most of you know by now that my brother has terminal brain cancer called glioblastoma. but for those of you that didn't know that, i'll bring you up to speed in this paragraph. on june 4, 2015 my brother had 3 grand mal seizures suddenly at work on his first day in their new bellhops office. my dad and i rushed down to chattanooga and walked in the ER to see him on a ventilator. it was a horrific sight to see my brother, who is like one of those guys on america ninja warrior, on a ventilator. i wish i could sunshine of the spotless mind that shit right out of my brain. since then, he's had multiple brain surgeries, done chemo/radiation, done a clinical trial, been on the keto diet, done many other holistic approaches that shall remain nameless, run 50k races, run marathons, and even ran the boston marathon in 3:42 and had 5 seizures (and 5 valium) during the race. to put it bluntly, he's a fucking machine. he's even had 2 documentaries filmed about him here and here. his cancer showed regrowth at his last appointment and he is now planned for surgery in birmingham may 9. it's a trial with the herpes virus. basically the virus is injected into his brain in hopes that the body begins to recognize that cancer is cancer and attack it.
most people don't know this, but he is now not working after resigning. of course our entire family panicked about it and when i called to talk to him about it he just says "it's fine. i'm not worried about it." since then he has suddenly become an artist. if you saw his art from high school, you'd see why i say "suddenly." hahaha! art was the one thing i was always better than him at. its such a sweet gift that God suddenly provided him with. he now has a source of income that he can do with fairly minimal effort whenever he feels like working. he said he does have to use two hands to keep the brush steady on the detailed parts because of his right side weakness but, other than that, it doesn't take him very long. you can buy his art here. i'm not sure if he is taking more orders right now, but he does have some prints on there for sale (not originals.) i can't imagine being a man and not feeling like i had a way to provide for my family. then on top of that having to deal with everything brain cancer throws your way. my sweet brother has had SO many things taken away from him. i'm sure he has his days where he feels like Job...but he doesn't talk about it. elizabeth, his AMAZING wife, works 3 days a week downtown, works full time being a caretaker and mom to a 4 year old, AND is doing very well with young living. she even ranked up to executive level last month! but, you won't hear her complain either.
i guess what i am getting to is that they have surrendered it all. they know God holds every piece of their lives in His hands and they're 100% ok with that. they don't plan, they take each day as it comes. i titled this blog "when the planner can't plan" because thats what cancer does to families. when brides write me and say "can you shoot my wedding next year" i have to say no. when families say "can you shoot our family in 3 months" i have to say no. i have no idea what will be happening with my brother in a year and i can't miss it. i also can't cancel on someone's wedding. when we try to plan family vacations, they can only be a few weeks out. even nathan's surgery coming up on may 9, we can't plan for. he has an mri on may 8th and if that mri shows too much progression, he's no longer a candidate for the surgery. we bought tickets to jason isbell for may 9 MONTHS ago knowing we were rolling the dice. now i sit here and think, what time is surgery going to be? how long will surgery be? do we sell the tickets now or wait and see? will he even get to have the surgery at all? while i can be flexible with my job, cal cannot. we have 3 kids that we will need babysitters for and can't plan that either. cal has asked me for weeks if we can go on his family's pawleys island vacation and i always answer with "i don't know!" one thing i didn't expect cancer to take from me is the ability to plan. being a green personality (take the test here and see what you are!) i like to know EVERY detail and have all my ducks in a row...or hell! at least a rough outline! we had a trip we had started planning to seattle for this month that we are now scrambling to get our money back on because nathan abruptly got in for this surgery. for some reason, i still try to think i am in control. i always think i know best. my ways are best. i beg God to cure nate here on this earth because, to me, thats whats best!
as i sit and write this, there are sparrows having some kind of bird convention beside me on the porch. my dad always called them "shoney birds" because they're always in the parking lot at shoneys. hahah! this is the second day of them going absolutely nuts at our house. i'm a visual person and i know God knows that, so i always take these types of things to heart and google what they could mean. i look up verses about sparrows in the bible....
"Are not 2 sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than my sparrows."
Matthew 10: 29-31
yeah thats a great verse. most people have likely heard that verse. we are worth more than sparrows, i get it. i sure hope i am worth more than a random brown bird in a shoney's parking lot. but then i dug back a little further. its a story of Jesus sending his 12 disciples out to the "lost sheep" to preach the gospel. Jesus tells them not to pack any silver or gold and no extra clothes or shoes. HE WON'T EVEN LET THEM PLAN WHERE THE ARE STAYING!!!!!! He says "whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house." Jesus wanted them freaking couch surfing!? i mean, i'm all for some free spirit, but i'd like a little more plans than that. He then goes on to say its basically going to be awful. they will make tons of enemies, they will be sheep among wolves, and will likely get thrown in jail. cool. sounds like a real good time. (it honestly sounds like one of my weekends in college hahaha!) but seriously. Jesus even says not to be afraid of "those that can kill the body but not the soul." thats how i feel like nathan and elizabeth take on life....without fear, without plans.
Jesus meant all of that. life is going to be hard, real damn hard. a lot of it is just going to suck and some total shit is going to get thrown your way. we are SINNERS and deserve it all, honestly. we're going to have cancer kick our ass, lose family members we love, have miscarriages, find spouses cheating, lose children, have friends betray you, lose jobs, get in debt, lose homes, and have family reject you. you can actually count on it happening. but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have hope. the crazy part of this story is that the hope is in the verse about the sparrows and i think God used the sparrow because they are so common. they also must've been almost worthless if you could get 2 for a penny. not one of those worthless birds will fall to the ground without God knowing it. we don't dodge the hardships as christians, but we get to do them with God, we aren't alone. as much as i want to be able to plan, that undeserved privilege is gone. i hope that one day i can do it with the grace that nathan and elizabeth have. in the meantime i am going to throw some hope oil on the back of my neck, listen to the birds, and pray for next week.
ps. if you would like to donate to my brothers sweet family: www.fightlikenate.com