Oh, Kenny!

Oh, Kenny!

 

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:6-7

It’s been almost a week now.  Almost a week since the lives of one family I dearly love have been inexorably changed. Ten people.  Two dead.  One wounded.  One who will most likely be in prison the rest of his life at age 31.  One mother, and my dearest friend, left with a gaping hole in her heart.  Three children who have lost their parents as no children ever should.  One Father grieving the loss of his wife and daughter.  All for what?  Because sin crouched at Kenny’s door and he did not master it.

Oh, Kenny!  My heart is so grieved and it cries out!  Oh, Kenney!  Why did you take a loaded gun with you?  Why, why, why, why, why! “Leave it at home, Kenny”, I would have counseled had he asked.  “You’re upset; no, you’re distraught.  Please!  Don’t take that gun with you!”  So many things so many could have said; would have said.  But, in an instant, in the midst of an ugly confrontation, he took out that gun and shot and killed his wife and mother-in-law and then exchanged gunfire inside the house where his three boys were and wounded his father-in-law.  Oh, Kenny!

My precious friend just lost her husband almost three years ago.  As she told me of the unfolding events we cried together over the miles.  She is out in California; I am here in Tennessee.  I wanted to be there, hugging her and crying with her face-to-face.  I loved Kenny and I still do.  I’ve known him since he was about ten years old.  He and his brother are like sons to me and our boys are like sons and brothers to them.  Our families are stuck together with love glue and always will be.  Oh, Kenny!

We read on the news about murders taking place and we say it is justice when they receive life in prison or the death penalty.  Michael and I were talking about that and it hit me that I’ve said that so many times, but, now…oh, Kenny; not Kenny!  Not our dear Kenny facing life in prison or death row.  It just couldn’t happen; it just isn’t real.

I remember waking up last Wednesday morning.  I went to get my robe out of the closet and shook my head.  I kept trying to clear my head thinking it must have been a nightmare.  You know the feeling; one of those terrible dreams you are so glad wasn’t real when you wake out of it.  But, there was no shaking this one off.  It was real and I still can’t wrap my brain around it completely.

What is it that causes things like this to happen?  How can someone feel enough rage and despair to kill another person?  I just can’t relate to that.  I think once I threw something (unbreakable) across the room and I’ve slammed a few doors in my lifetime.  But, that was the extent of it.  The only answer is back to what God warns Cain about in Genesis:  “Sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you but you must master it.”  Sin was crouching at the door.  Satan wants nothing better than to destroy families and people.  Kenny’s wife may have been involved with another man.  They had been having marriage issues and were heading towards divorce.  Some might call this a ‘crime of passion’.  But, the best description isn’t really that complicated.  It was simply sin.  Sin got the better of Kenny.  In a moment; in as much time as it takes to pull the trigger on a gun twice, he forfeited through his own choice what was left of any kind of a normal life. In an instant he lost any opportunity he would have had to hug his kids; take them to the park; watch them play ball; meet their first girlfriend; see them walk down the aisle on their wedding day and hold his first grandchild. Never again will he be there to celebrate their birthdays or open Christmas presents with them.  Never, never, never; a lifetime of ‘nevers’.  Oh, Kenny!

I believe there exists within each of us the propensity towards good and the propensity towards evil.  I don’t understand sometimes what stirs within each of us to veer one way or the other.  As Christians we have the Holy Spirit residing within us whose job is to convict us of sin and wrongdoing and, as long as we listen, He does a great job of that.  But, also living inside is a sin nature that is constantly at battle with us selfishly desiring to pursue those ‘lusts of the flesh’.  Anger is a lust of the flesh.  It is sin.  It crouches at the door desiring to master us.  If you are angry, my friend, you must not allow it to master you.  You must master it.  You master it through prayer and meditation on God’s Word. You master it by making yourself accountable, getting godly counsel from other mature Christians and seeking help if you need it. But what you don’t do is allow it to rule over your life.  The truth is that if we do not master our lives, our lives will master us.

Is there hope for Kenny?  Of course there is.  Life in prison isn’t an easy one.  It is a life of deprivation.  However, at the same time, it can be a reasonable life.  People can accomplish things in prison.  They can gain knowledge, skills and even college degrees.  There are Bible studies and church services.  There are things with a semblance of ‘normalcy’.  And, God can work just as well inside prison walls as He can anywhere else in the world.  People can find peace in prison.  Many have done all of those things.  There are challenges, but, we all have challenges.  There’s just a different set of them, but, they can be overcome just like the challenges outside prison walls can be.

In God there is always hope.  The hope I wish for Kenny is a repentant heart that is seeking to be in all ways right with its heavenly Father; right within its owner, and a right witness to others no matter what the future will hold.  My hope also includes healing and restoration for Kenny and comfort for his grieving family and father-in-law.  My hope is that they can somehow, someday, be comforted enough to accept that which they can’t change and begin, once again, to rebuild a life without Kenny’s presence. My hope is that joy will return to their lives.  My hope expands to his children who, at ages 2, 5 and 9, can return to some kind of a stable, normal life so that they can heal from the trauma they have experienced. And, for me, my hope is that I can be the support I long to be for my dear friend…and that I will someday stop crying.  That hasn’t happened yet, but, I know that with the Lord’s help, it will.

Does God still love Kenny?  Of course He does.  Can Kenny be forgiven?  YES!  Murder is both a personal sin and a capital crime, but, there is no sin that cannot be forgiven by God.  If you are reading this, please join me at the throne of God in prayer for this family.  This pain and sadness will never really go away, but, things will get better in time.  In the meantime, they need lots of prayer and support.  Once again, they need the Lord more than ever.  How thankful I am that His well never runs dry; His love is unfailing and His hope is eternal.

Michael Update in the New Year

Happy New Year!

We hope your year has started off well and that you are looking forward to a fresh start! I thought I’d take a few minutes to share with you how the year has been going for us so far and give you a ‘Michael Update’.

Michael’s year didn’t start off too well. He spent Christmas Day in bed and has felt pretty horrible for several weeks. The main complaint is this terrible and seemingly chronic sinusitis which he’s been dealing with to one degree or another for a year and a half or so. His appetite has decreased, so he’s lost weight, he has an awful, wracking cough which keeps him up at night and has become bothersome enough that it has truly disrupted his life.

Both his doctors at Vanderbilt and our local, wonderful doctor have tried many rounds of antibiotics and nothing has helped much. Our local doctor finally referred him to an ENT specialist. Oh, how we have prayed and prayed for healing. Finally, I began to pray for answers, and here’s how God has answered our prayers:

I was going through Michael’s history a couple of weeks ago to put together a synopsis for the new ENT doc for his appointment a week ago. In so doing, I remembered how he had this problem in 2015 and his IgG levels were too low and he needed IVIG infusions. IgG is one of the things that works with his immune system so that it has the antibodies it needs to resist infection. Hmmm, I thought. After those infusions it was more than 6 months before the sinusitis issues began to creep back in. I took the results of my research to him and asked him if he thought that his IgG levels might have dropped enough that he needed more infusions. He heartily agreed that might be the case, so, I sent a message to Vanderbilt and also to our local doc, Phil Thwing. Phil messaged me back immediately and said that could easily explain what was happening and encouraged me to get in touch with our local Hemotologist ASAP. All I wanted was someone to order a blood test for the IgG levels.

Well, Vanderbilt didn’t get back to me, so, I called the Hemotologist’s office and they wouldn’t do the test without seeing Michael first and that wouldn’t be for a few weeks. He was scheduled for a checkup at Vanderbilt already on 1/5, but I knew that if I could just get a blood test and it showed the levels were low that they could arrange for him to get an IVIG infusion on 1/5.

