In Memory of Deb Ziemann
"Oh, sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!" Psalm 98:1
Written by: Deb Ziemann (1967-2020), John, and Emma Dolde.
For Deb's husband and her children.
I can barely keep my eyes open
But when I can I see you all hopin’
For a little smile; somethin’ that says I’ll be here for a whi-le.
I hope you know how much I love you all so.
I think the time has come for me to go
To Je-ru-sa-lem the Golden where He waits for me:
This Jesus- the one I’ve waited my whole life to see.
I can barely keep my feet walkin’
But when I can I find you all talkin’
‘Bout a thing or two and how this time has taken its toll on you.
I hope you know how much I love you all so.
I think the time has come for me to go
To Je-ru-sa-lem the Golden where He waits for me:
This Jesus- the one I’ve waited my whole life to see.
So don’t you worry about me, children
And don’t you doubt ‘bout where I’ll be, my husband
It won’t be so long ‘til all of us are there for eternity.
I hope you know how much I love you all so.
It’ll sure be hard, but I know it’s better to go.
To Je-ru-sa-lem the Golden where He waits for you and me:
This Jesus- the one we’ve waited our whole lives to see.
Deb Ziemann Updates, March 4, 2020 - September 8, 2020
May 13, 2020
May 3, 2020
April 8, 2020
Katie's Wedding Day
July 1, 2018
March 20, 2020
on the hour
Prayer of Healing:
Head - Stroke
Heart - Bacteria in valve
Body - Cancer and Swallowing to eat
One year ago today my life changed forever. My wife, Deb, suffered the first of several strokes after being diagnosed the week before with stomach cancer. As many of you know, we enjoyed the miracle of six more months of life before God took her home. The miracle was complete, just not in the way we had envisioned. This year Deb will celebrate Easter in the presence of Jesus and with all those who have gone before. I want you to know that while the grieving and pain are real, they don't last forever. While it is different for each person, God enables a new life to begin in time. I am living this new life now - the next adventure if you will. I continue to marvel at God's blessing, peace, and love. He continues to sustain me because in this journey, He has never left my side. God can handle whatever you face today too. Look to Him. Find strength and peace to face the day. He is faithful, and you are loved! Pastor Ziema
9/8 - Tuesday Update - There comes a time in every good story when you have to accept the ending whether you like it or not. Last night, sometime between 11:00-11:30, my sweetheart entered her eternal rest. The official pronouncement of death was just after midnight (that's another story in itself). It was a storybook ending in my view - not the one I envisioned, but one nevertheless. You see, after finally sleeping restfully, Deb perked up and became more alert. We seized the moment and arranged a video call with all the kids not at home. In that time, Deb declared her love for her dear children even as weak as she was. I quickly called her sisters and set up another call. It went as the first - expressions of love and goodbyes. Then our vicar and his wife came over and we sang hymns for a half hour. We concluded with the Lord's Prayer - something Deb could pray each night thanks to therapy she received. She prayed in spirit this night. Then she rested until she became a little agitated. So I laid next to her and held her close trying to calm her down using prayer and tender words that God was with her. Then I remembered I had turned off the movie she had been enjoying, The Sound of Music. Figuring it would be just like her to want to finish the movie, we put it back on. She finally calmed. Together then, Deb and I enjoyed the final scenes and sometime during that time, she died in my arms. I know not exactly when because she passed so peacefully (not to mention I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open.) The look of peace and the smile on her face will be something I will never forget. God gave her the perfect ending and now she is with Jesus. Thank you for reading this long post and for your prayers. Details of the funeral will be forthcoming. Until then, God grant you the peace I have and know you are loved!
9/7 - Monday Update - Deb is not doing well. From midnight to about five, she had trouble breathing. I had to give her a low dose of morphine to get her through it. We had a hospice nurse here early and then this afternoon. They think it is just a matter of days for Deb. We'll see. They've been proven wrong before. In the meantime, I will continue to commit Deb into the loving and merciful arms of Jesus. I still believe God can work in a miraculous way, but at this point, it appears God's will is to cleanse her cancer in heaven. God's strength will be ours as we wait for God to work as even now He blesses us. God's peace is ours because we are all loved!
9/5 - Saturday Update - Here we are at the end of another week, one day shy of 180 days since Deb left the hospital for home with nothing but a prayer. This truly is a miracle. These days, Deb continues to hold her own with a few bouts of vomiting and pain - nothing serious. Our hospice nurses consider this a miracle too. They were thinking Deb should have been on morphine weeks ago with her blockage and cancer. The challenge these days, though, is getting Deb out of bed in the morning. Often, it is because she thinks she is on her death bed and so is content to stay in bed to die. I can see why she thinks this. Day after day nothing seems to change - just being tired and no progress. However, I know what deathbeds look like, and so I can tell, barring a catastrophic organ failure, she is nowhere near. She is still able to scale two floors of steps, eat, drink, go to the bathroom on her own, and shower. Sure, these things aren't as easy as before, but Deb is doing them. So, my challenge is to keep her fighting. That's why I asked God to give her reason for hope these days - a sign of life, not death. I heard a gurgling stomach this morning already, something I haven't heard for weeks. God is trying to break through the gloom which is something He often does without us even noticing. Ultimately, God gives all of us reason for life and hope in His Son, Jesus. In Jesus we find the greatest miracle of all - out of His death comes life. There's the best reason to get out of bed. You are loved!
9/4 - Friday Update - It's Friday! I sure needed this day. Thankfully, on this off day, our schedule has been more relaxed than the last few Fridays. I asked Deb how she was feeling, and she said, "pretty good." That's good to hear because most of the day Deb has been sleeping. Zeke put on Pokemon, and she was good to go. (I still don't get her fascination with this series.) The nurse was over at midday and drained a liter of fluid. That could be part of it too, or it could be the beginning of God answering our prayers. The Bible says: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This is hard to do when things get rough, but this has been one of our goals from the start. I'm just so amazed when God does those little unexpected things to sustain us and help us to live out these verses. Yesterday, with the help of some prayer visits and an army of prayer warriors across the country who rallied together to pray, rejoicing, praying, and thanking came easy! Thank you! So, we continue to live in God's grace and mercy today. He is working through this, and we are rejoicing that despite our resting, He still working...even on Friday. You are loved!
9/3 - Thursday Update - Deb had one of those mornings where nothing seemed right. She threw up twice. She was so tired that she skipped her shower. She wanted to stay in bed the rest of the day and just give up. Fortunately, she came out of that funk and made it downstairs for the day. She keeps asking the question people have been asking since the beginning of time. "Why?" "Why am I still alive? Why is God allowing this?" Then she asks a when question. "When will I be healed?" We were given an answer today. The Bible says: "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." (2 Cor. 4:16–17 ESV). God is preparing her for eternity and perhaps, He may yet be preparing her for an earthly miracle as well. At 4:30 pm Eastern time, prayers will be said over Deb. I invite all who are able to join us in spirit, wherever you are, to pray with us. Let's boldly lift our voices as one and pray for the healing that can happen through God's power. In all this, we seek God's will and His glory! You are loved!
9/2 - Wednesday update - No real changes to report today. However, the nurse assistant who comes every Wednesday to help give Deb a good shower and some pampering noted that Deb has improved since her last visit. I agree! There has been a general but subtle upswing. We'll take it and thank God for it. That's not the only thing we thank God for, though. Think about the new month we're in - September. It's been nearly 6 months since Deb's strokes and longer than that since Deb's cancer diagnosis. She has surpassed every expectation. These days have been sprinkled with God's blessing and little miracles (if a miracle can be called "little"). Besides this, many of you continue to point to the complete miracle that's coming if God so wills it. I prayed this morning thanking God that we are one day closer and that He has sustained us all these days. I thank God that Deb can eat, drink, walk, talk, and laugh without throwing up. I thank God she can still accidentally kick things off the TV table and order us around when things need to get done. I thank God for her smile, her grip when holding my hand, and her tender kiss. So this day, in your prayers, continue to claim the victory that is yours through Jesus and thank Him for all He has done. God is good and you are loved!
9/1 - Tuesday Update - The house is quiet. It's just Zeke, Deb, and I now. After Katie, Jake, and Max left this morning, Deb crashed pretty much the rest of the day. Only an occasional movie woke her up and that usually didn't last long. Deb is plain tired. Her body is fighting with everything it has to defeat this cancer. The blessing in all of this is that Deb's periods of pain have been few and not long lasting. God is merciful. That's the only way to explain it. Thinking about this...where would we be without God's mercy? As it is, He knows exactly what we can bear, and so it is good to rest in the hands of our loving Father in heaven. This is also evident in our spiritual life. The Bible says that God doesn't treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquity (Psalm 103:10-14). If He did, who could stand? Instead, we find mercy and peace through Jesus our Savior. Yes, in this earthly life and spiritually, it could be a whole lot worse. In fact, God could be completely absent and uninvolved in our lives. That would literally be hell. This is not the place God wills for us. So, this day rest in the peace of our God who longs to hold your hand and get you through your valleys of the shadow of death. That's what we are depending on right now, and that's how I get through Deb's sleepy days. You see, it's not my power but His. This means an earthy miracle is still within reach and a heavenly one guaranteed for all who believe. You are loved!
8/31 - Monday Update - You can tell it is Monday around here because Deb has run out of steam and has spent much of the day sleeping. I even succumbed with a midday nap. You can't blame us. It was a full house weekend with all the kids home - that means late nights and a house full of activity. It is exhausting, but what a blessing! Well, Zach and Timothy had to leave this morning while the others leave tomorrow,. So, we will enjoy some more time with those remaining - including Max, the dog. Deb did rise to the occasion with a couple bowls of soup and a movie. The nurse came and drained 1L of fluid as well. The blockage remains, but Deb seems relatively unfazed. However, as you pray for her body, pray specifically that this blockage be resolved. We are told that nothing can be done except keep Deb comfortable. This seems to be a theme throughout this time - nothing but a prayer. God continues to work in this situation and bless us. His presence is here and the power of your love and prayer support continues to touch us deeply. This house will always be full because of it. To God all glory and praise! You are loved!
8/29 -Saturday Update - The house is busy and loud. The kids are home. There's a dog on the loose. Life is good if you can stay awake. You see, Deb wants to be in the center of it all, but it's so hard for her. She is so tired as her body fights her cancer and the blockage that is making life difficult. One life lesson from yesterday is patience, but I will admit, it is hard to be patient when you watch your loved one (my sweetheart) slowly slip away, and you can't do anything to stop it. This journey is by no means over, though. There's plenty of life to be lived, and Deb is living. She is walking stairs, taking showers, eating on her own, and more. As we have learned around here, things can change in an instant - both good and bad. So we'll keep living and looking for that good. We'll keep praying for that miracle because it is possible. Really! Satan will not have the day because as believers, we are children of God. That means life for Deb, for me, and for you - and today a loud and busy one at that! You are loved!
8/28 - Friday Update - Late update today. Sorry to cause near heart attacks out there. Generally speaking - no news is good news. If something bad were happening, I would have gotten word out real quick asking for immediate prayer. As it is, it is Friday. Storms this morning kept us in bed longer which set us behind from the start. Then there was the total house clean up because the kids are all coming and a dog (who by the way is good at finding things he shouldn't eat.) The nurse came midday. She was able to drain more fluid from Deb and observed that Deb was looking way better than Wednesday. Deb is still dealing with a blockage but the way Deb is eating again, you would never know it. Time slipped away further preparing for an area pastor and wives event and then attending it. Deb had to stay home because she got tired and a little dizzy (due to fluid draining). So, we're okay
and we thank you for your concern and added prayer. Somewhere there is a life lesson here, but I'm feeling the urgency of getting this out. What do you say? Thanks again for your overwhelming concern and prayers this week. You are loved!
8/27 - Thursday Update - I don't know what it is, but lately Pokemon episodes are all that is necessary to wake Deb up. I mean it's crazy! She will be in a coma-like sleep and all Zeke has to say is, "Hey, mom, wanna watch Pokemon?" Then she is up and ready to go. Amazingly today, following Pokemon, Zeke reported that Deb started singing again when Vicar and his wife came over to sing hymns and have prayer/devotion time. Who would have known? I say, whatever it takes! 😃 In other news, the nurse came by special today to reassess Deb's condition. Deb's blood pressure was higher than yesterday so she was able to drain 1L of fluid before Pokemon. Maybe more tomorrow. The situation still is serious, though, as long as the blockage continues. I am still convinced God has this handled. In fact, He has prepared us for this time for years. For example, I keep pointing out to Zeke that fourteen years ago, God knew we were going to need him. You see, Deb and I thought we were finished having babies. Surprise! Along came Zeke! Zeke has been a great blessing (despite his Pokemon tendencies 😉)! Because of him, Deb is rarely alone, and I always have a helping hand. Many of you are worried about us. Please don't be. Worry says God can't handle it. He can. He already is. In fact, we are still being blessed. You are all part of it. And yes, today, even Pokemon gets an assist. Who would have figured? Now, if only there was a Pokemon you could throw at cancer. You are loved!
8/26 - Wednesday Update - What a day this has been! This morning things weren't so great. The issue was concern about a potential bowel obstruction. The signs were there. Nothing is moving through despite attempts with laxatives and an enema. Deb has been vomiting occasionally too. At one point, Deb was convinced to go to the hospice house. However, we concluded that Deb wasn't in such dire need for that care. So, hospice upped the steroid so that the swelling causing the obstruction would be reduced. Hopefully, that is all that is needed. As we travel down this road, it is obvious something has to change. We keep pointing to the miracle - the big one - the total healing that God can do. We wait for this day. Meanwhile, the day has turned for the better - the whirlwind of emotions calmed. Some of the kids are coming home this weekend and that is another recipe for healing. So you see, God continues to bless, and we rest securely in our Father's arms. I can't imagine going through this without the Lord. No one should have to. He calls to each of you, ready to love you and bear your burden. We will get through this - together as the family of God and in the strength of Almighty God. You are loved!
8/25 - Tuesday Update - Deb found herself in the company of Elijah, Moses, and Jeremiah last night. You see, all three of these Biblical greats hit hard times. They were worn out, in despair over their situation, and unhappy with God. "It wasn't supposed to be like this, God," they complained. "Why is this happening? I'd rather be dead." Such was Deb's state of mind last night. Who could blame her. The last ten days have been really rough - this whole five months way beyond anything Deb could have imagined. Is there an end? I told her there was. Either her story ends with an amazing medical miracle or it ends with heaven's paradise. Last night, heaven seemed far more desirable because her mind couldn't conceive anything other than pain, exhaustion, and the feeling of uselessness. I had to share this because everyone at some point will feel this way - even you of great faith. What then is the answer? Know first it is okay to let God know how you feel. If the people of faith in the Bible did it, why not you. Just read the Psalms and prophets sometime. Know also what God has promised. He will deliver you, uphold you with His almighty right hand, and carry you through your dark time. You are not alone. God is faithful and will never put you through something you cannot handle together. Why is this? Because you are loved!
8/24 - Monday Update - Mondays always seem the hardest on Deb, but today I can't complain. She started the day with very little energy but by the afternoon, she began to perk up. In other news, the hospice nurse came and chose not to drain Deb's fluid. There was concern about Deb's blood pressure being low. Deb's BP always reads low, but we were willing to wait until Friday, so, we didn't question it. Deb also has low sodium levels. We will wait to hear from the cancer doctor about what to do going forward. I want to affirm what I wrote Saturday. We are not looking to drag this out. We are praying for total healing, and I firmly believe this will happen. How this will happen is the only question. It seems God is allowing Deb to hit bottom in order to make the miracle bigger and irrefutably His work. In March, we were sent home with nothing but a prayer, and that continues to be the case today. So when you pray, direct your prayers like a surgeon on the cancer itself. Rebuke it in the name of Jesus. I will continue to pray boldly and while some might call this the act of a desperate man, I see it as an act of faith in a God who is living, active, and powerful. I claim the promise of Jesus: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:31-22). Lord, help my unbelief! You are loved!
8/22 - Saturday Update - Deb's busy but good day yesterday wore her out. So, she's been resting a lot today. She did manage to make time for watching some Pokemon episodes with Zeke and even ate three bowls of soup. She also had time to visit and talk on the phone. We'll count these things as progress. This is all good. My prayer, however, is not to prolong this with days and days of soup because those days will come at great cost - Deb's pain and agony. My prayer is for complete healing, and I believe as long as there is life in Deb, this is still a possibility. Sometimes we lose sight of the goal. Sometimes we settle for soup. Let me remind you. God is so much bigger than cancer or any other affliction. Time is nothing to Him, and He could heal Deb in a second. You say, but that's impossible. Who says? I've said all along that this miracle would be all about God and His glory. It still is. I don't know for sure what miracle God will accomplish - complete healing in this life or eternal healing in heaven. I do know Deb still lives. She walks, talks, smiles, prays, and dreams about being healed. She even eats soup. So, there is no reason to give up now. Pray boldly. Pray believing in a God who can bring life from death. I am. And now, I think I will join Deb in a bowl of soup. You are loved!
8/21 - Friday Update - Today suddenly has the Friday feel... After a visit, then the nurse, and another visit, Deb has hit nap mode. Me too. That's why we need days like this. Rest is good. I've written about this before, so I will highlight some key moments today. First, Deb ate her first significant meal today. She ate some squash soup. It went down real well. That's a start! Second, the hospice nurse drained almost 1.7L of fluid from Deb. She could have done more, but she was concerned about Deb's low blood pressure. It drops quite a bit when the fluid is drained, and Deb's BP is usually low to start. Hospice also took a blood sample. We'll see what that tells us in the next few days. Finally, Deb handled the visits well. Her endurance isn't there yet, but it's great to see the smile and hear the frequent, "Oh, my goodness!" So today is a half step forward! We needed it. God knew just what we could handle, and so He gave us Friday. Tomorrow could be completely different, but that's okay. God is with us and has prepared us. Until then, we will enjoy the day He has given us. May God bless your day. He is with you and loves you. As it is said often here, you are loved!
