Friday, July 29, 2011


I would ask you to close your eyes, but you obviously can't if you want to continue reading, so try to get this imagery in your head...

The whistle has just blown.  A sea of people immediately erupts with applause.  The camera flashes become blinding.  Exhausted and drenched with sweat, you walk back to the middle of the mat and remove your anklets, and it begins to hit you.  As you shake your opponents' hand and the referee raises yours, a lifetime's worth of preparation and work has just become a reality: NATIONAL CHAMPION.  The thousands of hours logged on the mat, on the treadmill, in the weight room, and in the van... all of the weekends sacrificed for a handful of matches... all of the doubters and critics who said you couldn't make it... they are all but distant memories to be blown away by this wind of accomplishment.  Of the thousands of young men who compete around the country in college wrestling, you have just joined the upper echelon, the elite group of young men who have gained near immortal status.  A mere ten will be inducted into such fame and notoriety this year.  Welcome to the club.  When the referee finishes presenting you to the crowd, you jog over to shake the opposing coaches' hands and then head towards your corner where a pair of open arms are waiting to catch you and kick off the celebration.  With a final salute to your fan club, you head down off the elevated mat towards a cluster of reporters, whose cameras and notepads are at the ready.  They are waiting for you.  What will you say?   

I know I'm biased, but if that doesn't give you goose bumps, I don't know what will!  This scenario had played out in my mind over and over throughout my career.  If my mind was a record player, this one would have been worn out from over usage.  I visualized it after our team's morning runs in the crisp October air.  I saw it week after week amidst grueling practices.  And I used it as motivation for workouts at stupid hours of the night that no one will ever know about.  You see, Coach Brunk had asked our team to take over this mindset and I had even taken him up on his challenge to write out what I was going to say once it happened.  I knew how it was going to go down once I got my platform:  I was finally going to get there and God was going to get the glory.  Win, win.

Well unfortunately, my dream didn't play out exactly like I planned.  The season ended and I was not standing on the top of the podium.  A few months passed and I was standing on top of another platform that I wasn't necessarily thrilled about.  I wanted a national championship and got cancer instead.  God has a sense of humor doesn't He?  Even better, He's got a plan!  For reasons that are still unknown to me, God decided that His kingdom would better be made known through my sickness rather than my athletic successes.  Through numerous conversations, I am beginning to understand that for a believer, every circumstance in life (for better or for worse) provides some sort of platform on which we have the chance to stand and give Him glory.  It might be a big one or it might be a small one.  You might like it, you might not.  You might have thousands of eyes watching you, or maybe just one pair.  Regardless, God is asking that we be responsible with what He places in our laps and use it for His glory.  In this light, suffering becomes opportunity and hardship becomes a gold mine for hope if we become willing to view it as such.

I recently heard John Piper say that "God pursues His own glory in all that He does."  This quote is now taped to the inside of my Bible.  We can read any passage in the Scriptures and draw that conclusion.  He gives both great blessing and allows painful suffering so that His gospel will become more real to mankind.  If we claim to be His children and identify with the new self, should we not be pursuing His glory in all that we do?  When He gives us platforms, do we waste them on our own fleeting glory or merely discard them as harsh circumstance?  Unfortunately, I have had to plead guilty on both accounts. 

Here is the challenge for us all.  God grants us all platforms of different sizes, durations, and significance throughout our lives.  For 4-6 months of my life right now, mine just so happens to be Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but that will most likely change in the near future.  Our struggle is to faithfully identify what God has placed in our lives to direct glory His way.  It could be anything... a job, an injury, a family circumstance, or a hidden talent.  You name it.  God can use it.

You're at center stage and the world is watching.  What are you doing with it?

For His glory,


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Follows Night

This is from a devotional I'm working through by Charles Spurgeon entitled Morning and Evening (thank you, Mrs. Finelli) and I felt compelled to post it.  It's a jam-packed paragraph if I've ever read one...

