Monday, April 30, 2012


Up until the last year, I can honestly say that I have suffered very little in my life.

Growing up, I was the princess, the last child in our family and the only girl.  I wouldn't say that I was spoiled rotten, but I never wanted for much.  My mom loved dressing me in cute clothes, my dad thought that I hung the moon, and my older brothers played with me and doted on me (except for when my brother Ryan was beating me up).  I am fairly booksmart and school was never a challenge.  College was a breeze, and I graduated in four years even though I did two majors and one minor.  Master's degree done by 26 years old.  Married to my high school sweetheart at the age of 21.  Perfect, healthy son.  No problems with pregnancy.  Always had a teaching job even in a tough economy.  Even more amazingly, no one close to me has ever died.  I still have all four of my grandparents.  My parents are still living.  I knew even before cancer struck my husband that I had a golden life.

What is suffering?

In April of 2011, I finally learned what suffering meant.  Before, I thought that suffering was having to eat out less in a month because we had spent too much money in another area of our budget, or having to take antibiotics for a bad sinus infection.  No.  That's not what suffering is.  Those are minor annoyances.

When a doctor looked at me levelly last year and told me that my husband was going to surely die of cancer and most likely within the following year, I felt like my life screeched to a sudden halt at that very moment.  In a way, it kind of did.  The golden life ended.  There were times in the couple of months after Ryan was diagnosed that I cried and sobbed and raged and despaired until the point that I could hardly breathe.  There were days that I felt like I wished I was dead, because I couldn't bear the pain I was feeling in that moment and could not scarcely imagine the pain that was ahead of me.  I haven't felt the physical effect of this journey, but the emotional hell that I've been through already has been harrowing at times.  By definition, suffering is a participle of "to suffer", which means to experience something bad or unpleasant.  Yeah, I've been there.

What purpose does suffering serve?

So many people have asked God, "Why Ryan and Kendra?  They are good people.  They should not have to go through this," and I cannot answer that question.  I know that amazing things have come out of this and I see purposes, but I do not know why us as opposed to someone else.  It begs the question, has God ordained for us to go through this, or has He allowed us to walk through this fire?  Does it really even matter?  Either way, we as Christians are called to share in the sufferings of the cross.  That means that not only are we NOT guaranteed a comfortable life as Christians, we are expected to live a life that includes a degree of suffering.  Think of it this way: early Christians were pretty much assured of a life of extreme suffering and persecution for following Christ.  Would you still have followed Christ if you were certain that your life would be difficult afterwards?

Through suffering we are purified.  Not purified of our sins, which were paid for by Christ's death on the cross, but purified of our unbelief, our apathy, and our worldly desires.  When all those things are stripped away from us, Christ shines more completely and more brilliantly through us.  Throughout the cancer journey, I feel like God has had me on a tether of 12 inches or less.  Even throughout my mini-depression that has come on lately, He has not allowed me to wander too far from Him.  My understanding of God and His character and the way that his promises are intimately entwined with each other is priceless.  In fact, as I was discussing with my friend Cindy, who lost her husband to cancer just over a year ago, she and I agreed that though we have been through stages of hell (she much more than I have), we would not trade our suffering.  Our relationships with the Lord have both thrived and He has become everything to us...after all, when life and security is ripped away, He is one strong tower that will not fall or waver.  Would we have had this dependency on Him if it hadn't been for cancer?  No, probably not.  And you really can't put a price on growing thisclose to God.

Our eternal glory

Paul was pretty adamant that even extreme suffering is pretty minor when we compare it to the riches that await us in eternity.  He mentions this comparison a few times in the New Testament, among them:

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


So those moments where I despaired and sobbed and raged and felt so much heartache that I had a hard time dragging my weary load...

Are nothing...light and momentary troubles!...when compared to the glory that awaits those of us who follow Christ.

Never before this time in my life has Romans 5 made more sense:

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Can you honestly say in your heart that you are not afraid of suffering?  If your hope is in the things of this world, then the loss of your physical and emotional comfort will lead to insecurity, instability, and fear.  But when your hope lies in the incomparable glory of an eternity abiding in Christ, you will have the ability to face suffering with an unshakable hope, a direct result of God's grace lavished on the people that He loves enough to allow them to share both His son's suffering and His glory.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Timely prayer

This Tuesday is when Ryan will begin his radiation treatment in Zion. He flies out at noon and will begin his treatment that afternoon.

I thought that it might be helpful to mention when his treatments will be so that people can know when to specifically pray for effective treatment and minimal side effects.

So this week it will be (and note that all times are Central time):

Tues: 2:00 pm

Wed: 9:10 am

Thurs: 10:00 am

Fri: 9:10 am

He will be flying home Friday and then either driving or flying back the following Monday (we aren't sure yet).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Riding the razor's edge between life and death

Seasons, guitarist, women, and cancer treatment....

What do they all have in common? 

A certain rhythm. 

Treatment, scans, results, treatment, scans, results, etc

This cycle has gone on for a year now. Every two to three months we have the dreaded "S" word... SCANS. 

