Harder Family

Harder Family

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Update 2/17/24: Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy

Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Lamentations 3:21-24 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’”

I don’t know if this is true for you, but I usually start to see a pattern or theme of what God is trying to teach me. On February 7th, my friend Sue sent me an email about a study they are doing at our old church in Chicago. It is a Bible study on Lamentations. Not only did it include a link for the study, it also had a links for podcasts of Revive Our Heart and a book called Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. When I read that title, I realized another friend, Amy, had mentioned the book a few months ago. The theme of all these was lament. Back in April of 2023, I was briefly introduced to this topic when a friend gave me a book filled with laments. 

However, lament has taken a different feel in my life right now, given all that we are going through. I heard it said that lament is prayer in pain that leads to trust. Did you know that over 1/3 of the Psalms, which many of us turn to when life is difficult, are laments? If you include chapters with words of lament, over 1/2 of Psalms are lament. If so much of the Psalms are lament, how come we don’t practice very often? As I listened to the podcasts that Sue shared, there were a few things that stuck out. 

Here are a few highlights:

- the language of lament helps us process hard things and communicate with God.

- Lamentations shows us the effects of a broken world, but also how a godly person, in the midst of the broken world, still thinks Biblically and righteously.

- Lament is a way to express, “This is hard and life is broken, but God is still on His throne.”

- Lamentations 3:21 we see a pivot, a change of heart/focus. Jeremiah calls to mind truths about God and he applies it, even in a dark and dismal moment. As a result, there is hope that springs out of the truth of who God is. He rehearses truths about God’s character and His steadfast love. Even though the circumstances around him haven’t changed, there is a different perspective, a different attitude. 

- Lament is the song we sing in the land between “this is really hard” and God is really good. We won’t lament forever-all our sorrows will cease when Jesus comes. Meanwhile, in this in-between time, lament needs to be the language of God's people because life is filled with sorrows, Jesus is alive, and God is good.

- To cry and grieve is part of being human, but lament is to be the language of the believer.

As I said, there are some amazing truths in Lamentations and the study of lament. I look forward to allowing God the opportunity to grow me in this discipline of lament. I have quickly come to realize that lament is an under practiced discipline in the church. Maybe if we learned how to be transparent with God, we could be more real with one another? The world longs to see genuine faith in Christians and too often we fail. We need people who walk the talk and are real. I truly believe that practicing lament in our prayer life would help us achieve this in our lives. Life is hard! We need to be honest with God how that feels, but then pivot and rest and trust in His character. This is why it is essential that believes spend time in God's Word and study who He is. 

Update Wayne: Wayne is “stable”, which means he hasn’t improved, but he hasn’t gotten worse either. He is working hard on his speech therapy! He continues to amaze me with his perseverance under the difficult situations. 

Update Rebecca: I have officially finished 77% of my radiation!! Only 7 more days left. I cannot wait for this to be over.

Micaela has continued to excel in sign language and I’m proud of her. She came up with a plan for Abigail and was teaching her some key words and phrases. Abigail wanted to learn some sign language since she is helping with a special needs class we have at church. It’s moments like this that my mom heart just explodes with love and amazement at what God is doing in their lives.

On Friday, my dad had back surgery. We are praying this will solve his chronic back issues. I was able to drop him off and then visit him in between my radiation. Please pray for him that his pain eases and that this surgery does the trick.

Three of our kids are gone this weekend learning at Civil Air Patrol events. Shan and Micaela are learning some basic search and rescue skills here in Kentucky, and Sophia is staffing at winter Hawk in Pennsylvania. I don’t know how Sophia does it! It snowed a ton and is cold. They get first hand experience practicing search and rescue on cold environments. No thank you!

I spotted Sophia (black beanie in the back). She is staffing as part of the medical team.

Prayer Requests:

- Please just continue to pray for Wayne as he does his therapies and we trust God with the time we have left.

