Harder Family

Harder Family

Saturday, February 28, 2015

In the Valley

Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

The last 12 hours have been a dark valley for me. When they say ignorance is bliss, this is true. I decided to read up about the type of cancer Wayne has in his brain. Not a wise decision, especially late at night. The only plus side is that my pent up emotions finally broke. As I laid in Wayne's arms sobbing, questions like "why us?" and "this isn't fair" rang through my brain. I know this is all part of processing everything that is going on in our lives. I keep reminding myself of who God is. When you read Job, read about his suffering and then his questions to God, God's response to Job isn't to answer those questions, but He tells Job who He is (Job 38-40...great read if you haven't ever read it). That is what I keep reminding myself in this valley. God is good and He has a perfect plan for all of this. He is big enough to handle my questions and I know that He understands. Isaiah 53:3-4 "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried." Jesus understands grief and sorrow-He Himself experienced it and He knows how to comfort us and lead us through it.

As I was thinking about all of this not being fair, all I could think about was a lesson Wayne taught the girls a few months ago. They kept saying things "weren't fair". Finally Wayne had enough and he said, "You know what isn't fair? It isn't fair that Jesus, who lived a perfect life, had to die for our sins. He didn't do anything wrong and yet he died a horrible death for you and for me so that we can be saved. That isn't fair. An innocent man died for all of us who are guilty and deserve to die." That illustration of "not fair" resounded with the girls. Whenever they hear other kids say, "It's not fair!", they go on to tell them what their dad told them. Again, I know it is okay for me to ask these questions and it is healthy, but I also don't want to get bogged down in the pit of despair. I have to keep clinging to who God is and what He says in His Word. That is why I started this blog up again. I wanted to journal the lessons that God is teaching me through this journey. If you have studied the Old Testament, you find that the Israelites would set up a memorial when God had done something for them. For example, Joshua 4:1-7 "Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

This is what I wanted my blog to be, a memorial of what God is doing in our lives so that our children can see what an amazing God we serve. Like any journey though, there are going to be highs and there are going to be lows. Right now I'm in a low. I don't want this path that we are on, and yet I know that God is sovereign and has a perfect plan in it all. They say hindsight is 20-20. Looking back we can see clearly how God was guiding and leading us to get us to this particular place. Things that didn't make sense at the time, now make perfect sense. We never understood why God kept us in Chicago, but we faithfully obeyed His calling to keep us here. Now in the midst of this trial, we find ourselves in the hands of two of the top neurosurgeons in the nation...right here in Chicago. A year ago God started working on our hearts and getting our minds fixed on Him, giving us a proper view of who He is. God used different avenues to get our attention, the most poignant was a series called "Behold Your God". God used this to help us rethink who God is Biblically. It is too easy to compare ourselves to the people around us and feel like we are "good" people. But God calls us to be holy, not "good". We are to compare ourselves to Jesus and to be a reflection of Him. Of course we can't do this on our own, we can only do this with the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. God was showing us that we had a watered down view of Him and He wanted us to behold Him in His splendor and glory. Studying God's attributes throughout the Bible has helped us gain a better understanding of who He is. The amazing thing is, the more you start to know Him, the more your realize you don't know anything about Him. God also used the book of 1 Peter and David Platt's book "Radical" to make us analyze our lives deeper. God showed us that He wants ALL of us, not just a part of us. Wayne did a three part series at church at the end of May and beginning of June 2014 on 1 Peter and it was challenging. Through all of these avenues, God has been preparing our hearts and making us more like Him.

Knowing who God is has been sustaining us and helping us get through this trial. We know we are just at the beginning, but we know who we serve and who holds the future in His hands. We have experienced a peace and an inexpressible joy in the midst of this storm that can only come from God. 1 Peter 1:6-9 says, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." Amen and amen!!

In reference to Psalm 23:4 above, I read this amazing post from Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 23. "'For thou art with me.' This is the joy of the Christian! 'Thou art with me.' The little child out at sea in the storm is not frightened like all the other passengers on board the vessel, it sleeps in its mother's bosom; it is enough for it that its mother is with it; and it should be enough for the believer to know that Christ is with him. 'Thou art with me; I have, in having thee, all that I can crave: I have perfect comfort and absolute security, for thou art with me.' 'Thy rod and thy staff,' by which thou governest and rulest thy flock, the ensigns of thy sovereignty and of thy gracious care—'they comfort me.' I will believe that thou reignest still. The rod of Jesse shall still be over me as the sovereign succour of my soul." Some heavy language in that, but sum it up to this...we have absolute security and comfort in our Savior Jesus Christ who is sovereign and deeply cares for us. I rest in that knowledge even now as I am in the "depths of despair" (as Anne of Green Gables would say). I know who holds my future and who walks by my side through this dark valley. His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness!! (Lamentations 3:22-3)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Biopsy Results

“I feel like I got punched in the stomach” Rebecca said when I asked her how she was processing the news we had just received from the neurosurgeon. The diagnosis: an anaplastic astrocytoma grade III brain tumor (cancerous tumor). For reference, a grade II tumor is considered noncancerous and a grade IV is a severe cancerous tumor. Unlike other parts of the body, a grade III tumor is not comparable to Stage III cancer. The stages of cancer in other parts of the body refer to how far they have spread. Brain tumors don’t spread to other parts of the body. A grade III tumor will respond to chemo and radiation. 

