Christmas Newsletter 2016

Rogers Family Christmas Newlsetter

December, 2016

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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(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.

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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

 

We’re Done!

Greetings to all our dear ones!

Life has been very busy as of late, and I just haven’t had time to sit down and write this update, but, finally, here it is!  I wanted to let you all know that Michael is doing great.  As I posted previously, the past few weeks have been another part of this amazing journey we have been on and Michael continues to be just that.

Our one piece of great news is that we’re done!  So, what does that mean?  Well, for the past two years and two months, Michael has been under the care of our local Hematologist/Oncologist, Dr. Dharmen Patel.  I write about him in the book.  He has been wonderful.  Dr. P. is direct and calls things as he sees them.  Our family doctor told us once that our small to mid-sized town is very fortunate to have him here.  For us, another benefit is that he is close friends with Dr. Savani, Michael’s primary doctor at Vanderbilt, as well as several of the other doctors involved in the Stem Cell Transplant Department.  When Michael had his seizures that became a very valuable resource because it was Dr. P. who was able to get in touch with Dr. Savani and arrange for him to be airlifted to Vanderbilt.

Dr. P. was the first one to sense that Michael had MDS (Myleo Dysplastic Syndrome).  When he referred Michael to Vanderbilt in August, 2013, he was certain of that diagnosis.  And, it turned out he was right.  Dr. P. treated Michael prior to and after the transplant.  He treated him for the lymphoma and for the infusions Michael needed when his white blood cell count tanked.  He has been supportive and helpful, and has become somewhat of a friend.

So, when Michael went in to see him last Tuesday, 10/20, after talking with him and examining him, Dr. P turned and said, “Do you really need to see me anymore?  You are doing great.  Your counts (blood test CBC results) are doing great and higher than they were even when I first saw you.  Your WBC count has come up to normal which means you are no longer at such a risk for infection.  Your hair is growing back, your skin is pink again, your energy level is obviously back to normal and you aren’t having any problems.  You have fully recovered from the stroke.  I can’t think of anything you need me for.”  At that point, I had tears in my eyes because I realized what he was saying; Michael is doing so well, that he no longer needs to see Dr. P. for anything.  He was releasing him from his care.  Michael glibly replied, “Well, that’s fine with me.  I hope I never see you again!”  Of course, Dr. P. didn’t take that offensively.  He understood fully what Michael was saying.  The next time we see him, it will be as a friend, not as Michael’s doctor.

So, another milestone has been passed in Michael’s treatment and recovery.  Another chapter of the book of the last two years + of our lives has closed.  What an incredible blessing!

How is he doing?  Well, Dr. P. properly assessed Michael’s current health.  He’s doing great.  He’s back to work with the blessing of all of his doctors at Vanderbilt and Dr. P. here.  We had reason to question whether or not that was the right decision recently and had really good and lengthy discussions with the Vanderbilt medical team including Dr. Savani.  There had been some question, at least in my mind, whether or not Michael should be working fulltime.  Dr. Savani called us last week in response to a message asking that and we had a great discussion with him.  He reviewed where Michael’s health was at right now.  He’s off immunosuppression.  His WBC count is returning to normal (finally!) which means he has protection from the risk of infection.  He recovered from the stroke faster than anyone expected, although Dr. Savani also said he wasn’t surprised by that based on Michael’s history.  He is feeling great.  He told Michael that if he wanted to work fulltime or at all, he saw no reason that he shouldn’t.  That was such confirmation!  We also had the same discussion about stress and working with the Neurology team several days prior to that. That conversation was also a blessing.  Michael was told about what he needed to do to prevent stress from being a factor; things like eating healthy foods, not working 12-15 hours per day, getting adequate rest, etc.  And then, a very interesting thing was said about the fact that for many people, not working is more stressful than working.  Boy, does that fit Michael to a ‘t’!  Every time the subject of not returning to work comes up his countenance just falls and he gets so bummed out.  That in and of itself was a revelation, at least for me, because I have never heard that before.  The truth of the matter is that Michael just loves doing dentistry.  It gives him great joy because he loves to help people.  It’s just the way God created him and dentistry keeps his mind active and allows him to do just that.  In many ways, for him, it’s a stress-reliever, not a stress- producer, and, should it ever become the latter, well, he can walk away or retire, but, he sure isn’t ready to do that at this point.

