Sunday, May 29, 2011


My God is faithful.  I've been repeating it many, many times to myself lately as He has continued to fill me with rock solid hope and abundant peace.  He has delivered yet again in overwhelming fashion.  Several people very dear to me have banded together in an effort to provide support as the body of Christ to me and my family.  Consequently, Team Hoj was born.  There are a lot of elements to what is going on.  Some will be partnering financially and prayerfully.  Others are entering a triathlon to raise support and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  And some will choose to attend a summer fundraiser or purchase Team Hoj shirts and bracelets.

If you would like to be involved in any capacity or just learn a little bit more about what is going on, look up "Team Hoj" on Facebook (or email  There you will find all of the information you might need.  I am not heading this little project up, but it is so humbling to think that people want to participate in this way.  It is not my personality to advertise something like this that directly benefits me, but I have had many people asking me how they might help.  If that is you, then here is your chance!

Shirt: dark grey/ Wrestling mat: light blue/ Font: Yellow

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,


Friday, May 20, 2011

Carry Me

The Christian Contemporary Music scene is one that I am slowly starting to develop a slight distaste for.  In my humblest opinion, things are beginning to get a tad generic and stale (I literally heard the phrase "up from the ashes" in three recently released songs).  The music and the lyrics are starting to drift towards the shallow end, and although this is not a sweeping generalization for every artist and every song, I think there is room for refreshed creativity.

But I'm not here to rant and rave about my personal opinions of music.  Despite my aforementioned comments, I have been personally encouraged by the lyrics of one such artist who does not fit the mold of what I have just described in CCM.  When I first heard Audrey Assad's music (a song inspired from St. Augustine's famous words entitled Restless), I encountered something I hadn't heard in a while.  It was depth, creativity, perspective, and truth all in the same song.  I would later learn that this would hold true for the majority of her music.  As an interest in her lyrical ability grew, I stumbled across the song Carry Me.  The words captured my heart and I began to share them with others who were hurting, never thinking that I would be clinging to them like a life raft in a few short months.  Here are the lyrics:

Pain is a forest we all get lost in
Between the branches hope can be so hard to see
And in the darkness we've all got questions
We're all just trying to make sense out of suffering but

You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me
Help me believe it

Fear is a current we all get caught in
And in its motion faith can be so hard to find
And we all falter 'cause we're all broken
We're all just trying to turn the shadows into light but

You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me
And you say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me

And I know Your promises are faithful
And God, I've seen Your goodness in my life
And oh, I've found Your mercy is a river
Your love is an ocean wide

You say I am blessed because of this
You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me

And You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, as I carry this cross
'Cause as I carry this cross, You'll carry me

You'll carry me, God
You'll carry me
And Your love is an ocean wide

We don't hear too many more songs like that anymore.  We don't think about Him getting glory in the midst of suffering and we certainly don't consider ourselves blessed because of trials.  The farther along that I travel this road, the more God is impressing upon my heart that this is not about me.  That is an often cliche statement that we casually throw around, but seriously, this is about His glory being made known.  He is refining hearts in the fires of suffering so that in the end, we will be brilliant displays of the hope of heaven!  But there can be no taking away the fact that refining is a painful process.  It stings.  This week, I've begun to taste what this is going to be like.  I began chemotherapy on Tuesday and the fatigue and the nausea began to set in.  I'd be lying if I said I hadn't wished He had picked another way to make Himself known.  In solitary darkness, the questions begin to flow and I can't help but try to make sense of everything as I release my fears.  Nonetheless, this is my portion and I will partake in it while struggling to claim what I know to be true: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (II Corinthians 4:17).  With the hope that Christ has established in us, fatigue is light and nausea is momentary.  They will be a vapor of a memory one day...

I do know that His promises are faithful and I have seen His goodness in my life.  Therefore, I will choose to believe that as I carry this cancer, He will be the one carrying me.  There can be no greater peace.  Thank you for that reminder, Audrey Assad.




Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We Did It!