8/20 - Thursday Update - There's good news and concerning news today. Concerning is the fact that Deb's weight has dropped down to 82 pounds. She is pretty much skin and bones. This has happened in a week's time. So, tomorrow, when the hospice nurse comes, we are going to check on some things that could have caused Deb's sudden drop, and hopefully reverse this trend. Another issue is that Deb isn't eating much. It's a struggle for her. Your prayers in these areas would be appreciated. The good news is that Deb received communion today, and I couldn't be happier. This was a major event at many levels. The fact that she received it was huge. There was no vomiting or gagging as has been the case lately with any food or drink. At a spiritual level, this is the strengthening that Deb needed. Word and Sacrament revive the soul and bolster the faith needed to persevere through any trial. Deb is gaining in the place most needed for eternal life. Of all the things you do today, be sure some part of the day is reserved for faith building too. There may not be another tomorrow. Always be ready for the day Jesus comes. Today, we are one day closer. Because of Jesus, this doesn't have to be a concern but good news to carry your day. You are loved!
8/19 - Wednesday Update - It has been a Karate Kid movie marathon day for Deb today. A few weeks ago it was Star Wars. Earlier this week it was Indiana Jones. When you are stuck in the house, it's amazing how much you can watch before falling asleep. Could you learn something too? Sure. Remember "Wax on, wax off?" Karate kid Daniel couldn't figure out why his teacher was making him wax the car. Yet it was done for the purpose of discipline and technique for karate. In the end, the technique would be used to fight Daniel's opponent. As Deb was watching Karate Kid 2 (the second of four), I wondered about all those "wax on, wax off" moments in our lives. You know, those times that make no sense and then suddenly you realize that God was working all along to prepare you for the moment at hand? So many have wondered how in the world we are able to handle this situation. "Wax on, wax off" - God was preparing us through every day events and times. He was building faith. He was putting in place the things and people needed to persevere. And when we were ready, the cancer came - to teach us, strengthen others, to bless us, and witness Christ. I have no doubt there is a happy ending for us all no matter what this life brings because in the end it won't be what we've done, but what Jesus has done in our place. Therefore, there is no need to be afraid of the future. God is preparing you for it. You will have what you need - wax on, wax off. Best of all, you have Jesus. He is faithful, and you are loved!
8/18 - Tuesday Update - Church has broken out in the Ziemann household these past two days, and it is bringing a spiritual healing to all those present. Yes, yesterday, Deb had three visitors. Conversation, much prayer, and even hymns were sung. Today has shaped up in a similar way with prayers to start the day and music to carry it to the evening. Vicar Dolde brought his guitar and while we sang, Deb was directing. 🤗 In between time, Deb sleeps with the addition of oxygen. According to hospice, this is a "comfort" measure. We tried out some anti nausea medication to aid in getting calories too because Deb is having trouble keeping things down. Despite this, Deb is maintaining physically speaking. It's the spiritual, though, that is being renewed. It continues to prepare her for the days ahead - whatever they may be. When times get tough, we would all do well to fill our souls too. Here is sustaining power and strength for the weak. Here is hope for tomorrow. Through God's gifts, the world is a brighter place. Deb's contented face certainly bore this out these past two days. So, church breaking out in our home is a blessed thing indeed. Let it break out in yours too and in all the world! You are loved!
8/17 - Monday Update - After a rough night, Deb woke up convinced she was healed. She was so convinced that she skipped her pain medication at 6:30. Well, it turned out it was either just a dream or vision of the future because nothing seemed different. Deb was still weak and exhausted. This has been the story since Saturday. Deb's appetite has also been nonexistent. Those familiar with terminally ill patients recognize that these signs are ominous signals of someone nearing the end of life. The hospice nurse made that clear to me in her body language and manner. She didn't have to say anything. It was obvious that Deb has taken some steps backward. Not even the draining could spark Deb. So, what do we make of this? Prepare for the end? That certainly is a reality. But what of Deb's dream? What of those two people she saw administering treatment and the clear declaration that she was healed? Is it wishful thinking or something beyond any of us? Deb's story has not reached its end yet. I would like to believe that these past few days have been the setup for a grand and glorious healing miracle. I'm praying that way, and I truly believe it is possible. Back in March it looked like this, but almost 160 days later, look what God has done! So we will stay the course, plan for the future, and be bold in prayer to our God who can handle all things. Thank you for your partnership. We are strong together, and you are loved!
8/15 - Saturday Update - Unfortunately, Deb hasn't had the best of days. In fact, I'm staying home from church tonight to monitor and care for her. She has no energy at all and is thirsty. I will be working to get some calories and water in her. Thankfully, she's drinking now. Hopefully, that will perk her up. We pray this is a temporary setback. The ups and downs are all part of the process of healing. We thank you for your prayers. I will update tomorrow if there are any changes. You are loved!
8/14 - Friday Update - It's Friday, and we are feeling lazy around here. I call it getting some much needed rest. Deb had a visitor this morning and the hospice nurse came early afternoon to drain another 2L of fluid from Deb. Deb's body keeps making the stuff, and I am wishing it was worth something. As it is, it just goes down the toilet - worthless and a source of discomfort when it collects in Deb. I started thinking about this today. What other worthless stuff do we collect? I'm not just thinking about the stuff we collect in our homes - important stuff in our minds - but fit only for the dumpster when we die. No, I'm thinking about the other stuff that throws us into depression or raises our blood pressure needlessly. The anger, regret, and guilt fill us like the fluid in Deb. There is no need to carry that around. Get it drained. Empty it at the cross of Jesus. Flush it! Deb always feels better after a good draining. Rest comes easier. So it can be for you. Let the Good Doctor take away the bad stuff. Life is too short not to. Find your peace and rest in the Savior Jesus today. Then your Friday and others can be as restful as ours. You are loved!
8/13 - Thursday Update - Today I was able to get out and walk with Deb. Although she spent a lot of time walking with her eyes closed and catching up on her sleep on that walk, I measure it as a step forward. No doubt, Deb has been tired lately, but I think this is because she is sitting around too much. Our house is getting quieter and quieter lately. Hopefully, homeschooling will help that. However, I have noticed that when visitors come, she perks up and is very engaging (and entertaining at that) in her interaction. Our new vicar and his wife stopped over this afternoon and had a wonderful visit. I think these upcoming couple of weeks are prime opportunities to visit if you haven't done so. Please call or text to check on possibilities. We'd be happy to sprinkle in a few visits. We all need human interaction. I think this is why this time has been especially hard on people. Covid has forced people inside. Interactions are happening but mostly with a mask hiding the very expressions and verbal clues that make communication work. I pray this is not the new normal. Thankfully, our God is approachable and accessible. His face is fully visible in His Son Jesus. We will find compassion, mercy, and love there. He has the power to revive even the most downtrodden heart. I think that is what Deb sees when visitors come and encourage and pray with her. This revives her. Sadly, I think many people are walking this life with their eyes closed these days. May the Spirit open their eyes to see Jesus and receive life. You are loved!
8/12 - Wednesday Update - As seems to happen after low days, Deb is on the upswing today. She has been more active, and I have been told by our wonderful speech therapist that Deb was "animated" and that the session was a "fun time." Now that sounds like the Deb I know and love! This all comes at some big moments in the lives of three of our children today. Our oldest, Zach, just bought a new house all on his own. He got the keys today! Timothy, child number four, left the house for college today. We didn't make the trip due to restrictions on campus and the five hour plus trip there and back. That was an emotional moment watching another child head out into the world without our aid. He made the trip just fine. The youngest, Zeke, made news by wanting to try homeschooling this year. Deb is super excited to do this with my help and some outside online work. Deb has been instrumental in the process of growth in our children, and I am glad she is able to share and celebrate with them. God continues to work even today in ways we could have never expected. God is the architect in it all, and He will continue to work His masterpieces in all sorts of ways - even through cancer, stroke, pain, or struggles. So take what the day gives you - learn, grow, inspire, and serve. While doing this, celebrate the love of Jesus in it all. You are loved!
8/11 - Tuesday Update - I would like to start this update with a huge thank you to those of you who shared stories of encouragement and poured out so much love and hope to Deb. This said, I hope I didn't portray Deb as someone who is without hope and ready to throw herself off a bridge to die in despair. I've never seen Deb hit that low. However, she is constantly trying to find purpose and meaning in her changed life which is something many of you have shown so beautifully in your texts, emails, and cards. We are truly blessed and grateful. Today, Deb is having one of those tired days. She has very little motivation to do anything but sleep. This is God's way of healing, and usually this leads to a strong finish to the week. She has had some pain in her stomach and knee which hopefully will subside soon after a good nap. This is a theme which has come up here before - the idea of taking rest before you get forced to take it - through illness or accident. Maybe Deb feels like the Psalmist who wrote: "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest." That day will come for all believers when Jesus will come and take us up and give us our promised rest in heaven. Until then, we scratch out the crumbs on earth and live another day. And thanks to you, yesterday was a feast! God provided through you and today through His word. You are loved!
Note - You didn't miss an update on Saturday. I didn't send one because of the wedding festivities.
8/10 - Monday Update - We are home after a most blessed week with family and friends. Now comes the reality of being gone for a week - church and home tasks catching up, fatigue, and the occasional let down that comes after a high moment. I am happy to report that we are undergoing a smooth transition back. Hospice was over at our home, reinstating us back on the program. We were off while on our trip. Deb was drained again - about 2L. Prayers should continue for Deb's head (continued progress with speech and sight), heart (keeping her healed heart beating strong), and body (cleansing the cancer and healing a sore knee). Pray also for Deb's sense of value and worth. When you suddenly can't do things like you used to do them, you tend to feel worthless. Deb continues to wonder if it would be easier on everyone if she were just dead. I continue to affirm her value in sickness and in health. I remind her that God is using her whether she realizes it or not. Many of your cards and texts show this to be true. Is a child less valuable because they can't earn a paycheck? Are the elderly worthless when they can't remember or fix their meals? Are the sick burdens to society because they can't contribute. No! Our worth is centered on what Jesus says of us - you are mine, I love you, and I will not leave you. And so I bring this message to my sweetheart today. I hope she believes it this time. While Deb is covered on this earth and in heaven, I will never out love Jesus. Live loved today because you are loved!
8/7 - Friday Update - We continue to be blessed on our visit to Wisconsin. We are preparing for the family wedding tomorrow in Green Bay. That's about a hour and half away. Unless things change last minute, Deb has decided to stay behind with Zeke while rest of the family makes the trip. It would be a long day for her and right before the long trip home. Best to relax. In other news, I drained 2L of fluid from Deb. That was the first time I did this. The hospice nurses prepared me well. What a blessing that we don't have to run to the hospital every time we need to drain. Thank you again for your prayers. God is certainly taking care of us. This trip was exactly what we needed. You are loved!
8/6 - Thursday Update - We made it to Wisconsin safely last night. The journey couldn't have gone any better - Deb comfortable, traffic light, weather good. We slept in this morning, and it is feeling so good to relax. Deb and I did a short walk because it included a very big hill. The hardest thing so far is accounting for the time change - we are in Central Time, so medication times need to be adjusted accordingly. As for us now, a nap calls and later for me a run with some prayer warriors. They are everywhere. Finally, we appreciate the travel prayers. We really needed extra ones at one point, or so I thought. The check engine light turned on going around Chicago. I prayed and prayed the angels would carry us, and I even skipped a planned stop only to find out we just needed an oil change soon (Actually, we don't. We are not due for another 4000 miles.) So we are enjoying the break. Know wherever we are, as believers in our Savior and Lord Jesus, we are always united in Spirit and prayer. You are loved!
8/5 - Wednesday Update - I need to say it again...things change, just like the weather. Well, the weather changed, and we find ourselves on the road headed for family and friends in Wisconsin. My little temp broke after a good nap yesterday so any exaggerated reports of my demise aren't true. It kept us home an extra day which as it turned out, was exactly what was needed. That was the first domino to fall. The second was Deb's condition. She really had an upset stomach last night, but she declared herself better by late morning. After a spirited family discussion concerning the risks and rewards, a tearful Deb settled it all. She said, "It might be my only chance..." She didn't need to finish, but let's make something clear. This is not a farewell tour. No way! Making this trip is a declaration of God's glory. The fact that God has healed Deb to this point that she is even able to make this trip speaks loudly the miracle that she is. So, we are going to enjoy every moment. Meanwhile, Deb has her own seat and bed prepared by Jeremy. She is looking like a queen. I am sure there's going to be lots of tears when we get there - tears of joy and awe at what God can do, and I don't think He's done yet. Things can change, and it doesn't have to be only the weather. You are loved!
8/4 - Tuesday Update - Things change, just like the weather...we were packed and ready to go to Wisconsin until I developed a low grade fever (100.4) overnight and was confirmed with our brand new high tech thermometer (with its own app). I actually don't feel too bad. In fact, I ran eight miles this morning, but home rest is what has been recommended so that's what we will do. The funny thing is that Deb is doing great today, and I think she is happy that it isn't because of her that we are not going. There is a reason for everything, and we are trusting that God knows best where we should be this week. You can trust Him too. As a dear wise lady once said, God has been to the future. Why can't he be trusted in all things? He can! The Bible says: The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9). So for now, we are going to go with it knowing that tomorrow could be completely different. God has it covered. He is faithful. You are loved!
8/3 - Monday Update - Of all the days of the week, Monday is usually the day there's going to be trouble. Not so for us...so far. Our hospice nurse, though, was a different story. After draining another 1.35L of fluid from Deb and giving us the okay to travel, the hospice nurse ended up stuck in our driveway. Her emergency brakes locked up. I thought we were going to get some bonus nurse time, but in the end, her car was towed. Deb, meanwhile, was up to her normal shenanigans. She found the jumbo sized cupcakes in the freezer. She's waiting to take a bite when no one's looking. 🤫 In other news, Deb's appetite continues to improve. She also doesn't need a shower chair anymore - able to stand the entire time. Therefore, we are hoping to visit with family in Wisconsin soon. So you see, this has been a blessed Monday. If your Monday hasn't been so great, please know God hasn't left you. He's promised to work all for the good; something I pray our nurse is finding out right now. Hold tight to Jesus. You are loved!
8/01 - Saturday Update - It didn't take long. Thursday was a phone call. Today, Deb sent a text. She wrote: "I love you!" This time it was part of her speech therapy. We talk a lot with our fingers these days, and this first day of August, just over 150 days since her first stroke, Deb dabbled a bit back into this world. We will see how far this goes. I am sure every one of you would love to receive a text from Deb someday. Thinking about texting, I wonder what Jesus would have texted if He walked the earth during this time. I would love to hear your ideas. For now, understand Jesus does text with messages of God's Word. He uses all of us in our vocations to reach the world with the Gospel. In our texts, we can be His fingers. In our phone calls, we can be His voice. You see, Satan meant to silence Deb's witness. I say he really made it stronger. He's a fool, and He has been defeated through Christ's death and resurrection. Today, Deb told me she loved me, and now, God tells you - you are loved!
7/31 - Friday Update - The hospice nurse came by today and drained Deb's stomach. She got about 1.5L out. The catheter worked beautifully. Deb also had a little outing. She went to the bank - very exciting! Actually it was a big moment because she took her name off Timothy's account. This gives Tim free reign to pay his college bills. Each moment in the life of the kids is precious now. The wondrous thing is that the Lord keeps giving them to her after it looked so bleak. There are still many moments left, and Deb is showing no signs of missing them. We take each one as it comes, and thank God for the blessing. I will never take for granted anything anymore. Life hangs on a thread. It can change in an instant. Yet, when God holds the thread, the fear and worry disappears, and that's how God wants it. The weekend is fast approaching. Enjoy every second of it knowing that you are loved!
7/30 - Thursday Update - I received a very important phone call today. The display said, "Deb's Cell." I hadn't seen that number come across my phone since February. Could it be? Then, I panicked for a second or two. Was this an emergency? Nope. I heard the familiar voice of my dear sweet wife. She had done it! She had picked up her cell phone, found my number, and dialed me. Then she passed on a message of someone who had called. It took a little while, but she did it. Now for the average person, this doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you have had three strokes that knocked out language, memory, and messed up your eyesight, you see it for the miracle that it is. We will take it - one little miracle at a time. Like in a tug a war, you take every inch until your opponent breaks, so is the battle we are engaged in. Deb's challenges continue to be conquered. She's getting those inches one by one, little by little, and it can happen for you too. In fact, it probably has happened already. You just never noticed... until maybe you get a call out of nowhere like I did. You are loved!
7/29 - Wednesday Update - Deb has had another good day. Not much new to report. Foot isn't getting any worse. The only controversy was over cheese puffs versus peaches. This update will have to be short and sweet because we are preparing for our vicar and his wife (John and Emma Dolde) to arrive and move them in. Thank you for your prayers! You are loved!
7/28 - Tuesday Update - God continues to bless us on this beautiful sunny day in Ohio. Deb got an ultrasound sound on her leg and all was normal. The suspicion was a blood clot, but this is no longer a concern. So, we don't have any answers except the swelling being related to the cancer. I guess we need a drain on the foot too. Actually, the foot is looking better with activity, and elevating it when resting. Deb is also able to get her shoes on and even walk a half mile. We will keep an eye on it, though. Thank you for your prayers with this. Again, we are blessed! Count your blessings today. It's so easy to lose sight of them in these days. Choose rather to celebrate what God is doing even during the darkest of hours. In the midst of pain is relief for those who love Him. As the Bible says, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5) He never leaves or forsakes us, and nothing will ever separate us from his love. So we will rejoice in the day we have - cancer, swollen foot and all. God has it handled! You are loved!
