In There Long Enough (By Keith Tally)

A close friend from college encouraged us with this email shortly after Ann’s diagnosis.[i]

One fall evening, I came home from football practice to find out that my dad was in the hospital. He was ok, but had been through a traumatic experience.

We had just added a new manure pit to the end of our farrowing house (the mother and baby pig building). The first litters of pigs had just arrived. My dad looked in a manhole cover on top of the pit, and saw that a plastic pig waterer had fallen into the pit. He decided to fish it out with a hoe that was lying nearby. He reached in, and couldn’t quite reach it. He reached a bit further. The waterer was on top of what waste was just starting to fill the pit. In reaching in further, he now found himself with his head, both arms and both shoulders inside the pit, with his legs outside the pit, kind of just touching the ground. Most of his weight was on his hip bones, on the concrete along the edge of the pit cap.

This was about 1:00 in the afternoon. He spent the next four hours or so in that position, as he couldn’t get either of his shoulders back out of the hole to pull himself out. He considered diving in the rest of the way, but wasn’t sure that his hips would fit through the opening, and if he was hanging even lower down, he might not be able to keep his head above the waste. Or if he did make it in, how or when he’d get back out. What he did do, to make sure he didn’t slip in farther, was to wedge the hoe into the corner of the walls near the hole, and use that to hold up some of his weight. It wasn’t the greatest tool for that job, but it was all he had. The marks in the walls later were a reminder of his struggle during that time.

A Breeze and a Dog
Often, the fumes in a pit like that are enough to kill a person. But because it was just recently starting to fill for the first time, there was less of that than there would be normally. And dad said later, that when he felt like he was losing his breath, a breeze would blow through the opening on the other side of the pit, and give him a bit of fresh air.

And also, one of our farm dogs—Penny—a Border Collie, German Shepherd mix, stayed with him during that time. I think he could reach one of his hands outside the hole, but not his arm, and she would lick his hand.

Eventually, Mom began to wonder where Dad was. My younger brother had come home on the bus. Dad heard the bus, and tried to yell for help when he thought Kevin would be reaching the top of the lane after getting off the bus, but for some reason, the driver had driven up the lane, and dropped Kevin off in the front yard. So by the time Dad started yelling, Kevin was inside the house, and that resulted in Dad being in the pit awhile longer. When mom finally found him, she called for the ambu­lance, but also called a couple neighbors, one of them being Estle Foster. Estle came right down. Estle was the neighbor that Dad would call on for help with a lot of the bigger jobs on the farm, and Dad would help Estle with the big jobs at his place.

Long Enough
Mom and Estle were there with Dad, and maybe the other neighbor, an older man. They were trying to figure out how best to get Dad out. Should they wait for the medics? What was the best way to lift him out? How many guys would they need to lift him? After talking for a bit, Estle, in a voice that I can hear in my mind, even though I wasn’t there, said,

“He’s been in there long enough.”

Estle walked over, grabbed Dad’s legs, and all by himself, and probably with some adrenaline assist, heaved him up out of that hole.

I don’t know much else of what happened, and some of the details may not all be totally correct, but I do know this—Estle was the kind of neighbor that you could count on. And when he decided that Dad had been in there long enough, you knew he was going to do all that he could do to get him out.

Deliverance
God has reminded me of that phrase from time to time—that there is always a point where he looks down at us and says, “He’s been in there long enough.” He sus­tained the children of Israel while in slavery, but eventually, the day came when he said, “They’ve been in there long enough.” He has seen us in our sin—trapped, unable to help ourselves out. And he has sustained us—kept us alive. But he sent his Son, Jesus, to tell us, “You’ve been in there long enough.” He lifts us out. Trials come our way, and we wonder if we’re going to make it, but somehow, God helps us through. And out.

Sometimes God grants us sustenance—
Just what we need to stay alive.
A hoe in your hand, a breeze with some fresh air,
A loyal dog staying with you, licking your hand.
But God also grants us deliverance.
It’s only a matter of time.


       [i] I received this encouraging story from Keith Tally, a college roommate and electrical engineer with IBM, in an email dated 10/27/2006. Used with permission.


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Miracles along the Way (Oct 21)

Ann scored a couple of touchdowns at yesterday’s doctor’s appointment.

Toleration: Dr. Lockhart was very encouraged by how well Ann’s body is tolerating the chemo, because it is a very toxic regimen. Ann’s blood counts have rebounded well and she has had only mild nausea.