In light of all of this we are so blessed. Actually in every way we are!  God has shown us some incredible things lately.  We have had some times of turmoil and uncertainty about the future, and yet, God in His infinite grace and mercy has met us right at the throne of grace as we have turned our faces to Him.  I love how He tells us in Hebrews 4:16 that He has made that provision for us:

16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

 Oh, what blessed and comforting words those are!  I have found myself going to that throne several times in the past week or so with deep need for God’s grace and direction.  And, when I have, He has answered my prayers and filled my heart with gratitude and understanding.  He has confirmed for us that we are on the right track and that we need to go forward not in fear but in faith.  Of course, it sure helps when you have the blessing and support of your doctors as you do so.  It is also apparent that God has allowed us to have such great doctors in order to accomplish His purposes and we know that God is in the business of so doing, now don’t we?

Michael is back to work fulltime and thoroughly enjoying it.  It put the spring back in his step and the joy and fun of working back in his life.  For me, it has made a pretty significant change because he still isn’t allowed to drive until March 26, so, I have become the primary driver, and I’m the one of the two of us who doesn’t enjoy driving.  It was so cute a couple of days ago.  Michael kindly asked me if anyone had ever taught me how to drive on the interstate and no one ever really has.  So, we are going to begin driving instruction.  Perhaps when the six months is up I will be a more confident driver.  God can work all things to good, maybe even that, right?

We so appreciate your prayers and encouragement.  I have spoken to several dear friends asking for godly counsel in the past couple of weeks and shared our prayer needs and I have been humbled and overwhelmed at the response.  It’s such a blessing to be in the family of Christ, especially when we consider what we deserve and how God loves us anyway.

Thanks for sharing this journey with us and for caring enough to keep praying for us.  Please pray for me to have courage in driving and for Michael to continue to do well in his recovery.  We do have winter weather coming on and I am definitely a ‘weather driving wimp’ when it comes to that.  At the same time, this is not a chore or a trial for me.  I do it with joy.  I have the luxury of being mostly retired, and 5 more months is nothing but a blip on the radar screen of life.  It will be over before we know it and I consider it a privilege to do something that is investing in my precious husband’s joy in life.

Dr. P. told us that he calls Michael his ‘Miracle Man Patient’.  That is so true, but, it would not have been so without the intervention and protective hand of God on him and we truly know that.  I don’t think any of this could have gone as well as it has without God’s healing touch or the way He created Michael to have that determination to overcome this and to return to a normal life.  My husband is an amazing man.  His way of dealing with all of this has been an incredible witness to me and to many others.

We do so hope you are well today.  Please let us know if we can pray for you.  As always, you are in our hearts, ever near and ever dear.

Love,

Michael and Jan

 

 

 

 

The Journey Continues

Good Morning, Dears,

It’s a beautiful, early Fall morning.  We do hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the first days of the change of seasons.  We’ve had quite a bit of rain here in the past 24 hours and anyone who knows anything about Fall color in these parts says it’s going to be beautiful this year.  Usually around the 2nd and 3rd week of October is the prettiest and I am looking forward to it.

So many people are praying for us and more are asking for details. If you haven’t read the post prior to this one, please do because rather than repeat what I’ve said there, I’m going to move on.

After the Lumbar Puncture last week, Michael continued to have headaches which is a normal and expected aftereffect from the procedure.  Then, on Friday afternoon he noticed that he was having some trouble holding onto an instrument with his left hand.  He told me Friday night that he could pet Polly but he couldn’t feel her fur.  However, again, our new and ever-changing normal didn’t alert him at all that these could be symptoms of a stroke.  He has experienced much in the way of joint and muscle aches, pains and stiffness and also has muscle and joint pain in that shoulder which the doctors told him was most likely related to chemo he had earlier this year. However, this sensation in his hand and headache continued into Saturday morning.  Around 6:45 a.m. he went to lay down on the bed.  I was walking out of the bedroom and heard a thud, wheeled around to see that he was no longer on the bed and discovered him on the floor having a seizure.

He was taken by ambulance to Johnson City Medical Center where he had a second seizure and then a decision was made to airlift him to Vanderbilt.  Jon, Tim and I took off shortly after by car and arrived a couple of hours after he did.

Many tests were done and we learned the following morning that he had a stroke.  It was a different kind of stroke; a ‘venus’ stroke, meaning it happened in a vein, which is far less common.  The doctors were concerned that the clot that had caused the stroke could bleed into his brain, so, they moved him to the Neurology ICU.  Turns out, incidentally, he got the best and largest room in the entire floor!  Thanks, God!