7/27 - Monday Update - You never know what a day brings. Mondays are no exception. Deb's right foot and ankle decided to swell up last night, and so we wondered what it would look like today. Sleeping helped, but hospice graciously decided to follow our cancer doctor's advice and do a scan on Deb's leg. They can do it right in our home. Stay tuned for the conclusion of this mystery. In other news, I took too long getting back from my run because I found Deb walking our street by herself again. She "just went as far as four houses," but I was concerned. She hadn't been out there since the procedure and was walking with one swollen foot. After a little chat about that, Deb enjoyed two visits (including speech). The rest of the day she was pretty tired - lots of napping with the leg up. Hopefully, lots of healing too. Living like this - never knowing what the day will bring - isn't exactly the easiest, I will admit. I try to think of it as living in God's time zone. God Time is where we need to be to get through this. Our confidence lies in God's faithfulness and grace. You are loved!
7/25 - Saturday Update - Correction from Friday. Should read 400ml drained, not 4ml. Deb is having another good day. She tested her communication skills in therapy and then in a video call with members of the family. She also continues to eat more and remains positive. It is noted she can eat most anything but less sugar is easier on her stomach. This is why we are careful. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We are working on positive calories. We try to keep things positive in our thinking too. Therefore, it has been the goal of these posts to not only update you on Deb's progress but also to uplift you. The Bible says: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8) We want to thank you for your many uplifting messages in card, email, and text. You are helping to keep us focused on Jesus who is the most praiseworthy of all. Have a great Sunday! You are loved!
7/24 - Friday Update - It's Friday and as usual, I didn't start thinking about this update until late. It's the nature of the day - a little rest and family time. Routine is cast aside, and so is the normal afternoon writing time. I hope no one got worried out there. Some interesting things have happened today. Deb was full of life and fun during speech therapy. Amazing progress is happening. The nurse came too. She used the new catheter to drain 4ml of fluid - substantially less than the 4L of Monday. Since Deb's blood pressure drops after these drainings, she needed to lay low with an afternoon movie. Agent Zeke's eagle eyes discovered Deb's secret stash of cookies from her birthday (May 3). He caught her eating one - yes, "they are still good," said Deb with that mischievous grin. He promptly confiscated the loot. Deb might be acquitted since she has been eating them responsibly. Deb's appetite is increasing. The biggest problem is that she often eats too much. Still, she is getting her calories. More progress! Often, this is the way God works - not with leaps, but with little steps forward. God remains in control as we give Him glory and praise this day. You are loved!
7/23 - Thursday Update - Deb has had a lot things go wrong with her health these past months, but the health of her teeth is not one of them. No cavities! 😁 She thought they were being easy on her. I don't know about that. I think there just wasn't much to do. In other news, a hospice nurse will drop by tomorrow and check out Deb's catheter. We'll get an idea how much fluid has collected too. So far, Deb describes her aches and pains as "manageable." Something to think about today - since Jesus was perfect and sinless, does this mean He had perfect teeth? Did He have a dentist? Let the debate begin! In the meantime, here are two verses mentioning teeth: "Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth..." (Proverbs 25:19) Also this one concerning the end: "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:41-43) It seems to me that trusting Jesus as your Savior will save your teeth! Thank you, Jesus! You are loved!
7/22 - Wednesday Update - Deb has a dentist appointment tomorrow. We kept it. She's getting her teeth cleaned. Some might consider this a waste of time and money because Deb is in hospice care. This means someone had to say Deb has six months to live or less. If we are taking that diagnosis seriously, yes, maybe it is a waste of time and money. But here's the thing, we believe God is not bound to someone's diagnosis or prediction of life. Time and time again God blows those doomsday scenarios right out of the water. For example, I was told by a well meaning doctor that Deb's heart valve was badly damaged and infected. I was told the antibiotics weren't working and the only way back was heart surgery. Deb was too weak for surgery. Prediction - the heart would get worse and the infection would continue to harm the brain through repeated strokes. Outcome - no sign of infection, no strokes, heart beating strong! Here's the point. I'm not criticizing doctors. They work using mere human knowledge - knowledge corrupted and limited by sin. God works with unlimited power and wisdom. He is the Creator, and because of this fact, there is no reason not to believe that Deb can continue to defy all odds. We must not limit God in our prayers and life. If it is too hard, then it belongs in God's capable hands. So, Deb is going to the dentist tomorrow. I'm sure it will be the highlight of her day. 🤪 But not only this, we are planning to schedule her next six month cleaning as well, and we will continue to plan according to God's will and for His glory. You are loved!
7/21 - Tuesday Update - Fourteen years ago, Deb had a laborious day. She gave birth to a little baby boy. He's not so little these days but soon to be an eighth grader. He's mom's back rubber and my not so secret agent pledged to keep Deb from falling into bad habits. Today is another one of those milestone days that no one thought Deb would see back in March when she was fighting for her life in the ICU. It bears repeating - never underestimate God and the power of prayer. There is nothing He can't do. Miracles are all around you. We also give God glory today that the procedure went well yesterday and that the pain it caused is dissipating. I took some time to help celebrate while Deb is recovering. I made a mean chicken patty, Ramen noodle, and corn lunch with cheese puffs on the side. It is noted that Zeke isn't eating many puffs, but instead he is living his double agent life by stopping his mother. Later, we will have to stop at Kohl's and pick out some new clothes with Deb's 30% off coupon, with her blessing. If they have Pokemon there, we are in big trouble. We are rejoicing in the day - a glorious, not laborious one at that. You are loved!
7/20 - Monday Update - It definitely wasn't a boring Monday. The morning was spent at the hospital where Deb received a stomach catheter. This will enable her to drain fluid from her stomach anytime she feels it is necessary. She can do it at home rather than running to hospital every time. Based on today, this should come in handy in the future. Another four liters was drained from her stomach making 7.5 liters in ten days. Now it is recovery and body adjustment time. While Deb rested, I tended to a dead refrigerator and then playing catch up at church. I'm really working hard at not being overwhelmed by things. God will handle it in His way and time. When you get into a rough spot, remember what God has done in the past. You will surely find a solid history of love and support. He's taking care of you like He is taking care of us. You are loved!
7/18 - Saturday Update - Deb said, "I feel like 35 with a condition." Those are not the thoughts of someone that is waiting around to die, but rather someone who has chosen to live. These days, I get the feeling that some have Deb dead and buried already. It's understandable, really. Stage 4 cancer does not bring images of hope. For most, this is a death sentence, but we just don't know that yet. And even if we did, there is plenty of life to be lived today. Am I in denial? No! I know what we are facing. I know what the doctors might say and that the obstacles are many. I also know that God is bigger than it all, and that if He can give Deb an extra 125 plus days, He can give another 125 and another and another. For that reason, I'm going to dare to hope and pray, and so should you. You see, nothing in your life - whatever "condition" - is insurmountable. If it seems to be, it's because you're trying to handle it on your own. Know He walks beside you today and carries you when needed. For Deb, I note she went from 23 in May to 35 today. She has a condition. We should all be so blessed! You are loved!
7/17 - Friday Update - I hit two milestones today. First, this is the longest I have ever had to wear a mask. Timothy and I are attending orientation at Valparaiso University where Tim is attending in the fall (engineering). Masks are required here at the moment. I have survived so far, but I sincerely pray this will not be the future of our country. Besides the inconvenience and awkwardness of it, what I have missed all day are expressions and smiles on faces. People are faceless. Lord, help us! The second milestone is that this is the longest I've been away from Deb since her cancer diagnosis and strokes. Therefore, I received two messages this morning: "I miss u" and "when the cat is away, the mice play." The first message I echoed back. It truly feels strange being away. Deb has been missed too. The second message...hmm! I found out "mice" like eating pizza while the cat is away even though it creates big problems. "But it tastes so good." Well, the "cat" nabbed the mouse before any damage was done. After a compromise was struck, all ended well. Then this morning, the mouse tried to eat a brownie for breakfast but was thwarted by one of the cat's agents, Zeke. Soon, Deb and I will be reunited. The mask will come off and be replaced with a kiss, and the cat and mouse will find time together to laugh, plan, and play. God help us! You are loved!
7/16 - Thursday Update - A regular part of Deb's day is speech therapy. She's been receiving daily therapy sessions since she came home from the hospital. God has been working through this special time, and as Deb works, progress is being made. She has gone from learning to swallow, to speaking words, and then to saying complete sentences and making conversation. Many things Deb says are truly profound and full of wisdom and love. You have experienced her amazing vocabulary too. Prayers for the healing of Deb's head are being answered. Occasionally, Deb gets a little goofy in her speech on purpose and sometimes unintentionally. Our speech therapist has written many of these quotes down. I pass them on to you to brighten your day. Deb has said: "Bring your teeth to the dentist once a year... Try to examine this fortune I'm seeking... Desire some things but not all the things....A wise man once said that you should eat your vegetables...Diamonds make everything better... No sleeping in the sink." Proverbs 31:25 says, "...she laughs without fear of the future." Let not fear master your life today. Laugh a little. Live like no tomorrow, and while you are at it, we'd love to hear some profound or funny one liners you have heard. You are loved!
7/15 - Wednesday Update - We have now passed 125 days since Deb left the hospital with only a prayer. As time continues to pass, the question has come up, how will this end? As far as we can see, this will end with a miracle - a miracle of life or a miracle of death to life. A miracle of life would include the complete healing of head, heart, and body. We continue to pray for this so God would be glorified, and Deb would be restored to serve as God prepared her to do. We often see glimpses of this miracle. It is a wonder to behold! The miracle of death to life is a reality too especially when Deb struggles and fights pain. Then we long for the heavenly healing where tears are wiped away and there is no more crying, sadness, and pain. Right now, it feels like there is no end. Days go on and on - sometimes backward, most times forward. We often ask God, "What are you doing here? Where is this headed?" We get no answer. We just get another day. Another day - that's what God gives us to focus on and when we do, the end is not so important. So we are learning to live for the day and as those days pile up, the miracle at the end becomes even greater. This day, join us in being prepared for the end through faith in Jesus our Savior and living for the day which is God's gift - His present for you. You are loved!
7/14 - Tuesday Update - Deb and I watched a Pileated Woodpecker pillage one of our desk posts today. If you never heard of such a bird, it is the biggest woodpecker you would ever see. Its beak is massive and quite skilled at pounding wood in search of bugs and grubs. In our case, it was after some carpenter bee larva. You see, these bees did their work before the woodpecker tried to finish it. We watched for awhile, happy at our newfound pest control agent at work, but as the wood chips flew, we had to chase him off before the post disintegrated into splinters. We watched also because we were at awe at such a bird who with such precision knew where to peck to find a nice juicy meal. There is no way this creature just happened by accident. There was a Creator behind him who designed a beak to hammer, a brain to handle the jolts, eyes to know where to hit, and a tongue to dislodge and snatch the larva up. The human body is equally as wondrous. When it is healthy, all parts work in precise order. Everything you do is a testament to God’s amazing creation. Cancer, though, was never part of God’s creation. It came when man fell. Like sin, cancer seeks to destroy what God created and declared good. Thankfully, God sent His Son to rid the world of the effects of sin. With precision, nails were driven in hands and feet and a death occurred to change the course of history and restore His fallen creation. This is the final cure for all of us. While we wait for this cure, we have opportunity to live in this world and to marvel at God’s creation and the salvation He freely gives us through Jesus. Thanks be to God. You are loved!
7/13 - Monday Update - You know, every time I think there's a schedule and a plan, something changes. The plan was for Deb to get her stomach catheter tomorrow. So, we got our minds and schedules set on this. Then an hour after confirming tomorrow's appointment, we get a call that the doctor can't do it because Deb was just drained, and there wasn't going to be enough fluid to work with. So they set the new date for next Monday. So that means Deb will need to fill her belly - something she's not to happy to do. A week should do it, though, but stay tuned. This whole experience has been like this. The twist and turns and the ups and downs are enough to drive a person crazy. That's only because we are getting in the way and insisting on our own way. We need to remind ourselves again to get out of the driver's seat. Our plans are not necessarily God's plan, but we know God's will is always best. We can only see a piece or two of the puzzle. God sees it in its entirety and would know better how each piece fits and the timing for its placement. This applies to all who are in His care. Father knows best - our Heavenly Father, that is. And you are loved!
7/11 - Saturday Update - I didn't see Deb much of the day due to church commitments and a burial several miles southwest of Painesville. So when I got home I asked her what her day was like. She described it as "laborious." She couldn't explain why, but because it was a good word, she stuck with it. Deb actually started her day with a required Covid test. This is required before they could insert the stomach catheter next week Tuesday. The test was quick but did require us to be separated for a bit. Even though it was quick, Deb was glad to see me afterward. The close bond we share was evident, I guess, because at first they wanted me to wait in the car and then they changed their mind and had me wait in the lobby. That made communication and our separation easier. I rejoice that Deb isn't in some institution all by herself. That would just kill her. So I feel real blessed she is close by my side. Still better, we feel the closeness of God every day. He works through people like you as prayers are being said in the United States and the world now. I often pray that God would hear the mighty chorus of prayers made by all the saints. God has heard and although some days are "laborious," He continues to bless us and lift us when we have no strength to go on. You can count on Him too. There is no separation. The bond was sealed in blood. So this weekend, remember you are loved!
7/10 - Friday Update - Today is Friday. I always like Friday because it is my off day or rest day. Everybody needs a day like this. Pastors are forced to take one during the week because they are pretty busy on the weekend (and no, they aren't playing golf). Days like this are also good for family time too. My day consisted of a run early in the morning, getting two old fillings replaced at the dentist, and several hours in the office trying to catch up on work that didn't get done yesterday because of Deb's draining. After making some phone calls trying to verify Deb's procedure for next week (waiting on hold for most of them), I promptly fell asleep. I guess I needed catch up in the sleep department too. When I awoke, I realized I didn't send out an update. So here I am, telling you about the highlights of my rest day. I did so because so many of you have asked how I am and have told me over and over that you are praying for me too. I want to thank you! It really makes a difference. What's next? My smiling sweetheart and five pounds lighter (after draining) bride of 27 years says, "It's time to party." So, I'll go with it. Sounds fun. Friday is looking better and better. You are loved!
7/9 - Thursday Update - Prayers are answered! We had an appointment scheduled for tomorrow, but somehow our cancer doctor and her staff arranged it for today. By 1:30 we were in Cleveland and by 2:00 all was finished. They drained over 3 liters out of Deb's stomach area. I got the pictures to prove it. Looking at it, you would have thought they drained 3 one liter mugfuls of beer out of her. Now that her "beer belly" 😃 is emptied, the smiles are many and her words are bursting from her joyful heart. I haven't seen Deb looking so happy for weeks. It is pure relief! I was thinking. This would make a good sermon illustration. Forgiveness is like losing a belly full of fluid. Sweet relief! Burden gone! The weight is lifted! I also count this as another one of those little miracles today because many things came together to make this happen. Next week, we will get a tube (stomach catheter) placed in Deb's stomach so that she can drain it anytime she wants. Thank you for your prayers! You are loved!
7/8 - Wednesday Update - The waiting continues today. A number of emails have passed back and forth and a call into the hospital was made, but in the end, we still don't have an appointment. Fortunately, Deb's physical health doesn't seem to be in imminent danger. She just has shortness of breath and difficulty sleeping. This caused her to get up at 3:00 a.m. and head down to the living room. It brought flashbacks of an earlier time. She finished the early morning back in bed. Emotionally, I can feel a little despair creeping in. This is the result of not having an end in sight. Suddenly, it feels like there is no hope. Not even a playful "variety" quote will break it - only a date and time will do. This must be what it feels like to live without Jesus and without the certainty of heaven. But Christians like us do have Jesus, and we do know how it ends. This is where we must turn on days like this. Here's our hope when earthly plans don't run according to our schedule. So we will wait, but I think we are getting close. I feel it because you are all still praying and our caring medical team has been working hard to make this happen. I also know that God will never give us anything that HE can't handle. You are loved! [Breaking as I am sending this. Nurse called. The hospital will be calling soon to set the procedure up.]
7/7 - Tuesday Update - Our cancer doctor, God bless her, ordered Deb's stomach procedure "stat." Well, we are still waiting. We understand. There are others waiting in line too. However, this is making things difficult for Deb these days. Today's walk was canceled due to her discomfort combined with the oppressive heat and humidity. Despite these setbacks. Deb remains hopeful completing, "this summer," with "I intend to get better." And when asked to make a sentence with the words "variety" & "I," Deb joyfully said, "I'm having variety in my universe." What a way to look at it! "Variety." That word says it all. It's positive, and it's descriptive of the ever changing days and opportunities in Deb's life. It's also a word which dares to challenge her cancer and its complications with life and hope. Are you experiencing a trial or trouble? You are being blessed with a little variety in your universe too. A little variety is good, but hopefully, it won't come all at once. And now as we wait to lose some stomach fluid - if Deb somehow loses her patience - I know what I have to say. I will need to remind Deb that she's being blessed with more variety. 😉 So, this day let's thank God for variety and for reminding us that He is with us. God is faithful. You are loved!
7/6 - Monday Update - Hope everyone had a safe 4th of July. We had a huge response to our photo. Glad you liked it despite the funny looking guy with the top hat. The garden was the one we planted to celebrate the miracles in Deb's life. It's a victory garden! In news...We are getting closer to getting that fluid drained. The blood work is done, and now we need the procedure. It needs to happen soon. The fluid buildup is starting to affect Deb's breathing especially when she lies down. That made for a long night last night. There are not too many things as scary as not being able to breathe, and for me, trying to sleep next to someone who is having a hard time breathing. It's like a Christian without the Holy Spirit - scary stuff. After all, without the Holy Spirit, there is no Christian. Thanks be to God we don't need to worry about that with Deb. The Breath of God is flowing well, creating faith, hope, and love. And the Spirit of God is working through these updates too. There is no other way to explain it. Today give thanks for the work of the Spirit in our lives, and tonight, when you lay your head on your pillow, lift a prayer for Deb and the medical team working on her behalf. May the Spirit lead the way in all! You are loved!
