Archive for the ‘Leukemia’ Category

Why

The question was actually posed to me some time ago by a young German woman. I had befriended her and her husband in an online game that I was playing. She quickly became aware of my faith and one day as we chatted about life she abruptly posed this question.

Why do you serve God? What does he do for you?

My mind quickly went to all the theologically correct answers that I had learned over the years but quickly discarded them. First of all I don’t think her English was up to taking in a bunch of “Christianese” (and my German was certainly not up to conveying anything other than hello and thank you). Secondly my guess is that perhaps somewhere she had already heard the platitudes. She was looking for something more intimate, more personal. She really wanted to know , why did Sam Guidry (or Flamefanner as my gaming friends know me) choose to serve this god. I gave her an answer. I do not even recall what it was, however it set me to thinking and so I give you:

Five Reasons that I serve God: Personal

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.       Hebrews 4:15

We have reached reason number four.  Reason number one is that God consistently amazes me.  Number two is that he is unconditional.  I can count on him regardless of my circumstances.  Number three is that he lets me see myself as he sees me, not as the world would paint me or as circumstances color who I am.  The fifth reason is wrapped up in all of these.  He is not some distant being who manipulates the world around us and requires things of us.  He engages us, amazes us, impacts us and shows us how he sees us through the lens of Jesus Christ and all His wonderful promises.

How amazing it is to be personally engaged by an omniscient God.  He always knows just what I need even when I don’t.  I was recently looking at the Caring Bridge journal that I kept as we walked the journey of Allana’s Leukemia.  It was toward the end of her first course of chemotherapy.  Allana was at her weakest (until the bone marrow transplant treatments).   We had been battered by the brutal side effects of the chemo.  Allana had just lost her hair.  It was at this dark hour that an omniscient God engaged us in a most personal way through a young nurse.  This is not to make light of the incredible support and care that he provided through His people and directly through the ministry of the Holy Spirit but at this time, at this moment we needed something special.  I am guessing that that something special came through a young lady who may never know the place she holds in our hearts. I will let the Caringbridge post speak for itself.

The other was through a nurse, a young lady in the healing profession who stood over and for Allana tonight and prayed her heart out. The presence of God filled the room as she proclaimed healing and peace and blessing over Allana and myself. The uncontrollable tears that are for me a sign of a special stirring of the Holy Spirit (Lord anytime you can come up with a different sign for me I will really be ok with that!) came and I think all three of us just bathed in that presence. God truly directs the steps of His People and he directed her to be at the right place, at the right time and then used her to bless our socks off.

Today was a day of weariness, loss and some pain but more importantly today was a day that God reminded us….again…. that Leukemia has won nothing. The Victory is won and Jesus is His name.  Caringbridge, Allana Guidry January 25, 2013.

And yes, my eyes are full of tears again.  How can they not be when I have such a great God and Father who loves and cares for me in such a personal way?  While the circumstances may enhance the intensity of God’s personal intervention here, it is only one among a multitude of instances.  As Allana and I have moved along in our faith walk He has repeatedly engaged us in a deeply personal way that helped us to grow and mature in our faith (the great unconditional impacting the conditional).  Whether it was speaking the phrase “fan into flame” so deeply into our hearts or inspiring Allana to proclaim the “True Beauty in Christ” that is our true identity.  He has moved us to be in just the right places for the growth that we needed throughout our time together.  Separately he turned our hearts to Him at a time when we were both dealing with the repercussions of our own poor decisions before bringing us together, companions on the walk of faith.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39

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As I sit here waiting for Allana’s last appointment here at The Clinic for some time, I am reflecting on God’s intervention in those early days of treatment. After a tumultuous first round of treatment at Flower Hospital where God intervened in a miraculous way, we were referred to the Cleveland Clinic.

Caring bridge Post 02/08/2013:

…This is not to say that Thursday morning went super smoothly, the keys to the rental car that my parents were driving ended up locked in the trunk right at the time that we were supposed to leave. But God had it under control, AAA arrived in record time and the hospital said they were able to shuffle things for us. He brought Jeff T and Larry B to our door on a prayer walk and they prayed for both Allana and I this brought us peace in this moment of turmoil. However neither of us had peace as to which way to go. I wanted
her admitted and the treatment started right away, but I knew it was out of fear NOT out of an understanding of God’s will.

