Monday, April 30, 2012

Bone Marrow Update & IT IS FINISHED!

Marty & my Favorite Prez
GREAT NEWS! Kim is finally done with her last chemo treatment and was discharged from the hospital today! After 42 nights in the is FINISHED! I'm so proud of her and thankful to God. It's been an amazingly difficult but blessed four months. Unfortunately, I was not even in town for this momentous occasion because I'm in Washington D.C. right now attending a GE Leadership Conference (with Kim's blessing). Normally, I wouldn't have even considered going, but there are things happening at GE with the bone marrow initiative and telling our story was the best way to keep the momentum going. Believe it or not, the theme of the conference this year is "Leading With Courage: Share Your Story". How appropriate.

When the cancer hit in January my company supported me in every way possible. They graciously granted me an extended medical leave so I could focus on taking care of Kim and our kids. And soon after, when I asked some senior leaders at GE for their help on raising awareness for the bone marrow issue they stepped up BIG. In just two short months they have managed to run four separate bone marrow drives in each of our Chicago area offices, and they are about to roll out bone marrow drives in all of our major offices across the country! I was surprised to find out that they had also included a flyer at the conference for each of the 700 attendees telling our story and informing them of the process. I even got to share our story with our CEO and it was great to hear from so many leaders from all over the country who are eager to help. I'm so thankful to work for a company that doesn't just care about the bottom line, but cares deeply about it's employees. It's exciting to see how quickly things are moving and by the end of this, hopefully, there will be thousands of new registrants - and if even one life is saved it will be worth it.

I flew in late on Saturday night and got to worship on Sunday with the good folks at ChristReformed Presbyterian Church. I have known the pastor and his wife (Skip & Bonnie) since they were in seminary in St. Louis, back when I was in high school, and they and their church (especially a couple named John & Charlene) have been so faithful in praying for us. Charlene was diagnosed with breast cancer about 3 years ago and had to undergo her treatment despite being 24 weeks pregnant. Amazingly, by the grace of God, none of the chemo drugs went through the placenta and the baby was completely fine and by the way, he is the cutest and brightest three year old you will ever meet. After their service I had the privilege (along with Charlene) of sharing our testimony with them and was so blessed to see old friends and make new ones.

God has been so good and we are so thankful to have a story to share of His goodness and even our struggles in our darkest moments. As I've said before, being a "witness" does not mean just sharing the gospel with non-believers. I think it means sharing with others what the Lord has done and is doing in your lives - good and bad. Psalm 105 has been on my heart a lot lately and I'm trying to be faithful to it's call...

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! -Psalm 105:1-2

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beauty & the Beast: A Glimmer of Hope (Chapter 10)

KIM UPDATE: Kim is back in the hospital for Round Six now. She's doing well and is eager to finish injecting mice into her blood stream. (not kidding - google the contents of Rituxan).  Please continue to lift up prayers for our friends Andrew, Connor and Brooke. Andrew and Connor are preparing for their bone marrow transplants next month and they still have a long road ahead of them. For details see Joe's blog HERE. Thanks for all  your faithful prayers!
(If you're joining in late you can read previous chapters HERE.)
Accountant Pete
After the receipt of my "rejection letter" and four months of not talking, God finally opened the door - a tiny crack. I went up to campus in October of 1997 to visit for a Praise Night and after it finished I was talking to some friends in the foyer of Foellinger Hall, when I noticed her standing nearby with her back towards me. I remember seeing her and thinking,

"Okay, this is stupid. Just go say 'hi' to her, and let her know that you have no hard feelings." 
Since she was the last one to write, I guess I felt obligated to "make the next move".  So I walked up to her and tried to channel my inner "Rico-Suave" but that was impossible. Rico would not be bothered - he was too hurt from being ignored months prior. So I only had one "character" left - "Accountant Pete". Not quite as sophisticated as Rico or nearly as smooth with the ladies but if reconciling cash flow statements were an Olympic sport he would be on the cover of every Wheaties box. So I take a deep breath, walk up to her and strike up a conversation. I remember overall it was fairly superficial - I asked her how her senior year was going and how her family was doing. She did seem genuinely happy to see me (or perhaps "relieved" is a better word). Kim was good friends with my two younger sisters and so I knew she was stuck in an awkward position when we weren't talking. I know it wasn't a huge deal but I thought it was important to at least let her know through that simple gesture that I wasn't upset or bitter about what had happened four months ago. She seemed to appreciate that. I'd like to say that the romance was re-kindled that night and her passion for me burst into a white-hot inferno of gasoline-doused "Flamin' Hot Cheetos" (or something else that is really, really, really HOT). But to be honest, I think she was just glad that we could be friends - or at least friendly with each other.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Eagles