7/4 - see photo
7/3 - Friday Update - As we move into the 4th of July weekend, I can't express my wonder of God and the joy in my heart that I still have my bride by my side. Here we were, hoping just to make it to her birthday in May. Now July! She told me the other day that "she still hasn't popped the coop." I told her she meant "flew" the coop. We laughed about that one. Either way, she's still alive, and we are praising God for that miracle and all the miracles along the way. Another blessing has been how hospice and our cancer doctor have been working together. We are looking forward to getting that stomach drained soon. There's the real "popping" that needs to happen. 😄Meanwhile, Deb still manages to walk her half mile or more and entertain our faithful speech therapist. Yesterday, Deb was told to finish a sentence beginning with the word "the." Deb replied, "The quartermaster was here." I wondered who she was referring to. I wasn't home at the time so that left our speech therapist or Deb herself. It seems to me that Deb would fit that description. Look it up. It was very much like her role in our family before her cancer and strokes, and more and more true as the days go by. I'm very thankful this day that our "quartermaster" hasn't popped the coop. We have more to celebrate this weekend because of it. Join us in praising God for His miracles and our country. You are loved!
7/2 - Thursday Update - Deb continued her string of good days today. While her energy hasn't been as great as yesterday, she still walked (sometimes with eyes closed) and accomplished much in her speech therapy. Later, she got hungry and fried herself an egg with cheese on top. Our hospice nurse and cancer doctor are working to get answers about Deb's enlarged stomach. We are pretty sure it is fluid which can be drained. This fluid is caused by the cancer. Deb wants it gone today. Unfortunately, the holiday weekend will be taking over, and so, we will have to wait. Waiting is never easy, is it? I think the biggest reason is that while we wait, we aren't in control. Someone else is, and that doesn't suit us well. Actually, though, giving up control is the best thing we could do. I often smile when I see the bumper sticker, "God is my co-pilot." I smile because I want to roll down my window and yell, "Just let Him drive! Get into the backseat!" Of course, they just might actually do it. That would be trouble. So, I refrain. The Bible says, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the LORD." (Psalm 27:14). And so we will wait... for more miracles and stomach draining - if not today - maybe by tomorrow??? You are loved!
7/1 - Wednesday Update - This day has been anything but routine. It started with the usual 6:30 a.m. pain med dose, but then the schedule went out the window for me. When my run took longer than normal because I made a stop at church (with an extra trip thrown in because I forgot my keys), Deb decided to walk on her own. Amazingly, she made it to the end of the road without assistance, but boy, did she hear it! Between her speech therapist, Hospice nurse, and myself, she got a pretty good lecture why this wasn't a safe thing to do - her poor vision in one eye and her endurance the chief concerns. Yet, she made it showing once again that she must have some really active guardian angels. 😇 The day continued with a steady stream of visitors, ending with the hospice nurse where Deb checked out great except for her ever growing stomach. Her stomach has swollen to 86 cm without any other negative side effects. This is a mystery to us. The nurse still thinks it's the cancer. We are hoping to get some answers soon. So that was today - not routine and fraught with concern and question regarding Deb's stomach - but still a day blessed by God. You and I are going to get days like this. When they come, it's best not to fight them and force them to move forward according to your will and plan. Rather, just let them unfold as is, taking advantage of every moment. I really tried to put this in practice today, and as a result, the day was just as God planned it - active, interesting, and blessed. And still true every day - you are loved!
6/30 - Tuesday Update - We've had a week now of uneventful health. What I mean is that there have been no real lows or highs. It's like we are in a holding pattern waiting to land. Deb is not getting any better or any worse as far as we can tell. So what are we to do? It seems God has led several of you to make suggestions for healing. Suggestions include the following: juicing (juicer included), hyperbaric treatments, light therapy, stem cell treatments, Vega shakes, and a host of other holistic healing ideas. Again, what do you do? We are praying for discernment and wisdom not wanting to miss anything that God may be providing for us because clearly God can work through these things. We also know God can continue to use what we have now - some sports nutrition products, meds for pain, and of course, divine medicine which is the most powerful of all. The question remains - can God bring complete healing to Deb? Yes!!! What remains is the how and when. So, for now, we will remain on the holding pattern and enjoy the ride until that day He provides a safe landing. We do so with the promise: "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will do it" (Psalm 37:4-5). This promise is for you too! You are loved!
6/29 - Monday Update - Here we go, another Monday, another week of possibilities. That's how you should look at it, but what if you aren't seeing the new possibilities? What if the future isn't so hopeful? I think Deb feels this way sometimes. Each day nothing seems to change. There is some pain, meds that make her tired, and all kinds of time to do nothing. That's the view Satan seeks to give her, and all of us too for that matter. Have you heard whispered in your ear that life is meaningless and you cannot possibly make a difference? Say, "Be gone, Satan!" Claim the blood of Jesus and send Satan away for he is spewing his lies. The fact is this: You've been given Monday and perhaps a whole week! For me that means I will receive from my wife great gifts - a kiss, a hug, an understanding ear. I will receive a good laugh now and then and a hand to hold as we walk down the street. And some days the bed is made, the laundry done, the clothes folded, and more. They are simple things - nothing worthy of news, yet they mean all the world to me. There's no telling what lies ahead but because God has given Monday, there is the prospect of the blessing of Tuesday. So, today, find the person who needs to hear, "God bless you." Find the person who simply needs your smile and the affirmation that they were noticed. And if that is you, hear it again - you are loved!
6/27 - Saturday Update - Deb walked to the end of our street again even after staying up past ten watching one of her favorite movies, "The Greatest Showman" the night before. I didn't know she had that in her. She had a little inspiration with my sister and her grown kids around for the weekend. The rest of the day will surely be used to catch up on the lost sleep. It's good to have family around, but it is "exhausting" says Deb. Otherwise, the pain is being managed by the meds. Deb also wants to cut down her stomach size, but we're told the cancer is causing it. So, we're right back where we started - trusting in the divine medicine of our almighty God, and that has turned out to be very powerful medicine indeed. Pray on then, prayer warriors. There is nothing God can't do. You are loved!
6/26 - Friday Update - Deb's head swayed, her hands sometimes rose to direct, and a contented, happy smile lit up her face as three instrumentalists filled the room with beautiful music today. It was a surprise music therapy session, and Deb was very pleased. This comes after a serious evening chat on the patio swinging chair where Deb told me I had "refurbished" her through prayer. She wasn't exactly happy about that because heaven seemed so much better than the pain and trouble of this dark world. I reminded her that there have been hundreds and thousands of prayers directed to God on her behalf all asking for what she termed "refurbishment." Then we recounted the many blessings of her refurbishment and more were added today. Refurbishment - it's what God does. He takes broken things and gives them new life - like a musician does with a reed or a bow. So Deb's life is claimed from death - refurbished - and even now giving us sweet music to the glory of God. God be praised as you too are loved and refurbished with Deb today.
6/25 - Thursday Update - Deb is having a good day so far. She walked farther than yesterday and then finished saying she could have done more. Speech therapy was successful even during the hard exercises. Now, about that walk. Deb told me during our walk today that yesterday she walked with her eyes closed. She was tired, I guess. I can hear it now. "How was your walk?" To which she could say, "Great. I caught up on some sleep." Naturally! What are walks for? Who would have known? I didn't. Walking with eyes closed? How is it possible? Because Deb was holding my hand. She trusted me to keep her on the road, and I did. When she tried stray into the ditch, I guided her back. Today her eyes were open. There's room for both figuratively. Walk with eyes closed and cling tightly to God in faith when you have no strength left. He'll keep you on the road and out of the ditch. Walk with eyes open still clinging tightly by faith when you have the strength to marvel at the wonder of the journey. The key to both is to never let go of God's hand. I won't be sure each day how Deb will walk, and while I'm certainly not claiming to be God, Deb knows that if she just keeps hold of my hand, she will make it safely home. You are loved!
6/24 - Wednesday Update - Wow, did we need yesterday! After the trial and tribulation of Monday, God provided a rebound like no other. He provided a terrific Tuesday. It is amazing to me to see how things can swing from one extreme to another. Yes, Tuesday was fabulous - a complete opposite of Monday. Now there is today. Today is a leveling day - a settling out of two extremes, and if this is truly what it is, we can manage. There is a little bit of pain today, but nothing that stops Deb for too long. There is fatigue too, so Deb gets in her naps. Deb walked farther today than any day in the last week. She is carrying on conversations and showing a little feistiness not seen in awhile too. This is middle ground - a good place to be while waiting for our miracle. However, it is not good that we remain in the middle. We need those extremes too. Thank God He knows our limits. He knows how far to stretch us in order to provide growth and dependence on Him. It is in our nature to just get by, to settle, to get a little lazy and avoid anything hard. Just ask Deb when I "forced" her to take a walk today. 🙂 It turned out okay, and so will the other times no matter how hard. Really, we got off easy when compared to Jesus who endured it all on the cross for us. So find that sliver of hope in any day you're facing. It gets way better than this. God has provided for it. You are loved!
6/23 - Tuesday Update - "Sing to the Lord, you saints of His; praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:4-5). This verse would sum up the last 24 hours. Deb went through a period of intense pain early last night. It got so bad she was ready to go to the ER. With all the Covid restrictions, we decided against it. We feared she would have been admitted, loaded up with pain medicine, and never seen by family again. Such is our world. Instead, Deb took her pain med an hour early and anyone who "happened" to be texting me at that time got the charge to pray. It worked! Deb found relief and in the morning there was rejoicing and even a half mile walk. I never want to see that again. There is nothing so helpless as watching your loved one suffer. Deb is tougher than most, but this was her limit. Hospice came later, and we came up with a better schedule for the pain meds. Deb would rather not use these medications, but until God stops her cancer, this will have to be our life. God does have a plan and His wisdom surpasses our understanding, therefore we will wait and see what He has in mind. In the meantime, we will continue to rejoice in His faithfulness. You are loved!
6/22 - Monday Update - I need to start with this - Thank you to all for your many Father's Day greetings and blessings and to the Ziemann children for blowing me away with love and appreciation on Father's Day. It was truly a day to remember! 🥰 Concerning Deb, we have now passed 100 days since she returned home from the hospital. Our prayers have been heard, and God has cured her heart (infection-valve) and given great healing in her head (from stroke damage). Progress continues each day. What is left concerns her body. Deb's stomach is noticeably swollen. This has given her pain and fatigue. The medicine she receives is to relieve this. There are days, though, we wonder whether the medicine is working or hindering her healing and if any progress is being made in the healing of her cancer. Last night I thought I was losing her. I prayed that God would hear my prayer for Deb's deliverance and that He would hear your prayers for her as well. There must be many praying because this morning Deb was back with very little pain and ready for day. I have learned again that tomorrow is not worth worrying about. It's easy in situations like this to lose sight of this. So, today I am celebrating the afterglow of a blessed Father's Day and enjoying the blessing of all the possibilities of today. You are loved!
6/20 - Saturday Update - Deb continues her progress as her pain seems to be decreasing. Her swollen stomach continues to be an issue, though. We don't know exactly what has caused this - cancer, fluid, other? We are praying the steroid brings it down so Deb will be more comfortable. Despite her discomfort, Deb has been working real hard to keep me in vacation mode. In fact, she got me to take a good Saturday nap. But with the weekend at hand, and the fact that we are still around, church will get my attention again. Deb also reminds me that tomorrow is Father's Day. Deb and I are both so blessed to have our fathers still with us. We are very grateful for the love and support they have given us all these years. If your father or a father figure is still alive, you might take some time to remember and give thanks for them. If they have entered their eternal rest, rejoice in their memory. God's Word says: "The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him." (Proverbs 20:7 - NKJV) We pray you are blessed as you walk in the love of your perfect Heavenly Father. It is in His hands that Deb remains. Joining Deb, we are so blessed and are deeply loved!
6/19 - Friday Update - Deb continues her rebound from the pain-filled days of early in the week. Her swollen stomach is still evident as we wait for the steroid to do its work. Hopefully, we're going to get that second walk in today. Deb and I have had some good heart to heart conversations too. One of them always starts with Deb saying to me: "It would be easier on you if I weren't here." I usually groan and sigh and then say, "How many times do I have to explain this to you?" It actually makes us laugh now. I explain to her that whether she is here or not, I would still have to do the extra work. If she were not here, I would be doing it alone - without her love, companionship, humor, hugs, kisses, support, and more. This doesn't even include the impact she makes with family and church. Then I kiss her and tell her how much I love her. End of discussion...until tomorrow when she brings it up again. 🙂 Here's the important point for us all. Everyone has value as long as there is life. God has given us our time on earth for a reason. What are you here for? It is to live, to smile, to pray, to serve as you are able. It's a gift, as is my sweet wife is to me and all who know her. You are loved!
6/18 - Thursday Update - The sun has begun to shine again after the gloom of the past few days. That's good because I don't think I could stand to send out another worrisome update to you all. Deb returned to walking this morning - about a half mile. She declared she wanted to walk again later. That's the start we needed. Deb's pain got less and less as the day wore on. By nap time, which we both enjoyed (I am on vacation, you know), her pain was gone. Speech therapy was outside again and that appeared to go well even when I was on the roof cleaning the gutters with the leaf blower. So, we'll take the day as a step forward. Actually, every day is a step forward for believers in Christ like Deb. She is either one step closer to eternal life in heaven or one day closer to the miracle of complete healing. We can't lose sight of this. Deb's story, therefore, has the certainty of a "happily ever after" ending we long for. However, without Christ there is no hope for this glorious future. I cannot imagine going through this experience without this promise and hope. It would be like living without sun. But the sun does shine today - sun and the Son! So, we are rejoicing in this moment and looking forward to more in days to come. You are loved!
6/17 - Wednesday Update - I received wonderful encouragement and promise of more prayers yesterday. Among them were these words: "Yes. There are those days you move two steps forward and one step back. Or it is one step forward, two steps back. Either way it can lead to impatience. At least for me. I am one of the most impatient persons ever and to my detriment. And it is good to know Jesus died for impatient people like me." These words are so true. It feels like we've gone backward these last few days, and I must admit, I have been feeling a little impatient myself. You see, I had hoped that we would have been on vacation in Wisconsin right now. That wasn't to be. That was my plan. God had another. He wanted us right here which turned out to be a good thing. Deb's pain was not going away and her abdomen has continued to swell (4 cm in a week). Hospice was called and nurse and doctor came up with a plan. It's back to two doses of pain medication and a steroid to help with stomach inflammation. That's where we are right now. So, an Ohio stay vacation is in progress and prayers for healing will continue. Now Lord, grant us patience in your working and forgiveness for our impatience. You are loved!
6/16 - Tuesday Update - Today hasn't been an easy day for Deb. She has had stomach pain all day. Recall this started last week. We dealt with it with two doses of her prescribed medication. This created it's own problems as Deb couldn't stay awake. Today Deb wanted to go back to one dose. This has led to more pain. What do you do? Add to this the recovery needed from our quick trip and you get the day that we've had. Sorry, some days are like this. We have learned to take the good with the bad. We are still considering a trip to Wisconsin, but it is looking less and less likely by the hour despite Deb insisting she could handle it. So we will look for God's wisdom and strength this day and your prayers and encouragement. This time will pass because God is faithful, and you are loved.
6/15 - Monday Update - We took a quick trip to Lansing, Michigan, to visit with Deb's family. It was the first big outing for Deb since Christmas. We are learning what Deb can handle. We were smarter on the way back giving Deb the whole back seat to stretch out and sleep. She was like the queen back there, even waving at her adoring chauffeur. The trip was pretty tiring at times but it was worth it. The trip was longer than planned because our van wasn't firing on all cylinders after we got there. About $400 later, we were able to head back. The mechanic somehow snuck us in despite a full slate of repair jobs. I was literally running all over town getting from place to place. Angels were watching over me when I ran to my in-laws house instead of the hotel, missing a crazy man shooting a gun at cars in the middle of a busy road, just down the road from the hotel. I would have been right in the middle of it. I'm starting to think our life is better than a reality show. We feel blessed by God as He continues to watch over us. We continue to be in His hands which is a great place to be. You are loved!
6/13 - Saturday Update - The ups and downs of life with cancer have continued this week. We are thankful that the days have been mostly up. This said, Deb has been dealing with stomach pain - very similar to what sent us to the ER a few weeks ago. This time we were ready for it. We understand the pain is caused by swollen nodes near her stomach pressing against nerves found there. The solution was a nerve blocker which up to now we've used just overnight. With the flare up, we tried it at noon too. This will help us when traveling and eliminate those rough afternoon hours. They cause some drowsiness, but they seem to be working. Deb remains active with speech therapy, walking from 3/4 of a mile to 1 1/2 miles, and general household tasks. We are thankful for this medicine. We are also thankful for the medicine of forgiveness applied through blood of Christ. This too eliminates pain - the pain of our sin - and brings peace. Here is the real miracle that saves us from eternal death. This weekend would be a great time to receive this medicine and to once again be reminded that you are loved!
6/12 - Friday Update - I learned today that though Deb might like her words, she definitely doesn't like geography. "I'm no good at it," she admitted. This we discovered during speech therapy. Her memory of geography was tested, and it was a struggle. So what is Deb to do? Simple. She "cancels" it. The question about the Nile in Egypt - canceled. Gettysburg - canceled. She was ready to cancel the whole subject. It was actually hilarious as we pressed the subject further. What else would she cancel? People? Things? Her funny husband? Thankfully, she limited it to geography. When it comes to canceling, there's someone better than Deb. It's Jesus Himself! Sin needs canceling. The debt we owe is great. Hatred...canceled. Unloving attitudes...canceled. Lust...canceled. Selfishness...canceled. The whole subject of sin was canceled in one sacrifice - never to condemn us ever again. This geography tops all - outside Jerusalem - on a mount called Calvary - on a cross - hung our Savior for the sin of the world. Deb knows the meaning of that place, and we pray you do too. She's not canceling it! You are loved!
6/11 - Thursday Update - The hospice nurse, who comes once every two weeks now, was speaking my language today. You see, Deb has been feeling a little down about her perceived lack of progress. The nurse, who herself came through a stroke, said, "You have to remember, this is not a sprint, it's a marathon." Wise words. I think Deb got the message despite not being a runner. Give things time. Progress often doesn't happen overnight. God's timing is not always our timing, but His timing is always perfect. The other aspect of this is when things don't happen like we expect, we tend to get down and miss the progress gained. Such is the case for Deb today because we all know how far she's come. God has been working big time. It might not seem like it day by day - a "not seeing the forest for the trees" idea - but things are significantly different from a week ago, month ago, three months ago. So the ups and downs will come, but we're always moving forward. That's a marathon. Then before you know it you've arrived at the finish line and the celebrating begins. So it is with our faith too. Just keep running, that's the key. And that's my kind of language and for my newfound "running partner" of 27 years. You are loved!
6/10 - Wednesday Update - Deb has always been well versed in the English language. She has taught Latin and has read all classics. Her vocabulary has always been superior to mine. Naturally, it was quite a blow when she lost it all to the strokes. She had to start all over. Recently, though, my wordsmith wife has showed evidence of regaining her old form. Today, for example, we went walking in the heat. I cut the walk a little short. How did Deb see it? She said, "Kurt was empathetic to my heat tolerance." And so I was, but I didn't know cutting a walk short could sound so good. Upon investigation, I found Deb continues to make her mark in therapy. According to Deb, she "churns a lot." She also loves to say: tobogganing, northwesterly, supremely, exquisitely, discretely, advantageous, and superfluous. In regard to our situation, obviously, "We've been honestly taken aback." Deb doesn't like to get things wrong. And it's always great when Deb says something like, "I know that. Nope, I don't." Or "I knew that yesterday." After 85 days of speech therapy, it appears I will have to use "precision of language" in our house or risk rebuke, but that's okay with me. This means another miracle is happening a word at a time. And so in this rejoice and know, "You are loved!" Thankfully for me, no big words are needed.
6/9 - Tuesday Update - Today is one of those days. It's extremely hot, the air is heavy, and walking isn't easy. That's not good for Deb. She did manage speech therapy and a shorter walk but other than that, her body wants to rest. Some days are like that. The normal inclination is to fight it, though, to keep going, as if taking the time to rest is going to undo all the gains of the previous days. This is just not true. Review the creation account in Genesis again and see that God in effect, created rest on the seventh day. He didn't need the rest, but we did. So, He gave it as a pattern and rhythm for our lives. Even Jesus took time and rested. I don't know about you, but I need to be reminded of this often. The schedule is full - go, go, go until I drop. And you know, that's what happens to me at times. If I'm going to get sick, it's because I didn't rest. As I care for Deb, the temptation is also to keep pushing ahead in the name of progress when in reality, more progress could be made by resting. Thank God for days like today - for sweet rest and recharging. That's when healing happens. God tells us we need it, and today, Deb was smart enough to listen. You are loved!
6/8 - Monday Update - Deb went to church again this weekend. She had to sit in the back pew because the boys and her were a little late. That's not good for her vision. What did she do? She told me she closed her eyes during the sermon (so she could "focus" she told me). I preached. Hmm. Naturally, I thought this was suspicious. Was she taking a nap? Was the sermon that boring? So, we had a little sermon talk on our Sunday afternoon walk. Well, she didn't miss a step. She heard it preached that God is the Creator and should be the center of our universe. Impressive! She actually was listening, so I pressed forward for the application. I told her that since God is first in my life (First Commandment), that would mean that she wasn't the center of my universe. She agreed that was true - she shouldn't be the center of my universe. Then she added with that grin, "but I am pretty close!" She had me there! Yes, she is close to being at the center. This time in our life has been a big reason. I have never felt closer to my bride than now. What Satan willed as something to destroy us has actually built us up in faith in Jesus and in our love for each other. I've said it before - times like this are opportunities for God to work. And we sure have seen it, haven't we?...even when our eyes are closed. You are loved!
6/6 - Saturday Update - Today Deb and I watched Timothy graduate from high school. It wasn't anything like we envisioned when Timothy started four years ago. There was no formal ceremony at school, but rather it was a virtual ceremony online. Who would have thought we would have been sitting on the couch watching a graduation like a television program? There are lots of things in life we don't see coming. This is true for Deb on two levels. Physically, Deb can't see anything on her right side. For example, we often are walking hand in hand, and she'll tell me that she can't see me. She has to turn her head for that. Her eyes are still as beautiful as ever, but the strokes have made a lot of things unclear, especially at a distance. So, this why Deb is not walking alone or driving at this time. On another level, we never saw this part of our life coming. Otherwise, we would have planned for it. Life is like that. I mean, did anyone really see this pandemic coming and the reaction to it? Other things pop up, and we are thrown into a panic. I would suggest you hold the hand of someone you love. Deb does often. Hold it tightly and walk together. Better yet, take the hand of your loving Father in heaven through faith. He's got a vision for you and your future. You can trust Him. He's got everything figured out. And when you get a little anxious, talk to Him, and He will hear and bring you peace. No matter what unexpected thing comes, it is reassuring to know that God is in control and that you are loved!
6/5 - Friday Update - Deb started this hot and humid day by expanding her territory. She walked beyond a mile and a half. On one particular stretch she could see how far she had to go. It looked endless. I told her, "Don't look at it all at once. Just take a driveway at a time." She wasn't buying it. "Can't we just take the car?" She made it without the car. Later I took Deb out on the town. First stop, bank drive-up line. So exciting! We passed the time talking to our oldest. Then we headed to Chic-Fil-A and found another line. By the time we got to the park where the boys were to meet us, it was too late. They had returned home already. So here am I writing this update looking for something profound and all I got is a walk, a drive, and at least forty minutes of sitting in drive-up lines. But now it has hit me. 90 days ago Deb was fighting for her life in a hospital bed with a tube down her throat. The way back looked long. We wanted a "car" back then too, but God gave us a driveway at a time and look where we are today! Step by step God has led us. May the Lord take your hand and lead you too. He's capable, you know, especially one driveway at a time. You are loved!
6/4 - Thursday Update - As many of you know, Deb is officially under hospice care. In order to receive this care, a doctor must certify that a person has six months to live or less. The terminally ill must also accept Palliative care (comfort) instead of care to cure the illness. This is exactly where Deb was when she left the hospital. All medical intervention was deemed fruitless. The only thing left was divine medicine. Thanks be to God, today things look dramatically different - enough to cause hospice to wonder if Deb is still eligible. We like that. Despite their care, we would rather graduate from hospice. We would rather wish them well and send them to those who are really sick. Six months, you see, is just a number. We believe that God is not limited by numbers assigned by man. We believe no one knows the days ordained by God, and for Deb, that means it could be six days, six months or even six years or more. This is true for all of us. Then how should we live? We should live in readiness. That is, we should live each day to the fullest. What kind of life is this? A full life is one filled by Jesus. Jesus turns emptiness to fullness by granting His gifts of faith, hope, and love. It is living forgiven and free. So six months? That's graduation. Life in Christ? That's eternal life! You are loved!
6/3 - Wednesday Update - We heard some groans today. It started on our walk. Yesterday was easy. The air was dry; the temperature cool. Today it was warm and muggy. We walk a mile anyway. Groan! Speech therapy was work. The mouth and brain didn't want to work together at times. We force them. Groan! Groans often represent testing and suffering and because of that, we would often like to avoid anything that causes them. Yet, when we do, we may miss opportunities for growth. The Bible says, "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5) Yes, groans lead to growth and growth leads to easier days ahead. Consider also the groans of Christ Jesus on the cross. The work Jesus did there has led to the certainty of heaven for all who believe. What are our groans compared to that? Keep pushing forward then. You got this because the Spirit has you and you are loved!
6/2 - Tuesday Update - There's plenty of good news to report today! Deb seems to really be on an upswing lately. While her weight has dropped to 95-96, I think this is due to her increased activity level. She's actually eating more than ever without major issues so we are not worried about the loss. We are wondering if she lost some of that fluid in her stomach which would account for some of the drop. She has decided she doesn't need the maximum dose of the sports nutrition pain reliever anymore - cutting it in half. She started her day today by making bread (following a recipe using a bread machine) and then walking a mile and a half. Her pace has increased too. She had enough energy to follow this with speech therapy. Afternoons are often spent outside enjoying the patio and sun. We are now at a point where we can start considering some traveling to see family. So God continues to work this miracle and deserves all the glory and praise. Thank you for your prayers and keep us updated on the prayer requests you've given us. We are in this together. You are loved!
6/1 - Monday Update - What a crazy world we live in! First, a virus shuts us down. Now, that appears to be old news as protests and violence erupt across the country. What's next? In the backdrop of this topsy turvy world, months of dealing with cancer and the effect of strokes appears to be seemingly more predictable and secure. Even throwing in those dogs doesn't dissuade me. I'll take my little piece of the world any day. Who would have thought? The key to my world is faith in God's constant love and blessing. I know He is with us. I also know that when things go wrong, I don't have to carry a sign in protest or violently burn and loot. No, I can simply bow my head and bring a prayer to God, and God will hear me and answer according to His plan. It's a plan always for my good even in injustice or sickness or in health. That world can be yours too through faith in Jesus - the Savior of the world. You see, the violence in the world is not proof that God is powerless and has left us, rather proof that world has left Him. And that is saddest part of it all. This day, keep praying and rejoicing for Deb, but you might throw in a petition or two for the lost and empty souls out there trying to find meaning and justice without Him. Never lose sight of the truth - you are loved!
5/30 - Saturday Update - My darling, sweet wife got the smirk back and a few laughs in today. You see, a dog chomped on my arm during a run today. It was a pretty good bite. Deb and daughter Katie insisted I get it checked out at Urgent Care, and I dutifully did. Upon returning home, Deb poured on some tongue and cheek care. "Should I feed you?" she said with a smile. Then later, "Should I drive you to church?" She offered knowing what a mess it could be trying to feed me, but even more a disaster in driving. We both would not have survived that trip. I get it. She loves me and wants to show the same care she's been receiving. Turnabout is fair play, but today I will tenderly refuse those offers. I definitely felt loved and cared for by the whole family as they endured another little running mishap. I am not why these things happen on busy weekends like today, but I am watching for God's work in it all. Perhaps the Australian Shepherd's owner needed to meet a pastor today. We are first name basis now. I'd rather not evangelize in this way, but I wouldn't be surprised if this gives opportunity for the Gospel just like Deb's situation is bringing. When these things strike, watch for the good. It will be as God has promised for all who believe (Romans 8:28). Really, I'll be fine. I have a dear wife waiting on me, and a God who keeps loving me. You too! You are loved. Have a great Sunday!
5/29 - Friday Update - All the kids are home for Zeke's confirmation! It's a full and busy house. I took the opportunity to team up with Zach and Zeke to plant some vegetables and flowers today. Normally, we plant lots of tomato plants, zucchini, and kale. However, we are giving the ground a rest from those things this year. Instead, we planted what I call our "miracle" garden. It sits right off our patio and in time, it will give Deb a spectacular display of color when she sits out there. It will be a reminder of the Lord's provision (Matthew 6:25-34) and a complimentary representation of the flower we are watching bloom before our eyes - the miracle of Deb herself. And as if right on cue, our Lord blessed this planting with a soaking rain shortly after planting. We will also celebrate Zeke's planting in holy baptism this weekend in his confirmation. With all this blessing, I think we're going to need more flowers. God is faithful, and you are loved!
5/28 - Thursday Update - A source of frustration and laughs is Deb's confusion with names. Often she will be talking about Timothy when she means Zeke or Zeke when she means Jeremy. (Funny thing - I do this at times, and I didn't have a stroke.) She keeps us listening and guessing. Speech therapy has stepped it up these days. Deb has been working on middle names. At first all the boys were labeled with "Paul" (our oldest's middle name) or just were completely forgotten. Today, though, Jeremy came out and stopped on the stairs. He demanded Deb say his middle name before coming up. She immediately said the correct name of "Andrew." He came up and kissed her forehead, his usual greeting. It was a moment. Did you know that God has no trouble with names? Even among the billions, God calls each of His sheep by name (John 10). No one is forgotten. In fact, we are not orphans, but rather we are loved sons and daughters of the King. Keep that in mind when you feel needless and forgotten. In the meantime, there is hope for Deb. The names are coming out right. Now, if only I can keep the pace with her. You are loved!
5/27 - Wednesday Update - A dear friend commented the other day that she thinks Deb is "blooming" right now. I thought about that. What a great observation. So, I told Deb today. Well, she got a funny look on her face - a look of disbelief and shock. What did I say? She thought I said she was "ballooning." Whoops! I straightened that out real quick after a really good laugh. Blooming, not ballooning - it's an amazing thing. You wouldn't expect a beautiful flower like Deb to bloom in the soil of cancer and stroke damage, but she is. She is more beautiful than ever - her bright smile and sense of humor bursting from within. When we walk hand in hand on our morning walk she is blooming for all the neighborhood to see. When she tries to tell me my running clothes are in the dryer but tells me something about cleaning the refrigerator instead, she blooms in sweet laughter. She is blooming - her faith trusting Jesus. So many of you have noticed too, haven't you? Yes, Deb is a delicate pink rose blooming where no one expected because God has given her the growth. Bloom where you are planted today. More than ever the world needs a garden full of blossoms radiating Jesus in every way. Don't fret the soil. God will give the growth. And if it turns into ballooning, that's okay too. It just means the bloom is a little larger. You are loved!
5/26 - Tuesday Update - The boys wanted spaghetti last night. It was something they could prepare. However, Deb beat them to it! When I got home from church, Deb was stirring the sauce she put together. Another large pot was boiling for the noodles. After I found the meatballs, Deb had her meal. Then Jeremy kicked her out of the kitchen for her to rest. I'm counting it, though, "First Meal Made by Deb Day!" Recall, I saw this day coming on April 24, and back then I predicted that it would be the best meal ever. It was! Milestones like this are good to point out. They are like signposts pointing the way of progress. The church has the same thing going. Last week it was Ascension, this week Pentecost, and the next it will be Trinity Sunday. Zeke has one this weekend in his confirmation. They work the same way as Deb's milestones. They all show that God is active and working. Let there be no doubt who deserves the glory and praise today. See God working and loving you today as I saw it in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. You are loved!
5/25 - Memorial Day Update - Except for her morning walk with Zeke and speech therapy, today has been a lazy day for Deb. It had that feel from the very start because it is a holiday today. This holiday always strikes me odd because most people get the day off and are doing fun things. It's considered the start of summer for many. What happened to the remembering part? Think about it. You got the day off because someone sacrificed their life for your freedom. So take time to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. Remember and give thanks. And while you're at it, as you celebrate Deb's healing, take time to remember how far she has come. Go back to those early days and see what God has done. Remember and give thanks! And finally, consider the ultimate sacrifice - the one made by your Savior from sin. Remember and give thanks! So, whether it is a lazy day for you or a busy one, there's always time to remember. And when you do, you will certainly be led to give thanks which is most appropriate on this Memorial Day. You are loved!
5/23 - Saturday Update - Deb declared another miracle last night. Here's what happened. We finished our night time prayers and then Deb shifted her head on her pillow right onto a wet spot. It was a drool puddle. This happens, yes? But it happens more often after a stroke. Well, Deb was disgusted and had enough. With that smirk and in her way of saying, she announced that God should put her out of misery right then and there rather than having her drooling the rest of her life. I told her that if she died drooling, then that would be my last memory of her. That struck her funny (you had to have been there). And then she laughed. It was a good, deep, long laugh, better than any we've had in awhile. That's when she declared the miracle. For the first time, her stomach didn't hurt when she laughed. Naturally, I made her laugh some more - might as well enjoy the miracle. We've laughed more since, and most of the time it still doesn't hurt. I am thankful for this, but more importantly, I am thankful that Deb can laugh in the face of death. Many people are having a hard time doing that these days, and that's why talk of cancer and pandemics are causing such great fear. Understand though, those in Christ have no reason to fear since what is promised to us is far better than anything this life can offer. So in the victory of Jesus, laugh in the face of death. Laugh with us and drool a bit too. It will do you good. You are loved.
Note - Back on Monday! Enjoy your Sabbath rest.
5/22 - Friday Update - This update today will be short and early because Deb is celebrating with me. Back in July, I finished my Doctor of Ministry degree. Today is the official commencement of the degree. It is a virtual service and the second of our May celebrations (Deb's birthday started the month). I am grateful that Deb will be by my side because she was there throughout my doctorate studies and dissertation writing. We have Zeke's confirmation next weekend before capping it off with Timothy's virtual high school graduation on June 6. Back in March it looked pretty bleak for May. Thanks be to God for all that He has done these past 70+ days. God deserves all the glory and praise! As you pray for Deb today, it would be appropriate to lift your thanks and praise for God's mighty works. There is nothing He can't do. You are loved!
5/21 - Thursday Update - Deb continued to expand her walking territory today with no complaining even with the hills. The other notable event was the departure of two more hospice furnishings - the commode and the hospital bed table. Deb doesn't need them. So, all that remains of the original Hospice shipment is the shower bench. I thought about this today and marveled how the Lord continues to transform Deb from death to life. Little by little the memory of what once was is disappearing. Recently I read some of the early posts to Deb, and Deb could scarcely believe I was reading about her. The person she is today does not even come close to resembling who she is today, and Lord willing, we are not going back. Deb's transformation is giving us a glimpse of what has occurred in us through faith in Christ Jesus. The Bible says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) So, like Deb, the commode and any other sign of your former self is gone. You have been transformed and made alive - forgiven and freed. That makes you just as much a miracle as Deb could ever be. We are celebrating both today and the fact that you are loved!
