Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Help of My Countenance

Psalm 43:5 NKJV - Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

Many a friend has asked the question "Matt, do you even notice that Randi is sick? It seems impossible to tell." Indeed, even Randi's Oncologist has said that Randi is the "healthiest, sick person" she has treated. I recall the doctor stating that even on her best weeks, Randi should do her best to get outside and walk around the block even though she would not feel like it. Now, 4 months into treatment, it is not uncommon on a sunny day to find Randi walking 2.5 miles with our daughter and our dog to the park and back. On her best days, she even does a work out that would be a challenge to any healthy person (including myself)! Some might say that it’s unbelievable! Actually it’s totally believable, because it is not her strength, it's The Almighty's. Throughout this entire process, Randi still energetically leads her sophomore Young Life girls every Monday and cooks dinner for 10-20 high school boys every Tuesday night. Through the Grace of God, His energy overflows in her to make every person feel welcomed and loved. And praise be to The Almighty, for as much hair as Randi has lost, she still has her eyelashes and eyebrows, which to her is a big blessing!  To me, she is as beautiful as I have ever seen her. All of this undoubtedly begs the question, what has sustained us through this trial, what has carried us through this pain? I would submit to you that what has allowed us to not only survive but thrive through such a period has been, among others, these three things: PromisesPeople and Power.

The Promises of God

A Promise is a powerful thing, only as powerful as the One who gives it and only as fruitful as the one who believes it. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV - All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. In the darkest of moments I have seen my wife hold up the light of truth: the Promises of God. Fresh on my mind are the nights of sleeplessness of my precious wife. As the hot flashes have come and gone (but mostly come and stayed) sleep has been a rarity. It has been in those moments where I have found Randi downstairs in deep study, leaning not on her own understanding of things but trusting in the Promises that The Almighty has given. Oh, where would we be if we had no Promise! All hope would be lost, life would lose purpose, and love would lose its luster. The Promises that we hold true have been the lamp that has lit our path during this dark night. Promise procures faith, produces hope, pounces fear, and pummels lies. What promise is it today that you are trusting in today? Proverbs 24:10 NIV - If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!

The People of God

We have been absolutely astonished at the outpouring of love, encouragement, prayers, phone calls, letters, emails, and support from so many people. We had no idea that so many cared about us. Hebrews 3:13 NIV - But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Through this time, I can see how easy it would be to feel as though we are being cheated, that God doesn't care, or that life is hopeless. As thoughts similar to these have been whispered, even stronger reminders of truth has been spoken over us by the People of God. Proverbs 17:17 NLT - A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. We cannot thank you enough for your continued support, love, and prayers. Truly, we would not be able to do this without you. Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 NIV - There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless--a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! If you had not been there to walk with us through this, there is no telling how trying and painful the depths of despair would be. We are so grateful for you!

Just a few weekends ago, Randi was in tears over the sleeplessness that had settled in. She was so tired and yet completely unable to get a full night's rest. As we were there together, this comment came in from Nancy, a stranger. Right at the moment of tears, exactly when we needed it, God had used one of His own to reassure us of His love and our purpose. Oh, where would we be without our Savior? Where would we be without His Body, that is His People? Who is it today that you can encourage? You never know how you may be the hand that God uses!

The Power of God

As wonderful as a Promise is, it is useless without the Power to carry it out. As helpful as People have been, they would be of no good if they had not the Power to help. Psalm 68:34 NIV - Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. Ultimately, it is the Power of God that has carried us through such a trial, and what an amazing Power it is! The Power of God is limitless, because God is limitless; it is Omnipotent, because God is Omnipotent. Oh, to think of what God could do through anyone whom He would choose to do it! The Power of God is found in the Person of the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at Creation, made Samson a strong man, Job a patient man, Solomon a wise man, Joshua a courageous man, Paul a new man, and Jesus a Resurrected Man! And to see Him dwell in my wife as she walks through the valley of the shadow of death has been an amazing sight indeed! Job 27:11 NIV - "I will teach you about the power of God; the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal. This was what Job said in the midst of his pain; this is what I have seen in my bride through this journey we are walking. Do you know this Power? Have you met this Person? Have you seen His Promise? He has been the help of her countenance, He has been the wind in her sails, He has been the strength in her weakness. Proverbs 18:14 NIV - A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? I thank God for the incorruptible Holy Spirit, and the work He has done through my wife and her corruptible body. In the end, we know she can't lose. Although the doctors are very optimistic that Randi will live a long, healthy life, Even if death takes her body, it is The Father who has her soul, and The Spirit that will raise her again one day! Ephesians 1:18-20 NIV - I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. I am inspired and in awe at my bride because to her, death has lost it's sting; she has no fear in death. Rather, she is excited, for she knows that whenever that day comes, she has full confidence that she will be with her Savior for all of eternity. 

1 Corinthians 2:9-12 NIV - However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" -- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Randi was supposed to start her 12 weeks of Taxol chemotherapy treatments two weeks ago, however her neutrophil counts have been too low. (Neutrophils work with the white blood cells to eat the bad bacteria).  Yet, through all of this, He has been the help of her countenance, it is an amazing sight to see. Please join us in praying that Randi's neutrophil count would be high enough today and going forward for Chemotherapy treatment and that the side effects would be minimal. 

We love you all and are so grateful for you!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Overcome By The Overcomer

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!" John 16:33

Hi Sweet Friends!