- Pray that my body continues to stay strong through treatments. This next Friday, I meet with my oncologist and will have another immunotherapy round. I believer we will schedule my pet scan to see if I will need more chemo.

- Please pray for Sophia in the freezing cold weather in PA and a safe trip home. Please also pray for Shan and Micaela as they come home tomorrow. Grace is still in Tennessee serving with Life Action-pray they stay well as a virus was circulating amongst the team this past week.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Update 2/12/24: Wake Me Up

Psalm 143:7-8 “Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of Your steadfast love, for in You I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for You I lift up my soul.”

I.am.weary. I do my best to stay positive, but I am just tired of all of the hard. Each morning I wake up, for a brief moment as I lay next to Wayne, it all feels normal. Then I rub my head, feel my missing hair and suddenly, reality smacks me in the face. Life is not normal. It is filled with cancer, moments of fear, tons of appointments, and tests (both physical and spiritual). I just want to wake up from my life that feels like a nightmare so many days. 

In those hard moments, I have to dig deep. I have to remind myself of all God's promises and focus on His character. Some of God's promises:

1. He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8)

2. He keeps His promises (Hebrews 10:23)

3. I am deeply loved and cherished by God (Jeremiah 31:3; Lamentations 3:22-23)

4. I have salvation and the hope of heaven through Jesus (Colossians 1:5; Romans 10:9-10)

5. He promises spiritual rest, peace of mind (Matthew 11:28)

6. My salvation is secure (John 10:28)

7. He has a plan and a purpose for my life (Jeremiah 29:11)

His character: Sovereign, kind, merciful, gracious, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving, nothing is too difficult for Him, etc

God continues to remind me that I am not walking this journey alone. In fact, the other day I asked Him to carry me because I was just too weary to walk alone. I was just adjusting my focus from trying to do it on my own, to crying out to Him for help. I have witnessed countless times God's faithfulness in my life. I heard this song again today and it expressed my feelings so well.

For those of you who love and serve Jesus, make sure you are in God's Word and know who He is. During the hard times in life, this will be your anchor. For those of you seeking, only Jesus can fill that void in your life. He is the only one who can give you hope and peace in this life. 

Update Wayne: Wayne continues to remain stable. He has weekly PT and speech. His ankle seems to be slowly healing and he takes more steps each day with his boot. We finally received his hospital bed, although he isn’t sleeping in it yet. Wayne was certain that the bed would be too small, so he tried it out the other day. He did fit!

He continues to struggle with speaking. Wayne provided us another fun speech memory. His therapist asked him to name 10 animals. He named some normal ones like dog, tiger, lion. He had one left and he decided to try to say porcupine. His pronunciation was quite creative. We all had a great laugh over that one. 

It reminded all of us about 9 years ago when Wayne was asked to name 10 sports. Instead of naming normal sports like baseball and volleyball, he named things like table tennis, cricket, rugby. Wayne definitely keeps us all laughing. Lately, to make up for a lack of words, Wayne uses a lot of teasing facial expressions instead.

Update Rebecca: I am 60% of the way done with radiation. I only have 11 days left. I am ready to ring that bell and be done! I would update more frequently, but I feel like there isn’t a lot of change to report in our lives and I’m just saying the same thing over and over.  

The radiation machine I have to lay in every day. As hard as this is, I can’t imagine what it was like for Wayne to be strapped down with a mask. I use my “tube time” to pray. It’s the only way to keep my mind from feeling anxious. I never thought I would be one to feel claustrophobic in a tube, but it totally is a battle for my mind in there.

Immunotherapy day

Friday turned out to be an over booked day. I had doctor appointments, Wayne had therapy, I had signed the girls up to attend a play weeks ago, and it seemed everyone needed to be somewhere different that day. I am so thankful that my older kids are around to help. Abigail took her sisters to their play and then to a science class, and Naomi took kids to work. 

Micaela and Joella went to a homeschool class where they experimented with skewers and balloons.

