Dealing With Disappointment

Life isn’t fair.

Things don’t always go the way you want.

You can’t control everything.

In the grand scheme of life, this is just a momentary setback.

We’ve all heard statements like these. But try helping a disappointed 16 year old to understand and embrace these truths.

Life can be a cruel teacher at times.

In the last 3 months, we’ve experienced a number of unexpected life events.

In July, while our family was in Colorado, I received a call to tell me that my grandmother had passed away. She was 96 so it was not completely surprising. Still, you’re never quite prepared for the news that your last living grandparent has passed away.

In August, I received the news that my aunt, the last living sibling of my grandfather, had passed away.

And just two weeks ago, I received the news that my uncle, who was in his early 70’s had died unexpectedly.

Jacob (left) and Joshua (middle) running with their team in Mammoth. Joshua’s injury occurred some time during this training run to Rainbow Falls. Check out the video of this trail below, or at: https://youtu.be/T1czVLdEyKA

The hardest issue though that we’ve been dealing with these last two months centers around our son Joshua, who has been dealing with a foot injury.

As a parent, it’s so hard to see your kids struggle and deal with setbacks and disappointment. Our tendency is to want to fix things and make things better and to shield them from hurt. But that’s not always possible and it’s not always advisable either.

In early August, Jacob and Joshua headed up to Mammoth with the rest of the varsity Cross Country team for a week of training at altitude. I (Dave) tagged along as a parent volunteer.

It was a great week of bonding and conditioning. Their team is really strong this year and is highly ranked, both in the county and even in the state. Expectations are high and the anticipation for this season has been palpable.

Towards the end of the week, Joshua started experiencing pain on the top his right foot. He was immediately shut down from running until we could get it checked out.

An MRI revealed a stress reaction in the 2nd long bone of his right foot.

A stress reaction is basically a pre-cursor to a stress fracture, and though it sounds less severe, the recovery time is the same.

For the last 7 weeks Joshua has been doing nothing but pool workouts, by himself, isolated from the rest of the team.

Twice, he’s tried to start running again, only to experience a setback with new pain in his foot.

There have been lots of tears and the frustration has come out in a variety of ways. Every night we pray. Joshua’s constant request has been, “Pray that my foot heals quickly.”

After spending many conversations trying to dispense my sage advice (see statements above), with varying degrees of receptivity, I decided that maybe I needed another approach.

After much reflection, I’ve learned that I need to be slower to react and give advice and I need to listen more.

Joshua’s (far right) season so far has been relegated to trying to be a good team-mate and cheer his team-mates when they race.

I realize that I need to be more patient and not get so easily worked up when the response and heart attitude isn’t what I want.

I need to let Joshua process his own disappointment and loss while communicating that I’m for him and that we grieve with him.

Lastly, I want to help Joshua process his circumstances and learn what he can from this situation.

I’ve found that some of the coaching training we’ve been going through has been helpful to just ask questions. Questions such as:

What is the Lord teaching you? What are you learning about your identity and yourself through this? How can this situation help shape you as a person and leader? What can you learn about being a good team-mate through this?

Sixteen year olds are not always ready to learn these life lessons. But then again, us old guys aren’t always ready either!

Thanks for your ministry in our lives as we navigate the ups and downs of life and seek to learn our own life lessons.

Please pray for wisdom for us as we parent our twins and seek to guide them toward Jesus!

If you think about it, please pray for Joshua and his injury. Pray that his foot would heal and that he wouldn’t have any recurrence of the foot issue. Lastly, pray that he would consider the lessons the Lord is wanting to teach him through the situation he’s been in.

Cru17 Highlights

Almost everything was different about our summer conference at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

For starters, we skipped the usual two day drive with the family that would take us through the deserts of California and Nevada, the amazing rock formations of Utah and the majestic Rocky Mountains. We opted to fly instead.

It’s been four years since Jen and I attended this conference so of course we noticed how much the town of Fort Collins and the campus have changed with recent construction. Some of our favorite places to eat have closed and new eateries have opened up.