KIM UPDATE: This is it. Today we check-in for the last and final round - Round 6! It's hard to believe it's almost over. The side effects are accumulating as the toxins from the chemo build up in her body but overall she's doing great. Thanks for your prayers. 

Below is a video and some excerpts from a paper I did a few years ago at Moody called "Biblical Eagleology". It was inspired by some things my good pastor friend (Sung) shared with me many years ago which led to more study and has served as a faithful reminder of how God uses trials and tribulations so that we might live up to our God-given DNA and "soar on wings like eagles".

Have you ever noticed that there are few animals that are mentioned more in the Bible than eagles? Besides being our national symbol, there is something different about this unique creature and I believe God had something special in mind when He created them in that eagles were specifically designed to teach us something about God and ourselves. During a time of personal trial a few years ago, studying eagles in the Bible really blessed me because I realized so much of how God loves us and grows us is found in how He transforms helpless eaglets to soaring eagles. God often describes himself as an eagle. In reminding His people of how he redeemed them from their bondage and oppression in years past He said:  
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.” (Exodus 19:4)
Despite the adult eagles’ noble features and majestic qualities – the baby eagle (or eaglet) appears fairly non-descript and undistinguished. Born in appearance much like many other birds - frail and often grayish in color - the eaglet can be easily confused for many other average birds such as ducks, geese or even chicken. However, this does not change the fact that although the bird may look like other non-descript birds, she still carries the DNA of an eagle, regardless of her outward appearance or what she or others may actually think.

We as Christians are often like these eaglets; born frail, helpless and non-descript. Others may not immediately recognize us as being any different from any other “bird”. However, in an outward sense even Jesus seemed fairly ordinary on the surface (For he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. –Isaiah 53:2). Perhaps, in our immaturity, we are very similar to other baby birds. Totally helpless and completely dependent on our mother to feed and protect us and completely unable to fly. In some sense, many of us don’t even realize we were created to fly until we grow in maturity and strength and wisdom. But it is not the Lord’s desire or intention for us to remain in this condition forever. He calls us to be different from all other birds.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Very Happy Anniversary

...on April 21st, 2001, my beautiful wife said, "I do.", and God, Himself, joined us together...

Last year (on our 10 year anniversary) I pulled out my old college journal and found this entry dated March 19th, 1997 (4 years before we got married). I had not read it with Kim until our 10 year anniversary and it's a bit more meaningful today given what we have gone through since. (WARNING: the content is exceedingly sappy and spiritual - I'm pretty sure I was reading Jim Elliot's memoirs at the time I wrote this):   
April 21st, 2001
"Have been spending more time with Kim lately. Went out to study with Jane and her tonight at Barnes & Noble...I must admit that before really spending time with her, I had exceedingly high expectations of her and who she is. 14 months of prayer can easily do that. But what continues to surprise me is that as I see more of her I am realizing that my expectations of her were wrong -- they were much too low. Because when I see her, I see Christ, and what greater beauty is there then your Son who loved me and gave himself for me? I must confess at times I often stop in despair because I know I do not deserve someone like Kim. But I find peace and comfort in the gift of my salvation which was neither earned or deserved, and am quickly reminded that no good gift from You is really deserved. And this is how I see her. As a gift from You. Her friendship. Her sisterhood. Her Christ-likeness. All gifts from you. And if nothing comes of us more than these 3 things, I can still do nothing but praise my God because You have enriched my life because of her. And for that I am thankful." 
I told you it was sappy but it is true. It was true 15 years ago and even more true today....

