Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quick update: 8/28/12

Jonah's procedure went well this morning, so thank you again for your prayers. He was able to eat a little for lunch, but couldn't keep it down, so please pray for the nausea to subside from this recent dose of chemo. He had a good nap and is eating a little right now--and watching the Mariners play the Twins.  (He's probably going to go through TV withdrawals when he comes home!)

Folks from Christ Church Spokane have been caring for us here at the hospital and have been bringing us some lovely meals. It's been a blessing to see friendly and familiar faces here--and the home cooked food is a dramatic improvement over the hospital cafeteria fare.

Jayson's brother, Brandon, flew home today, and we are extremely thankful for his willingness to be here; it was just what we all needed. Jonah's words: "I have the two best uncles in the world." Yes, buddy, you do.

Jayson's mom is currently home with the rest of our boys. What would we do without Grannie M?What a saint she is.

Thanks to all of you who are making these days livable for all of us. I have had the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" playing on repeat in my head all day: "All I have needed thy hand hath provided." True words. Never have all those psalms and hymns we've memorized over the years been more precious to me than they have been this week. Even when I've been too weary to form words of my own to pray, those verses are there when I have needed them most.

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. -Psalm 59:16

Monday, August 27, 2012

More news on Jonah: 8/27/12

Today was the first day of school for Jude and Paul, so Jayson and I were grateful for the opportunity to be home for the big day. Asaph will start pre-school tomorrow, so we plan to be here for his first morning as well, but we will head back to Spokane to spend Tuesday with Jonah at the hospital, as it is likely to be a rough day for him.

Jonah's fever subsided on Saturday afternoon, and he seemed to have improved on Sunday and was able to eat a little and to rest. He continued to be tired and dizzy throughout the day, however. Jayson's mom and brother went to stay with him last night so that we could come home. This morning Jonah was able to get out of bed and walk around for the first time in three days, but after a short stroll around the floor he was exhausted, and his nausea and vomiting returned for a while this afternoon.

Tomorrow around noon, Jonah is scheduled for another round of chemo and another lumbar puncture and spinal tap requiring him to go under anesthesia. We are also likely to find out the results of his bone marrow analysis tomorrow or Wednesday.

In addition, we are in the process of registering a second car (an extraordinary gift from our church family) so that we will have transportation both here and in Spokane. We will also be getting another cell phone soon—another thing we had never really needed living in our little town. We are also still hoping to find a housing arrangement for the next few months that will allow Jonah to live near the hospital and where the whole family can be together on weekends.

Thank you again for everything you have blessed us with—the meals, the rides, the housework, the cards, the gifts, and everything else that has helped carry us through this most difficult week of our lives. And thank you, always and especially, for your prayers.

Here are the specific prayer requests we have right now; please pray for
  • Skill and wisdom for the doctors and nurses entrusted with Jonah's care.
  • Relief from Jonah's nausea, discomfort, and fatigue.
  • Quick and thorough effectiveness from the chemo and other treatments.
  • Favorable results from his bone marrow sample and other tests.
  • Jonah to be spared from any infections or complications.
  • Good health for the rest of our family, especially while Jonah's immune system is wiped out.
  • Safe travels as we go back and forth between home and Spokane.
  • Patience, peace, and joy throughout this trial.
  • A place to stay in Spokane that would meet the various needs of our family over the next few months.
  • Wisdom for the numerous decisions we must make.
  • Complete healing so that Jonah has a long, fruitful, and healthy life. 
  • Jonah's faith to remain steadfast. 
And, just for fun, here's a video of Jonah at age four, pretending to be Pastor Dale (our pastor in Texas), complete with "robe". A few days before Jonah's diagnosis, we watched this together and had a good laugh. Watching it again today made me smile.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Update on Jonah: August 25, 2012

Thank you all again for praying for Jonah and for providing us with so much help in our hour of need. Jonah had his second dose of chemo yesterday and his nausea has been pretty severe since last night. This morning he spiked a fever as well and has not been able to bring himself to eat today. He is sleeping right now, so please pray that he will wake up feeling better and regain his appetite. 

Jayson and I are both staying with him in Spokane together for the first time which has been good for us, but watching Jonah suffer is tough. And knowing how fragile is life is right now is the hardest thought of all. We will probably be riding this emotional roller coaster for a long time, so please pray for continued peace for the whole family. 

We could also use prayer for good sleep, good appetites, and good health for all of us. If any of us gets sick, we need to stay clear of Jonah on account of his weak immune system.

Jonah's prognosis seems fairly good so far, but even in the best scenario, the treatment will not be easy for him or for us. We are still awaiting the results of Jonah's bone marrow analysis, so please pray for a favorable outcome to that, since that could change things substantially. And throughout the weeks, months, and years ahead, we of course ask for you to join us in praying that God would spare him from severe side effects of his treatment, but especially that God would spare Jonah's life and cure him completely. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Update on Jonah

To all our friends and family,

Thank you again for your overwhelming demonstration of love and support since we found out on Monday night that Jonah has High Risk (because he is older than 9) B-Cell A.L.L (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). I know many of you have been waiting for an update on Jonah, so I'll start with that.

Jonah's first night in the hospital was rough—lots of needles and tests and interrupted sleep. But yesterday morning, Jonah was able to watch a little baseball and visit with Uncle Ethan (my brother) who has a great gift for keeping Jonah laughing. In the afternoon, my dad and I got to spend several hours at the hospital, and Jude (our 8-year-old) was able to come with us. This was a good opportunity set Jude's mind at ease and allow him to see what Jonah's going to be doing for the next several weeks. Jude decided to stay the night in the hospital last night. He'd much rather be there sleeping in a recliner next to Jonah than sleeping in his bunk bed all alone.

Yesterday was a difficult day for Jonah in some respects, however. Jonah had to be sedated to have a PICC line inserted (like an IV but it delivers medication much deeper in the body and will stay in for this whole first month). While he was under he also had a spinal tap and a bone marrow sample taken. He also has received blood at least twice now, and it's amazing how his color has improved as a result. (Donate blood!)

Jonah's second day in the hospital
Jonah had a lot of pain at the insertion site of the PICC line at first, but that has subsided. Removing the IV was also near the list of his least favorite experiences, but he was relaxed and smiling again by the time I went home. He had an EKG done just before we left, and he was very relieved that it didn't involve any needles. Jonah also received his first of many doses of chemo. Because Jonah's spinal fluid was clear of any cancer cells, he is not likely to need radiation in addition to the chemo. That in itself is an answer to prayer.

We have had to absorb a lot of information during these last two days, so we're in for a steep learning curve, but we're also grateful for the highly trained staff that have been ready to answer our questions. There are four pediatric oncologists just at this one hospital, and we are thankful for their expertise in this one field of medicine. Jonah is in good hands—both human and divine.

The first four weeks of Jonah's treatment will be the most intense, and he will need to stay in the hospital throughout the first month, during which time he is likely to go through some of the worst side-effects of the chemo. Because Spokane is more than an hour away from our home, Jonah will not be allowed to return home for at least another 8 weeks after that. Then, if everything goes according to plan, he will continue to receive treatment periodically for the next 3 years. In between treatments, Jonah should be able to return to most of his normal activities, including sports (which is a huge deal for him).

Jonah, Jayson, and Jude were all able to rest soundly last night, and we're thankful that Jonah has had a bit of a break today from being a human pincushion. One particular highlight of the day was a visit from a good friend from our church in Dallas. Luis Ortiz has been a profession baseball player (formerly with the Rangers) and is now a batting coach. He happened to be in Spokane this week for an annual scouting visit with the Spokane Indians (one of the Rangers' farm teams), so he was able to come to the hospital this morning and talk baseball with Jonah—probably Jonah's favorite topic of conversation in the world lately. Luis told Jonah that when he comes back next year he'd love to take Jonah to a game and bring him to batting practice with the team. Talk about something to look forward to! Jonah is also looking forward to a little visit from his friend Rory today, and Jayson's mom and brother will be flying from Phoenix tonight. Jayson's mom is planning to stay for as long as we need her, which will be a tremendous blessing for all of us.