Allana seemed to be strongly leaning towards delaying or even discontinuing treatment, especially if all the tests were clear. She so desperately wanted to stand on complete healing.

After the bone marrow test and the discussion with the doctor it was time for the rubber to hit the road.The doctor started to move on the assumption of admission and I stopped that and said we had a few questions.We asked our questions but they were really immaterial to the prayers of our spirits with the Holy Spirit for clarity and peace.

I waited for Allana to make her objection and prepared to engage the doctor for her, but she looked up and quietly said, “let’s do it”. I turned her head towards me and looked her in the eye, ” You don’t have to.It is YOUR decision.Are you sure?””I am sure.” she replied. Instantly the peace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit rolled over us. The outcome was what I had wanted all along but the path I had been headed on to get their was not going to bring the peace that I was desperate for, even though the end would have been the same; the road would have brought more fear and lessened my clarity with the Holy Spirit.

We do not serve a God who holds or a faith that promotes that the end justifies the means.  In fact I would suggest exactly the opposite is true.  Our faith in Jesus Christ is one where the means justifies the end. Paul tell’s the Philippians:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; Philippians 1:27

The verse starts with Monon, only, alone.  This one thing do, Paul says.  It is not about the result.  That is in the hands of God.  It is about the means.  We can arrive at God’s intended result and be so far outside of His peace because we did not conduct ourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ, we did not walk according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4).

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This is a Facebook post by my wife Allana.  She is my Hupomone partner in life.  Her dedication to God and our family as we have walked the path laid in front of us has been nothing short of amazing.  I started and stopped writing about this day several times.

 

January 4th, 2013 does not hold a Facebook post. From Facebook’s perspective it was a day of silence. Yet, when the word ‘Leukemia’ was spoken, my day was anything but silent. Within a few minutes of being told my diagnoses, I was wheeled away for a CT scan and a bone marrow biopsy. I cried through both. All I could think about was my family. How would we tell our four children (Emily Rose Bowman, Robert Guidry, Sami Guidry, and Chayla Guidry). And Nisa…. what about my precious 19 day old miracle baby? I cried through my biopsy. Man, it hurt like heck, but it was my heart that hurt the most. I couldn’t stop crying. When the biopsy was finished the doctor left the room and let me be, but then I felt a hand rub my back and when I turned around I saw a nurse there. She was crying too. I told her I was sorry for losing it, but I was dreading telling my family. She said, “Honey, don’t be sorry, you have every right to cry, just remember, no one here will ever cry alone.” Yes this made me sob.

I finally gathered myself enough to get wheeled to my bed that waited for me down the hallway, but when the nurse opened the door, to my great surprise, there was my OB, tears running down her face and she was apologizing for not getting here in time to be with me for my tests. My OB is the one who sent me to the hospital when things just didn’t look right. And here she was. Crying at the door. She knelt down beside me and hugged me and prayed over me. Seriously, what kind of doctor does this?

As I was pushed closer to my room, I saw my husband talking on the phone, repeating again what at that moment seemed to be the darkest word in our language, “Allana has leukemia,” standing near him in the door way, was Nate Elarton. The look in his eyes is one I will never forget. It was one of sadness, deep love, and the tattletale signs that he was screaming on the inside wishing this moment was anything but true. He isn’t just our pastor, he is our friend.

Then as I came into the room, there I saw one of my best friends, Lisa K Shaull, holding my precious Nisa Faith, who was only 19 days old. Some how though I know Lisa was torn apart inside, on the outside, though I saw concern, I mostly saw a place of peace. When I was placed in my bed, I noticed another dear friend, one who is truly like a brother to me, Tim Rabara. Out of the three, he looked the most devastated, but I remembered he smiled and joked around that all the attention was on me, AGAIN. Trust me, in the months to come, Tim’s humor, though most might misunderstand, helped me A LOT!