What are scans like? 

Starting about a week or two before the appointment, what if thoughts, doubts, and worries start to creep into your mind like a spy. Sneaky and Deceptive.

As the day approaches anxiety rises until the day before I go into a kind of quiet sullenness. The weight of tomorrow builds and builds. Was that ache or pain real? Is the cancer spreading? How much longer can we ride this like we have? 

As we arrive at the hospital I go get the actual scans late in the afternoon. Now I have an evening to kill. Often times we'll hit the mall or watch a movie. Trying to find a distraction is a waste of time, but we still try. There's a weight on my chest and I can see it in my wife as well. 

Sleeping is usually not an option. Kendra and I are in a sad competition to see who is more wrestless. Tossing and turning, wondering what tomorrow will hold. 

As I wake the next morning, sometimes I forget what I'm doing for a second. Then it comes slamming home like an asteroid what is in my future. Is the chemo working? Do we need to change? What if the cancer is spreading? 

So many questions.

Breakfast is bland. My thoughts are racing. Then we head up to the Dr's Office. Minutes drag on as we wait for our names to be called. Sometimes I read scripture on my phone, other times I play mindless games. I can't really focus on anything for very long. 

"Mr. Prudhomme"

Deep breath, here we go, back to the examination room.

Now is the worst part. It's probably only five to ten minutes, but it feels like hours. Everybody that walks by gets your heart up. 

Maybe it'll be good news. But you don't want to let your hopes up. But maybe this is has been the right time to get things going. 

I try to discipline my mind not to expect anything. 

Knock Knock!

Hello Ryan, how are you? Well I looked at the scans and......

I hate scans, but through the process I have learned the importance of disciplining my mind. I can't control the results. I can however control what I do with the scary thoughts, the worries, and the anxiety. I can cast all my cares upon Christ. I can also will myself to be positive. 

Maybe it came from losing so many games in sports, but I have an uncanny ability to stay positive and choose not to be overwhelmed by my circumstances. 

What are the "scans" in your life? Choose your attitude no matter what. It's the only thing we can control sometimes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Do your circumstances define your faith? Or does faith define circumstances?

Last Sunday I had the privilege of speaking at Olivet Evangelical Free Church in Muskegon. What a warm and inviting community they have.

I shared our story and the lessons in radical obedience that God is teaching us.

Listen to it here!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We are so thankful for you.

"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." Ephesians 1:16

As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, he was thankful for the way that they had housed him and helped him grow his ministry there.  We, too, are so thankful for the people that have housed us, fed us, prayed for us, and remembered us in their own prayers for the last 13 months.  We find this blog to be an amazing way of connecting with people from all over the world that have resonated with our story and are continually floored by the way that people have supported us!

We have both been approached by a ton of people about what we are going to have to do in order to pull off treatment in Chicago.  We were asked by probably no less than twenty people (no joke) to let us know what our needs are.  Some even specifically asked us to put it on our blog.  We were reticent to say at first what we needed because people have already been so generous with us in the past, but I had someone argue with me: "Yeah, not everyone had the chance to be at the Rodeo last summer.  Some of us still want a chance to help."  Duly noted.  So let me start with a list of the logistics that I'm pulling together:
  1. Ryan will stay at CTCA's guest quarters four nights a week.
  2. Ryan will fly home four or five times to be with us on the weekends.  FYI, the only airline that flies between O'Hare and Muskegon is United.
  3. Colton and I will drive between here and Chicago once or twice before school is done, but once school is done we will be abandoning Michigan in favor of being with Ryan 24/7.  Our house will need to be looked after, our horses will need the same, and our dog will need a temporary home.
  4. The hospital has a cafeteria that Ryan will eat most of his meals at, but sometimes he has a hard time with the food, especially if he has any nausea.  Therefore, for a little bit of variety and/or a plan B, he will occasionally eat at Applebee's (really the only nearby restaurant).
  5. Ryan does a lot of things around our house that intimidate me, such as transporting garbage, weed-whacking, and doing minor car things.
That ends the logistical end of it.  Let's go to the other end, the personal-social end of this situation, which is much, much more daunting:
  1. Prayer.  The only way that this is going to work is if it's in God's will, and we believe that His ear is very much attuned to the desires of His people.  Please continue to intercede on our behalf before His throne that He would heal Ryan.
  2. Encouragement.  These weeks are going to be a long haul, and possibly kind of boring and lonely (especially for Ryan).  Cards, emails, words of encouragement, verses, etc. will be really helpful for both of us.  If you are in the Chicagoland area, Ryan would LOVE to have a cup of coffee with you. :)
  3. Understanding.  We might be more unavailable than usual, and we will surely be very protective of our weekends.  If we seem aloof, please be understanding of the reasons why.
  4. Attitude.  I realize that there is a "light at the end of the tunnel" and that my separation from Ryan is only temporary, but since he's been diagnosed with cancer, nights away from him are really rough on me...almost like a harsh reminder of what I'm facing if cancer takes him from me.
  5. Colton.  We are going to strive to have this be as smooth as possible for our son, but he's very, very attached to his daddy right now and I'm concerned about how he'll handle this disruption to his life.  We are planning on utilizing Skype and Facetime quite a bit so that he can feel connected to his dad, but if you can remember Colton specifically when you pray for our family, that would be so appreciated.
  6. Ministry.  Our jobs are our primary ministries.  To that end, we are hoping that we can both remain fully vested in our job responsibilities.  For me to be able to stay fully connected, I will need Ryan's treatments to go smoothly.  Thankfully, a lot of Ryan's job duties include doing things on the computer, which he can do from anywhere, and he is hoping to keep up with meetings by Skype.  Additionally, he will have some time on his hands to work on our book project, plus he would welcome the opportunity to speak at Chicagoland churches.
PHEW.  Okay, now that I type it out I realize that we do have a lot going on right now.  :)