Effectiveness: The chemo has been very effective in fighting the cancer after two cycles. The lesions on her liver were dramatically re­duced. One large tumor went from 2.6 cm to 1.2 cm. Several of the smaller ones are now hardly visi­ble. The lesions on her bones (spine, ribs, shoulder blades, and pelvis) showed no change. The doctor assumes that these lesions have also decreased, but it is diffi­cult to confirm from the tests that were taken. There is no evidence that the cancer has spread to any new areas. The lungs remain clear.

Marc Maillefer records the following testimony in his book God in the Storm,[i]

“It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the future and the questions that arise…Yet I have found that God gives strength for today and provides miracles along the way to show me that He is in control of this situation.”

We believe that Ann miraculously scored because God answered your prayers. We are encouraged by this fresh evidence that He is in control in our storm.

Yet we are guarded in our optimism. We don’t know the final out­come, or even know how long the battle will last, but we do know the referee.

Psalm 44:3
“It was not by the sword that they won the land,
Nor did their arm bring them victory;
It was your right hand, your arm,
And the light of your face, for you loved them” (capitalization mine).


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[i] Maillefer, God in the Storm, 102.

A Friend’s Sister in Idaho (Oct 19)

What do the following have in common?

  •  A friend’s sister in Idaho
  • A Baptist temple in Oklahoma City
  • Iowa State friends from Singapore
  • A college principal in Australia

Early in this storm we received an email from a friend here in Dallas who encouraged us with the news that her sister in Idaho was praying for us. It wasn’t the first or the last of such emails, but it was the one that made me take notice. Certainly, God was at work if someone in Idaho, who didn’t even know us, cared enough to pray.

Since I am a former anal retentive accountant, I decided we would begin to keep track of all the states and countries where there were people praying. The current count is thirteen countries and thirty states.

Countries: United States, Thailand, Peru, Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Ukraine, Hungary, Ecuador, Albania, China, Canada and Texas.

States: Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Idaho, California, Ohio, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, North Carolina, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Washington, Tennessee, Michigan, New Jersey, Colorado, and Alabama.

In his book God in the Storm Marc Maillefer writes,

“Remember this the next time you come alongside someone who’s going through a storm.
Don’t ever think prayer is the least you can do.
I believe it may be the best we can do for those in a storm.”[i]

Thank you for giving your best to us and others who are caught in a storm.

Dread and Fear
Ann and I are leaving for Houston momentarily and will spend the after­noon and evening undergoing a number of tests. We meet with Dr. Lockhart[ii] at 1:00 p.m. on Friday to review the results and then start Round Three around 3:00 p.m. I will drive back on Monday morning and Ann will fly home on Wednesday.

Dread and fear are two words that capture our emotions.

2 Corinthians 1:10b-11a
“On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,
as you help us by your prayers” (emphasis mine).

Prayer Requests

  • That Ann would have emotional strength to return to Houston on Thursday, to meet with the doctor, and to begin Round Three.
  • That the tests on Thursday and Friday would show that the cancer has at least stabilized.
  • That God would show his love and power to the kids while we are gone.
  • That God would completely heal Ann in his time and in his way so that she might know our grandchildren.


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[i] Mark Maillefer, God in the Storm (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 73.
[ii] “Dr. Lockhart” was not our oncologist’s real name.

What’s Up with the Kids – Epilogue (Oct 15)

It appears that the chapter on our kid’s health has thankfully concluded.

Hannah’s knee surgery last Monday went well. Apart from her reac­tion to the anesthesia, which allowed her to set the family upchuck record, she has been recovering very quickly. Her knee should be as good as new after three weeks of rehabilitation—just in time for basketball season.

The doctor’s determined that Drew’s heart and liver were both healthy. The tests had just recorded variations of normal that is common with teenage athletes. His chest pains during soccer were likely a result of asthma.

The hematologist determined that Paul’s platelet counts were also normal for a teenager. He just needs to eat more red meat because he is slightly anemic. Paul laughed about his plight because we have become a chicken-only household thanks to my heart.

Our determination to hide Matt from doctors continues.

I have been experiencing more frequent chest pains over the last month, so I had a nuclear stress test on Wednesday. The cardiologist concluded that my stents were open and my heart was functioning fine. Apparently, I’m just a bit stressed out. The great news is that my cholesterol had dropped down to 117. I will keep eating that chicken, but will also indulge in a few more chocolate desserts.