Update 5/20 - Wednesday Update - The wind was out of the East this morning which meant our morning walk would go left out of the driveway straight into it. You see, we always like a tailwind on the return trip home. So, off we went. We quickly arrived at the usual five house turnaround, but I didn't stop. I told Deb that the usual turn was good when she was weak and getting started. Not today. Deb has progressed beyond this point. Understanding, we walked on. Then it hit her, "But there is a hill!" "Yes," I told her, "but not one, but two." She responded with a big "Ugh!" Well, she survived the two hill half mile walk. Her territory has been expanded. Today two hills, tomorrow... (shh, don't speak of it 😉). Then came speech therapy and more "hills" tested Deb. Deb needed a nap after that. The hills of life are not fun for most people. They're exhausting. They require more effort, but their benefits yield great gain - not to mention the view from the top. Embrace those hills in your life. They are placed there not to destroy you, but rather to build you up. And when you are weary, look to the hill of the cross and find strength in the One who conquered all. So, ever forward we will press, to the next hill and the next. I'm going to hear it for sure. But hand in hand, through prayer and encouragement, and in the might of God, she will conquer! You are loved!
Update 5/19 - Tuesday Update - What a difference a week makes! Last week Deb spent the whole morning in the ER. Praise God not this week! In fact, after a good night's rest, Deb helped make banana chip muffins this morning. She also got in a good walk. So, things are looking up. God must have more in mind in Deb's future. At the moment, we don't know what that is. The stroke damage is keeping her from playing and directing the bell and chime choirs. She is not up to teaching either. Home responsibilities are limited too which has caused Deb to wonder at times, "What use am I?" So we continue to pray for full healing so she can go back to those things she did so well before her cancer and strokes. If that is not God's will, then we pray that He would use her in another way. Regardless of the future, we know that what she is now is exactly what God intended her to be. And so it is with you. God has created you for a purpose. There is no one like you. So just be you and do those things God has called you do today. Big or small, it is enough. So Deb will continue to inspire us with her faith. She will continue to be my sweetheart. She's going to be mom, daughter, sister, and friend to you and more. And if that is it, we will all be blessed. You are loved!
Update 5/18 - Monday Update - Deb had a wonderful weekend! She was alert, strong, and well rested. She even went over 100 pounds! Then comes today - Monday. This is usually the day when the weekend catches up to her. Well, it has been a typical Monday. However, I think it's nothing that a little rest and some prune juice couldn't solve. I'm not sure that the juice will ever be an option, though. 😝 There's another thing as predictable as Monday. It's the fact that when Deb eats, invariably some trace of food is left on the corner of her mouth. This is due to the strokes. Deb doesn't even know the food or spot is there until someone lovingly points it out. I call it her weak side or "blind spot." To her credit, Deb isn't offended, but rather, she goes right to work in cleaning up. I couldn't help thinking about this today after reminding Deb she was still wearing dried yolk from her morning egg. We all have these spots - some obvious and some we are clever enough to hide. Call them bad habits or even sin. Thankfully, we have a God who not only lovingly points them out, but goes the next step in cleaning us up each time, day after day, year after year. How patient we are with Deb, but more so, how merciful and gracious God is each day to us despite our blind spots. Through the work of Jesus, on our behalf, we can get through all our troublesome Mondays. You are loved!
Update 5/16 - Saturday Update - So how do you top a great day? You wake up and start another one. A good place to start for Deb is breakfast. She knows how to fry an egg to perfection. A morning walk in the neighborhood is another great place to start. Deb and I usually walk holding hands - partly because we love each other and partly because I'm trying to keep her on the road. Speech therapy follows with no violin or cello today. It's still fun and a bit of work too. So goes the day. Since I had to finish things at church and wait in line for a much needed haircut, Deb had opportunity to nap, sit outside, or find some project to work on. The boys will have to watch the chips. Each day, then, is really what you make of it. Whether good or hard, each day is a gift! The bible says, "Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). We are rejoicing in this day and in your partnership in the Gospel. You are loved!
Note-No update tomorrow. Enjoy the day. Why not start it in church - online or in person, where or when available.!
Update 5/15 - Friday Update - I was going to write that today was a good day, but I have to change that. It's been a great day! It started with the best sleep we've had in a long time which was followed with a beautiful morning walk. Later, while I ran, Deb enjoyed time sitting outside. When I got home, I caught Deb sneaking chips and salsa. Yes, the smirk was there. The day continued with three surprise visitors and a nap. We received a meal which included cherry pie and ice cream. Yes, the day was good. It became great when our faithful speech therapist surprised us with a concert! A violin and cello filled our home with beautiful melodies of praise to God. Tears of joy flowed and spirits were lifted higher than ever. God knew this week needed a Friday like today. And that should be a reminder to you that God knows your needs too, and with every down is sure to come uplifting and strengthening. Yes, God is faithful and you are loved!
Update May 14 - Thursday Update - Yesterday's photo said in picture what words could not describe - the turnaround from Tuesday was truly miraculous! I spoke to our cancer doctor, and she affirmed pretty much what was concluded on Tuesday's update. The new information is that the gall bladder is not as bad as perceived and that Deb's pain is coming from two swollen lymph nodes near the pancreas which are putting pressure on the some nerves there. Deb received some medication for the night-time and continues to use one of my sports nutrition pain relievers during the day. This had made all the difference. We are both sleeping again. It is amazing to me how things can change. This is why I am thankful for our changeless God whose faithfulness, mercy, and love are ever constant and sure. Day to day life can't be trusted, but God can. In this unpredictable time, He remains our source of strength, and the reason we can meet the uncertainties of tomorrow. You are loved!
Update May 13 - Wednesday Update - see photo at left.
Update May 12 - Tuesday Update - Well, well, a lot has transpired over the last 24 hours. Deb and I spent the whole morning in beautiful Geneva... Ohio. No vacation - just time visiting the ER. Deb's side pain seemed to get worse, so I called the hospice nurse at 5:00 a.m. She thought it was a good idea to get checked to rule out appendicitis. Next thing I knew Deb was in the ER, and I was forced to wait it out in the car (new hospital procedure due to virus). They scanned Deb. Her appendix checked out fine. Her gallbladder was "fully distended." There was also evidence of the cancer with the presence of liquid mainly in the stomach and under the right lung (pleural effusion). So no big miracle cure yet on the cancer. The miracle, though, is that after three months from the last scan, the cancer doesn't seem to be out of control and threatening Deb's major organs as this cancer likes to do. We hope to follow up with our cancer doctor to confirm. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Deb is going back to a bland diet with some sports nutrition as a supplement. This will help the unhappy gallbladder. We are rejoicing in God's grace of another day and the prospect of more to come. Direct your prayers appropriately. God is faithful and you are loved!
Update May 11 - As the days go on, I am realizing how powerless I really am. Deb has had side pain for days. Sometimes the pain is manageable, and Deb is happy and active. Then just like that, she's down, tossing and turning in obvious discomfort. What am I to do? I hold her, pray for her, and try everything to get her calories. But what if it is the cancer? What if it is spreading? I can't stop that. Another thing. Our church has been closed, and I want badly for it to open. Again, there are a whole set of obstacles that keep the opening out of my control. Then there is the prospect of life without handshakes or hugs and the new norm of social distancing of six feet...what kind of world is this? Do you think I can change this? I'm powerless. I guess these are the thoughts on a cloudy, 30 degree day in May. So where's the ray of sunshine? Where's the hope? It's this - that God is above all this. If He wants the cancer gone, it will be done. And this world? Nothing happens without God noticing. People might think they are in control, but in the end the buck stops at God's almighty right hand. So powerless I'll be - despite the protests of my nature - I am better for it. God's got things handled. I feel better already! You are loved.
Update May 9 - Saturday Update - If the Spirit urged you to pray last night, it was for good reason. Deb's stomach was making it hard for her to sleep. She tossed and turned for hours not finding any relief. I did a lot of praying over her, but she didn't seem to improve. So, I asked God to raise up others to pray with me. God heard our prayers and gave Deb an hour or so of sleep. Unfortunately, today Deb's stomach has continued to make life not so fun. Whether it is active cancer, the effects of past cancer, or simply constipation we don't know. Deb's stomach issues remind me of St. Paul's thorn in the flesh. He too prayed for release of his trouble, but God's answered him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) It's true, God grace is sufficient. So it is, our discomforts simply drive us to rely on God and to trust in His power. In the meantime, continue to pray for Deb's head, heart, and body with a renewed effort for her stomach. We again thank you for your partnership. You are loved.
Update May 8 - Friday Update - Deb had barium for lunch today. Yum? Not really - even when berry flavored. This was part of a barium swallow test designed to check Deb's swallow proficiency. Recall, Deb could handle only thickened liquids at first because of the risk for aspiration. This test affirmed Deb was ready for any liquid given to her and affirmed all the hard work of speech therapy these past two months. This test could have gone the other way too. It could have identified problems and risks with Deb's swallow which could then have been addressed. Thankfully, the news was good. The best part of today were the looks of the two specialists working with Deb. While they were masked, their eyes and reactions clearly betrayed their amazement when Deb's two month history was explained. They searched for some medical explanation but found none given. I explained what they were seeing was the result of divine intervention. There is no way else to explain it. Divine medicine was applied and healing has resulted. To God all the glory! There is nothing He can't do! As a result of today's results, one thing is clear. Deb is cleared to eat all the ice cream she wants and steal sips of beer from her husband without rebuke. You are loved.
Update May 7 - Thursday Update - Alexa joined the effort to help Deb today. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll quickly explain. "Alexa" or otherwise known as "the other woman" in our house is a voice controlled Amazon assistant. It's like a speaker with a screen. We use it to video call our daughter and her husband. She also answers questions and plays music. When Deb was real sick, Alexa played classical music to help Deb. Today, Alexa helped Deb in speech therapy. Who would have known! The big deal is this. Alexa won't respond unless you can be understood. "Blah, blah" won't cut it. So Deb had to talk and be understood, and Deb managed it just fine. So, are we aiming at replacing our speech therapist now? No way!! You see, Alexa is just a machine. Alexa and other electronics like phones and computers have their limits. In fact, Alexa wouldn't even pray today. She wouldn't do it unless we purchased a special app. So, trust not in your gadgets these days. Stay close to One who hears every prayer whether audible or not. Trust in the One who died, rose, ascended, and even now intercedes for you (without an app purchase.) It is Jesus! Alexa is not replacing anyone in our house. She is merely adding a little color to the masterful miracle God is working before our eyes. You are loved!
Update 5/6 - Wednesday Update - Deb's stomach hasn't felt great these last few days. She describes it mainly as a constant full feeling. It hasn't stopped her from eating or being active, but I will admit, it is concerning at times. I start thinking, "Oh, no, here it starts. The cancer is getting worse..." Really, this thinking is a dread of the unseen enemy, cancer, but more specifically, death. And that's where I try to end it. This is useless speculation. Could it be cancer? Yes. Could it be the stomach stretching and healing too? Yes. Could be gas? Yes. It could be any of these things or maybe something I didn't consider. Regardless, needless speculation and worry over the unknown is a waste of time. So, the best thing I know to do is move forward and leave the unknown to Almighty God - the Creator of the world. God has given us life today, so why not live it. When this short life is over, I will receive the crown of eternal life. The truth is that Jesus has conquered all of our enemies - seen or unseen. Deb has said, "We're all going to die from something." No big deal then. Come what may. Right now, then, we will live as God wills and to His glory, and that, my friends, is how God beats a cranky tummy every time. You are loved!
Update 5/5 - Tuesday Update - The weekend finally caught up to Deb last night and today. While Deb is still doing things, you can definitely see her body is looking for a little extra rest. However, this hasn't stopped her from walking nearly a mile every day now and continuing to work hard at speech therapy. So it is. Deb is busy when active and zonked out at rest. The increased activity has prevented her from hitting 100 pounds. No worries. We will trade activity for weight any day. Eventually, though, the activity will feed the appetite and new muscle will push her through that century mark. We are keeping things in perspective in this all. The 100 pounds was our idea and our will. God is reminding us that He's in charge of the progress, and at that, He is doing a remarkable thing. It's good to have goals, but it is even better when we are open to God's way to getting us there. You are loved!
Update 5/4 - Monday Update - What a day! What a weekend! Deb's birthday was something to remember. All the kids were home (this includes Jake plus a dog named Max). There were phone calls, a large pile of cards, and an endless stream of texts. They are still coming in. Deb received some special gifts too. There was no shortage of food including her ice cream birthday cake and a birthday meal beyond belief. And who could forget the surprise birthday parade? Deb won't. For the first time ever, there was a traffic jam on our quiet road. Thank you for helping us celebrate a birthday that seemed an impossibility two months ago. Where do we go from here? We move forward knowing another birthday is possible. And why not? God hasn't given us any signs to the contrary. He is accomplishing a special miracle and to Him goes all the glory and praise. A great hymn says it well: "O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home." We are not afraid, and neither should you. God is faithful, and you are loved!
Update 5/3 - It was my mom’s 53rd birthday today! To celebrate with her, some members from my parent’s church organized a birthday parade and drove by with posters, birthday music and gifts for my mom. It was SO amazing to see all the love and support my family has here in Ohio. Thank you to all who helped make this day special for her and for all the encouragement you’ve given my family. God has continued to show his love, even during this crazy time! @ Painesville, Ohio (Katie)
Update 5/2 - Saturday Update - One thing that is not in short supply around our house is laughter. For example, I asked Deb what I should write about today, and she told me that I should write about the "genius" we have in the house. I must point out, she wasn't talking about her husband. We laughed in relief when one morning she decided to go walking by herself again. You see, the boys weren't getting up fast enough. A friend in the neighborhood caught her and asked, "Are you supposed to be walking by yourself?" Needless to say, the mischievous smirk returned. Another cute story was when Deb tried to cook chicken noodle soup without the oven on. Yes, I can tell so many more. The great thing is that Deb laughs with us. Her good humor is alive and well, and this bodes well for her healing because laughter or a cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Find a reason to laugh today. If you need help, feel free to consult the "genius" living in our house. You are loved!
Deb's birthday is tomorrow. She says she is 23. 😂 There will be no update, but you are welcome to send a birthday greeting through a text or email.
Update 5/1 - Friday Update - When I made the vow promising to love, honor, and keep Deb in sickness and in health, I must confess I wasn't thinking so much about the sickness part. We were young and healthy. In my mind, the sickness part would come later, much later. I had at least 50 years to get ready for that. God had other ideas. He wanted to bless our marriage after 27. I know that sounds odd. How can you call sickness - in our case cancer, infection, and strokes - blessing? I call it blessing because that is exactly what it has been. In the last two months Deb and I have grown closer to each than ever before. We have shared wonderful times together. Our conversations, even when they are more like a game of charades, have been meaningful and intimate. Our prayer life together has never been better. I never knew how powerful and positive marriage could be until now. I thought I knew, but God took us deeper. Has your heart ached for me? Let it no longer. Rather, rejoice with me. What God has done in our marriage is truly another miracle. In faith and even in marriage, God's Word rings true: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4) We lack nothing together. So, rejoice with us in the blessing of sickness and health. You are loved!
Update 4/30 - Thursday Update - DNR. That's where Deb was over 50 days ago, and that's not the Department of Natural Resources. That's "Do Not Resuscitate." I remember when I signed the paper for Deb. Deb was on the oxygen machine with a tube down her throat. Her tongue was swollen and sticking out. She only could nod or shake her head and squeeze your hand. The Palliative doctors said that any attempt to resuscitate her would crush her weak body. I remember following the ambulance that was transporting her home knowing they could do nothing to save her if her heart or breathing stopped. Deb wanted it this way. She didn't want to linger on a machine - kept alive only by human intervention. So we left it in God's hands - signed those papers - DNR. Well, God ignored the order. It was like He ripped that paper up. God resuscitated her anyway and then some. He rescued, revived, and redeemed her too, and He continues His healing inside and out today. He has the power to do that, you know, even for you. No one needs to live with DNR, at least not spiritually speaking. Jesus has redeemed you through His blood. He has rescued you from sin, death, and the devil. See the continuing miracle in Deb today, but more than that, see that DNR doesn't apply to the believer of Christ. You are loved.
Update 4/29 - Wednesday Update - Over the course of these days, I've received much encouragement from cancer survivors. One theme that keeps coming up is that we should expect the ups and downs or the peaks and valleys that come with healing. This is so true. We are living that theme. Deb had a good night and early morning today, then suddenly something didn't go down right and she was miserable. And then after a couple hours, she snapped out of it and was ready to eat again. Up and down, up and down, thankfully, with many more ups than downs. Life is like this, isn't it? Hopefully, more ups than downs is true for you too, but that's asking a lot these days. Know this, though. It is in the valley that we can remember God's promise that "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil... (Psalm 23). He is with us. We get through them every time. Even death has no hold on the one who follows closely to the Shepherd's voice. As Deb's energy, good humor, and smile have returned this day, I know the promise of God is true and that His love has never left us. You are loved!
Update 4/28 - Tuesday Update - Deb is walking a half mile now. The walker partnership is working. Partnerships - that's what I want to highlight today. From early on, it was clear that a vast network of people were mobilized in prayer. I don't have proof, but I suspect there is someone in every state who is praying for us today. Thank you!There are others too. All these days we have been receiving meals - amazing meals, in fact. This has taken a huge burden off my shoulders and freed me for church ministry and given me more time to serve my wife. Thank you! There are other partnerships too. There are those who send text messages of encouragement, who pass along a hymn or song, who send a letter or card, who call us, who give Deb daily therapy, and more - all these tell us that you are standing with us and believing with us the incredible love and mercy of God. Thank you! These may be tough days for all of us, but they are blessed days as well. The partnership we hold highest is the partnership we share in the faith. We celebrate and thank God for your partnership today. To God all the glory and praise. You are loved!