Since Ryan has been diagnosed with cancer, we have had to learn how to say "thank you" instead of shying away from the generosity of others. About a year ago, we were lectured by a close friend about how giving is more about the giver than the recipient.  "Kendra and Ryan, do not take away someone else's opportunity to obey God's calling in their lives."  Um, okay.  When you put it like that, it seems different.  Truth be told, we really wish that we were not in this situation in our lives and that we are recipients of blessings instead of the givers.  It's awkward, and my pride is crippling at times.  But I do know because I have been on the other side of the fence, that God-prompted giving is a blessing.  So that's why we have learned how to say "thank you" when an eight-year-old gives us seven dollars from his piggy bank to put towards "Mr. Ryan's medicine" - who are WE to tell a child that his gift is not wanted?  The generosity of people towards us has taught a valuable lesson about kindness that we will carry forward when we are no longer in this position and we have the opportunity to pour love into another hurting person's life.  We so look forward to the day when we can be the blessers instead of the blessees.  Until then, we continue to give God thanks for people like you - people that read our blog, pray for us, and consider us worthy recipients of your kindness!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

An introduction to the world of radiation.

Hello all!

This morning we met with our new radiation oncologist, Dr. Eden.  Let me start off by saying that besides my family members, Dr. Eden may be my new favorite person in the entire world.  He began the meeting by saying how encouraged he was that Ryan's cancer is localized and therefore treatable, and he firmly intends to take an aggressive, curative approach to treating Ryan instead of just palliative care.  He said that Ryan is young, strong, and "healthy", with a son and a wife to live for, so there is no point in not "completely going after it".  At this point, I screamed out a very happy, excited "Heck yeah!".  Tears flooded my eyes as someone said to us for the first time in a long time, "We want to try to get rid of this cancer."

We spent a long time discussing possible side effects, some of which are normal (fatigue, skin irritation, GI symptoms) and some are more rare and serious (long-term damage to the kidneys, colon, secondary cancers, possible infertility, and liver problems).  We are okay moving forward in spite of these...after all, we have very little to lose and a whole lot to gain.

So here's what the process will look like: we are on our way home right now, and next week Ryan will fly or drive down to Zion alone to have a two-day series of appointments to begin prepping for radiation treatments.  They will give him small tattoos to map out where they will give him the radiation (down to sub-millimeter accuracy), and mold a special board for him to lay upon so that he lays in the exact same position every day.  He will then fly back home for the last weekend in April and his treatments will likely begin the first week of May.  He will need to be down at CTCA every weekday for seven to nine weeks, with a break on the weekends.  He will concurrently be taking the same oral chemo that he has been taking because that chemo makes radiation more effective.  Colton and I will be able to see him on weekends (either we'll go to Chicago or he'll come home), and once school is done for the summer, I fully intend to be with Ryan until his treatments are over.

This doctor's faith was very evident from the get-go.  He said that he has a strong faith and believes that God uses him as an instrument of healing.  He insisted that he will pray with/for us the whole time that he's treating us.  In other words, he meshed really well with us.  We asked him about doing radiation close to home and while he did not say anything negative about any other provider, he did say that he believes that CTCA's radiation oncology department is second to none.  We felt extremely confident after the appointment was over that we should be in Zion for treatments, especially after having met Dr. Eden and hearing his approach to this.  After all, what Christian would not feel comfortable treating in a place called Zion?

Since we have elected to have the treatments done in the Chicagoland area, we are cognizant of the fact that our lives will be in upheaval for the next couple of months.  We are confident that God will provide for our needs, financially and logistically, in order for Ryan to get the best care possible.  We are already putting plans in place on how to juggle travel, lodging, "single parenting" (for me), nutrition needs for Ryan, and some family members are already asking if they can take time to stay with Ryan in Zion.  Truthfully, it will be a hardship for me and my students for me to be with him much.  I have a lot of responsibilities at school, and while Ryan absolutely comes first in my life, I need to balance that with the needs of my students.  This is a very busy time for me at school as I push to get my kids through their last chapters of the year and then prepare for the final exam.  Ryan has insisted that he will be okay without me - after all, the treatments for this do not seem to be too rigorous, and the side effects are very manageable.  This is why we have a support network in place, and I feel at peace with allowing other people to step in and help.

