Now, I further saw, that betwixt them and the gate [of the Celestial City] was a river, but there was no bridge to go over: the river was very deep.
…The Pilgrims then, especially Christian, began to despond in their minds, and looked this way and that, but no way could be found by them by which they might escape the river. Then they asked the men if the waters were all of a depth. They said: No; yet they could not help them in that case; for, said they, you shall find it deeper or shallower as you believe in the King of the place.
They then addressed themselves to the water and, entering, Christian began to sink, and crying out to his good friend Hopeful, he said, I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head, all his waves go over me!
Then said the other, Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good.
– Pilgrim’s Progress
“I see two Georges!”
It was Thursday night, I believe. Alice was watching Curious George. We’d been worried about her, as you know from my last writing, only seven short days ago. This statement may forever be burned in our memory as the words that cemented in our minds the inescapable fact that her tumor had indeed returned. We weren’t seeing things; her eyes weren’t able to keep aligned anymore, and she was seeing double.
Friday night after Alice fell asleep we had a little family meeting to tell the kids what we were seeing and what we were almost certain was happening. We couldn’t keep it from them, not that we’d want to, but we wanted to be the ones walking them through it, not waiting for them to figure it out on their own. Tough stuff.
Over the next four days, we saw daily changes, in all the wrong directions. It was basically a rapid return to where we were when this thing started. She’s now rather wobbly on her feet, and often wears an eye patch Shelly made to relieve some of the strain on her eyes. It’s incredible how much has changed in the last seven days. We didn’t know what all the changes meant as far as her long-term condition, or exactly what was happening, so we publicly kept silent simply because we didn’t know what to say. We had a pretty good guess of what was happening, but we wanted to know for sure before we spoke. Shelly stayed home with Alice on Sunday; church is Alice’s favorite, but she just wasn’t in a place to be out and about.
As we thought about the MRI taking place this morning, our expectations were for nothing but a really, really bad day.
I like to read the Psalms on bad days. They help, because the best songs come out of really bad days. And I’m reading through the Psalms anyway. But the 5 or 6 I read this morning all had the same theme: “Things are bad, I’m getting creamed, until God shows up and comes through and it’s all better.” Except I didn’t feel like this was gonna get better.
In the long run, of course. All tears will be wiped away. But I really want a win now. Sitting in her room during the MRI, waiting for her return, I skipped ahead in my reading to Psalm 44. That’s a good one for a day like this – no happy ending, just “God, we’re getting plastered, and we don’t feel like we deserve it, please show up because you love us.” (Joe Reed paraphrase) Somehow knowing someone else was in my shoes before was helpful. I got to preach that Psalm down at Bethany Bible Church last year, “When the Wheels Fall Off” or something like that. I think of that Psalm often, and it scarcely fails to bring some comfort.
After the MRI, Dr. Chris and Tammy came in our room, this time without the usual entourage of scribes, interns, and others, and said basically, “What you suspected is happening. There is progression.” No real shock there.
Here’s some options for you to consider… (I’ll keep those to myself for now, we’re still pondering them, but they change nothing really, just how it happens…)
“Doctor Chris, you’ve seen this more than we have, you sort of know how this goes, what can we expect?” The million dollar question.
“With the rapid decline in her motor skills and the growth of the tumor, and knowing all things are in God’s hands, you can probably expect a month to six more weeks.”
Four to six weeks? I was prepared for bad news; not that bad. Crap.
We cried. Tammy cried. When Alice’s favorite nurse came back in the room, she cried. We hugged each other, and Alice slept. And that’s good. She’s confused by Dad crying.
I titled this “Puddle Boots” because on the way home today I was thinking about that river crossing scene that Bunyan painted so vividly as he pictured death. For some, death was like crossing a raging, deep river. For others, it’s like wading across a shallow stream. Our task, so far as God helps us, is over these next few weeks to try to make it so she can cross in her puddle boots. I’m not even sure quite how to do that, but that’s my job now, and I’m going to do the best I can. And dear Jesus please, if she must cross, give her a “shallow” crossing.