Update 4/27 - Monday Update - Deb escaped the house today! Okay, maybe "escaped" might be a little too dramatic. The truth is this. She got tired of waiting for me to finish my run and decided she could walk the neighborhood without me. She did! She walked the route we did together two days ago - five houses or about a quarter of a mile. If the weather will cooperate, I am sure she will cover more ground soon. As a precaution, though, I am going to make sure she is not walking alone in the future. Actually, spiritually speaking, nobody should be walking alone. Hopefully, you have enlisted the help of walking partners - the Church! It is easier to walk the course of faith with the encouragement of others. That's what makes this time so difficult. Many churches are closed, and we are missing this personal contact. However, all is not lost! Look to Jesus in your walk (and run). He is there along with others, willing us to complete the course (Hebrews12:1-3). You are not alone. No doubt, a busy host of guardian angels were with Deb today as well, marking another miracle in Deb's progress. To God be the glory! You are loved!
Update 4/25 - Saturday Update - I need to start with - you are loved! Somehow my eyes missed that omission yesterday sending some of you into a panic, "Are we not loved anymore?" Of course you are! It doesn't depend on me writing it, you know. 🥰 Speaking of eyesight...this is something that concerns Deb constantly. I haven't noticed anything drastically wrong - Deb is able to walk without guidance, read numbers on my phone, and find letters in word searches. All of these things weren't possible right after Deb's strokes. Despite this, something isn't just right yet. This is something we have to keep an eye on. 😉 Spiritually speaking, it is best for us to be "cross-eyed." Then we will never lose sight of what Jesus did for us. The great hymn says it, "I was blind, but now I see." May God grant us all the ability to see Jesus today. Then we will be able to bear anything that comes our way whether cancer, strokes, or eyes that just can't seem to work together. You are loved!
No update tomorrow unless something big breaks. Focus on God's Word and find time to rest those eyes.
Update 4/24 - Friday Update - Deb continued her upward momentum today. She hit 96 pounds and continues to climb. Hitting 100 by May 3 (her birthday) seems on track. She also continues to be more independent. Today, she grabbed some things out of the fridge and made herself some lunch. She had to use the microwave to heat some leftovers and managed that okay. Her stroke damage made this impossible until now. She isn't at the point where she could make dinner for the whole family yet, but she is getting closer. When it comes, that will be the best meal ever! There are so many positives you have to wonder if she really has cancer. According to the info I read about her type of cancer, this isn't supposed to be happening. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Her outward progress seems to suggest an inward miracle. What are your outward actions telling people about what is inside of you? I pray it is the miracle won by Jesus and worked through the Holy Spirit because this is the only sure thing in life, no matter how much weight you gain and how many lunches you prepare.
Update 4/23 - Thursday Update - "Blah, blah, blah," Deb says sometimes when her words don't come out right. It is said part in frustration and part in fun. We usually end up laughing about it which is good. There is no reason to get upset. This is where she is. Sometimes the words come out right, sometimes it's just blah, blah, blah. But here's the thing - sometimes I can guess what blah, blah, blah means. Other times I just make up something goofy. We often imagine that the blahs and gibberish are part of our secret language - something perfected after 27 years of marriage. Could you see us at the grocery store trying to decide what ice cream flavor to buy? "Blah, blah, blah." "Gibberish." "Blah..." Then we pick the chocolate peanut butter cup naturally after the exchange. 😋You think this is something? Read Psalm 139 sometime. There we learn that God knows us personally. In fact, before a word is on our tongue He knows it. So, I'm going to assume that includes the blah, blah, blahs too, and that's good news. While Deb is making huge strides with her words every day, God has her covered when she doesn't. And that includes you too because you are loved!
Update 4/22 - Wednesday Update - There was commotion in the laundry room. That meant two things. Either one of the boys was out of clean clothes and was doing an emergency early morning wash or Deb was up to something. I arrived to find handwashed unmentionables airdrying on hangers hanging from the ceiling. Deb's work. Deb's system. Deb was reclaiming part of her world. I should have left, but no, I had to ask: "What are you doing?" At that moment our worlds collided, and after a little bit of talk - much of it I didn't understand - and a kiss and a hug, the world was right again. The reality for me was this - I shouldn't have had to ask the question. I should have known Deb did this. The clips in the ceiling were proof. Funny how I never noticed them before! Today the coming together of two worlds was a good thing because it resulted in empathy, understanding, and a hug and a kiss. But that's not the only instance of two worlds coming together. When Jesus entered into our world and shared in our humanity, it was a good thing too. Its end was a cross, an empty grave, and life eternal for all who believe. I don't know what is happening in your world but knowing Jesus became part of it, you can be assured that it is right again. You are loved!
Update 4/21 - Tuesday Update - If God had a most prayed list, who would be on it? I think Deb would be on it. So many of you are praying from all parts of the nation - an army of prayer warriors have been mobilized! Thank you. I wonder, though, do you think God ever tires of us? We are a persistent people, aren't we? Could you hear it in heaven? The Holy Spirit says, "Another prayer for Deb...and another, wait five more!" To which God might say, "Just who is Deb Ziemann?" 🙂 Thankfully, God doesn't have to ask and not because we have stormed His heavenly throne with prayers. No, God knows Deb because He created her. In fact, He knew her before she was even born. He even had this time planned for her good and ours. Some might ask, "Why would God even care about one person among billions?" God cares because we are His people. We are the sheep of His pasture. He has invested heavily in us - even the death of His Son. So when you pray, think not of yourself as one in billions but rather as the only one, because you have His full attention. God never tires of us but waits eagerly to hear from us. So pray on warriors, knowing that you are loved.
Update 4/20 - Monday Update - We met virtually with our cancer doctor today. She was very pleased with Deb's progress. She's been following our story using the church website but seeing is another thing. Deb's progress became very real for her. This reminds me of the Bible reading about Thomas this past weekend. When he actually saw Jesus and felt the scars, Jesus' resurrection became real for him. It wasn't just talk anymore. In another example, yesterday, two church members dropped off a meal for us. Next thing we knew, Deb was up the stairs and giving one of them a hug. The tears flowed. Deb's progress became real. Our doctor made it real for us too. Deb's stomach cancer or the effects of that cancer still exist. The cancer (linitus plastica) has made her stomach like leather. It won't expand like ours. Despite this, Deb still eats and our doctor was very impressed to hear of Deb's continued weight gain (up to 93 lbs). While progress continues, Deb is still not at a place where she can get any medical intervention. We will therefore continue to trust in divine medicine knowing it is far stronger than anything Deb could receive from the hospital. May Christ Jesus and His love be real for you today as we remind you again - you are loved!
Update 4/18 - Saturday Update - Deb showed me! Yes, she did! I told her she could sleep a little longer today because I was running early. I told her that when I got back from my run, I could help her start her day. So much for that. When I got home, Deb had already showered, dressed herself, and made the bed. She sat downstairs waiting with a smirk on her face. Wonders never cease! I remember those days when it took three of us to help her shower and this only two or three times a week. We dressed her and practically had to carry her back to her bed. How times have changed! Yes, that smirk was well deserved. And maybe too, God is smirking. After all, it is all His work, isn't it? He's working His miracle. All that needless worry and tossing and turning of ours isn't necessary. In fact, His smirk might be saying exactly what Deb's said today, "I got this. I don't need your help." And so we pray today calling on God's power knowing He is perfectly capable of handling what we give Him. You are loved.
Note - No update tomorrow unless something big breaks. Let's focus on God's Word and a long nap.
Update 4/17 - Friday Update - It's like a scene from the classic, "My Fair Lady," only it isn't Katherine Hepburn doing the speaking drills, it's Deborah Ziemann. "Ooo, eee, ooo, eee" as fast as she can. Tongue out, and out it comes! Keep in mind, Deb hardly knew she had a tongue just 35 days ago. "A proper copper coffee pot," Deb says with some effort. You try it five times fast. "Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy wuzzy wasn't fuzzy was he?" said Deb better than her husband could type it. Warm-up drills lead to the serious stuff and another day of miracle head healing is underway. It is simply amazing how God is giving Deb her voice back much like the Spirit interceding for us with groans too deep for words (Romans 8:26-27). Celebrate your voice today and the One who speaks for you. You are loved!
Update 4/16 - Thursday Update - Deb forgot she had cancer last night. She remembered when I prayed over her head, heart, and body. I was stunned. How does this happen? We have prayed often for the healing of her cancer. She is reminded when people give us helpful advice or recount their personal stories. She knows we have an appointment with the cancer doctor next week. The reminders are there. So, how does one explain Deb's forgetfulness? I think it is a positive explanation. First, I think Deb sometimes forgets because she doesn't have cancer symptoms to remind her. She's gaining weight. She is not nauseous after eating nor does she have a pain that never goes away. The cancer symptoms of old are mysteriously absent. And secondly, there is her focus. She is focused on speech and memory improvement. Who has time to think about cancer when you are coming back from three strokes? I rejoice in Deb's forgetfulness. It means we are making progress. It means Deb is not stuck in the past but rather living for the moment. I think all of us would benefit with a little forgetfulness too. Don't ever forget, though, you are loved!
Update 4/15 - Wednesday Update - One of the things Deb is "missing" is the changed world we are living in now. Think of the changes that have occurred since Deb had the strokes. For example, I'm writing this while parked in a line to the bank drive-up window. I ended up in the slow lane. It's going to be over thirty minutes easy. Deb has never had to deal with toilet paper sold out or eggs or wipes or... She has no idea about social distancing. It would crush her not to give you a hug. She lives in a simple world these days. Her focus is on eating, talking, and getting restful sleep. I'm glad she doesn't have to concern herself with the other stuff. After all, they are beyond her control. So what is beyond your control today. It would be best to leave those things to God. Maybe just focusing on eating, talking, and sleep would be good for all of us. Then it won't matter what the world is coming to or what lane you're stuck in. God is faithful. He'll carry us through no matter what. You are loved!
Update 4/14 - Tuesday Update - Deb hit another milestone today! She went over 90 pounds. She has been gaining about a pound every day. Her appetite is good, and she is eating the foods we have been eating these past days including casseroles, egg bakes, pizza, cheesecake cupcakes, and more. 90 pounds - 90 pounds of blessing! Other milestones ahead include a virtual visit with our cancer doctor next week and Deb's birthday on May 3. Could Deb hit a 100 by May? Don't be shocked! Celebrate your own personal milestones today. Look for the good around you. God is blessing in every situation. Some days you have to look a little harder but the blessings are there. When in doubt, remember you are loved!
Update 4/13 - Monday Update - We have come far together these past 30 days through the power of God's hand. Not too many people would have predicted that Deb would have walked into church on Easter Sunday, but she did! She had a great day worthy of many alleluias. However, unlike Christ's resounding and complete Easter victory over sin, death, and the devil, the battle wages on inside of Deb. Today we need to build on these victories by taking on the enemy with renewed focus. Deb has had discomfort much like heartburn after eating. Is it the cancer? Is the body adjusting to processing food? Is the stomach stretching and being healed? Probably yes to all. We have found ways to combat this like eating slower with smaller bites and Deb lying on her left side. It does pass, but this is a reminder that we are not done with this yet. So please join me in prayer for head, heart, and especially body. Let's build on the victories and be amazed at what God can do these next 30 days. Cancer is nothing to a God who can bring life out of death - the ultimate reminder that you are loved!
Update 4/12 - See Easter Pic
Update 4/11 - Saturday before Easter Update - I have been finding myself lately staring at a little circle going round and round on my computer as I wait for service and hymn downloads to be completed. Anticipation! I have been waiting for this long and strange week to be over. Anticipation! Deb too waits for the day when she can get every word out right without thinking about it and every bit of food to go down without problem. She waits for the day the doctor will say, "We find no more evidence of your cancer." Anticipation! Maybe you have been waiting for this update. Anticipation. How strange that on that first Saturday before Easter there was no anticipation, just fear and dread for the future. Let this not be you. Easter is coming. We know it, and we know what it means. Feel the anticipation and claim the victory through faith that you have in Christ. Know too you are dearly loved!
Update 4/10 - Good Friday Update - After Deb's "treatment" for her head, heart, and body last night, Deb began to cry. Then she asked, "What if I don't heal?" I explained that if she didn't heal, then these past weeks will be remembered as one of the greatest moments of our marriage - that we've never been closer, one in body, mind, and soul. And I add today, I would consider this time our greatest triumph together in Christ in facing the challenges of each day. I didn't end there, though, because the "what if" was not a question at all. Healing has occurred - amazing healing! I don't think anyone could have imagined how far Deb would progress in just 30 days at home with nothing but a prayer. Then I put it all back to Jesus and the perfect healing He accomplished on the cross. So today it is Good Friday. The Lord's words, "It is finished" tells us healing has certainly occurred. The forgiveness won there will wipe away the tears of the night and bring for those who believe eternal peace and joy in heaven. And that's where we left it, not fretting over wishful healing but sleeping soundly in the certainty that it has already been done. You are loved!
Update 4/9 - Holy Week Maundy Thursday - Tonight, I plan to give Deb communion. Who would have anticipated that? Think of it, she not only is alive, but she is also fully understanding of the events and meaning of Maundy Thursday and able to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of her sin. And with that, all our children will be with her. Another miracle I think. You all saw it yesterday, the sparkle and glow in Deb is returning but with that comes caution. There is still much healing and treatment needed. We cannot let our guard down. Thankfully, this was not an issue for Jesus. He saw the need and understood the cost and accomplished what needed to be done. He has applied healing for our souls in His blood. It is lasting. It is the deepest of healing. We will celebrate this today and the miracle of earthly healing for Deb. I hope you will join us across the miles through the Spirit who unites us and who reminds you that you are loved.
Update 4/8 - Holy Week Wednesday - It's a photo today! You are loved!
Update 4/7 - Holy Week Tuesday - I came in to church this afternoon and for the life of me, I couldn't remember the pass code in. It was gone. Do you know how many times I've punched in that code? I did get it with help, and I promptly put it in my phone. That's good... unless I forget my phone. 🥴 Deb's strokes raised the bar for memory loss. Last month I had to order more checks because Deb forgot where the extras were kept. Yesterday, she didn't remember that we agreed to get rid of the bed. Oh, boy! There are whole blocks gone and that has posed a challenge for me as I have assumed all of her old responsibilities. I'm told the memory will return in time, but for now, everything is new or relearned. Despite the negatives, this is an opportunity to build a whole new set of memories - memories without the old mistakes and burdensome guilt. And that gets us right back to the events of this week. The death and resurrection of Christ Jesus is your new start. God did not forget His promise to you. Build on this. Then you will have time to cherish the good memories while they're still around to be remembered. And as always, remember you are loved.
Update 4/6- Holy Week Monday - The bed is gone. So are the wheelchair, shower transfer bench, and oxygen machine and tanks. Our living room suddenly looks massive. I must say that it is one think to talk about letting go of these things and another actually doing it, but we are praying for miracle, right? If we truly believe God can do this miracle, why will we need that hospital bed? To not do this would be like praying for rain and not bringing the umbrella. So, we took the leap - a leap further into the arms of Christ. I can think of no better place to be! You too can take those leaps. You can believe we will get through this time. You can be confident that God has not left you or forsaken you. That's what this week is all about, isn't it? You are loved. This hasn't changed even with or without a bed or wheelchair or...
Update 4/5 - Palm Sunday - As clear as the Spirit urging me to pray for Deb's head, heart, and body came another leading...get rid of the hospital bed. This bed is currently in our living room along with the oxygen machine, bed table, and portable commode. It was all provided by hospice. Thank you! However, we haven't used the oxygen for over two weeks. The commode is handy, but Deb certainly could make it to the toilet now. The table is handy for collecting stuff. That leaves the bed. Deb is in and out of it - often making that transition in the wee hours of the morning. We really don't need it anymore. It looks like it's time to graduate from hospice. We've gone from providing "comfort" to rehab. We're making plans and dying in that hospital bad is not part of them. Miracles do happen. Yep, that bed has got to go as we make plans for life! Thank you for being part of it. God still has work to do, so, continue to pray. You are loved!
Update 4/3 - As we continue to work on getting Deb's weight back up after bottoming out at 78 pounds, the subject of calories has come up. So just how do you pork up someone needing weight like our dear Deb? Those who have known Deb over the years know how careful Deb was concerning diet. With exception of a few weak moments, Deb watched her calories pretty well. How interesting that is because at our house, we're pushing in anything that will stay in. There's the good stuff like avocados, sweet potatoes, peas, cottage cheese, and recently even asparagus. Then there is fresh fruit including juicy pears from Oregon, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, applesauce, and peaches. We've been encouraged to feed her the not so great stuff too - the stuff loaded with sugar like pudding and ice cream. Deb even stole part of a cookie the other day. The only thing Deb has pushed away was our offer of thickened prune juice. What kind of calories are you taking in lately? More importantly, how about those spiritual calories? Are you losing "weight" these days. Sunday is coming. Let that be a time for a smorgasbord of God's Word. Here, "porking up" is a good thing right next to Deb's new diet. And in God's Word, you will see that you are loved!
Update 4/3 - The quest for independence continues for Deb these days, and she seems to be achieving it far beyond our expectations. Deb is able to get around without assistance. She is feeding and drinking by herself. Last night she climbed the stairs in record time and went straight to the bathroom where she promptly brushed her own teeth. When we eat, she is quick to sample our meals. Shower time is not nearly as exhaustive. In fact, I think she is almost ready to handle this on her own. Our job is stay ahead of her and keep her safe. So, continue those prayers for head, heart, and body with special emphasis on speech development and wiping out the cancer. We don't know what is ahead, but we rest assured that we are firmly in God's grip. To God be the glory and praise this day! You are loved!