Specific prayer requests: for everything to go smoothly next week at the prep appointments on Tuesday & Wednesday, for wisdom & guidance & God's directive hand to be with the doctors, for provision for our needs, and for peace and comfort as we make this new bend in the road.  We continue to covet your prayers, and we praise God for how He continues to provide for our every need and that His will for our lives is absolutely perfect.  No matter what happens in the next couple of months, no matter what fork in the road comes along in this journey, our deepest desire is that His Mighty Name is glorified.

Psalm 24

Of David. A psalm.
1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
   the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
   and established it on the waters.

 3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
   Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
   who does not trust in an idol
   or swear by a false god.

 5 They will receive blessing from the LORD
   and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
   who seek your face, God of Jacob.

 7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
   be lifted up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
   The LORD strong and mighty,
   the LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
   lift them up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
   The LORD Almighty—
   he is the King of glory.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yay! An appointment!

We got in first thing with the director of the radiation department tomorrow morning at 8:30 Central time.  As the scheduler said when she called us back, "You guys are in good hands."  We like that.

Pray for wisdom at this appointment, and that they feel that they can move forward with radiation very, very soon.  We also need to still consider the Muskegon option, but we want to hear what Zion has to say first before we make our final decision on what to do.

Please, please, please pray lots!

Decisions, decisions.

Please pray for wisdom!

We met with our oncologist this morning and he delivered not-so-hot news to us: Ryan's tumors have started growing again.  Not by a ton, but any growth is a major concern.  Ryan had been starting to feel slight pain JUST this week, so that makes sense now.  As we started to talk about the possibility of another chemo treatment change (which would be extremely wicked...48-hour infusion, high doses, nasty side effects, losing his hair), radiation was brought back up again.  Our doctor called the radiation oncologist and received some good news: he thinks he might be able to possibly radiate the entire area that is affected by the cancer.  WE ARE SO GLAD and hopeful that we can do this.  We are going to try to get in to meet with him today or tomorrow.

So here is the problem: that would be every day, five days a week, for six to seven weeks.  If radiation does become an option for us, we would likely start next week.  Do we do this radiation in Zion or in Muskegon?  We are going to have to make more decisions once we meet with him.  There are pros and cons to both situations.  We will make it work either way.

We will update again soon, either today or tomorrow, to let you guys know what the plan is moving forward.  Either way, this is going to have a major, major impact on our lives.  Radiation in Muskegon five days a week, having to stay in the Chicagoland area five days a week, or incredibly nasty chemo.  What a choice!

We are reminding ourselves that our God is just as good as He was a year and a month ago before the madness started.  He is abounding in love and grace, and He cares very much about our hurt and our fear.

Psalm 103Of David.
 1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
 6 The LORD works righteousness
   and justice for all the oppressed.
 7 He made known his ways to Moses,
   his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
   slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
   nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
   or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
   so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
   so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
 13 As a father has compassion on his children,
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
   he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
   they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
   and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
   the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
   and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
   and remember to obey his precepts.
 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
   and his kingdom rules over all.
 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
   you mighty ones who do his bidding,
   who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
   you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works
   everywhere in his dominion.
   Praise the LORD, my soul.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Ryan Club

Lord, please grant me many more years.

This is a prayer I pray many times a day. Is it selfish? Sure. I want 50 more birthdays with Colton. I want to grow old with my wife. I want to see my grandchildren.

It's also missionally driven. I have a mentor of mine who started something called the "Caleb Club". It's modeled after the life of Caleb. As one of the twelve spies who scouted the promised land, Caleb came back with a positive report. Yes, he saw the giants, but he also saw the blessings. He had seen a vision of a new life for the nation of Israel and he trusted that God would deliver them over any obstacles in their way.

Unfortunately most of his comrades didn't have that vision. So Caleb was left to wander the desert for forty years while an entire generation died off so that a new generation of Israelites could fulfill God's purpose for their lives. The vision he saw earlier was able to sustain him while everyone around him died. When the time came, at the age of 85, Caleb was able to answer the call. We don't know when he died but we do know at 85 he was a great warrior that led the Israelites into battle. He fought giants and conquered the land with Joshua.

There are a few requirements to be a member of the Caleb Club. One must be over forty, and have a vision so grand that it will take forty years to accomplish.

I want to be a part of the Caleb Club. I want to be 40, and I want to be 85. I want to see everything God could do through me in 60 more years. However I'm starting a new club until then. It's the Ryan Club. Anybody at any age can join. Here's the deal.

I don't know how much time I have left on this earth. I do however have an increasing sense of urgency and pressure that God is doing an incredible work in and through me. I don't know what it looks like, but when I think about everything God has for me to accomplish in my life I feel overwhelmed.

