The Struggle for Endurance

James 1

2Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1:2-4, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Last year around this time, I decided I wanted to shed about 10 pounds by the time I hit my birthday about 3 months later. I developed a plan that involved counting my calories through an app called LoseIt and increasing my fitness level through running.

I should say that I really don’t like running. Actually, that’s too generous. “Hate” would be a more appropriate word to describe the feelings I had for running.

My twins are runners so I’ve been exposed to the running culture for a number of years and I’ve made many attempts to get myself out there. But honestly, it was always just so dreadful. I couldn’t go very far before I was completely gasping for air and I almost always developed some kind of knee/leg/calf/shin/ankle/foot injury within a couple of weeks, which always required time for healing which in turn meant a complete restart a few weeks later.

I was in the habit of driving over to the high school and doing laps around the track because it was flat. I thought that anything I could do to make running easier would be better. I was wrong.

It turns out that when Covid hit, the school closed the track to the public. Those of us in the know knew how to get onto the track even when the gates were locked but then the school hired security guards to kick out anyone who might try to circumvent the rules.

At that point, I had no choice. If I was going to try to burn off excess calories via running, I was going to have to do it in my own neighborhood, which meant running up and down hills.

It turns out that running only on flat surfaces was not exactly helpful for my progress. It also turns out that running up hills is helpful. The struggle of going up a hill actually builds endurance.

After a few weeks of running, I was able to slowly extend my distance. Three miles had been about my max but I was now able to do three miles more regularly.

One day, I decided to do a long run of 6 miles. The plan was to run out of my neighborhood and over to the man-made Lake Mission Viejo. There’s a walking loop around the lake that’s about 3.1 miles. Running that loop and then running back would be about 6 miles total. The problem was that there are a number of long hill inclines around that lake and I found that I couldn’t run that whole loop without having to make several stops to get my heart rate down and control my breathing.

But one day, I was able to push myself and make it all the way around that lake loop without stopping. It was a big achievement. I decided that I would make another attempt in a few days, which I did. Running around that lake became easier and more routine, precisely because I had to struggle to do it in the first place. It was the struggle that increased my endurance and helped me build my stamina, a feat that had always seemed to elude me.

Now, a year later, my typical daily run is 6 miles, including the lake loop. About once a week, I’ll run a longer run of 10-13 miles. My times have gotten better and I find that I actually enjoy running more than I ever thought I would.

When James talks about struggles in this first chapter of his letter, I think about running. Just as the struggle of running up hills helped increase my endurance, so the struggles of life increase our faith and ability to trust God.

The struggles of life actually help your endurance grow. Of course nobody likes struggles but they are an inevitable part of life. So James’ advice is to embrace the struggles of life and look at them as an opportunity to develop endurance, which in turn will mold you into a person who is “strong in character and ready for anything.”

Reflection

What examples do you have from your own life that demonstrate how struggle actually promotes growth?

What are some current struggles you’re currently experiencing? In what ways could these struggles be used as an opportunity for growth?

Many missionaries who have served overseas among more underprivileged communities and cultures have remarked how deep and strong the faith is of believers who have relatively little compared to American Christians, whose faith, by comparison, has often been observed to be shallow and lacking in depth. What do you think might be some reasons why American believers, despite our vast biblical and financial resources, often are seen as having a shallow faith, while believers in third world countries are often described as having deep and enduring faith?

What are some steps you can personally take to develop your faith and build endurance?

 

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Faulty Earbuds?

My typical running gear includes dri-fit shirt, sunglasses, running hat and earbuds to listen to audiobooks or music.
Photo by Dave Lowe

A few weeks ago, I left the house for my daily run. I had my phone to track my route and also provide the tunes to keep me moving during the 6 mile trek.

As I was nearing the end of my run, I noticed I was not getting any sound out of my left earbud.

I tried pushing the earpiece harder into my ear, but that didn’t work. I wondered if maybe the earphone jack was not in all the way. No, that wasn’t the problem.

I jiggled the wire, thinking maybe there was a short. That didn’t work either. I started thinking maybe these earbuds had reached the end of their lifespan and I was bummed at the thought of having to buy new ones. I’ve been told I’m cheap that way!

When I finally got home, I thought I’d try one more thing. Perhaps it was a software issue. I figured a reboot of my phone would solve it if that was the issue. But that didn’t work either.

I had one more idea to determine if it was a problem with my phone or the earbuds. I decided to plug the earbuds into my computer and listen to some music. If the earbuds still only gave sound out of only one ear, then I would know it’s the earbuds and not the phone.

