Rogers Family Christmas Newlsetter
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.
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.
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.
Michael and Jan