I don't know how God could do all this in a normal lifetime. However if God is going to call me home sooner than later, and his plans will be fulfilled, this is going to be one crazy ride.

So the Ryan Club only requires that you feel burdened by God to do something so big that only He could accomplish it, no matter how much time you have.

When I think about my life and the legacy I may leave, I often think if I had more time I could do more. That's not true. The reality is God can fulfill more in one second of my life than I can in a lifetime. So while it scares me to think that He might be able to use me most effectively in a short time, it's incredibly exciting to think about what that would look like.

God please give me many more years, but more importantly, give me a vision so grand that I don't know how to accomplish it! Are you willing to join my club?

Monday, April 16, 2012

That old familiar feeling

Hmm...why can't I sleep?

Why don't I have any appetite?

Why am I snappy and distracted?

Why do I feel so overwhelmed?

Oh's scan week.

We leave tomorrow for the sixth set of scans that Ryan has had since he began chemotherapy at the end of April last year.  I can assure you, this does not get easier.  The planning, the worrying, the logistics, the expenses, the emotions, the unknown, the time, the's all so wearisome.  Ryan just remarked that even though he's very pleased with CTCA still and the level of care we get, he is burned out with having to be there.  I'm so over cancer and all of the junk that goes along with it.  I'm ready to get off the ride, please.

However, that being said, I would declare that our spirits are pretty good.  Ryan is looking good (of course) and feeling well, and he is poking fun at me a lot.  That is a good sign, because that means that he is his normal self.

The last couple of weeks have been overwhelming, as we have had sooo many things to check off of our list.  Spring cleaning, projects around the property, family pictures, horse trading, birthday party for Colton, papers to grade, and Detroit Tigers games to attend. In the midst of the busyness, it's nice to be doing all of these things with my husband - with the exception of paper grading.  In all seriousness, it does feel like life is maybe going a bit too fast, but I cannot figure out how to slow down.  I am so busy on all fronts and just feel like time is something that I never have enough of.  Housework and gourmet cooking are suffering greatly!  Oh well.

Meanwhile, it seems like cancer has been taking center stage in our prayer life - not just for us, but for lots of friends and acquaintances and even family members.  Please remember Pat, Patty, Dianna, Collin, Cheryl, and Tim in your prayers this week, especially Dianna.  She is a mother of five that was just recently put in hospice.  Additionally, our sister-in-law's mother passed away from cancer yesterday after a long, brave battle.  Her name was Melinda and her family, the Fierros, could really use prayer as they navigate these difficult first days without her.  And finally, I have a special friend that is marking the anniversary of her husband's death from cholangiocarcinoma today, and she has been on my heart constantly this week.

So there's the update on what things have been like lately.  Busy yet good, but still hard all at the same time.  This is so hard.

Dear readers, we could use a ton of prayer this week as we go into these scans.  Please pray for good results, for even some shrinking...I would love shrinking.  But also pray that no matter the results, that Ryan and I will remain with our compasses pointed straight to the loving arms of our gracious God, who has surely covered us in peace and grace during each one of these six experiences.  We love you all so much and could not walk this journey without the body of Christ about us.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  (Luke 12: 6-7)

Colton's 2 year picture...can't wait to get my 8x10!

The picture that I have been so looking forward to taking....
Colton, me, AND Ryan on Colton's 2nd birthday!
A year ago we were told that this would likely not happen.

The newest member of our family, Buckaroo!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Day 366!

It's been 366 days since I was given a year to live.

James 1:17
17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tick Tock when will the clock run out?

Tomorrow is a big day for me again. I promise I won't get all sentimental every time an "anniversary" rolls around. However tomorrow will be exactly one year since I was told I wouldn't live "another year"! It's also Colton's birthday, but I don't want to talk about cancer at all tomorrow. So we're going to celebrate one year today, and two years (with Colton) tomorrow.

Being told you have one year to live changes your life. You'll never go back to the old way. Every day over the last year I've had it run through my mind, "how much time do I have?" It is inescapable that I have a ticking time clock running over my head.

When I try to plan, I think about how much time I have.

When I enjoy a special moment or holiday, I wonder if I'll get to do it again?

When I hear people talk about the future, I wonder if I'll be around?

When I think about my family, I wonder if I'll get to raise them?

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick.

The clock never stops ticking in my mind.

This can do two things to you. It can cripple you, depress you, and paralyze you. It can also motivate, reorient, and focus you. It has done the second for me (most of the time).

This year has been a year of enjoying moments, holidays, experiences, and life more than ever before. I'm not perfect but I've gotten a lot better and not wasting time and see what time I have left as an investment.

I think there are a couple reasons why I'm still around.

1. God's Grace
2. Prayer of the saints
3. Modern medicine combined with age old practices
4. A dogged determination to stay positive

Most of this journey has been out of my control. However the difference between being paralyzed and prioritized is simple.

I choose!

I choose to live life to the fullest.

I'm one year closer to death than a year ago. So are you! Don't wait until some stranger with a title behind his name tells you to wake up and take life seriously. I have a terminal diagnosis, and so do you.

