We’ve been prepared.

Tonight, as Linnea and I walked around the block with the dog, we decided to look for ways God had prepared our family for the crisis we’re now experiencing. Listed below are our seven children, each one brought close to their ailing father by a sudden change of circumstances only God could have orchestrated.

Nelson: He felt strongly God wanted him to sell his Nashville landscaping business last June. When the season was at its peak, he asked the Lord to bring a buyer. A friend of a friend who already had a landscaping business mentioned he’d like to expand. Word got back to Nelson and within a week they’d struck a deal. He wasn’t sure what God wanted him to do next when the news of pancreatic cancer came, and Nelson drove home. Two days ago he said, “Please know the two of you will never be alone throughout this whole ordeal. I’m here, and that’s that.”

Lars: He’s been based in California since first becoming a student at Azusa Pacific University in 1994, 15 years ago. Recently, his boss at Matrix offered him a job transfer from San Diego to Schaumburg, IL. He was weighing the decision when the news of his father’s cancer arrived. He took the new position, and within 72 hours was moving to Illinois, 90 miles from us instead of 2000 miles.

Linnea: Having taught high school English in Ocala, FL, since she and Adam married six years ago, her job was tenured and secure. After taking a year’s leave of absence when Skylar was born last year, she had to return to teaching this fall or lose tenure. Eventually she signed the contract to begin in August. In the weeks between signing and starting, she learned she was pregnant with baby #2 and let her job go. When the cancer news arrived, she was free to come to Michigan to stay indefinitely.

Klaus: He was based in Nashville, working in the volatile music business. When his assignment came to a sudden end in early September, he wasn’t sure what was next. He found a job in sales, his expertise, and is working in Chicago, two hours from us rather than eight hours away in Tennessee.

Hans: He and his British wife Katy live with baby Nicholas in England. Although he has been aching to come home to be near his dad, he’s been blocked by passport and visa complications. This story is too spectacular to squeeze into one paragraph so will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog.

Louisa: She lived through two very difficult years after high school, then chose to spend six months out of the country with Youth With A Mission. She returned a changed girl, devoted to the Lord and strengthened to bear what was about to rock her world, a father with terminal cancer.

Birgitta: She visited Nashville with the intent of pursuing her love of singing in the music capital of our nation. Her desire was to rent an apartment, take a job and sing/write songs in her off hours. But Louisa persuaded her to stay in Chicago and be her roommate. In the end, the girls rented an apartment together in Wicker Park in one of their Uncle Bervin’s buildings, got jobs within walking distance, and are located one hour from our Michigan home.

As Linnea and I walked tonight, we ran out of block before we ran out of blessings. Only God could have plucked all seven of our children from jobs and homes scattered far and wide and brought them together exactly ahead of our cancer news. But here we are, weathering the storm, all in one place, all at the same time.

“God himself has prepared us for this.” (2 Corinthians 5:5a)

I can’t see the future.

Nate’s pain woke him with the message that it was time for his meds. After he took the pills, we spent time chatting in bed, waiting for relief to come. We talked about when the kids were little, remembering funny things they’d said. Then suddenly he became introspective.

“Life’s interesting,” he said. “Its like you come up against a wall that’s ten feet tall but you can’t see over it. On the other side is your future. You want to see it, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t.”

I believe he’s beginning to absorb the truth of his pancreatic cancer, the raw statistic that of 37,000 people who had this disease last year in our country, 95% of them died within their year of diagnosis. Nate is a numbers man. He’s logical. He understands bad odds when he reads them.

“I want you to dig out my life insurance policy today so I can refresh my mind about its terms,” he said. “We also need to find my will and re-read it. And I want to be sure you have power of attorney. That’ll make everything easier when I’m not around.”

I wanted to sit bolt upright and yell, “Stop! What about the other 5%? Maybe that’ll be you!” But something inside my head said, “Don’t interrupt. Let him say what’s on his mind.” It was God I’m sure, making me bite my lip. When Nate finished talking, I agreed to find the files.

After a morning nap, he re-opened the subject. “Can you hunt for those documents now?” I found them, and then sat quietly with my Coke Zero, watching Nate study the life insurance policy. He knit his brow and then nodded slightly.

