The Goodness of God

Two weeks ago. The Sunday after Thanksgiving. My husband stood in church and declared the goodness of God. Lest you think that was cavalier of him, consider these events in our lives.

In early November our phone service was crippled. Our business runs from calls to our cell phones. One day a village clerk called and indicated that she had been unable to reach us by using her landline to our cell. This was the second day of an error message when she dialed our number from her landline. All the devices on our account were affected. This meant than anyone who would try to reach us from a landline would not get through.

That’s ok, right? Because everyone uses cell phones these days. Well, no. The village clerk, a government office, could not reach us. Hospitals would not be able to call us. Nursing homes would not be able to call us. Many older people in the community would not be able to reach us. If you needed us, your landline would not get you to us.

We called our provider and they said they would have someone look at the issue in 48-72 hours. We spent hours on the phone trying to get them to escalate the issue so that diagnostics and repair could happen sooner. They didn’t seem to understand that this account handles all our business calls and being down would be very costly. It seemed as if we were talking to a brick wall, but finally the wall cracked and they agreed to have an engineer address it the next morning. Thankfully, by midmorning the issue was resolved.

And that’s not all.

The day before Thanksgiving, Bud turned on our computers to be greeted by a ransomware screen. All of our files had been encrypted and the only way to get access to them was to pay a ransom. Like that would ever happen. But as our IT support looked at the problem deeper, it became more catastrophic in that the cryptoware had made its way to other computers on our network and even to our online file storage. This was the amazing part – the virus wiped out the files on the account and emptied the trash as well. It appears that no recovery is possible. This was a company that you all know and our information was not safe there as we thought.

If you’ve never experienced either of these two issues, you will not understand the stress involved in gaining resolution.

But that’s not all. We have an ongoing issue that began in early 2020. I cannot give you details, but I can tell you what I’m learning. The issue has caused a stop in the road, even for me, where I have had to evaluate the teaching of Jesus about relationships. One thing that became clear to me was that Jesus greatly valued His relationships. I would say that He never considered any time spent with people a waste of time.

I am reading a book called “Suffering” by Paul David Tripp. In that book he makes a valid point that when we suffer, we are able to see more clearly what is truly important. Juxtapose this concept to the life of Jesus when he was about to be crucified. (John 17) Jesus prays first for his relationship to the Father. And then he prays for the disciples. He doesn’t pray that they would win many souls, that they would plant lots of churches. He prays for their relationships.

Say that again. In his dying day, Jesus prayed for the relationships that the disciples had with each other. Can it be highlighted any more clearly? While the work of the church is important, the heart of Jesus focused first on the relationships of the believers.

But that’s not all. Those of you who follow us, have already arrived at the next trial. That Sunday before Thanksgiving was the Sunday before Bud’s check up at Sloan-Kettering. He is now on a four-month cycle for these appointments, so that has alleviated some stress. However, whenever a trip to NYC looms, it is a battle for the mind to refrain from the what-if’s and to focus on the day-to-day gift of living.

And yet, Bud boldly declared the goodness of God. He was able and willing to say that no matter what trial enters your life at any particular time that God is good. I say “Amen.”

There is a song by Jason Ingram that resonates deeply with me and it is called, no surprise, “The Goodness of God.” I declare to you that God is good and God is faithful. He wants a relationship with each one of us and He loves fully and completely. A child of God is a treasure to Him. He is always good, even when the circumstances are not. He is always faithful, even when we’re tempted to believe He let us down.

Occasionally, we jokingly let our worship leader know what song we want played at our funeral. Some of those that we’ve chosen in the past have fallen off our list. This song is the definitive song. Please listen to it. If you don’t have this kind of relationship with Jesus, just understand that you can.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djQqN4t2Ol4

Bud didn’t know what the result of this check up would be when he stood in church and declared that God is good. The results might be wonderful or they might be devastating. But that wasn’t the point of the declaration.

This appointment revealed that “all is good, nothing to be concerned about, no active cancer.” The news seems somewhat anti-climatic after you ponder the faithfulness of God. And we are once again, thankful for the work that God is doing.

Pooh said it first (2)

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Gratitude – overflowing from our hearts . . .

Bud’s most recent trip to New York City for quarterly check-up — Scans and tests show no reason for concern. The same as last visit “no hint of a concern.” And the next appointments are scheduled for four months away rather than three!

Thank you so much for your prayers for his health!

 

 

 

Not even a hint

Another three-month segment is finished. As Bud says, for us life is measured in quarters marked at the end by a progress report from a team of oncologists.

The report at this time is good. I think, very good! The oncologist indicates that there are no worries, actually there is not even a hint of anything to worry about. The radiation oncologist who follows the issues in the brain indicated everything there looks good, as well. All sights are totally dormant. The neurologist did not need to see him and feels that there is no need to connect again until the next three-month review.

