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!

The Power of a New Year’s Resolution

Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t.

It’s not hard to figure out why some people hate New Year’s resolutions. Many people hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions because they’ve made them over and over again, only to fail miserably over and over again. Nobody likes the feeling of failure.

We resolve to lose weight and we actually gain weight. We resolve to get a handle on our finances and yet we go deeper into debt. We resolve to read more and watch TV less  and yet we find ourselves binge watching the latest Netflix series during our free time (when we should probably be exercising)!

Photo by Jamie Matociños on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered why so many New Year’s resolutions fail? It’s because for most of us, we try to change our outward behavior without changing the inner person. We fail to address the core issues that cause us to do the things that we say we don’t want to do but we end up doing anyway.

Photo from Pexels.com

In The Godfather III, there is a scene where Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino), feeling remorseful for his sinful life, is at the Vatican City talking to a priest. The priest picks up a stone from the fountain next to him and says, “do you see this stone? It has been surrounded by water from this fountain for many years. But the water has never penetrated the inside.” He then smacks the stone onto the pavement and it breaks in two. “You see? The inside is completely dry. This is like Christianity. People have been surrounded by Christianity for thousands of years and yet it does not penetrate their hearts.”

Forty-five years ago, my parents made a New Year’s resolution that greatly impacted me. Though they had both grown up going to church, we were not a church-going family. My parents, after much reflection, resolved to recommit themselves to the Lord and begin taking their family to church on Sundays.

As an eight-year old boy, I suddenly found myself in church on Sundays instead of sleeping in or messing around the neighborhood. It was not my preference, but as the weeks and months went by, I learned about my sinfulness and my need for forgiveness. I also learned about the payment Jesus made on the cross for my sin. I learned that I could receive forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God simply by putting my faith in Jesus and His death for me. My life was changed because of a New Year’s resolution.

If only I could get someone to take me on a walk!

What are the things you are hoping to change as you enter this New Year? What are your resolutions? They are probably similar to mine. I’d like to exercise more and read more. I should probably walk my dog more. I’d like to be more kind and compassionate and less impatient with others.

More than anything, my hope for this year is that Christ would penetrate my heart more deeply and that I would experience greater internal transformation as a result. I don’t want to just try to act better but my hope is that by Christ’s strength and power, I might be better – that I might become one who more accurately reflects Christ’s character to the world around me.

We are so grateful for you, our friends and ministry partners, whose encouragement motivates us to continue to pursue Jesus and the spiritual transformation that only he can offer.

Let us know what your resolutions are for this year and how we can pray for you to experience transformation in 2019!

Happy New Year!

Time is on Our Side

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of time a lot lately. Several things have all conspired and converged to cause me to reflect on the idea of time.

Third Day’s third album was aptly named “Time”.

Earlier this week, I received an e-mail from one of my favorite bands, Third Day, announcing their Farewell Tour. This band has been together for 25 years (as long as we’ve been married) and they’ve decided their time is coming to an end.

On the one hand, it’s hard to believe this band has been around for 25 years! On the other hand, it’s sad to think that their time is coming to an end. I have fond memories of attending several of their concerts and I’ve been reminiscing lately by listening to all the Third Day music I own, including their 3rd CD, aptly named “Time.”

Last week, Jen and I traveled to UCLA for her 3 month appointment to see her Rheumatologist. She also saw her Pulmonologist, got her annual CT scan and her 6 month pulmonary function test. It was a very full day and I was reminded that it was 3 years ago almost exactly that we first visited UCLA. Three years seems like a long time but a lot can happen in just a couple of years.

January 2015 – just a few weeks before we finally began seeing experts at UCLA

A staff colleague e-mailed me yesterday, asking for contact information of a friend. I did a quick e-mail search for my friend to see what his current e-mail was and it pulled up an e-mail from 3 years ago that we had sent out when we were heading to UCLA for the first time. We were nervous about this initial visit and asking for prayer and my friend had responded to that e-mail telling us that he and his wife were praying for us.

In the body of that e-mail I had posted a picture of Jen with our twins just a few weeks earlier when she was in the hospital. She was smiling and upbeat but the effects of her condition were obvious. Seeing that picture was a stark reminder to me of just how much has changed in just 3 years.

Mother’s Day 2017 – a lot can change in just a few short years!

I’m not really much of a Rolling Stones fan but there is a popular song of theirs that says, “Time is on my side…yes it is.”

I don’t often think about time as being on my side. Like many people, I tend to be impatient and I want things to be the way I want them and I want it NOW! We live in a culture where everything is URGENT. But what we’ve learned about ministry and about people is that there are no shortcuts to maturity. You can’t microwave a person’s growth and development.

As we think about ministering to Young Professionals, our hope and desire is to develop leaders of depth who are unleashed to make an impact for Christ in their communities.

Jen meets with a group of Young Professional women in her Leadership Development Group.

We know that building anything of significance often takes time, and as my friend and mentor Jim Sylvester often likes to say, “Time is your friend.” It appears that time is on our side…yes it is!

Four and a half years ago, I started a neighborhood community through Nextdoor, a social media website that seeks to create community by connecting neighbors who live in established neighborhoods.

Young Professionals unwinding at a beach meet-up

When we first launched our Nextdoor community, it seemed like a struggle just to get 10 verified members to join within the allotted time frame. And now, almost 5 years later, there are nearly 600 members in our community, with over 40% of our neighborhood participating. At some point, this neighborhood network took on a life of its own and growth exploded.

Our hope and prayer is that our ministry to Young Professionals will take a similar path. Growth may seem slow at times but we know that time is on our side…yes it is!

Thanks for journeying with us!

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!

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!

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!