Monday, May 12, 2008

Upon Being Reminded of His Presence

I am home once again, after a five-day stay at Lehigh Valley Hospital for Round 6 of chemotherapy. This round: ifosfamide and etoposide. Great stuff. Nurses have to wear gowns and masks to hook up my IV’s. And this stuff is flowing through my body, killing anything that seeks to grow and live, cancerous or not.

On Tuesday, the day before treatment, we drove to Lancaster to meet with the surgeon. We got to see the x-rays of the bone graft – the rod, the screws, the implanted tibia part from a cadaver. Everything seems to be healing, but the surgeon did say that we are expecting the body to do a lot by healing from this surgery and undergoing chemotherapy. The chemotherapy does not promote healing, as it destroys fast growing cells. The surgeon also said that I will see him regularly – every six weeks or so – for a year and that he cannot rule out additional surgery to repair the grafts in the future. But overall, he is very pleased with the progress.

The surgeon prescribed a consult to a physical therapist so that I can start working on increasing the range of motion in my right knee. I can bend it slightly, but have lost motion due to the surgical trauma. In addition, I can start putting 15 to 20 pounds of weight on my right leg. The doctor suggested using a scale to get a feel for what that is. I also have to start wearing a lovely white compression stocking on my right leg.

My wife and I returned home that same day, stopping at Chick-Fil-A for lunch in Reading. That evening, we took our two older children to the Honor Society Banquet at Lake Ladore. We had dinner and a nice program, orchestrated by the students. Eight new students, a large group for a school of our size, were inducted. Our son read an essay on Christian Scholarship and played guitar for a girls’ ensemble.

The next morning we headed down to Allentown. We met with the oncologist in the morning, had a light lunch in the cafeteria, and headed up to the 7th Floor to check in.

My stay was relatively uneventful. The nurses and staff are great. I spent most of my time doing NY Times Crossword Puzzles and watching cooking shows on the Food Network, even though I lost my appetite by Thursday afternoon. My wife and I also worked on graduation invitations for our older son. My wife left on Friday to return home and attend a program for my younger son. She returned on Saturday with our daughter. It was a nice treat to have both of my girls with me.

As I mentioned, I am home once again. Our younger son has set up a barricade in the living room. His older brother, the one headed to West Point, is teaching him tactical maneuvers. He is dressed in child-size BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform) purchased by his brother on a recent trip to the West Point Gift Shop.

It is a cold, rainy day. A good day to read a book.

This morning I read Matthew Card’s devotional from his website. His text was Matthew 28:20, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. It is entitled Presence not Provision. He writes:

Who is Jesus for you? How is faithfulness written on his face? Might he impossibly be the very image of the God whose disturbing faithfulness to us looks like incarnation? Could it be that he came not to wave the magic wand and make the cancer go away, but to enter into our sufferings? Could it possibly be true that the best show of faithfulness is not the healing or the unexpected check, but the unthinkable truth that God has chosen to be with us through it all? Could it be that the greatest miracle is not provision, but presence?

As I read this, I realized that I am quick to recognize God for His provision – a beautiful new day, a loving wife and family, supportive friends, food on the table, gasoline in the car tank – but slow to recognize the importance of His presence with me during all of this. Yes, God does provide for me. But He is here with me. Immanuel. Just as He promised. He will never leave me nor forsake me. No matter what this cancer does to me, God is with me, holding me, seeing me through. As I heard recently, I matter to the One who created all matter.

The challenge here is not so much the cancer, but the ability to keep my focus on the right things. [Isn’t that the challenge for each one of us? For some, the right things are not even on the radar screen. For some, there is nothing beyond what the circumstances they have to endure or, if there is, they are not quite sure what it is. The quick answer: It’s Jesus.] To keep focused on our Sovereign God instead of my fleeting circumstances. To keep focused on what He is doing in my life and in the lives of the people around me, instead of what this cancer is doing to my body. That’s why passages of Scripture like Psalm 121:1-2, Psalm 57:7 and similar verses are so important. They help me to focus on God’s presence with me during these circumstances. I am reminded that this may all be beyond on my comprehension, but it is certainly all for His glory and my refinement.

He is God. He is here. He will be glorified.

I am His child. I am in His presence. I will become the person He created me to be.

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