However, as I was getting ready to plug the earbuds into my computer, I looked more closely at the earpiece that wasn’t producing sound and I quickly realized the issue. There, in the small opening where the sound was supposed to come out, was a small glob of ear wax that was fully covering the opening.

The opening on these earbuds is small. It doesn’t take much to clog the opening, making it harder for sound to come through.
Photo by Dave Lowe

Yes, I know it’s kind of gross, but we all produce the stuff, and to be honest, I really can’t tell you the purpose. I just know that when I removed the small piece plugging the hole, I was suddenly able to hear perfectly again out of both earbuds.

I had a problem hearing and all of my initial thoughts were that it was a problem with something else – my phone, the earbuds, the jack, the wire, etc. The reality is that I was having issues hearing clearly because of me – something I produced and wasn’t even aware of.

I think there’s a spiritual illustration here. Often I’m wanting to hear from the Lord and He’s not responding, at least not the way I want. I wonder why He’s not answering my prayers or responding clearly to my requests.

Sometimes, the reason I’m not hearing from God is because of me. Sometimes the Lord IS wanting to speak to me but my attitude, or my heart blocks my spirit from hearing the Lord.

I’ve found that there are often several reasons why I’m not hearing from the Lord.

A primary way the Lord speaks to us is through His Word. Yet, it’s easy to get distracted by other things.
Photo by Nick Bondarev from Pexels

One reason I sometimes don’t hear from God is because of unconfessed sin in my heart. Psalm 66:18 says “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.”

Sometimes, I’m not even fully aware of my own sin, such as unresolved conflict or anger. This is why it’s so important to invite the Lord to examine our hearts and reveal to us any areas in our lives and hearts that may be keeping us from experiencing His presence (See Psalm 139:23, 24).

A second reason I may not be hearing from the Lord is distractions. Sometimes Jen will be telling me something important but my focus is on something else, like my computer screen or the TV. I find that when I’m not fully engaged in what she’s saying I often have to ask her to repeat what she’s just said.

I often do the same thing with the Lord. I read my Bible but my mind is thinking about something else. I’m spending time in prayer but distracted by notifications that are popping up on my phone.

I cannot always expect to hear directly from the Lord when I want. But as a follower of Christ, I can make sure that the airways are clear and that there are no impediments that would keep me from hearing His voice when He does speak to me.

What keeps you from hearing clearly from the Lord?

What have you found to be helpful in keeping you focused and tuned in to hearing the Lord’s voice?

We appreciate your continued prayers for us as we continue to wait on the Lord during this challenging season!

If you’d like us to pray for you, click on the Prayer tab and send us your request!

Adapting to New Realities

Jacob (Navy) and Joshua (Army) look on as their former team-mate races to the finish line of the 800m race!

One week ago, with my twins home for spring break, we went to a track meet where I took photos while my boys connected with former coaches and teammates. Everything seemed normal and life was good. We were making the most of our few days together as a family before the twins were scheduled to report back to their respective academies.

Within 24 hours, everything changed.

EVERYTHING!

It was announced that Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for the Coronavirus. At the same time, a member of the Utah Jazz tested positive and the NBA immediately suspended their season. Things escalated exponentially from there.

The next day, Jacob and Joshua were both informed that they were to delay their returns for 2 weeks and that online instruction would ensue shortly. Restaurants began closing and other large events were canceled or postponed. Disneyland closed for only the 4th time in its history. By the end of the week, all major sports leagues had been suspended, most schools had closed, weekend church services were either canceled or moved online and many people were told to begin working from home.

New terms such as “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” have become a normal part of our vernacular while crowded grocery stores and empty shelves have become commonplace. Who would have thought a few weeks ago that toilet paper would be more sought after than gold?

Long lines and empty shelves are the norm now at most grocery stores

What we’re experiencing is unprecedented….at least in my lifetime. How should we respond?

As you know, Jen has been experiencing her own health issues with her vasculitis flaring up recently. She’s been hospitalized, is back on Prednisone and has undergone two different infusions of Rituxan, a drug which is designed to suppress her immune system as a measure of stabilizing the auto-immune flare that is currently afflicting her.

A few weeks ago, Jen spent the day at UCLA, receiving a five hour infusion of Rituxan, a drug that is part of her ongoing treatment in combating her vasculitis flare.

While she’s not bed-ridden and she’s able to carry on most work responsibilities, she’s at increased risk for infections. As a result, we’re trying to be extra cautious and vigilant, but also doing our best not to panic.