Can you answer this, believer?  Can you find any reason why you are so often mourning instead of rejoicing?  Why yield to gloomy anticipations?  Who told you that the night would never end in day?  Who told you that the sea of circumstances would ebb out till there should be nothing left but long stretches of the mud of horrible poverty?  Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair?  Don't you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter?  Be full of hope!  Hope forever! for God does not fail you.  Do you not know that God loves you in the midst of all this?  Mountains, when in darkness hidden, are as real as in day, and God's love is as true to you now as it was in your brightest moments.  No father chastens always.  The Lord hates the rod as much as you do; He only cares to use it for that reason that would make you willing to receive it-namely, it brings about your lasting good.  You will yet climb Jacob's ladder with the angels and behold Him who sits at the top of it-your covenant God.  You will yet, amidst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them.  Come, sing in the midst of tribulation.  Rejoice even while passing through the furnace.  Make the wilderness blossom like the rose!  Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then, forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.

Faint not nor fear, His arms are near, 
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe and you shalt see,
That Christ is all in all to thee.

Refreshed again,


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Treatment's Top 5

Psalm 145 says that one generation will pour forth the fame of the Lord's abundant goodness and His wondrous works.  As my chemotherapy progresses, I've had a lot of conversations about how crappy I feel or how tired I am or whatever.  I understand that this is just the nature of the treatment, but I would be remiss if I failed to remind myself and others of the Lord's abundant goodness and wondrous works.  By now, I have completed 5 treatments in 2 months, so I wanted to step back and compile the Top 5 ways in which the Lord has manifested His goodness to me in this storm.  In no particular order...

1.  Visitors:  In the last two weeks, I've been so blessed to have some very special people come visit me here in Hudson.  My favorite RD couple, Dave and Emily Downey, were able to swing by on their way home from Chicago and one of my best friend from high school, Henry Hasson, also stopped in from Michigan (guaranteed laughs with this guy).  Last but not least, I was spoiled to have Lindsay in town for a week and a half!  It was an amazing privilege to have her here for a treatment week and she made it that much easier.

2.  Team Hoj:  When this all started and my family and Coach Brunk came up with the Team Hoj idea, I was absolutely flattered, but wasn't sure what to expect.  I've been absolutely blown away as support, both financially and prayerfully, has flooded the Hojnacki household.  If as that wasn't enough, the Team Hoj bracelets and shirts came in and they came out better than I could have hoped for!  Thanks again Uncle Jeff, Aunt Karen, Marky, Coach Brunk, and Coach Vogel for putting those together!

3.  CCC Cafe:  This Sunday marked the first time since I began treatment that I have been able to sing and what a blessing it was.  With the tumor being situated in my chest as it was, my pipes were out of commission for sometime.  But with the reduction in the size of the tumor, I was finally able to sing again.  Despite not feeling well this morning, being able to participate again and do what I feel I was made to do brought such joy to my heart.  The cherry on top was being asked to sing Kristian Stanfill's "Always."  If you haven't heard it, look it up.  The lyrics speak for themselves and, in my current situation, I had a difficult time keeping myself from tearing up.  What a great reminder that our God always comes through!

4.  Home:  Although I knew that coming home for treatment would be for the best, I was still having a hard time coping with the delay of my work with FCA and not being where I wanted to for this summer.  However, my Heavenly Father has reaffirmed that this is where I should be.  I have been able to spend wonderful amounts of time with my family and friends in the area.  And what would summer be without campfires and grilling?  I have spent a "devoted" amount of time in front of the TV perusing the Food Network for killer new recipes and have resolved to cook one third of my meals on the grill.  But by far, the best part of being home is just being home.  Knowing that I am in the best place I can possibly be to fight this and that I have all the support anyone could ask for... it's good stuff.

5.  Up and About:  On the select days when I have been up to it, I have been very fortunate to get some workouts in.  It may sound peculiar, but you have to understand that for this wrestler, only being able to do a one or two workouts every other week is a far cry from two to three times a day.  Nonetheless, such workouts are little "pick-me-ups" to my spirit.  Next to music, wrestling is the thing that I feel I was created to do.  Unfortunately, I am unable to wrestle right now, but exercising is the next best thing and every time I am able to go for a run or hit the resistance bands is nothing short of a gift.  I absolutely cannot wait to strap my shoes up again and feel that Resilite underneath my feet!  Give me patience, Lord!