When we entered Moby arena for the first session, I could tell this conference was going to be different.

The stage was set right in the middle of the arena, instead of at one end, as has been typical in the past. Somehow, it gave the sense of drawing people in.

The worship was inspiring and of course, the speakers were diverse and challenging. It’s hard to encapsulate all that happened in a short newsletter so we’ll share a few of our favorite moments.

HONORING THE NATIVE COMMUNITY

Cru President Steve Douglass presents a local Native elder with a traditional gift blanket.

During one of the opening sessions of our partnership weekend, Donnie and Renee Begay, the diretors of our Native ministry (Nations) led us through a time of honoring local Native elders. There was an exchange of gifts between leaders and one of the elders who addressed our conference mentioned that this was the first time anyone had approached them and included them in this way before. It was incredibly moving and redemptive.

 

PARTNERING FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

The Aruna Project seeks to help woman in India who are in bondage as sex slaves

For the first time, Cru partnered with the Aruna Project to host a 5K run on campus to raise funds and awareness for women in India who are enslaved in the sex trafficking industry. Jacob and Joshua ran the race and did quite well, but that’s not the highlight.

What was different about this race is that every runner ran with the name of a woman taped to their body who is still enslaved. As the runners started the race, they were encouraged to shout the name of the woman taped to their body.

The hope is that each woman represented will soon be able to experience true freedom.

Additionally, each participant received an Aruna drawstring bag that was made by women who were once enslaved but are now free and employed with jobs making usable clothing and gear. For more information on the Aruna Project, go to arunaproject.com. To see more photos from the race, see my Flickr album at: http://bit.ly/2vVBlVf.

 

FAST FOOD DISCIPLESHIP?

Jennie Allen shared her story of growing as a believer in the context of Cru when she was a new believer in college. She mentioned how the staff person who was following up with her initial contact invited her to Sonic in order to connect with her personally. She remarked, “Don’t underestimate the power of a Sonic run.”

It was a funny comment but it reminded me that what we do is valuable. We often meet people in various places all over Orange County and we have no idea the impact we are having. Jennie’s story was a great example of why it’s important to meet with and connect with Young adults.

 

FUN IN BOULDER

Joshua, left, and Jacob take a photo with Jerry, the founder and president of Newton Running Shoes!

We had a half day off during the conference and we decided to spend that time in Boulder, which is about an hour away. Jen had arranged for us to visit the small office of Newton Running Shoes.

Earlier in the year, the Cross Country coach had recommended Newtons for Jacob and Joshua as a way to help correct their heal-striking tendencies, which we think was contributing to some of the knee and shin issues Jacob had been experiencing off and on for the past year.

Newton is a small company that has appealed to a lot of triathletes. They make good shoes but they’re not easy to find. Basically, you have to order directly online.

It was fun going to their office because everyone was super friendly and asked a lot of questions. They showed us samples of the new models that haven’t even come out yet and the founder and president took several minutes out of his time to personally greet us and ask questions about Jacob and Joshua’s running.

They even hooked us up with some free stuff, which was a nice bonus!

 

THE NATURE OF PARTNERSHIP

Andy Crouch speaks on the topic of true partnership.

Andy Crouch, author, speaker and former executive editor of Christianity Today, spoke on partnering. I’ve always found Andy to be very thoughtful and insightful as it relates to how Christianity intersects with current culture. Andy challenged our thinking on partnership. In particular, he said that, “Partnership is not a trade. You can’t walk away after getting what you want.”

He stressed the importance of relationships and engaging with one another in our struggles and our suffering.

Andy’s talk reminded me of you, our PARTNERS. We missed the Cru conference two years ago because of Jen’s health. During that trying time in our lives, you truly demonstrated the kind of partnership that Andy talked about. You encouraged us, prayed for us and suffered with us through our struggles. Your generosity and compassion sustained us and we are truly grateful! Thank you for your prayers and partnership!