From a ministry perspective, we’re still working and actively seeking to minister to Young Professionals. While many of our upcoming work trips have been canceled and events postponed, we’re still able to coach Young Professionals virtually. In fact, we already office out of our home and have been doing more and more of our coaching in a virtual environment anyway, so these latest measures have not been a major disruption to us.

One benefit of having the boys home is the dog gets more attention…but yeah, he’s already a spoiled pup!

Perhaps the biggest change for us is the fact that our boys are home and we are all sharing the same space and needing to get online for virtual classes or online meetings. Our boys are attending class as normal but everything is on East Coast time so they are having to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to attend their first period classes.

Food consumption has also gone up, which means there are more trips to the grocery store, and more empty shelves and hunting for food and supplies to keep these guys from going hungry!

Though the nation is in crisis, we are trying to rest in the peace that Jesus is in control and we are His.

We would appreciate your prayers, though, mainly to stay healthy and for Jen’s vasculitis flare to become stable so she can begin to taper off of some of the drugs that have such negative effects. Pray too that we would find new and creative ways to minister to people during this time.

We know this crisis is affecting many of you in very real and perhaps devastating ways. We would love to pray for you. Please let us know how we can intercede on your behalf!

A Health Setback

I recently met a Young Professional for a coaching appointment over dinner and to my surprise, I saw another Young Professional who had attended a home group we hosted during the time in our lives when Jen was really sick.

Baxter (left), was involved in a Home Group we led for Young Professionals several years ago. I happened to bump into her while meeting another Young Professional for a dinner appointment.

Baxter had moved out of the area a few years ago to take another job but recently moved back to Orange County. Though we had exchanged some texts and engaged on Facebook, we hadn’t actually had an opportunity to connect personally since she moved back to the area.

Having been around during the time Jen was struggling with her health, Baxter saw first-hand the effects of the disease and medications Jen was taking. Naturally Baxter was curious about how Jen was doing.

For the past few years, as I’ve been asked frequently about Jen’s health, I’ve been able to share about how well Jen is doing and how the condition that afflicts her (Vasculitis) is under control, thanks to the care she’s been receiving by her doctors at UCLA.

In fact, early last year, I wrote about how Jen’s condition was considered to be in remission and her doctors wanted to take her off her medication completely, which they did in May of last year (see April 26, 2019 post on Lowedown.com).

Unfortunately though, I was not able to give such a positive and glowing response to Baxter in that moment, as Jen has recently suffered a setback in her health.

Jen sports her Navy spirit on Christmas day!

Back in December, Jen received the results from some blood work which indicated elevated levels in her kidney. Jen has only one kidney so this was very concerning to her and her doctors. Shortly after Christmas, Jen experienced elevated potassium levels which forced her to spend the night in the hospital.

Last week, Jen made several trips to UCLA to meet with her nephrologist as they try to figure out what is happening with her kidney. The good news is that the ultrasound and CT scan that she had showed no abnormalities in her kidney. However, some of the most recent bloodwork came back indicating that the vasculitis that has been in remission for the last four years has returned.

We suspect that this is the reason for the elevated levels in her kidney, as these same symptoms were present back in 2014 when the vasculitis first presented itself.

To say there is discouragement with this development would be a huge understatement. Jen is not looking forward to going back on Prednisone as the reminder of the damaging effects it had on her body are pretty painful.

Enjoying a Philly Cheesesteak tradition while in Philadelphia visiting our boys over Thanksgiving!

We are hoping and praying that because we know what we’re dealing with and Jen’s doctors are extremely competent that the path to stabilizing this “flare” will be quicker and much less traumatic than before.

We don’t know why we continue to be faced with these health challenges, but we know God is good and He has blessed us in so many ways. We would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Specifically, we are praying for the following:

  • We are praying that this vasculitis flare would be quickly stabilized
  • We are praying that Jen would not have to be on Prednisone for very long.
  • Lastly, we are praying that Jen would not have to be admitted to the hospital for ongoing treatment but that whatever treatments are prescribed could be done on an outpatient basis.

We are grateful for you, our friends, whose prayers and encouragement have sustained us. Thank you for your ministry in our lives!

A “Healthy” Look at Thanksgiving

Last Thursday, Jen battled the Southern California traffic to make the day-long trip to see her Rheumatologist at UCLA. In the nearly three years she’s been seeing specialists in Westwood, this was the first time that I didn’t make the trip with her.

My absence was primarily because of a volunteer commitment that could not be changed.

Jen poses with Jacob and Joshua after the OC Champs Cross Country Race in mid October

Earlier in the fall, Jen and I committed to be volunteer coaches for a group of high school students in Santa Ana. Our group meets every Thursday and it just so happened that Jen’s Rheumatology appointment was scheduled for the same day as our coaching group. Changing the appointment to a different day without delay would almost take an act of Congress so it seemed prudent for Jen to keep the appointment and make the trip without me.