To my lovely wife: "I love you." 
To my loving God: "I thank you." 

So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. -Genesis 29:20

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Friday, April 20, 2012

Beauty & the Beast: The Rejection Letter (Chapter 9)

KIM UPDATE: Kim is recovering well this week. Thanks for your prayers. She does have a hard time sleeping these days because of "hot flashes". Last night we slept with the sliding door to our bedroom open. Thank God for down blankets. The final round begins the middle of next week. We can see the finish line from here and it's time to sprint!
The road to Kim had to go through her cousin Bernie
(If you're joining in late you can read previous chapters HERE.) And so with Celine Dion's song on repeat in my CD player the summer of depression began (1997). It was a cruel, cruel summer. Leaving me here on my own. It was a cruel, cruel summer. Now she's gone. I guess Bananarama songs also took on new meaning for me as well.

Well, a few weeks after my visit to Champaign, I received a five page letter from Kim explaining why she felt like things were not working out. I pulled it out of the archives this morning and read it again for the first time in many years to write this chapter. In it she wrote:
"...I would like to still treat you as a brother in Christ. Thinking back, I don't think we treated each other any other way than a brother and sister and I hope that could still stay true. Peter, I still look at you as a brother and don't regret our friendship at all. I really hope you don't take all this personally - when you asked me that question over the phone about my decision being based more on circumstance or really is more circumstance and timing but yet at the same time i can't say for sure whether I can see things between us working out in the future...despite circumstance. And this is why I had said that I didn't want you to wait - or keep hoping. It isn't fair for you."
Ahhhhh! This was basically the "let's just be friends" cliche ending with the classic "it isn't's me" line slightly altered to " isn't fair for you". Trust me, at that point I already knew life was not "fair". I had three sisters growing up and when you are stuck watching "Gidget" and "Little House in the Prairie" every day of the summer break you quickly realize life is not fair. That said, knowing Kim I knew that this was about as strong a worded rejection as possible - it was her way of saying, "Go away! Leave me alone! You creep!" (Okay, maybe the "creep" part was a little over the top....perhaps "loser" would be more apropos?) She then described her recent conversation with our college pastor. Reading it again this morning gave me chills as I found it to be very prophetic:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prayers Needed....

KIM UPDATE: Kim is doing well right now. Round 5 resulted in lot of "hot flashes" and intense body aches from the Neulasta shot but the worst appears to be over and we are gearing up for our last and final round next week. 

PRAYER REQUESTS: If you would be kind enough to lift up a prayer for a beautiful  young lady named Brooke, who is the daughter of some friends of ours - we would be so grateful. I can't share much but she is in dire straits right now and needs a miracle and would appreciate any prayers you might offer up for her and her family. Also, please continue to lift up Andrew and Connor and their families as they undergo difficult preparations for their bone marrow transplants in mid-May. But what an answer to prayer finding matches were! Praise the Lord! Someone sent me a link to this article from the Chicago Tribune today which profiled Connor. Please read this moving story if you have a moment. Thanks. 
[taken from the Chicago Tribune, Wed, 4/18/12]

Since their son Connor Lim was born, Stephanie Park and Steven Lim have been on countless trips to doctors and hospitals dealing with lung infections, dozens of ear infections and constant sickness. It wasn’t until he was 3-years-old that Connor was diagnosed with X-linked immunodeficiency with hyper–immunoglobulin M — a rare immunodeficiency that makes it hard for the body to fight off infection.

Connor, now 7, is being treated, but the only true cure comes through a bone marrow transplant. But finding a donor has proved nearly impossible. After four years and about 2,200 donors, they have only found one match. “It’s just been a rollercoaster,” Park said. “We actually had a match in December of last year. We were elated and then she backed out.” They don’t know why their donor had a change of heart, but it was devastating for the family....[see full article HERE].

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Monday, April 16, 2012

Seeing Jesus in the Cosmos

"What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" -Psalm 8:4

What a humbling perspective. Not long ago the pastor of my church (Dr. James MacDonald) spoke about the utter vastness of the universe and how perhaps God created it to be as large it is to demonstrate how great He is and how very small we are. Amen. It's amazing that such a great God would be mindful of us - let alone love us enough to die for us.