Once again, I share with you a report that brings thankfulness to our hearts. We rejoice that God has chosen to work this way for us. Even so, we are very aware that there are those in our community who are grieving at this time as a dear loved one has gone to heaven. God loves each of us with an everlasting love and I know that He grieves along with this family during their heartache. We are sad as well as the loss of a friend is difficult; but there will be a glorious reunion of friends and family in a future day. This friend will be there to greet all who love the Lord as he did.

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Winter Wonderland

Friday was a beautiful snowy day in Andover — and in much of the state. Alfred University and State both called snow days and area schools were closed.

But in Manhattan, Bud was scurrying down to get a report on the MRI and CT scan that he had scheduled the day before. We had decided that this time, I would stay in Andover and “tend to business.” I know that many of you know just how fidgety you can get in the days leading up to progress scans and reports. Though we were not expecting bad news, we also don’t want to presume upon God. We ask Him, in faith, to heal completely and, in the absence of that, to work effectively through the medication.

Part way through the morning I got the text “Everything looks good.” There were good friends here when I got the text and we rejoiced together. Later, when I had a minute, I put the news on our prayer chain and more of you rejoiced with us.

Bud arrived home later in the evening and gave me the more complete report — but the end result is still the same — “Everything looks good.” Thank you for your prayers — there is nothing more meaningful to us than to know that our friends and loved ones are praying on Bud’s behalf.

Likewise, we continue to pray for those of you who are also walking through difficult medical situations. We may not have the same diagnosis or the same disease, but we are learning, just as you are, what it is like to live under a cloud. We want for each one to remember that the sun is still shining further above the thunderhead that you’re facing.

For us this is a beautiful reminder that no matter what the trials are that beleaguer us below, God is still at work in ways that we cannot see or imagine. He is good all the time, friend. You can trust that He loves you.

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MSKCC Update

Bud went to Memorial Sloan Kettering last week for scans and reports.

We are grateful to report to you the following:

  1. From the oncologist – everything looks good and and we will keep the three-month check up cycle. Continue with the targeted therapy medicine–no changes at this time.
  2. From the radiation oncologist – things look really good; even evidence of the bone in the spine regrowing. They gave him an osteoporosis shot to help boost that activity of growth. No need to go back to this doctor for six months.

How great to display for you the works of God! We are thankful for the great report and we are humbly thankful for each one of you who is praying for Bud’s health. Whenever you share that you’ve been praying, we are reminded of the wonderful love that God shares with us through His dear children.

Blessings to each one of you. 169632-Max-Lucado-Quote-We-exist-to-exhibit-God-to-display-his-glory-We

Keep Calm . . .

2nd opinionA whirlwind of activity…

We learned on June 7, that there is a bit of new cancer growth on Bud’s spine. The Rochester doctor gave us her plan. Friday, we went to NYC, Memorial Sloan Kettering, for their opinion and plan.

Yes, there is a little bit of new growth, which the radiation oncologist wants to radiate. (Correction: a previous site — the spine — shows additional growth. This is not a “new site.” Sites radiated with “curative doses” of radiation rarely have additional growth. Bud’s original dose was a palliative dose, to alleviate his severe back pain.) He is confident that it can be eradicated without a great deal of risk to the spine, even though that location has been radiated once before. So we will proceed with making plans for a biopsy of that growth and radiating it at the curative dose level.

Earlier in the month, there was some evidence of something unusual happening in the brain. The Rochester doctor believes it is radiation effect and not new cancer. The NYC radiation oncologist also thinks this may be the case. There is a specialized MRI that can tell him for sure. Bud will be having that done on July 2. Given the level of confidence that both doctors have that this is not new cancer, and given how the symptoms have subsided after initiating steroids, we are believing this too unless the coming scan shows otherwise.

And likely, we will stay on the current medication for some time longer. It has a typical “shelf life” of 12 months. It has worked for Bud for about 20 months. (The NYC doctor feels that the new cancer growth is a result of radiation failure, not med failure.) Even if it was med failure, once the location is radiated, then there is no rush to change meds if the activity in his brain is not cancer.

As long as the current medication is working, we are advised to stay with it. Another consideration is that each med has a “shelf life” and we don’t want to start the clock on a new one prematurely.

In this cancer journey, we can see God writing a story and molding lives. Along the way, we think of so many things for which to be thankful. One of the foundational things is advice from a family member early in the process. She encouraged us to go to the best hospital in our region for a second opinion. It was excellent advice two years ago; and it proved to be excellent advice at this crossroad as well.

Originally, Bud thought that we would just go with the advice of our nearby doctors and not incur the expense for second opinions. But it is amazing what different doctors will see, know, and suggest. This was well worth the effort and money involved.