To be honest, when we first started making the trips to West Los Angeles, there was a sense of urgency and unknown because of Jen’s health condition at the time. I went to be a moral support and to gather as much information as possible about the condition we were dealing with.

A side benefit of the trip was being able to use the carpool lane, which could cut our travel time down by as much as an hour each way!

So how is Jen’s health? I get this question frequently and I realized that it’s been a while since we’ve updated you through our newsletters. As we reflected on Thanksgiving this year, one of the things we are extremely grateful for is our health. The boys are both healthy and not in the midst of any runner’s injuries and my health has been pretty good for the most part.

Jen shares with a group of Cru Leaders during a Leadership Development Conference in October 2017

For Jen, the good news is that her health is stable. For about two and half years now, she’s been taking an immunosuppressant  that has kept her immune system at bay, eliminating the flares that put her in the hospital 5 times in a 9 month period. As a result, she was able to get off Prednisone along with all the nasty side effects that it brings.

Jen has returned to a somewhat normal routine, including being a mom to our twins and working full-time with me in reaching and ministering to Young Professionals in Orange County. In addition, Jen has been able to resume her part-time role with Cru in helping to develop and shape leaders through the Senior Leadership Initiative Program, which is influencing and preparing some of the best emerging leaders within our organization.

Life isn’t perfect, however, and though the health outlook for Jen is much better than 3 years ago, there are still challenges. For one, the medicine Jen takes has some undesirable side effects, including a continued loss of appetite and general upset stomach.

Jen (2nd from right) poses with her Process Group – a group of leaders who meet regularly to process and discuss the things they’re learning and implementing

Additionally, Jen has been dealing with an issue of Frozen shoulder that requires multiple visits to physical therapy a week at times. And of course there’s the ongoing diabetes management that requires constant attention.

Maintaining good health requires attention and discipline for anyone but for a diabetic with a long-term auto-immune disorder, it adds to the complexity of life. All things considered though, we are extremely grateful for the Lord’s goodness and provision. We have much for which to be grateful!

We’re especially thankful for you, our friends and partners who have encouraged us and shared with us in our burdens and struggles! Thank you for continuing to journey with us as we navigate the challenges of ministry, parenthood and life. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for us and our family!

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!

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!

Click here to read the pdf version of The Lowedown.

Stripped

Last month we learned that our insurance company had been victims of a massive data breach and that the personal information of everyone in our family has been compromised. Of course our worst fear is that someone might use that information to commit identity theft.

In this age of technology and social media our identity is more important than ever. We go to great lengths to ensure we’re protected financially from those who would steal our vital information for their own personal gain. We also want to protect our reputation. I have a doctor friend who has a very low profile on Facebook simply because he doesn’t want anyone else creating a false identity of him online that might negatively affect his reputation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. I’m not talking about the ethnic and age demographic information that seemingly everyone wants to know these days. I’m talking about where we get our value – where we get our identity and sense of worth from.

For most men, value, worth, identity often come from our jobs or our achievements. It might be a diploma from a prestigious school that is proudly displayed so that everyone can see it. Or it might be a car that represents a certain financial and social status. Or maybe it’s a house in a certain neighborhood that projects a certain status to others. Regardless of what it is, many people gain their sense of worth and value from external things such as our family or our job or some other material things.

I think this last year has been a refining period where the Lord has been slowly stripping me of the things that have tended to give me value and self-worth. I don’t have a fancy car or house and that chiseled physique seems to continually elude me, but for the last 25 years I’ve had a ministry that has enabled me to feel productive and fruitful and therefore valued. There was never a shortage of stories of someone who had trusted in Christ or who had experienced some radical life transformation.

This last year, with the challenges we’ve faced in our family and struggling to get a new ministry off the ground, I’ve found those stories harder to come by. It’s forced me to reflect more deeply than ever and ask myself where my identity lies.

I’ve been reading through the New Testament and in Mark chapter 1, Jesus goes out to the desert to be baptized by John. When He comes up out of the water, the Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove and the Lord speaks, “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”

I find it comforting to realize that the Father spoke these words before Jesus had performed any miracles, or healed any sick people. Jesus hadn’t cast out any demons yet, taught to any large crowds or paid for the sins of the world. Jesus had done NOTHING. And yet, the Father affirms His identity (You are my Son), affirms security through unconditional love (whom I love) and also affirms value (with You I am well pleased).