So before the cancer hit a good friend of mine gave me an article from Scientific American called "The Origin of the Universe" (Sept, 2009 issue) and asked me to decipher it. Now, I'm no scientist by any stretch of the imagination but I found it to be a fascinating (albeit difficult) read that actually created more questions than answers. On a high-level - here is what I took away from it:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Cancer (Scott Hamilton)

Just an amazing story on the sovereignty, providence and nearness of God in the midst of cancer...
"You have to understand that Christianity is a faith of history. These things actually happened. Just study what has happened and see how that resonates in your own life."

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beauty & the Beast: The Rejection (Chapter 8)

KIM UPDATE: We are home! Kim had a great Round 5 and she is showing the "heart of a champion"! One more round to go. Thank you all for your prayers. Literally, as soon as we walked in the door I got a text from Joe Park that Andrew was finally being released to go home as well (after a long and difficult chemo round). Please keep him and Connor in your prayers as well. God is so good and works in mysterious ways!
Okay, this is where I quit writing the last time around. I couldn't go past Chapter 8 - it was just too painful. But seeing Kim beat cancer has given me newfound strength! I've added a little more from the last time I wrote this, which is why it's so long and besides my former 2nd grade teacher has already expressed how upset she was because the suspense was killing her so I'm trying to move it along. By the way, this story is kind of like the Titanic. You all know the ending. I win and Kim loses! So please no more death threats - especially if you are a 2nd grade teacher at a Christian school. =)  (If you're joining in late read previous chapters HERE.)

Although, I got the exact answer I was looking for it seemed Kim was as excited about praying about a relationship as a bald man gets buying conditioner. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for her to make a decision. It’s not like it was brain science…..or rocket surgery. Some of you may be wondering why Kim was crying when I popped the big question? How the heck would I know? Why does any girl cry? While you’re at it, why don’t you ask me to solve life’s other greatest mysteries like:

Who killed JFK?

How do bumblebees fly?

Where do black socks go?

Why does the Incredible Hulk turn green when angry?

Fact is even girls don’t know why they cry. Sure they’ll come up with some reason like “I was feeling sad.” or “You hurt my feelings.” or “It needed stitches.” but trust me – they’re as clueless as the men. I think it has to do with some dynamic combination of the lunar calendar, wind direction, chocolate consumption, who is on Oprah, interplanetary alignment, Brad Pitt’s marital status and how many games the Cubs are behind the Cardinals. But that’s just my personal theory – which is based on 10+ years of marriage and growing up with 3 sisters, so I think it’s a pretty good theory.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" -Job 19:25-27

(an oldie but goodie from Keith Green)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What if God?

Reposted in honor of the One who has risen...

What if God?
What if God became a man?
Would he arrive in secret....or announce his coming? (Isaiah 7:14)
Would he come in riches....or in rags? (Luke 2:7)
Would he appear majestic...or ordinary? (Isaiah 53:2)
Would he conceal himself...or let us witness? (1 John 1:1)
Would he speak in clich├ęs….or transcendent truth? (Matthew 7:28)
Would he be pious….or perfect? (Luke 23:41)
Would he abolish the old….or fulfill it new? (John 5:39)
Would he feel what we feel?
Fatigue? (John 4:6)
Thirst? (John 19:28)
Sorrow? (John 11:35)
Pain? (Psalm 22:1)
Would he come to be served…or to serve? (John 13:5)
Would he demonstrate supremacy over…
Our laws? (Mark 2:28)
Our traditions? (John 2:19)
Our sins? (Luke 7:49)
The natural? (Mark 4:41)
The supernatural? (Matthew 8:16)
Disease? (Matthew 12:15)
Death? (John 11:25)
Even his own? (1 Corinthians 15:6)
What if we were not good enough to reach God? (Romans 3:23)
Would he be good enough to come to us? (John 3:16)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Seeing Jesus in the Rock (the Spear in His Side)

