things tend to get in the way of that goal.

Others will be filled with treasures and used to pack gifts to be given.  What first was filled with stones will be used to bring joy and treasure in the end.  That really is the picture of God’s mysterious ways, isn’t it?

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

Never forget, Sojourner.  Never forget.


A Note from Jan

May 13, 2010

Dear Church Family,

It was absolutely wonderful to see you and be able to worship with you on Sunday, my heart was definitely over flowing with joy.  My medical team sent me with so many cautions that I wanted to prepare you for what “life with Jan” will look like when I return soon.

There is a very good possibility that I will be able to be there again this Sunday and, if we can get a hold of some of the recent complications, they will allow me to move home the following weekend.  In other words, our primary home would be back in New Braunfels while we travel to Houston instead of visa-versa.   I will be starting to see my local oncologist as well, but they will keep me close to MDA for quite a while.

Some of these guidelines may seem silly but the transplant specialists  have VERY good reason’s for them.  Because I did not  take them as seriously as I should, I ended up back in the hospital in critical condition for a week as well as staying in Houston a month longer than originally planned.  God sufficiently yanked my chain and I learned that I had some areas of my heart when it comes to obedience that God needed to deal with.  He is faithful to give us the desire’s of our heart when we cry out to be like Him.  All this to say, I am called to not just be obedient to God but to the authority that God has placed in my life which includes the doctor’s who have done this 1000’s of times and God has placed as authorities in my life.

So this is where I not only “need your help” but I MUST HAVE your help to stay out of the hospital.  You know me, I am a hugger, I love my church family and the hardest thing for me is not being able to hug and touch. I long for the day when those restrictions will  not be there.

Here are 5 guidelines from my physician:

1. Babies and children are the biggest no-no, because they are exposed to and pick up much more sickness.  People have described my immune system as that of an infant, well that is not as accurate as you think.  An infant is born with their mother’s immune system to protect them, since it is not their own they are more “vulnerable” until they develop their own immune system.  After transplant I have NO immune system, so I am vulnerable to absolutely everything until I develop my own system which takes approximately 18 months.  At that time I will start the same immunization schedule that children go through.

2. I CAN’T be around babies, children, or even adults that are being immunized for four weeks. If I was exposed I would actually develop whatever disease they were immunized for.   I really need you to protect me, for FOUR WEEKS please no contact if you, your babies or children have been immunized.

3. If you or a family member has been sick in the last week, even includes rashes, please stay back.  In our area there are so many allergies we all think our coughs and sniffles are “just allergies” but I can’t take a risk that there is not an infection or bacteria involved.  As much as I would love to visit with you please help me by staying away until everything is clear.

4. Hand washing and sanitizing is a REALLY big deal, that is the way a transplant recipient develops most infections.  You will notice hand gel and antibiotic soap everywhere at the church, please use it if you come around me.  I do it every time I move from one place to the next. So please don’t get your feelings hurt if I grab some hand sanitizer if either of us forgets and touch one another.

5. I cannot have plants or flowers in the house because of the bacteria.  I also can not eat most fresh fruits or vegetables unless they are cooked well.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.  I am looking forward to being able to hug your neck or shake your hand again but right now we still need to hug from a distance.  You will see me hug my family, especially my grandchildren, please don’t feel like I am just cutting off other people. MDA  allows family contact because they know how important that is for emotional recovery.  If they are sick, or been exposed to someone sick or have had immunizations the rules all apply to them as well.

Love you,