I have cried more than I can remember during these last two days. But half the time the tears have come when I see how well God has cared for our family and how many people love us with the love of Christ and are ready to sacrifice their time and resources on our behalf. I have also seen God's provision in ways we could never have foreseen.

My brother's family just moved back to town a few weeks ago, and because he was here, my brother was able to drop everything and take Jayson and Jonah to Spokane as soon as we got the news. He is also staying with Jonah tonight to allow Jayson and me to give some time to our other boys.

My dad was also scheduled to fly to Canada the night of Jonah's diagnosis, so he had already taken the week off of work and was able to cancel his travel plans to stay here for us. Jayson could not work for a better college during a time like this; his colleagues have already lined up to take over teaching classes for him and help cover his other work responsibilities while he's away.

One of Jaysons' colleagues who is an elder at our church has a daughter who had childhood cancer, and she was already scheduled for her annual routine scan today at the same hospital where Jonah is. Because  of this, they were able to come and visit Jonah and Jayson and offer helpful advice and encouragement—and bring a heap of cards for Jonah.

And one of my oldest and dearest friends, Annie, has taken charge of organizing all kinds of help for us and was here just this morning to bring groceries and clean.

These unexpected blessings seem to be raining down on us in ways we could never have anticipated. Our church family has surrounded us with more help than I can possibly list here. We have people ready to take care of carpooling, garden watering, meals, cleaning, grocery shopping, and much more. I opened the mailbox this morning to find an envelope containing an anonymous gift of several hundred dollars. Another friend who owns a local coffee shop (Thank you, Bucer's!) e-mailed me to let me know that an extremely generous account was set up there in our name so that we can grab lunch or lattes on busy days. We have other friends who live in Spokane and have offered to help—one of whom is letting Jayson borrow a car today so that he can get home to have dinner with us tonight.

We are grateful for so many things, but we are especially grateful for your prayers. They do not fall on deaf ears. In addition to Jonah's healing, our most immediate need for prayer is for the planning stages of this situation. Jonah will need to keep up with his schooling as much as possible, so we have details to sort out on that front. We are also going to try to keep life as normal as we can for the other four boys, so that they can continue at school and maintain their own friendships there. At the same time, we need to figure out a place to stay in Spokane for the next three months and decide how, where, and when we might be able to continue to function as a family during Jonah's time in the hospital. We don't yet know how to divide our time and our family for three months between two cities that are 90 miles apart. We will be spending more time in the car during these months than we've ever spent before, so we also need to find worthwhile ways to spend that commute time.

Thank you for your love, your kind words, your generosity, and your prayers. God bless you all. He is our rock, our fortress and our deliverer; our God is a rock, in whom we take refuge, our shield and the horn of our salvation. He is our stronghold, our refuge and our savior.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Magic Beans

Two summers ago, I let my boys dig a huge, Holes-inspired pit in a grass-free corner of the yard. There, after several days of shoveling, they unearthed, to everyone's general disgust, a damp, reddish wad of moldy, foul-smelling cotton that had once been a pair of men's briefs. Fruit of the Loom does not, apparently, produce fruit of any sort when planted. As a matter of fact, if you take almost anything you own, bury it in the dirt, dump water on it day after day, and expose it to summer heat, all you will get for your trouble is rust, decay, and stink.

But apply the same brutal treatment to a handful of seeds, and the results are quite the opposite; those seeds rise, glorified, from their soggy graves to become all things pleasant to the eye and good for food. How is that possible? Who would have believed it? And having believed it, how could we ever grow tired of seeing it happen?

Our fourth season of gardening is nearing its peak, which means my sense of wonder at the garden's transformation is also nearing its peak. Every time I return to survey the bounty that has sprung from the ground behind our house I marvel: Where did all this come from? Granted, we have a few bare patches where slugs or birds or beetles have done their worst, and a few other empty squares where some much-anticipated herbs never so much as raised a tiny green flag before they surrendered to sad mortality.