Remember, this isn't about cancer.  This is about God's faithfulness and goodness. 



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Halfway Point?

As I write to you today, I am currently at The Cleveland Clinic for Treatment #5. We saw Dr. Pohlman today and he showed us the results from the CT scan, which shows about 40-50% reduction in the tumor. Praise the Lord for that! He couldn't predict a definite time frame for the finish line, but it looks like it will be somewhere in the September to October range, so we are about halfway. Coming off of such a rough treatment last time, I had a portacath installed in my chest and it has made things tremendously easier thus far (for those of you who aren't medically inclined, here is a link explaining what the port is and what it does...  It was a bit painful getting used to it, but I wish I would have gotten one from the start.

Even though the last round was tough, the Lord has so graciously dropped hints of encouragement in my lap left and right. It has been great to have several amazing people visit, as well as be up and about more frequently. We also got the first shipment of Team Hoj shirts and Coach Vogel and Coach Brunk did an amazing job on them! So to all of you who have been a part of this journey, I just want to reiterate a special thank you. You all mean so much and the Lord is using you to add to my strength each day. It's hard to imagine doing it without you all!

Chuggin' along,


Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Devil On My Shoulder

One of the things that I dislike about my blog is that it tends to give an unrealistic depiction of how I really am.  Up to this point, I've released a very limited amount of information as I'm not the type to wear my heart on my sleeve (or my blog for this matter).  Consequently, it has been relayed to me that I struggle much less than the average Joe when it comes to this whole suffering thing.  Nothing could be farther from the truth, so let me unpack that.  Time for good ol' transparency...

It's been a while since my last entry and there's a reason for that.  I've been in the proverbial desert.  It has been a season of my life in which I couldn't bring myself to open my Bible for several weeks.  I prayed only when I wanted and felt drained of my true joy.  You see, for the first time since I was diagnosed with cancer, I have felt the effects of toxic feelings such as anger, bitterness, jealousy, and resentment start to creep into my attitude.  Such feelings stemmed from the seeds sown by the little devil on my shoulder.  It feels just like the cartoon.  He is the little red devil version of me, outfitted with horns, a pitchfork, a long gotee, and some bad tattoos.  It is in this suffering that I hear him most clearly.  When I can't sleep, he tells me that I did nothing to deserve this.  When I can't shake the constant nausea, he questions how a loving God would allow this to happen to me.  When I think about the long remaining months of treatment, he tells me to throw in the towel and stop fighting the good fight.  It was in such a weary, vulnerable state that I began to feast on those lies like homeless man at a buffet.  

But by God's grace, this little devil is not my only companion.  I also have a "mini-me" on the other shoulder, complete with wings, a white robe, and a halo.  His voice is always very quiet, barely above a whisper.  He doesn't shout or scream or compete for my attention.  Despite these momentary hardships, he speaks truth to me.  He reminds me of the past events in my life in which I have seen God's faithfulness over and over.  He tells me how much I am loved, even if it doesn't feel like it right now.  Most importantly, he repeats again and again that I am not alone by any stretch of the imagination.  Very slowly, but surely, this active and living Spirit of God is re-focusing my perspective back on eternity.  Deep down, I know these truths to be real and concrete.  It's just that the lies have won on the battlefield of my mind.  But make no mistake, truth has a strong foothold in the war for my heart. 

My friends, I am not bulletproof.  Oh how I would love think I am sometimes.  These past few weeks have entailed nothing short of my greatest struggles with God.  Luckily, He can handle it.  If you would be so kind, I'd like to swallow my pride and enlist you in prayerful support.  I would like to ask for reminders of truth in these desert seasons.  Pray that God would overwhelm my heart with reassurance of His presence.  I don't foresee the rest of this journey getting any easier, but by God's grace alone, I will finish well.  I'd like to leave you with the quote that became the fulcrum for the change in my perspective:

"Rejoice, O my soul, that you are spared to testify of the faithfulness of the Lord.  The seasons change, and you change, but your Lord abides evermore the same, and the streams of His love are as deep, as broad, and as full as ever."  

- Charles Spurgeon
Eyes on eternity,