Although I initially wrote this on Christmas Eve for my other personal blog, I felt it would still be fitting to use it for our monthly newsletter as well. It both shows where we are really at and reveals what God is doing in our hearts through it all in spite of it. Lord bless you this winter season as you read it.
A Valley is Still a Valley (But a River Is No less Refreshing In It)
For those of you who do not know my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma in July of this year and has had to endure a rigorous schedule of chemo therapy since then. As a result I have had to take on the role of being the sole care provider of our three small children (with help) and maintain the sanity and morale of our home these past 5 mos or so in edition to working a full time job. Needless to say it has not been easy for any of us least of all my poor wife and nothing has been off the table regarding our individual and personal suffering not even Christmas. Everything from our relationship with each other to our physical health and financial standing has been attacked over the last five mos. Why not Christmas? And yet our God has seen us through it all, even Christmas. Through the most unexpected sources our God has proved time and again his undeniable sovereignty over the cosmos and everyone and everything in it.
And I guess that’s why I’m writing…to remind myself that our God is still on the throne in spite of my insatiable loneliness in the absence of my wife’s affection (who can think to be affectionate when they are suffering like she is?), my frustration at having to spend Christmas at home away from extended family without a real tree (petty i know but I’m only human), my anxiety at trying to single handedly help our children focus on Christmas and not their mother’s poor health (impossible I know but I have to try). Now it’s not like God hasn’t already gone above and beyond for us especially this Christmas, providing a magnificently large stocking full of unexpected gifts many loving saints went out of their way to give us, the likes of which you could fit at least two of our children into, not to mention an army of gracious mothers to cook and prepare a Christmas feast for our little family in edition to taking care of their own. The truth is I really do have much to be thankful for…and I guess I needed to mention that. But in spite of all this and so many more wonderful streams of grace and provision I could mention that God has provided in this valley we are in, it is after all still very much a valley and difficult as valleys go.
It still hurts to watch my wife suffer the way that she does. It breaks my heart how unsympathetic I can be, how brainless or clueless I can be when she needs me the most. In spite of my best efforts to care for her and bless her let alone this Christmas, the truth is I cannot really give her what she truly wants: her health. I cannot restore her body, make her hair grow in or make her nausea go away. I cannot take away her discomfort make her breathe easier or give her the last five mos she has lost back. I am utterly powerless to do anything she really needs or wants. And that is more difficult for me than I care to admit. So while God has and continues to bless our little family in this season it is still in a valley that he is doing so. It is still waiting for my wife to go through her chemo on Friday. It is still in the midst of great emotional physical and psychological suffering. And that is a reality I must accept, a reality no Christmas gift I give or receive can make go away, a reality no delicious dinner can eclipse. And that is the will of God for our family whether we choose to see it or not. I know that and believe that. The Bible even confirms it.
So why am I writing this on Christmas Eve? Maybe to give myself a reality check. Maybe to give you the reader something to be thankful for. Maybe to remind myself at the end of the day that the true meaning of Christmas is not gifts or trees or family or even friends. It is not showing love or being loved. It is not warm feelings or lovely songs, treats or memories. It is about a fallen world that the God of the universe loved so much he intentionally sacrificed his own Son to redeem it. It is about a little human baby being God incarnate waiting to willfully and joyfully sacrifice himself so that the creation His Father loves can be redeemed, redeemed from all the sickness and death that plagues it, the sin that corrupts and distorts it and the devil that manipulates and destroys it. Maybe at the end of the day God loves my wife and I so much that He decided in edition to saving us from His own deserved wrath he would put us through this awful season to deepen and refine our perspective of the redemptive reality Christmas was always meant to magnify and reflect. Maybe so I could write this in the middle of my own personal heartbreak and you the reader could benefit from it. Who really knows but him?
I only know that on this lonely Christmas Eve with my wife asleep in our bed struggling to sleep, and our three children waiting for the morning to come as quickly as possible that this daddy needed to pour out his soul somewhere in the hope that his own (though minuscule in comparison to his wife’s own but still no less painful) suffering is not in vain and can be used to the glory of God quite in spite of himself. He needed to express if only to himself the reality that this season is no less painful because of a great flowing river of grace and that grace is no less magnificent just because this season of misery in the valley is so awful.
I know it’s Christmas Eve. And on Christmas Eve we try to think of pleasant things. But on this Christmas Eve night I have been confronted once again with the horrors of chemo therapy and the destruction it has wreaked on my wife’s already fragile body. I have been confronted with the reality of the gospel. I have been confronted with my own inadequacy and the supremacy of Christ. I have been confronted with the true meaning of Christmas and the baubles and trinkets I tend to replace it with. I have been confronted with reality. And as painful as it is I am grateful for it. I can think of no more practical gift one can receive on Christmas Eve from their maker than to be confronted with their own desperate need for him and the glorious love he chooses to lavish on His children in that need. So if you take nothing from what I have written up till now please take this.
On this Christmas look at the people you are surrounded by, the gifts around your tree, the wonderful ways that God has shown you favor through the year and remember you deserve none of it. Neither do I. And we would have none of it if the Son of God did not condescend to take the form of a human embryo, become subject to the physical limitations of an ordinary lowly human being and die in our place. It is because of his unfathomable sacrifice before and during the cross that people like my wife (and others like her) can have hope in the midst of the most unthinkable suffering. It is because of His sacrifice that this time of year has meaning. It is because of the enduring practical gracious love of the godhead that I can write this exhortation on Christmas Eve instead of feeling sorry for myself. It is because of that little baby in Bethlehem that you can read this and benefit from what I have written in it.
Merry Christmas who ever you are. I love you and pray that the love I have experienced in this valley will spill over into your life as well. It may be a valley I am in but the grace of God is no less tangible and real in it. You may be in a valley yourself and it may hurt something fierce. And that hurt may definitely be valid. But I guarantee you that if you are in Christ there is a river waiting for you in it. Don’t give in to the bitterness or self pity of your heart. Don’t be robbed by the deceiver into thinking you have nothing. Find that river which God has provided for you in your circumstance and drink from it even if it is only the remembrance of who Christ is and what He did for you and I. I guarantee you that is enough to satisfy you in the depths of your soul in whatever valley are in right now if you will only be willing to see it. Lord bless you and make His face to shine upon you this coming year. Remember if only by God in Christ, you are loved more deeply than you could ever comprehend. And that my friend is more than enough.
As for Cindy’s current health situation:
The results of her bronchoscope were negative for infection. It turns out that the damage is really the result of the bliomyicin in her chemo cocktail.
As a result they have put her on prednisone for the next two weeks or so to help w her breathing & lung function. Her last chemo minus the bliomyicin will be on the ninth. Then the lung dr is scheduled to check up on her a few days later. Sometime after that she has to go to a bone marrow specialist to see if she will need a bone marrow transplant. Depending on the results of that meeting they will monitor her for reoccurrence in the future. But that’s only if all goes according to plan. And as we have seen nothing hardly ever does. So your prayers are appreciated.
A Few Simple Prayer Requests:
For Cindy as she endures the side effects of the prednisone she has to take for her lung issues
For the boys as they adjust to mommie’s breathing issues
For daddy as he takes on more responsibility in the home
For the grandparents as they continue to travel back and forth to help