It has been a while since I have posted, but these past several weeks I have been spending cherished time with my family. On March 7, 2016 my mom was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Mom went through an intense six-week chemotherapy treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The care she received there and the love and support from the staff was incredible. When she left at the end of that treatment, she was in remission. She took additional chemo through the summer of 2016 as a precaution to keep her in remission.
But on February 21 of this year, a regular blood check showed that the leukemia was back. She went through another several weeks of chemo back at the myelosuppression unit at Vanderbilt. The plan was to get her in remission again and then do a stem cell transplant. At the end of her chemo, my brother was identified as the match to be her donor, and we were getting everyone prepped for the transplant. Four days before the transplant we were told the leukemia was back yet again. She was put on a clinical drug trial that was extremely hard on her body. She start running fevers and was dehydrated from the nausea the drugs caused. So they admitted her back into the hospital. From there, things continued to go downhill. No matter what the doctors did, that leukemia just kept coming back. It was almost like the drugs were just making it mad - and it came back with a new vengeance each time.
On July 4, my mom was finally done with her battle. And because she loves Jesus with all her heart, I know that He called her home to be with Him as He promised in John 14:1-4. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know."
What I wanted to share with you though is something my dad wrote. They were married for 42 years. And throughout this challenge, my dad had been writing to share with others what was going on with mom, not just the medical, procedural updates, but what God had been doing through this as well. So I've posted below his thoughts as we knew that mom was nearing the end of her battle and the end of her time here with us. It was an encouragement to many who knew my mom and knew what we all were facing in this. I hope that it can provide some encouragement to you as well.
Jan Update June 21, 2017
This may not be my final update but it will be near the end. We had hoped that the trial drug would bring this horrible disease into remission and we would go on to the stem cell transplant but it didn’t it didn’t work. The disease just seems to get angrier with each treatment. The wonderful staff at Vanderbilt University Medical Center has done everything they can do but it is just beyond their control. These are great people, kind and loving and very good at what they do. We could not have selected a better place to fight this fight. However, our loving God and Father has a different plan for Jan and for me. Some people may say that if there is a God then He must be mean or uncaring in this matter. Or may say this is proof that there is no God. But that is so sad and so untrue. God has held us in His arms all through this process and He proved that He loved us in that while we were still sinners, still unworthy, He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. He personally provided a gracious path to salvation, requiring nothing of us but putting our trust in His provision. In Galatians 2:20 Paul said, “The life I now live in the body I live by faith (by adhering to, relying on and completely trusting) in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
I was thinking while I have sat so many hours watching sweet Jan struggle with this challenge that I now have a very small, micro understanding, limited as my human mind is, of the emotions God the Father had as Jesus hung on that cross on that Friday afternoon 2,000 or so years ago. Never has absolutely perfect love and absolutely perfect hate existed side by side in the same moment. God looked at Jesus and all of His creation and loved like no other could love. God loves because that is His character. God loved the Son, and God loves all of us. But at the same time God hated. He hated the sin that had required the cross. He hated the sin that had spoiled His perfect creation. And He hated the sin that had perverted and corrupted man who was made in His image. When sin entered the world, death came into the world. God warned Adam that this would happen if he did not obey. After the fall God could have destroyed His creation and just walked away but His perfect love would not allow that. So to put His glorious majesty on display He made a promise to Adam and Eve that there would be One born of woman who would be 100% man and 100% God. He would know no sin and would therefore be the perfect spotless Lamb that could make atonement for man’s disobedience. God would Himself pay the sin debt of His creation. God Himself stepped out of the throne room of heaven to save us. The Creator saved the creature. So God knows perfect love and proves it by loving us and sacrificing Himself for us while we are still sinners. But He hates the sin that put all of this into motion. John Murray wrote, “God loved the objects of His wrath (that’s us) so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of this wrath. It was Christ’s to deal with the wrath that the loved (that’s us) would no longer be the objects of wrath, and love would achieve its aim of making the children of wrath (that’s us) the children of God’s good pleasure.”
In a very small way I understand what He felt. I sit and look at Jan and I love her so dearly. And yet at the same time I hate this disease that has ravaged her that was the result of sin. Not something that she had done or I had done. God is not angry with us or punishing us. This is just the natural consequence of a sin that came into the world and corrupted His perfect creation. So as God loved us and loved the Son and yet hated Sin, I love Jan and hate the Sin that brought all of this corruption into our lives.
But what about Jan, sweet Jan? She knows her Lord and Savior and although it is scary she understands that she is going to a place where there are no more tears, no more sorrows and no more death and disease. She knows this because she knows the promises of God and she knows the character of God and she knows the peace of God, that peace that reassures the heart; that peace which transcends all understanding; that peace which stands guard over our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Jan knows where she is going and what glory awaits her there. We have already discussed this and we are going to be reunited one day. We are to meet at the south gate of heaven and I will be with her forever. In 2 Samuel 12 it records a child that was born out of the relations of David and Bathsheba. From birth the young boy was quite ill and David fasted and prayed all during the illness and then the child passed away. David got up washed his face and changed clothes and his servants were confused. David said nothing could be done for the child at this point. Then he said, “Can I bring him back again? I will go to him [when I die], but he will not return to me.” David knew one day he would see his child. And I know one day I will see my Jan.