Last week I had taken her on a whim to Walmart to get some snacks (and always a toy or two – I can’t resist making her day), and on the way back, with heavy thoughts on my mind, as she sat next to me on the front seat of the truck, I said to her, “Alice, did you know your Daddy loves you?” Yes! “Alice, do you know Jesus loves you?” Yes! “Alice, pretty soon Jesus is going to send some of his friends to get you so you can go visit him, ok? They’re really nice and you don’t have to be afraid.”
“Ok.” Then she looked up at me with a smile and a twinkle in her eye and said, “But you can’t come with!” Not yet. But soon enough.
I bought a trampoline for Alice that was delivered last week, just before the big snowstorm. While we were at the hospital today, the kids set it up. She loves it. Who knows how many days she’ll be able to use it, but today she’s able to at least bounce around, mostly on her knees.
Our plan right now is to be home as much as humanly possible. These are her days, so we will be arranging them accordingly. While we’d love to, as I wrote before, open the doors to any and all, the reality is that Alice is comfortable around precious few people. So we’re planning a lot of peace and quiet, and we’ll reach out to her favorite people to make sure she gets to see them.
Pray for us. These are hard days, as you can imagine. It’s not like we didn’t see them coming, and if anything, worked extra hard to keep ourselves cognizant of their impending arrival. But we didn’t know how numbered they were, so it still feels like a kick in the gut.
We often find ourselves echoing the opening chapters of Job’s complaint. I love that Job said “The Lord takes away,” and God’s commentary is Job didn’t blame God or sin with his lips. It seems like a delicate line to walk. I hope we can do the same.
Forgive us if we don’t answer calls, return text messages or Facebook things. We want to hear from you and receive your encouragement, but rarely have the energy to engage in a two-way conversation. So just know we appreciate it greatly, we love being loved, and what I’m writing now is about the best we can offer in return.
Feel free to send Alice cards or gifts as you like – she does love them. If you need an address, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And finally, before I leave off for now and go sit with Alice and watch “the funny guys” (her name for The Three Stooges), I sign off with the prayer my wife and I have prayed over and over:
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
April 17, 2018 at 7:35 pm
I’m humming the song, Precious Memories, may they linger with your family until that glorious day when you will be united, family again, whole, in heaven.
April 17, 2018 at 7:44 pm
Oh my, there really aren’t words other than we echo your prayers and the feeling like you said “it feels like a kick in the gut”. With love
April 17, 2018 at 7:49 pm
Our hearts break with yours. We are praying for you all.
April 17, 2018 at 8:07 pm
Praying for sweet Alice and all of you. May you feel Gods presence during this difficult journey, God bless, Linda
April 17, 2018 at 8:09 pm
Joe and Michelle …my heart sunk to my stomach as I read this. I am just so, so sorry you are going through this. I just can not imagine your pain, even though I know thousands of other parents are going through this at this time, too. Please know I pray for you and the kids every day. May you feel God’s strength and comfort and peace that only He can give. Sent with much love and many prayers. Sue
April 17, 2018 at 8:10 pm
So very sorry! praying for you all.
April 17, 2018 at 8:20 pm
We love you all and pray fervently for peace as you spend these precious days with Alice.
April 17, 2018 at 8:29 pm
Prayers for Alice and All her family .. sweet lil girl 🙏🙏🙏🙏….
April 17, 2018 at 8:29 pm
Joe and family, my prayers are with you. Your words have echoed in my mind throughout the days and weeks of your journey. Thank you for sharing your heart with such raw honesty. I pray that the waters are shallow and the One who is able will cozy you all with His mighty arms.
April 17, 2018 at 8:50 pm
So sorry for this time you have to go thru, my heart just breaks, but God is there helping you thru this, Prayers for all of you,Enjoy your precious time with Alice.