This last year has been the most difficult year of my life. It's also been the best. Living daily more dependent upon God than ever has radically redefined who I am.

Romans 14:8
If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Thank you for the meals, the prayers, the gifts, the love, the hugs, the help, the cards, the comments, the laundry, the house cleaning, the support of my family, child care, vehicle repairs, support at work, at church, help mowing the lawn, taking care of horses, house work, yard work, the rodeo, and so so much more. Thank you to my family, my friends, and my new friends (who I have never met) on this blog. Thank you for reading and encouraging us. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for an amazing year! You are all so important to us and we'll never be able to tell you how much you've meant to us.

I'm so grateful for this past year, and I can't wait to see what God is going to do in the coming year. What would it look like if we all surrendered our lives to Christ and lived life to the fullest in High Definition?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


"Senora Prudhomme, it's SNOWING outside!"

I looked up yesterday morning and confirmed to my student that yes, estaba nevando, it was in fact snowing. Is anyone surprised? It's Michigan.  Michigan is menopausal in early spring, with hot and cold flashes that alternately bring us Michiganders out of our stuffy houses to play in the sunshine, and then send us scurrying back inside the propane-heated enclave that is our winter den.

As I tried redirecting this dear student back to the task at hand (having a thrilling conversation about place settings in Spanish), I glanced outside and thought about my farmer friends.  Our ridiculously warm bout of  summer weather in March caused all the fruit orchards to wake up and bloom.  It was really nice to visit the beach in March in only jeans and a tee shirt, but now the fruit trees are in dire straits as Michigan has returned to normal temperatures (e.g., cold).

The cold temperatures are dangerous to "tender vegetation".  An app on my phone is always popping up and letting me know that it's going to be cold outside at night, and that I should protect my tender vegetation.  I don't even have any vegetation in the ground yet since I'm not planting until late May, so I'm not really too concerned about my own garden.  The fruit farmers, on the other hand, are in big trouble with wintry temperatures at night.

Copyright National Geographic

Lately, I have felt like this picture of icy winter sums up my life.

Things were going swimmingly.  I was blooming.  And then winter came back and ice settled over my branches, stifling growth and tender vegetation that had been developing for the better part of a year.

Full disclosure: I am not perfect by a long shot.  I write for this blog because I'm passionate about encouraging people and I'm so glad with how God has blessed me through that, but right now I am struggling to focus on others.  I can't write.  I have probably a dozen half-hearted blog posts that are terrible and never deserve to be posted.  Lately it's been all about me: how much I hurt, how much I want to get off this ride, and how sorry I feel for myself.  Nobody wants to read that stuff.

So, my friends, it's really not important anymore how I got here, but the important part is how long am I going to allow myself to go on like this?  It's only going to be by removing my focus from myself and putting it back on the Lord that I will pull out of this wintry dormancy.

What is it going to take for me to make that decision to thaw?

Truth is truth, no matter how I feel about it.  I know that I serve a God that is bigger than my sadness, that loves me beyond measure, and that cares very deeply about how much I hurt.

I will keep slugging this out in the trenches, even when I open my Bible and it looks like it's in a foreign language, so distant are the words.  I am going to pull out of this winter and dance once again in sunshine with His leading.

Psalm 86
A prayer of David.

 1 Hear me, LORD, and answer me, 
   for I am poor and needy. 
2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; 
   save your servant who trusts in you. 
You are my God; 3 have mercy on me, Lord, 
   for I call to you all day long. 
4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord, 
   for I put my trust in you.

 5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good, 
   abounding in love to all who call to you. 
6 Hear my prayer, LORD; 
   listen to my cry for mercy. 
7 When I am in distress, I call to you, 
   because you answer me.

 8 Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; 
   no deeds can compare with yours. 
9 All the nations you have made 
   will come and worship before you, Lord; 
   they will bring glory to your name. 
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; 
   you alone are God.

 11 Teach me your way, LORD, 
   that I may rely on your faithfulness; 
give me an undivided heart, 
   that I may fear your name. 
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; 
   I will glorify your name forever. 
13 For great is your love toward me; 
   you have delivered me from the depths, 
   from the realm of the dead.

Is cancer spilled milk?

Terrible two's or Terrific two's? I'm not so sure right now. Colton will turn two on Saturday and we've entered a new stage of parenting recently.

Violent overreactions!

Kicking, screaming, slapping, screaming, throwing, screaming. Did I mention screaming?

Colton is learning to express himself but hasn't figured out how to process his emotions appropriately. I'm not worried; it's a stage.

He seems to be able to go from normal, happy, loving little boy....

to parent-eating, self-centered, screaming velociraptor in a millisecond.

What sets him off so quickly? Everything.

Having a lid on his cup...

putting a coat on...

not putting a coat on...

being hungry...

being given food...

spilled milk...

and most often that dreaded "N" word.