Several teams of people became involved in Michael’s care, which always seems to happen.  We had the Neurology team ( a first), his Stem Cell Doctors, and the Infectious Disease team as well.  Now, let me tell you, these are some brilliant folks and we were privileged to meet some of them.  And, as has happened always at Vanderbilt, he received excellent care.

And, also as always, Michael was not normal.  If you have read the book, you know that I say several times how I wished he could just have been boring.  Nope; not this time either!  There are a few reasons I say that, but rather than go into all those details, just trust me on this one.

By day 2, tests revealed that things seemed to be progressing nicely.  CT scans showed no additional bleeding from the clot.  He had been started on blood thinners by Saturday night, and anti-seizure meds as well.  The million dollar question for everyone was why the clot happened and why it happened where it did.  Even as of now, no one seems to know for sure.  I continued to ask the question related to my own personal theory which was could it have been the lumbar puncture?  Early on the answers I got were negative, but, I kept asking.  Then, yesterday, the Neurology team came in and had done some homework and found reported cases of exactly that.  Those cases are rare, but, they have been reported, and, as I reminded them, nothing with Michael has been normal which did at least get some smiles.

Some other possible reasons floating out there are the fact that transplant patients have a small number of higher risk for clotting and stroke than the general population.  Another theory is that it is possible his donor had a genetic propensity for clotting and stroke.  The bottom line is that, regardless of the cause, the treatment would still be the same.

By Monday, they had decreased the frequency of monitoring Michael.  He was in good spirits, he wasn’t having any further complications.  That was a blessing.  By yesterday, his left hand had showed some very marginal improvement and no further symptoms had occurred.  I think everyone was a bit amazed by how well he was doing; enough so that they said we could go home, and  I was amazed by that.  Everyone was also very pleased and perhaps even a bit surprised, that all the tests and scans that were done turned out negative, including all the ones from the Lumbar Puncture.  Woohoo, God!  A couple of the people involved have read the book, and they didn’t seem quite as surprised as the rest.

So, we left Vanderbilt yesterday around 6 and made it home in just over 4 hours with me driving at night which I don’t like, in intermittent rain, which I REALLY don’t like and long distance which is normally difficult for me.  However, we prayed before we started; many folks joined us, and God kept me alert and gave me a peace the entire way home.  We only stopped once for gas and didn’t stop to eat.  I drove; Michael slept,  and we made it.

I said so often on the Caring Bridge blog how we realized that our lives have changed.  Once again, we are in that place where things aren’t the same as they were even a week ago.  We don’t know exactly what the future holds for Michael, but, we do know a few things that will have to be different, the biggest one of which is that he is not going to be able to drive for awhile.  That’s going to be very hard for him (and for me for that matter!), and, until his hand has fully recovered, he won’t be able to work, and that is if it fully recovers, and even then, he may not be able to.  That is a hard place to be, and those lifestyle changes and adjustments for the future are going to take him time to process.

It’s so hard to change, isn’t it?  I must admit that last Saturday morning was scary.  I had never seen anyone have a stroke before.  I just kept praying over him and kept talking to him.  I contacted Tim and Jon kept me on the phone until the ambulance arrived.  Both of them were such an incredible help and blessing to me at that time, as they always are.

Lately, the Lord keeps taking me to Psalm 1.  Now, I know why:

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

I have put an emphasis in italics of the verses that have so ministered to me in the last couple of weeks and how this Psalm did so in the past few days.  I love the Fernando Ortega song that is based on this Psalm.

What, however, does it mean to ‘prosper’ in v. 3?  Does it mean that if we simply believe in God that we can have anything and everything we want?  I really like the way Pritchard defines that:

“They prosper in the sense that no matter what happens, they find strength for the day and hope in the midst of the hardest difficulties. They bring forth godly fruit in good times and bad times. Why? Because they are planted deep in the good soil and their roots reach out to the water of the Word of God. Finding constant nourishment therein, they can face whatever life throws at them.”

This isn’t a material or worldly prosperity, it’s a spiritul one.  And that has such rich application for us right now.  We all have choices in life, especially when it comes to viewing our present circumstances.  We can choose to dwell in all the difficulties we are faced with.  For Michael, it would be what he can’t do, what he has to do; what he feels like has been taken from him.  Or, we can choose to dwell on the things we can be thankful for.  For us those things are the fact that this was such a small stroke and his recovery, while not over yet, has progressed rapidly.  I am so very thankful that Michael didn’t lose cognitive ability.  He’s alive; He can look at me, talk to me, and give me a kiss.  He can walk around.  One has only to walk around the ward of the hospital floor we were on and look in the rooms to see how very blessed we are.

And, even so, once again, our Lord has been merciful and gracious towards us.  The doctors, once again, are amazed at Michael.  For him to have gone through yet another complication, survived, and have the ability to move on is nothing short of another one of God’s miracles.

Right before we got to Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon, Jon and Tim ran into the Starbucks just down the street from the hospital.  As I sat in the car, I noticed a small flock of birds busy flittering about.  I rolled down my window and enjoyed the show, and, as I did, the old hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow” came to my mind and I found myself softly singing it.  I love that hymn.  “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me”.  God was indeed watching and watching over Michael through all of this.  We are so grateful for the ‘could have been worse but wasn’t’, once again.

We would covet your prayers as Michael adjusts to these new changes and restrictions, and wisdom for the decisions he and we must make for the future.  Please also pray for healing for Michael.  He still has the headaches and is very tired.

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

With love,

Michael and Jan

Life after a Stem Cell Transplant

Happy Fall!  I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Life has been busy with gardening and perserving summer produce. I’ve had to buy more canning jars to hold the wonderful abundance of tomatoes the Lord has blessed us with!

I’m sure you’d all like to know how Michael is doing. He’s been doing really well. Getting back to life as normal after a bone marrow stem cell transplant has continued to be full of challenges, but, he has weathered them all with that same German dogged determination that saw him through during the most difficult times of his recovery.

A few months ago he complained of some mild headaches. Well, as you can imagine, that sent everyone into a tizzy because of the toxoplasmosis issues that were first diagnosed as a result of the awful and debilitating headaches he had at that time. These were not like that, but, still, erring on the side of caution, all his Vanderbilt doctors ordered a barrage of tests. After all the results came back normal, everyone relaxed a bit.

Most recently, he had a routine visit and brain MRI a few weeks ago, and there seems to be a new lesion of some sort. So, earler this week we made the trek back to Vanderbilt for a lumbar puncture. While we don’t have all the results back yet, so far everything has been normal which is what he’s been expecting and I have been praying for.

Getting that call from Vanderbilt saying they believe there is a new lesion on Michael’s brain was quite unsettling. It was a hard day for both of us. It’s easy to get discouraged and think that sometimes it seems like all this never ends. However, at those times during which the circumstances of our lives seem overwhelming, and even during those ‘meltdown moments’, God seems most mighty. The verse that comes to mind is written by Paul, an incredible example of a man who went through trials: “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Oh, the wonderful, all-encompassing grace of God! How it breathes peace and new life to our hearts.

We all strive to get to that place where God’s grace is all we need and how we so often deny our weaknesses because of those things that seem important that really aren’t. If we could just be more transparent so that God’s grace would suffice to the point of shining through us into the darkness of this world. What a rich place that is.

One other thing I have learned recently when faced with yet another series of questions about Michael’s health is a true statement I read somewhere: don’t borrow trouble before it comes. Wise advice.

Wishing you all a wonderful Fall,
Michael and Jan

The Lord’s Plans

Hello, Dear Ones,

Greetings!  I thought I’d update you as to what’s happening in our lives.  First, let me say all glory to God that Michael is doing really well!  We are so thankful!  These days, all we have to do is look back one year ago just about any day to see that he has improved 100% and that is such a blessing.

We have our next appointment at Vanderbilt on Sept. 4.  Michael will get all his childhood immunizations, begin his hepatitis series, get a brain MRI and another bone marrow biopsy.  It’s going to be a busy day!  However, we are hoping that, upon receiving the MRI results, the ID doctor will decide to either take him off of or greatly decrease the dosage of the medicine he’s taking for the toxoplasmosis.  He’s been on it for almost a year now and that’s a long time, and the last scan and blood work showed that there is no active toxoplasmosis.  We are praying for good results from the MRI, so, please join us in that.

He will have also completed the last of the 4 infusions that were planned to help boost his immune system.  His WBC has struggled it’s way back to normal due to the meds he’s still taking.  But, the great news is that at his last visit to our local Dr., his WBC was only 1 point below normal and that was the day of the infusion in the prep labs, so, that’s really wonderful.  That result indicated that his immune system is beginning to do that on its own and that was very exciting.

The Book Launch & Signing Party was yesterday and it went quite well.  We had a number of folks drop by including some of Michael’s long time patients who had seen the article in the newspaper.  He was so tickled to see each and every one of them.  It meant a lot to him that they would take time to come down and share their Sunday afternoon with him.  He also was asked to sign many books and he was so blessed by that.

Today, while I was in town, Michael got one of those calls from a dear patient of his; an elderly woman who has recently gotten news that she now has the same diagnosis he had; MDS.  Unfortunately, she is not a candidate for a transplant due to her age and other health factors.  One of her friends came  to the party and bought a book for her.  She had already read the whole thing and called to let us know how much it meant to her and how much it encouraged her.  Michael teared up when he talked to her and I cried when he related the conversation to me.  That’s really what this is all about and why I wrote the book.  I have prayed that the Lord would use it and it is such an encouragement to hear when He does.  Every time we hear how it has touched someone, it makes all that we put into it worthwhile.

At this point, the doctors have told Michael he is able to resume life as normal.  I can’t tell you what a blessing it was to hear that a couple of months ago.  He was so excited!  For the past few months, though, we have been in the ‘valley of indecision’.  I’m sure each and every one of you can understand that because you have undoubtedly experienced that as well.  We have been praying about what God’s next step for us is and have been considering many things.  We sure don’t want to get ahead of whatever His plan is for our lives.  So many things are rolling around in our minds, but so far, nothing has rolled into our hearts with enough degree of certainty that we know it’s right.

I have trouble sometimes being patient.  Do you?  It’s hard to wait on the Lord.  It can be unsettling not knowing what the future holds.  We’ve had much experience along those lines in the past couple of years. Things and circumstances change.  Life is fluid, no matter how much we think have it planned out.  Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.”  Psalm 33:10-11 says, ” 10 The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever,the plans of His heart from generation to generation.”  How true that is!  I love the way this reads in ‘Desiring God’:
The point of these verses is that both men and God take counsel and both plan. But in the end it is not the counsel and plans of men that are established, but of God’s. It is all-important to realize that God plans the world and he plans churches and he plans lives—and his plans succeed. His plans take precedence over our plans. Our plans have significance and durability to the degree that God plans for our plans to be significant and durable. God is the all-important reality in planning from beginning to end. God’s will is for that to be known, to be explicit, to be admired and enjoyed.

If we could just get that, how much easier life would be.   Sometimes it seems as though our fingers are glued to those plans of ours and God has to pry them off, one at a time.  It’s difficult to go through that, isn’t it?  We’ve all been there at some point or another.  It’s easier to have a pity party and ask those ‘why’ questions.  You know the ones; ‘why, God?’, ‘why, me’?  ‘why not…’, ‘why this…’?  ‘why, why, why, and woe, woe, woe…’.  All of that can cause us to have those unsettled and insecure feelings.  What we are learning, though, is that only in trusting God fully so that His plans and our plans are in sync will we find peace as we go through that process.   We’re not always there.  As I said, despite everything we’ve been through, we’re still learning.  However, the one thing we can have peace in knowing is that no matter what is happening in our lives,  HIs desire and HIS plans for us are good and for our good. We just have to get on board and ride that train until its final destination.

I was talking to a dear friend a few days ago who just lost her husband to cancer.  She was telling me what I have been told by so many other people that no matter how much you expect a loved one to die, there is really still no way to prepare yourself for it.  Those words rang so true because they apply to just about any situation in life.  No matter how much we think we are prepared for something, so often we find the opposite is true.  Even so, we can all be encouraged.  I love how Jesus tells us in John 16:33, ” 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.”   Yes, He has, and in Him, so have we.  That, my dears, is what can help us get through each and every day.

We do so hope you are well and experiencing joy in your life.  Don’t forget to visit our new website and check in there as you have here to see how we are doing. And, we would so appreciate your continued prayers for us as we go forward into the future in faith.

With much love,
Michael and Jan

Such a blessing!

We are beginning to receive a few book reviews and comments from folks and we are so delighted to know that the book is making a difference.  Here is a new review we just received:

“A true (recent) heartfelt story loaded with inspiration of our friends real life walk of faith They endured more than you could imagine. One trial after another, only to get another. God’s work was nothing short of a miracle. So blessed to have them in our lives. You will love this book!”

Our thanks to Darleen B. for taking the time to post it!

New this week:

We met with Velma Southerland from our local paper, The Greeneville Sun, yesterday.  It sounds like there will be some article in the paper tomorrow or so about the book and the Book Launch Party on Sunday.  Woohoo!  The word is slowly getting out!