Written by Nate shortly after he was diagnosed:
"Well, basically I have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and it's a good thing! My greatest hope is that God would show His glory though this situation and He certainly already has. I'm really just blessed to be used in such a cool way."
Nate wanted to serve the Lord, and he was willing to go anywhere he was called to go. He spoke often of how he wanted to be used to bring glory to God and bring more people to know what it means to truly have eternal life. He answered a calling to move to Davenport,IA in September, 2011 to be part of a ministry opportunity and affected many lives in the short time he was there.
On June 15th, 2012 Nate was diagnosed with cancer (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). He returned to Sioux Falls, SD to be treated by an amazing medical staff at Avera McKennan and cared for by his family.
Nate’s immediate response was that he was “so excited” to have cancer because he knew that God would use this to bring Him the most glory!
As Nate battled this disease he experienced many ups and downs…joy would turn to sorrow in a day, and just as quickly back to joy. Many people joined us in the journey and carried our family through with prayer. Initially the cancer was kicked back through chemo which resulted in a lot of struggles,including ADEM/paralysis and many other painful things. Then on October 3rd he received a bone marrow transplant courtesy of his big brother! That road was tough and seemed to involve every possible obstacle out there. He suffered through intense Graft vs. Host disease (making simply existing painful), BK virus, blood infections, and a multitude of other things. On November 26th we received the difficult news that the cancer was still present in Nate’s body.
As we continued to pray for Nate, medical experts moved into the next phase of recovery. Time passed, medicine failed, and God still provided. We knew that He had a plan to save Nate, we just didn't know if it would be through temporary healing here on Earth or eternal healing by passing on from this life into the the presence of his creator. We have come to know and love our Savior in a more intimate way through Nate’s suffering and with all of this behind us, Nate has moved on to a perfect body, worshiping at the throne of God! Never again will he know sorrow, pain, suffering, sadness, or affliction. He will forever know love and joy, and as much as we will miss Nate this side of Heaven, we can’t help but rejoice with him! Praise God that we can hold onto His promises!
Full year update
Jan 30, 2014 1:46amWell, the big one year anniversary of Nate's going home to the Lord is upon us. What a year. What a Lord.
We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support over the year. We know those who were very close to Nate have also grieved. Our prayer is that we all receive His healing and be able to press on in service to Him. Here's an update on "how we are doing".
Since the update last May, 2013 we have been through all the birthdays, holidays, family gatherings, life, struggle, victory, loss, etc. that all of us experience. But we are greatly healed PTL! Along the way a few things happened that still stick in my mind that are I think a reflection of God's goodness and caring. A few are just plain surprising and I think really great.
Way back on the day Nate passed away, the news spread quickly by text messaging. A family from Hope church have adopted a child named Marco who is autistic. They have been raising him in love and skill and Marco knew Nate. The family was quite close to Nate and they were talking softly about their loss when suddenly Marco chirped up "Clap for Nate! Clap for Nate!". Hmmm, did he merely overhear or did he understand something by the Spirit of God? I think it is wonderful.
Along the lines of our May 2013 posting, we had begun to actively thank the Lord for exercising His supernatural, transcendental omniscience in choosing to take Nate home to be with Him. Only the Lord is big enough and outside of what we call time to see the big picture. Because He is Holy, He will always do the right thing.
After about a month of regularly thanking God and putting our trust in Him I asked of the Lord one Sunday morning what he wanted to show me or teach me that day. In my mind I heard clearly "Acts 6" so I grabbed my bible and started to read.
Acts 6 introduces us to a man named Stephen who I have always imagined as a rather young man, perhaps Nate's age (20 or so) and filled with zeal by the Spirit of the Lord. That zeal and Holy Spirit power is described in Acts 6 and it got him into a lot of trouble. He got arrested and hauled before the Sanhedrin, effectively charged with blasphemy. In Acts 7, we learn how he handled himself.
Before the Sanhedrin, Stephen recounted the history of the Jews, starting with Abraham. God told Abraham that his descendents would be oppressed in a foreign land for 400 years and then they would come back to what is now Israel and possess the land. It's quite a story and as you can see, it contains prophecy that was given to Abraham and fulfilled 400 years later. When I read that section of scripture, the words on the page got just a bit 3-D like and it made me pause. I heard in my mind the Lord speaking to me as clearly as I've ever heard anything.
The Lord said "Spence, do you see that I see the end from the beginning, and I know what I'm doing. You have chosen to trust me. You are on the right track. Keep trusting me, I know what I'm doing."
Wow! It was confirmation that turning towards the Lord is the right path, that choosing to praise and honor and trust Him is exactly what we should be doing. That He spoke so clearly to my mind and heart and soul was good therapy. It was just what I needed to keep going in the right direction of renewed trust in Him. it was deeply personal for me and remains a touchstone of my faith walk.
Sheila had an interesting interaction with the Lord too but in a totally different way. Back in June of 2013 our eldest son Amos was about to get married at an outdoor ceremony by a lovely pond by the church. It was breezy and cool with solid gray overcast. The forecast was 100% cloud cover for the rest of the day.
As Sheila was driving out to the church, she was thinking how much Nate would have loved to be involved in Amos's wedding. Looking up at the sky she asked the Lord if perhaps He would let Nate see what was going on that day. If the clouds parted a bit she would receive that as a sign of the loving Lord hearing her prayer. I had no idea Sheila had asked the Lord about this until much later, after the wedding.