Happy Easter Week! What a joy it is to write to y'all today. The other night I was talking with my sweet friend who tragically lost her husband 2 years ago and she said something that so touched my heart this week. She was saying how Christmas always used to be her favorite holiday, but now, more than ever, Easter is her very favorite. It is because of what Christ did on Easter that she knows she will see her husband again one day in Heaven. And for her, that is one of the greatest reasons to celebrate. Her words have made me think so much on what Easter really is about and the power of Christ's death and resurrection.

One of my favorite Easter sermons was titled "It's not over, even when it’s over!" So true! I love reflecting on what Christ did on the cross; what a crazy, passionate love He displayed for us that day. How he was betrayed, beaten and abandoned all because He loved us, without any promise that we would ever love Him back. It is without a doubt, the greatest love story ever told. It brings me to tears when I think of the excruciating pain that my Savior endured that day; they stripped him, spit on him, mocked him, flogged him 39 times (1 short of that which would have traditionally killed a man), then they made him carry his own cross up a huge hill, only to nail him to it when he got to the top. Then, as if he wasn't in enough pain already, his lungs eventually filled up with fluid and he suffocated to death on the cross...

All of this because He loved us! In Isaiah 49:16 it says" See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." Your name, my name, was engraved on Christ's hands as the nails were driven through them. As He took on the sin of the world that day, He was thinking about us. "But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:5-6 By His wounds, we are healed! It blows me away that the King of the Universe couldn't stand that we were separated from Him, so He came to Earth and changed everything. That's what Jesus does, He changes everything! This week at Young Life, I took my precious sophomore girls through just some of the miraculous stories in the book of John where Jesus came into the picture and everything was changed; people were healed, the blind could see, the adulterous woman was purified, the paralytic could walk, and the dead were brought back to life. Those stories just pump me up, because when we allow Jesus into our lives, nothing is left unchanged. He brings light into the darkest places, He creates beauty from ashes, He gives hope to the hopeless, and He conquers death! That's my King. As my precious hubby reflected on that this morning, he so eloquently wrote: "Do you ever think about it? He wore a crown of thorns so that you might receive the Crown of Righteousness. He wore a scarlet robe so that you would have no scarlet letter. In His right hand they placed a reed so that you may experience what it is for you to be upheld with His righteous right hand. He sweat blood so that the curse of sweat could be done away with. He was covered in blood so that you wouldn't be covered in your sin. He was beat so that you would never lose. He carried that cross so that you would never have to carry that burden of guilt. Oh, the magnificence! The majesty! The mystery of that moment! Then He died for you so that you might live for Him! What's stopping you!?" Oh I love that! So although what Christ did on the cross truly was the bravest, most courageous and selfless thing anyone has ever done in all of history, the story doesn't end there. It's not over even when it’s over!

Jesus truly did die that faithful day on the cross. Scripture says He cried out, "It is Finished," John 19:30 and then He took His very last breath. The guards took His body down, declared Him dead, and then His body was laid in the tomb. He was dead, really dead; dead for 3 days. If that was the end of the story, there would be no hope for us. I'm sure everyone who was there to witness Christ's death thought that was the end, it was over. Perhaps we have all been at a point in our lives when we thought our lives were over, where we had no hope, when we thought our story might as well end there. Praise God that Jesus didn't end the story there. On Easter Sunday, the tomb was empty. Christ had risen, He conquered death! That day, everything changed. There was now life after death. The veil was torn, the gates of heaven opened; the gates of hell defeated. Because Christ didn't just die, but He rose from the dead, we can spend eternity in heaven with our King. It wasn't over, even when it was over! It only just began.... I know that none of you who are reading this have ever really died, however every single one of us has been completely dead in our sin. See apart from Christ, there is no life, we are dead. But as Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25 Jesus = life! Do you believe it? Have you allowed the power of Christ's death and resurrection to change everything for you? Oh, I pray that this Easter you will know, without a shadow of a doubt that you get to spend eternity in Heaven because Jesus conquered death on that first Easter Sunday. We all have a story, some stories are filled with many trials, pain and loss; my prayer is that your story radically changed the day you really met Jesus. That is the day that your life really began. If you remember that day, reflect on it, praise God for it, tell all your friends about it. Let the world know the day Jesus changed everything for you. That's what Easter is truly all about. And if you don't yet have the part of the story where Christ swoops in and rescues you for all of eternity, I pray that today would be that day! "But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31

Oh, I am just so excited to celebrate Easter this weekend. We are celebrating 'Resurrection Sunday' as we like to call it on Saturday night with all our Young Life kids, then on Sunday morning we will be with Matt's family and on Sunday night we are celebrating with our wonderful friends. It should be such a fun weekend and I feel so wonderful. God is so great to restore my health the way He does between chemotherapy treatments. I am officially done with all my icky chemotherapy treatments! Yay! Now, I just have 12 'easy' treatments left. This Tuesday I will have my first 'Taxol' treatment and will continue to have them every Tuesday until June 26th. Although, we don't know what exactly to expect, Dr. O says we should be optimistic that I will feel just fine, perhaps just really tired on Tuesdays. My best friend of 17 years, Nicole, is flying in on Monday night from Colorado to take care of us next week. I am so excited! I pray I will feel so good that we will just get to play the whole time she is here :)

Friends, I pray that you have the sweetest Easter ever; that you will take time to truly celebrate what Christ has done in your life. I will be lifting you up in prayer! I love you dearly! Have an 'Eggcellent' Easter!:)

PS: You should read this really sweet article in our Allen Image Magazine:) http://issuu.com/allenimage/docs/april_web/19 Yay for John 10:10!

Joyfully in HIM~