So, back to Phil who agreed right away to order the blood test. Yay!

The ENT doc was very nice. He put Michael on another round of antibiotics, this time in concert with some steroids and nasal lavage. He, too, thought it was possible Michael’s IgG levels might be the culprit.

The blood test results came back the following Wednesday and yes, Michael’s levels were extremely low; less than 109. Normal range for most people starts around 640. Wow! We got the results FAXed to Vanderbilt and they reserved time for an infusion on 1/5. Yay again!

So, yesterday Michael saw Dr. Savani at Vanderbilt and we finally got the answers we had prayed for. Yay, God! It turns out that what Michael is experiencing is quite common for patients who had the type of ablative transplant Michael had using the drug, Thymoglobulin, that was used to wipe out his immune system prior to the transplant. The unfortunate results of this drug and method is the dire effects on the B cells and B lymphocytes that help the immune system resist infection. And, of course, I’m sure you don’t have to guess that these cells work directly with his IgG levels. Dr. Savani told us that in many of these patients it can take even 10 years for the B cells to recover and begin to function properly.

He also explained to us (and I actually had done some research prior to the appointment and read about this) that chronic, bacterial sinusitis is one of the primary problems that these patients deal with. The meds prescribed by the ENT doc are exactly what he should have been prescribed, so that was good to hear. Furthermore, this bacterial sinusitis is always worse in the winter months. Thinking back to how Michael began last year, also sick, that made so much sense. He had a touch of it during the Spring and Summer, but, it defintely began to be worse once Fall had begun and during the winter. Hallelujah, we had an explanation! Praise the Lord!

We now have an established treatment protocol in place. Michael will get IVIG infusions every year as winter is approaching until such time as Dr. Savani is satisfied there is no recurring infection which indicates his B cells are beginning to function on their own. Michael is 3 1/2 years out from the transplant, but, there’s no way of knowing exactly how long this will take. He will also get IVIG infusions now every two weeks for a time yet to be determined by his Ig G levels and body’s response. He will also get an annual flu shot and pneumonia shot every other year. Dr. Savani also encouraged him to take more precautions about being around sick people, even our Grandkiddlkins. The rule is: “no direct contact”. That’s going to be the hardest part of this because it means I have to be careful as well not to pick up any bugs and expose him.

Michael is so encouraged to know that he will soon start feeling better and getting stronger. This has been a very rough stretch for him. I don’t think I’ve seen him so weak or so sick for a couple of years. He so looks forward to feeling like himself again.

We prayed and God answered our prayers. Michael is finally, finally on the path to healing and for that we are so grateful. We are also so thankful for the many friends and family who have prayed alongside us. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll keep updating about his progress over the next month or so. Please keep the prayers for healing coming.

Love to all,
Michael and Jan

Christmas Newsletter, 2017

Rogers Family Christmas Newsletter
December, 2018

Christmas Greetings to our Dear Family and Friends!

As always, we do hope 2017 has been a good year for you and that our annual newsletter finds you and those you love doing well. As I sit here typing this, the late afternoon sun is kissing the mountains behind our house. We had a dry Fall here and it seems as though the trees held onto their leaves longer than usual. It looked like Fall color was going to be a bust but then we got a couple of inches of rain and everything suddenly went from drab to dramatic seemingly overnight. We’re finally having a good dose of cooler weather. We’ve had some temps down into the low 20’s accompanied by those sparkly blankets of heavy frosts in the hayfields that are so lovely. I still have pumpkins on the front porch, but, they’re going out to the garden tomorrow.

So…where to begin? It’s been an interesting and exciting year. I guess I’d have to say there were two highlights of our year: the first was the birth of our sixth Grandchild, Jonah Michael, to Tim and Samantha. He’s a darling little guy and reminds me so much of Tim. The second highlight was our first and extremely spiritual and emotional trip to Israel in October. More about that later. Then, there were other interesting tidbits here and there, but, I’ll start at the beginning and bring you up-to-date on how everyone in the family is doing.

Jon and Kara and their three kids, Asher (12), Sadie (10) and Elsie (5) are doing well. Jon’s business seems to be doing well, although I’m not certain about all the details because I finally retired from doing the bookkeeping and being involved in the business a couple of months ago. But, from what I can see, things are going great. Asher is in his second year of Middle School, plays trombone in the school band, tennis and is going through all of the adolescent ups and downs. He’s so handsome. Once he decides to really like girls…well, we all know how that’s going to go! Sadie is gorgeous with some of the most beautiful big eyes you’ll ever see and a sweet temperament and has turned into a voracious reader, winning awards at school for reading more books than anyone else in the entire school. This is her last year in elementary school. Elsie is now in Kindergarten and is just as exuberant about life as ever. She’s still ‘the princess’ and still has fun entering local beauty pagents. Kara is head of the parent association at their school so between tennis lessons for all 3 kids, piano for the girls, that and helping Jon with the business she is constantly on the go.

Tim and Samantha are doing well. Samantha finally decided that she was tired of all the ups and downs of the job she had and Jon was looking for a Financial Coordinator for the office, and she ended up getting the job. She’ll be great at it and is very excited to have this new opportunity. Tim is still at Premium Waters and is thankful to have a job, but, it’s not an easy place to be because it seems like the company is constantly making changes. However, he does the best he can to roll with them and enjoys being a Team Leader. They are both very busy between work and managing their family. Aiden (8) is in 2nd grade and has a vivid imagination. He’s doing really well in school and we’re very proud of him because he’s really worked hard to get where he is. Noah (almost 4) is in daycare as is Jonah who will be 1 towards the end of January. Noah is a darling and very smart and strong willed little boy. Jonah is just a sweetheart; easy going and always with a smile. He’ll be walking soon I think and he’s a busy little beaver now. I believe life has much in store for them and look forward to seeing all it has.

Michael is still working up at the community dental clinic about an hour north of here. For a time we considered moving to Cookeville (about 3 hours from here) because a seemingly great opportunity opened up for him there. So, in August he quit one of his jobs and we travelled back and forth while he ‘tested the waters’ but, after a month or so it became clear that it wasn’t going to work out. We went between being a bit disappointed because Cookeville is a neat place, and relieved because we love it here by our mountains and being closer to family. He still wants to practice fulltime and there is a temporary opportunity about an hour south of us that he is looking into through the middle of March. After that he’s not sure exactly what he’s going to do but we trust that the Lord will direct him.

I guess it was around September or so that the Lord called us to leave the church we’d been at for a number of years to get involved with a little country church out here in our community that was in need of a worship leader. I had met a number of the ladies through our Ladies on a Mission for Ghrist (LOAM) service group I joined last year who attend that church. We visited several times and when it was clear we weren’t going to Cookeville, Michael stepped forward to answer that call and it’s been a blessing to see him leading worship again. We love the Pastor. He’s a great teacher and we love that, for the most part, he teaches expositorily and it’s so refreshing. It’s a small church but we’re enjoying that, too, and it’s only about 5 minutes from our house.

So, how is Michael’s health? He’s really doing well. He’s back to doing everything he was doing prior to the transplant and I couldn’t be happier about that. The only issue he struggles with is chronic sinusitis that has been a significant problem for him for a couple of years now. Both his family doctor and his Vanderbilt hematologist are working on it, but, so far nothing seems to have caused it to resolve completely. We just keep praying and hoping for some resolution. Other than that he’s great.