I came home from a long day of doctor appointments and immunotherapy to these beautiful flowers and a bag full of laminated verse cards. My friend Jennifer knows how to make a girl feel special!

February has turned out to be a fun and busy time. Our friend, Kevin Peterson, came to visit. Our history goes way back with Kevin. He was the pastor in charge of the mission trip that Wayne and I went on before we started dating. He was the youth pastor at our church and after we were married, we served as youth volunteers. It was such a great weekend with him and remembering great times. My sister, Sarah, was able to come and spend some time with us too.

Yes, our tree is still up. We transformed it into our Chinese New Year tree.

Some of the kids went to Winter Jam. They all had a blast.

Naomi celebrated her 18th birthday. She had some friends over and they decorated cakes for fun. It was as great hearing all their laughter.

Our friends, the Tiemens, stopped by for a quick visit while their daughter visited Asbury. We have so many fun memories with them over the years. We miss having them as neighbors. Notice how tall they all are! I’m the short one in the group.

These two crack me up. They said they are “twins”. Shan pulled his hair down to look like Sophia’s beanie. They always keep things light.

The girls love spending time with Wayne and try their best to help him. 

We celebrated Chinese New Year as a family on Sunday. Since Naomi had her friends over for a party on Saturday, we decided to have a Chinese New Year Super Bowl party. Shan was thrilled with the end results, but the rest of us were disappointed that the 49ers lost. I was hoping for a win. I guess we will wait another year.

Wayne’s mom has been visiting the past few days. It has been such a blessing to have her around. We have played a lot of games. Today Wayne played dominoes with his mom and then we went out to Culver’s for dinner.

Prayer Requests:

- Wayne: Pray for his ankle to completely heal and for continued stability of his health. Please pray for patience and endurance as we all navigate the communication struggles. 

- Rebecca: Please pray for strength as I finish out the last of my radiation and juggle being a wife, mom, and caregiver. Please also pray that all these treatments bring complete healing to my body.

- Kids: please pray for Grace as she is traveling with her Life Action team in TN. Pray for Abigail, Grace, and Naomi as they juggle their college classes. Please pray for Sophia as she travels to PA for a winter survival camp (yes she is crazy) and Micaela and Shan as they attend a rescue training. Pray for my heart as I try to keep track of all of this activity. 

We continue to be so thankful for each of you who remember us in prayer. We know it is your prayers that sustains and carries us through the hard days. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Update 1/31/24: Endurance

 James 1:2-4 “My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance. And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”

Endurance is an interesting term. The definition is: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity-a marathon runner’s endurance; the act of an instance of enduring or suffering.

This definition reminds me of Hebrews 12:1   “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

The feeling of running a marathon is what many days feel like lately. We have to take one day at a time and have had to endure some very difficult tasks. If I dwell on things too long, I feel very overwhelmed. Matthew 6:34 rings so true! “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” It’s probably why I have not been consistent in posting updates. Some days feel so overwhelming, and it’s all I can do to just make it through the day.

I have been trying to find positive things to focus on when I start to feel down or discouraged. A few days ago, my friend sent me a sweet picture and text about Wayne, which encouraged me so much:

“Somethings been on my mind ….when u had posted on fb u were collecting memories or funny moments of Wayne…..and I think today my memory was created...I cried writing this-so I apologize in advance for making you cry!!  🤣🤣

This month I’m in the children’s wing working with two little boys who have special needs (high spectrum autism). Today when I was leaving that area I looked down toward the fellowship hall and there sat Wayne in his wheelchair alone, he & I exchanged waves. We headed to walk down and talk to Wayne. When I got down I said “are u waiting on ur ride”. He chuckled & said “it might come today!”  We both shared a laugh and I said “well….they may have figured u have wheels u could head on home”. He laughed and said “not in this weather, they will need to comeback and get me”. 🤣 then of course I see joella running to the van then she turns around and comes running in the church. Wayne looks at her and says “ummm u have the keys go start the car”. The look on her face of “really - I need to go back out in the cold” and then Wayne’s look on his face. We all just shook our heads and laughed. 