Graduating from elementary school, high school, or college was never not an option in my thinking.  Not because I was so utterly determined to make it happen, but that is just the way it was.  You went to school.  You got good grades (or did enough to pass).  You stayed the course and finished the race.  That was it.  I wasn't trying to get into the habit of starting things I wouldn't finish and never accounted for any bumps along the way.  But as you may already know, this spring brought quite the twist to my journey and the prospect of not graduating actually became a possibility.  I don't need to go into all of the details, but if you've read the last few posts, hopefully you have seen God's unending faithfulness to me and my family through a host of craziness.  Being at the last week of school and getting to walk at graduation this past weekend was one of the most unbelievable experiences on my life.  I was able to collect a few more memories for the vault and if nothing else, it has reminded me that my journey is one littered with so much opportunity, support, love, and grace from family, friends, teachers, professors, peers, acquaintances and most importantly, my Heavenly Father.  I would be nowhere near where I am without all of this and I am forever thankful!

My Inner Circle

Now let's worry about getting better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"I Will Never Leave Thee"

I believe it was about my senior year of high school when I began to close letters, notes, and emails with "Humbled."  It was around this time that my eyes began to creep open to the RIDICULOUS amount of blessings in my life.  Everything from a warm place to sleep at night to the unbelievable people that have poured into and invested in me.  It's a pretty overwhelming and humble thing to try to process in one sitting.  All too often, I find myself quick to complain about all kinds of little nonsense, but in the big picture, I would willingly contend that I am the most blessed person I know.  Thus, the new tag was born.

Opening up this new chapter of my life, I found myself at the crossroads of how to pray.  I have read and heard so many accounts of healing in the Bible and in my own life; I even had many people lay hands on me with the full expectancy that our prayers would be answered.  But as time progressed and the doctor's laid out the official diagnosis, it appeared that God didn't hear, didn't care, or He had something so much greater in store by allowing this to happen.  I'm running with the third option.  Through lots of repetition, searching, and re-working, my prayer finally became a simple one:  

"Abba, I trust that You've got this.  I believe with all my heart that You are 100% capable of healing me, but appears that You have chosen not to for now.  Nowhere in Your word did You ever promise good health for following You.  But You did say that You will never leave me, so I am calling You on that one.  Take hold of my hand and don't ever let go.  My frail hands will drain very quickly of their strength and my knuckles will turn white from squeezing so hard. But I beg you, please don't relinquish Your grip.  Not once.  Not ever."   

Well He certainly has been true to His promise and hasn't let go yet.  The ways that He has given me such tangible affirmations of His presence is nothing less than the most astounding and humbling experience that I have ever had.  This is His nearness...

The Inner Circle:  Every time I go to the Cleveland Clinic, I see patients every step of the way.  Sometimes it's an elderly man inching his way down the hallway, supporting his frail and stricken life's partner of no less than 50 years.  Sometimes, it's a soccer mom escorting her aging father, breathing apparatus and all, down to the lobby via wheelchair.  And other times it is an exhausted father hold his softly sleeping, but very sick 4 month old baby girl.  Nobody goes to this place for a leisurely afternoon visit.  It is not vacation.  As many would agree with me, I don't know how we would be able to get through life's most difficult circumstances without family, without the inner circle.  People that will chauffeur you back and forth for appointment after appointment and sit there patiently the whole time.  People that do everything within their power to make your burden lighter both physically and emotionally.  People that you can wake up in the middle of the night to cry with or spill your guts to.

In my life right now, there are three such people.  My parents, Jim and Nancy, have been the unwavering lighthouses in the night.  My dad has been that quiet pillar of strength, never ceasing to give encouragement and support.  My mom has been the epitome of selfless love.  She put her life on hold for 3 weeks while I was home and has continued to show the care that I have experienced all my life.  And then there is Lindsay.  The longer we date, the more I become overwhelmed at the blessing that she is.  All she has to do is speak with her calm voice or slip her hand into mine and things seem to slow down for a second.  I can't fathom walking this road without this triangle of people.  He is near.