So, what else have we been up to? Well, one thing that’s significant is that we’re putting an addition on our house. We actually had the plans drawn up in 2011, but, I just kept dragging my heels on it for a number of reasons. However, after looking for a house in Cookeville where I saw at least 100 houses over the span of 6 weeks, we saw a lot of different features we liked. After that was all over we sat down and discussed what we’d really like to do for our future and staying here was the decision. So, why not change the house as much as we could to get more out of it what we wanted? Thus…the addition. Hopefully, it will be completed in late February because it sure is a mess around here.

One of the things that came about as a result is that we lost water and power out to the chicken house and trekking things out there was becoming cumbersome. So, I decided to rehome all my chickens to a local ministry and start all over next year. The very day the guys were coming out to pick up the chickens the Project Manager told Michael they should have the power and water out there in a couple of weeks. I had understood it would be more like a couple of months. I didn’t have the heart to tell the U-Turn guys I was going to keep them after all and they took all of them. A couple of days later I decided I missed having my own fresh, delicious eggs, so, the hunt for new chickens began. I now have 5 chicks in the garage and will be adding more in the next month or so.

The other animal-related thing was the sad point of our year. Our beloved Polly whom we’d had for 13 years got sick and after a few months of seeing her in pain and understanding from the Vet that her illness was not recoverable, we made the heartbreaking decision to put her down. Oh, how my heart ached! We missed her so much that we began another search for a Chocolate Lab and found a breeder near Cookeville. That’s when Molly entered our lives and came home with us July 4th. She’s a typical Lab…all energy, chews on everything and plays incessantly. She even chewed parts of several of the pumpkins on my front porch! I left them there anyway deciding it gave her something to do and them some additional character. But, she’s a load of fun and smart as a whip and is in puppy training classes. She will eventually settle down and when she does she’s going to be just as great a dog as Polly was.

Another highlight of our year was a return trip to Germany in December. We first went up to Northern Germany, an area new to our travels, to meet Patrick, the young man who donated stem cells to Michael. While we know that God did the real healing, it was Patrick He used to save Michael’s life. That meeting was extremely emotional and we are so glad we were able to meet him. He’s just a wonderful young man. We also traveled back to Bamberg and went to a number of Christmas markets as well in Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Bayreuth. We had a wonderful time revisiting the places we’ve been so many times and seeing what’s new. Bamberg has changed a little bit, but in most ways it’s still the same town it’s always been. We also visited with Erich and Annaliese Bauer, longtime family friends as well as my friend, Christiane who owns a small quilt shop outside of Frankfurt. Great memories.

So, what’s new for me? Well, I’m now leading one of our Wednesday night Bible Studies at church. I’m slowly introducing that group to inductive Bible study and everyone is enjoying it as am I. I was also leading a different study on Thursdays which has now ended. Between that and our LOAM group, Molly, helping with Tim and Samantha’s kids due to their work schedules, my life is pretty busy. I was watching Jonah fulltime until the Cookeville move possibility came about and then he joined Noah in daycare. I loved watching him but it was more of a time commitment than I anticipated and I just couldn’t go back to doing that fulltime. It did allow a wonderful relationship with Jonah to develop and it’s one I hope to always have.

I didn’t plant much of a garden this year because I didn’t think I was going to be here, but…next year…watch out! The seed catalogs are already rolling in and I’m already drooling over them and planning, planning, planning.

Our trip to Israel was a dream come true. It was everything we always hoped it would be and so much more. We went with the Christian Medical Dental Association and made some new, good friends. For me, the most emotional and spiritual highlights of the trip were a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, being baptized in the Jordan River, and following the footsteps of Jesus in the Old City of Jersualem. As we walked along parts of the original Via Dolarosa, I did so with tears reflecting on the pain Jesus experienced as He labored along that path. Now, when we read our Bibles or listen to our Pastor teach, we exchange looks because inside we are silently shouting “We were there!”. We were in Israel for a week and then went on an extension tour into Jordan. I could talk or write about that trip for hours. It was life-changing and unforgettable. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in my lifetime, but, I’d have to say that for me, it was the most memorable trip ever. I hope to go back and rejoin that piece of my heart I left there. In fact, it’s funny. I was telling Michael just yesterday that Germany fuels my creativity, but Israel…well…it has captured my heart.

One of the worship songs we did at church yesterday was “Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. I love that song and there’s so much rich theology in all the Christmas hymns we sing. Sometimes we miss it because those songs have become so familiar to us over all the years that we just sing them without really meditating on the words. As we were practicing that song I just broke down. We’ve been to Israel. We’ve seen the place Jesus was born. We’ve seen Jerusalem both from a distance and close up. Israel is in lonely exile here and it desperately needs it’s Savior. But, we can rejoice! Romans 11 explains to us that God has had a plan for the ages and part of His plan was to harden the heart of the Jews so that the fullness of the Gentiles could be completed. What a blessing it is to know that we, ‘the wild olive branch’ have been grafted onto Israel’s tree of life so that we can share in the Covenant blessings of God. You see, when Jesus returns as Israel’s Emmanuel, we, too, will be delivered. We will rise up and meet Him in the air as the trumpet sounds just as 1 Thessalonians explains. We will be delivered from this world and from this body of death and that, my dears, is reason for rejoicing!

The news is troubling today but every day, it seems, we are seeing the pieces for the fulfillment of God’s prophetic plan being fit together. It’s exciting really, because all these things simply hasten the coming of the Lord. So, dears, just as is sung in “The Little Drummer Boy”, as you are looking up preparing for your redemption, be asking yourself as he did, what gift can I give Him? The only gift God really wants is our undivided, obedient hearts. A soft heart, fully surrendered to the Lord is the best gift we can give because those are the hearts that are listening to His great commission, sharing His love and His truth with a lost and hurting world. Amen?

As always, you are in our hearts, ever near and ever dear.

With much love,
Michael & Jan

Happy July 4th!

 

4th-of-July-3D-Wallpaper-282x300

 

July greetings! Even though July 4th isn’t until Tuesday officially, we’re going to begin celebrating it this evening with family and friends because everyone’ schedule is a bit wonky on Tuesday. Michael and I will most likely go to watch the show after our local baseball game that day, but, we’re doing the backyard BBQ & fireworks show today.

I was thinking about the freedom that we celebrate. Sometimes we forget about the concept of freedom and what a blessing it is. In this country, we are still free. Those of us who are Christians have seen those freedoms slowly chipped away at, however, for many years. How grateful I am, though, that we still can move about freely and discuss our views without fear unlike people in so many other countries.

Freedom also has a Spiritual and an emotional context to it. If you are a Christian, then, the Bible tells you that in Jesus Christ you have the ultimate freedom (from sin); a freedom He gave His life for. What this freed us from was sin and death. What we celebrate on Tuesday is a national freedom for which many people also gave their lives.

Michael has faced death. No doubt. But, in that also comes another freedom; the freedom from fear. Fear is real and at times it seems almost palpable. But, we need not be fearful for what the future holds even if we can’t see the entire picture. What a blessing it is that I don’t fear where I will spend eternity because my eternal future was secured by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I don’t know who all follows this page or where our followers are spiritually. There is one thing I do know and that is if you haven’t surrendered your life to Jesus Christ then you will never be truly free. While we celebrate July 4th one day a year, those of us who are free indeed in Jesus Christ can celebrate that freedom every day, and for all eternity to come.