The second opinion infused new hope into our journey, as I’m sure some of you can hopeunderstand. If you don’t already know, “hope” is a powerful word.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

 

being  I am currently on “break” from school. My courses run in eight-week sessions with a two week break between. I had grandiose plans of getting so much done, but today is the last “official” day. And nothing is done.

No laundry, no changing my textbook/study center, no closet cleaning, no swapping out winter clothes, no basement hoeing, no plant planting. No “thing” is done. I didn’t actually hope to accomplish all of that, but I thought I would get to one or two things on the list.

Even though I sound discouraged, because I do like a tidy home and a lovely yard, I am not. All these things will get done when they are supposed to, if they are supposed to. You might be walking up my porch steps as I put away the last pair of underwear or wash that last pan, but “just in time” works. If November comes and I pull a sweater out of the dresser in my bedroom, where it has been for the entire summer and fall, then I’d say I’m ahead of the game.

So if I accomplished none of these “things” — where did my break go?

Two events come to mind. One event was a “must do.” Our lives are made up of those. Not because others dictate to us, but because we understand the importance for ourselves of doing them. This “must do” was attending my uncle’s funeral. Nearly all of us understand the “must do” component — while you want to support your family and be there for the event, the “must” part comes because no one likes facing death. But it is part of our lives and it is a fact of our history.

The other event was only a “must do” in that it was time for us to get away. But this was mostly spontaneous, especially in that we didn’t actually plan where we were going and just decided along the way. We didn’t actually book hotel rooms, either. Well, I guess that’s not so unusual for us. We just “hope” it works out and we might find a deal. My poor kids can tell you how this usually worked when traveling long distances!

So we ended up enjoying four nights and five days of spontaneity. Each night, the hotel room hunt was successful. The capstone night was finding the Common Man Hotel and Restaurant in Claremont, New Hampshire. What a lovely place. And we were offered a discounted rate, besides!

We didn’t have any particular agenda; no schedule to keep; no people to meet. So we drove, relaxed and rested.

But always present was one extra visitor that we didn’t invite. It was “that guy,” Cancer. He’s always with us these days. Though the doctors have indicated he is not active, neither do they say he is gone. And sometimes, we are reminded that he invaded our lives because of treatment side effects.

So in our wanderings, he was there. But because we were able to cut out other stresses, the time together was refreshing and brought us closer together. I recently heard a friend say that she is “living” with cancer — we are still learning how to do that.  It is a challenge to teach yourself to live in the moment; knowing that cancer wants to limit the moments. Our journey has been somewhat calm, so far, compared to others we have known. We are thankful for that and it reminds us to pray for those who face very hard treatments and prognosis. Our long weekend resulted in some much needed rest, introspection, conversation and rejuvenation.

So those things that I thought I’d get done during break don’t matter. Life isn’t about “things” — it is about moments. Our wonderful, happy, spontaneous moments this past week — that was living.

Here’s what we got to do!
Friday morning – rescheduled MRI in Rochester;
Friday night – Syracuse (NY) Mets ball game – Tim Tebow at bat x3 ;
https://www.milb.com/syracuse

Saturday morning – breakfast in Syracuse with Titus and Abigail  
http://www.thegemdiner.com/menu/ – “World Famous” Gem Diner;

From here I thought we were going to Boston, but the traffic dissuaded us.

Saturday afternoon – stopped in to see Bud’s Dad;
Saturday night – Dinner at Lizzie Keays (Bud’s sister’s restaurant in Warrensburg, NY)
http://www.lizziekeays.com/

Visit with friends in Thurman, NY;
Sunday morning – church at New Hope Church – Queensbury, NY;
http://www.sharingnewhope.org/ — excellent place to worship!
Sunday – Lunch with Bud’s Dad – Bud’s locally famous spaghetti;
Sunday afternoon – Andover, VT;
Sunday night — The Common Man Inn and Restaurant in New Hampshire
https://thecmaninn.com/ – a must do for you!;

Monday – Andover, New Hampshire
AND Andover, Maine
Had a great late lunch here:
https://www.facebook.com/AndoverGeneralStoreandDiner/;
Tuesday – Joshua Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick, Maine – Bud’s “History fix” – a bit of history about a Civil War general.
http://pejepscothistorical.org/chamberlain

and Home!

Aware

HCHaSo, here we are at the second Christmas since Bud’s cancer diagnosis.

I think that the word that comes to mind for me now is “aware.” I am a bit more aware of the goodness of the Lord. I am also a bit more attuned to seeing that goodness around me.

Even before the diagnosis, when things seemed huge in our lives it seemed to be my “go to” statement — “God hasn’t brought us this far to just leave us stranded.”

Side note confessional: Okay, so the truth is I actually say “God hasn’t brought us this far to just drop us in a hole.” The first sentence sounded more socially acceptable. The second demonstrates the depth of the anxiety that was involved.