“I think you’ll be ok, even if you live into your nineties.”

“It’s awful to think of you not being here,” I said, fighting tears but trying to sound like we were having an everyday conversation. “Maybe we could take a trip in the near future, like to Greenfield Village or someplace.” But both of us knew my suggestion wasn’t compatible with the immediate future we could already see.

“Sure,” he said, wanting to make me happy. “Good idea.”

After he studied all the documents, he seemed to be satisfied. He rested his head back on the chair, folded his hands over his chest and closed his eyes.

“You know,” he said, “even if I could jump up and get a quick look over that wall into my future, by the time I really got there, it would have changed anyway.” And in that statement, there was a letting go of the pressure to control what he knows he cannot.

Twice in recent days Nelson has quoted this phenomenal Proverb:

“A man’s heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Nate has made his plans. They include insurance, a will, power of attorney and other things. But today he accepted the truth that he can’t control what actually happens. God will be the one to say when Nate’s earthly steps stop and his heavenly ones begin. But there is nothing to fear. Quite the contrary, its all good news:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

It’s good to be home.

We are astounded by the loving care lavished on us over the last ten days by family, friends, neighbors and even total strangers. The impact is profound when we hear of groups coming together to pray for us, or when another person says they’ve been praying every hour of the day. We just can’t get over it.

Our fridge and freezer are stocked with food I didn’t make. We are set for weeks to come! Our mailbox is full of encouraging words and nourishing Scriptures. Also in the mail are gifts: worship CDs, uplifting poems, gift cards. One envelope contained a large check directed toward the travel expenses of our children as they make their way home: $700 for seven children. We are speechless.

Today as we drove to Chicago from Michigan, we enjoyed the company of Nate’s brother, Ken, who is staying with us for a while. The two of them have a long, positive history, and Ken’s arrival yesterday gave us all a boost.

After several months of not seeing his only sibling, Ken wept as he hugged Nate, who comforted him in his mix of grief and love by saying, “It’s ok, Ken. Take all the time you need.” The dramatic physical change was excruciating for Ken to see.

Today was not easy for Nate. He was injected with a long tube of radioactive dye at 10:15, then underwent radiation #4 at 11:00, followed by a full body bone scan that was supposed to take place at 2:00 but didn’t kick off until 3:20. Not having expected such delay, we hadn’t packed his pain medication. It ran out when he was on the table under the massive scan camera, and his agony spanned the better part of that hour.

After it was over, the staff kindly found him two bags of ice for his back pain, and we hustled him into the wheelchair and off to the car for the long ride home in rush hour traffic. Although Ken and I were worn out, Nate was worn out times ten. Yet as we motored toward Michigan, he spent nearly 40 minutes in several business phone conversations, trying to put out fires and give legal counsel to those calling his cell phone who didn’t know of his cancer.

Arriving home, the intoxicating aroma of pot roast and potatoes welcomed us. Just as meaningful were the vacuum lines in the carpet and the scent of pumpkin spice candles. Nelson had built a fire on this cold, rainy evening, and the scene whispered, “You’re home now. All is well.”

Mary had been busy again. Clean, folded laundry was piled high. The dog was missing, which meant he was on a walk with her. Beds were made, and most impressive, 26 chocolate puddings sat on the counter (next to a warm apple pie).

The best was yet to come, however, when the front door opened and Linnea, Adam and Skylar walked in, all the way from Florida, chauffeured from the airport by Klaus. Mary and Bervin joined us for dinner, and we sat in a circle in the living room, centered around Nate in his lazy boy. (Straight chairs around the dining table are too painful now.)

After a yummy meal, Nate wanted to go right to bed. Once he was settled in, he and I read email and snail mail from far and near. And as he drifted off to sleep, the following email sentence hung in the air:

“We think we know what roads there are to travel, but God can lead us even when there are no paths.”

Today God led us along a path we didn’t want to follow, but the way was dotted with blessings: praying friends, a mailbox full of goodies, a brother pushing Nate’s wheelchair, two bags of ice for pain, a stocked freezer, a clean house, a crackling fire, our grandbaby and her parents, and a road that led back home.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)