Nacho Libre and Stones of Remembrance

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. If you’re like me, it’s easy to get sucked into scrolling through your Facebook feed to see what’s happening with everyone you know (and everyone you DON’T know). But sometimes, I end up spending way too much time perusing when I really should be doing something else.

Facebook reminded us of a Halloween shopping trip where Jacob donned this Nacho Libre mask.

One thing that is fun about Facebook though, is the “Memory” feature. Occasionally, Facebook will show you a photo that you posted several years ago to remind you of a memory. Often, it’s something trivial, but sometimes, it brings to mind a special event or activity that has long been buried in the recesses of your brain.

May was a crazy month for us, with track finals, Mother’s Day and the twins’ birthday (on the same day), the boys’ driving test and our anniversary (also on the same day) as well as our nephew’s graduation in Fresno. It was a perfect opportunity to create more “memories.”

One of the things I love about Jen is that she takes great care to preserve the memories in our family. Whether it’s scrapbooking or making sure to get cards for special events and occasions, she does an amazing job of helping us “remember” the things that are important in our family.

In particular, Jen always tries to make sure Jacob and Joshua feel special on their birthday. She often does this by decorating the house with confetti, banners, balloons and other Happy birthday paraphernalia on their special day.

This year, Jen got a banner that had a clothespin attached to each letter of the phrase “Happy 16th birthday!” Since I’m the photographer in the family, Jen tasked me with the job of finding photos from the past year to attach to each clothespin on the banner.

The idea was to celebrate memorable moments of the past year while looking forward to the next year.

Jen poses for a photo with Jacob (left) and Joshua in front of their 16th birthday banner.

It was interesting to look back through photos from the past year because I realized how easy it is to forget about things that happened even such a short time ago.

I think God knows that we tend to be forgetful, which is why He commanded the Israelites so many times in the Old Testament to “Remember.” (The word “remember” occurs more than 130 times in the Old Testament alone)

In Joshua 4, right after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River to enter the promised land, the Lord told Joshua to have representatives from each of the 12 tribes to take a stone from the middle of the Jordan River and to stack it in the place where they lodged that first night in the Promised Land.

This simple mound of rocks was to serve as a reminder to the Israelites for generations to come that the Lord had stopped the flow of the Jordan River long enough to allow the people to cross into the Promised Land. It was a Stone of Remembrance.

If you think about it, the many Jewish feasts and festivals scattered throughout the year served a similar purpose. Each was initiated as a way to remember something special the Lord had done to deliver or preserve His chosen people. Celebrating the feasts on an annual basis ensured a greater probability of remembering God and His extreme goodness and lovingkindness.

I find that I forget all kinds of things these days. I sometimes forget about appointments I scheduled. Sometimes I forget things that Jen has told me (she might say this is a frequent occurrence). And just like the Israelites, I can forget the many ways in which God has worked in my life and how He’s blessed our family.

I want to create more tangible ways of helping me remember what God has done in our lives and ministry. One way I have done that is occasionally taking time to look back through our old newsletters, which is a history (of sorts) of what God has done.

How about you? What have you done to help yourself remember how the Lord has blessed you? Perhaps you keep a journal that you thumb through regularly, or maybe you keep a detailed list of answered prayers.

Please share with us your ideas. Perhaps we’ll adopt some of them for ourselves!

Thank you for being a part of our story and our journey. We are extremely grateful for you!

Two Views of Freedom – The Amplified Life: Part 2

The Washington Monument in the foreground with the U.S. Capitol building in the background
The Washington Monument in the foreground with the U.S. Capitol building in the background

Freedom.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Probably because our family just spent 5 days in Washington, D.C. on our first real vacation in 3 years.

As we walked around the city, touring the museums and visiting the many monuments, it was a reminder to me that we live in a pretty incredible country, where we’re free to pursue our vocational and financial dreams as well as express our religious convictions.

Seeing the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials was a reminder to me that many have given their lives fighting not only to maintain our freedom but to secure the freedom of others.