As we witnessed the ceremony it was nice but cloudy gray and we were focused on Heather the bride and Amos our son. Pastor Lance was sharing about marriage when right smack in the middle of his message a bit of sunshine peeked through the clouds and lit up everyone with warmth and brightness. I looked up and around and noted that there was a sort of rectangular gap in the clouds. The very southern edge was cleared just enough to let the sun shine down on us. The sky had a narrow blue gap in it that led far to the north. It was a nice moment that lasted perhaps 10 minutes or so and then the clouds closed and the wedding ceremony was soon done.
Later, when Sheila shared that she had asked the Lord for that little bitty favor it made me smile. I later checked some satellite cloud cover data for the day and sure enough, the entire region for miles around was solid overcast for hours before and after, except for that funny gap that appeared at just the right time. Hmmm, now why would that happen? Bless the Lord!
There is an allusion in the bible (Isaiah 14) about the Lords heaven (3rd heaven) being in the north part of the sky. I kind of like to think of that nice gap in the clouds as His way of letting us know that He hears, He cares and that He understands the geometry He created and that He really did let Nate see, let us know about it and make us all smile (Nate and the Lord included). If the Lord allows us to (at least on occasion) look down from His heaven in the north, it would have been a perfect viewing angle. Neat and PTL again.
There were a couple of other pretty personal God directed things that happened to Sheila and to me that have been helpful. Again, He confirmed that He cares and He feeds us deep in our spirit by His Spirit.
There were other events that are just part of living that made us aware of how deep was our gloom and yet how alive we still were. One was when we went to listen to Micah and his huge high school choir do their spring concert (2013). The vocal instructors are (in our opinion) absolutely the best in the region and they extract college level performance from high school youth. There was a piece near the end with soft, soft, absolutely beautiful harmony and dynamics that just got us right in the heart. It felt so good to feel something other than gloom, to have beauty cut through the fog, to make us sort of gasp as our hearts were squeezed by that performance. It made us realize we were still alive and that we could actually feel human.
Another event was the first time Sheila and I ventured out in public to go out to eat. It had been perhaps two months since Nate's passing and we were trying the waters to simply get out and do something normal. We happened to strike up a conversation with the manager of the place and he was very pleasant. We talked between ourselves and shared a nice light meal.
When we left I could not pay the bill because it had already been paid by the manager who had learned it was our first time out since Nate's going home. We were just fine until then! Again, touched by beauty, that of another human reaching out to us and being loving and giving, well, it kind of messed us up in a good way. I guess that was the day I really knew we'd be OK. We were healing and could feel life again.
Sheila and I have both been pressing in more deeply with the Lord and Micah seems to be pretty solid with good friends, regular work and school and a strong relationship with the Lord. We find our purpose for living to be sharpened and simplified. We all have a mission and our stuff and so many worldly things have really lost their attraction. The things of the Lord are what really matter.
We are more than ever focused on letting everyone know about a personal God in Jesus Christ and how giving your life to Him is the single most important thing anyone will ever do. We have earned the right to speak with others who have suffered great loss because we really do know what it feels like.
Sheila continues in being a Psalmist and worship leader and I am deeply involved in a men's study group where we are all learning to be more like Christ, by His Spirit and by His Truth. Micah is involved with his church youth group and the rest of the family all know the Lord, from the youngest to the eldest.
We are now healed sufficiently that we are ready move forward. We are making Jan 30, 2014 a day of celebration and praise to the Lord. It's an occasion to think of Nate but with focus on the Lord and His glory, His love and His sustaining power.
Nate is doing awesome and I am sure enjoying whatever work the Lord has him doing. Nate is more alive than ever. He was born, then born again by the Spirit, born again-again when he got his stem cell transplant and now he is born AGAIN in the Lord in an ultimate, eternal reality. Wow! Great for Nate and bless the Lord.
Every day we are just that much closer to having our own lives on earth come to a close and then we will get to see the Lord, see Nate, see loved ones gone before us and experience the entire splendor of God's heavenly realm. We can hardly wait!
But while we are here, we have that mission: To tell everyone about the Lord and His salvation. To explain to people that the bible isn't just some weird book but that it is chock full of evidence as to its supernatural origin, quite literally the word of God (and I can prove it).
Nate and I prayed virtually every day for "fruit" from his experience by the power of the Holy Spirit. That fruit that we want is for salvation of everyone we come in contact with, everyone who hears the story, everyone who learns about this awesome God we serve.
We have heard some great stories of fruit in others lives that helped us understand that ministry really can be done from a sick bed, that the patient can minister to the caregivers, that the message of God's love can shine through a frail and beaten human being. Wow. That is His Spirit shining through. Nate is an example of His Spirit shining through.
Ultimately, this is all really about God and the focus is to be upon Him. Through His son Jesus he paid the price for us and by His Spirit He can live within us if we will just ask Him in. Let us all give thanks and praise and glory and honor to the most high God and His son Jesus.
Let us lift up a song of praise, a prayer of gratitude and thank Him for his blessings and for an eternal destiny with Him. Nate has gone ahead of us. Let's be sure we catch up with him by the Lord's salvation.
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