Man looks at life as being a determinate time. It is finite from when we are conceived until we pass away. God does not look at the life of His children that way. He sees it as from the point in time we are conceived projecting out as a ray into eternity. So God looks at His children moving on to be with Him as merely a change of venue. There is not end to our life just a change of location, a change of scenery, and a change of experience.
But you say, “Isn’t that tragic, isn’t that such a loss?” Well yes. It is a terrible loss for me, her family and all who are left behind. But for Jan this is her reward. Our Lord will usher her into heaven saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” In the gospel of John chapter 11 the apostle tells us about the passing of a good friend of Jesus. When Jesus arrived in the town of Bethany, Lazarus had been dead 4 days. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, were distraught. They knew Lazarus was in heaven and that he would be raised in glory on the last day. But they were overcome with grief, just as I am. The shortest verse in Scripture then says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus was not weeping for Lazarus because Lazarus had his reward. Jesus wept for Mary and Martha and their unquenchable grief. He wept at the sin that had brought about death in the beginning. He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead but still He wept. I believe that Jesus is weeping now, not for Jan because He will take care of her, but for me and all her family and friends. We will suffer loss and she will receive glory. It does not record Lazarus’ words after Jesus raised him from the dead and gave him life, but I think I know what he said. Don’t quote me but I think when Lazarus walked out of that tomb and saw his Lord and Savior he said, “Why did you do this Lord? I was just fine, everything was great. Now I have to go back and plow the field, pull weeds, pay taxes and go through all of this again.” I won’t swear by that but I think he may have thought that even if he didn’t say it. Lazarus had his victory and Jan will have hers.
We are a product of our collective experiences. Now the world categorizes these experiences as good things and bad things. Or happy, joyful experiences and traumatic, tragic experiences. And interestingly all that the world’s or man’s philosophy can come up with to understand or ease our minds to all of this is to say, “Celebrate the joyous times and look at the tragedies as that which will make you stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” That is really the best man can do. It’s not bad, maybe even a little pithy. But let’s look at God’s way of thinking. God says there are not two bags of life experiences but only one. Yes, this one bag contains good and bad, joyful and tragic, experiences. God says they are all meaningful, all profitable within His calculus. How can that be? I mean tragic things are tragic by definition. If they weren’t tragic…well they wouldn’t be tragic, they would be good. However it is all in how you approach them. Look at Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified (that is acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God) by faith, (Let us grasp the fact) we have peace with God (and the joy of reconciliation with Him) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we also have access by faith into His (remarkable state of) grace in which we (firmly and safely and securely) stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and confident assurance of (experiencing and enjoying) the glory of (our great) God.
And not only this, but (with joy) let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressures, trouble) produces patient endurance; and endurance proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance (of eternal salvation).
Such hope (in God’s promises) never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
God tells those who are His children, those who have come to Christ by turning from their sin and accepting His gracious gift of salvation through Christ, that they can and should rejoice in everything in that bag of experiences. Do what? We can find joy or rejoice in everything that comes into our life as a child of God? Well, yes, that is exactly what He is saying. And not only can we rejoice because it builds our character but because in the life of a person who loves God and therefore is called by God for some purpose he can know with a certainty that all that is in that bag of experiences will work through God’s plan for some good. Look at Romans 8:28 “And we know (with great confidence) that God (who is deeply concerned about us) causes all things to work together (as a plan) for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”
We can with confidence look in our bag and see all of these life experiences and classify them all as a tool within the plan and purpose of God to bring about some greater good, all to His glory. So the bad experiences we endure, although not pleasant and we may grieve for having walked that road, for the child of God, that experience will pay dividends. We may never see it to fruition but we can know by the sovereign promise of our God that it will come to pass. We don’t have to be anxious or worry about these experiences but can rejoice in them. When Peter and John were hauled before the religious leadership and reprimanded for preaching about Jesus they were beaten and warned and sent on their way. And it says in Acts 5:41 “So they left the council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy (dignified by indignity) to suffer shame for the sake of His name.” Given what Christ had done for them, they thought it was an honor to suffer just a little for Him.
And in all of this we don’t have to worry, we don’t have to be anxious or fretful or panicky or even uncomfortable because the Lord is right beside us in dealing with the challenge or the after effects and nightmares that may come after the challenge. Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always (delight, take pleasure in Him); again I will say rejoice! Let your gentle spirit (your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance and patients) be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything (every circumstance and situation) by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving continue to make your specific requests known to God.
And the peace of God (that peace that reassures the heart, that peace) which transcends all understanding (that peace which) stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus is yours.”
For the child of God the entire bag of life experiences is of one value because all will be used by God to bring, through His plan and purpose, some eternal good, and all to His glory. In this I don’t know who may come to Christ and then lead others to Christ or do great things for the sake of the gospel because of Jan’s beautiful inspiring spirit. Jan has had an amazing impact on all those she has come in contact with and many who have just heard about her challenge. For a year and a half she has done her job and done it well. I am so proud of her and love her even more because of her witness. Her strength and her faith have served her well. She has been used of God and what greater privilege can be bestowed on the child of the Father than that.
Thank you all and may God bless each of you.