Seeing the Lincoln Memorial was a reminder that not everyone in our country has always experienced the same level of freedom. And seeing the spot where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, coupled with the tragic events we’ve witnessed in our country over the past few weeks and months is another reminder to me that the struggle for freedom and justice is ongoing and not always equitable.

The Lincoln Memorial, a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States who helped abolish slavery and preserve the Union, is one of the most popular sites in Washington, D.C.
The Lincoln Memorial, a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States who helped abolish slavery and preserve the Union, is one of the most popular sites in Washington, D.C.

We had the chance to visit the site of the Museum of the Bible, which is currently under construction and set to open in the Fall of 2017. While we live in a “free” country, it is the Word of God that truly sets us free.

As I think about freedom, God’s Word reminds us that we’re spiritual creatures on a spiritual journey. Paul said in Ephesians that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

What does it mean to really be free?

The popular view in our culture is that freedom means that I’ve been released to do whatever I want without fear of punishment or remuneration from others, especially the government.

Jesus’ picture of freedom is much different. According to God’s Word, we become free when we’re released from the bondage of sin. We don’t become free to do whatever we want, but instead we become free to become the people God intended.

The Amplified Life is a life of true freedom, where we’re free to experience Christ fully and live for Him.

Left: An artist's rendering of the Museum of the Bible. Right: under construction, the Museum of the Bible will open in Fall 2017.
Left: An artist’s rendering of the Museum of the Bible. Right: under construction, the Museum of the Bible will open in Fall 2017.

Where the American view of freedom is that the shackles of oppression have been discarded, allowing me to live for myself and do the things that would provide pleasure and satisfaction for myself, the Biblical view of freedom is one in which we’ve been liberated from the bondage of sin, which frees us to experience God fully and serve Him and others.

The American view of freedom involves external physical forces (such as people and governments) keeping us from the pursuit of our own personal happiness.

The Biblical view of freedom is that there’s an internal spiritual problem that keeps us from loving God and others.

Our hope is to become the people God desires us to become and to help Young Professionals experience the Amplified life – one in which real freedom is experienced through an authentic, personal relationship with Jesus.

Thank you for prayers and partnership which give us the freedom to pursue the calling which God has given us. We are truly blessed!

Note: Click here to download the pdf version of the Lowedown.

Barbara pictured in the center, was our usher at the Washington Nationals game.

Life is Like a Track Meet

About a month ago, I attended my very first track meet ever. I honestly never paid attention to track except for watching some of the Olympic events on TV. Even in high school, I gave no thought to our school’s track team. I couldn’t tell you whether we had a good team or a bad team or even if we had a team. I was a wrestler and running and jumping and stuff like that wasn’t my thing.

Jacob passes the baton to another runner in a relay race.
Jacob passes the baton to another runner in a relay race.

But now that our twins, Jacob and Joshua, are running as freshman on the track team, Jen and I have been introduced to a whole new world.

If I had to describe a track meet in one phrase, I’d say it’s “organized chaos.” Unlike team sports like soccer, basketball, football or baseball, a track meet features multiple events that are all happening at the same time. Runners are racing while jumpers are jumping and pole vaulters are vaulting while discus throwers are throwing.

Though it seems like each event is disconnected from the rest, in actuality, each event can earn team points toward the overall team score. So even though the distance runners aren’t aware of what’s happening with the sprinters, and the sprinters aren’t aware of what’s happening in the field events, each group within the team is working toward scoring points for the overall team score in an effort to win the meet.

I thought about how life is like a track meet. We all have many different areas in our lives that often feel disconnected. We have work, family, friends, neighbors, church, youth activities and school activities, not to mention our personal hobbies and online communities.

2016-MV-0139
The 100 meter sprint ends in a photo finish

Like a track meet, it’s easy to see each of these areas as distinct and separate from the others. John Ortberg, in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, says that the great quest for people today is to achieve “balance” with all of the disparate segments of our busy lives. But the problem is that this desire for balance often leads us to compartmentalize our faith. We think of a pie chart with 7 or 8 slices that each represent different areas of our lives. This paradigm encourages us to think of matters such as “finances” or “work” as non-spiritual activities. It keeps us from realizing that God is interested in every aspect of our lives, not just our “spiritual” activities.