 

Three Year Michael Update

18527800_10209589473797961_9006341103472824634_n

Dr. Savani and Michael 5/19/17

Hello all! I know, I know, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted and I apologize for the ‘busyness’ of life.   But, I wanted to share with everyone how well Michael is doing. In just two days we will be celebrating the third anniversary of what Vanderbilt calls his ‘new birthday’. Almost three years ago is when the transplant took place and oh, what a journey it truly has been!
I wanted to update you about how his Vanderbilt visit went yesterday. To sum it up with one word…’FANTASTIC’! The truth of it is that Michael is doing incredibly well. Who would have thought that would have happened a couple of years ago when he got so sick! But, he’s not sick now; not by a long shot.

Michael’s hemoglobin has topped 18. Considering it was once down to 5 at its lowest point, that’s just amazing. In fact, amazing is the best word to describe my dear hubby. His recovery has amazed everyone; even me. God has been so faithful and on the way home from Vanderbilt yesterday, we were giving God all the glory for what He has so wonderfully done. Psalm 139 tells us how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. And, that is the truth!

All Michael’s labs came back showing great counts. The sinusitis that plagued him is just about gone. Dr. Savani agreed with me that it was quite possibly allergies at this point.

We had an extensive conversation with Dr. Savani about our future plans (more of that to be revealed as the next month or so goes by) and about whether or not Michael should continue working and, once again, Dr. Savani encouraged Michael to do just that. He said they are really working hard to encourage all their long term care patients to resume their normal lives. “We want them to go back to what they were doing before they got sick. We want them to continue on with their lives.” I wonder if Michael’s recovery has had any impact on that philisophy there? It sure wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it had because everyone we talk to there is so delighted with how well he is doing and Dr. Savani continues to praise his outlook on life and working. I say that only because Michael was never a ‘normal’ case throughout this journey. If you’ve read my book, you know that. We also shared with Dr. Savani our plans to go to Israel and Germany later this year and he was thrilled for us.

Another thing that we discussed with Dr. Savani is the outlook for Michael’s future. Of course, there are never any guarantees. We asked him about risk factors. The doctors at Vanderbilt have always been very honest with us about everything. As Dr. Savani told us, having truthful, open and honest communication with patients is of the utmost importance. During our very first consultation there Dr. Greer told us that there was no guarantee that Michael’s original illness won’t return some day. Those types of future things are ones only God can see. But we did discuss potential risk factors with Dr. Savani and what he told us yesterday was that, of course, no one can reliably predict what the future holds, so he couldn’t say there was ‘zero risk factor’. But he puts the risk factor at about a ‘1’. How exciting was that to hear!!!  And, what should our attitude be towards those risks?  Well, as he put it, “I have to come to work every day and every day I have to go drive home on I-65”.  What he means by that is that one can’t look at difficulties or challenges of life and decide to just stay home and do nothing out of fear that this or that ‘could’ happen.  Life must go on and we must go on with it.  In fact, on one of the walls in the stem cell clinic was a new quote from Chuck Swindoll.  It said, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations”.  What a great quote and how true!

We always learn new things when we go for Michael’s checkups. This time we learned about new research that has come down the pipe that has shown that when patients are Michael’s age it’s much better for their donors to be young; even kids. Patrick, Michael’s donor, was 18 when he donated. We are so thankful upon learning this new information that Michael’s sister wasn’t a match because she’s even a few years older than he is. There is a lot of scientific jargon to accompany this but in a nutshell what it said to me was that the younger the donor, the better, stronger and healthier jumpstart or boost it will be to the patient’s immune system. That may also partly explain why Michael is doing so well.
So…all-in-all it was a great visit. As always, we left excited and encouraged and ready to roll into the next chapter of our lives. We thank you all again for the prayers, support and encouragement over the last few years. It has been such a blessing and a help to us as we have gone along a sometimes difficult journey. It is such a blessing to be on ‘the other side’ of all of this. Again…God gets the glory.
And, I still have a number of copies of my book. If you know anyone who would like one, please let me know. At this point, I am happy to simply give them away. After all the thank yous and comments I have received from readers I have come to realize that this is really a ministry; not an opportunity for financial gain. All I ask is that if I have to ship one, the reader pay the postage.
Jan
Isaiah 46:10

Christmas Newsletter 2016

Rogers Family Christmas Newlsetter

December, 2016

 

mj2016

Christmas greetings to our dear family and friends!  As always, we hope this finds you and yours doing well and enjoying the special celebration time of the Christmas holidays.  As I sit typing this, it’s a rather overcast day here with mist and fog covering my mountains.  Seems like a good day to be indoors working on getting my Christmas cards out. It’s always a challenge as I write this to decide where to start.  But, I think I’ll start with Michael because really our news about Michael is the highpoint of our year.

As you may recall, I told you last year about the stroke that Michael had in September.  It was a mild stroke and left him with very little deficit other than some minor changes to his vision which affected him primarily when reading at night.  I will never forget the experience, but, I praise God that he came out of it as well as he did.

In January, we went back to Vanderbilt for a follow up appointment and MRI.  Well, what they found was a new lesion of some sort in his brain in an area where the former lesions resulting from the toxoplasmosis had been.  Of course, when something like this happens, there is cause for much concern and his Vanderbilt docs get pretty excited about it.  We were told they wanted to admit him to the hospital immediately and begin a barrage of tests.  We always pack an extra overnight bag whenever we go there because one never knows what to expect.  The barrage of tests were completed, he was released and we came home while we waited for all the results.  When they came back, all the things they tested for came back negative.  The next step was to see a neurosurgeon and have a brain biopsy.  As much as we didn’t want that to happen, we were assured that this new lesion was in a place that would be easy to get to.

Tim went with us for the biopsy and I was very relieved to have his company.  The biopsy went well.  As Dr. Weaver came by to release Michael from the hospital, his nurse looked at me as they left the room. Her expression and sympathetic pat on my arm  told me what I needed to know.  It was clear they thought it was cancer, although the doctor told us he wasn’t going to try to guess what it was.  We went back for a follow up visit and review in two weeks.  As we travelled to Nashville, I prayed and simply told the Lord that I was going to give all this up to Him and trust in His perfect will.  You see, God had already confirmed for me through Psalm 41 that He was going to restore Michael’s health.  I wondered if that was how Abraham felt when he took Isaac up to the mountain at God’s command to sacrifice him; trusting that God had a plan and would provide the sacrifice.  In my case, I trusted in God’s Word to me that He would heal Michael and, while I prayed for this lesion to be supernaturally gone, I resolved in my heart to trust God no matter what the outcome.

Our meeting with Dr. Weaver was somewhat of a surprise.  We learned that it wasn’t cancer, which was a huge relief.  On the other hand, we learned that they (and the Mayo Clinic where the biopsy results were sent) were unable to identify what the lesion was.  Oh, Lord…what are You doing I wondered?

Three months later, Michael went back and had a repeat MRI.  The result?  The lesion had “dramatically decreased”.  Last month, he went back for one more MRI.  Dr. Weaver told us that the lesion had reduced to a “barely visible scar”.  Oh, how our hearts soared at this news!  We will never understand what all this was about.  While Michael was at one of the Vanderbilt visits he was able to share his faith and trust in God with a young nurse in one of the offices who was going through a difficult time and committed that we would pray for her.  Was that what this was all about?  We may never know.

A few weeks ago, we were driving and Michael told me that he was feeling so great; better than he had for years.  We had gone to Lowes to get some 50lb. bags of landscape rock and he was able to lift them into the car.  Two years ago he would not have been able to do that.  He was so grateful and we stood cheering and praising God in the Lowe’s parking lot!