Ann has enjoyed being home these last two weeks. She has been able to see Matt play football, watch Drew play soccer, help Hannah recover from surgery, and shop with Paul for his girlfriend’s homecoming mum.

The second week was much better than the first, both physically and emotionally. (It seems that emotional strength is often impacted by how one feels physically.) She and her mom decorated the house for fall on Thursday, which was a pleasant surprise and a welcomed symbol of normalcy.

The highlight was spending yesterday afternoon and evening in a nearby state park with friends from our Bible study who were camping. It was great to be out of the city and to see trees instead of buildings and to hear silence rather than traffic.


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My Heart’s Desire

Ann’s third entry begins with some observations on various verses in the Gospels on prayer. She concludes this unfinished entry with the revelation of her heart’s desire.

October 16, 2006
Little prayers of the Gospels:

  • Peter’s “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)
  • A mother’s, “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15:25)
  • Sometimes even less. No prayer at all, but the brief telling of trouble: “My servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering” (Matthew 8:6).
  • And less than that. A thought and a touch: “She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed’” (Matthew 9:21).

I only have to touch your cloak, and I will be healed.

Her faith was in you—in the power you had.
I know, Jesus, that it is only [by] you that I will be healed.
Heal me, Lord Jesus.
Take this cancer from me.
Allow me to see my grandchildren—[even] Matt’s children.

You asked the blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
They replied, “Yes, Lord” (Matthew 9:27-29).
Lord, I’m wavering in believing you will do this.
I know you can.
I know apart from you it won’t happen.

The odds are against me.[i]
Help me in my unbelief.
Guard my heart to believe your word is truth.

You are faithful.
Your mercies are new every morning.
Have compassion on me.
Have mercy on me.

Thank you for being near me, for being with me, for being ever present.

Be with our children, Lord.
Matt is struggling so much.
He was before, but he is even more [now].
How do we help him? What do we do?
He is so angry. He is so afraid.
Show us how to love him.
Show us how to teach him to trust you.

Father, we all need you so desperately.
Please don’t take me from them.
Let me live a healthy life.
Let us praise you as a family.
This is my heart’s desire.

My cross is where I’m at right now.
It’s my cancer.
I take it up today and follow you.
Thank you f…

Interrupted
Ann ended in mid-sentence. Actually, mid-word. Perhaps one of the kids needed something. Perhaps the phone rang. As any mom knows, inter-rup­tions are a constant occurrence. Ann hated the interruption that cancer was bringing at that time and might bring in the future—as any mother would.

Psalm 34:17-18
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
He delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”


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        [i] Notice that Ann used this same exact phrase when she was pregnant with Hannah. See Ann’s journal entry dated May 19, 1992, in the vignette entitled, “Prayer for Hannah.”

No Way Around the Storms

Ann begins this second entry with a quotation from Isaiah. Ann’s former supervisor with Campus Crusade for Christ, and our close friend, had just sent an email encouraging Ann with this verse.

October 12, 2006
“Fear not,
for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
You are mine.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1b-2).

There is no way around the storms and their darkness.
We must experience them.

God promises to go through the waters with me.
The rivers will not sweep over me.
The flames will not set me ablaze.
Walking through the fire, I will not be burned.

God is in control. I don’t feel like it at times.
I want to be healed, to live. Will God grant this?
He is sovereign and good.

I dislike this journey I’m on.
I want out of it. But Lord, I can’t.
It is where we are. It’s where I’m at.


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One Leg at a Time

Ann periodically recorded her thoughts in a journal as a part of her spir­itual journey, especially during difficult times. She often picked up a decorative journal from a gift shop, but sometimes she just scribbled her thoughts to God on whatever scrap of paper she could find.

Last night, as I was searching for her journal from the early nineties in which Ann recorded her heartache after our miscarriages, I found this journal with a Thomas Kincade-ish looking painting of a light house on a rocky shore with storm clouds gathering.

The journal was from the early months of our battle with cancer. I wish the journal contained a thousand entries, but it only contained three. I’ve reproduced her notes in these three vignettes so that you can hear the heart cries of a mom in the middle of a violent storm.

Her first entry simply contained two quotes from Randy Becton. The emphasis was Ann’s.