The idea of “balance” implies that we’re trying to make our lives more manageable and convenient and lacks the notion that my life is to be given to something bigger than myself, just as the track meet is more than the individual events but the larger team goal.

The goal as Christians is not “balance” but integration – what Ortberg calls a “Well-Ordered” heart. As we work with Millennials, our desire is to help them see that Jesus wants to be completely integrated into every aspect of their lives. We want to help them live for Jesus and express their faith in every area, whether it’s at work, or with their friends, or with their family, hobbies or finances.

Instead of seeking “balance” which sees our main problem as external – a disorder in our schedule or season of life, living a well-ordered life sees that our main problem is internal, and we need Jesus to be actively involved so that we might experience true transformation from the inside.

Thank you for your part in our chaotic lives and for enabling us to pursue a well-ordered heart while encouraging Millennials to live in such a way that Jesus is fully integrated into every area.

Women's Long Jump
Women’s Long Jump

The Trabuco Hills boy’s Track & Field team is currently ranked #1 in Orange County.

Check out this link from the Orange County Register: http://bit.ly/1UTwxX5

2015 – The Year in Review

Well, 2015 is officially in the books! It’s been a challenging year in many ways as we started out with Jen being in the hospital for a week. But God is good and we’ve been blessed in many ways. Jen has been slowly improving since her condition was stabilized in February and there are many fun memories to revisit – from the boys starting high school and excelling at Cross Country, to getting our first family pet, the boys flying on a plane by themselves for the first time, to seeing friends & family members we hadn’t seen in a while.

Here’s a 2 minute video glimpse of 2015 for the Lowe Family. Have a Happy New Year and here’s to hoping for a blessed 2016!

Cheering from the Sideline

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Jen was at home recovering from an 11 day hospital stay as her doctors struggled to stabilize her Vasculitis condition.

In January, Jen had another flare and spent another week in the hospital as doctors blasted her body with high doses of Prednisone in an effort to get her Vasculitis under control.

This last year has been filled with unknowns and uncertainties, along with anxiety, worry and plenty of discouragement. We’ve been sustained by the prayers and words of encouragement from our many friends and family.

I remember getting a hand-written note in the mail from a friend who’s also on staff with Cru. Her husband had been dealing with an unusual spinal condition that had been hard to diagnose and treat for over a year. She wrote me a note as a fellow care-giver encouraging me to continue trusting the Lord and praying specifically that by the same time the next year, our situation would look much better and we would be well on the road to recovery.

I was very touched by the thoughtfulness of her note but admit that it was hard to imagine what things would look like in a year.

Things have been steadily progressing for Jen and our family since we began seeing Pulmonary and Rheumatology specialists at UCLA in February. By getting Jen on an immunosuppressant that her body can tolerate, Jen’s condition has become stable, allowing the doctors to begin slowly tapering her off the Prednisone drug which has caused so many negative side effects. In fact, by God’s grace, Jen will be completely off Prednisone on November 20th (two days after she has her 2nd Prednisone-related cataract surgery)!

This fall has been a new season in the life of our family. Jacob and Joshua have started high school and are running on the Cross Country team. Jen and I are taking steps to establish our ministry to Millennials & Jen has resumed her role as part of a team that oversees a leadership development training program for leaders throughout Cru.

Jen (2nd from the right) with the 4 Cru Leaders who will be a part of her Process group for the next 2 years.
Jen (2nd from the right) with the 4 Cru Leaders who will be a part of her Process group for the next 2 years.

In fact, we experienced a small milestone of sorts in early October. Jen boarded a plane for a week-long conference in Orlando related to her Leadership Development role, while I drove a group of 7 unruly freshman and sophomore boys to Clovis to compete in a Cross Country race. It marked the first time in 18 months that either of us had traveled outside of the Southern California basin. It was a significant step for us and our family as we’ve journeyed on the road of recovery.