Thankfully, they believe they can get to 90-95% of the tumor through surgery. However, it is in a very delicate part of the brain. They have to cut near the motor processor and won’t actually cut anything that will leave permanent damage (or at least they have a 96% rate of not doing permanent damage). Although they expect me to make a 100% recovery from surgery, the rehab is about a month. There will be about ten days with loss of all right-hand motor skills and my voice. Two to four weeks of intense rehab at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will follow. 

Chemo and radiation will come after the rehabilitation. They told us it will be 6 weeks of oral chemo and 5-days a week of radiation. This is to smother the remaining 5-10% of the tumor they won’t be able to get through surgery.. The prognosis is good for a 10 year survival rate, for my demographic. Beyond that the surgeon didn’t want to speculate (I will let your mind ponder on that). 

Rebecca and I are still processing this news and will probably still be up until March 9th when I have surgery. The next eleven days will be a whirlwind trying to fit a lifetime into a few days. We covet all your prayers and petitions before the Lord God Almighty. ”But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name's sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!” Psalm 109:21

Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

None of us know how many days we have here on this earth. Anyone of us could die at any time. My accident a few months ago proved that to us. We were on our way to a field trip and my rear tire blew. God's sovereign hand protected us that day, but we knew that God could have had a different outcome for us. All of our lives are in His hands and He numbers our days. 

That being said, hearing from a doctor that your husband has a cancerous tumor in his brain came as a huge shock. I think we both knew it was a possibility, but both of us were clinging to the hope that it would be benign. I told Wayne that I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The past few hours have felt like I have been in a crazy nightmare. 

I have to be honest, it has been a hard few hours. Since a brain tumor is never entirely gone (can't be cured), this will be our cross to bear for years to come. We have been told that this will eventually kill Wayne. They didn't say it in those terms, but we were told that a "good" prognosis is about ten years. It is hard to think of the man whom I've loved since I was nineteen being given a "death" sentence. There is a good possibility that we won't grow old together, enjoy grandchildren together, and he may not even see some of his kids graduate from high school. It is hard to imagine my life without my best friend.

BUT, I also know that in the midst of being given this diagnosis, I had a peace that surpasses any understanding (Philippians 4:7). The God that we love and serve is Jehovah Rapha, the God that heals. He is more powerful then cancer and if it is His will, He could remove it without surgery or remove any residual tumor after surgery. God will still be good, even if He decides to take Wayne home. You see, God is also El Roi, the God who sees. He sees our pain, but He also knows the future since He is omniscient. If He decides to take Wayne home, we know that He has a greater plan then anything we can comprehend. Whatever happens won't change who God is and I will cling to who He is. 
"Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forevermore." Hebrews 13:8

The next few weeks and months are going to be challenging. I know that God has prepared us for this and that He will sustain us through this time, but I also know it will be hard. We've already experienced highs and lows during this two week journey. We will cling to our Rock!! This song has been going through my head tonight as we've been "processing" this news. 

"Solid Rock" by Edward Mote: 
When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.

My other favorite song right now that God gave me the other night is "Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer" by the Gettys.

Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labour through the storm.
You have called me to this passage,
and I'll follow, though I'm worn.

May this journey bring a blessing,
May I rise on wings of faith;
And at the end of my heart's testing,
With Your likeness let me wake.

Jesus guide me through the tempest;
Keep my spirit staid and sure.
When the midnight meets the morning,
Let me love You even more.

Let the treasures of the trial                                  
Form within me as I go - 
And at the end of this long passage,

Let me leave them at Your throne.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Appointment Tomorrow: Biopsy Results

People have been asking what time our appointment is tomorrow. To keep everyone up to date, we are scheduled to meet with our neurosurgeon, James Chandler, at 1:45. At that time, we will discuss the biopsy results and figure out what steps are next. We are at complete peace even in all the "unknowns". We are just resting in who God and trusting in His perfect plan. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea...The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Psalm 46:1-2, 7

I will update everyone after our appointment with the results and the plan of action.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Family Pictures

Isaiah 43:1-3 "But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

As we are awaiting the news on Thursday from the doctor, we are just resting in the truth of this verse. God is with us every step of the way. This week has been a week of hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. We have been taking care of logistical issues around the house while enjoying the extra time together as a family. Yesterday, a sweet friend of mine took family pictures for us. We realized that the last family pictures we took was back in 2013. Below are the pictures we took yesterday at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Let us know which pictures are your favorite.