The main point is that usually it took a “huge event” to cause me to state my trust in the goodness of God. As I look at things as they are today, I see how many holes He has drawn us around, eliminated, or bridged over for us. And I understand more fully that each day is fraught with holes. The unfortunate thing is that I allow myself to think that I can handle those “every day holes.” I easily forget that without God, I would plummet every time.

Bud’s medical status is great. All of the locations have been radiated and the scans (as of this week) show no active cancer in these sites and no new cancer anywhere in his body. As a result of a trip to Sloan Kettering in August, an adjustment was made to his medication dosage that has eliminated the vast majority of the side effects of the treatment. He is feeling great and has good energy. We’re back to the lifestyle where I have a hard time keeping up with him.

I want to remember to remember the goodness of God. I want to see it every day and to be aware of it at all times. When I plummet into a hole, for certainly I will, I want the grace of God to draw me out of it and to bridge it over for me and I want to recognize His goodness even then.

God is good, of course all the time. I want to be aware of it, all the time.

 

Who Holds the Future

Last week was another progress check week.

Bud had his scans on Tuesday and results appointment on Thursday. The doctor indicated that the scans show NOTHING NEW IS HAPPENING! We are so thankful again and again.

Those of you who have to have regular scans, know what a roller coaster that can be with your emotions; and I’ve even written about that before. But in all of that we never want to lose sight of sharing our gratitude about how God is working in this situation. He is always with us and is ever there to comfort and guide us. Should the news ever come back in a disappointing direction, this truth remains: He will never leave us nor forsake us.

As we remember where our path was just one year ago, the difference is so amazing. We had so few answers and were given such little hope. And even then, God was with us with His special comfort that doesn’t make sense to this world.

Bud tackles every day with energy and enthusiasm. He is able to to everything that he was before the symptoms appeared. Projects are on track–well, as on track as an easily distracted person keeps them. He is not hindered in serving families at the funeral home.

Thank you for your prayers through this process. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Him who holds the future. And He is entirely trustworthy.

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Double rainbow – SR 21 to Hornell 10/23/2018

 

Following Hope

For most of June, Bud and I spent our time in New York City.

The purpose of our visit was to obtain radiation treatments on the tumor in his lung. How did we arrive at this decision?

In May, the side effects of the clinical trial would not diminish within the protocol’s stated timeframe so the doctors removed him from the trial. At that point he continued with the “targeted therapy” drug according to the plan. However, way back in October we had gone to Sloan Kettering to obtain a second opinion on our treatment plan. During our visit with Dr. Wu, Bud asked him at what point we should consider radiating the tumor.

Dr. Wu advised us to go on the clinical trial and stay with it as long as there was progress. At such a time that the clinical trial was no longer a good option, then he would suggest radiating the tumor as well as any other sites that had not previously been radiated. On Tuesday, May xx Bud called Dr. Wu once again to see if he thought this would be the time to implement that advice from October. Dr. Wu called back immediately. By Friday we had an appointment to start the preparation for a simulation that would lay the groundwork for treatment.

Simultaneously we were working with the doctor in Rochester, asking all the same questions and seeking his advice as well. In all of the conversations and appointments a great deal of information was given out and at times it seemed very confusing. We saw clearly how practical it would be to get treatment in Rochester and the idea of doing this in NYC was overwhelming, primarily for me. We didn’t have a clear direction.

Finally, during a conversation with Dr. Wu Bud asked him the exact question that he posed to the doctor in Rochester. “What is the goal in radiating according to your plan?”

I will put both answers side-by-side:

Rochester: The goal is to get as much of the cancer as possible without hurting you. The idea is to get you as much time as possible.

Dr. Wu: I believe we can get all of the cancer. And the goal is to have you cancer-free, at least for a long time.

God does make the path clear when you ask Him to. Given those choices, Bud was drawn to the response that offered hope.

So, that response began the whirlwind lifestyle that characterized most of our June. Bud had the simulation done and went through 15 treatments. We were told that he could expect to feel some discomfort in his throat area and may become fatigued, but that hasn’t happened. The first set of progress scans will be in the two-three months after the last treatment. In the meantime, Bud has resumed the “targeted therapy” drug.

Throughout this process, we have been blessed with your prayers and best wishes. And we are especially thankful to our church family for addressing our lodging issues in New York. God has been apparent through the entire month, leading and helping us through all things.

Bud often says “I don’t want to get ahead of God’s story . . .” This journey truly is God’s story and we don’t know what He has in store for the ending. It has never been Bud’s goal to cling to life against God’s plan. (There’s an interesting Bible account about that which he’d be glad to share with you!) But it has been his goal to “press on.” He presses on doing those things that God wants him to do; and he sets his sights toward that “prize” which is not to be found in this world, but in heaven.

That said, we invite you to continue to watch and see what the Lord will do!