Yesterday marked the conclusion of Jacob and Joshua’s first season running Cross Country in high school. It’s really been a great year for them and they capped it off with their best race of the season at the league finals. Joshua finished 4th and Jacob was 5th (1/10th of a second behind Joshua) among freshman boys. Their excellent finish earned them both freshman all-league honors.

As I was sorting through the plethora of pictures I took at the meet, I came across one that caught my eye that I wanted to share with you. Unbeknownst to me, Jen was in the frame of pictures I took of Jacob and Joshua sprinting toward the finish line. In the pictures, Jen can clearly be seen cheering Jacob & Joshua on.

Jacob and Joshua fend of a Dana Hills rival as they sprint to the finish line in the league finals race. Jen is on the left cheering them on.
Jacob and Joshua fend of a Dana Hills rival as they sprint to the finish line in the league finals race. Jen is on the left cheering them on.

To me, it was an accidental bonus to get Jen in the picture of Jacob and Joshua sprinting to the finish. But more than that, this picture illustrates what we’ve experienced in our lives as a family these past 18 months. As we’ve struggled to move forward, experiencing obstacles and barriers that might discourage us, you, our friends and our family, have been there cheering us on, encouraging us to press on.

Thanks for encouraging us to keep pressing on, and please continue to pray for us and cheer for us as we keep sprinting toward the goal!

Embracing New Vision

It was my junior year of high school and I was at an all day wrestling tournament. As I sat in the stands between matches, I looked across the gym to the other side at the many butcher paper posters that were hanging on the wall cheering on the various teams that were competing. Only, I couldn’t read what they said. I turned to my mom and asked, “Can you read those signs on the wall over there?”

“Yes, can’t you?” she replied.

“No, I can’t see them clearly.”

That was it. The next week, I went to the optometrist and I’ve been wearing glasses ever since.

I often wonder what people did before the invention of glasses. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to see things clearly.

Up until last year, Jen had always had perfect vision. Reading up close and seeing things far away had never been an issue, that is, until her long-term Prednisone usage caused cataracts to develop in her eyes. She suddenly found it difficult to see her computer clearly and things at a distance were out of focus.

At first, her eye doctor didn’t want to give her prescription glasses, thinking that her vision would correct itself after she reduced the amount of Prednisone she was taking. But after several months with no change, she went back to the doctor and finally got prescription lenses. The glasses definitely helped, but not as much as we expected.

After several more months of fuzzy vision, Jen went back to the eye doctor and learned that her cataracts had grown and she was going to need surgery.

Two weeks ago, Jen had cataract surgery on her right eye and it’s made a HUGE difference. She no longer needs the glasses that she was using for distance vision. She’s still having difficulty seeing things close up though. We’re not sure if that’s just the normal vision adjustment that we all go through as we age, or if it’s a result of the cataract in her left eye causing her vision to be blurred.

2015-Family-Dana Hills
Jen can see more clearly now that she’s had cataract surgery in her right eye. Joshua (left) and Jacob and seeing more clearly on the trails now that they are wearing contact lenses.

The same day Jen had cataract surgery, I took Jacob and Joshua to see the optometrist.

Joshua started wearing glasses in elementary school while Jacob’s vision seemed to be fine until last fall, when he complained of not being able to see the board in class clearly. A quick eye exam revealed that he too needed glasses for distance. But his vision changed and he recently has complained again about not being able to see things at a distance clearly, even with his glasses.

The eye doctor confirmed what we had suspected. Both Jacob and Joshua needed new lenses as their old prescriptions were no longer adequate.

Because they’re active in running, we decided to let them get contact lenses so they would be able to see, not only in the classroom, but out on the trails as well. This past Saturday, they were able to run in their first invitational with contact lenses.

It’s amazing how much clear vision can affect our perspective and our demeanor. I was reminded of that recently via a Facebook video that went viral showing a 6 month old baby’s reaction to getting glasses and being able to see clearly for the first time. You can check it out the whole story on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/cI1jBVD1OY0.