Despite these circumstances being completely irrelevant to Colton's health, future, or development, if you were to solely look at his reaction you'd think he was losing a limb. His reaction is so drastically unequal to the circumstance it becomes comical and difficult not to laugh at him, in love of course. What drives this? He can't see the whole picture. He doesn't understand why he's being told no, or something is taken away, or a restriction is placed on him. He can't discern how this could possibly be better for him.

As I started to get frustrated with Him, God gently whispered into my ear that I'm a lot like Colton. How many times do we violently overreact towards God because we can't see the whole picture? Whether it's health, job security, family struggles, or anything else we throw a lot of temper tantrums at God. What appears to us to be the worst case scenario, could actually be for our benefit and God's glory.

Ultimately this comes from God having a different perspective than we do.

He tells us this in Isaiah 55:8 -

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord."

What is the Christian worldview? Seeing the world the way God sees the world. Unfortunately it's pretty difficult to get outside of our toddler perspective sometimes. Instead of filtering circumstances through how could this honor God, or be part of His plan, or help someone else, we whine "why me, what did I do, or look how I've been wronged."

God doesn't promise us that things will always make sense to us. Actually in Proverbs 3 He tells us,

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes."

There are times when we have to trust that God has a plan and we won't always get to see it but still need to be obedient. That's called faith. Right now Colton is learning to have faith in his parents. His parents are learning to have faith in their Father!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Speaking at Ada Bible's Union Service

Kendra and I had the incredible opportunity to speak to the young adult group called "Union" at Ada Bible Church a while ago. What a blessing it was to encourage a group of folks that were in a very similar stage of life as Kendra and I when we were diagnosed. We felt so blessed and overwhelmed by the support and community of this group and church! Thanks so much for the opportunity.

Please continue to pray for Kendra and I. God is opening more and more opportunities for us to share our story. I'm speaking 5-10 times a month right now and Kendra is able to join me for a couple of those a month! It is such a blessing to be able to share this with Kendra and see God using her in such a powerful way.

If you're interested in having us come to your church or group let us know. We'd love to come share what God is doing in our lives and teaching us about obedience and living in high definition.

Below is a link to our message at Ada Bible

Union | March 13,2012 - Ada Bible Church Media

To stay up to date on where we're speaking, what we're writing about, or special updates on our journey, consider liking my facebook page!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A real scare!

Last week I had the joy of doing something I've loved doing since I was a boy. Going to the high school basketball finals in East Lansing with my dad and brother. I've been going since I was 10 years old. Almost always we go and watch four games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (not to mention the college games at night). It's a time of basketball gluttony. That doesn't include the Melting Moments Ice Cream cookie sandwiches which we've named sin cookies.

This year we arrived and got settled in for the first game. I sat down in the chair and leaned back and felt a sharp pain in my mid back off to the right side.

Right where my liver is.

Instantly I became worried. One of the unintended consequences of cancer is you become paranoid. Every weird feeling, pain, itch, or twitch and you're constantly wondering is the cancer spreading. Is this a new symptom? How serious should I take this? Maybe it's just a stomachache, maybe it's cholangitis. How do I know the difference?

As I leaned back in the middle of the Breslin Center thoughts of emergency rooms, missed basketball games, and unknown futures raced through my head.

I slid my hand up my back under my shirt to see if it was sore to the touch and then it hit me.

IT'S A ZIT!!!!

Whew. I've never been so happy to have a big zit on my back. I know this maybe verging on TMI but I feel like a prepubescant boy again with all the zits the chemo is giving me.

I am not much of a worrier. When difficult thoughts come into my mind I can usually take them captive and move on without being dragged down. It's different when I feel something physical though. For some reason it's much harder for me to have faith that God is in control of my aches and pains as much as He is in control of my future.

Matthew 6:34  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

As I go through the daily grind of living with cancer for over a year, I've noticed certain patterns or rhythms. One of these is that when I focus on today, what I'm supposed to do today or in the short term, I tend not to worry about it. However when I start dreaming, or thinking about the future and all the what ifs and unknowns, then the worry and anxiety tend to rise. This is completely opposite of what Mathew 6:34 tells me to do. I know that God provides me the grace to deal with today.

2 Cor 9:8-9 "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."

When my faith is so small that a zit can derail me emotionally, it ought to be a yellow light flashing in my eyes saying, where is your focus today? Do you have triggers that tend to derail you? Is there a child you worry about constantly? How about the college fund, or retirement? Maybe it is your job or your spouse or (fill in the blank here). What part of your life gives you the opportunity to forget that God will provide the grace no matter what you face? Because some day it might not be just a zit, and at that moment God will show Himself again just like He has done time after time.  So forget about the worries of today, and abound in every good work that you can!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fool's Day, what a blessing!

One year ago today my life changed dramatically. I received the phone call that would set a sequence of events into motion that would lead to me being told I had less than a year to live. So today is my anniversary of sorts. A bittersweet anniversary. I'm reminded of the reality of my situation and how my life will never be the same. However I'm not supposed to be celebrating this day either. There in lies a dynamic that I'm growing to live with. Thankful and apprehensive.