April 17, 2018 at 9:32 pm
Praying that you find comfort in God’s love and plan for your sweet Alice and that you make precious memories with her!! ❤
April 17, 2018 at 9:37 pm
Joe and Shelley,
Our hearts and prayers are for you in this incredible struggle. Our family cried and prayed for you tonight. I also read from John Piper’s poem – The misery of Job and the Mercy of God:
Behold the mercy of our King,
Who takes from death it’s better Sting,
And by his blood, and often ours,
Brings triumph out of hostile pow’rs,
And paints, with crimson, earth and soul
Until the bloody work is whole.
What we have lost God will restore –
That, and himself, forever more,
When he is finished with his art:
The quiet worship of our heart.
When God creates a humble hush,
And makes Leviathan his brush,
It won’t be long before the rod
Becomes the tender kiss of God.
Piper wrote in his foreword to the poem “ The great purpose of life is not to stay alive, but to magnify-whether by life or by death-the One who created us and died for us and lives as Lord of all forever, Jesus Christ. I pray that his sovereign goodness will sustain you in the unyielding joy of hope through every flame of pain and flood of fear.”
April 17, 2018 at 11:22 pm
May God give you the peace that passes understanding.
Praying for all of you!
April 17, 2018 at 11:31 pm
Praying for your family. May you feel the peace of God surround you.
April 18, 2018 at 12:59 am
I’ve been following you guys all along. You are really strong. You have Inspired me. You have touched my heart. I hope you feel Jesus’s arms around you all. I hope you can find peace too.
April 18, 2018 at 6:11 am
Thank you so much for continuing to share so transparently with all of us! Next to the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress is such a true to all of life book/story. Thank you for keeping us all in the loop with your family. We know God is good all the time, yet our hearts are crushed with yours. May God “cozy” your family in His arms of love! We continue in prayer!
April 18, 2018 at 6:23 am
My heart breaks for you all to read this. Our continued prayers are with you. You have displayed Christ to a watching world and He is indeed magnified by your testimony through all of this. May the Lord be near to you all in these days.
April 18, 2018 at 7:07 am
I had a feeling this would be the news. The tears are flowing. Praying dear ones.
April 18, 2018 at 9:00 am
We are praying for you and your whole family!
April 18, 2018 at 9:10 am
You are so strong! My eyed welled with tears for your family, especially little Alice. My family and I will pray for you! For peace-for comfort-and for love💞. Lifting you up to Jesus!
April 18, 2018 at 9:17 am
So sorry to hear the tumor has returned, Prayers for you, Michelle and the children and especially for Alice. Your cousin Rosemary.
April 18, 2018 at 9:45 am
Have been praying and will continue to. So heavy. Thank you for your firm testimony and honesty. Good idea to hunker down at home and keep things quiet. Much love to you all.
April 18, 2018 at 11:11 am
All the love and prayers that we can give in Christ are yours. May God’s grace super-abound toward you all and especially toward Alice.
April 18, 2018 at 11:45 am
Joe and Shelly,
We have been praying so fervently for Alice over the last several months! Our hearts are breaking for you! We know that Gad is good all the time, but sometimes it doesn’t fell that way. We will be shedding tears here as we continue to lift you all up to The Great Physician, The God Of Comfort! Know that you are always on our hearts and minds as you walk through this valley, you are not alone!
The Verschoor Family
April 18, 2018 at 2:31 pm
Prayers and ((((((hugs))))))) from Iowa.
April 18, 2018 at 2:50 pm
I am so very sorry,, please know you all are in my prayers.. much love and prayer
April 18, 2018 at 4:22 pm
Such a short time left to finish building your lifetime supply of memories. Praying that these days and weeks are filled with precious moments. Praying that you all will be filled with awe as you watch Jesus make Himself real to Alice as He so lovingly leads her to her eternal home. I remember reaching the point where we had nothing left to teach our son- we couldn’t walk that final road with him, and it was up to God to finish leading him home. He was so faithful and I’m still amazed remembering how God taught him how to leave this world behind and step into eternity. Tears for your family because even as we rejoice knowing where Alice is going, we also grieve. Praying for these blessed, hard days ahead, that they will be filled with smiles & laughter as well as tears and hope & peace as well as anguish.