Our other piece of good news is that we have been in contact with Michael’s donor.  Patrick is a 24 year old young man who lives…of all places…in Germany!  Of course, Michael’s mom is from Germany so she was so thrilled to hear this news.  He is a wonderful, giving young man. We plan to travel back to Germany next year and are making plans to meet him when we do.  That was pretty exciting.

So, how is the rest of the family doing?  Here’s the update on them:

Jon, Kara and the kids (Asher, 11; Sadie 9; Elsie 5) are doing well and excelling in school.  Jon is busy with working,  being involved in community things, and playing on his church praise band and Kara is busy taking the kids to their many activities.  Asher plays tennis and trombone in the middle school band, Sadie is on the local swim team and Elsie does dance and gymnastics.  They have enjoyed some time traveling this year and spending time with their friends.

14642318_10153904998227155_3731336667367601438_n

Tim and Samantha are doing well.  In fact, that’s our other piece of wonderful news.  They are expecting their first baby next month and we are all soooo excited!!! Jonah Michael is due January 31, but, I have a feeling he isn’t going to wait that long.  Samantha is more than ready to see that happen as are all Moms at this stage of pregnancy.  Her other two boys; Aiden, 7 and Noah, almost 3, are busy little boys.  Aiden tried out football this year but broke his arm early on during practice and never got to play.  Needless to say, he’s decided he isn’t going to try football again!  Tim just got a promotion at work which comes at a much-needed time for them.  And, even though their lives are not easy, the Lord is blessing them as they are being faithful to Him.  Samantha lost her mom a couple of months ago, so this is going to be a harder Christmas for her.

 

ts2016kids2016jonah2016

Michael is back to work full time and loving it.  He works at two different places about an hour away.  Even though he spends many hours driving, he downloads podcasts from his favorite church online and listens to them on the road which has enriched him spiritually.  I try to meet him for lunch once every couple of weeks one place or another.  There is a German restaurant in Johnson City that is pretty decent and we enjoy going there.  He is still on the praise team at church and always enjoys playing for Jesus.

I am enjoying my semi-retirement.  I have gotten involved with a wonderful group of ladies out here in Camp Creek where we live called Ladies on a Mission for Christ (LOAM) and we do many service projects in our area.  I also have the blessing of volunteering at our local Christian Crisis Pregnancy Center (The Hope Center) and have thoroughly enjoyed that.  They have asked me to take over teaching their parenting classes and have also asked me to lead a Bible study for clients beginning next year which I am very excited about.  I still have my chickens and Polly, although getting older, is still with us.  I still enjoy quilting and sewing although I don’t have as much time to do that as I would like.  My new undertakings this year are basketry and re-learning how to play the violin.  I joined the Greeneville Basket Guild and am having a blast making baskets.  I played the violin in 6th grade and still have the one I played.  Michael surprised me a number of years ago by having it restored by a local luthier and even though it was made around the beginning of this century, it’s still in very good playing condition.

We have done some traveling this year to various places.  We always enjoy going over to North Carolina to see Michael’s parents.  We also took many trips up to beautiful places in Virginia earlier in the year and had a wonderful and memorable trip enjoying the incredible view along Skyline Drive.  We are planning a trip to Baltimore the week after Christmas to see an exhibit of impressionistic art at the local museum and explore some sights between here and there.  And, as I said…next year Germany and possibly Ireland.  There is nothing like the German Christmas Markets and I think the way the country decorates for Christmas is the most beautiful I have ever seen.

This year I have been listening more closely to the lyrics of traditional Christmas music.  This may seem strange, but, the song that really caught my attention is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I started thinking about this song last week and the message of the song made me take pause and reflect.  Even though the song is quite different from the original story written by Bob May back in 1939, the basic message of overcoming adversity is the same. In John 16, Jesus is trying to tell His disciples of His impending death.  He makes a statement in verse 33:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

 Adversity comes in many forms in many ways.  While it seems unexpected, if we pay attention to the words of Jesus, it shouldn’t be.  We should just know that tribulations are coming.  But, the beauty in this verse is that we know that even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, if we are and remain in Jesus, we will have peace.

The  hope that is found in this peace; the very thing that gives us courage to face living in a dark world which is not our ‘home’ is in knowing that Jesus overcame all of that.   To me this concept embraces and illustrates the very message of Christmas.   God knew that we couldn’t overcome the tribulations of life or the final tribulation of death without a Savior.  He had to send His own beloved Son; the Prince of Peace, in His own full deity so that we could have the hope of an eternal peace to come. The reality of that is difficult to understand and the fact that we were so unworthy makes it difficult to accept.  However, that’s where faith, the enabling force, comes in.  We don’t have to understand it all; we just have to accept it.

To me, my Michael is such an incredible example of overcoming adversity.  He overcame both physical and emotional tribulation and the only way he could do so was through the healing and helping power of Jesus Christ.  Plain and simple.  His dogged determination to get well and his persistence to improve and return to work paid off in huge ways.  In fact, at our last visit to Vanderbilt, Dr. Savani, his long term care physician whom we absolutely love, told him he wished more of his patients had Michael’s attitude about life because he felt they would do better if they did.  And, I agree with him.

There are always uncertainties in life.  Our world is in turmoil.  What Paul writes in my favorite chapter of Romans (8) rings even more true today.  One has only to turn on the news to see this:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

So, let us wait eagerly for the Lord’s return with perseverance, just as Paul instructs.  Even though world events seem alarming, they are simply heralding the certain and soon return of our Lord.  In the meantime, we extend our heartfelt wish to all of you for a joyous Christmas and a wonderful, peace-filled New Year.

As always, you are in our hearts, ever near and ever dear.

With love,

Michael and Jan

A Tribute to a Dear Friend, Layne Livingston

DSC_018120160528_075753

(photo 1 taken last year when Layne officiated at Tim’s wedding) (Photo 2 taken during Layne’s first visit)

Thoughts on the Passing of a Dear Friend, Layne
5/28/16

When I went to bed last night, it was just like any other night. Around 2:30 a.m. the phone rang abruptly in my ear. You know how those ‘middle-of-the-night’ phone calls illicit an immediate, and sometimes fearful, ‘spring-to-action’ response. That adrenaline begins to rush immediately as you pick up the receiver and try to brace yourself for what’s coming. With the exception of a friend or family member going into labor, it’s almost always BAD news. This time it was our youngest son, Tim. “Mom, I’m sorry to wake you up. I just got a text from Kristy Livingston. Layne’s dead. He’s gone, Mom!”
I took a deep breath. For what seemed like an eternity, I was speechless. For those who know me well, that’s unusual in itself. Finally, I responded. I didn’t know what to say. It was just unbelievable. Tim said that Layne’s wife, Kristy, had sent him and us a text. Michael, instantly awake, asked me what was going on and I told him. I could hear the halting, deep sorrow in his voice as he also responded in disbelief. I laid there for a few minutes processing my thoughts then got up and looked at the text. “Call me anytime” she had written. Well, it was 3 am EST where we were, but, only midnight in California. “I’ve got to call Kristy right now” was all I could think, so I slowly got up and dialed her number.

Kristy was obviously still stunned as were we all. Through tears and sniffles she told me what had happened. Something about a ‘quad’ (four-wheeler) accident, a neurosurgeon telling her he had only a 5% survival if they did surgery and 0% if they didn’t, and then Layne having a heart attack before the surgery could be done. I didn’t ask too many questions. I let her tell me what she wanted to tell me. My brain could hardly process it. It just seemed so, so, so unreal.