I’m finding that having a clear vision in ministry is important as well. For the last year and half, our vision has been impaired by the circumstances of life. It’s not that we don’t know what we want to see the Lord accomplish or even have some ideas about how to go about it, but it’s more like the circumstances of life have acted like a cataract, creating barriers out of our control that made it difficult to focus.

But the good news is that with Jen’s condition more stable than it’s been in the last 18 months, we are finally beginning to see things more clearly and with more focus.

We’re excited to move forward on the journey the Lord has us on. There are still challenges and circumstances that are making our journey different than we had imagined but we are anxious to see how the Lord will use us to impact Millennials in Orange County and the surrounding Los Angeles area.

Thank you for journeying with us and for being our eyes even when we were not able to focus clearly. We are extremely grateful for you!

Overcoming June Gloom

Jen shares about her year-long struggle with health issues at our church's Sunday service.
Jen shares about her year-long struggle with health issues at our church’s Sunday service.

The weather in Southern California is great almost year round. While much of the country was under several feet of snow this past winter, we had almost spring like weather conditions here. It’s one of the things that makes Southern California such an attractive vacation destination and it’s also why so many people want to live here, which in turn explains why it’s so expensive to live here.

In June, however, most of the the Los Angeles and Orange County basin experiences a phenomenon that has come to be known as June gloom. I’m not a meteorologist, so I can’t explain all of the meteorological conditions that contribute to June gloom. I just know that for much of June, for some reason, a thick marine layer often creeps in off the coast and envelopes the southland, creating overcast skies in the morning that often burn off by late morning or mid day.

Because our house is located up against the Saddleback mountain foothills at about 800 feet elevation, we often will walk out of our house in the morning to clear, sunny skies. But as I drive down the hill to take the boys to school, it’s not uncommon for us to drive right down into that marine layer where it’s overcast and the sun is not directly visible.

This last year for us has felt a lot like June gloom. It’s as if one day everything was going great and it was sunny outside, but then we experienced some health issues that felt a lot like driving down into that thick marine layer.

For the last year, life has not had the clear, sunny outlook that we would want. Instead, it’s been overcast and even foggy at times. Life has been challenging and at times we’ve wondered if we would ever see the sun through the dark clouds.

These last few months have given us hope that perhaps the June gloom clouds are beginning to burn off and dissipate. We are beginning to see signs of the sun peeking through.

Several months ago, when we started seeing experts at UCLA, Jen was put on a new immunosuppressant that seems to be working. As a result, she has been able to slowly taper down on the amount of Prednisone she’s taking and that alone has helped her to begin to feel more like herself each day.

A few weeks ago, Jen was able to be on a conference call with a work group with which she’s been involved. That was a big step forward since she’s had to disengage with much of her work load for many months now.

Jen-Crossline4
Jen is interviewed by JP Jones, Senior Pastor of Crossline Church.

Last Sunday, Jen was asked to share in front of our church congregation a bit of her journey this past year with her health and how God has met her in the midst of the challenges of life. It was another key moment in her recovery, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. (You can watch the video interview online at: vimeo.com/130399778)

Things aren’t back to normal by any stretch but there is more hope now than anytime in the last 8 months that perhaps this disease can be managed and we can fully resume the mission to which we’ve been called.

We’re so grateful for your prayers and the way you’ve cared for our family this past year. Would you please continue to pray for our family and for Jen’s continued recovery?

Pray specifically for Jen’s blurred vision to clear and for her lung capacity to increase. Pray too that the side effects of long-term Prednisone use would continue to dissipate.

We continue to trust the Lord for this road we’re on and we pray that the Lord might find us faithful and fruitful as we follow Him and serve Him.

