One of our spots!

One of our spots!
Oregon Coast 2016

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015

Today our house experienced a very rare occurrence...we had all 4 kids and all 4 grandkids (5 if you count the one in-utero!) with us! We are truly blessed to be able to have them all together at the same time - even if only for a couple days.
After our traditional Christmas breakfast: cinnamon-chip french toast, bacon (10 pounds!) and eggs, we sat in the front room to do the gifts.
Our son, Evan, read some scripture, then our oldest granddaughter Eden helped distribute the gifts to everyone. Our family tradition is to open one gift at a time according to chronological age (youngest first).
After the gifts were done and we were all just sitting around talking while the young kids played, our 2-year-old granddaughter Lydia crawled up into my lap (picture above). She didn't get much sleep the night before, and was obviously worn out from all the festivities. She was in my lap for quite a while - even though the 2 older kids were being pretty noisy - and nearly fell asleep.
While she was enveloped in my arms I was overcome with many emotions.
I was going back and forth between, "...where will I be next Christmas?", and, "...will I still be here next Christmas?"
If all goes according to my plan, I will probably be up in Seattle either preparing for or recovering from a double-lung transplant - the much-needed operation that will help keep me here on earth a bit longer. This would enable me to have many more cherished moments like the one pictured above. One thing has become very clear during this recent journey...time with my wife and family has become my most treasured "possession".
But that's MY plan...it may or may not be God's plan.  Either way, I want to be found faithful.
From my vantage point it would appear that God is not finished with me yet - and that's OK with me!
In my head I know that heaven is glorious (literally!) and I long to be there with my Savior.
Yet I am so blessed right now, my heart wants to stay here where I am loved and supported.  I supposed that's selfish of me - but right now I really don't care!
I love my incredible wife. I love my kids and grandkids. I love this whole blended/extended and sometimes dysfunctional mess we call family!  I love serving others - locally and globally. I love the relationships I've developed (new and old).
I guess it all boils down to what the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Philippians (1:21): For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!

Blessings this Christmas!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September 16, 2015 – “In The Checkout Line”

For the past few weeks I’ve been very introspective. Everything has become more “real”, and it’s starting to sink in.
At least a couple of factors have greatly contributed to this reflective period:
  • -       Locally, our area (Southern Oregon) was very hot (several days of triple digit temperatures) and smokey (several large wildland & forest fires). I was actually getting claustrophobic – not to mention the affect the smoke had on my damaged, weakened lungs. The smoke lingered for nearly 5 weeks – it was like a brown London fog.
  • -       August 16th marked the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s passing. September 20th will be one  year since his memorial service.

My emotions have been just below the surface – “leaking” out at the slightest, seemingly insignificant things…sunsets, sunrises, music, hugging friends & family, spending time with my kids and grandkids, watching a beautiful dance on SYTYCD, etc.
I’ve also noticed some slight changes to my health;
  • -       I have become more oxygen dependent (thankfully, I have a new portable O2 concentrator and don’t need the tanks anymore!)
  • -       It’s been more difficult to sing and talk. Songs I used to sing confidently with my band and/or on a worship team I can’t seem to do anymore. I have to pause mid-sentence to catch my breath or to cough. I’ve been coughing more regularly. Even though I’m on a new medication that’s supposed to slow the disease down (there’s no cure), and going to pulmonary rehab (to help my stamina) – I feel like there hasn’t been much, if any, progress. I know my lungs won’t get better, but I was subconsciously wishing they wouldn’t get worse.
  • -       I’m supposed to be losing weight, but it’s difficult when I can’t really do anything very aerobic or cardiovascular – my lungs can’t handle it. Losing weight will obviously help my health in many ways, but mostly it will help me get on to a lung transplant list sooner. My primary care physician saw my wife the other day (she also works for the hospital) and asked how my weight loss was coming. She said, “slowly”. He told her, “doesn’t Steve realize this is a life & death situation?”

I guess it’s all boiling down to me finally beginning to realize the severity of my situation.

I’M IN THE CHECKOUT LINE!

Even though my lips aren’t blue, and I can still function relatively well considering my disease, it’s still 100% terminal. The only way out of this is a lung transplant – and even then, there’s no guarantee it will work. I would have to be on several meds (anti-rejection) for the rest of my life. Not to mention that SOMEONE WILL HAVE TO DIE for me to continue to live. That will be a huge topic for discussion at a later time!
Everybody has an expiration date…mine might happen to be a little sooner than I expected.