But for all the unforeseen failures, we have also discovered unforeseen blessings; there are places where tomatoes and squash and even a cherry tree volunteered to grow where we did not plant them—surprise gifts whose flavors and colors will remain a mystery until we see the fruit ripen. We also have brilliant red, ruffled poppies and hollyhocks that popped up unbidden in the middle of the lettuce, and I could not bear to remove them. Their cheery flashes of color have certainly been worth the loss of a salad or two.

So while the results of our work in the garden have been inconsistent they have always been rewarding. Just discovering the newly emerged seedlings in the spring is a kind of reward. But harvest time is, doubtless, one of the most unsullied delights of the year.

What other time would it be possible to eat outside without bringing anything with you from the kitchen? Red-purple raspberries literally fall into my hand before I can pluck them. Sweet strawberries peek out shyly from under their leafy tents. Fat green snap peas dangle from their curling vines, quiet and camouflaged, waiting to be discovered by the careful eyes of hungry boys. And what sensation, I ask you, can rival the seedy-sweet explosion in the mouth from a sun-warmed yellow cherry tomato that has traveled less than two feet from the vine to the lips? Then afterward, the bright, greeny smell of tomato vine on my hands is as close to eau d’été as I have ever found. This is the season that raises distant memories of Eden.

Once the back yard harvest begins, it is easy to forget the work that went into forming these fruits. We may have spent hours digging and composting and weeding and watering and slug-smashing, but when those ripening tomatoes first appear, they still seem miraculous. And in many ways, I suppose, they are miraculous.

What logical connection can there be between those tiny, pale, dried up seeds that we started with and the exuberant, branching, fruit-heavy greenery that is taking over our garden today? In May I could carry them all in the palm of my hand. But in August I am hardly able to tame the tomato jungle they have become, even with the aid of ropes and cages and sharpened steel.

And the sunflowers! Those humble little seeds that litter the ground at every baseball field in America are capable of rocketing into the sky and bursting into massive solar blooms over our heads. It almost defies the imagination. Wherefore these horticultural fireworks? I have two of these green and yellow giants standing sentinel over my back garden at this moment, and although I planted them there, I cannot explain their regal existence. How could anyone deserve this? What a transformation! Beauty for ashes! Edible sunlight! Water in excelsis! O brave new world that has such produce in't!

Knowing what we know, how is it that we are able to casually stroll through the farmer's market without our awe-struck jaws dragging on the pavement? How can we shuffle half-heartedly around the grocery store, cringing at the price of melons and failing to recognize them for the hefty spheroids of botanical wonder that they are? How can we bear to pass by an August garden without stopping to sing loud alleluias at the sight of every unaccountable tomato?

The truth is, dear Jack, that every bean is a magic bean. A splash of water can turn one of those dry, unassuming legumes into a fairy tale stalk that will ascend, spiraling and twisting toward the heavens—and almost overnight. What person in his right mind wouldn't trade his only moo cow for a marvel such as this?

Yes, yes, I realize that we did a lot of work to make this garden happen. Yes, we scraped a few shins and pinched a few fingers as we built the beds and worked the soil. Yes, we did battle with weeds and slugs and birds and heavy clay and cold nights. But even with all our hard work in mind, we hardly seem honest to claim the harvest as our rightful reward. What did we do—really—to deserve this bounty? The answer, ultimately, is nothing.

The very strength to carry a garden spade is grace. Fertile soil? Grace. Sunlight? Grace. Rain? Grace. That magical transformation of seed into seedling? Grace. From seedling to vine? Grace. From vine to flower? Grace. From flower to fruit? Grace. The hands to pluck and the mouth to taste? Grace. And that transformation again from fruit in the mouth into the strength to carry a garden hoe? Again, grace. What do you have that you did not receive as a gift?

This evening, after we say grace, I plan to eat it. I plan to fill my glass with water that has been turned into wine and to fill our plates with piles of fresh-picked magic; with resurrected seeds; with fairy-tale fruit; with crisp, green, sweet piles of amazing grace.

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