Starstruck

Waiting at UCLA to meet with the Rheumatologist
Waiting at UCLA to meet with the Rheumatologist

This last week marked the one year anniversary of the current health journey that we have been on. I remember vividly being in Nashville when Jen began experiencing sharp pains in her chest that landed her in the ER. I remember my friend Mark Short, who was a student years ago during our University of Arizona days and who also happens to now live near Nashville, adjusting his schedule on a moment’s notice to come and visit us in the hospital. I also remember my fears and anxieties being relieved when the doctor told us that he believed that Jen was suffering from walking pneumonia.

Of course that was just the beginning of the journey. There have been 5 hospital stays, countless doctor visits, chemo-therapy infusions, biopsies, endless tests and procedures and enough blood drawn it seems to fill an empty blood bank.

After Jen’s last flare in January landed her back in the hospital for a week, we were advised by our Pulmonologist to seek more advanced medical care and treatment from experts at a teaching hospital. We ended up setting up some appointments at UCLA and that has been very helpful for Jen in the course of her treatment.

Last month, we had two appointments at UCLA that were helpful and encouraging. The first appointment was scheduled during the first day of spring break so it became an all day family event. We made the best of our time in L.A. by spending a day at Universal Studios, which the boys were pretty excited about.

Joshua (left) and Jacob in front of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine at Universal Studios.
Joshua (left) and Jacob in front of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine at Universal Studios.

The next week we were back at UCLA for a full day of tests followed by a consultation with the Pulmonologist. Jen got a CAT Scan of her lungs and also had a Pulmonary Function Test.

When we met with the doctor, he showed us the image of the CAT Scan and compared it side by side with the image of her lungs when she was in the hospital in January. The difference was noticeable. Her lungs now look more clear.

However, Jen’s Pulmonary Function Test results showed that there is still some kind of restriction. The doctor said that could be the result of some lingering inflammation or it could be the result of nearly a year of being pretty inactive and sedentary. We remain hopeful that Jen’s lung capacity will increase over time.

Near the end of our appointment, we met with the head of the Pulmonary group, a doctor named John Lynch. Apparently, Dr. Lynch is one of the leading experts on Vasculitis in the United States. He told us that Vasculitis is pretty rare, with only 3 to 7 cases per million each year. That means there are probably only about 1000-2000 cases of it each year in the U.S. Because of that, he said it’s good to get treatment from doctors who are very familiar with the disorder.

He also told us that based on his observations and Jen’s test results, he thought she might be in remission. That was certainly good news – probably the most positive news we’ve heard in the last year!

Later in the week, when Jen met with her local Pulmonologist, he seemed star struck when Jen told him that we had met with Dr. Lynch. His comment, in an excited tone was, “You met with John Lynch! Wow! I spoke with him at a conference once!”

After our appointment, Jen and I went to dinner at a local mall in hopes of avoiding the rush hour traffic on our way home.

Dave & Jen pause to take a picture with Millhouse from the Simpsons at Universal Studios.
Dave & Jen pause to take a picture with Millhouse from the Simpsons at Universal Studios.

As we were exiting the restaurant, I walked right by Bob Newhart, who was walking with his wife into a different restaurant. Jen had already walked past him without noticing. Starstruck, I caught up to her and in an excited voice exclaimed, “Jen, we just walked right past Bob Newhart!” I guess it’s just a fun footnote of our trips to L.A.

Jen is continuing with her current treatment and continues to lower her dosage of Prednisone, which is now being reduced at a slower rate. She is now taking 9 mg per day.

The main issues now are continuing to build lung capacity, while hoping and praying that the many side effects of Prednisone will begin to subside. Among the side effects we are hoping will dissipate are blurred vision, bursitis in the knees, water retention and weight gain, and loss of hair.

Please pray with us for Jen’s continued recovery. Pray both for increased lung capacity and also that her body will be healed of the many negative side effects of Prednisone. Pray especially for perseverance as the recovery process often feels like 2 steps forward and 1 step backward.

Please pray for healing from a minor surgery Jen had to remove a skin cancerous mole as well as a tooth extraction and permanent implant that will be coming up in the near future.

As always, we are grateful for your continued prayers, support and many notes of love and encouragement!

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