As we mentioned the other day, one of our Thanksgiving traditions is to talk about the things we are thankful for during the feast. Today was kind of different. Usually there is a slow start, then an increasingly interactive conversation about all of God’s blessings. Today when we asked the question, “What are you thankful for?” everyone had the same answer. We are so thankful that God in His mercy spared Hal/Daddy to us. Last year this time, Hal was dying, but we didn’t know it. A couple of weeks later the news would crash into our lives like a declaration of war.
I will never forget driving home from the hospital with two of my children who had just had surgery. Hal was home in the bed; we’d just found out a couple of days earlier that he had pneumonia. I was driving home, stressed and exhausted, wondering how I was going to manage this home-hospital, with yet another child due for surgery in a few days, when I heard the baby cough a deep ugly cough. Oh no! What if she has pneumonia? This was my heart baby and sickness for her was a very frightening thing. “Oh dear Father,” I prayed, “I don’t think I can take anything else. Please help me.” He did help me, but not at all as I was hoping. His plans were higher.
I called the doctor and he said, “Bring Katie right in!” so I dropped the other two off home in the care of their teen brothers and took her in. Thankfully, the doctor assured me she did not have pneumonia, but then our old friend said, with anxiety in his eyes, “We need to talk.” The x-ray for Hal’s pneumonia showed a massive tumor behind his breastbone and I needed to rush him to the hospital for a CT scan. That was the start of an incredibly harrowing few weeks that involved hospital trips for children, surgery for Dad, and great worry for me. I learned a lot that month; especially that prayer is far more effective than worrying and has the added benefit that the enemy doesn’t keep tempting you with worry if it drives you to prayer! Nevertheless it was long and stressful.
By the first week of January, we had a diagnosis: stage IV cancer and a 55% chance. It sounds awful, doesn’t it? But our family has been overwhelmed by the mercy and love of God through this trial. Hal completed six months of chemotherapy and several weeks of radiation, all while traveling all over the country speaking to folks about Biblical family life, homeschooling, raising sons, and trusting God in hard times. We’ve had an extraordinary hard time of our own, but our dear Lord has blessed us enormously through it.
It took awhile during our feast today to be able to think at all past “Daddy is alive!” but then the sweet memories started flowing:
- Coming home frantic from the hospital with no time at all to think about Christmas presents to find an email from a dear couple we didn’t even know, “You may not even need anything like this, but the Lord is really impressing on us to go Christmas shopping for your children.” I wept and I still do when I think of it.
- The family who gave us a wonderful van when our van was dying so we could travel in comfort and safety to speak in the Midwest. Our children say, “God bless the _________ family,” with reverence everytime the air conditioner comes on.
- Our precious church who has helped us with bills when it was hard, held up our hands in prayer, and loved us and our children. We love them all.
- The dear church that insisted on bringing us everything we needed for this Thanksgiving. What a blessing! And what lovely fellowship we had when they delivered.
- The homeschool organization who invited us to speak at a conference, then paid us twice what we had agreed to come for, telling us only, “We prayed about it.” We think of them everytime we run analytics on our finances and we pray the Lord would bless them.
- All the dear people who prayed for us and encouraged us and left messages on Facebook and our Carepages and sent cards or gift cards or just love and prayers.
- That our son was able to go to Oxford for the year on scholarship – a dream come true – and to study there the life of C.S. Lewis with a world authority and real believer.
- That $300 my Dad, who has been in heaven for 32 years, put in a savings account 45 years ago grew to the point that it paid for my mother and our high school senior to travel overseas together, another dream come true.
- For our precious local homeschool group, who’ve fixed us innumerable delicious meals and faithfully prayed for us. What a blessing to pick up a hot dinner on the way home from chemo each time!
- For our beloved extended family, who have been extraordinarily caring and patient with us this year, upholding us in every way possible and lovingly holding their tongues when we were barely keeping it all together.
- All the things our children learned this year about the great things of life: sickness and the threat of death, sacrificial love, stepping up to the plate.
- Our children, who gave up so much at different times to help the family business or do something so their dad didn’t have to or to take care of a younger sibling in difficult circumstances. What a gift of the Lord each of them all.
- The hope of heaven and the love and sovereignty of God – our true help in trials.
- And for my beloved’s life. Oh Praise God!
We are truly deeply thankful for the Lord’s manifold mercies this year. We wouldn’t choose to go through this, but we could not have seen these amazing providences without it. What a really Happy Thanksgiving we are having!!
NB: If you’d like to hear more about God’s incredible providences to us in the past couple of years and how we’ve been able to be joyful in the midst of these trials, I recently told the whole story and what we learned from it at a ladies retreat called Walk by Faith. You can get the CDs here. You may also be interested in reading that first blog post I wrote here when we learned of Hal’s cancer. This hymn is a little more difficult than many modern songs, but is so very rich – I hope you will sing it – there is music at the link.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.
Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.
Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.
Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.
Words: Joachim Neander, 1680.
Music: Lobe den Herren, Ander Theil des Erneuerten Gesangbuch, second edition (Bremen, Germany: 1665).