Cancer is Wood

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series "Liam's Battle" --

Fred and I met in the fall of 1995 at Southwest Texas University (now Texas State University). I was a 17 year old freshman and he was a senior. We met at the first chemistry club meeting. He told me I had cold hands (he asked to shake my hand after I was elected secretary of the new club), and I later told my roommate that I had met a really nice guy but he was way too old for me. A Friday night group movie night (planned by Fred just to have a way to ask me out without asking me out on a one on one date), a Saturday night group outing to listen to music and dance at Nephews (I walked down to the square in San Marcos to check to make sure I could actually get into the venue), and a Sunday morning “date” to attend church and Sunday school together, and I was smitten.

A year and a half later, we had been already been engaged to be married for 7 months and the plan was to wed when I graduated (scheduled for May 1998…I was on the “I took a bunch of AP classes in high school and am willing to work through the summers to complete this degree” program); however, Fred and I wanted to move the wedding up and start our happily ever after. My parents wanted me to finish school. So, Fred and I flew out to northern Virginia for Spring Break to discuss the possible change in plans.

My parents were preparing to put their house on the market. (My dad had been reassigned to Fort Sill, OK.) Unlike the previous trip that Fred had taken to visit my parents, the tenor of this visit did not involve sight seeing or national monument visitation. This trip involved a lot of work…together.

We stacked firewood. And my dad watched our interaction. The temperatures fell. And then dropped below freezing. And dad asked (told) us to power wash the large wooden deck. This was a task that neither Fred nor I had ever done before-alone or together, in good weather or bad. But we tackled it together and managed to enjoy a rather miserable time together. We took turns, we encouraged one another, we laughed, we borrowed a joke from the sitcom “Boy Meets World” that we still use, “This is the opposite of fun. This is wood.” And my dad watched.

At the end of Fred’s trip, my parents had a clean deck, we had the memory of a lifetime, and my dad gave his blessing for us to move our wedding to August of 1997…even though I wasn’t done with school, my sister was getting ready to finish high school/start college, and they were selling their home and moving halfway across the U.S.

What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, but am starting to appreciate more fully after 17 years of marriage, is that character is revealed as well as developed during times of conflict. My dad had already figured that out and was resourceful in using tasks that needed to be accomplished to see how Fred and I would work together in challenging times.

Our first year of marriage was a borderline disaster, but we endured the conflict that arises when one person has a schedule crammed too full of graduation requirements and the other is waiting for said person to graduate. We endured all of the frustrations that go along with learning to share a life (and small apartment) with someone else. We endured the transition to graduate school and my realization that I didn’t want a Ph.D. because I knew I would feel compelled to use it in a job outside of the home once I had earned it. We endured 5 years of a commuting marriage when I took a job at Portland Community College, while Fred finished his degree in Eugene. (I had an apartment in Portland and lived there during the week and came “home” to Fred on the weekends.)

We endured the stillbirth of our first child, a daughter who we had named, talked to, hoped for, and love deeply. We have endured the wonder, blessing, sleeplessness, and general nuttiness that parenting 4 kids can entail. We endured a chemical pregnancy and a miscarriage.

We have walked an interesting journey together and we continue to grow together as two become one flesh, a head and a body learning to serve each other as we respect, love, and cherbish (we both mispronounced “cherish” in our wedding vows) each other (Ephesians 5).

We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary by indoor skydiving, a surprise my sweet husband knew I would love. We laughed and made memories as we experienced the wonder of being supported by a force we could not see, but could definitely feel. We cheered for each other as we learned how to relax into the wind. We compared sore muscles after our brief flights.

And on August 17, 2014, the day after our 17th wedding anniversary, our sweet two-year-old Liam was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma. It is a horrible disease and the treatment for it seems cruel and unusual in many ways. Honestly, at first I felt like we were in free fall. But as we continue to endure and walk this journey together, I have come to realize that just like when we were skydiving indoors, we are being supported by an invisible force. We can’t see it, but we can definitely feel it. This is an opportunity for our character to be revealed and shaped. It is an opportunity for us to grow together as a couple as well as for our family to be unified.

Just like power washing the deck in freezing temperatures, we are in a situation that neither Fred nor I have experienced before, we are tackling it together, and managing to enjoy a rather miserable time.