We talked for about 20 minutes. I went back to bed and updated Michael and my brain kept running as I fervently prayed. Pray without ceasing something said. It seemed like all I could hear was Layne’s deep, booming voice echoing throughout my thoughts. Then, just as I was about to drift back off to sleep, I heard an almost audible sound. It was a woman, crying. I jolted awake. I was sure it was Kristy. I began praying again. Pray without ceasing

Kristy had asked me to see if I had any pictures of Layne, so, this morning, after I got up with my morning coffee and again, prayed, I began to look through old photos on the computer, on CDs and in our family albums. I didn’t have many, but, I did have some. Again, it was as though I could hear Layne’s deep, booming voice rolling through the room. Pray without ceasing. My thoughts went back to the summer of 1997; the first time we met Layne. He had come out here to teach at the church we went to then because he knew the pastor. It was a wonderful time of remembrance.

Layne and I had actually connected online before that. There was a chat forum associated with that former organization of churches and we were both on it and had some communication. We had been told he was coming with a friend and their two, then teenage sons. They drove a camper from California out here to NE Tennessee. I remember walking into the church that morning and meeting Layne. He taught on witnessing and I had never heard such good teaching on the subject. When he needed a place to park the RV we offered our home which he gratefully accepted. Even though he had been driving and up for hours and really needed to sleep, when he got out here and saw our beautiful mountain view, he asked if we had any coffee. I said I’d be glad to make some and I’ll never forget his reply, “If I have a choice between sleeping and Christian fellowship; no contest. Go ahead and make that coffee.” Layne fondly dubbed that day as “back porch time”. It was the first of a number of times he enjoyed that and the ‘cave’ bedroom in our downstairs. He often mentioned longing for that ‘back porch time’ when we talked. We all sat in rockers and chairs on the back porch, looking at the mountains and fellowshipping for the rest of the day and during dinner. They were here for a couple of days and we just simply…well..connected. And, I remember other visits here and there. I still have the ACTS Ministries brightly colored aprons and his “Bold to the Bone” cookbook he brought with him one visit and fond memories of him chopping up salsa in my kitchen and devouring my home canned bread and butter pickles.

It’s always wonderful when you meet folks you just bond with. We have some other dear friends, Dan and Susie Tuttle and it’s like that with them, too. It doesn’t matter where we are; here or there, or how much time has elapsed. You just never stop loving. Layne told me a lot about his wife, Kristy, that first visit and I was so excited to meet her sometime. In fact, I could hardly wait to do so and my anticipation was rewarded a couple of years later when they made another trip out here. My connection with Kristy was instantaneous. We were kindred spirits. She quickly became closer than a sister and always will be. Even now we are making plans to go out for Layne’s funeral and to support her and her family.

In 2001, Tim and I went out to visit Layne and Kristy in Hemet when they lived in the old house. Tim was considering attending a Bible college out there and we had the greatest time fellowshipping with them. Even though we’d never been there before it was like we had and never left. We went to their church and to a baseball game with a bunch of their friends and had a tailgate BBQ afterwards followed by worship in their living room. I have vivid memories of leaning over a five gallon bucket with my arms up to their elbows stirring Layne’s famous Carne Asada recipe. We met many people involved in ACTS ministries. I wished I could take all of them and transport them out here! Somehow, I felt lonely when I got back home.

Over the years, Layne became more than a friend. He became the brother Michael had never had. As we went through several years of difficulties in the church we had been attending for longer than that, Layne was always there to listen and give us a balanced perspective and godly counsel. When we went through family challenges in the last couple of years, Layne was the one we turned to as we struggled through it. Over the years he became our closest confidante. He had the uncanny ability to discern the truth of a situation and remain neutral in giving his counsel. That is a rare gift. When Michael became ill and needed a bone marrow transplant, Layne organized prayer through his church and across the globe. He once told me he couldn’t even walk through the church without someone coming up to him and asking how Michael was doing. If we called him with a prayer request, we did so with confidence knowing it would go out to myriad praying saints instantly. When Dad was in a nursing home two hours away, it was Layne who drove up there several times and shared the gospel with him.

Another thing Layne did for me was encourage me to continue writing. He asked me to write my testimony for the first of ACTS series of personal testimony tracts and to help write a few other things. He published my first long Bible study; a study on prophecy. He always encouraged me to finish that book of devotions I started years ago because he wanted to publish it. I regret now that I let that slide. Perhaps that deep, booming voice will keep rolling around in my brain and inspire me to get more serious and actually finish it.

Layne was involved in more ministries than I’m sure I even know about. He was always going and his cellphone was always ringing, beeping or buzzing. He was a mentor and counselor to many. In addition to their main ministry, ACTS, a tract ministry, and the Children’s Bible Society, he helped countless churches and individuals. Many, many people relied on Layne’s former business experience, spiritual maturity, straightforward manner and servant’s heart. In recent years he accepted a position as an Assistant Pastor at his church. He was always on the phone, always busy, ALWAYS witnessing, encouraging and supporting others. It didn’t matter if it was a restaurant server, cashier in the grocery store checkout line or fill in the blank. He would always ask if he could pray for them and always had a tract to give. God used him in many and mighty ways.

When our younger son, Tim, began to stray in his life, Layne was the one person who valiantly persevered to hold Tim accountable and never gave up hope. He prayed without ceasing and had many others doing the same in one of his men’s groups. Layne was the tool God used in Tim’s life through all his years of prodigal wandering to help him get back on track when Tim finally realized what his life had become. Layne helped him get out to California into a men’s discipleship ministry and through that, God was able to help Tim make a 360• turnaround. It was an answer to many years of prayer and we will always be grateful. And, despite her grief, when Kristy and Tim texted back and forth in the wee hours of the morning earlier today, Kristy told Tim how proud Layne was of him. That is something that Tim will carry and will carry Tim for the rest of his life.

As I am remembering Layne this morning, it just seems so unreal that I won’t hear that deep, booming voice again. Gone are the times now when I had this godly man to help me sift through the pieces of my life and make sense out of them when they just didn’t. I know we were not the only ones whose lives were so impacted by Layne Livingston. I can only imagine how heaven rejoices to have him there. I can just see him sitting near Jesus with a look of exaltation on his face. I also know, without a doubt, that he will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” resounding throughout the heavens when the time comes.

I have a Bible passage that I consider to be my ‘life passage’. It’s from Philippians 3:
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that [i]for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep]living by that same standard to which we have attained.

If I could say one more thing to him it would be this: “Well, Layne, dear…you modeled that standard and pressed on with a life well-lived. You have reached the goal and captured the prize. I look forward to seeing you again. We had a parting expression we used to always say, “Here, there or in the air”. I never expected it would be ‘there’. I enjoyed the ‘here’. But, I know you’ll be waiting for all of us. Worshipping and waiting. You are the one who was blessed. We’ll miss you dearly.”

Love always,
Jan Rogers

Isaiah 55- A New Journey Begins?

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016

Hello Dears,
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  I post more on the www.morethan100days.com website, but, decided to do one here as well.  I’ll probably post the same thing on the website, so, you can just read it here if you’d like and get the same information.

I think the last thing I posted was about the seizures and stroke Michael had at the end of September.  According to the Vanderbilt neurology team at our visit last week, he’s recovered fully from that which is a real blessing.  Last week, he went for a routine checkup and followup with all his different doctors theret.  The results were not what we expected and certainly not what we had hoped. However, it wasn’t all bad  news.  The ID doctor did finally take him off the  medications for the toxoplasmosis that he’s been on for a year-and-a-half or so about which he was elated, and he’s also been taken off the anti-seizure medication which he was also happy about.   That’s some nasty stuff.

So, on Wednesday, he ended up having another Lumbar Puncture.  That was due to his follow up visit with the Neurology department subsequent to an earlier morning brain MRI.  They reviewed with us the brain MRI from Sept. comparing it to the one he had that morning and. a mass or something was there that wasn’t there in Sept.  In Sept. there was a tiny about 1 cm spot but they weren’t sure exactly what it was.  However, in 3 months, it’s grown to 3-4 cm which is actually pretty fast growth.  So, the question of the day was what could it be?
We saw a Fellow, Dr. Schrag, whom we saw in Sept.  He said he thought he was ready to take Michael off the Warfarin blood thinning medication but wanted to go in and check with his ‘boss’.  So, he left the room for about 5 minutes and then came back with the boss who said, ” we want to admit you right now.”  He had been comparing the scans and they were very concerned about this new mass.  What they told us was that they wanted to get a jump on it right away rather than waiting and rescheduling whatever.  He said it was quite “miraculous” that Michael was actually seeing every one he was seeing that day from all the different teams involved in his care.  Well, we all know Who does miracles now, don’t we???
As time progressed on Wed. and even yesterday a.m., the neurology dept. turned us over to the Neurology Oncology dept.  They have a couple of suspicions of what it could be and I think they are leaning most heavily towards it being some kind of tumor.  That being the case, a brain biopsy is on the table, but NOT until they have all the results (of which they ordered a barage of tests) from the spinal fluid taken yesterday. Those results may tell them something conclusive, but, if not, then it’s on to brain biopsy.  If the general thought is that it is a tumor, then, it is possible they may remove it at the time of the biopsy or they may reschedule him to come back for removal.
The other theory is  that it could be a PTLD lymphoma similar to the one he had in his liver Oct. 2014.  If that is the case, they said those usually respond really well to treatment although it being in the brain, we’re not sure what kind of treatment would be recommended.
Whatever this is, it is on his visual cortex.  Michael has noticed that he has had a bit of difficulty reading close up in the past month or so.   When we saw where this thing is the doctors said that made sense.
While we don’t look forward to a brain biopsy because there are always risks, Michael told them that he wants to move forward as quickly as possible and that he is willing to undergo that if need be.  The Neurosurgeons at Vanderbilt from what the neurology team told us, are pretty conservative and a pretty good case for that has to be presented because if it isn’t warranted, then doing a brain biopsy could cause something that might not have been there to begin with.
So…that’s where we’re at.  There is also a chance this could be an infection of some sort.  Nothing in the brain is good. This has definitely been a setback for us, but, Michael has a really good attitude about it and we know that God is with us every step of the way.  So, we are praying for the Lord to put His healing touch on Michael  as well as giving wisdom and discernment to our Vanderbilt medical team as they evaluate the test results.  We won’t know until probably the middle or end of next week what they find, but, I’m sure they’ll call us as soon as they have reviewed everything and come up with a plan.

Update, Wed., January 27

So, here it is a week after our trip to Vanderbilt.  So far all but three tests have come back and all have been negative.  While you want to say this is all good news, I’m afraid it just moves us closer to the biopsy.  If they can’t explain it with any other test, that probably leaves no choice.  However, we will keep you posted.  Michael really wants to move forward on this as quickly as possible.

So, how are we doing?  Well, it’s been another adjustment.  Life is full of adjustments, isn’t it?  We were going forward believing that the Lord was moving us in a particular direction for our future and then ‘BAM’ !  What do we do when these things happen?  Run.  Run as fast as we can; not away from it but to the Lord, grab His hand and run back to face it.  What else can we do???  Well, I suppose we could sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, BUT…life goes on!  It has to!

The truth of the matter is that we (none of us) know what the future holds.  We can have hopes and dreams; we can make plans; we can move forward with faith that moves mountains.  All that is healthy.  But only God knows what His plans for us are just as Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, and we will learn of those plans if we “seek Him with all of our hearts” because Jeremiah tells us if we do that, we will “find Him”.  So, the message is seek….find.  Right now, we are seeking;  not so much to find God Himself, because we already belong to Him, but, to find His will for our lives even in this.

God, dear ones, doesn’t cause these problems in our lives.  However, Job is such a great example of how nothing is a surprise to Him even when it blindsides us.  So often it’s because we think we have something all figured out.  Why, oh why, do we continue to try to put God in our neat little boxes?

On an interesting note, as I have been praying lately, God gave me a verse yesterday.  I’m not sure yet how it applies, but, it’s just interesting.  While the entire passage applies to many aspects of our lives right now, I have highlighted the actual part of a  verse God gave me.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

We so appreciate your continued prayers for us.  When we were in the process of receiving all this news at Vanderbilt last week, Michael looked at me from his hospital bed and a different look on his face than I’ve seen recently and quietly said, “This is the beginning of another long journey, I think”.  He wasn’t exactly sad or determined when he said that.  It was just the statement from a man who has been through so much and has persevered and has overcome, preparing himself to begin fighting another battle.  How I love that man and what a blessing and privilege it is to be his wife and partner for life!  I wondered yesterday, not without a few sniffles…where will we be spending Valentines this year?  We’ve spent an anniversary and a birthday in the hospital at Vanderbilt.  I guess it really doesn’t matter.  Just as long as we can spend it together.

As always, you are in our hearts, ever near and ever dear,
Michael and Jan

More than 100 Days Christmas Newsletter 2015

Rogers Family News

December, 2015

Christmas Greetings to our dear Family and Friends!

As I sit down to write this, the fields in front of my mountains are covered with mist and the sun is beginning to caress the sky with fingers of reds and pinks.  It’s truly a beautiful morning!  We greet you in the Lord and hope with heartfelt sincerity that this finds you and yours well.  Of course, I’m writing this to bring you up-to-date on what has been happening in our world in the past year, so…onward!

It’s been a year full of both blessings and challenges.  Aren’t they all, though?  I should probably begin with Michael, especially since I shared with you last year about his bone marrow stem cell transplant and recovery.  I’m happy to tell you that Michael is doing well!  It’s been a tough year for him in many ways.  It’s so hard to surrender your plans to the Lord for His greater good, but, that’s exactly what Michael has had to do in more than one area of his life.

He was ready to go back to work in February and did work for a couple of months helping out a dentist about an hour north of here who was having some tragic health issues of his own.  It was a great place to work and he loved it there.  However, that job was only temporary as a new dentist had bought that practice.  However, a month or so later, he was back at work and happy as a clam.  He was excited about his second career in dentistry, but, then, at the end of September he had a stroke and a couple of seizures.  He had an abnormal brain MRI a month or so earlier, and had a lumbar puncture Monday, 9/21 at Vanderbilt so they could test his cerebral spinal fluid for any evidence of toxoplasmosis.  For those of you who’ve kept up with us, you understand all that.  The concern was the possibility of a new lesion in his brain and the test was necessary to prove or disprove that.

The entire week after the test Michael had a terrible headache followed by some numbness in one of his hands.  He had experienced numbness previously and also had experienced a pretty bad headache following the previous lumbar puncture so he thought nothing of it and continued working that week.  Saturday morning, he had the seizures and was airlifted to Vanderbilt.  It was determined that he had a stroke resulting from a small clot in a rather different area of his brain.  He was admitted to the hospital that day, but, recovered so well that he was discharged three days later with the OK to return to work the following week.  However, after returning to work two weeks later and working for a couple of weeks, the Lord woke him up at 3:00am on 10/15 and told him he was to quit his job.  Well, what do you do when that happens?  You quit your job. You don’t question God or wrestle with Him.  You simply obey.

One of the restrictions he has to deal with is that he isn’t supposed to drive for six months after the seizures. So, who’s doing all the driving?  Yours truly.  It’s so ironic; Michael loves to drive and I hate it.  If money was no object, I would have a driver take me everywhere.   This has been a big challenge for both of us.  In fact, for Michael it’s almost as difficult as what he went through in Nashville and some of the things he’s experienced since we got back.  It’s really like having your independence taken away.  At the same time, we realize six months is like a blip on the radar screen of life and despite how hard it is for him,  he’s being a real trooper about it and I so appreciate the example he sets  once again.  My dear Michael is an incredible man.

The other challenge for him is the medications he’s on following the stroke and seizures.  One is affecting his stamina to a small degree and the other has affected him with a very annoying dry cough that he can’t shake.  He goes back to meet with everyone at Vanderbilt next month and we will be discussing all of that then.  At this point, according to our last appointment a couple of months ago, the doctors at Vanderbilt have decided this stoke was a ‘provoked stroke’ and they only want him on those medications for 3-6 months, so, we’re hoping to see a number of changes following next month’s appointment.

In the meantime, we continue to pray for the Lord’s leading for the next chapter of our lives.  Michael has no residual affect from the stroke whatsoever and that is a real blessing.  God has brought us so far in the past year.  In fact, he was carrying up some boxes of Christmas decorations a couple of days ago and he stopped when he got upstairs and said, “You know, I couldn’t have done this a year ago”.  As I watched him bowed over I was at first concerned, but, quickly realized he was bowing in worship before the Lord thanking Him for all He’s done.  It is amazing how we can still look back a year past almost every day and see how far the Lord has brought us.  What an incredible God we have!  So, if the Lord brings us to mind, please join with us in praise for the healing and in prayer for direction as we go forward into the new year.

Our most notable and wonderful thing this year, apart from how well Michael’s recovery has done, was Tim’s marriage to his sweetheart Samantha.  What a wonderful wedding it was and how happy they are!  We just love Samantha.  She’s every bit a Tennessee country girl and is like a breath of fresh air.  Tim has jumped in with both feet to being a step-daddy to her two boys, Aiden who is 6 and Noah who is almost 2, and is doing a fantastic job.  They have the challenges of both working fulltime and opposite shifts, and juggling all the schedules around, but, they have made great strides in many areas of their lives and the Lord has done so much in them which is a joy to see.

Tim works at Premium Waters in the water quality lab and Samantha works in Customer Service for Forward Air, a local trucking company.  Tim still plays bass on the worship team at church when his schedule permits.

Jon, Kara and their family are also doing well.  Asher is now 10, Sadie 8 and Elsie 4.  The kids are involved in different things and Kara spends a lot of time getting them to and from tennis for Asher, swimming for Sadie, and dance for Elsie.  Elsie is now in the Mom’s Day Out program at church two days a week and that frees Kara up a bit to get some things done.

Kara has had a tough year.  She lost both of her dear Grandmothers a few months apart.  Her family has always been very close and her Grandmothers were  a central part to their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays which has made this year has been particularly difficult.  So, they will have to be starting new family holiday traditions and hopefully those will turn into special and fun times of their own.

Jon is busy at his office and Kara helps him some with that.  He still plays adult soccer and plays guitar beautifully on the church praise band.  The kids are growing so fast and it’s hard to keep up with them.  Asher and Sadie excel at school.  Asher loves to read, build things and work on the computer and Sadie who is an intersting mixture of tomboy and girly girl, loves to be outside.  Elsie loves to be a princess, shopping and all things girly.  They are such a joy!

As for me, well, I’ve managed to keep pretty busy, too.  I had a huge garden this year and canned a lot which was a lot of work but a lot of fun.  I must have harvested several hundred pounds of tomatoes, and that was certainly more than I’ve grown for many years.  I still have chickens and that’s fun.  It gives me great pleasure to serve and share what I grow.  Any of you who garden understand that perfectly.

I think my most exciting event this year was the writing and publishing of my first book, “More than 100 Days, a Stem Cell Transplant Journey of Faith”.  The book became available in June through Amazon and Barnes & Noble or directly from me.  As the title suggests, the book is about our journey over the last couple of years and God has not only blessed me in writing it but through the responses of people who’ve read it.  We now have a website, www.morethan100days.com and I try to keep that updated with blog posts and other news.  If any of you would like an autographed copy, please get in touch with me right away.  You can email me at jan@morethan100days.com and if I get your email by 12/18 I should be able to get the book to you by Christmas.  It’s a very encouraging book and would be a wonderful Christmas gift.  I am praying about a second book which will be entitled, “Swinging Wide, what to do when Life  Throws You a Curveball”.  If I go forward with it, it should be out sometime in the Fall of next year.

One of the things that God has shown us this year is that He and He alone knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).  It is God who orders the steps of our lives and who has a plan for us that cannot be thwarted.  We so often make plans for ourselves that fail or never come to pass because God’s plans for us are different.  Once Michael can drive again, he would like to go back to work. Where will that be?  We aren’t sure about that at this point.  Will we do missions work?  Will we travel?  Again, all those things are up in the air and given up to prayer.  The most important thing is to be doing whatever God’s will for us is.  Life is so short. James calls it ‘a vapor’ and how true that is.  It’s here today and tomorrow it’s gone.  Michael’s doctors have all told him there is no reason he can’t live a normal life now doing whatever  he wants to be doing.  So, we go forward, prayerfully, carefully, trying to follow God’s lead.   No matter where this next chapter of our lives takes us, it looks like we will be in for some new adventure, and that makes life fun and interesting.  So often it’s perspective and attitude that makes the difference between positive and negative experiences.  I guess you’ll just have to check out our website blog  or wait until our next Christmas newsletter to find out what’s next!

We do wish you and yours a blessed Christmas and a wonderful 2016.  It’s hard to believe that it’s just around the corner.  Time goes by so quickly when you get to be our age.  You realize that the days behind you are much longer than the days in front of you, and your measurement of time changes significantly.  So, dears, seize that time while you can.  Don’t let opportunities go by.  Don’t waste the precious time you have because once it’s gone, well, there it goes and there’s nothing worse than living with regret.  One thing we have purposed to do in 2016 as we always have but to do so even more circumspectly is to follow Paul’s wonderful admonition to us in Colossians 3:23-24:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

As always, you are in our hearts, ever near and ever dear.

boys 559d834ce8163.image T-S Publication1 cann

Michael and Jan

God is at Work!

Good Morning, Dears,

I just had to share something with you today.  We received a note this week from a dear lady who had just finished the book.  She wrote the following:

“Your book is without doubt the most palpable witness of one’s devout faith it has been my privilege to read.”

This lady has travelled the world and is highly educated and cultured.  She is a local philanthropist.  It isn’t that her background was what made her comments so special.  It was that despite her background and all her life experiences, the Lord was able to whisper to her heart through what He has orchestrated in our lives in the past two years and two months.  As I read her note my heart was filled with joy.  What a great God we serve!

It is an incredible blessing to see how God works.  And, it is an even greater blessing to know that He can and will use anyone; anything and any circumstance to accomplish His purposes.  We are living that truth out daily and we take great encouragement from knowing that.

Have a blessed day!

Michael and Jan