October 11, 2006
“Cancer can’t threaten God’s plan for his sons and daughters. This knowledge is my source of hope and peace.”[i]

“God always gives us strength for one leg of the journey at a time.”[ii]


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[i] Ann’s emphasis. Randy Becton, Everyday Strength: A Cancer Patient’s Guide to Spiritual Survival (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 14.
[ii] Ann’s emphasis. Ibid., 20.

Hey, It’s Good to Be Back Home Again (Oct 6)

Ann and I returned from Houston this afternoon, having completed her second round of chemo, just in time to eat supper together as a family. We are now thankful for things we previously took for granted.

The second round of chemo was tougher than the first—both physi-cally and emotionally. We have heard from fellow warriors that this is often the case. We will return to Houston on October 19th for tests to see if the cancer is growing, has stabilized, or is shrinking.

Some of the kids spent the weekend with friends; some stayed here at home. Fortunately, the house was still standing when we returned and truly looked great. Each child has stepped up in his or her own way to help out.

Ann will be here in Dallas for about two and one-half weeks to rest and recover. Her mother comes from St. Joseph on Wednesday to help handle some of the “mom” things, so that Ann won’t try to.

Prayer Re-Runs
That Ann would enjoy being a mom without acting like a mom while here at home.
That the tests on October 19th would show that the cancer has at least stabilized.
That God would completely heal Ann in his time and in his way so that she might know our grandchildren.

Psalm 30:2-3
“O LORD my God, I called to you for help
And you healed me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
You spared me from going down into the pit.”


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The Second Round (Oct 1)

I stole a few minutes to watch part of Cinderella Man a couple of weeks ago. The story revolves around James Braddock, a washed up boxer fighting for survival during the Great Depression. Towards the end of the movie Braddock drove off to Madison Square Garden to fight the bigger, stronger, younger world champion. His wife fearfully avoided a ringside seat, but walked to her church to pray for his safety. She found a packed house when she arrived—dozens of family and friends had already filled the pews to pray for his safety and victory. Their prayers impacted the fight.

Even though I had seen the movie before, I was especially gripped by that scene given our present circumstances. Thank you for the calls, cards, and emails. There are times that we feel like throwing in the towel. Your encouragement keeps us fighting. Thank you for praying for our safety and victory. Your prayers are impacting the outcome of this fight.

Round 2
Laurie drove Ann back to Houston this afternoon so that Ann can begin her second round of chemo on Thursday morning. I fly down on Satur¬day and hope to bring Ann back Monday afternoon. She will then be at home for a little over two weeks before the next cycle begins.

Prayer Requests
That God would strengthen and heal Ethan and Darla; Chris, Ray, and Linda; Lisa, Nancy, and Judy… each is in his or her own ring with an overwhelming foe.
That Ann would respond to this round as well as she did the first one.

Exodus 17:11-13
“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.
Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword” (emphasis mine).

Thanks for holding us up in this battle.


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Why Even Bother to Pray? (Sep 8th)

A few months ago I had some rare deep thoughts:

Since God is sovereign, knows the future, and has everything planned, then prayer is an exercise for relating to him.
When we pray for others, we fellowship with God and will be blessed for serving others.
However, prayer doesn’t make any ultimate difference in the outcome.

Fortunately, my deep thoughts are rare. Perhaps I was punch-drunk from suffering a heart attack the day after graduation from seminary and dealing with Ann’s on-again, off-again, on-again threat of cancer. Perhaps it’s just the logical conclusion of one who focuses on God’s sovereignty without appreciating his intimacy.

I still steadfastly hold to the first and second sentence. However, thanks to all of you I have had to eat the words of the third sentence and confess my lack of faith.

Wednesday evening Ann was very apprehensive about the procedure for inserting the CVC lines (semi-permanent IV) and for starting the infusion of chemo into her system. It’s no longer a bad dream from which we hope to awaken, but our reality. Yesterday, you prayed for Ann to courageously face the first chemo treatment. She was calm all day. The insertion of the CVC line went well and she wasn’t fearful. Then the infusion almost seemed like a non-event. Ann didn’t wig out or even cry. Her peace was truly beyond understanding. Yesterday’s outcome was im¬pacted by your prayers.

If this was the first time that we had seen God answer specific prayer in the last few months, then I could write it off as coincidental. I have seen enough to know that fervent prayer impacts the outcome of our lives. I am encouraged to pray with more confidence about our situation and about the sufferings of family and friends.

Please be encouraged to pray for your and our situation with boldness.


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