Our audience has grown. We are blessed to have our family here to help.  My dad has a front row seat to this adventure as the long term substitute in our homeschool this year.  My mom is wearing many hats as she shuttles kids, cooks, cleans, runs errands, etc.  My sister and brother-in-law (and their girls) are walking along side of us, watching, supporting, teaching. And our children are watching how we handle this situation, growing, and learning some character lessons early in life.  We are enjoying an extended family support system orchestrated by a God who listened to our prayers to relocate to Texas for six years before allowing us to move to within 2 miles of my parents and sister to a job that was a perfect fit for Fred’s skill set and personality type. We have been blessed and humbled with an army of people praying for us and our son, people providing meals, people sending care packages and encouragement, people showing us God’s love.

Cancer is the opposite of fun. Cancer is wood. And yet, it is fueling a refining fire. We are not the people or parents that we were before our son was diagnosed. We are still imperfect, flawed, and human; however, we are calling on the name of the Lord and we testify that He is our God (Zechariah 13:9). He is faithful and just to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And He promises to use all things for the good of those who love Him…so that we can be conformed to the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:28-29). May our faith be proved genuine and result in praise, glory, and honor for Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

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6 thoughts on “Cancer is Wood

  1. Jenn & Fred:

    There are no words to express my unknown love for you both and the family. Through conversation, many times with your Dad ,I am beyond blessed with their friendship. Only 7 1/2yrs ago ,as a traumatic scenario unraveling, your Dad became my rock. Unfortunately, saddened times continued and your folks, well ,always right beside me. After a call ,2011 4 August ,I lost my Daddy. I had never met your folks in person. Less than a week after this horrific call, I stood in a funeral home watching people talk, laugh and take pics like it was a party…not the viewing for my Daddy. I turned briefly, noticing 2people walking towards me… I knew it was my Dave and Sue. I had spent the entire evening sad ,angry and alone in a room full of family and friends. Unfortunately, compassion and love were lacking. But ,after 1 second ,I’m embracing my angels ,for the first time, the Pointer’s. I knew then God had a purpose for your folks being in my life…guidance, Godly examples, strength, unconditional love…the list of adjectives are long.

    In just speaking with Sue the other night, I reiterated comments, in which I had made to your Dad. The “trickle affect” in your family, so overwhelming, full of love and strength. Our Heavenly Father sure broke the mold with these wonderful people, I’m blessed to have as friends/adopted parents. To hear stories, receive pics and carry many conversations over 7 yrs ,I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know you and your sister from afar.

    The trickle affect has made it’s way down to the grand kids. All credit and thanks to Him ,so much has been passed from them ,to you sisters and now your kiddos…while definitely no sugar coating involved…my Dave is tough, but fair with advice 😉 I lack tangible, earthly examples of how the Lord works ,strength, love, support and just simplistic, unconditional kindness. Perfection, I know, doesn’t exist…but, I want to thank you guys also. Your examples of FAMILY ,completely fill my heart and soul. I pray, in time I’ll eventually get to meet you all in person. We have no problems or complaints, just situations, is what I’ve always taught my students/athletes. And to always always continue to learn, grow and adapt when needed (according to His word). Standing firm in Jesus’ name, rebuking all illnesses and struggles. My love to all!

  2. I don’t know why the Lord chooses the struggles each of us face, but I have learned that He always does what is right. I know Christ has great plans for you, Fred and each of your children. As you follow Christ’s example please remember He only did what He saw His Father doing. May Christ open your eyes to recognize what He has placed in your garden to tend, and what is not in your garden.

  3. “Why?” seems like such a useless question in situations like these, even though it ends up being one of the more natural things to ask. Even so, I appreciate one of the things Fred said to me recently about this whole journey. He pointed out that going through this has brought us so much closer than we could have imagined. I’m so appreciative of that because the grace that your family has displayed in the midst of all of this so amazing that it can only be explained as the good hand of our God upon, an indication that He is keeping His promise to never leave you or forsake you. Your family is glorifying God, and I am encouraged by your faithfulness in the midst of the trial. Moses may have sung a song of praise once they had all crossed the Red Sea, but I hear you singing your song as you are crossing over this huge chasm. We pray daily for Liam and your family, and we remain confident that will see the goodness of the Lord in this.

  4. Each of our journeys is one step at a time, one prayer at a time, but never alone.
    There is no where we can go where He has not been there first.

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