The Body of Christ:  The body of believers is an amazing, amazing thing.  Its true colors shine through when one of its parts faces adversity.  This is an extreme statement, but I feel quite comfortable making it:  I have NEVER, EVER felt more cared about or loved on in my entire life than I have felt the past 3 weeks.  It was overwhelming.  Cards, letters, notes, messages, voice mails, texts, packages, comments, coffee, chocolate, devotionals, pictures, meals, prayer...  they came far and near from friends, family, teammates, peers, professors, colleagues, and people that I had never even met!  Being on campus once again for my last week, I have been met with a barrage of hugs, pats on the back, smiles, and good-to-see-you's.  One can only hope that they are cared about that much, and now I know.  Wow.  So if you took part in that or even if you are just reading this for the first time, thank you.  Thank you for caring about what is going on in my life and for looking like Jesus to me and my family.  He is near.         

The One That Left Me Speechless:  The timing of this last month was quite unique.  I am a senior at Messiah College who is planning to walk across a stage in less than a week, shake President Phipps' hand, and receive concrete recognition for years of hard work.  But there was a point when I thought that wouldn't be happening.  Let's back it up.

After the blur of decisions that led me to leave school, I had been in contact with my professors about my work for the remainder of the semester.  They insisted on me not worrying about it and taking it one day at a time; the plan was to deal with it when I got back to school.  Well one week led to the next and I realized that my stay at home was not going to be a short one, so my professors showed some amazing grace and canceled all of my work for the remainder of the semester, thus removing another layer of stress from my life.  This was so helpful, yet I still had one last thing hanging over my head.  In order to receive my final three credits for my language requirement, my plan was to spend time in May and June in Philadelphia taking a class.  When it became apparent that I would be starting treatment right after school was over, that class was no longer a possibility.  It was most awful feeling to think that I was two inches from the finish line, but might not finish the race.  But He was near.  I got a voice mail from my academic advisor about the course.  Although his tone didn't sound too promising, I called back and was informed that the school had decided to completely waive that requirement due to my circumstance.  Through electives I have completed enough course work to be able to graduate on Saturday with nothing hanging over my head afterward.  I will have nothing to think about except getting better.  Literally, I was speechless.  He is near.

I will repeat it until I am blue in the face:  my God is faithful.  He is faithful and He is going to be holding my hand through this whole thing (and I imagine He will even have to carry me at times).  Of this I am confident: He is near.

Oh.  And treatment hasn't even started yet.       



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yet not what I will...

Well the tables have certainly turned since I last posted.  So many of you have been blowing up my phone, email, and Facebook with your prayers, encouragements, concerns, and desire to know what is going on.  I'm sorry that I haven't been able to get back to all of you so this is a way for you to hear it right from me (sorry that it's so impersonal).  I'll try not to ramble, but buckle up just in case... 

I have this nasty little habit of being really, really stubborn sometimes.  So when I started to develop some abnormal chest pain a few weeks ago, the "suck it up" mentality built into me from over a decade of wrestling kicked in and I decided work through it and let it pass.  Well of course it did not pass and I started to consider that something might really be wrong.  I finally went into the school health center and after some minimal testing, they didn't suspect anything, but they decided that I should pay the Emergency Room a visit because of the way I answered some of their questions.

To make a long story short, I left the emergency room with a packet of papers and a disk full of x-ray pictures that presented several possibilities for the softball sized mass that I have growing right underneath my chest wall and pressing against my windpipe and blood vessels.  It was quite a way to head into the weekend, but luckily my parents and girlfriend, Lindsay, were coming in for my senior wrestling banquet, so I didn't have to deal with this all by myself.  We did our best to stay off the internet and look up all of the possibilities because we knew it would just freak us out and add more stress than necessary.  Well Monday morning came around and when my mom called the specialist for our appointment, we discovered that the nurse practitioner had not called ahead and scheduled the appointment like she was supposed to.  A quick whirlwind of decisions left me packing, calling, and emailing, to let folks know that I was heading home to get this investigated.  We just figured it would be easier handling it from home and the Cleveland Clinic is one of the best in the business. 