Update 4/2 - I took that nap after Deb nearly threatened me with bodily harm. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. During the nap the Spirit gave me what to write and that concerns hope. There's not a lot of it these days and in this house, Satan attempts to steal it away everyday. I mean think of it - strokes, infection, cancer! What do you do with that? You pray and make plans. Infection. It appears God has conquered this. Deb hasn't had a fever or another stroke in two weeks. Strokes? The effect of the strokes continue to be undone daily. God continues to work. The cancer...? No one knows what hides inside. This alone could crush our hope, but not today, friends! Deb is gaining weight. So we make plans - plans to see the cancer doctor, plans to celebrate birthdays and confirmation, and plans for weddings and family gatherings. We make plans to fix meals for Deb to eat - meals that go from soft to solid. You get the picture? We are not going to lay around and wait to die. We are moving forward with an end in sight. That's what is missing in the world today, but not here. Not you! Expect the miracle - don't just wish it. Test the water and swim. See the bright ray of hope breaking through the clouds. Why can't God handle it! So we plan big, and so should you! Ah, the wonder of a good nap and a God who loves you always and completely. You are loved!
Update 4/1 - With all the progress these days, you might get the mistaken idea that Deb is always active and talking. While these words would describe Deb, they only occur 25-33% of the time. The other times are spent resting or recharging. These times are when the healing happens. I often like to call them times of "deep healing." I really think God had this in mind when He created the Sabbath. Rest or deep healing is good and when we actually take time for it, we are blessed. True to form, Deb had a lot of deep healing time yesterday, and today she woke up at another level. Are you taking your rest today? Need some deep healing? Schedule some today (says the guy needing a nap right now). It will do your body good just as God intended. Add a dose of prayer, and you have a prescription for a miracle. Remember, you are loved! Now about that nap... 😴
Update 3/31 - The gains continue today as God's miracle continues to unfold before us. I am awed but not surprised. Is there anything God can't do? First, Deb has gained five pounds in a week. Recall, we were celebrating one pound last week. As Deb's appetite grows, we are confident this will continue. Secondly, Deb has been speaking in sentences at times. Yesterday, for example, she shocked us when she asked to watch a movie. And finally, I am happy to report that we have gotten into a nightly rhythm which is both safe and restful. This is God's work, and we give Him glory. And that's the key to all of this. This has never been about Deb or me or anyone else. This experience has been about God's mercy, grace, and power. Even if God chose to end it right now, we'd be rejoicing. That's how life and death must be viewed - knowing God has His arms around you now and that He will have His arms outstretched welcoming you home later. Until that day, rejoice in the miracle of life which for us this day includes pounds, words, and sleep. You are loved!
Update 3/30 - I threw it back to you this past weekend - to the prayer warriors and support crew that spans the nation and world (seriously). I can't even put it into words the overwhelming response we've received. I don't think Deb can fully grasp the magnitude of what is happening, but she will. So, I've saved the cards, the photos, and emails. They are read to her each day. She often becomes emotional when she hears from you. It truly has made an impact. Thank you! God continues to work His miracle. Deb is eating more and more every day. Yesterday, Deb begged part of my dinner off me - a tasty and nutritious spinach enchilada provided by someone in the congregation. By her look, it was a little heaven on earth with every mouthful. Her words are coming too which means no one is getting away with anything anymore and that we are having many good laughs. Despite the progress, patience is still the order of the day and that only is learned through struggle and discipline. There will be those moments, but even there, God is still with us and with you because God is faithful and you are loved.
Update 3/28 - Saturday Update - Deb's like a baby bird lately. That's good and bad. Good because she is eating constantly. We are staying away from the worms, though. Instead her open mouth likes all kinds of mashed fruit, potatoes, avocados, sweet potatoes mixed with squash soup, peas, and Boost drinks. And if we are not fast enough, she will grab it and feed herself. As a result, we are constantly trying to stay ahead like a frantic robin. The bad is the result of her growing strength and confidence. She's trying to leave the nest too early...like 1:30 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. the past couple nights. Yawn! I thought about posting guards all night but that won't help much since Deb likes to sleep in two different places at various times. "Clipping her wings" makes her pretty frustrated so this continues to be a challenge. It is all good, though, because these are not the actions of someone dying but rather someone very much alive and fighting. So we'll keep the good and bad for now and leave the worms for the robins. Have a blessed weekend. Also note, unless something big happens, I will skip the update for tomorrow. Instead, I will throw it back to you. Send us a photo if you can so Deb knows who is praying for her. You are loved!
Below is a link to Zion's Web Page dedicated to the Updates sent about Deb's condition and progress. You may also visit the page
Update 3/27 - Friday Update - Deb is saying words! She's even is putting some together in song. It's amazing the progress day by day. It hasn't been easy but little by little the muscles and brain are connecting. We are still waiting for that ice jam to break and then there will no stopping her. You know, in this process I have come to value every word said. Funny how I never really thought about that before. I imagine it's the same for you. You say word after word, some important and some not so important. Do you know the gift you have? Take away those words and you would get a whole new perspective. Deb is going to have to work a little harder for her words. Not so for you. You have a whole bank of words to use. Use them for good and to build up. Use them to praise a God who in the Word created and forgave. And sleep in the peace of God's word of hope in the certainty that you are loved!
Update 3/26 - Thursday update - I'm wondering if there will ever be a "normal" again. Aside from speech therapy at 10:30, I have yet to find a familiar routine and pace for each day. Gone is the regular routine. Even nighttime is subject to change. This is the new normal, and there is nothing normal about it. And of course, it doesn't help that there is nothing normal about the world either, does it? So what is to be done? Nothing, except to embrace what is constant and normal - Jesus Christ our Lord. His promises always remain. Nothing can separate us from His love. He will not leave us or forsake us. He will work all things for the good. His mercies are new every morning. Here is the normal we can trust, in good times and bad. Rejoice this day in Deb's continued progress and in the certainty of a God who can handle anything - even those days that aren't so normal. You are loved!
Update 3/25 - Wednesday Update - On today's run - often my personal time of prayer - I got a vision of an ice dammed river. Water poured against that ice. The ice cracked and groaned until at last it broke through. Then all was well. Then I saw Deb and the blood vessels in her head. The blood was pouring against a block and so I prayed harder. And then suddenly, it happened. All was free and Deb was thinking and speaking as she was before the stroke. That time hasn't come yet, but I sense the ice breaking. Deb wants it badly. She was pretty emotional about this. She wants it now. It's such hard work to relearn so much. It seems so hopeless. Why doesn't God work faster? Yet, He is! We see it every day. So we need to trust in God's timing. May God help us all see it as we hear the creaking and groaning of a miracle sure to come.
Update 3/24 - Tuesday Update - Deb continues to defy the odds as God works in her today. She continues to eat and drink as well as stretching those vocal cords little by little. She also continues her night wandering, so I am getting creative in my methods to slow her down. Usually that means sleeping in the hospital bed with her after she journeys down from our second floor bedroom every night. I'm going to need a nap again! On this day when our Ohio governor says only essential people are allowed out of their homes, I am thinking that all of you are essential in the journey we are on - from the man who delivered the hospital bed to those who took the time to send a card or text, to therapy, to meal providers, to the prayer warriors and more. Daily we are reminded of the miracle performed not only in Deb but also the ones done through you. Pray this day in the wonder and anticipation of what the Lord will do next for Deb and through you. You are dearly loved!
Update 3/23 - Monday Update - Deb gained a pound! I know that might seem like nothing, but for us, it is another marker for the positive. She's gaining because she is eating again. Her food list grows daily - sweet potato, avocado, pears, peaches, mango, blueberry/apple, and Boost. All these are prepared with just the right consistency to go down right. It won't surprise me if Deb is handling solid food by the end of the week. Scripture talks about this too (1 Corinthians 3:2). We would all do well to progress from milk to solid and then in the process gain a little weight. It might be a little challenging these days but we must keep working. And there's where you will receive that little miracle - like one pound or a bit more faith to help you through another day. God can do it! So help yourself to the good stuff today and see how God works. For Deb, for now, I think we'll try peas and a healthy dose of prayer.
Update 3/22 - Sunday Update - Found church online this morning. Deb drank 7 ounces of water and ate 4 ounces of apple/blueberry sauce. During therapy time Deb helped sing happy birthday to her sister Pam. And we are just getting started. This is a day to thank the Lord! The picture says the rest. You are loved!
Update 3/21 - Saturday Update - Despite what you might picture, life in the Ziemann house hasn't been dull, somber, or sad lately. Quite the contrary! It's an adventure! This is because as Deb grows stronger, she works harder at achieving her independence. As a result, in the middle of the night, you might catch her sneaking off to bathroom or attempting to make her way downstairs without assistance. This why I have to sleep with one eye open. Or you might find her trying to take a swig out of your cup or beer during our anniversary celebration because that's what you do. Forget thickened water! That's for sick people. What Deb is learning is that there is a time to be served - to be dependent on someone else. It's much safer. It's something we have all learned as so many of continue to give up yourselves to help us in many ways. This experience has ultimately taught us to depend on our heavenly Father, and that not a bad place to be at all, is it? Yes, we'd all be better off if we'd just let God do His miracles. And He does in our salvation and in our prayers for healing. Know God is faithful and you are loved!
Update 3/20 - Friday Update - 27 years ago, I married my sweetheart. She caught my eye immediately as a woman of great character and strength. She was beautiful inside and out. On this day, just 80 pounds, being fed by the spoonful, voice reduced to ahhs and oohs and an occasional word, and assistance needed in most things, she is more beautiful and stronger than ever. So is our marriage. Good can come from every trial and test. The unfolding miracle that is happening before our eyes is proof. Early on, I wasn't so sure Deb would make it to today, but there she is, more alive than ever. After a rough night in which my urgent prayers were made in the three o'clock hour and my plea that the Spirit rouse twenty others to join me, Deb's pounding headache and heartburn like symptoms were calmed. Deb is eating now - sweet potatoes, pudding, and bananas. Her voice is returning. Her wit ever sharper. She is a miracle. Best of all, she is my bride. To God all glory! Thank you for your prayers and know you are all making a difference.
Update 3/19 - Thursday Update - Today continued yesterday's amazing progress. Deb is chewing her ice now! We are hearing voice and even a word - "wow." Very appropriate! She continues to walk. She's getting antsy. Baby steps I tell her, and I get a playful hiss. And then after all this, Deb hits the wall and sleeps. This reminds me of the importance of endurance. Deb doesn't have it yet. She tires easily. Yet, we must have it. When the good reports come and miracles happen, it is easy to let our guard down and become complacent in our prayers. It's even happening in our house. Treatment must continue. This is not over by any means. Endurance - in all things. For those who have it, thank you. You are carrying us. For those like us who might need a little nudge now and then, this is it. Let's pound the strokes, the infection, and cancer with divine medicine. In all things - in good and bad - carry on with the Lord moving you!
Update 3/18 - Wednesday Update - Breakthrough Day! It is has now been two weeks since Deb was admitted into University Hospital in Cleveland suffering from multiple strokes, an out of control infection, and of course the stage four stomach cancer diagnosis. On this day we can send a hearty prayer of thanks to our God for His mercy, blessing, and healing. Deb who weighed in at 80 pounds after her shower today has turned a corner. Even the hospice nurses have taken notice. Things like this don't happen in their experience, but it is. Deb is able to walk stairs and sleeps in her own bed with her happy husband. She has made breakthroughs in swallowing and consuming at least four ounces of water and some Boost today so far. She no longer needs oxygen with an oxygen level of 98% without it. I could go on. God is working His miracle. There is still a long journey ahead, but today we celebrate a huge step forward. Continue prayer for head, heart, and body with special emphasis on weight gain and eyesight (still a little foggy from strokes). On this dark day in our world, let this message be the bright ray of hope that God can do anything from healing Deb to stopping a virus. Pray, give thanks, and know you are loved!
Update 3/17 - We solved the night wandering. I slept in the hospital bed with Deb and hung on. That was an experience! Because Deb is strong, I think we will walk her upstairs tonight and try our bed again. Among the miracles of today would be the therapist that comes in each day and works on Deb's language and swallowing issues. She's a member of our congregation who is trained in things like this. She is not working because of all the closings. But God is working through her for Deb's recovery. I prayed for one good swallow today and God gave us ten. People in general are God's little miracles too. Your visits and prayers, cards and surprise packages, meals, and much love. I can't express in words the difference you are making. Thank you. You are loved.
Update 3/16 -Deb was on the loose again! I said good night to her at 1:00 am. and went upstairs to sleep. At 2:30, I was awakened when Deb walked into the room. I thought I was dreaming. She had scaled two flights of steps (twelve in all) in the dark with no assistance. While this was dangerous, it was good to be together. She was able to walk back down the stairs to her bed with a little assistance. I'd say that was another miracle! Hospice helped give Deb another shower later. We continue to work on swallowing. It is better, but not great. This is a concern. Thanks for your continued prayers. You are loved!
Update 3/15 - You never know what each day brings, but when God works miracles, you need to expect the unexpected. Like today when we were eating breakfast upstairs while Deb was downstairs missing all the excitement. So on her own, she got out her bed and walked over to the steps to join us. After getting over our shock, we assisted her, and she did join us. She had some bites of pudding, and we had our eggs. The hard part of the day was realizing how far away we are from the complete healing we seek. That coupled with our desire for God to work according to our timeline and our ways brings frustration. We want it now and often God doesn't work that way. Sometimes he works through little miracles day by day which add up to the big ones. It's hard to see this and be patient, but we are learning. So continue your prayers, please, for the head, heart, and body. And also add a prayer for Deb's swallowing reflex to return so that she will get the nutrition and hydration she needs. We feel your prayers and we are so grateful. You are loved.
Update 3/14 - Today Deb woke up thirsty and ready to eat. Therefore, today has been declared "first food day!" She is getting small amounts of water, pudding, and applesauce by sponge on the hour right after her "treatment." Thank God today for this progress and keep praying for her head(brain), heart, and body. She is also more responsive today, but she still hasn't talked. One thing at a time. God is doing His work. We are blessed and you are dearly loved!
Update 3/13 - We've had an amazing 24 hours. God is working! Yesterday Deb returned home. What a relief this was for all of us! We have continued her "treatments" of divine medicine every hour. We pray over her head, heart, and body. In all this we seek only God's will and glory. Last night we were looking for any sign of progress. We got it at 11:30 when Deb suddenly sat up and pointed to the commode. We got her up and she filled that pot. Crazy as it sounds, it was "music" to my ears. Because she showed such strength, we decided she was ready for a shower this morning. She walked down the stairs with us beside her and got that shower! We used the wheelchair to get her back upstairs. She's going to need the rest of the day to recover, I think. We thank you for your prayers and continued support. It is sustaining us. God is faithful, and He continues to bless us. Know you are dearly loved!
Update 3/12 - No change in Deb's condition this morning. She sleeps a lot. I was able to give her water through little sponges. We are waiting for transport home. All man made methods for healing have failed. The only thing left is divine medicine. So every hour I administer divine treatment through prayer. I pray first for her brain which was damaged in the strokes. Then I pray over her heart that the infection would be killed and that her heart valve would be restored to health. Then I pray over her body that the cancer would be controlled and go into remission. Some might call this desperation, but I feel as long as there is life in Deb's body, God can do anything. You are welcome to join me in this application of divine medicine. In all this we ask for God's will and His glory in the miracle He can truly give us.
Update 3/11 - Well, we had to make some decisions this morning. Deb's heart condition is not improving. She told me so when I arrived and was confirmed by nurse and doctors. At this point, we are out of options. So the plan is to get her home tomorrow. Because of her cancer, she is eligible for hospice care. On the bright side, I worked with the physical therapy team to get her standing and moved to a chair. She really enjoyed that. Now she is resting and stable. While God has not answered our prayers the way we wanted, He is being merciful in sparing Deb a long difficult road and instead is giving her a path to unceasing and unimaginable joy and peace. We have both accepted this and are ready for the journey home. God is with us and even now is blessing us with His love and care.
In our prayers we ask our almighty and everlasting God, the consolation of the sorrowful and the strength of the weak, to be with the Ziemann family. May they recognize and receive His gracious help, comfort, and peace at this time; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Update 3/10 - Today there is good news from Pastor Ziemann. This morning the doctors were able to remove Deb's breathing tube which allowed her to breathe naturally on her own. A music therapist was present offering a lovely atmosphere sure to be an encouragement to Deb. Knowing that this was a big hurdle for her to cross, Pastor has asked that we "send lots of prayers of thanks right now."
So many of you have expressed loving concern for Deb and we'll do our best to keep you up to date with any news. There will be more hurdles but there is also reassurance in the power of prayer and the Lord is hearing us.
"Precious Savior, still our refuge - take it to the Lord in prayer!"
Update 3/4-6 - Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As most of you may have heard by now, Deb Ziemann had a stroke on Tuesday afternoon. We don't know many details, except that in addition to the stomach cancer diagnosis, she has had the flu twice and has suffered dehydration, and now she is dealing with the effects of a stroke. We are asking you to join us in prayer TODAY at 12:00 noon. Please stop whatever you are doing and pray with us as a group to lift Deb up in prayer.
Heavenly Father, You created the world and you created Deb to be in that world. You knew her by name even before she was born and you have ordained all things in her life. Today we lift her up before Your throne, asking you to fill her with an extra measure of Your Spirit to strengthen her faith during this crisis, and give her courage and hope during this crisis. We pray that you give her doctors an extra amount of wisdom to understand what she needs, and to be wise in their decisions as she goes forward through this process. Lord, we know that in all things what You ordain is "always good" and that it is needs to be "well with my soul". But Lord, we also know You know what it means to feel fear and dread as You prayed in the garden, but in the end we say with our Savior, "Thy will be done". Today, we put Deb in your care and know that she is safe and secure in the palm of Your hand. Keep her strong in all of this, we pray. We thank you, Lord, for listening to our prayer as You promised to do!
We pray in the name of our Good Shepherd, Deb's "good shepherd", Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
Thank you for your participation. God bless us all with peace and comfort.
(This suggestion & prayer was submitted by Jim Koscik)