As it turns out, the best story of transformation we have to offer these days are examples from our own lives.

Thank you for the part you have played and are playing in our own transformation. Please pray that as the Lord continues to strip and refine and prune our character, that it would result in lives that are more fruitful and glorifying to Him!

Jen’s Health Update

Jen is tapering down on her dosage of Prednisone and so far it appears that this new immunosuppressant she has been taking is working. Please pray that there would be no complications and that many of the negative side effects of Prednisone (blurred vision, bursitis, muscular atrophy, water retention, etc.) would begin to subside.

We have appointments the next two weeks with doctors at UCLA. Pray for wisdom and clarity and that the treatment plan would help stabilize Jen’s condition and help her get back to feeling normal again.

Other Family News

It’s hard to believe that Jacob and Joshua are in the midst of registering for high school. They are filling out their schedules now and requesting their classes and electives. Wow! It’s gone by too fast and is almost surreal.

Jacob and Joshua after receiving their certificates for California Junior Scholastic Foundation (CJSF) for 8th grade.
Jacob and Joshua tie for first place in the Los Alisos 2 mile run.
Jacob and Joshua tie for first place in the Los Alisos 2 mile run.

Jacob and Joshua are doing quite well in school and are involved in various activities. They are involve in a running club at school where they tied for first in a 2 mile race that took place yesterday. They are also enjoying their last season of flag football.

Please pray for wisdom as they choose their classes, apply for sports teams and prepare themselves for life as high schoolers!

The Butterfly Effect

“A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, we get a hurricane off the coast of Florida.”

Perhaps you’ve heard this quote or something similar. The idea is that something as small and insignificant as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could change certain conditions that have an enormous effect in another part of the world, such as a hurricane.

The “butterfly effect” as it has come to be known can actually be traced back to a man named Edward Lorenz, who, while working as an assistant professor in MIT’s department of Meteorology in 1961, developed an early computer program to simulate weather patterns. One day, Lorenz allegedly changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions from 0.506127 to 0.506. That very small, seemingly insignificant change utterly changed his long-term forecast. Lorenz wrote about this effect in 1972 in a paper entitled “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?”

In popular culture today the “butterfly effect” refers to seeing the interconnectedness of two events that at first may seem unrelated. For us, we’re experiencing our own “butterfly effect” as it relates to Jen’s health situation. Let me explain.

Jen meets with the nurse at UCLA before seeing the Rheumatologist.

February was a busy month of doctor visits for Jen. Most notably, we had two different trips to UCLA to see Pulmonary and Rheumatology experts. As part of her next steps in treatment, Jen’s doctors are trying to determine whether they should subject her to another round of chemo-therapy. And if so, should they prescribe Rituxan, which is the drug Jen received last fall and was interpreted to be only partially effective, or should they prescribe a different drug known as Cytoxan?

The problem is that Cytoxan apparently has a lifetime limit. Doctors have discovered that administering this drug in dosages beyond this limit could put the patient at greater risk for blood diseases like leukemia.

As you may know, Jen had cancer when she was 3 years old and was subjected to about 18 months of radiation and chemo-therapy. We weren’t sure if Cytoxan was one of the chemo drugs that Jen had as a child so we’ve been working to get access to her records so we can determine if Cytoxan is even an option for current treatment. As you can imagine, gaining access to medical records from 40 years ago has proven to be a challenge.

But Jen had a brilliant idea! For the past 40 years, she’s been a part of a long term study conducted by the National Wilms Tumor Study (NWTS). This is the kind of tumor Jen had as a child and Jen thought that this research group might have information about her treatment 40 years ago. She was right! The person Jen contacted at the NWTS was able to pull up her medical profile right away give her a bunch of information about her surgery and treatment. Jen talked for about an hour with the person about her treatment and we now know that Cytoxan was NOT one of the drugs that she had as a child.

The person Jen talked to also said that what Jen is experiencing is not uncommon with people who have had her type of tumor and treatment. Apparently, others who have been a part of this ongoing research study have had issues similar to what Jen is now experiencing. We have long wondered whether the issues Jen is experiencing are related to her cancer and treatments as a child. It now seems as if there might be a connection though we’re not sure exactly how the two things may correspond. The “Butterfly effect”.

We want you to know that we are extremely grateful for you. Your investment in our lives through your prayers, notes and financial gifts, may seem small and insignificant but it has had a HUGE impact in our lives, especially during this current season in our lives. I guess that’s another example of the butterfly effect in action!

Please continue to pray for the doctors to have wisdom as they determine the best course of treatment and pray for us too as we navigate the next steps in Jen’s treatment.