KIM UPDATE: We're back in the hospital today for Round 5. Since Kim is officially "in remission" and finishing the last two rounds is fairly basic we've moved back to NWCH which makes commuting, family visits, etc much easier. We're so thankful for the great care we got at U of C but it is nice to be back closer to home. Please pray for Kim as she administers her last two "knockout punches". There's still a lot of work to do. Please continue to pray for Andrew & Connor as well if you would. 
But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  -John 19:33-34

After Kim was admitted to the ER on January 7th the most urgent issue that needed to be addressed was not the massive cancer tumor they found in her chest - it was her "pericardial effusion". This is just a fancy medical term for the massive fluid build-up that had formed around her heart. My dad just happened to be visiting from St. Louis the weekend she was admitted and since he was a doctor, the oncologist allowed him (and me) to see the actual CT scan of her chest. It took my breath away. At first glance her heart appeared to be about 2 or 3 times the normal size pushing her lung off to the side but the oncologist pointed out that this was just the sac around her heart filled with fluid that we were seeing.

Apparently, if the heart is under significant duress one of it's defense mechanisms is to allow fluid to build up around it so it can protect the body's most vital organ. In Kim's case the tumor in her chest had grown so large (7x4 cm) that it was irritating her heart lining - leading to this fluid-buildup. Despite the fact that it was Sunday morning, the surgical team immediately put in a window (hole incision) to drain the fluid because the pressure had become so great that it was beginning to compromise her heart's ability to function. Believe it or not they drained the equivalent of a wine bottle full of water and blood.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Cancer (The Crown of Thorns)

In just the last 24 hours we found out that two people we know and have been praying for passed away to cancer. One yesterday (Jamie's mom) and the other this morning (Rich L - 40 yo with 3 children). Please lift up the families of Rich as well as Jamie as they make funeral arrangements and grieve the loss of their loved ones. Our hearts grieve with them. Cancer is a horrible curse. It's so difficult to understand because we all inherently know it does not belong in this world. The disease is merciless and cruel. How could a loving God permit cancer to exist? Today's post attempts to understand why cancer exists and its ultimate destiny....
"...and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said." -Matthew 27:29

Like many of you, I've been meditating on the last week of Jesus as found in the gospels and I'm intrigued by the "crown of thorns" placed on Jesus' head. For many years I just glossed over this detail as nothing more than one added form of mockery the Roman soldiers bestowed upon Jesus, but I've come to realize there is something much more profound going on here.

Scripture tells us that when God created the universe "it was good" . However, once man fell (Gen 3) and sin was introduced into the world a curse fell not only upon humanity but upon all of creation - and since that day all that God created as good has been marred by the effects of sin. These effects include evil acts of mankind, natural disasters, all kinds of sickness (yes, including cancer!)and even death. In the beginning this was not how God created the world. The tell-tale sign that this curse had fallen upon creation was that the earth would now produce  "thorns and thistles" and the work mankind needed to do for sustenance would no longer be a source of joy but a source of "painful toil" (Gen 3:17-19). In other words, "thorns and thistles" became a profound symbol of "the curse" upon all of creation.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Gospel of John

KIM UPDATE: Kim is doing well after the great news we received last Thursday that she was in "complete remission". We're still walking on air. That said, the chemo is still taking a toll on her body and as soon as she starts to feel better she is back at it for another round. We will be starting Round 5 later this week. Also, please continue to lift up Andrew (blog HERE) and Connor as they prepare for their big bone marrow transplants in mid-May. Oh, one last thing, Kim's courage has inspired me to finally get my last 3 wisdom teeth pulled this afternoon without anesthesia (just kidding on the anesthesia part). Please pray for quick healing as our next round on Thursday.
Well, it's Passion Week and so it didn't feel right posting another chapter of "Beauty & the Beast" during a week when we are reflecting upon THE greatest love story ever told. So in light of this, I thought it would be more appropriate to share a video with you instead. It's a first person creative retelling of the gospel of John in about 9 minutes.

If you have friends or family that have little desire in opening up a Bible but would be open to watching a video about THE main character in the Bible - please feel free to forward it to them or pass it along. I believe it to be the greatest story EVER told.

Music: Soundtrack from "The Mission" by Ennio Morricone

May the Lord bless you this Passion Week and may you SEE the one who made you and loves you more clearly than ever before.

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim