Harder Family

Harder Family

Monday, February 26, 2024

Update 2/26/24: Count Down

Luke 12:7 “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Psalm 56:8 “You’ve kept track of all my wandering and my weeping. You’ve stored my many tears in Your bottle-not one will be lost. For they are all recorded in Your book of remembrance.”

Something I keep discovering is how much God really loves and cares for us. This week has been hard. I have shared with a few friends that I’m weary. I think all the hard stuff has just piled up and overwhelmed me. I realized being a caregiver is hard. We are entering the one year mark of starting this caregiver role. When you add my own cancer struggles, it just feels like a lot.

Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about myself. Through Celebrate Recovery, I have learned some amazing life skills to help navigate hard things. But, I am also human and still struggle a lot. On Friday, I had reached a low point. I was exhausted from radiation and my trips to Lexington, worn out from being a caregiver, tired from being a wife and mom, and to top it all off, I was sleep deprived because I had to take Sophia to the orthopedic early Friday morning for an ankle injury. Needless to say, I had a meltdown. In that moment, I told my family I was going to buy myself a ticket and fly to Florida to be alone. I told them I was tired and worn out. I complained that they forget that I have cancer too, on top of caring for their dad. Looking back, I was throwing my own personal tantrum. It’s pretty bad that going to radiation that day felt like a mini-vacation. I had to humble myself and apologize to my family for my poor behavior. But in that space of being real, the reality of all the hard had caught up to me.

I think we can feel in those hard times that God doesn’t see and that maybe He doesn’t care. But then He shows up in some pretty amazing ways to remind us that we aren’t alone and He cares. Tomorrow is my last day of radiation. When Wayne completed his 3 weeks of radiation last year, he got to hit this huge gong to celebrate. It was pretty amazing. I have been looking forward to celebrating in some big way like that. Last week during my weekly appointment with my radiologist, I saw that their version of celebrating was a cow bell. That bummed me out and I was thinking today before radiation how great it would be to ring a gong. So, I started trying to locate one. I called all the music stores and was unsuccessful. I found out where there may be a gong or two that I could travel to, but I really wanted to celebrate with my radiation team. 

This afternoon, a Facebook friend had shared my request and was boldly asking others to pray for God to provide a miracle gong for me to ring, which meant a lot to me. We have been studying prayer at church the last few weeks and how we should be willing to pray big, bold prayers. Well, tonight as I was making Wayne dinner, I decided to check my Facebook account and saw that miracle prayer answered. A fellow CC mom had a gong me to borrow! When I had posted my request, I knew it was a long shot. But with God, nothing is a long shot!! God showed me that He cares even about the little things in our lives. Look, if I’m honest, I would have been fine to ring the cow bell. But God loves and cares about me so much, He decided to show up and provide a miracle for me. 

Update Wayne: Wayne is getting stronger each day. He was finally released from his boot last Thursday. He has been working hard with his exercises and is back to walking around the house with a cane. He still uses his wheelchair out in public because his muscles are very weak. But what an answer to pray Wayne has been too. He truly is my miracle man. We just need to pray that God would restore his ability to speak. I know he is frustrated almost every day with not being able to communicate with us and others.

Wayne went with me to my radiation on Thursday since he had his orthopedic appointment right after. It was fun to spend the time alone with him.

Update Rebecca: Tomorrow is my last day of radiation…yay!! I met with my oncologist on Friday. The plan is for me to now move my immunotherapy to every six weeks. When my appointment was over, I hugged my amazing doctor and told her I loved her, but I’m thrilled that I don’t need to see her for six weeks! We will wait a few weeks to schedule my petscan to give my body time to recover from radiation. 

Counting down the last 5 days.

Friday I had radiation, blood work, my oncology appointment, and my immunotherapy. I brought my infusion nurses so homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Today I brought a little surprise for my radiation team. I hope they know how much I appreciate them. Tomorrow I’m bring us all a special treat to celebrate together…cupcakes! I also bought my radiologist a little gift to thank him for the great job he’s done.

I have been working hard to try to get back into shape. My treatments cause me to gain quite a bit of weight and on top of that, between wanting to give my body time to recover during treatments and not feeling well, exercise didn’t happen. I’m so thankful for friends that make working out more fun!🩷

Sophia survived her weekend survival camp in PA. This girl’s determination just amazes me.

Thankfully, she only sprained her ankle. I told the orthopedic I need a frequent user punch card. I had been there the day before in the same room with Wayne. 

Matching boots, just a smaller size! Wayne’s size 13 in men vs Sophia’s 6 in women.

Sophia is in DC this week with Civil Air Patrol as part of the National Legislative Day delegation from KY! She almost missed out because of her injury. This girl loves Jesus, runs after her dreams, and is a hard worker. 

I have to give a shout out to Naomi for driving Sophia to the drop off for her event. They had to leave the house at 4:45am on Sunday. Naomi knew I was teaching the ladies group, so she drove Sophia for me. Naomi has been such a blessing the past year with all her help with the kids. She has huge heart for Jesus too and I cannot wait to see what God had in store for her next!

Micaela and Joella have had some fun adventures with their friends. Hikes, games, breakfast, and spending time crafting. Joella has been making a lot of bracelets and loving every minute. I keep reminding her that now that radiation is ending, school is going to get a little more intense for her for the next couple months. She was not thrilled!

 Prayer Requests

- Wayne: For continued improvement in his strength and that his speech would improve.

- Rebecca: that my body would fully recover from all of the treatments and that ever cancer cell will have been destroyed by the treatments!

- Sophia: for her ankle to heal completely and for her to shine brightly in DC as she interacts with other cadets and members of Congress.

- Naomi: wisdom and guidance for where God wants her to go after school. She’s looking into some mission options for the summer.

- Grace: for her upcoming travel with her team in FL and for her college classes. Please also pray that God grants her wisdom to know what steps she needs to take in the future.

- Abigail: she is still searching for a full time job so she can pay off some college. Please also pray for her as she completes the last couple classes she needs to graduate.

- Joella & Micaela: for their school and their hearts as they trudge through all this hard stuff in our lives.

- Shan: that he continues to grow in his knowledge of God and help him process even more hard things in his life.

Thank you for walking by our side and praying for us. We love all of you and appreciate everything!

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!