August 31, 2014
I remember shortly after Christopher was diagnosed we had a conversation on the way home from clinic. Our journey had just begun, we didn’t know what the road ahead would hold. The conversation revolved around this thought – how will this journey change us, how will it shape us, and how can we honor God through it?
The day Christopher and Scott were airlifted to St Louis hold a lot of memories for me. These are some of things going through my head that day:
The cancer was such a fast growing cancer, and the mass in Christopher’s chest was pressing against his vital organs, that it was too dangerous for him to ride 10 hours in a car. Pressing against vital organs. Too dangerous to drive.
Each helicopter I saw on the way to the hospital, I wondered if that was my child. I will never look at helicopters the same way again (or air ambulances).
As I drove to the hospital to meet my family, I needed something to occupy my mind. I started singing a song from my childhood “The joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength.” I sang it over and over again until it dawned on me. No matter how this battle turns out, Christopher has given his life completely to the Lord and I need not worry about his salvation. That is what gave me the strength to face what was to come. The JOY of the Lord is my STRENGTH!
The flight crew from Children’s flew to Tennessee, drove the ambulance to the hospital, escorted them from his room, took the ambulance out to the runway to the waiting plane, flew them back to St Louis, got into the next ambulance, and brought them to his room at Children’s. Three RN’s, one pilot, Scott, and Christopher. I remember being shocked that three nurses were on the plane. It was a sobering moment. Three RN’s??
Here we are almost two years later. How has this changed us? How has it shaped us? Are we honoring God?
Have we changed? Most likely. We are stronger. We have more perseverance. We are more compassionate. We are grateful. We are closer.
How has it shaped us? We are learning what’s important in life and what isn’t. Time with those we love? Important! Being the perfect weight and size? Not as important. Right priorities? Time with God. He is enough. Driving fancy cars or having the most up to date fashions? Never been that big a deal to us. Striving to be better parents and spouses? Very important. Failing at those? Accepting forgiveness and understanding God’s grace. Taking care of ourselves and each other? Always!!
Are we honoring God? That is my prayer. Are people seeing Christ in us while we’re at clinic? Do they hear the love of God in our speech as we voice our frustrations? Do we whine and complain about bills yet fail to offer thanks for the many things we do have?
Cancer has brought my prayer life to a whole new level. It has changed my selfish prayers to begging for Christopher’s healing. Yet, having to pray “Not my will, but yours God” is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to pray. Can I truly surrender my child?
Do I want people to know our pain, our fears, our suffering? No. Do I want people to see me place my full trust in the one that casts out all fear? Yes.
Is cancer softening our hearts, molding us to be gentle and more humble? I pray this is so.
A highlight of this summer was that Christopher was chosen as the Athlete in Need for the Nike Festival of Miles in St. Louis. All donations were given to his Benefit Fund. This was a huge blessing and assured peace for purchasing all his meds through the end of chemo. It was a great night surrounded by people we love who have walked this road with us faithfully!
Christopher being introduced to the crowd at the St. Louis University High School track. Little did he know he’d be given the microphone and asked to speak. He did an excellent job of thanking everyone for coming, explaining a little bit about himself, and wishing all the athlete’s luck in their races.
And just so you know, the winning time for the elite men’s mile was 3:55.29! Congratulations again to Jordan McNamara!
So, what’s the latest on the boy you ask?
If you remember, last summer there were days he could hardly get out of bed or walk without pain. There was the concern about getting him back to school and how he would do physically.
Fast forward to this summer. God works, people. And His ways are the best.
Stick with me as I time hop.
Over two years ago some of our best friends in the world, followed God’s call and moved to Virginia to accept the calling to full time ministry. Zach and Ashlei Wood’s are not only some of our closest friends, but have been Christopher’s youth sponsors from 6th grade through graduation. They have had a huge influence in helping to shape Christopher into the man of God he has become.
The day Zach and Ashlei were to formally meet their new church family at the annual Fall Festival was the day I had to call Ashlei and tell her that Christopher had been diagnosed with cancer. Had they still been in Edwardsville, these two would have been the first ones to my house, the ones who went to the hospital with us, who would have cared for Rory while we were at the hospital. Even far away, they cried with us, carried our burdens with us, prayed with us, loved us.
I could not fathom God’s timing in their move. Of course, I also didn’t expect a cancer diagnosis. I just knew that God honors His children’s obedience.
Christopher has declared a Bible major with a youth ministry minor. This will allow him to serve Christ in a church setting, a camp setting, or perhaps in a larger setting, such as Christ in Youth. One of the requirements for this major is an internship in ministry. The wheels started turning for Christopher back in the spring while he was home going through chemo. We began praying. The boy started having some conversations with Zach. Christopher went back to school and finished another year.
After much prayer on all parts, Christopher was offered a summer internship at Blue Ridge Church of Christ. God really answered a prayer. If the boy wasn’t going to be home with us, this is the only other option that gave me peace. I knew without a doubt he would be loved and cared for as if he was their own.
The people at Blue Ridge opened their hearts to Christopher. The boy got to see the daily workings of a church staff and all that goes into preparing for working with youth groups. He grew in great respect for this church staff and came to love the people in this church family. He went on week long conferences with both high school and middle school groups, helped with VBS, helped put together family events for the entire church, formed relationships, and grew spiritually.
The boy still had monthly appointments in Asheville, NC to see his doctor there for treatment. Daily oral meds continue.
When I think back to last summer and the things he wasn’t able to do, I think this picture sums up what a difference a year makes…
White water rafting! A far cry from hanging out on the couch like the previous summer!
I see this picture and I now understand God’s timing. God honored Zach and Ashlei’s obedience. He honored Christopher’s unwaivering faith through this trial. God provides in His timing. Thank you to the Woods family for having Christopher in their home all summer and to Blue Ridge Church of Christ for offering Christopher this opportunity. I pray God has been honored as we have strived to follow and trust Him on this road.
While I was so happy he was able to have such a great summer, it was a taste for Scott and I of what the future holds. A long week here, a holiday there, allowing our son to live his life, and live it to the fullest. It fills my heart with joy that he is able to do all these things again, yet the Mom in me is a little sad that as he lives his life, I will know him a little less.
The night before Christopher was to come home from Virginia, we were sitting eating dinner with Luke and Audrey. A car pulled up and parked in front of our house. This is not unusual as we live directly in front of the bike trail. As I looked out the window I said “If I didn’t know better, I’d say Luke was here.” Scott said, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say Christopher was here…Wait.. Christopher IS here!!!!”
I ran out of the house and grabbed that boy in the biggest hug I think I’ve ever given!!! I don’t like surprises, but that was the best one EVER! Scott, Luke, Audrey, Max, even the neighbors were all there for the reunion. It was a great moment. Puts a smile on my face every time I think of it!
Rory was at cross country practice. Christopher’s timing was perfect. It allowed him a little while to visit with everyone before we had to get Rory. We piled into Christopher’s car to go pick him up. Rory didn’t recognize us in the Camry as he was expecting the Jeep. When he saw Christopher get out of the car and walk over to see him, Rory burst into a huge smile and ran to hug his brother.
This evening was only made better by a trip to Dairy Queen!!
Christopher has returned to Milligan for another year of school. What a road this has been! We still have far to travel. But as I think back to the conversation Christopher and I had that day in the car almost two years ago, I stand in awe of God’s faithfulness. And I am once again humbled.
The words of this song sum this up well! May it minister to your heart as it has mine.