HOWEVER…
I refuse to be Mr. Doom & Gloom! Even though I’m struggling with reality, I choose to be thankful!
I am thankful to be alive!
I am thankful for an amazing, loving, wife!
I am thankful for all my kids (step kids & in-law kids included!)
I am thankful for my grandkids! (I love being a grandparent!)
I am thankful for my entire family!
I am thankful for my friends!
I am thankful I can still enjoy, play, & write music!
I am thankful I can still work!

I will CHOOSE to be thankful in ALL things! (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My first attempt to do a video message to my oldest granddaughter

Well, I made it through without losing it!
My amazing wife got me an early present for Father's Day several weeks ago, shortly after my diagnosis - a video camera.  The purpose was to film video messages to my family - especially my grandchildren - while I can still breathe and talk relatively normally.
Needless to say, I've been reluctant to start - mostly because taking a step like this makes my condition more "real" - just like when my oxygen tanks arrived 3 weeks ago.
The other reason is that over the past few weeks I try to think of what I would say to each grandchild - and I melt away to mush.  While I may look and act my usual jovial self, the truth is this whole thing is right below the surface - and I choke up and tear up like someone has just turned on a switch.
Don't get me wrong - I have a great peace about this, and I know who holds my future...but it's still difficult - especially when I realize I probably won't see any of my grandkids reach their teens.

So, this is my first attempt of a short video message to my eldest granddaughter Eden (she's 5 1/2). Being my first grandchild, she holds a special spot in my heart. Not a bigger spot than my other grandkids! It's just that there's always something special about the first one!

video

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: My new reality


{This is a re-post from my Facebook page}
The photo in this post shows me wearing an oxygen cannula. I will soon be carrying oxygen during the day, and I wanted to let you know “what’s up?”.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with “IPF”, or Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. It has been confirmed by two pulmonologists, pulmonary function tests, x-rays & high-res CT scans. The ‘ideopathic’ means there is no known cause (I have never smoked). It is a degenerative, fatal lung disease. This is no cure. It claims the same number of lives in the US each year as breast cancer (app. 40,000), but only 128,000 have it (in US). There are a couple new meds out that can help slow down the progression of lung scarring, but the only way out of it is a lung transplant. Pulmonary rehab will help me learn to breathe better and build my stamina (I am usually very short of breath, even with just walking across the street).
My condition has significantly worsened over the past 2 years, and especially the past 6 months. The oxygen will help keep my O2 level up, but it isn’t therapeutic. If you look it up on “Dr. Google”, the prognosis is not good. I’ve included a link and a video (at the end of the post) that help explain it (if you’re interested in knowing more about it).
OK, that’s the info. So, now what?
I am not in imminent danger, and death isn’t right around the corner! I am not at a point where you’ll be seeing “Caring Bridge” updates yet (a great site, BTW!). I can still work, albeit somewhat modified. But things are going to be different now. Debbie & I love to travel (and still plan to), but we won’t be able to take the long hikes we so love together anymore. I still can play music, and even sing somewhat – singing actually helps! My activity level has been greatly curtailed, so we’re in a “transition mode”, adjusting to our new reality.
Debbie and I are obviously not thrilled about this, but we refuse to let this defeat us and get us down! In the 13 years we’ve been together, we’ve done more than most couples do in 60 years of marriage. Our lives are full, and we’re surrounded and supported by family and amazing friends. Our faith holds us strong, and we know that God causes all things to work TOGETHER for good. I’m not trying to be morbid, but in reality – life is 100% fatal for everyone! Sometimes we have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the end of our life span on Earth, and it can radically change our perspective. We purpose to change our perspective in a positive and uplifting way! If you are local and see me in person, don’t feel like you have to be all down and depressed for me – just be normal and natural. If you feel awkward talking to me, no worries! I won’t think less of you!
Whether I’m on this Earth a couple more years or much longer, I just plan to be me – and hopefully deepen the relationships I have with everyone! Prayers are appreciated!

Welcome to a glimpse of my world!

Hello, and welcome!
There are so many blogs out there - so many personal stories - each one unique, yet many common themes and threads.
This blog is a mere snapshot of my story. It will be focusing mostly on my current life journey, but occasionally sprinkled with flashbacks and back-story fillers for clarification.
Whether you know me personally or not, I hope that what I post here will be helpful to you in some way.