Things will never go back to the way they were. Which means things have changed dramatically. I'm fatter, weaker, maybe wiser, but certainly closer to God, my wife, and my son. Kendra's and my priorities have changed quite drastically. We're passionate for the poor, lost, and hurting. The more God elevates us, the more we want to elevate Him. We've learned about peace, grace, and hope through this process. When I think about whether I'd want to go back I usually don't hesitate to say no. 

It's a weird dichotomy though. One foot in two worlds. The here and now, which we're so thankful for and at peace about, and the future which holds so much uncertainty. As I celebrate today it could be easy to be upset about all we've been through. I could easily resent God for all the things that I may lose out on because of this.

Take Colton for example. There's a strong chance I'm not going to be able to do the things with him I've always dreamed of. One dream was that when he got a few years older, we'd both go to the horse auction in the spring. I'd look at all the horses with him. We'd evaluate them, what we like and dislike. Then each of us would buy a young horse. That summer I would teach him how to break a horse as we both started them together. He'd learn about hard work, horsemanship and business as we turned around and took them back to auction in the fall to see if we could make a profit. All along I'd be teaching him what it means to be a Godly young man.

That may never happen. 

Am I sad? Yes. However God is really teaching me something about Colton right now. He's not my own. He has a father, a heavenly father. He is responsible for growing, protecting, leading, and guiding Colton. I'm merely a caretaker that has the privilege of loving him while I do. When I change my perspective, now whatever time I have with Colton becomes a blessing. If I look at it as a right, then when I lose it I'm resentful. However if it's a privilege and a blessing I'm thankful for what I receive. 

So as I approach a new year, yes there is much I will be challenged with, struggle through, and probably have to accept that I can't do certain things. However there's so much to be thankful for. I have been given so many blessings it's hard to adaqueatly say thank you to God for all He's provided. 

I'm thankful to God for;

A growing vibrant relationship with Him
My wonderful wife and the sacrificing servant that she has been
My beautiful son and the joy that he brings
An incredible family both blood and in spirit that have blessed us, encouraged us, humbled us, and loved us through all of this
A growing ministry that allows Kendra and I to encourage others through our journey
An amazing church that has time and time again provided for us in so many ways
The physical health that He has blessed me with through this last year
Simple pleasures like a Tigers game, or a horse ride, or a good book
A purpose that drives me 
An employer that supports me

I'm thankful for this past year and all that it has entailed. Praise the Lord!!!

2 Cor 1:3-7
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

The best of times and the worst of times.

"Hey Kendra, can you please proofread my blog post?"

"Sure, hon."

So as I'm reading his blog, I's almost 100% the same as what I was intending to write about.  Shucks.  This is what happens when a couple truly becomes one...they start to think the same way!  I hope that now that I think like my husband, it doesn't mean that toilet humor will start appealing to me or something.

Yes, today is April 1.  A year ago today I was just starting my spring break, and was going about with the trivialities of my day when Ryan called me with what I thought was the nastiest April Fool's Day prank I could imagine.  How I have wished so many times that it had only been a prank.  Then today we could be joking about how a year ago, he scared ten years off of my life, and I would probably playfully punch him in the shoulder.

No, this has been no joke.  This year has been the most painful experience that I could imagine.  Dreams that I had before we came to this fork in the road have been shattered or rendered dormant and God has continually showed me that right now, I am just to draw close to and wait on Him.  In the meantime, I've run from God, I've hid, I've come back to Him again, screamed at Him, cried out to Him, and thanked Him. I've been angry, I've been grateful, and I've been resentful.  There have been mountaintops of extreme joy, and there have been depths of despair that have been unlike anything I have experienced before.  Ultimately the lesson has hit home to me that it's entirely up to me what kind of attitude I will choose to have in the midst of this valley.  Will I focus my eyes on God and trust him to lead me through this muck and mire, or will I focus on myself and the things that I feel like I have a right to and just spin my proverbial wheels in the mud?

Just like Ryan's post included a list of things that he's thankful for, I too wanted to mention that in spite of the pain of this journey, God has poured out unbelievable blessings on us.  He has given us hope, promises, supporters, financial provision, protection from cancer symptoms, a stronger relationship with each other, a beautiful and happy son that gives us a smile even when things are at their toughest, and a renewed sense of purpose.  He has specifically placed us in this place at this very time to bring hope and encouragement to other people that sorely need it like we do.  This ministry that we've been blessed has been unreal.  We are both in awe of the fact that God wants to use us in this way.

Pain.  Blessings.  Despair.  Opportunities.  Fear.  Hope.

It has been the best of times, and it has been the worst of times.  What a year.  However, I'm just thankful that I as I end this blog and get ready to post it, that I can look to my left and sitting five feet away from me is an incredible, "healthy", handsome, godly man to whom I am privileged to be married until death do us part.

Will you all keep praying with me that "death do us part" does not come until at least fifty years from now?