Due to some wonderful connections, we were able to get an appointment early the next morning.  All it really established was that I was going to need a biopsy to confirm what this was.  After days and days of waiting, including the Easter weekend, I finally got the biopsy on a Monday morning.  After more testing, needles, blood, and pain I finally got to go back home and await the results.  From three different people, I heard that we would hear from them in anywhere from 24-72 hrs.  Ugh.  I was packing it in for a long wait.  Around the 28 hr. mark, the doctor called and uttered the dreadful word on that list that I wanted to hear last:  lymphoma.  They highly suspected Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but needed to do further testing to confirm it.  This past Friday, I went to another appointment and they confirmed that it was indeed Hodgkin's.  On Wednesday, I'll be going to another appointment to discuss treatment.  This examination process has been a much longer one that I anticipated I hope that Wednesday's appointment will be the last before I get going on the treatment.

Ok... take a breath.  I know that was a lot, but that was strictly the medical side of things and now I'd like to unpack some other stuff.  Take another breath.  Ready?

With all of this happening around Easter, I doing some reading in Mark and was captivated by the way that Jesus prayed in the garden, just hours before he would be taken away to bear the sins of the world.  He prayed "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36).  It refreshed in my mind that Jesus wasn't exactly fond of God the Father's method for redeeming creation.  Yet He had confidence in the fact that His father had a plan, and it was a good one.  A painful one, but nonetheless, a good one.

Before I heard the final verdict on what was going on inside me, I asked God for the grace to be able to pray and be like-minded with Jesus.  I used some harsher language, but luckily the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.  It went something like this:
"God, in my human, finite understanding, I think your plan sucks.  It's not a 'I don't deserve this' type of issue.  It's just that this is kind of turning my world upside down and pretty inconvenient at the moment.  I'm missing the last weeks of my college experience.  I might not graduate.  My future summer and job plans are going to be put on hold.  My body is being wrecked.  Not to mention all of the stress that my friends and family are enduring on my behalf.  I really want to ask you 'Why the heck are you doing this?' but I heard about when Job asked you that question and don't want to suffer the same response.  But God, when I look into Your word and look around me, I see the evidence that You are faithful and that You work things together for the good of those who love You.  You have placed situations in my life, both good and bad, so that people will know You better; they will know that You are God.  That is what I want.  I want to know You better and I want the same for those I come into contact with.  If you can do it any other way than cancer, please, please do it because you are able.  But if not, then okay.  Okay.  You are God and I am not.  Not what I will, but what You will."

Well it looks like He has decided that this is the best way to make Himself known.  Early on, I prayed this prayer and felt very optimistic.  I talked with hope in my voice and was generally able to smile.  But honestly, I don't know if I had truly grasped what was in the cup.  When I did, it drove me to tears as I cried in my girlfriend's arms at 3:00am for a long time.  I imagined that it was just a little fraction of what Jesus felt.  I realized that the cup might be filled with months and months of chemotherapy, hospital visits, needles, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and many long, sleepless nights.  This is a cup that is going to sting on its way down, and I won't lie, I'm not looking forward to it.  But I am looking forward to the aftertaste.  An aftertaste so sweet and unlike anything I have ever tasted before.  That aftertaste is that someone will know my Jesus as a result of this experience.  Maybe me.  Maybe you.  Maybe someone else.  Maybe all of the above.  Of this I am confident:  God is going to make Himself known through this.  Some way.  Some how.  And I am strangely with peace about that.

If you made it this far, I congratulate you (I tried not to ramble).  To those of you who have bombarded with me truckloads of encouragement, prayer, cards, chocolate, etc.  I truly thank you.  What a blessing to know that I don't have to walk this road alone.  You all are adding daily to my strength and for that I am grateful.  If this life was it, I would have some serious reason to be scared.  But I have hope.  Hope for a future and full restoration in Jesus' arms one day when this will all just be an afterthought.  No matter what happens to me, He will be faithful.  I have 66 books that say He will.          

Ready to be used,