April 18, 2018 at 6:36 pm
Joe and Shelley and family, you are in our prayers. We’re so sorry that you’re going through this. Praying for God’s comforting arms around you all and especially beautiful Alice.
April 18, 2018 at 7:13 pm
Love prayers and hugs!💞🎈☃️
April 18, 2018 at 10:23 pm
Lifting you up in prayer to Jesus. We have a little angel in heaven, & know the grief. May HE wrap his loving arms around Alice & your family & bring you HIS comfort & peace, that only HE can give.
April 18, 2018 at 10:30 pm
Joe and Shelly, such hard news to share, but thank you for thinking of all of us and letting us know. Now we can pray even more specifically for these days, weeks, months, and years ahead in your family. Lifting you up in prayer to our Almighty God, whose ways are always right (even if they don’t feel right), asking Him to cozy your family through this hard, and bring mercy and grace in this time of need. Chuck & Jennifer Hervin
April 19, 2018 at 3:19 pm
We’ve been praying & continue to for Alice & your family. I first learned of Alice when my grandson added her to his prayer for a blessing on his meal with his whole family. His mom explained to me that he’d known her from Awana at the Quamba Baptist Church. Being very close in age, Aaron had made a connection. Aaron recently commented that God didn’t answer his prayers. He did not know that cancer had returned to Alice at that time. I thought he was maybe referring to some selfish prayers he had. I don’t know.
At any rate, have you read the story of Renee Cassie? And her utilization of Essiac?
The short of it: As a nurse, in Canada in the 1800s (?), She ran a cancer clinic in Canada for too short of a time. Under the supervision of Dr., she treated cancer patients with a concoction of herbs as a tea, and saved many lives. Many Doctors testified that if her treatment wasn’t a cure it at least aleaviated pain & prolonged life. She could only treat patients that were refered by a Dr. Generally, Doctors referred patients only after they exhosted the medical fields recommendations. My father had myloma (sp?), bone cancer & along with whatever the doctors did to treat it, he drank this concoction as a tea 3x a day. His last tests showed the cancer was AT least inactive! I had the honor of making it for him & a man recently who was dying from cancer. He delayed seeing the Dr. long enough that when they got his diagnosis the only prognosis they gave him was with kemo (I think), he’d live 6 mos, without he had 3 at tops.
He chose no kemo & drank 2 ounces of Essiac with 2 ounces of purified hot water 3x a day.
Since , we don’t know the number of our days, I don’t know if that extended his life, but I do know,
he did NOT die in pain! I pray that our heavenly Father would continue to be your rock through Jesus Christ and when He calls Alice home as well as throughout dealing with this invasion, that his will be done & your prayers be answered! Because of & only through Jesus Christ. Amen!
April 19, 2018 at 4:39 pm
As I read your message about Alice, my heart hurt for each of you as you walk this journey! I thought about God, our Abba Father, (“Daddy”), holding or making all of you cozy in His strong arms. ❤ Deut.33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. “
April 19, 2018 at 5:16 pm
So sorry to here your latest news on Alice. Have been and continue to pray for her and your family. She is such a precious child of God. Blessings of comfort to you at this time.
April 20, 2018 at 7:03 pm
Dearest Reed family, we are so thankful we can trust our God is taking care of you during this trial of trials. We pray tearful prayers that He will bring comfort, strength, faith, grace and all things you need to walk the road He has called you to walk. We love you all! – The Carltons
April 23, 2018 at 2:51 am
Praying with all my heart and soul for your family…may you all be held tightly in God’s loving arms through this.
April 23, 2018 at 1:51 pm
I am so very sorry, Alice and your family are in my prayers. Know this, Alice is so very blessed by having such a loving, caring and supportive family. Your best is good enough. ❤️
April 23, 2018 at 10:44 pm
Our hearts go out to all of you! Praying for you! Jim and Joy Nehring, Josh’s parents!
April 26, 2018 at 3:01 pm
Praying for you all