Saturday, June 25, 2016

Five Years

Five years ago this morning, at about 7am, I was reaching my hands as far outside of the window as my IV tubes would allow.

It was a beautiful June morning, full of a slow summer calm that would soon break into a hearty Kansas thunderstorm. My fifth-floor hospital room had quite the view. Directly below me was a parking lot; but beyond that, I could see people walking and making their way to work along tree-lined streets and sidewalks. I longed to escape the stale coolness of the hospital; but my IVs only allowed my hands and forearms to reach outside – to be hugged by the comforting humidity.

As I looked down upon those tree-lined streets and sidewalks, I reflected upon times past, when my brother William and I had pedaled our bikes down those familiar neighborhoods. I wanted to go biking with my brother again; but for the past several weeks I hadn’t been able to pedal a bike at all, because of the intense pain in my abdomen that had been chronically growing for more than 6 months. Never had I imagined that I would be in the situation I was, looking down on those streets from hospital windows up above. My Saturday was already planned for me. Soon my family would be arriving. Then I would be wheeled into a surgery room. At best, I would wake up to hear that the doctors had removed the third of my colon that had folded in on itself and died. At worst, I would wake to hear that the portion of my colon had been removed, and that the underlying cause of all my pain was confirmed to be cancer.

While waiting for my family to arrive and my surgery to begin, I decided to put on my headphones to listen to the newly released Coldplay song, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.” It isn’t by any means my favorite song; but I have done my best to listen to it every June 25th since that memorable morning in the hospital, back in 2011. I listened to that song a few times; and took a picture of myself since no one else was there. Soon a heavy rain started to fall. I took out my headphones, and closed the window only as much as I needed to in order to keep out the rain. I wanted to hear the thunder. My family arrived; and shortly thereafter, I was carted away to the operating room.

I don’t remember much from the rest of the day. I do remember waking up in the most intense pain I had ever experienced, only to hear the nurses say that they had already given me as much pain killers as a person should be given. Although I don’t remember it, my mom says that I began crying not long after waking up; but not just because of the pain, but because the doctor had just informed me that two large cancer tumors (one 4cm and another 5cm) had been removed, along with several cancer-infected lymph nodes, my appendix, one third of my colon, and a portion of my small intestine.

That all happened five years ago today. Generally, a person is referred to as having beaten cancer, after being cancer-free for five years. I had no idea what the next five years held for me; but in that moment I knew that I had cancer. Chemo treatments, genetic testing, huge medical bills, more surgeries, and plenty of other hardships were to follow. Most people would say that I had ample reason for concern and worry. The thing is, the past five years have been full with far more blessings than hardships. The cancer which I had to worry about, now rarely enters my mind. In fact, I had forgotten that today was the anniversary of my surgery. It was only when my wonderful 5-month old son’s crying made it impossible to focus on my sermon preparations for tomorrow, that I checked my email and found that my mom had wished me a happy five years being cancer free. Speaking of those sermon preparations, I had better bring this already-long contemplation to a close.

The conclusion of the story is this:

Serve God and trust Him no matter what troubles the future seems to hold, and you will find blessings, whatever may come. I am so very thankful to God for blessing me with a wonderful five-years being cancer-free; and tonight, I hope to celebrate these five years by eating pizza (which doctors say I should not eat because of my high risk of getting cancer again).

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A New Spring

This is not Spring as I am used to it.
In Kansas, the weather is usually already warmer by the time spring arrives. Here in Minnesota, the arrival of spring only means that daily temperatures make it above freezing.

In Kansas, the eagerness of spring comes in the form of waiting to see the daily progress of flower blooms and tree blossoms. In Minnesota, the eagerness of spring involves watching the snow slowly melt away into puddles.

Perhaps the best way for me to show you the differences between spring in Kansas and spring in Minnesota is through my pictures.

Looking down my street in Kansas on March 26th 2012

spring street MN
Looking down my road in Minnesota on March 27th 2013

Teddy nap
Teddy relaxing outside in Kansas on March 18th 2012

amos out
Amos resting outside in Minnesota on March 23rd 2013

A couple kids outside in Kansas on March 26th 2012

kids MN
A couple kids outside in Minnesota on March 23rd 2013

Hiking in Kansas on March 22nd 2012 (I love the clouds)

mn hike
Hiking in Minnesota on March 23rd 2013 (Notice how deep the snow is against the

ks stream
A garden stream in Kansas on March 25th 2012

mn stream
A stream in Minnesota on March 16th 2013

lake ks
Lake Shawnee in Kansas on March 25th 2012

lake bemidji
Lake Bemidji in Minnesota on March 30th 2013

Overall I honestly can’t say which version of spring I like more. Spring in Minnesota is colder, less colorful, and not what I am used to. But I like the more significant feeling of waking up from a real winter. And I like how in Minnesota I can look forward to spring and summer without dreading the extremely hot summer which always follows the short Kansas springtime.
No matter where you live, Spring is definitely here. That just means different things depending upon where you live.

Friday, February 8, 2013


blog frostfall
Sometimes it snows in Minnesota even when there are no clouds. And though I have experienced similar splendor before, this morning's display while doing chores was the most magical yet. My camera could not capture the scenes image; but hopefully your imaginations will be able to with the aid of my descriptions.

I did this morning what I always do during chores. I stopped to admire the scenery while the cows ate their breakfast. This morning’s display of the “cloudless snow” was so strong, that at first I thought they were just apparitions in my still-groggy eyes. I noticed what looked like miniature snowflakes lit by the sun’s rays as they peaked through the trees, and over the neighbor’s house. Then I looked all around me. I was surrounded by sparkling embers of crystal, whose widths were no wider than the strands from a spider’s web. The first light from the sun illuminated the winter air, turning them into what people of ancient times might have described as fairies dancing downward to earth. And though they were most apparent in the light, they were visible everywhere to a focused eye. They seemed
to make less than no sound at all as they fell.

What I saw really is not snow at all. At first I thought I was seeing frost drifting down from the tops of the trees.But the breeze was barely blowing. My best hypothesis about what I saw, is that they are water particles in the air. And because the air up here is so clear and cold, the water in the air freezes and falls without being troubled by first becoming a cloud. This must be a Minnesota winter’s version of the hazy humidity I have sometimes seen during the summers in Kansas. Surely there must be a technical name for what I saw; but I do not know it. So I will call it Frostfall.