When I got home and got in FB I was looking at the pictures on the churches page which is something I do every Sunday when I get home from church. 

I came across this picture of Wayne…I immediately had this wave of emotions & tears. Standing on his 2 feet was a man, a son of God who has been given his life sentence of 3-6 months to live due to brain cancer lifting his voice, his heart, and his praise to Jesus!!!!  A man of God who in every waking moment of his journey, whether it’s a good day or a bad day, he praises & thanks God for every one of those moments. 

It makes me think, if I had to walk in his shoes would I do the same? I don’t know …. But what I do know is that I have the forever memory of a friend, a brother in Christ who fought and prayed that his journey would be an inspiration and bring others to Christ. A legacy of Christ’s love for us.  

It’s amazing how much one picture can speak to you or make you feel.  ❤️❤️❤️

I just needed to share this with you!”

Her words rang true in my mind. This is a picture of someone who is enduring and persevering! Someone who continues to praise and glorify God despite all the hard things he faces. This is a man who abides with Jesus. Abiding in Christ pictures a close relationship, an intimacy with Jesus, not just a superficial relationship. I truly believe that suffering and trials prove the genuineness of our faith!

As I was driving to radiation, this song came on and made me think of how Wayne and I endure each day. It is a total dependence on Jesus! There is no other way to face the difficult trials we have without Jesus by our side as He carries us.

Abide by Aaron Williams

Wayne Update: Wayne continues to remain stable and nothing much has changed. He has weekly therapies from home, which has been such a blessing. Anything we can do to help Wayne feel as normal as possible, we are doing. Wayne insisted on getting a few things in order this week. We had spent time working on his service, his burial plans, etc. This has been a rough week trying to balance his wishes and not getting too sad thinking about losing him. I am thankful for those who have walked along my side and helped me with these tasks. Once again, it’s only by God’s strength that I have been able to accomplish some of these tasks.

Visiting cemeteries and choosing a plot. Wayne also wants to be buried in a plain pine box. A very sweet friend of Wayne’s is making this for him.

Rebecca Update: Radiation has been much easier to endure then chemo, but it still hasn’t been easy. I have to travel daily to Lexington, which has been exhausting. Today, I completed 40% of my radiation treatments. I have had to celebrate the little things to get through the long six weeks. I decided to break down my radiation like I used to tackle my half marathons. Instead of focusing on how much I have left, I celebrate how much I have completed. Friday will be a long day of doctor appointments. I have radiation, blood work, meet with my oncologist, and then I have my next immunotherapy. 

Celebrating little things to enjoy: $3 chai tea after radiation on Thursday.

My dad and some friends have helped with some of my trips to radiation. It helps break up the monotony of traveling alone 5 days a week. 

We survived some cold days in KY. It reminded me of Chicago. Bo loved the snow.

Cuddling in bed with the two youngest. We got to enjoy a movie with them while the oldest were busy.

We love our counselor. She is such a blessing to our family and helps all of us navigate all this heavy stuff.

Micaela finally had her science fair. She did a great job and I’m proud of all her hard work. Once again, we learn something as a family that impacts us all. For example: Naomi did her science fair in hand dryers. Needless to say, we have never used a hand dryer since her experiment. Micaela’s science fair taught us that plant based cleaners are safe to use, but normal chemicals don’t appear to be safe for our health. 

Prayer Requests: 

- Wayne: please pray for Wayne as he continues his therapies and for us as we make decisions.

- Rebecca: continue to pray for my treatments that I continue to have minimal side effects and that this will kill all the cancer. Please also pray for me as I honor Wayne’s wishes and make some big, hard decisions. 

- Grace: please pray for Grace as she joins her team for the next 20 days as they serve in TN. She leaves Friday morning, so please pray for her safety.

- Kids: please continue to pray for them as we navigate all these hard things.