As the day wore on, my room became silent, and Sam and I began to pray. God gave me the vision:

When I opened my eyes, I saw a beautiful music box, you know the one that has a beautiful ballerina spinning on top. He told me to come closer. As I did, I saw that it wasn’t a ballerina but a little girl dancing with her daddy. I smiled at the beauty they held, and yet a little bit of a hurt because I had never experienced such a thing. He told me to come closer. As I did, I saw that the little girl’s feet were on top of her dad’s. Tears formed in my eyes at the precious scene they made. He told me to come closer. As I did, I became that girl. His arms were gentle and yet strongly wrapped around me. My feet upon His. He said to me, “My precious daughter, I adore you. I cherish you. You are my prized possession. This road is going to spin us around and around. Keep your feet on mine; put your arms around me. No matter how fast we spin, I will never let go.”

My Heavenly Father kept His promise. He was with me every single step. I don’t look at this day, now 5 years ago as the most devastating thing that has happened to me or our family, oh sure, it was life changing! One of the most difficult journeys yet. The difference is that my faith in the One who held me never wavered for a second. I didn’t doubt His love for me. I didn’t doubt His faithfulness to be with me.

If you find yourself in a life spinning event, please allow me to encourage you… God loves you, more than you can comprehend. It doesn’t matter how much you doubt Him. It doesn’t matter how much you have pushed Him away, He still adores you. He finds you truly precious. He is calling to you, asking you to trust Him. This doesn’t mean your dance will stop or end, but it does mean that you can trust Him to never leave you or forsake you. He is faithful! He isn’t just faithful because I’m now looking at my cancer fight from a 5 year span, God is faithful because He is faithful. It’s that plain and simple. If He had chosen to take me home to be with Him, He would still remain faithful and He would be there with my family and help them through. Let God fill you with peace. Trust = Peace. I know. I lived it. He is so so good!

(a special thanks to Dani Herrera for taking the picture from my head onto paper)

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I am not sure what happened with my previous post but the photo I included caused most of the post not to be visible.  I have fixed that glitch and the whole post is now readable (I hope!) here

The fevers worsened.  We moved through Christmas and towards the New Year.  Sore throat spread to body aches and stomach pain.  These days so close to the day that everything changed are barely a blur in my memory.  I can remember little of what happened outside of the progression of the illness that we didn’t even know was there.  Even with the fevers and discomfort there was a blissful ignorance as to the journey that we were being called to embark on.  Just to put the whole piece into perspective, Nisa was born at 9:40 pm on December 16th.  The 17th is day one and we move on from there.  So we are looking at December 25th through January 1st.  As I review the various posts on Facebook I see faces of joy and innocence.  The fevers are a footnote to the joy of the season made even more joyful by the arrival of our miracle baby.  Allana even downplays the intensity of the fevers putting them at 102. By the night of the 31st they are spiking between 104 and 106, or maybe not wanting to worry her too much I fudge the numbers a little, I do not really remember..  A trip to the ER is only forestalled by the fact that the Ibuprofen is knocking them down into safer territory.  Still by New Years Day it was enough.  We called Allana’s OB office.  The doctor on call prescribes a heavy duty antibiotic and some anti nausea medicine to mitigate the side effects.  We start it right away, but of course she does not get better.  By January 2nd Allana is very sick.  The pain in her belly has gotten much worse.  We suspect a postpartum infection but don’t understand why the antibiotics do not help.  January 3rd is a Thursday.  We arrive at the OB office at 10:00 am and are ushered in to the examining room.  Our Nurse Practitioner listens patiently to the story, but as the physical exam progresses her demeanor changes.  There is an urgency to her motions as she feels the abnormal swelling in Allana’s belly, the tenderness and lumps at her joints.  I can feel my apprehension risings, but still there are so many pills, shots, treatments…a quick fix is in order…

“I have called the Flower Hospital, they are expecting her.”  What…we need to get some tests… “No we are admitting her.”  We have plans can it wait until Monday… “No, I want you there within 2 hours, go home settle the children and pick up what you need.  Once you are there they will begin running tests to see what is going on.”

FlowerJan3Well if you have to be in a hospital you might as well have a beautiful view and a beautiful woman to share it with.

It was only shortly after this picture was taken that I would hear the word “Leukemia” for the first time, mixed in with a couple of other potential causes for Allana’s test results.  If the fevers were the relentless clacking as the rollercoaster climbs the first rise, then this was the ominous pause before the first drop.  The ride would not stop for almost a year.  However while the emotions and physical aspects rode the speeding rails, God remained rock solid and faithful.  The outpouring of love from God’s people was incredible.  Even in the midst of the myriad of “spiritual” advisers who decried our lack of faith for continuing treatment or saw this as a sign of trouble in our walk with God; His love overwhelmed us. “Traveling deeper and deeper.  Closer closer to God”  Allana’s words would ring with truth in a way that neither of us could ever imagine.  Deeper and Deeper. Closer, closer to God…there was no where else to go.

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Good Morning!

So yes I have taken a break from writing while Allana was writing her “90 Day Faith Walk”.  I share some of the posts here but if you would like to do the whole “Walk” you can find it HERE.  Also her women’s group True Beauty is open for new members from April 26th until May 17th.  There is currently a waiting list but Allana will be adding additional members.  The group operates on Facebook and is by invitation only.  If you are interested you can email me for more information.

 

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

David knew about enemies.  He faced them in a literal way that few of us have ever (and most of us will never) experience.  Whether it was the giant Goliath or his own son Absalom David’s life was filled with the turmoil that mortal enemies brings. We are unlikely to face an armored giant or have our son plot to steal everything we have but the enemies we face are just as real as those that assaulted David’s peace. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  Other times ( and this phrase is a poetic restatement of the “Valley of the shadow of death”) the simple fact that we are God’s people in an ungodly world places us in the presence of our enemies.  God’s table provides sustenance and hospitality in the presence of those who hate him and us and it IS God’s table.  He does not call us to prepare our own tables in enemy territory.  He calls us to sit at his table under the covering of his hospitality.  Just as wisdom prepares a place for those who seek God in Proverbs 9, God has prepared this haven in the midst of turmoil.

There is the key phrase, “in the midst”, David says “In the presence”.  This is a concept that too many Christians just don’t get; that too many preachers and teachers ignore.  It is attractive to us, to just avoid the whole “valley of the shadow of death”.  Certainly if I pray right and have enough faith I can just stay on the mountaintop all the time!  When Allana was first diagnosed with cancer we had several very well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who assumed that if we just prayed and had faith Allana would be instantly and miraculously healed.  Now don’t get me wrong I completely believe that God does heal!  I also believe that God intervened on many occasions throughout our journey through Cancer.  However when Allana and I prayed and sought God, especially following our first round of Chemotherapy, His answer was “I need you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff will comfort you.  I will prepare a table in the presence of your enemies.  You will dwell in My house forever.”  The fruit that has come from the walk in the valley has been truly amazing.  God has provided opportunity after opportunity for us to share Him with so many.  Here is the cool thing about the tradition of hospitality in the Old Testament times, strangers were welcome at the table.  The table that God has prepared for us “in the presence of mine enemies” is one that we are free to invite ALL to join.  It is not a table that we are supposed to wall off or cower under.  It is a place that is made for us to introduce our enemies to our most gracious (literally full of grace) host Jesus Christ our saviour and Lord.  Who will you invite to sit at God’s table?

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The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

The nature of biblical Hebrew poetry is repetitive.  This form can serve three functions.  It creates a literary elegance that is aesthetically pleasing.  It emphasizes the thought the poet is trying to convey.  It also allows the poet to clarify the thought being conveyed, particularly when the first iteration is a metaphor.  In the first two verses David offers one of the most universally recognized biblical metaphors.  In verse three he opens his heart and repeats the metaphor in the plain words of his experience. “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake.”  There is a temptation to equate the green pastures and the quiet waters with the circumstances of our lives.  This can be the trap of the Nineteen Days.  We can begin to believe that the restoration of our souls and the righteousness of our lives are tied up in how things are going.  This is especially easy when thing are going great.  We read “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” and we say wow the green pastures are the thing.  As long as I am in green pastures I am going to be ok.  In fact I am going to do everything I can to stay in green pastures.  The hook is that when we do this we stop following God.  The green pastures are not about our life circumstances, they are about God.  He restores my soul.  The path along the quiet waters, the path of righteousness is not about us and where we are, it is about who is our guide.  In fact David goes on to talk about circumstances.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”  When I first read through this with the Nineteen days in mind, I thought, “Here it is, day 20, been there done that.”  But as I began to pray about it God gently told me, day 20 is no different.  Why is the rod and the staff so comforting?  The symbolize authority and power, support.  Is it that God will thunder in to the valley and beat back all the darkness?  Perhaps The Shepherd, the Jewish superhero from the comics David read as a boy would; with lightning bolts firing from the rod and the staff crashing down with the power of an earthquake.  This does not fit the metaphor.  What did the good shepherd use his rod and his staff to do?  We only need to step back to the beginning of David’s beautiful poetry, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”  Sorry no thunderous rescue.  The reality is that our circumstances do not change the behavior of our God.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me….they make me lie down in green pastures, they lead me beside still waters.  Take comfort whether in the nineteen days, the years that precede them or the days that follow, God is God, He is our great shepherd.  If you follow the direction of his rod and his staff you will find yourself in green pastures, besides still waters.  Your soul will be restored no matter how battered it is and  you will find yourself on the path of Righteousness, not by any effort of you own but by direction of the only one who can lead you home.

 

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The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

He leads me beside quiet waters.”

I have only been white water rafting once and it was in the middle of a terrible summer drought so that what should have been a harrowing, exciting and somewhat dangerous adventure turned out to be more of a stroll in the park on a sunny day.  I know that this same river in other seasons has been dangerous to the point of claiming lives.  The rivers and streams of David’s Israel were just as changeable.  One minute they could be quiet streams bubbling along and then a cloud burst, perhaps not even in the immediate vicinity, could swell them to deadly proportions.  The “quiet waters” is probably a reference to the many small springs throughout the land of Israel.  Cool, clean and refreshing these springs were a safe place of comfort for thirsty sheep.  God desires to lead us in places of refreshing safety; paths of restoration and righteousness that fulfill His purpose for His people.   Enjoying the rest and nutrition of the green pastures and following our Great Shepherd beside the quiet refreshing, restoring waters of His grace and love are Spiritual disciplines.  There is the temptation during the Nineteen Days to believe that we do not need to walk in the Spirit.  Everything seems wonderful….nothing could happen to steal the joy and peace we feel right.  When we place ourselves in that frame of mind we begin to rely on the circumstances of our life for our well-being instead of our Great Shepherd.  David makes it clear that the pastures and waters are not about circumstances.  “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”  Righteousness and restoration are about our relationship with God.

Here is the hook.  Since the pasture and the waters are not about circumstances, we are no less resting in green pastures on day 20 than we are on day 2.  Just because we have a situational change (even a drastic one) the reality of the Spiritual disciplines of the pasture and the waters are not impacted whatsoever!  However it does not FEEL that way!  If we could just ride the whole way on our feeling of well-being then it would not involve Spiritual discipline.  When I was holding Nisa and rejoicing in well-being as Christmas approached and we felt gifted beyond belief the pasture and the waters seemed a no brainer.  When I sat on that hospital bed with my wife’s health failing beside me and heard the word’s, “I am sorry Allana has leukemia”  and then “I am sorry but the leukemia is Philadelphia positive, without a bone marrow transplant….” it would seem that everything had changed.  The pasture vanished, the waters became bitter….or had they. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me”.  The valley of the shadow of death is about circumstance.  The verbs in Hebrew are all in the same tense (except for anointed).  They all indicate current and ongoing action.  The green pastures and still waters do not vanish because we are in the valley.  If we focus on His rod of guidance and his staff of protection the nourishing green grass of His Word and the refreshing waters of His Spirit remain as we walk the path of Righteousness because none of it depends on me or my circumstances.  It all depends on HIS NAME.  “And there is salvation in no * one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Enjoy the green pastures and still waters TODAY!

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